With the main mic man of Skyclad, Kevin Ridley, releasing his debut solo album Flying In The Face Of Logic just a mere month ago, a thorough conversation was in order via some e-mail Qs. Everything from the content to the timing to folk rock to brewskies to football to Jethro Tull to dystopian novelists to Skyclad's future was brought up, no holds barred. Enjoy!
- First off the bat, best chance to unashamedly plug, hype and advertise before getting specific: What can the masses expect from Flying In The Face Of Logic, sonically and poetically?
I think the most important point to make straight off is that this is not a ‘metal’ album and was never meant to be one. It’s also important to note that I never set out to make a ‘solo album’ as such but after releasing “ No Daylights Nor Heeltaps’ (the ‘unplugged’ album) Skyclad wanted to make more ‘metal’ albums and I had a few ideas that wouldn’t work in that vein.
So over a period of time I ended up with the tracks that form the basis of this album, which is more of a ‘folk-rock’ album, and the majority of the songs are autobiographical. This means that I am more concerned about telling stories than making socio-political commentary, though there are a few songs like that here and I also hope there is a sense of (slightly dark) humour here.
So musically it contains the ‘folkestra’ elements we used on parts of ‘A Semblance Of Normality” (mandolin, fiddles, whistles and Northumbrian pipes) and I think it also continues with the ‘sense of identity’ theme that was on that album. The album features a lot of session players – including all the members of Skyclad – so each track has a different line-up.
- Looking at the title, I must get clarity…Are you insinuating that the new album is somehow illogical or is there something less literal behind it?
I think because it is a solo album there is very much a feel of ‘me against the world’ going on. You can ask yourself, ‘is the world waiting for this’ or ‘is this the right time’ etc? So I think the title is just saying ‘it might be a crazy thing to do but I’m doing this my way in my own time’.
- Timing-wise, was there a specific reason to bring out your solo debut now?
Timing-wise the album should have been out long before now. There’s a long story behind this (you can reads the sleeve notes) but I think it is important to release my album in-between Skyclad releases and we got here – eventually.
- Did anything notably different or surprising arise in the making of a solo album when compared to your extensive background with different bands?
A couple of things spring to mind, one is that I started to write a lot of these songs on mandolin. I think I wanted to try and write some of the folky tunes first and the mandolin is tuned the same as a violin. I think that’s how it went. Anyway, having come up with some tunes I then had to figure our what it was I was playing and then make sense of it for guitar and so on. I think it was an interesting experiment.
Another surprising thing that happened (to expand on what I said about the timing of the album) was that I had a few problems with the digital formats and equipment used for the recordings. It’s amazing how fast these things change and this means lots of file conversions and so on. It was very frustrating at times but somehow I just about managed to stay focused throughout the project.
- As the press release noted, the album definitively has an autobiographical feel. Are the lyrical tales contained here thus closer to exact slices from your own life, tales that you have heard/encountered through the years or a bit of both?
Yes, most of the songs are about ‘my life and times growing up in Northumberland’, though I have changed a lot of the details to make the songs work. However, some of the songs are just about everyday things you read in the paper or hear on the news etc and are not about anyone in particular and some songs aren’t written by me but are based on poems or are cover versions.
- Despite the few heavier tracks, overall this record notably emphasizes the acoustic, folky side of things. Was this something you consciously went for from the start or did these songs just eventually crop up to represent that style by chance?
Yes, I have to say it was something I consciously decided to do. As I said above, this album sort of continues what we did on ‘Semblance Of Normality” (which had just been released when I started writing these songs) but also the sort of acoustic vibe we had on Skyclad’s ‘unplugged tours’. I really enjoyed the intimacy and energy of those tours and wanted to continue working in that vein and as Skyclad had made the decision to go back to doing heavier material it offered me the opportunity to explore this area more.
I also tended to play down some of the heavier elements on the album and included more acoustic type tracks to give it a certain feel but I think that performing live things will be a little different because, as I said, I like the rawness of these types of shows.
- Concerning the musical direction…vibe-wise, this album reminded me of Jethro Tull’s excellent folk album trio Songs From The Wood-Heavy Horses-Stormwatch. Are you familiar with these works and if so, could you find a kindred spirit shared between them and your album?
Obviously, I’m aware of these albums but don’t know much Tull (a few early things – shame on me) but it’s nice to be mentioned in such esteemed company. My influences here are more Alan Hull and Lindisfarne and it’s quite a personal album – rather than a social one.
- Is Still Lucid After All These Beers accidentally referential to one of Paul Simon’s best solo works, or an intentional hint possibly also alluding to the self-deprecating nature of that record?
Well this is the one lyric that I didn’t write on the album. It’s from a poem by a college lecturer of mine back in the 1980s so it’s no accident but yes it’s a play on ‘still crazy after all these years’ and I think it fits the ‘drinking song’ style very well.
- As an important sidenote for a Finnish person to know about: How many pints on a given night would you require to cross over that line of lucidity? Rough estimate?
Well I think it depends a lot on my mood to be honest (and whether I’ve eaten) – could be 4 or 5 but it could be 10,12 or more; but as I’m not as young as I was I’ll go with 8 and try to keep my dignity – though I do tend to drink red wine more these days.
- While on the subject of wordplay, the aforementioned autobiographical element made me notice that the kind of social commentary and pun-mastery that Skyclad is well known for is more subdued here. A different approach to these elements in the confines of a solo album is surely logical, but were they factors that you knowingly had to hold back or thought about when writing the lyrics in order to create separation?
Well I mentioned that my main concern here was to ‘tell the story’ but I was aware that I didn’t want to make it all sad and depressing. Someone asked me if it was a cathartic experience and maybe in some ways it was; but there was enough distance between me and the events which made it easier for me to look back and take stock of these times and maybe have a little laugh about it.
- Concerning a somewhat contemporary social event…How about that recent Royal Wedding, quite the extravagant hum-dinger over in England and utterly worth it for the enchantment and glamour despite the flailing economy and…well yes, being a native, what actually was your reaction to this ceremony? And if one were to write a song about this wedding, what would be your off-the-cuff suggestion for a song title?
Well I have to say that I’m not a supporter of the royal family at all and I completely ignored the whole event. I’m sure they’re a nice young couple and all that but I have no time for it and wouldn’t write a song about it – except perhaps a revolutionary one (I’m joking about the song).
- What are your current touring plans for this album, both in the terms of a concert line-up and general scheduling?
To be honest, they’re rather vague at the moment; I’ll explain. One of the nice things about doing this solo project is that it can take several forms for live work. I have done some ‘solo’ shows – just me and an acoustic etc – but there is scope here for everything from duos and trios right to the full-blown eight-piece ensemble. I’m just starting to look at the options now, for festivals then maybe a tour, but this has to fit around Skyclad’s schedule as well. I do know I want to do a lot more gigs – either solo or with my band - and that is one of the reasons I decided to record this album in the first place.
- Mandatory footie-question for a northener: The Barcodes, The Black Cats or The Boro?
Well, if we are talking the Magpies, the Mackems and the Smoggies here, there can be only one. As a Geordie through and through, I’ve supported the mags ‘man and boy’ through thick and thin so it has to be NUFC (Newcastle United).
- Aldous Huxley or George Orwell?
Now we’re talking 1984 versus Brave New World here and I think both are excellent, but I got into Orwell, through other books such as ‘Burmese Days’, when I was a lad and I’m a bit of an Orwell fan and own several volumes of his work, so he has to get my vote.
- Do you now feel that you’ve learned how to fly or is it still a work in progress?
Oh I’m still very much a fledgling and this is still a ‘work in progress’ – maybe it is more of a ‘test flight’.
- What’s the current status of the whole Skyclad-crew?
Well all of Skyclad are well and working as hard as ever making music or teaching music, though George is also doing a lot of scary stuff for charity like jumping off bridges and planes as well as running all over. Steve tells me he has lots of music for the next Skyclad album so we will start to do some new songs and recordings very soon.
- Finally, in your mind, what is the deepest essence of folk music?
In a word ‘community’: ‘music by the people for the people’. Music that speaks of life’s struggles but also music to uplift the spirit.

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