Interview with Andrew Keeling

(Taken from a Zoom conversation between Danny Hampson and Andrew Keeling on 30th January 2021).

Andrew: Where did you and Alex go to school and was Luglo Slugs formed there?

Danny: We were at school in Skelmersdale but Luglo Slugs was formed after we’d left school.

That was the beginning of things. We didn’t have many songs and only played a handful of gigs but we were learning how to create. Skelmersdale was considered to be out in the sticks because it was a New Town 25 miles outside of Liverpool. It was a classic New Town Utopia and had a big influence on me. At the time it seemed bright, modern and futuristic so, in the 70’s environment of heavy rock, glam rock, modern architecture and new art forms I was inspired to explore my creative inclinations through music and art.

At 21 I moved into a house in Liverpool with Alex and Bob and that’s when Modern Eon started to happen.

Andrew: Who were your primary influences as a bass player?

Danny: Free was one of my all-time favourite bands and Highway one of my favourite albums. Certainly, Genesis and early Yes. I had an eclectic taste in music, for instance, I would listen to Genesis’ Selling England By The Pound followed by David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust – the arrangements and the visual aspect fascinated me and took me somewhere else … and then punk happened.

The first Buzzcocks’ album and Wire’s second album are brilliant. Bass players, J.J. Burnel from The Stranglers, Kevin Bacon from The Comsat Angels. Also Felix Pappalardi (Mountain), Jack Bruce, Andy Fraser, Geddy Lee are all probably subconscious influences.

There was also Peter Hook from Joy Division. I saw them for the first time at Eric’s in 1978. They came on in shirts and ties and I thought ‘What is this?’ Closer was a revelation.

Subconsciously something was happening and I started pulling my ideas together.

Andrew: Alex mentions you as the driving-force behind Modern Eon and good at arranging.

Danny: Yes, that was my strength. I was interested in creating a musical landscape.

With Alex’s vision and my prog-rock musical background, something special was created. It worked on two levels with Alex’s visual concepts through his lyrics and neon lighting for the stage show and my vision musically. The individual album tracks were blended because Alex’s vision was to create a film score and I wanted to get away from the typical song, break, song, break album format.

At the time I wasn’t 100% with the album’s sound. Bob (Wakelin) and I wanted it to be more gutsy. We were after more of a ‘live’ sound; something like the sound of the Richard Skinner radio session we did. In rehearsals the band would tend to work in pairs. Alex and Tim would work out the guitar parts while I would work with Cliff to make a strong foundation. I helped Cliff to develop ideas such as playing what isn’t obvious, playing floor toms instead of hi-hats for example. He was astute and enthusiastic. Tim was ‘the musician’ and into technology. It was Tim’s suggestion that I use an Acoustic bass amp and a Music Man bass guitar – both of which helped to create my sound.

Andrew: How did your’s and Alex’s songwriting collaboration work in practice?

Danny: I’d come along with basslines, say for 3-4 pieces. We’d get to a stage where it was like a jigsaw so then I’d start arranging it. We didn’t want verse, chorus, middle eight and so on. We wanted to create a new way of structuring songs. I laid down the foundations and created the framework and Alex would add the textures and visual elements. His influences were more Floyd and Bowie. I loved Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust but I’d approach things more from a power aspect such as Deep Purple and the arrangements, for example, of Yes or Rush. We didn’t really know what we were doing although we knew what we both wanted. We were both into movies so there was a strong collaboration.

Andrew: Are the final four songs all that was left for the potential second album?

Danny: Yes, written by me and Alex. By then we’d become a really tight live act. The last gig we played on the Stranglers tour was at the Rainbow Theatre in London where a Din Disc A&R man came to see us and said ‘You are now a strong ‘live act!’ By the time of the Skinner session it had all become very tight and we believed in what we did. We were confident and knew where we wanted to go. We could easily have ended up playing large theatres and putting on a full stage show. If you get it right and control the environment it can be done. By the end of 1981 the band had come to its conclusion. Alex’s and my collaboration was beginning to drift apart and the record company wanted hits. They thought if they stuck us in a rehearsal room they’d get them but it doesn’t work like that. When Din Disc started to push us in a direction we didn’t want to go, it just added unwanted pressure.

Andrew: What did you do then?

Danny: I continued in the music business for over a decade and formed several bands but then I started looking at art seriously. I did an art degree at London College of Printing and my dissertation was about Subversive Collage. I was interested in the cut and slash style of punk to see where it came from, discovering it was influenced by the Dada movement. My dissertation posed the question ‘Was Punk the last great Dada movement and was Dada the first Punk movement?’.

From there I focused on becoming a professional artist.

Forty years on from the release of Fiction Tales, it seems that it has gained an iconic status among a certain group of people in a similar way as Sgt. Pepper or Never Mind The Bollocks did with a much larger audience. It encapsulates a feeling of history and longevity – it sits in the subconscious and resonates with fans as much now as it did when it was first released.