Tell us about your new project The Tyburn Tree
Marc Almond: The Tyburn Tree is my collaboration with composer, musician, producer John Harle, it is a musical song cycle about dark London and its myths and folklore.The Tyburn Tree was the name for the Hanging Gallows at Marble Arch
What inspired the project?
MA Both John and I share an interest in British and particularly London History. John had already had an idea in doing a project called Dark London and after hearing some of my music on an album called Feasting With Panthers and of my work in Mark Ravenhill’s and Conor Mitchell’s song cycle Ten Plagues, thought I would be perfect voice to collaborate with on this project.
What came first, the music or the lyrics for The Tyburn Tree?
MA The words came first, some of the words are written by me and a co collaborator, some by William Blake others by Iain Sinclair.
What should audiences expect when they see The Tyburn Tree Live?
John Harle: An exciting show full of rhythm, energy and Marc singing at his best! We have an incredible band including Ian Thomas on drums (Seal/George Michael/Eric Clapton/Mark Knopfler) and Sarah Leonard who I have worked with for years and is the voice of my theme for Silent Witness.
MA The concert will be a live performance of the album with a little added theatricality. John may extend a couple of the pieces for live. Even I’m not too sure what to expect at this point, the piece is quite powerful. Have you collaborated together before? If so, on what? If not, what was it that brought you together to create this piece?
JH Marc sang on my Album ‘Art Music’ last year, but we’ve been planning the Tyburn Tree for longer than that. It seemed that we’d both been planning this album independently of each other, because when we met around two years ago, we described the same album to each other!
MA I sang on a couple of tracks on John’s album Art Music last year, inspired by the paintings of David Hockney. We both share a love of British History, particularly London’s dark history.
What was it that particularly drew you to the subject matter of London’s dark history. Why did it resonate so much for you?
JH We are both from the North of England, but spent most of our working lives in London. Northerners see and think about London differently to Londoners. They see the roots of power in the streets and the romance of the history in a different way.
This is a love affair with a mythological and the dark history of London.
MA . London’s colourful and dark history has always held a deep fascination for me and I’ve collected and read many books on it. My favourite is Peter Ackroyd’s London A Biography. London is a place of Myth and Legend none more so than the Myths surrounding Jack The Ripper and the area of London where the Murders happened and the speculation of who did it. My favourite periods of London History are Georgian and Victorian and even though London is currently under going a lot of new building work, sometimes sadly losing some of its history, you can still see many places of historical note and link them with the stories of things that happened there. I also think that Jack the Ripper is the utmost mythical figure of London but we’ve referred to some of the many myths surrounding him like it was thought in a report at the time that the murderer was more likely some kind of creature than a man, maybe a kind of Minotaur because of the Labyrinth of streets around White Chapel and Limehouse at the time. Spring Heeled Jack is my favourite London Urban Myth. There were also press reports of a Vampire who’d been seen in High Gate Cemetery unsurprising as the Cemetery is like a scene from a Hammer Horror film with Gothic Crypts that were frequently broken into.
Who are your musical influences / gurus and why?
JH That’s a big question for someone like me – so here’s a list – make of it what you will! Pink Floyd, Pentangle, Harrison Birtwistle, Brain Eno, Peter Maxwell Davies, Duke Ellington, Soft Machine, King Crimson, Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, Steve Reich, Pat Metheny, old-fashioned Test Card music, Quincy Jones, Raymond Scott, Joe Meek, Herbie Hancock, John Zorn, Viv Stanshall, Manfred Mann, Laurie Johnson, Michael Nyman, Gavin Bryars and Rudy Wiedoeft.
MA . I love Jacques Brel the way he delivered a song with such emotion and energy, David Bowie with his re-invention’s and covering musical genres but not afraid to take risks, Peter Hammill (of Van Der Graaf Generator) his powerful vocal delivery and how he’s so inventive and prolific and Marc Bolan for his Pop Glamour to name just a diverse few..
The music from The Tyburn Tree is probably impossible to categorise but can you explain to readers what sort of mood or ambience it creates and how it will make them feel?
JH It should feel like a dream – surreal - subconscious elements vying for dominance – surprising and ultimately both fun and uplifting.
MA . I hope it will excite them and give them goosebumps. Who do you think will particularly enjoy seeing the live tour and listening to the album?
JH The music is for everybody – despite being dark, there’s no ‘explicit content’ warning on the show! Anybody who’s hear dof at least two of the musicians on my list in the influences question should love it! And of course people who love the emotional and theatrical voice of Marc Almond!
What’s the most important lesson that life has taught you?
JH Try to work at what you love. It doesn’t always work out, but be tenacious!
MA That life is not about the past or the future its only about the ride.
The Tyburn Tree is out Feb 24th
March 2 Barbican Hall, London 7.30pm, £15-£25
March 3 Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 7.30pm, £22-£25
March 4 Corn Exchange, Cambridge 7.30pm, £20-£24
March 5 Brighton Dome, Brighton, 8pm £16.50-£24
March 6 Colston Hall, Bristol, 8pm, £23