Prior perception is often so wrong, especially when it comes to The Galileo 7. This Kentish quartet have now been kicking out keen psych-pop nuggets since 2010, over the course of 5 albums and several 45s, but vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Allan Crockford’s illustrious past and parallel present, as bassist with a roll call of the greatest British bands of the past 30+ years – The Prisoners, The James Taylor Quartet, The Prime Movers, The Solarflares, Graham Day & The Forefathers – seems to have, weirdly, done ’em no favours. Their latest LP, ‘There is Only Now’ is their best yet and out now!
We caught up with Guitar & Vocalist Allan Crockford – to chat about his musical life…
01. At what age did you first take up your chosen Instrument and why?
I’d been having organ lessons for a few years up to the age of 12 or 13, but with only minimal enthusiasm. It was a lovely Hammond X-5, but it was the era of playing easy listening versions of the hits at a home with a rhythm box – very cheesy. It would be a few years before I discovered all the really cool Hammond stuff (Deep Purple, The Nice, Small Faces, Jimmy Smith etc). I really wanted to play the guitar. I was into The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Who and Led Zep, but could not imagine ever being good enough to play music like that. I became aware of punk rock at the end of ‘76, and the ‘here’s three chords, now form a band’ mantra. I got a nylon-stringed classical guitar and a Tune a Day book… Then I saw The Jam doing ‘In the City’ on Top of the Pops around April ‘77 and that was the real turning point. The fire, intensity and simplicity of the performance spurred me on to practise every day, going through the sore fingers stage, learning barre and open chords and persuading my parents to buy me a cheap electric guitar and tiny 5 watt amp… leaving the Hammond to sit in the corner unused for a few years. But what I knew about music from playing the organ helped with the guitar, and it wouldn’t be long before I realised what a cool instrument it was… if played the right way in a band. But that person wasn’t to be me. After a couple of years, I swapped to bass, which is where I stayed for a long while.
02. What are your earliest memories and influences for you that got you started?
It started with the obvious bands as mentioned in the previous answer, and I went through periods of liking heavy rock and prog before punk came along. For a couple of years that was the inspiration, the DIY attitude of just getting on with it being at least as important as the music. I think most of the great punk/new wave stuff was finished by ‘79 (with the odd exception of course) and I gradually found myself going back to the 60’s stuff that The Jam were referencing, and eventually the obscure garage and psych material that was starting to surface. Of course that stuff has been pretty much mined out now, and is so easy to find on the web, but back then it was so exciting to discover this ‘new’ old stuff lurking in second-hand record shops and charity shops. And it’s so strange to think that stuff was only about 15 years old at the time! It seemed ancient to a 17 year old, from a magical long-forgotten era.
03. What was your first Instrument, where did you get it and how have you faired since in upgrades?
Apart from the Hammond, I had a couple of cheap electric guitars once I worked out that was what I wanted to play. I remember a Gibson SG copy that was practically unplayable, then a Satellite Les Paul copy, which was pretty good. Then there was a big leap to real Gibson SG on my 16th birthday. Not a bad guitar to get at that age… however being young and stupid, when I and Graham (Day) swapped roles and I became a bass player, we also swapped our gear. He got the SG and I got his Peavey T40 bass… I think I know who got the best deal.. Since then I’ve owned, sold, lost (or had stolen) a lot of lovely old and new gear. A ‘67 Fender Telecaster bass, a 1964 Epiphone Rivoli bass, a couple of Rickenbacker 4001’s (including one that supposedly belonged to Lemmy), a Gibson EB3, a Gibson 335, a 60’s Selmer Thunderbird amp, an 70’s AC30, a ‘79 Gretsch Country Gentleman, Marshal, Hiwatt, Orange, Vox and Fender bass amp/cabs from the 60’s and 70’s. That’s just the ones I can remember… there were loads of others. I could have made a fortune on Ebay if I’d hung on to everything, but generally, that old stuff was fairly easy to get hold of then. I’d buy something, use it, hanker after something that someone else was using, then sell whatever I had to get the next object of desire.
04. What is your current set up for live shows and how does that differ from work in the studio?
With The Galileo 7, I use a Lazy J20 custom-built 1×12 combo, occasionally with an extension cabinet. The guitar will usually be either an 80’s Epiphone Sheraton that I’ve had upgraded with hand-wound PAF pickups and Gibson wiring, or a Gretsch G5422T. Sometimes a Telecaster. I’ll generally use the same gear in the studio. If I’m playing bass with Graham Day & the Forefathers, I use my 1976 Hagstrom Swede Bass going through whatever bass gear is in the venue. I don’t own any bass amplification any more – there’s not enough room in our house!
05. Can you tell us how you technically shape your sound, what add-ons, bits of kit and tweaks do you make?
Sounds a bit technical…! Plug in, turn the amp up and fiddle with the knobs until it sounds good in the particular environment we happen to be playing in. I have a ton of effects pedals that I’ve bought over the years, but mostly they’re just a distraction from the more important business of actually singing and playing. I’ve got a compressor, a Lazy J drive/boost pedal, a cheap wah-wah, an old analogue reverb pedal and a tuner on my board these days. Still too much I reckon!
06. Can you play more than one instrument and if so how well? Can you sing too?
As you might have gathered so far, I can play a bit of organ as well as guitar, bass, and very rudimentary drums. I would say the bass is the instrument I feel most confident playing, and gives me the most pleasure. Bass is the glue that sticks everything together and you feel like I’m an important part of the team. Playing guitar is more like skating around on top of the foundations, not necessarily changing what the audience is feeling. I’m never quite sure whether what I’m doing on the guitar is actually that important! That’s possibly years of playing bass clouding my perception, but there it is. I do the majority of lead vocals in the Galileo 7, but it’s not for me to say how good or bad I am. I’m definitely not the best singer in the band, that’s for sure… I encourage everyone in the band to sing, and I like lots of backing vocals and harmonies to cover for my inadequacies. But if I’m gonna write all the songs, I’ve got to sing them!
07. You are currently working on the new G7 LP, can you tell us about the process and an average day in the studio?
The album is now finished and it’s released on June 21st on Damaged Goods. It was made in pretty much the same way as the others, apart from a change of venue for the backing tracks. Previously we’d recorded them in our friend’s printing unit where we used to rehearse. This time around we recorded the basic tracks on 8-track at Mole’s new analogue studio, North Down sound, then transferred them to the digital realm for overdubbing at our house. Technically we could have done everything at NDS, but we tend to use a LOT of tracks for vocals and overdubs and it would have been a nightmare trying to plan a way of bouncing it all down to eight tracks. Not impossible of course, but complicated. And of course, it’s more difficult to book into a studio than nipping down into our cellar for a few hours to try a few things out… So we had perhaps a total of 3 working days in the studio for tracking, then months of dubbing and mixing at home. Of course, I go a bit mad doing it this way, but it seems to work in the end. We’re really pleased with it – may be more so at this stage in the process than any of the previous ones. Usually, after spending months writing, recording and mixing an album, all I can hear is the bits that I might be dissatisfied with, or feel that could have been done better. You can’t be really objective about your own stuff when you’re still close to its creation. However, this time around I know this is a good album without having to take a year off from listening to it. Time will tell in the end, but we’re confident it’s our best so far. It’s good to be able to say that for our sixth album!
08. How do you go about developing the songs, the sound and ideas that end up being used? What about out-takes?
There’s no fixed method of writing a song. It could be an idea for a riff or chord sequence that floats around in my head for weeks, a chance line of lyrics, or a particular rhythm that I want to play with. Only rarely does the initial idea sound much like the finished song. I do a series of demos and develop the idea according to what I hear playing back. I’ll usually play a half-finished demo to Viv and see what it sounds like with another person in the room… it changes your perception of a song and you might be able to hear things that need to be sorted out that are not apparent when you’re immersed in it alone. I usually give the band a pretty detailed demo version with me playing everything, but then we’ll thrash it around and bang it into a shape that suits our collective style. I’m less precious about everyone following the parts I’ve written than I used to be.
9. How do you feel about Vintage Kit? Do you ever include more Modern bits of Equipment in your work?
I think I’ve owned pretty much every vintage guitar or amp I’ve dreamed about at one time or another. None of them have made me a better player. In the end, it’s all in your fingers, for good or ill. So at this stage, I don’t really have a dream set-up. Sometimes we’ve turned up and been presented with some dodgy cheap modern backline that we wouldn’t normally touch with a bargepole, and it’s sounded great. Or we get the vintage backline of our dreams and it sounds rubbish. It doesn’t make a huge difference in the end, and I doubt anyone in the audience notices, especially if the band is putting everything into the performance. Having said that, if I had Abbey Road and all the vintage recording gear set up in the garden shed, with an engineer in there 24 hours a day, I would be happy.
10. What advice would you give to new players and bands to save them years of pain?
There is no pleasure without pain. You need the contrast between up and down to know which way direction you are facing. Pain and failure are part of the deal with any art form, including rock’n’roll. The only bit of advice I would give is to not expect anything to be given to you. You make your own luck, just make the music you love whether others seem to like it or not. It should be its’ own reward. If success happens, be thankful and don’t expect it to last. I’d also advise new players and bands not to listen to my cheesy cliches too closely. I think I’ve seen too many life-coaching memes on social media.
11. Can you end by talking about some of your own highs and lows and the journey to where you are now with the Band and new LP and tell us all why and how we should actually go and get a copy?
I’ve been playing in bands for most of my life, from the Prisoners in the 80’s to The Galileo 7 now, with many other bands in between and simultaneously. I don’t think of any of it as highs and lows, it just what I (we) do. I’m not sure whether I could stop, even if I started to hate it! The Galileo 7 started as a name for my early demos back in the days of Myspace, but the group has long since taken on a life of its own. After a few line-up changes and swapping about, we’ve hit upon a winning combination that seems to suit the way we all want to work. I remain permanently pleasantly surprised that I was able to start writing half-decent songs at a relatively late age, but on the other hand, I’ve been privileged to work with a lot of excellent songwriters along the way. Something must have filtered into my brain over the years, and the new album is further proof the process hasn’t quite finished yet, but…I haven’t written anything since the album was finished in January. The songwriting muse is difficult to predict and maybe I’ll never write another song, who knows. It’s not my plan to stop now, but if this album proves to be a swansong then it will be going out on the highest high! The band could continue as a live act for a good while yet, with five albums worth of material to choose from. However… that is not our plan. New material keeps a band interested and interesting, so I’ll have a crack at writing some new stuff later in the year and see if anything comes of it. Meanwhile – buy ‘There Is Only Now’ from your local record dealer, or preferably us!
12. Where is a handy link to buy the new LP?
You can scroll down a few inches and click away below!
‘There Is Only Now’ LP
The G7 New Album: There Is Only Now is Out Now!
Brand new album from Medway’s finest psych-beat combo!
Date: 2019 Release Format: Vinyl, CD, Download.
CD Album 12 tracks £9.99 Available 21 June 2019
The current band line up is:
Allan Crockford – vocals, guitar
Viv Bonsels – organ, vocals
Mole – drums, vocals
Paul Moss – bass, vocals