Interview: Celia Humphris (Trees)
Published on October 17th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Trees singer Celia Humphris has contributed vocals to Chris Wade‘s wonderful Dodson and Fogg album, an LP which also features Nik Turner of Hawkwind and Judy Dyble of Fairport Convention, so Rocksucker sent her some questions pertaining to both this new project and her legacy as the voice of Trees’s influential output; and she very kindly obliged us…
How did you come to be involved on the Dodson and Fogg album, and what do you think of the end result?
Chris interviewed me for his online magazine Hound Dawg some time ago. Earlier this year he sent me one of his short stories and asked if I’d be interested to record it – I was – and I guess it seemed natural that I should sing on a couple of his music tracks as well. I like to sing, I have my own voice studio – why not?
Can you hear the Trees influence in there?
Perhaps in the poetry, otherwise, no not really.
Are there any Dodson and Fogg live shows lined up, and if so will you be taking part in any of them?
I don’t know the answer to the first part of the question. Unless he happens to be playing down near where I live, it’s highly unlikely that I’d be able to take part – I live in France!
What do you get up to these days? Does resuscitating Trees in any way, shape or form ever get discussed? Have you noticed a demand for it?
I’ve been a voice over for the last thirty-odd years – hence my recording studio. Yes, Trees were set to play a reunion gig at the Borderline in London a few years back, but sadly our drummer, Unwin Brown, died and we lost the impetus to get started. It was also mooted that we play at a festival at the end of August, but again it wasn’t really feasible due to my being down here. If we could, I think we’d love to, although it might be our inaccessibility that keeps the interest in those two albums going.
Have you read the comedian Stewart Lee’s piece about Trees’s second album On the Shore that he posted on his website?
Yes, I had read it, and it was wonderful to re-read it and return to those heady days, many thanks for the link. Stewart interviewed us during our first meeting all together for thirty years. The interview helped us to remember and focus, and afterwards each of us admitted to not remembering certain bits that others of us had mentioned.
Trees wasn’t around for very long and everything happened so fast that it’s hardly surprising that our memories of events differed a little. I think my favourite part in his well-considered and beautifully written piece is this: its tone of strange, otherworldly, almost sinister ambivalence has remained impossible to counterfeit.
What did you think of Gnarls Barkley’s use of a sample from “Geordie” for their track “St. Elsewhere”?
That he had used it, or the result? I was amazed that he’d used it and made a piece of music that was nothing like the sampled piece – I like it very much and still love “Crazy”. Had he not sampled it, we’d not have got back together as friends at least, and the resulting renewal of interest in our albums would not have happened. What was even better – thanks to David’s hard work we finally received overdue royalties dating back to the early ’70s! Not in any way a fortune, but it gave us a good feeling of achievement.
Do you prefer one of the Trees albums over the other, and if so, why?
I used to think I preferred one, and then the other – so I guess the answer is no. There are elements in both that I love, others that I’m not so happy with, and I was so pleased to be able to add in the harmonies on “Silkie” and “Jane Delawney”. Quite an interesting feeling, singing with my 18-year old self!
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming bands that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
Living where I do I’ve not had the chance to hear much live music. Down here it’s all cover bands playing in bars, that sort of thing. So no, not really – which is why it’s been so good to have been a part of Dodson and Fogg. There’s a lot more where that came from!
Finally, if you had to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, with just the entire back catalogues of five different musical artists for company, whose would you choose?
Lord, what a question! Gershwin, Beethoven and Vivaldi for starters, but I imagine you meant contemporary? I think BB King would have to be in there, blues always was my thing and he’s made several great albums with other artists, and then maybe Van Morrison, who I didn’t much care for at the time of Trees but latterly found myself drawn into his music.
Celia Humphris, thank you.
Dodson And Fogg’s eponymous debut album will be released on 1st November. For more information, please visit wisdomtwinsbooks.weebly.com/dodson-and-fogg.html , www.facebook.com/pages/Dodson-And-Fogg/282552805161916 and twitter.com/dodsonandfogg