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All About Eve
the great acoustic guitar revival
WITH AN UNEXPECTED HIT SINGLE IN THE SOFTLY-SOFTLY 'MARTHA'S HARBOUR' UNDER THEIR BELTS, ALL ABOUT EVE HAVE PUT THE NEW WAVE OF GOTHIC ROCK FIRMLY ON THE MAP. GUITARIST TIM BRICHENO REVEALS ALL
FOR ROCK 'N' ROLL, read swings 'n' roundabouts. Just when you thought punk had finally and irrevocably wiped away the memory of those monolithic rock dinosaurs of the early '70s, a whole new breed of monolithic wannabees have appeared to inject Gothic excitement into rock, and to destroy the dominance of the "contemptible" pretty boys of the new pop.
This isn't a sudden happening. Major changes don't happen suddenly - if they do, they're usually called "fashions". No, the seeds for this latest shift in musical taste have been sown throughout the last decade, in Sixth Forms and Colleges around the country. With deep-rooted foundations and a mass following, today's hippy rock bands - or Gothics, as they call themselves in the wake of post-punk hatred of the word "hippy" - are making music that not only appeals to their own cult audience, but breaks out to gain wider acceptance, challenging the myth that anyone who relates to Pink Floyd and Free instantly forgoes any kind of critical respect.
All About Eve, arguably the best of the new Gothic wave, are currently sitting pretty in the wake of 'Martha's Harbour', a smash chart hit that features only two Eves: singer Julianne Regan and guitarist Tim Bricheno. Bass player Andy Cousin and drummer Mark Price had to sit out of the glory this time.
"Last week it was just another song and now it's the biggest hit we've had so far", laughs Bricheno as he recalls the genesis of 'Martha's Harbour', a hastily penned number that has become All About Eve's latest and biggest success to date.
"We were doing the first album - the producer wanted us to redo this song called 'Lady Moonlight', which is the B-side of the first single. We didn't want to do it because we thought we'd done the definitive version of it. We were trying to do it and not enjoying it at all. We'd been mucking around with this song, 'Martha'. Julianne had a guitar and was doing a melody line and I was playing the main riff on an acoustic. Everybody went to the pub and left us with the engineer. So we had a go with the song, did it in three minutes and thought: that sounds great. They came back from the pub and they were knocked out with it. That was it."
All About Eve have for some time been championing the cause of the acoustic guitar, but with 'Martha's Harbour' they took the gamble to its final conclusion. It paid off.
"There was a bit of a risk element", says Tim. "The Eves didn't really get into using acoustic guitars 'til we'd been going for about two years. We were all electric. It was just this turning point that happened when I picked up the acoustic guitar. The set went from being all electric to nearly 75% acoustic. Now we've got it back to a 50-50 thing."
But in a world of loud electric rock, what's the fascination with the acoustic guitar?
"The best thing is that it's up to you to make something of it. You can't really muck around with the sound too much. It's just like going straight into the PA and if you're not on top of what you're doing, it's gonna show and you'll get all the buzzes and squeaks.
"JULIANNE WAS PLAYING A MELODY LINE AND I WAS PLAYING THE MAIN RIFF. EVERYBODY WENT TO THE PUB AND LEFT US WITH THE ENGINEER, SO WE DID THE SONG IN THREE MINUTES AND THOUGHT: THAT SOUNDS GREAT."
"When I sit down and do the songs that are just me and Julianne, it's the only time I really sweat during a gig, because I know that musically it's all on me. It's quite nerve-racking. It's not so much that there's no band to back you up, it's the fact that it's very open. You feel naked when you're doing it because it can go awfully wrong, which it has done on a few occasions. But when it comes off, it's a brilliant feeling. A lot more satisfying than the majority of the electric stuff because you really feel like you've done something."
Everybody has their own reason for picking up an instrument for the first time: maybe they were inspired by a song or a band, perhaps by a desire to perform an act of rebellion. What went through Tim Bricheno's mind when he picked up a guitar for the very first time?
"It was the idea of the image of being a guitar player that I fell in love with", he recalls with enthusiasm. "The first year I didn't learn anything, all I did was bash around with a guitar and a fuzzbox. I was in a punk band at school and all we did was cover Clash and Sex Pistols songs. But that was before I could play. Then I started taking it a bit more seriously; posing around in front of the mirror with a guitar and trying to learn how to play it."
In that order. It seems the visual side of being a rock star was initially more appealing than the knuckling-down-and-learning-how-to-play side...
"I liked the idea of being like people you'd see on TV, like Marc Bolan. I mean, he was a singer who played guitar, but he looked good. I wanted to be like that. I didn't want to be like the rest of my friends; they were talking about what they were going to do when they left school. They were going to do technical drawing and metalwork. I thought: no, I don't want to do this. I remember telling the careers officer that I wanted to play in a group, which didn't go down too well. He said: 'Why don't you go to a music school?' But I didn't want to. I didn't have the patience. I did try, but I wanted to do it by ear. I started off listening to records and trying to work out what was the bass and what was the guitar. Not having any idea, but figuring it out from there."
This accomplished guitar player now cites the likes of Dave Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix and Paul Kossoff as the kind of guitarists he admires, but were they a big influence on Tim Bricheno, the fledgling guitarist?
"I sort of found my own style... When I think about the punk background, which is where I've come from, you didn't have any guitar heroes and there weren't any guitar solos. It was just about making some noise. I hated the idea of a solo creeping into a song then. I think it's only since All About Eve has been going that I've started to appreciate other people, but by that time my style was already formed and I'd found something I was happy with."
"I WAS IN A PUNK BAND AT SCHOOL AND ALL WE DID WAS COVER CLASH AND SEX PISTOLS SONGS. THEN I STARTED POSING AROUND IN FRONT OF THE MIRROR WITH A GUITAR AND TRYING TO LEARN HOW TO PLAY IT"
Tim doesn't see himself as the kind of guitarist who picks up his instrument to run through a series of daily "exercises", preferring to use his instrument more as a writing tool, or as a means of experimenting with new playing ideas.
"The only thing I did try and learn a few months ago was this slam-on thing that a lot Heavy Metal guitarists do", he confesses. "I went to see this heavy rock band called Slave Raider at the Marquee. There was this guy who was brilliant at it. I thought: that's a neat trick, I'll learn how to do that. And I did. But when I did, I thought: loads of people do this and now I'm just another one of them. So you've got to be careful with stuff like that - techniques, tricks - because although they sound very impressive you've got a whole bunch of people doing that."
With four singles from their enormously enjoyable debut album consolidating the Eves' position in the pop charts, it would seem the band have finally arrived and can now give over time to thinking about what to do next. Although not quite ready to record, the band have locked themselves away in the countryside to go through that purgatory known as "writing the follow-up album".
"For three months we've been locked in this barn; it's like this big farmhouse that's been converted into a rehearsal studio which you actually live in. It was good for the first five weeks, but alter that it got to feel a bit like a convalescent home. Everything we needed was there. There were fags, drinks, videos there. We just didn't see anybody from the outside world. I tried to get away at weekends, to have a break from it all. Some of them stayed there the whole time and it's funny coming back from that situation."
Not quite the inspirational working break the band needed, then?
"Oh, it was! You could just get right into it and not think about anything else. There's nothing else to distract you, apart from the odd bird chirping around. We did a lot of stuff quickly because we were dying to write. The longer we were there, we'd start doing a little bit less, then a little bit less; but we did get a lot of stuff done. Some of it's crap, some of it's good.
"But it's going to be an interesting next album because it's slightly different from the first one. I think it would have been a mistake to go in and do another album just like the last ope. We've all grown up a bit since then, especially in the last year. A lot of changes have happened to us. We were just naive young people on the dole when we had all the songs for that first album."
"THEY'VE FOUR GIGS OF ANY SIZE A YEAR IN YUGOSLAVIA, SO YOU CAN IMAGINE - ITS A BIG EVENT! NOBODY KNEW US, BUT WE CAME ON STAGE AND IT WAS JUST LIKE BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN HAD COME ON."
With national success secured, targets become international, goals become global. All About Eve have recently toured Europe with The Mission, a trip that included playing one of the four big gigs in the, ahem, Yugoslavian rock calendar.
"They've four gigs of that size a year, so you can imagine - it's a big event! Nobody knew us, but we came on stage and it was just like Bruce Springsteen had come on. They didn't know who we were and they didn't care, they just wanted to go mad to this band."
All in all, however, touring abroad doesn't seem to be a rock 'n' roll pastime Tim has much time for.
"I can't say I enjoyed it, to be honest. I was excited about it because it was my first time out of England... I'd heard all those things about playing abroad and how exciting and different it was. But when we were in a bus - gig, then travel, then gig - all I was seeing was town centres. After a few days they all ended up looking like Manchester anyway."
Well, if Europe isn't to your taste, what about America - home of big-bucks and mega-success?
"The idea of doing three months in America doesn't appeal to me. I found that out when I went to Europe. I actually missed England and I didn't think I would. To be away for that length of time, it would seriously unhinge me. Fortunately Julianne is in a similar mind - perhaps more extreme even - so it's good to have an ally."
With early objectives achieved, international tours ruled out and a successful career in mid-flight, are there any goals Tim Bricheno still feels he needs to fulfil?
"My ambition had always been to make an album to leave behind, even if it was just one. I don't think we've done the best stuff we're ever gping to do, so that's my next goal: to do a second album which is better than the first. It's a difficult thing to do, because we had three years to write that first album while we were waiting to be snapped up, and now we've three months to do another one."
Now there's a man who enjoys a challenge.
Interview by Chris Hunt
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