A bit about Grey Lady Down.
Seminal 90s prog band Grey Lady Down have reformed after a ten year hiatus.
GLD were the best selling band on the Cyclops label and gained numerous accolades such as their second album ‘Forces’ being voted the second best album of 1995 by the Classic Rock Society. Regulars at London’s Marquee and Astoria theatres, they were also the first independent prog band to undertake a full scale tour of the USA in the 90s.
The band’s members have gone on to grace such prominent outfits as IQ, Darwin’s Radio, Thieves’ Kitchen and Sphere3. The new line-up includes four out of five of the original members but also now features twin guitars in a fresh and exciting six piece lineup.
They will be playing a number of high profile shows throughout the UK during 2012 when they will celebrate their 20th anniversary. Ideas for a new album, which will be the band’s fifth studio release, are currently being explored for release later in the year.
A Brief History.
In the early 1990s Martin Wilson (vocals), Andy Rae (drums) and Stuart Ellerington (bass), all members of the Sheffield-based band Legacy, got together with keyboardist Louis David from Oxford. Fellow Oxford resident and guitarist Julian Hunt was soon recruited in to the fold and Shadowland was formed. A six-track demo was recorded at this time including early versions of 12:02 and Circus of Thieves and the only release of Time and Tide. Rae and Ellerington soon found the distance from the rest of the band to be problematic and quit the band to be replaced by Mark Robotham and Sean Spear, who had previously worked together in Scream for Real. It was discovered at this time that Clive Nolan, of Pendragon fame, already had a side project called Shadowland so a name change was needed. David had seen the film Gray Lady Down in a TV listing and suggested it as a new name for the band and Grey Lady Down was born. (The English spelling of Grey was adopted as the band was, er, English).
The band started selling the demo (on cassette!) at gigs receiving favourable reviews, notably one from the famed London underground publication The Organ (who loved the music but on seeing a photo of the band described them as “unprepossessing norms”!) and with hours of rehearsals and countless gigs in pubs and clubs in and around Oxford the GLD sound was honed. They were soon spreading their wings further afield including a first visit to the famous old Marquee Club in London’s Charing Cross Road in October 1993.
Around this time the band went into the Phoenix Studios in Wokingham, England to record their first album. A two-album deal signed with the fledgling progressive rock label Cyclops and “The Crime” (CYCL001) was released in February 1994. Plenty of live work followed with the band opening for such acts as Jadis and Pendragon. The gigs were very well received, and the year ended with The Classic Rock Society awarding them with the “Best New Band” title and “The Crime” taking third place in the “Best New Album” category.
Whilst continuing to play live the band began to write new material and by mid-1995 Grey Lady Down where back in the studio, this time The Warehouse Studios in Oxford, England, to record their second album, this time with producer Tim Turan. The result, “Forces” (CYCL020), was released in June of that year to further critical acclaim with Forces claiming second place in the Classic Rock Society’s “Best Album“ award for that year. A return to the Marquee Club in July 1995 was the most successful for a non-mainstream band that year which led to a Christmas show, with The Enid and Threshold, at The Astoria Theatre. Sadly this was to be Louis David’s final appearance with the band.
The following year unknown keyboardist Mark Westworth impressed at audition and was recruited to fill David’s role as the band prepared to play dates in Europe. Soon after Hunt quit due to personal circumstances and Steve Anderson of Sphere3 was drafted in as cover for a tour of the US in November 1996. On their return to the UK Anderson accepted an invitation to join the band permanently and writing for a third album, begun when Hunt was still on board, was completed. “Fear” (CYCL053), again produced by Tim Turan, was released in 1997. With two new members contributing to the writing Fear had a darker, more complex and aggressive element which was previously absent, as well as a far less derivative feel. Reviews for Fear again were excellent and a string of live dates, with the likes of Saga and Mastermind, followed in the UK and Europe.
1998 saw Anderson leaving the band and Hunt rejoining but greater pressures came to bear and the band decided to split in March of that year. Cyclops persuaded them to play one last show at the Astoria Theatre which was recorded and released as “The Time of Our Lives” (CYCL071), a two-CD set featuring a completely new epic “The Perfect Dream” and the only live rendition of the three-part “The Crime” suite as its centrepiece.
As with most bands there is always a chance of a reunion and in 2000 after a chance meeting at a party Mark Westworth and Julian Hunt decided to put the band back together. Sean Spear and Martin Wilson were soon on board but with Mark Robotham now involved with avant-garde prog band Thieves’ Kitchen, Phill Millichamp was recruited on drums. “Star-Crossed” was released in 2001 on the band’s own Perfect Pop label and they continued to play live in the UK and Europe. However in 2001, Martin decided to leave after his 18 month old son was diagnosed with Retinal Cancer (Retinoblastoma), thus ending another chapter in the history of this Grey Lady Down
The early years of the new millennium found Mark Robotham still with Thieves’ Kitchen, Mark Westworth enjoying success with Darwin’s Radio (with Sean Spear) and prog heavy-weights IQ and Martin Wilson involved in various projects in the South East of England. Steve Anderson continued performing with Sphere3 and Julian Hunt returned to his first musical love, the violin, and played with many orchestras including Sussex Symphony Orchestra and is currently 1st violin with the Bristol Concert Orchestra
Now to 2011 and things have come full circle. Martin Wilson thought it might be fun to get Grey Lady Down back together and, with Darwin’s Radio on hold freeing Sean Spear up and Mark Robotham calling it a day with Thieves’ Kitchen, the idea fell on fertile ground. Steve Anderson was also keen so, with Mark Westworth unable to commit to the band for family reasons, Anderson contacted an old friend, Piers de Lavison, keyboard-player extraordinaire with Genesis tribute acts G2 and Re-Genesis, who agreed to fill the role. With Julian Hunt itching to pick up the guitar again after his orchestral sojourn Grey Lady Down have now reformed as a six-piece.