|New Haven Rock Press April, 4 1973|
Olly Halsall Interview
Patto may not be the richest and most famous band ever to step out of their rock ‘n’ roll shoes, but in my book they certainly rate as one of the best. Their 3rd album has just been released in the United States and bears the dubious handle Roll ‘em Smoke ‘em Put Another Line Out on the Island Record label. I was fortunate enough to speak with their lead guitarist and keyboard player, Mr. Olly Halsall, on the telephone previous to a gig they played in Iowa, and the following is a transcription of that interview.
Jon Tiven: How did the group get from the pop-oriented material you were doing with Timebox to the more progressive stuff that you’re doing now?
Olly: It’s the same thing really, just a development. The same cats playing it. It just changes all the time. I’m not quite sure what we’re playing now, it’s just different.
Jon: Was there a personnel change which preceded the name change?
Olly: We had an organist. He left, and we continued as a 4-piece. That stuff was really simple, naive…we’ve got some great tapes, demo sessions. We did one session where we got hold of a bottle of demerol, which is cough medicine, and we did some really nice songs on it. We wrote a song about five years ago called "Black Dog" and it was a gas.
Jon: Was Mike (Patto) doing some solo work at that time?
Olly: Sort of. I had the band, and Mike had a group called the Bo Street Runners and he was with that band for a long time and there were a lot of people involved with that band. Then he was singing with a group called the London Youth Jazz Orchestra. We needed a singer, so there you go…that was Timebox. After that, John joined us.
Jon: It seems that you’re playing a lot less guitar and more of the keyboards on the new album. How did that come about?
Olly: I don’t know. We were trying to make a whole album as an album, the whole thing…I don’t know, really. I did an album on my own with Bob Fripp and that was mainly piano. I don’t even know if it’ll be released. It turned out pretty good. I used a lot of nice guys on it. I used a guy called Harry Miller on bass and a guy Max Von Schmacks on violin, and that was it really. John did assorted percussion. My tenor sax player was a bloke by the name of Gary Windo, that was nice. I don’t know what Fripp is going to do with that. He had a bunch of albums, but he’s been more involved in other things now.
Jon: How did the Centipede thing work out?
Olly: The Centipede thing was great, actually. It was a great experience for everybody. Keith (Tippett) is now playing with his trio, and they’re doing very well.
Jon: How does the multiple authorship for songs work. Who writes what?
Olly: Mike writes the words, we all get together…I write the chords and things, the arrangements.
Jon: The new album is such an odd transition from what you’ve been doing.
Olly: Yeah, it is. It really is, but I think it reflects what we’ve been doing onstage.
Jon: Do you do a lot of your recording ‘live’ in the studio?
Olly: Yeah, we just go in there, set up the mikes and play. We try to do as much of it live as we can, but when I have to play guitar and piano on the same track we can’t.
Jon: Are you playing much guitar on stage?
Olly: I’m playing just a bit of piano, mostly guitar, as Mike’s handling the keyboards. He’s doing well on piano. I’m handling the leaping about, and the guitar.
Jon: So you’ve got some theatrical trick up your sleeve, eh?
Olly: Well, this is what we’re trying to do. People say to us, ‘People aren’t going to dig your humor, they’re not going to understand it,’ Well, we’ve been doing a few things and we’ve been going over fucking well.
Jon: Where --- geographically speaking --- are you the strongest?
Olly: France…Timebox used to play a lot in France. We did a gig once at the British Embassy in France for all the royalty and everybody. It was great.
Jon: How old are the members of the band?
Olly: I’m 23. John Halsey…I think he’s about 26 or 27. Clive is the same age, and Mike is around 30.
Jon: Then you yourself must have begun gigging at a fairly early age?
Olly: Yeah, I started playing when I was about seven in skiffle groups and then we’d do a few things by Lonnie Donnegan.
Jon: Your lyrical content seem very socially and politically oriented. Does the band have a very strange sense of political consciousness?
Olly: I think so, yeah. All of us. It’s a very natural thing. We’re as politically minded as anybody, but with us it comes out in the songs a little more…Mike’s lyric teeth, he has goes at things. It’s just the way he writes.
Jon: Also quite drug-oriented…
Olly: Yeah, yeah. Well, drugs, terrible things…(laughter)
Jon: Are you personally big on drugs?
Olly: No, not as much as this lot (the remainder of the band). They go at a very fast rate. Can’t keep up with them. We end up lying on the floor.
Jon: Are you drinkers at all?
Olly: Well, we got very drunk last night. We were drinking Southern Comfort actually. The guys from the record company got us a pint.
Jon: Well, thanks very much for talking, and I hope you go over really well and make all the money you deserve.
Olly: Ahhh, we just want some fucking acclaim, that’s all. We want the people to know that we’re here.
Note: Thanks to Gordon Jackson for providing this article!
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