To touch on the early history, what are your memories of how the band got together in 1969?
Ron, Taff and I were playing in Hamburg and living in the Hotel Pacific Annexe. Colin, our guitarist, was leaving to go back to England. I sent a telegram to Roye (Albrighton) to see if he wanted to join the band and he said yes, so I sent him the money to get to Hamburg (he was in Sweden at the time). I set up a gig right away as we had to work to live and we played that gig without rehearsal. We jammed all night and it went down well so we decided to call the new band Nektar with the K for hard rock.
Remember The Future looked like bringing real success for the band, although it was never really maintained, as in breaking the band in a big way. Were you surprised by the success of that album? Or surprised it didn’t blossom into something more?
I always thought that Remember the Future would be groundbreaking and we were very happy that we got album of the year in Germany and that it reached 19 in the Billboard Charts. It certainly helped us tour the USA and we did well with the gigs. So much so we decided in 1976 to come to the USA permanently. We still after all these years have a huge following in the US. We are now in our fiftieth year.
Why did the US take to Nektar more than the UK? Any theories?
The UK was very pop-oriented whereas Germany was always looking for new music. We basically ran out of places to play in Germany, we were too big to play more than 10 gigs throughout the country. We decided that the US was very much like Germany only better. The fans wanted new music and it had the FM radio stations to support it. Once we came to the US we had lots of places to play. I believe we would have exploded if Roye had not decided to go back to England in 1977.
An album I still listen to a lot is Down To Earth. Did you actually meet Bob Calvert? Any memories of those sessions?
Yes, Bob came down to Chipping Norton from London and had us in stitches with his antics. He was great and a very funny man. There are many outtakes from his speeches that were just outrageous.
How did the current reformation actually come about? When I heard a new album was in the offing, I feared it might not include any original members!
Ron approached me to help him put a band together. I called Ryche Chlanda and asked him if he was interested and he was. Ron, Ryche and I got together in a small Trenton studio belonging to a friend of ours, John Buck Kerlin. The result was immediate, it was as if we never stopped playing together. I reached out to Mick to see if he would revive his lightshow and he said yes and joined us right away. I then reached out to Randy Dembo, the bass player that followed me and asked him to join. Besides bass he also plays 12-string guitar and bass pedals. So we started doing things with two bass players. At the beginning I thought I would put the band together, do the album, and then they would go on tour and I wouldn’t tour. However as it grew, the music sucked me in. Then we added Kendall Scott from Ryche’s band Flying Dreams and he was awesome and fit right in. We immediately started working on the stuff we wrote in 1978. We fed the band a little piece at a time, I call it boxes, then when you have it all done it is put together and you can add new pieces as needed to make it flow. It’s a method we have used a lot over the years. The result was The Other Side. The band did not know we were doing this as it is complicated but the result is great music. Ryche, Ron and I knew the whole time what was happening with it, its easier to explain once the boxes are built.
Some songs on The Other Side seem to have been born back in 1978. Why were they not used at the time?
The band split up before we could use it so it has laid dormant for over 40 years.
Roye’s cameo on Devil’s Door is inspired, tell me about the origins of that song, and how you unearthed that intro.
We have always had a copy of the Detroit gig where that first appeared. Mick released it years ago on the LightShow Tapes CD. It has just been released again on the Anthology. When we were ready to record it, I asked to have it cued up in the studio so we could listen to it. When I heard that guitar in the studio it was crystal clear and I knew right away we would use it. I suggested it to the rest of the band and they all enthusiastically agreed. I reached out to Lyn, Roye’s widow, to see if she was OK with it and to see if she would give it her blessing, and she did and was thrilled.
The sound of the new album is very much in keeping with classic Nektar. How did you go about getting the right vibe for these recordings? Did you use any original ’70s instruments?
We had the right vibe right away, this band is a jam band like the original band, it feels great to play together and it is a little different every time due to the jamming. We all have vintage guitars, most of mine are from the ’60s and ’70s and sound as great as they ever did. This band sounds awesome.
With Mick Brockett involved, there are obviously live shows planned. I see from the press release there will be US shows, which is great, but how about the UK or Europe?
Currently we are in the midst of a 31-date tour through the Eastern USA, this will continue through the country. In the summer we will come to the EU and tour throughout Europe, including the UK.
Does it surprise you that, 50 years on, there is still a lot of interest in the band? So much of the back catalogue is revered in prog circles, how do you feel about that?
I am stunned that we have fans going back 50 years. They come in all age groups. Our social media is exploding, we are all thrilled. The eight shows we did so far have been sold out and we are getting ready for the next leg which starts in February. They are liking the mix of old music and the new music from the album, it is astounding how they picked it all up.
Was it important to you that the reformation included recording new material rather than just a nostalgia exercise?
Yes, it was important to me that we had new music to celebrate our 50 years. We had no intention of being a carbon copy, we wanted our own imprint. This album, The Other Side, is a true concept album and it is a worthy follow up to Recycled.
Do you plan to continue making new Nektar music in the future?
Right now YES, we will see where it takes us. The new album is doing well and selling well, so I think we will have success playing behind it. We are all looking forward to it.
[And you can read Graham’s review of The Other Side HERE.]