Q & A with Tom Lambert | Graham Sclater
I am joined by musician, music publisher, scriptwriter and author
Tom - Hi Graham - Having visited your website I see that you started out as a professional musician. That’s a long way from becoming a published author. How did it all start?
Graham - It is a long way and very different. I left home at sixteen to travel to Hamburg with four other local musicians that I really didn’t know. We were probably one of the first bands put together for the purpose of playing in that wonderful city.
Tom - You were sixteen?
Graham - I know. When I look back I can’t believe it. The band had to have five members that included either a girl singer or organist. I was the organist - with a Hammond M102. It was a shock but playing every night in the same club for a month, often seven or eight sessions a night, helped us all to hone our musicianship. We had no option and after the initial shock we thrived on it. We would frequently pinch ourselves when we realised that we were “professional musicians.”
Tom - How long were you in Germany?
Graham - Almost four years with three very different bands: The Wave, The Birds and Bees (with two girl singers and a male) and finally The Manchester Playboys. The Playboys were a seven piece soul band and, as well as playing in clubs across Germany we toured Sweden, and had a hit record in the Netherlands with “Wooly Bully.” We also toured Romania where we recorded a 10” album.
Tom - Did you play at the famous Star Club and Top Ten in Hamburg?
Graham - Yes, I played at both of those many times as well as the Kaiserkeller, Funny Crow, and Crazy Horse but the highlights were the Star Club and Top Ten.
Tom - Did you play or meet anyone famous?
Graham - I certainly did and my highlight is jamming with Jimi Hendrix in Gothenburg in September 1967. In 1968 I worked with James Taylor at Apple where he was routining his first album and later Elton John - who was incidentally playing at the Top Ten Club with Bluesology when the Playboys also played there. We alternated one hour on and one hour off every night.
Tom - I assume you eventually left the Playboys?
Graham - Yes, three of us left at the same time and I returned to my home town of Exeter where I had my own band for a while and then decided to concentrate on songwriting. I set up my own recording studio and was soon in demand to record local bands. I also played on a lot of sessions in London and I loved it but felt that I wanted to be self-sufficient and make my own records.
Tom - So I assume that led you into production and music publishing and management.
Graham - It did. In 1975 my wife and I set up Tabitha Music Limited, a music publisher, record
label, management and production
company and it is still going strong
after more than forty five years.
Tom - You’re probably the best one to ask for an opinion on how the business has changed since the seventies.
Graham - I can only tell you how I see it and unfortunately it isn’t good. Streaming has killed it and for anyone to “make it” these days it is close to impossible and even the top handful of successful artists rely on touring and merchandise sales. Record companies exist only in what I can only describe as virtual label name only. They sign very few artists and certainly don’t support them over any period of time. So no new artists are really coming through and sadly the charts are close to fictitious and are based on airplay or streaming numbers. Ed Sheeran is one example of an artist who somehow managed to make it.
Tom - That brings me on to your writing. How did that come about?
Graham - It was weird. In 2004 I had renal cancer and my right kidney was removed. The recuperation period was three months so I decided to revisit my time living and playing in Germany. What started out as a memoir soon changed into a novel. I couldn’t include real names and dates so it became what II call a work of “faction” - fact and fiction. “Ticket to Ride” was published in 2006 and I got the bug to keep writing.
Tom - Is it very different to songwriting?
Graham - I don’t think it is. It’s solitary but whereas a song can come quite quickly - sometimes - a book can take years and I soon realised that before I start I need to do a lot of research and know everything about my characters.
Tom - It’s 2020 and where are you now in your music and writing.
Graham - We still publish songs and continue to sign and promote new artists but as I said earlier it is so hard to get airplay on the mainstream stations but our saving grace is the plethora of internet, local and regional radio stations around the world who continue support not only Tabitha but other indie labels and artists too. We have had the best years and it is a sad indictment that things have deteriorated so much. There are many people now who don’t expect to pay for their music. Hence the reason streaming has taken off to the detriment of artist receiving royalty payments which is a whole new discussion point.
Tom - And your writing?
Graham - Well, I have just finished my eighth novel “I Will Survive” which was published last month and is already selling well. It is hard to believe that I have written so many novels and in different genres but it is satisfying and, unlike music, it is something that I can do on my own.
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