Something of Dave Bainbridge’s creative persona is infused into everything he does – and he does a lot.
Founding member of the Celtic, progressive-folk-rock band, Iona, leader of Celestial Fire, keyboardist with Strawbs, guitarist/keys player with Lifesigns, member of occasional guitar band GB3, solo artist, and half of the Dave Bainbridge and Sally Minnear duo.
Dave has also woked with Troy Donockley, Jack Bruce, Buddy Guy, Nick Beggs, Gloria Gaynor, Moya Brennan, Robert Fripp, Phil Keaggy, Paul Jones, Damian Wilson, Nick Fletcher, Snake Davis, Adrian Snell, PP Arnold, and Mollie Marriott, just to name a few.
Dave is a gifted keyboardist and guitarist and an accomplished composer, improviser, producer, arranger and sound mixer.
On his recent DVD, called Live in the Studio, Dave and Sally Minnear perform a variety of songs from Dave’s impressive catalog.
The DVD incudes a conversation between Dave and Sally. Dave is authentic, joyful and humble. Traits you’ll perhaps see in the following interview with Alternate Arts…
Alternate Arts: What’s your earliest memory of music?
Bainbridge: I grew up in a musical family. My mam played the accordion and sang, my dad played the guitar and banjo and sang, and my sister sang and played the piano. So music was a big part of my childhood. I remember my mam playing her accordion when I was very small, maybe about 2 years old, and I didn’t like it because it was too loud! One vivid memory is when my (older) sister took me to see the Beatles film A Hard Days Night when I was about 5. I remember being really affected by the music, especially by the song And I Love Her. I think that was the first time I really felt the connection between music and emotion.
Alternate Arts: Which came first – piano or keyboard?
Bainbridge: Piano. I started classical piano lessons when I was 8. My sister was in a local rock band a year or two later and they used to keep their Hammond organ at our house sometimes. I would sneak in and play on it whenever I got the opportunity. I was fascinated by the sounds it could make. Then, from about the age of 11, I started getting into rock bands like Deep Purple and loved the sound of Jon Lord’s organ playing. I joined my first band at the age of 14 and for my 14th birthday got my first keyboard – a Diamond 700 organ.
Alternate Arts: What got you interested in guitar?
Bainbridge: Listening to great guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Richie Blackmore, Jimmy Page, Alvin Lee, Eric Clapton. I loved the raw power and emotion you could evoke with an electric guitar, and how you could bend notes, so I started messing around on my dad’s electric guitar (a Hofner President) whenever I saw him at weekends (my parents divorced when I was about 3). I seriously started playing around the age of 14 and my dad bought me a Watkins Rapier 33 guitar and a 15 watt Wem combo amp.
Alternate Arts: Do you have a favorite among the songs you’ve written? Why?
Bainbridge: I don’t have a particular favourite, but there are several that spring to mind for different reasons. Several of the Iona songs, such as Encircling, Bi-Se I Mo Shuil, Luke – the Calf, Songs of Ascent, and Matthew – the Man. Solo album pieces like Chanting Waves, Until the Tide Turns, and Innocence Found.
We are currently playing Until the Tide Turns in the Celestial Fire live set and that is definitely one of my favourites. I had one particularly inspired day in the mid 1990’s when I came up with several tunes on my old upright piano, which I recorded on a cassette player. This was one of them. It wasn’t until several years later when I was working on ideas for my Veil of Gossamer album that I remembered this tune. I came across a fantastic poem by David Adam and the words fitted the meter of the melody perfectly. It was the combination of David’s insightful observations, and the atmosphere of the melody that really gelled to create something special.
Alternate Arts: Which of your songs presents the most technical challenges (is most difficult to play?)
Bainbridge: That would definitely be Love Remains from the Celestial Fire album. We play that live with the Celestial Fire band and it has a very difficult piano part and a lot of quick sound changes, then a guitar solo in the middle, then an improvised piano cadenza! It’s also about 14 minutes long! The rhythm section has to be so tight, otherwise it just falls apart. And if I can’t hear my piano part clearly (which is sometimes the case depending on the venue acoustics and monitoring), that makes things even more tricky. We played it a few days ago at the Trading Boundaries venue in the south of England and that was the best we have done it so far. It felt like we had got to the stage where, rather than concentrating on just being able to play it technically, we were able to really inject some emotion into the music. The audience reaction to it was amazing.
Alternate Arts: Who or what inspires you?
Bainbridge: Lots of things. People, my Christian faith, the world, art, books, music, the precious gift of life.
Alternate Arts: What role does your faith play in your art?
Bainbridge: I think great art has to have a certain honesty and integrity. If an artist is creating art from his or her heart and soul, then it’s bound to have more impact on people as they see or hear it. It’s a difficult thing to express in words, but people can feel it when art moves them. I see it as art building a bridge between the material and spiritual sides of our being. For so much of life, we can be unaware of a spiritual aspect to our existence. Great art can awaken something within us that we have maybe forgotten or ignored and give us a different perspective on life. As a Christian it is natural for me to express something of that faith within my music. Sometimes it is in the form of words and themes that resonate with me, and at other times it is just enjoying that connection and relationship with a God whom I believe loves us more that we can understand.
Alternate Arts: Any plans for US performances?
Bainbridge: I’ll be touring in Canada with Strawbs in October and in the USA in April 2019. Sally Minnear is coming over for the Strawbs 50th Anniversary weekend in New Jersey at the end of April and we’ll be doing a duo set. I’d love to bring the Celestial Fire band over to the USA, but it is just so expensive and complicated thanks to current visa and tax laws that I don’t know if it will be possible. But I hope it could happen one day. And also some solo shows.
Alternate Arts: Any plans to do more soundtracks?
Bainbridge: I’d love to, but there’s currently nothing on the horizon.
Alternate Arts: How do you want to be remembered?
Bainbridge: This is something I’ve never been concerned about, because I believe that God is the only one who truly knows a person and who sees you as you really are. People’s opinions are never based on all the facts. It would be nice to think that people will continue to listen to and discover my music in years to come and to be blessed and moved by it.
Alternate Arts: What are the best ways for people who love your music to support you?
Bainbridge: A) By coming along to see me play live in the various bands, B) By buying the music direct from us where most of the profit comes to us rather than a large corporation (iona.uk.com) and C) By spreading the word and telling others about it. You can join my mailing list at Celestial Fire, United Kingdom, Dave Bainbridge.