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Articles Home » 2009 Articles » Tamarisk - 2009 interview with Peter Munday
Tamarisk - 2009 interview with Peter Munday
Tamarisk - interview with Peter Munday

Interview written by Eric Abrahamsen
Date: 28 August 2009

From a historical perspective, one of the most fascinating progressive scenes for this scribe was the UK 'Neo' movement of the early 1980's. It was an exciting time and I can still remember going to my local newsstand and buying import copies of 'Sounds' with Solstice and later - Pallas' Euan Lawson on the front page, and who can forget Fish in full face paint on the cover of 'Kerrang!' giving the rock world the finger or the infamous issue paired with Peter Gabriel? Indeed, those were some heady days and living on the other side of 'the pond' it was all I could do to keep up with the new bands that seemed to be springing up every month. One source for this new music was Lotus Records who regularly placed ads in 'Kerrang!' and carried tapes as well as the rare LP and EP releases. Of course this was pre-internet and the hassle of IRC's, International Money Orders and Cash in the mail - registered of course was never fun, not to mention the time lapse involved, but in the end the wait was always worth it.

In my many dealings with Lotus, one order that stood out was the day I received two tapes from the London group Tamarisk. I had read a brief blurb on the band in one of the publications mentioned above and they sounded interesting. Musically they lived up to the hype with a very intense progressive rock well played and recorded. My hope was the band would go beyond these tapes with an LP release but it never happened.

Of course time marches on and recently I've been going back to some of the music the Neo-progressive scene produced as well as looking up the bands I was fond of back in the day. A quick search revealed the Tamarisk My Space page where I quickly contacted guitarist Peter Munday. He was kind enough to share background on Tamarisk and his thoughts on the group's amazing music..

What were some of the influences you brought to Tamarisk and was it your first band?
Back in 1982 I was influenced by people like Frank Zappa, Yes, Queen, Zeppelin Genesis etc. The band all shared similar music and comedy tastes. Tamarisk was my first band and I'd never played a gig until I joined them. Our first ever gig was at the Rainham Village Fayre in Essex which is where keyboardist Steve Leigh lived. I remember they borrowed the microphone to shout out winning bingo numbers half way through the show.

Three members of Tamarisk came from Chemical Alice which included Marillion's Mark Kelly. What happened in that band to cause everyone to leave?
Andy Grant (vocals) and Richard Crighton (drums) were in Chemical Alice with Mark Kelly. Marillion played a gig with them and Fish managed to lure Mark Kelly away. Steve Leigh was his replacement after he jumped ship, after a while Andy and Steve decided to form their own band. Richard Crighton came to the first few Tamarisk rehearsals but stayed with Chemical Alice. He did finally join Tamarisk about 2 years later. Steve worked with Mark Orbell (bass) who knew me and arranged to come and meet them all. There was no advertising for band members at all.

Did you guys have a plan like 'yes, we are going to be a progressive band' or did it sort of gel that this would be the direction Tamarisk will take?
The great thing about Tamarisk was that there never was a plan. We tried out some song ideas in Steve's Dad's garage then asked each other if we wanted to carry on. It was really casual, we played what ever we wanted over the top of Steve's songs and nobody ever questioned each others musical style or said we are going to be a prog band. Steve wrote the bulk of the basic song ideas but we each wrote and arranged our own musical and vocal parts.

When I first heard the tapes, I thought the music was very intense similar to Van Der Graaf Generator with an almost psychedelic feel. How would you describe the music for someone who has never heard Tamarisk?
That's an interesting comparison! We were compared to many other bands. I was still learning how to play guitar in Tamarisk and I'd been playing for about 4 years, so I just did the best I could do and the band inspired me. I know I wanted to do guitar harmony and complicated riffs and it was going to be like Brian May molded together with Steve Howe for the guitar style, I think if you mixed Bowie, Peter Hammill, Yes, Beatles, Jethro Tull, Queen and Zeppelin in a Zappa sauce and lightly sprinkled some Genesis, you'd probably have the recipe for Tamarisk.

How did the two tapes come to fruition and was the producer drummer Richard Harris?
Druids Studio is where we started rehearsing after we got too many complaints about the noise rehearsing in the garage, Druids had just built a new 24 track studio and wanted a band to test it out for half price. We didn't have many songs but we jumped at the chance. The 'Richard' that produced the demos was the son of the owner of the studio who used to be in the 70's pop band called The Rubettes. I didn't know his surname so I just put 'Richard' on the E.P. cover, so no it wasn't our drummer that produced. A year later we had the money to record the second EP 'Lost Properties' there and we were a lot more confident.

Did the band do much self promotion and how was the music received in the press?
We hired the services of a PR man named Keith Goodwin. He worked with bands like Yes, Black Sabbath and Argent and had taken on Marillion, Pallas and Twelfth Night. He introduced us to the London scene going on with the new prog bands and I think he helped us become part of that. He kept our name in the music press who mostly hated the idea of prog returning. The best press came from the prog rock fanzines like 'Afterglow', 'Revelatory' and 'Slogans'. We did well getting BBC radio airplay and interviews too. Lotus records also helped distribute our music and there were times we couldn't keep up with demand.

Tamarisk played the legendary Marquee Club a few times, but did the band ever leave London? Was the studio preferable over live work?
I think we enjoyed live and studio equally, both were exciting. The furthest we got from our London base was when we played at the Sheffield Electronica Festival in 1984. We also played at Stonehenge Festival in a circus tent. The Marquee club was the main place to play. The atmosphere was always amazing. Twelfth Night gave us our first support. We did some shows with Pendragon and one with Trilogy. The best ones were always with IQ. They were the most down to earth group of people and in my opinion musically the best of them all.

Tamarisk is often tagged as 'neo' progressive. Was this fair and do you think it helped or hurt the band?
Well, we were there 'willingly' in the thick of it. It was great and didn't do us any harm at all. We didn't feel stuck with the label of 'Prog' band and we felt we could go in any direction we wanted. Personally, I liked the idea of the new prog pushing the tired looking new wave and punk aside and the music press couldn't ignore so many of us.

Nick May (Dagaband, Quasar, Jadis) joined Tamarisk late in the bands life, but what happened in the end?
The band came to a quick natural end really, there were some personal reasons and nobody was happy to continue. Maybe the lack of success, no label interest and money played a part and the unstable line up. We struggled to keep a steady rhythm section near the end. We put an advert in for a bass player and Nick May was the only one that showed up so he was in the band for a few months on bass.

Did the band record any other material and do the master tapes from the two releases still exist? If so any chances of a CD reissue?
Lots of live recordings but unfortunately there is no other studio apart from the EP's. I have the master tapes. I'm hoping they are still playable. There has been interest lately by a European record company to release the songs on CD so hopefully the answer is yes to a reissue!

Looking back, what are your thoughts on Tamarisk?
I'm really proud of what we did musically and I'm pleased that people still show an interest today; I'm still in contact with most past members of Tamarisk apart from Richard Harris the drummer. He must be hiding somewhere, so if you see him there's a reward for his capture of five magic beans and a three week stay in a holiday villa in Gravesend.

Thanks Peter, we'll keep a look out!
Thanks a lot Eric.

For more info on Tamarisk, go to their MySpace page MySpace Page

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