In the break after GCSE exams in 1988, Chris worked with friend Richard Brown on
their epic "Freefall" -
"We had been composing this on 2 pianos for a while - to be fair, Richard
wrote most of it and I just added a few ideas and chord patterns here
there. It was a mammoth task then, we only had four tracks and wanted
really complex arrangements. We were pushing our equipment to the limits.
I even remember recording the Bass part and melody line on the same
and used EQ to bring the melody out. We used 1 track of sequenced synths
on a Yamaha hardware sequencer, and the rest was all played live. We
some great sounds going, a few memorable sessions involved setting up
drum kit in the Ladies toilet by the studio, the acoustics were fantastic,
real shame they've carpeted it now! There was also the time we got a
of people (including staff) jumping up and down on wooden boards with
sleigh bells and tambourines for one section - sadly we didn't use it in
We were also lucky with the end section played on electric guitar. One
"A Level" colleagues, who was terrible at reading music, was great at
improvising and we got him to do a few solos over our backing and it just
sounded great! We wrote out an equipment list which went on for ever."
"The piece eventually got finished and mixed a year later onto reel-to-reel
tape and Richard did the splicing - a few of the edits suffered a little
the knife but there were too many different sections to make one complete
I've got some great photos of the bits (of tape) that didn't make it"
As part of the A Level exam Chris had to include a number of compositions, including
one "large" piece, which he decided to write for Symphonic Wind Band -
"I had been with the Sutton Wind Band for 3 years and loved the sound a
like this created. I had a load of musical ideas and wanted to put them
together in a piece."
Chris first had a chance to write for wind instruments when he wrote a short piece
for a school 20th Century music concert. Titled "Ovis Cum Lana Nigra" this was later
developed into the full 15 minute symphony -
"The idea had been inspired a little by the great fugue at the end of Britten's
"Young Persons' Guide to the Orchestra" the idea being of a very busy
accompaniment to a very simple tune. This accompaniment then came the main
theme of the piece and also the finale. After sorting out the instrumentation
the ranges of each instrument I literally started with a blank score and
the whole thing out on a piano. It took ages! It is fair to say that this
probably the only time I could have done this - I couldn't imagine working
way now. I thought about every part individually - I believe it is common
practice to score some instruments the same eg Saxes and Horns or whatever,
but all the parts in "Ovis" are individual, sometimes even taking into account
the ability of particular players at the time.
I have always maintained that I can only write for something that is going
performed, otherwise what is the point? It's just dots on a page."
During all this period, Chris was building up a collection of records from chart
acts, most specifically Mike Oldfield.
"I can't deny that Mike Oldfield has been an enormous influence on my musical
and love of modern instrumental music. My dad gave me a copy of Tubular
Christmas in 1984 as I had heard the famous opening somewhere and asked what
was. At first I didn't listen beyond the first few minutes, but during the
year I gave it another listen and fell in love with it. After this it was
only a matter
of time until the collection grew and by the time I left school I owned all
and even some of the rare singles! What I loved most of all was when there
million overdubs, really busy music, when you hear something different every
you listen - though to be honest not that much of my music is like that at
moment! I appear to be more like Vangelis."
Other influences were - and still are - Vangelis, YES, Early Genesis, Renaissance,
ABBA, and a load of "Easy Listening" compilations.