PT: Let's go back to the very beginning. The first I heard of Gordon Haskell was with the Fleur de Lys, but I assume there was life before then?

GH: Well I suppose it's of mild interest that I was at school with Robert Fripp. This was in Wimbourne (Dorset) - we were best friends at school, and at the age of 14 he taught me the rudiments of bass playing. That was the last time he taught me anything! We were in bands together for about three years, then I left to go professional and he stayed on to become an estate agent...

PT: So what prompted the decision to become a professional musician?

GH: I think it's fair to say that at 14 years old the realisation dawned that I was psychologically fucked. There was simply no way I was going to do a straight job. At 16 I joined the police force in London, because that was what was expected of me, and I left after one day. From that moment on I was a musician.

PT: So you joined the Fleur de Lys as a bass player...

GH: Well yes, I took to the bass guitar. I've always been very rhythmic, and the Fleur de Lys at that time were a Motown type band. When we went to London we became a session band for Atlantic (Stax) Records, and we were being coached by black musicians like Booker T. & The MGs who were in town. Songwriters like Hayes & Porter would be doing demos and we were the house band.

Les Fleur de Lys. L-R: Gordon Haskell, Pete Sears, Chris Andrews, Phil Sawyer, Keith Guster

PT: As far as I know, The Fleur de Lys were a Southampton-based band, formed in early 1965. They had already recorded their debut single, 'Moondreams', when yourself and guitarist Phil Sawyer joined the band. This line-up recorded the second single, 'Circles' (a cover of the Who's 'Instant Party') c/w 'So Come On', followed by a couple of others with you on I believe, and somewhere along the way you picked up keyboard player Pete Sears...

GH: That's right - 'Circles' was the first record I was on - I was nothing to do with the earlier single, 'Moondreams'. The leader of the band then was Phil Smith - it was his band really, and gradually everybody stitched him up! Terrible, isn't it? Pete Sears joined to make it a five-piece band. He had this Hohner piano that never worked. He was with us for 6 months, we were playing 4 nights a week, and this fucking piano never, ever worked! Not one gig! He was dead handy with the van though, loved getting his hands covered in oil and he was a fabulous bloke of course. An able bass player and pianist too. The crunch finally came one night when.... see, you always had curtains across the stage front in those days, you'd get an announcement and the curtains would go back - 'And now, the Fleur de Lys!' (or 'The Fleur de Leurs' as they often pronounced it). On this particular night, the curtains went back on the downbeat, Pete went [brings his hands down on an imaginary keyboard] and the whole bloody thing fell to pieces! The legs gave way, keys flew in all directions and we all pissed ourselves. After that though, the others decided that Pete had to go so I was deputised to tell him. It was near Christmas, as well. Pete was well upset - I was pretty upset about it, too. Pretty soon after that he went to San Francisco, and the rest is history really.

PT: I've got a tape somewhere of the Fleur de Lys doing John Peel's 'Top Gear' show in late 1967 - I think Bryn Haworth was with the band by then?

GH: It was Bryn, me and Keith Guster who did that show. I remember doing Albert King's 'Crosscut Saw' [the other songs were 'Go Go Power', 'Always Something There To Remind Me', 'Our Day Will Come' and 'Hold On']. Traffic were on the same show, and Procol Harum and the Cream.

PT: What had happened to Phil Sawyer?

GH: The Motown thing had slipped away by then, Phil sounded very much like Smokey Robinson. He took Stevie Winwood's place in the Spencer Davis Group, and we found Bryn literally walking along Wardour Street in London. He was only a rhythm guitar player at the time, but because he was thrown in at the deep end and had to become a lead player with us, he very quickly mastered it - and became really quite exciting. We had about a year of playing some really meaty stuff. Our manager was the head of Atlantic Records, so we were privileged in that wherever the main acts were going, we would be the hangers-on. One day the manager told us that the Vanilla Fudge were in town, they were going into the studios and so were we, we were all going to play together. A whole day's worth of the Fudge and the Fleur de Lys was recorded, but it's never been released. The following morning, we were called to the manager's office and he told us it was the biggest load of crap he had ever heard in his life. He was a commercial man and there had been a lot of dope around that day so I daresay it was a bit indulgent! But it was wonderful, and it certainly stretched the Fleur de Lys.

PT: The Fleur de Lys seemed to have been onto a bit of a winner when you left.... [in fact, they only recorded two more singles and eventually folded in early 1969]

GH: It was the old problem, just at the time when we should have been working there were too many people getting out of it. I left because I'd had enough.

PT: Do you regret leaving?

GH: I do, because nothing much happened after that for a while. I was a musical tart for a couple of years, playing bass in pop groups, but it was never as good. Bryn Haworth was very upset and went to the States, and ended up in a band with Little Feat's drummer, Richie Hayward. You see, the Fleur de Lys was a real co-op type of band, nobody told anyone else what to do, it all just happened naturally. As soon as you become a 'pop tart', a sidesman, that all goes out of the window bacause there's always somebody who insists it's his band. I knew in my heart that this wasn't for me, so I started getting into guitar playing and writing songs myself.

PT: Own up then - what group did you prostitute yourself for?!?

GH: I was with the Flowerpot Men, and then with Cupid's Inspiration for about 12 weeks - we were in the Top 10 though!

PT: And it was while you were with them that you started writing your own material?

GH: That's right, I suddenly had a few songs so I did the 'Sail In My Boat' [first Gordon Haskell solo LP on CBS] album with their producer and manager. Just as I finished it King Crimson happened with their first album, and Fripp called me to ask if I wanted to join them.

PT: Quite a nice opportunity!

GH: I straight away, without any hesitation, said 'absolutely not'. I was totally r&b oriented and it wasn't my sort of music. I didn't like King Crimson. Anyway, after a while I said I'd think about it, and my wife got to work on me because she wanted a regular income so in the end I joined. I did some vocals on 'In The Wake of Poseidon', and then we got down to rehearsing 'Lizards' and.... the drummer, Andy McCulloch, was in tears - Fripp used to bully him unmercifully. He bullied us all. I don't go for that though, so where Andy would cry I would just laugh. At the end of one song, 'Indoor Games', I just burst out laughing. You can hear it on the album. They thought it was really freaky, that I'd understood the lyrics and my part - but the truth of the matter is, it was a lousy song, the lyrics were ludicrous and my singing was atrocious so I just burst out laughing. And they thought it was wonderful!

PT: It was an enormously successful album though...

GH: Enormous. Richard Williams wrote that 'if Wagner was alive today, he'd be sounding like King Crimson'. You can either swallow that kind of bullshit or.... when I was younger, I always followed my heart - and I still do. People might say that the biggest mistake I made was leaving King Crimson, that I could have gone on like John Wetton did and made a career out of band hopping, got my pile together and only then done my own thing. Some people might say I'm stupid because I'm still poor, but I'm not. I'm very rich inside. I've done my own thing since Day One, and I still feel as rebellious now as I did then. So bollocks to all that.

PT: After King Crimson you recorded your 'It Is And It Isn't' LP?

GH: I just picked up the threads really from the 'Sail In My Boat' album. A chap called John Muir was managing John Wetton in Mogul Thrash, and he suddenly said that Ahmet Ertegun was staying at the Dorchester in London and why didn't I go and play him some of my songs? Ahmet was the President of Atlantic Records, he started the Stlantic label and had signed people like Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. So I went up there and played him 6 songs and he loved them, told me I was going to be bigger than Neil Young and that he wanted to produce me himself. He asked me how much I wanted, so I told him how much I was in debt and he picked up the tab. Ahmet was in the middle of a huge corporate shake-up however (Kinney bought the licence for Warners and Atlantic eventually) so he called and said he was too tied up to produce me himself, but I could have any producer in the world that I wanted. Anyone. It was like a dream!

PT: Who did you choose?

GH: Arif Mardin, because he had done 'Answer My Prayer' by Aretha Franklin and there was nobody better at the time. I was kind of slotted in, the way that corporations do, to a two-week period when Arif was in town. He was supposed to be doing Vinegar Joe, but they'd split up and he asked if he could use the time to do me instead. I had one week to put the thing together, which really wasn't long enough.

PT: What other musicans were used? I mean, I know this because 'It Is And It Isn't' is one of my favourite albums, but just for the record...

GH: Dave Kaffinetti was on keyboards - did you know he went on to appear in 'Spinal Tap'? A suitable candidate he was too! John Wetton was the bass player, he was unknown at the time but was about to become famous when he joined Family. Bill Atkinson was on drums - he was Mogul Thrash's drummer, an excellent one too. The guitarist was a guy from Bournemouth called Alan Barry, he's brilliant, he could have been a world-class player but he missed out somehow. There's still time for him though. Arif added a few bits of his own, strings and brass arrangements, and Dave Spinoza from the Young Rascals added some guitar. The final mixes were done in New York without me. It was very exciting, but all the same I wasn't entirely satisfied. It became a victim of corporate madness.

PT: How do you mean?

GH: Well, its release was lumped in with 25 other albums as a result of the shake-up, 'The New Age Of Atlantic' is was called.

PT: Did you get to choose the cover yourself? It's kind of, uh, unique...

GH: God, no! It's awful, isn't it? No, I didn't have any choice really. The person responsible was a lady called Janet Martin who ran the 'Up Tight & Outta Sight' club for Otis Redding amongst her other duties as PR at Atlantic Records. She was friendly with Johnny Walker, the DJ. I suggested that I wanted a sleeve showing the Yin and the Yang, it is and it isn't. There was this tree which was a sort of V shape in the original shot, that would have been OK I suppose but in the end they focussed in on the things stood around the bottom of the tree. It's actually Spike Milligan's tree in Hyde Park, so they went a long way to get the shot...

PT: What happened after the album came out?

GH: I toured as a solo artist to promote it. I opened up for Mountain, Stackridge (who did a great cover of 'Worms' off the album, it appears on 'The Best Of The Whistle Test' LP), Audience, Wishbone Ash - nice tours, they were. It went down extremely well - everybody must have been stoned. Materialism got in the way though, there was pressure on me again to provide a home and a steady income. I gave up my solo career nine months after the album came out and went back to tarting it as a bass player.

PT: For pop groups again?

GH: Sort of. I played in a sort of jazzy, lounge trio which enabled me to work six nights a week. After every gig we would come out and go to this place called Beechen Place in London where there's a row of cellar-restaurants, each with a guitarist or duo. There were two people there I particularly liked, Pete Sills and Mike Allison, and I eventually formed a sort of Crosby, Stills and Nash trio with them. They were songwriters, and good ones. Unbeknownst to me they'd sent some demos to Bruce Welch (of the Shadows). I'd done an album with them which was never released, but virtually every track was given to Cliff Richard by Bruce - and covered by him. Seven songs in all.

PT: Did you get anything out of the deal? I mean, the songwriting royalties must have been massive...

GH: I didn't write the songs, I was only their bass player. I did get an offer to join Cliff Richard's band out of it though. It was Cliff's 'I'm Nearly Famous' period, 'Devil Woman' and all that stuff. It started out as a 12 week gospel tour, but to be honest I was bored out of my brain after 4 dates. I stuck at it for the 12 weeks, and the management said after that that I could have a further year if I took a cut in wages...

PT: What was it like working with Cliff Richard, who is far from 'nearly famous'?

GH: I thoroughly enjoyed the band, because they were all of like mind. Graham Jarvis became a great friend - he said that when I was with them it was the only time the Cliff Richard band had jammed(!) When it came down to the actual set though it was all very structured, Cliff of course never puts a foot wrong. It wasn't really my sort of thing.

PT: I believe you also worked with Alvin Lee, which is a bit more up your street?

GH: Yeah, we rehearsed for a fortnight - I got the job with Cliff after two weeks. I also worked with Tim Hardin for about a year, we recorded some tracks together and it was the producer of that who put me in touch with Alvin Lee. I was also in a great little band called Joe, which included Jim Russell (of Stretch and Human League) and Hiroshi Kato (of Stretch), who is now my manager. We made a single on GTO Records and toured Japan for 6 weeks - they were the nearest thing to the Fleur de Lys.

PT: And after Cliff Richard?

GH: I got a deal with RCA Records with a new batch of songs I'd written, so I didn't need to be a bass player any more. They employed me as a songwrite for two years. I did an album with their A&R man, Bill Kimber, producing.

PT: Did that ever get released? I've got a couple of singles from the period ('Whisky'/'5-10-15' and 'Castles In The Sky'/'My Baby', RCA PB5264 and PB 5312 resepctively) but I can't remember ever seeing an LP.

GH: No, the timing was wrong - the punk thing happened. It might come out eventually as part of a five album boxed set in Japan, with 'Sail In My Boat', 'It Is And It Isn't', the RCA album, 'Hambledon Hill' from last year and a new album which I'm working on at the moment.

PT: Let's talk about 'Hambledon Hill', which slipped out unnoticed by all but the eagle-eyed Terrascope staff it seems last year - although I must confess, we only found it in the bargain bins in London....

GH: With a 'promotional copy' sticker on? That's all that seemed to get out - the distributor went bust just as it was starting to get some airplay on Radio 1. I'd done this one song, 'Hambledon Hill', which everybody who heard it seemed to really like. It's a beautiful song, folky and mystical, and I was convinced that I needed to do an album to put it out on. I recorded about 6 tracks, plus there's 4 tracks on the LP that date from earlier on - I couldn't afford to re-do them.

PT: It's an interesting LP...

GH: I like it, and most people who've heard it seem to like it. It's a bit of a curio, just a collection of songs.

PT: You're working on a new album at present.

GH: That's right. What the new album's got is that it really knows where it's going, it's pure straight-ahead rhythm and blues. 'Hambledon Hill' is quite a nice album at the and of the day, a sort of late-night-stoned affair, but energy is where it's at now, and that's what the new album's all about. Good old R&B.

Written, produced and directed by Phil McMullen - November 1991. Copyright Ptolemaic Terrascope