In 1976 Ricky Gardiner played guitar on the Low David Bowie sessions in Paris at the Chateau d’Herouville.
Ricky Gardiner took some photographs in the downtime.
The Passenger Story
Interview questions by Robert Webb 2005.
The Independent on Sunday
1/ I’ve read a quote from you in the book Gimme Danger about how you were walking around your garden and your ear was caught by the chord sequence you were playing. Was it an unconscious thing; a little like McCartney waking up with “Yesterday” going through his head?
RG/ It may have been partially hypno-pompic. It was certainly a case of the chord sequence ‘slipping through’ while I was ‘lost in the glory’ of a beautiful spring morning’. I heard myself playing in the distance. The strength, inherent in a round, arrested my attention and I registered the sequence for future use.
2/ What are the actual chords?
RG/ The chords are simple enough. It is a mystery to me why they had not previously appeared in that order. They are – Am, F, C, G- Am, F ,C, E/E7.
3 / Did you have other ideas for the riff, before you played it to Iggy, and what did he say when you played it to him?
RG/ When I was invited to join David and Iggy in Berlin, I did not realise that they needed material, so I was unprepared when they asked me if I had ‘anything’. My surprise was effectively covered when I recalled the aforementioned chord sequence and promptly played it to them on my unplugged Strat. David immediately liked it, Iggy was open and receptive at the time but I suspect it did not have quite the same impact as a screaming chain saw which is his natural preference, I think. None the less, he appeared the next morning with the completed lyrics andafter we recorded it, he seemed very pleased. I must also mention the fine contribution that Carlos Alomar made to the recording- a very nice man and a good musician.
4/ The song doesn’t move on from the circular chord sequence – no middle eight or chorus. Weren’t you tempted to write more?
RG/ I did not develop the riff prior to convening in Berlin and neither David or Iggy suggested any addition. It lives on unaltered.
5/ What’s your view on Iggy’s lyrics? Are they about Bowie?
RG/ I do not read anything personal in lyrics. I have no interest at all in the personal dynamics between people. We all have our personalities to deal with and I expect we all deal with it in our own way. Therefore, I make no judgement on the people’s personalities or their inter reaction. The main issue for me is the music-getting the work done – enjoying the recording. In general terms, Iggy displays a spontaneously vivid and fertile imagination which he puts to very productive creative use in the studio. This made the recording very rewarding.
6/ Tony Visconti has called you an “unsung hero”, and I take it you first met Iggy and Bowie via him. What’s your feeling now about your involvement with Iggy. Are you still in touch?
RG/ Tony is, himself, something of an ‘unsung hero’. He is very patient and yet decisive. He is always willing to try a new approach yet he doesn’t intrude unnecessarily. I am grateful that Iggy is still out there ‘treading the boards’ and apparently going from strength to strength.
7/ What do you do now?
RG/ For at least 10 years I have suffered from Electro Magnetic HyperSensitivity (www.feb.se ). I am allergic to most aspects of modern and not so modern technology. I spend time trying to find ways round my disability. I am aided by my wife composer/artist Virginia Scott.
8/ Also, can you give me release details for your album The Passenger, and a little more info on your own version please (beyond what I have gleaned
from your web site ): which I like very much.
RG/ We have two versions of the Passenger which were recorded prior to EMHS.
Ricky Gardiner 2005
Read more Passnger FAQ’s on the Beggars Opera Blog
Cover image by artist Nigel Wood
01 White Spring
02 Red Spring
‘My idea for Kumara was to bring five different elements together, allow the elements to co-exist simultaneously while not necessarily depending one upon the other. After a reasonable time had elapsed I found one of the elements brought forth nothing and one of the other elements struck me as unsuitable for the project but had a lot to offer for another time and another project. That left three, myself, Virginia Scott and Trevor Stainsby. The process was quite simple.
Virginia recorded seven pads made up mostly of strings. They were very slow moving with no absolute pulse. I selected four of the passages for further work. These four were duplicated and I worked on one lot and Trevor worked on the other. Trevor had the midi information which was driving the original string parts and substituted his own sound as he saw fit. He also added ad lib ‘one of’ sounds. He then added percussion in such as way so as to blend with the synth part. I worked on the original and added guitar.
On White Spring this turned out to be regular electric and I improvised a melody on top of the strings. On the other three pieces I used a sustaining device called an E BOW to elicit the ‘bowed’ effect from the electric guitar After editing the guitars which meant eliminating the redundant sections, Virginia then recorded her voice on top. She paid particular attention to making her voice sound like one of the instruments. Trevor and myself then got together, amalgamated our equipment and started playing back everything together.
By retaining the elements that we agreed worked musically and rejecting everything that did not, we arrived at what became Kumara – Confluence. My choice of the Kumara name comes from Sanat Kumara which translates as the ‘Spirit of the Earth’ or the ‘Inhabitant of the Earth’ Confluence was chosen to reflect the converging of the quite separate streams to form the one entity. Is not all music like this ?’
Ricky Gardiner 2007
“A majestic atmposphere music, wide landscapes drawn by Ricky Gardiner’s guitar. Hardly for those who knows the guitarist by his work with Iggy and Bowie, but those into FLOYD or Ennio Morricone may find this album enjoyable. Thought-provoking it is. Other musicians are Virginia Scott – she played with Gardiner in one of the best early prog bands BEGGARS OPERA – on violin and cello and Trevor Stainsby operating electronics and percussion. One way or another, the primary instrument is the fluid guitar capable of filling the space with divine sound.
There are four pieces, one hour in all, based on the works of Alice Bailey, and they’re enough to turn off you mind and float downstream from the off, “White Spring”. The guitar sound gets as close to cello that the instruments interchange appears seemless, the method Gardiner and Scott later applied to their “Auschwitz” mini-album. And yes, it’s a violin the main inhabitant of the delicate world of “Red Spring”. Once you spot the John Cage concrete drift Virginia lets her crystal voice soar to the sky. Synthesizer paint the ambience picture of the icicles melting, drops and drops around shining in the sun…
If it were an LP, two “Springs” would make Side One lending Side Two to “Influence” and “Confluence”, two sides of another coin. “Influence” is more sparse, anxious and complex with vocals as a guitar stretch continuation and a violin coming from the voice – that’s an influence illustrated the best. Analysis comes naturally followed by synthesis which is “Confluence”. Think of elements here or, better, of people – as we, people, are elements united in the end of the day.”
“The Yamaha CX5 and four operator synth module allowed me to experiment with sound.
On finding a sound that developed over time I used this to form the background of what became The Flood.
In conjunction with the CX5 I used a TEAC four track tape recorder, one track of which was striped with the predecessor of SMPT time code.
This allowed the tape recorder and the CX5 to run in sync and consequently I was able to
record guitar to the synth.
All this went to a RAM 10 mixer where I could send individual independent channels to be treated with delay etc.
This was then mastered on to a REVOX 1/2 track at 15 ips.
In the years to come the tape deteriorated and requires ‘baking’.
I devised an oven heated by ‘pig’ lamp and decided on temperature of 50 degrees, keeping thermometer in the oven until this temperature could be maintained.
I then put the tapes in for 3 days and at the end of that time with drew them and allowed them to cool.
I then played the master tape recording it directly into the macG5 computer.
This meant that I had digital instance of The Flood ready to burn to CD.
This recording is what now appears on the video.”
Ricky Gardiner 2014
“ A tall Scott of 28 Gardiner is an accomplished musician who recently released a single in Britain Times are Tight ( Good Earth GD4)…The single features him on lead guitar and his wife Virginia on Synthesisers, backed by Tony Visconti on bass and a variety of ancient recorders “ National Rockstar.
National Rockstar/ Ricky Gardiner interview post David Bowie Low. Talks of the Low sessions and announces Times are Tight a Ricky Gardiner single which was released by Good Earth Records produced by Tony Visconti.
National Rockstar was a rare and short-lived weekly music paper issued in 1976-1977.
Watch Times are Tight
A little video with Ricky Gardiner playing Midnight by the Shadows age 16 on a Futurama 3 with a Selmer tape delay with the Kingbees Glasgow 1963.
Dmitry Epstein Ricky Gardiner Interview