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An Interview With Jeannie Crane

CP: When did you start writing with Vincent, and is there any more material yet to be released?

JC: "When I first met Vincent I was the sound engineer at the Roundhouse and Vincent came in as musical director for the Red Buddha Theatre company production of Rain Dog. I had been writing a lot of poetry and short stories over quite a few years. Vincent liked my work and we began writing together. The piece we were working on then, way back in 1975, was a concept piece, "Taro Rota" which was based on the images of the Tarot Cards. We were both very interested in the occult and used to give Tarot Readings at our local fêtes. At the time, although our publishers liked the piece very much, it was impossible to produce it. With just piano and vocals it ran for over twenty two minutes, fully orchestrated and arranged it would have been too big for one side of a record. Our publishers did fund a demo of the piece for us, so I do have the first ten minutes with full band and Arthur Brown on vocals. This demo and Vincent's original piano version is now about to be released on Voiceprint. It's only taken twenty two years and the invention of the CD. If only Vincent had been able to complete this work in the way we had first imagined it! Some of the music was used on the Headline News album, Machine and Time are both part of the Taro Rota concept."

CP: What were your first impressions of Atomic Rooster?

JC: "When I first met Vincent I had no idea who he was, I knew only that he was a very talented musician. Having worked in theatre all my life, I had had no time for rock concerts, listening to the radio or watching television. I had vaguely heard of Atomic Rooster and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. However, we were instantly attracted to each other, and when Vincent first played me his albums I was very impressed by the power of his music. Luckily, he also liked my work and when we finally came to write together used to say that the lyrics I wrote for him sounded like the lyrics he would have written himself! Vincent onstage or offstage was one of the most sensitive musicians I have ever seen, he could make me cry with the utter sadness of some of his songs or have me up and dancing in real celebration of the joy of life. As a band Rooster played some very fine gigs indeed. To be there the night John Lennon died and hear Death Walks Behind You played as a tribute was truly awesome! (Vincent with the original line-up of that album, John DuCann and Paul Hammond."

CP: How did Dave Gilmour come to play on the Headline News album?

JC: "Tom Newman who produced the Headline News album lived up the road from us. We didn't know him before but had always joked as we went by his house that it would be wonderful if the mobile studio that was parked outside could be brought down the road for us to do an album at home. When Vincent got the deal with Towerbell to do the album, surprise, surprise, that's what happened. It was very much a solo album for Vincent and he laid down all the basic tracks on his own piano to a drum machine. We then took the mobile to Broughton's studio for Paul Hammond to lay down the drums and percussion and to Dave Gilmour's studio for the guitar. Tom knew Dave very well and had introduced us to him and we were delighted when he wanted to play on some of the tracks himself. He had just bought a house round the corner from us and that winter became one of the most enjoyable times ever. We were all over the place with the mobile making the album and on days off they would play impromptu blues gigs at our local pub. Everybody and anybody would drop in and a wonderful time was had by all."

CP: What was your inspiration for the lyrics to Metal Minds?

JC: "The inspiration for Metal Minds came from the times when I worked in the computer industry way before I ever met Vincent. My job involved training box office staff to use a computer to sell tickets. I was amazed how frightened they were of the machine, how threatened they felt and I wrote a poem about it. Many years later Vincent, who had always been strictly anti-synths, and modern technology had finally given in and bought a DX7. He was sitting and just experimenting with it one night, playing with rhythms that it was his pride to be able to keep strict tempo, pretending to be a sequencer! I was half listening half doing something else when suddenly as he caught on to a particular riff and played it over and over one line of that poem came into my head and wouldn't go away, it became the hook line for the song, "Metal minds will keep you warm tonight" There was a quick flurry through the archives to find the original version of the poem, I showed it to Vincent and he liked the idea and we worked on it, finally using it on the Headline News album. It became one of the most powerful songs of the tour of that album."

CP: Headline News didn't seem to do well in Britain, did it fair better anywhere else in the world?
JC: "Unfortunately, just after the album was released our record label, Towerbell, went bankrupt. All the money disappeared to South America along with a certain gentleman and his secretary. Having never seen any statements or received any money from this original disastrous release, I have no idea how many albums were sold or where. However, it is now out again on Voiceprint and there is a steady sale all over the world."

CP: Are there any unreleased Atomic Rooster songs in existence?

JC: "I'm sorry, but no! Vincent only ever worked up his songs in the studio when he had an album to make. All I have of any new material is on cassette and mainly unfinished."

CP: Has the introduction of the Compact Disc helped sales of Atomic Rooster's music?

JC: "Yes, it most certainly has. I have had various releases of archive sessions from radio shows, numerous compilations of the early albums, and have found that I've been able to rerelease albums through Voiceprint that had disappeared into the mists of time. Most specially, that Taro Rota has finally seen the light of day."

CP: Did you perform with the band on the Headline News tour?

JC: "I never performed with the band at all. Before I met Vincent I worked in the theatre as a stage manager, electrician, sound operator, always on the technical side. Also I had worked in computers working on new forms of lighting boards and sound consoles and box office systems. With Vincent I was his manager, road manager, and accountant. Once in a while if I could get away from the office, I would go out on the road and work the lighting board, follow spot or do the sound mix just to keep my hand in. My favourite gig ever was in Yugoslavia before the troubles. We did a huge heavy metal concert in Zagreb and I was doing the lights. Unfortunately, the Yugoslavian youth did not count Rooster as a heavy metal band, only the Chris Farlowe era bluesy Rooster albums had been released over there. When the band came on stage it was to the chanting of "Motorhead! Motorhead!" and a barrage of stones, cans and small change (the ultimate insult!) The rest of the band fled, leaving Vincent alone. I dimmed the lights leaving just one spot on him at the organ and he began to play the opening riff of "Hold Your Fire" over and over again, slowly getting louder and louder. Gradually the crowd went quiet and he began to sing, he'd got them! The rest of the band just crept back onstage and by the end of the number the kids were joining in. They took five encores that night and Motorhead didn't get one!"

CP: Do you play any musical instruments yourself?

JC: "Being a computer buff I play a very mean drum machine! Vincent did teach me to play two songs on the piano and we also had great fun with recorders and played some interesting duets. Apart from this, no!"

CP: There is an Italian band called Standarte who have recorded an album dedicated to Vincent - have you heard it?, if so, what do you think of it?

JC: "No, I haven't heard it. If anyone has a copy I'd be very pleased to have a listen."

I would like to thank Jeannie on behalf of Rooster fans everywhere for taking time to answer these questions. CP 1997

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