|Date: October 19, 2003
Place: Rotterdam, Holland
Interview: Clemens Steenweg
Doing an interview with Andy Latimer from Camel on the Last Farewell Tour is talking to a man with a history in music. What kind of music, anyway? He by himself describes it as emotional music, and that's a good description of the music of Camel, although anyone can name it the way he wants.
The career of Camel is some 32 years and wasn't always happiness. The real fans know that he has dealed with many reverses over the years, but the love for (making) music kept him running. Some beautiful albums were released, like "Harbour of Tears", "Dust And Dreams" and "The Snowgoose". Always surrounded by good musicians Latimer could make his musical ideas reality. In the beginning with Peter Bardens, Doug Ferguson and Andy Ward, later on with various musicians like Colin Bass and Dutch keyboardwizard Ton Scherpenzeel, who made a guest-appearance on the European leg of The Farewell Tour, by absence of Guy LeBlanc, due to private problems. As if he never left Camel, Scherpenzeel brought a superb performance in Rotterdam, which lifted up the whole set!
Too bad it was for the last time, or......?
Read and enjoy!
photo by: Ruut Bol
|CS: The European part of The Farewell Tour started October 8th in Spain, and with 8 gigs Holland has the most of all European countries. Was/is there a special relation with Holland??
AL: I don't know, really, that's a good question. It's just that people want to come and see us in Holland. Nobody wants to come and see us anywhere else!
CS: Is that so??
AL: Well, that's why we're playing 8 gigs in Holland. People want to see us in Holland! You know, basically we start a tour and we call around all the agencies of the world and say: "We're gonna do a tour. Do you want us or don't you?" Holland says: "Yes, we want you for 8 shows!", so our popularity in Holland is much greater then somewhere like Portugal. I mean, I had an interview, same thing, same question was asked: "Why don't you come to Portugal?" The fans don't basically make their voices heard, I think.
|CS: Itís almost 32 years ago that Camel played their first gig (Waltham Forest Technical College, supp. Wishbone Ash on dec. 4th 1971). In those 32 years, is there one or are there more gigs special remembered to you?
AL: Not really, I mean, The Albert Hall-gig was something to remember, that was an interesting event. But not really, each gig you play has something different, a challenge.
CS: Is that the same for you when you play in smaller venues like this one?
Well, smaller venues in material maybe, I mean I don't really differentiate between one venue or another, you play a small venue to a large venue, you know: it's all kind of fun!
|CS: Over the years Camel had numerous line-ups. Could you say that one line-up is thť line-up or are they all as much important to you?
AL: Well, the first line-up was very important because it was the first line-up, but each line-up had a different force and energy that came together with the musicians. I would say probably the first line-up was the most important, really, to be fairly, accurate, you know, I mean the line-up we have now is very important too, and it's a very strong band.
|CS: Although the music of Camel gives a great diversity of music-styles, some people will call it for instance Classic Rock or Progressive Rock. How would you describe the music of Camel?
AL: It's just, you know, emotional music really, I think. I don't think it is progressive, you know, we've been doing the same thing for 30 years so that's not very progressive haha!! So no, I don't know what to term it, you know, it's very difficult. It's the outside world that wants to put some little tag to it, a label. It's not the musicians, what we are doing is kinda playing the music that we like and exploring new avenues as we go, so I don't know what term to put on it. If you want it to call it Progressive Rock that would be okay by me, but I mean it wouldn't be a term that I would use.
CS: But you said emotional music?
AL: Yes, I would say it's more Classical Rock, if that's possible, I don't know really. It has more themes in it, I mean I like a good song, so, you know, whatever it is.
|CS: Where did your inspiration came from to compose all this music over the years?
AL: Oh, from lots of different things. Life really, you know. Life-expiriences, things that you expirience in your life, books, movies, death, love, everything happens to everybody else, and that's a kind of way you get inspired, you draw your inspiration from as many different things as you can, really I think.
|CS: Was it difficult for you trying not to repeat yourself in composing music for again another Camel-album?
AL: Mmm, that's an interesting question. Yes, I'm aware of the repeating, I try to go into new areas but it's inevitable. I mean, somebody once said to me and I think it's probably an interesting statement: "You've only really got one song in you and you just make variations on that one song", so it's always a challenge to write a new album and it's always a challenge to not repeat yourself, and you inevitably do because of your own limitations.
CS: So that's the most difficult part of composing music for you?
AL: Composing is a difficult thing for me anyway, I always find it hard work and I always tend to put myself in a position of pain to get some mellon collie-melodies out, so it can be terribly unhealthy, hard. You know I started to realise I don't have to do that if you don't want to write something.
|CS: Of all Camel-albums is there one or are there more favourite or special to you?
AL: Quite a few are special I think for me: I like "Dust And Dreams" because it was our first venture into the independent recordworld, and then "Harbour Of Tears" became my favourite because of my father. So I've got sort of quite a few different favourites I suppose: I have different tracks that I like and different albums that I like. So, you know, it's not one ideal perfect piece, because they all mean something to me, you know what I mean? "Snowgoose" was quite an important album for the band, "Moonmadness" I like because of the sound that it has, there's a certain sound and feel. I don't know, there are quite a few others that has different points in them. I would probably say "Harbour Of Tears" would be my favourite which has something to do with my dad.
|CS: In 2002 the album "A Nod And A Wink" was released. Is that really the last Camel-album......
AL: No, no, I'm already working on another one. I'm just not touring for a while. It's just a break from touring and to concentrate on doing other things, so yeah, I've got a Camel-album going.
CS: Okay, because the rest of the question was: ......or do you intend to make music only as Andy Latimer?
AL: No, I've got several projects going: I've got another Camel-album going, I've got an album that I was started with Doug Ferguson and Andy Ward, it's kinda like blues-based thing, and ehhm...... what else am I doing? I'm doing something with Colin and Denis, we started while we we're rehearsing and that's quite fun too. I don't know quite where that's going but it's something that we want to do, so there are quite a few projects in the pipeline that I'm doing. Maybe they all are Andy Latimer-albums.
CS: Yeah, probably!
AL: Hahaha!! I don't know, each project I go into I end up sort of doing everything, you know, and I don't intend to, that's not my intention, I don't go into it and gonna write an Andy Latimer-album. I do a lot of writing so, you know, I get in situations where I've written all the material so it becomes an Andy Latimer-album, basically, but it's inevitable, really.
|CS: Ups as well as downs characterize the career of Camel. When you look over the 32 years of Camel, can you say that the ups beated the downs?
AL: Mmm, that's an interesting question. Yeah, they must do, really, as I wouldn't be doing it still. I mean, although we've had a lot of doubts, a lot of unhappiness throughout the career. The first 6 years were pretty happy, and then when Doug left everything started to go a bit strange and then we spent many years, you know, not in the doldrums but as space where Camel had many faces, and now it's back to be like the original line-up which really not had that many faces and not that many sort of forces pulling the band apart. So yes, overall there are more ups then downs, but it's hard work, you know, it's hard work. I still love it.
CS: That is your drive?
AL: I think so, you know, I think in any job you get to a point where you question what you do, why are you doing it, how much fun are you getting out of it, because I don't neccessarilly look on things too much from a financial point of view, but I think that comes into the occasion, it has to, but no, I tend to sort of do things from a fun point of view, really. I love touring, so it's gonna be weird for me to stop. You know, I'm stopping for many, many reasons, but some of those are financial, some of them health, some of them energy: trying to keep up the energy of touring is hard work, and organising it is harder! But mainly I think the band will still keep going. Whether we tour again I don't know, I couldn't answer a question like that, it came up, you know. Difficult one!
|CS: Is that why it was called The Farewell Tour?
AL: Yes, maybe it is ment to be our last tour, and I think it will be, but you can never say never, you know, so I don't know. If I make a lot of money somewhere I probably will still tour.
CS: Because when you do a tour, it's not only Europe, but I think it has to be another world tour?
AL: Well, it needs to be a certain level, you know. I think once you get to a certain level you have to maintain that level, and if it starts going down then you have to start asking yourself: "Mmm, now do I wanna go? Do I wanna play in a local club, for no money or do I want, just because I wanna play? Maybe! Or do I want to finance it? No, probably not!" So you have to ask yourself lots of questions like that when you're touring. "What level do you want to stay at, do you want a roadcrew, do you want a "soundguy", do you want a "lightingguy"?" We have to maintain a certain level I think, for me anyway! I don't know, it may happen again, but probably not.....! Probably not.....! Don't know, it's a difficult one!!
|CS: Is there anything you havenít done in music and as yet would like to do?
AL: Oh, there's many things I haven't done, I haven't really even started yet! I'm 54 and I still think I still don't know much and I'm still learning. I still want to write another classical piece with a proper orchestra. I still like to work with a lot of other musicians, I like to work with possible vocalists, different players, because they give you different opportunities and different inspiration. So, I would probably be playing with other people too, just to widen my brain really, otherwise you become a little bit insure, which I like to degree, but I do enjoy working with people that are on the same wavelength and they wanna achieve the same things as you do. Once you've find that sort of people it's great fun!
CS: They give you inspiration as well?
AL: Oh yeah, oh yeah! It's like when Doug and Andy came across I wrote a whole bunch of material just because I knew they were coming across. So I said well, I better get something for them to do, so yeah, and they're old friends and inspirational too, because they like what I do, so when you find somebody that is inspired by your writing you make sure you write better even. So loads more to do...... I mean loads more to do. I don't think I'll ever stop making music, I don't know anything else, really.
|CS: How was it to be reunited with Ton Scherpenzeel?
AL: Wonderful! It's been really quite a joy, 'cause Ton is so funny, he's got a very funny sense of humor, which is wonderful! And his playing is very structured and very solid, so it brings a great fullness of sound to the band, which I particularly like. We've kept in touch through the years, and the only reason we stopped working was he wouldn't fly, which made life very difficult, especially when we were touring and going to Japan, America and we couldn't do that with Ton. So I think now it's seems very logical to me that he's doing the last tour, it's just a logical step, and we've had a Dutch crew upto today, it's been incredibly funny. They're very dry, very interested people and we were sort of learning from each other, and starting to accept each other. It's not easy when you're thrown together with 5 or 6 people all talking a different language, you have no idea what they're talking about.
CS: But with all the same goal?
AL: Yes! And they were very, very good, and we all got sick together down in Spain. We were very ill, 7 of us were sick, and that kinda bonded us in a strange way, but they were great! They were very, very good!
|CS: When you look at The Farewell Tour until now, with still a few gigs to go, can you say that it brought you what you expected of it?
AL: No. I don't really think about it too much. I started to think about it in America before we organised it, and it became too much to think about. "Farewell Tour"..., "last time"..., you know, if you start thinking: "Wow, this is the last time I'll play Rotterdam!", it becomes too much for me. So, I purposely put it in another compartment and don't think about it because if I did it probably would make me very sad. You know, I'm sort of fooling myself that it isn't the last time, although I'm kind of accepting that it probably is, so a very strange situation really, but no, I don't know, I try not to think about it too much. It never is as you think it will be, though. You hope a tour will go well, you hope that you will have a lot of fun, and those are the things that you look for when you go out. You certainly don't think: "Well, we're gonna be sick for the first week!", so that was hard to restore.
|CS: So, my next question then is probably logical: for many fans this Farewell Tour is an emotional goodbye. What does it to you?
AL: Yeah, it's pretty emotional.....! Yeah, somehow inside I get very emotional. I only have to start thinking about it on stage and I start going, so I have to try and control it because otherwise my emotions get too much and I can't sing and I can't do anything. Each place we play there has been moments where we've been talking to fans and it was very emotional. Some guys were sort of crying, you know, you might say: "Well, that's a bit sad......", but I don't know......
CS: Everything must end......
AL: Yes, I think so. Everything must change too, everything does change. I don't know, Camel will still excist, it's not like we're going to stop making music, it's just gonna be different for a while until the waters come, and then I'll see what I will see. See what the future will bring, I don't know. Who does?
|CS: Well, you answered my next question: what are your future-plans?
AL: Well, it's the same thing: it's like I'm doing another Camel-album, which I'm working on now, it's gonna be sort of a concept-album, and I've got 15 minutes or so written so far. So I'll do that when I get back and I also start working on the Brew-stuff, that I did with Andy Ward and Doug Ferguson. And talk about doing something with Denis and Colin. And I might be doing something with Ton as well, but I'm not sure about that yet.
CS: That's interesting!
AL: Yeah, it will be if I can get it together. It's just a matter of me coming across, really.
CS: Nowadays you can do a lot with Internet...
AL: Well, Guy recorded an album with us, well overlooked just sending me stuff that was unfold so anything's possible. Not quite as much fun, but you can do it!
|CS: Was it hard for you to make a set-list for this tour?
AL: Yes, yes it was. Yes, because you can't please everybody, so I found it very hard to sight on what pieces that we were going to do. I mean there's somebody on our mailinglist who's already complaining about "I hope you're not gonna do all the old standards that you usually do", you know what I mean? Well, how do you please everybody? You can't! So, in the end you just have to try and guess what people will like and what you wanna do, so it's a fairly lively set too. I mean it's a kind of energetic set and it seems to work I think at the moment, you'll never know that. I mean there are lots of different alternatives.
CS: Do you change along the tour?
AL: Not much, no. No, because rehearsing is not easy. We rehearsed for the American leg and then when we came here I gave Ton the set-list and he sort of learned it, but you only have a set amount of time to rehearse, so it's not like we know the whole... (I don't know how many albums we've got? 15, say 16 albums out). We don't know them all. We have to go: "Well OK, we'll do a number from the first album: how does it go? What are the chords?" And we have to learn it and practice it and go from there. A lot of people think that they can just shout a number out and I'll be able to play it... No! Well, my memory is not as good as it used to be!
CS: But it is not how it works, for a musician!
AL: No, and also as a musician and a performer you tend to work on a set, it takes a long time to get a set that works, you know. You slowly working on it, so that it works. It has its highs and its lows, and gives people breath, it gets people excited, makes them cry, whatever it is. But it takes a long time until you are happy with it and you go: OK, this set works for whatever reasons! So no, I won't change that much, but it is difficult!
|CS: My last question: if you could choose to do it all over again, what would you do?
AL: Oh, probably the same, probably the same. If I had the knowledge that I have now I'd probably look for sight. It's very difficult when you look back on your career: this decision was made and that was a bad decision and this was a good decision. You know, forming the band and then watching it split, and then having the influences from all the other musicians had also a great effect on the band. And that may have been good and may not have been, but it was the choice we made, so I very much live with that in a way, and I think I may have made different decisions if I went back, but would that been better? I don't know.
CS: I understand this is a hypothetical question...
AL: It's a hard one to answer, because you look back and you go: "Oh, maybe I shouldn't have made that decision, that was a bad decision", you know, but that decision let us down a certain road and so I think a lot of the painful parts of Camel I would soon forget. And if I had a choice I wouldn't make the same decisions......, if I had a choice, but often I didn't have a choice. I was just thrown down the road, you know, and I just made the best decisions I could at the time, but I'm fairly happy with the way things have gone, I think, but that be a few things I would change then. But I mean that's a man of age who says those things. You get wiser, don't you?