Interview: Chris Wade (Dodson and Fogg)
Published on October 17th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
Chris Wade has released an audiobook narrated by Rik Mayall, another with Charlie Chuck, has written a book for former Stranglers front man Hugh Cornwell, is currently writing one about Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, runs the online magazine Hound Dawg, and is still only in his twenties.
Oh, and get this: he’s about to release a beautiful album of psychedelic folk music featuring contributions with Nik Turner of Hawkwind, Celia Humphris of Trees and Judy Dyble of Fairport Convention. The LP, titled eponymously after Wade’s curiously assumed alias of Dodson and Fogg, will be released on 1st November; and, having had an earful of it already, Rocksucker urges you to seek it out.
We fired Chris over some questions about all sorts, and he was kind enough to comply with our feverish demand for information; but first listen to this taster of Dodson and Fogg, and see below for the album’s accompanying video…
Congratulations on a splendid album. How did you manage to get the various collaborators on board, and what did they all contribute across the album?
Thanks for the kind words. Well, I had been in touch with Celia a few years ago when I interviewed her for my online magazine Hound Dawg and emailed her again at the start of the year to see if she would be interested in hearing my tracks. I didn’t think she would actually agree to sing on them, so it was amazing when she did. She’s brilliant on the songs she’s on.
With Nik Turner and Judy, it was all done by email too. They recorded their parts and sent them back. Nik is playing the flute superbly on 3 tracks and Judy does some backing vocals on one track. There’s also some nice cello by Ellie Davies and accordion on one track by Krzysztof Juskiewicz of a ’70s band called Skin Alley. I think everything comes together really nice. I am really pleased with it all.
How long have you been writing, recording and performing music for? Will this take priority over your writing for now?
I think it will definitely take over my writing, even though I would like to do more writing again in the future. It’s just that making music is so much more satisfying. Since March or so I’ve been writing and rewriting this album, from some older ideas and bits and pieces, while most tracks were newly written. I’ve played on and off since I was a kid, and I even had a band with my brother and sister a while back, but it kind of faded away due to their other commitments.
Now, I’m taking the music more seriously and putting more time into it. There was a time in my teens when I spent nearly all my spare time in my bedroom recording things on my old four-track tape machine, so some of those ideas have funnily enough resurfaced on this album.
What’s going on with the clips of hastily cut-out backing vocals in “Foot Prints”? Intention or happy accident?
Must be a happy accident because I’ve listened again and can’t hear anything like that. My voice is double tracked on that song, so it might just be that. Not too sure really.
(Wonders if Rocksucker’s copy is corrupted somehow) Is the psychedelic element of your sound something that just comes out, or is it fuelled by anything in particular?
The songwriting style is totally natural. The more psychedelic elements must be natural because of the type of music I have always loved the sound of. Every musician plays in their own way and if you’re self-taught it can be hard to cover up your natural instincts. I just love writing a song that I can listen back and be satisfied by. I also love all the work that goes into mixing and messing about with sounds.
What will become of the tracks that didn’t make the album?
Some of them are being used for the second album, which I am really excited about because at times it is quite different to the stuff on this one. At times it reminds me of King Crimson a bit.
Is it too early to ask whether you’ve thought much yet about what your next project(s) might be?
My next project will certainly be the second album for this Dodson and Fogg project. I’ve got a book of short stories to release at one point, as well as a book on Frank Zappa and the Mothers I started earlier in the year. But I think Dodson and Fogg is the next project for me because it’s so enjoyable and the feedback is more positive so far. Plus, it looks like Nik and Celia might contribute again, which is really exciting.
Did spending lots of time in hospital as a kid open up creative interests for you? For example, did you do a lot of reading and/or listening to music during this time?
Interesting point that. I think so yeah. With me being a haemophiliac, I wasn’t allowed to play contact sports at all so knowing that I was going to be indoors more often led me to do creative things I think. I started playing guitar and recording with my brother on tape recorders at a very young age, probably when I was about 6 or 7 in the early ’90s.
I also loved drawing, used to do comics and books and also write stories. I also got into collecting records from 9 or so, firstly Black Sabbath’s albums. I’ve never looked at it from that side before, and without sounding pretentious, it is quite obvious now I think about it.
Having had the pleasure of getting to interview Rik Mayall the other year, I was delighted to find him in real life to be exactly as you’d expect him to be (ie. relentless and hilarious). Having worked with him, does he ever run out of energy? Or have you ever found his energy wearying? Do you have any plans to work together again?
In real life, with that famous Rik character turned off, he isn’t overly energetic at all, from my experience anyway, which only adds up to a few days in all, to be fair. But I found he really looks into comedy seriously and even his coarse stuff is well thought-out. Everything is an attack or a parody on something. When more people came in the room or someone recognised him, he turned on “The Doctor Rik Mayall” character and messed around. That’s the way I saw it.
Rik is not only a great comedian when he has a great script, but a great actor too. When we did the Cutey and the Sofaguard audiobook he had thirty or so more characters to do, and he came up with voices and personalities for them all. On our first meeting we met at his agency and had some cups of tea and he sort of worked the room asking me which version of each character I liked best. There were Bottom and Young Ones posters on the wall and it was very exciting, me having loved his stuff from a very young age. We had a good laugh together and working with him directly was also a great experience.
We did a mad interview for my Hound Dawg Magazine about the audiobook down in London in the place we recorded the audiobook. We were supposed to be doing audiobooks of the sequels but it’s kind of come to nothing really, but the whole experience was a one off, and Ill remember it as a highlight.
What’s Charlie Chuck like in person? Do you know how kindly he takes to requests for Uncle Peter catchphrases?
Haha. Well, that’s a different matter, he is like his character in some ways but in other ways not at all. He doesn’t walk around in a big bow-tie carrying a plank of wood or anything. Charlie is just full of ideas. He’s got loads of ideas for his Chuck character, some ambitious ones, it’s just getting them all done and worked out that is hard work, because I don’t think he switches off from the potential of his creation, which is a great character.
We did an audiobook comedy together in my office last year. The sound booth is basically a cupboard I had done up, and when he saw it he said “wow this really is the dark place.” (Vic and Bob fans will remember him as Uncle Peter, the guy they kept in “the dark place”). He’s a funny bloke.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming bands that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
I don’t really follow new music. I prefer all the classic rock stuff myself. I should actually get into newer stuff though, it’s lazy of me not to.
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?
Hmmmm.. tricky. I suppose it would make more sense to choose bands or artists with bigger back catalogues. I’d have to say Donovan because of the range of stuff he’s done; mellow folk, psychedelic stuff, rockier stuff, most of it is brilliant. The Kinks would be my second choice for the same reason, the varied music they’ve made down the years. Ray Davies is one of the best songwriters of all time in my opinion.
I would have to say Jethro Tull as well, especially the early stuff. I think The Beatles too, I love their albums from ’66 onwards mostly. My fifth choice would be Pink Floyd, because I love their Barrett era and obviously Dark Side of the Moon. I hope I don’t think of anyone else later on, it will drive me mad thinking I’d missed someone really good out…. Oh, Zappa!!
Chris Wade, 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