My Record Collection: Pete Fowler

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“Jethro Tull where the first prog band I got interested in. I heard Living In The Past on the radio and I loved it. I didn’t know it was prog - at the same time I was really into the Specials and 2-Tone stuff. Stand Up is another record from that time but I only bought this copy recently. I’ve got the same glasses as Glenn Cornick – policeman’s 1969 standard issue!

“Growing up in Cardiff there were always lots of big bands coming to play either there or Newport. And great record shops like Kenny’s in St Mary Street and Spillers were a big part of my education, both growing up and at art school in Cornwall. Swapping tunes is part of friendship, and I still do that now.

Camper Van Beethoven are a great absurdist band from my late teens. They were brilliant, and this one [self-titled, 1986] had psych, prog, gypsy, Middle Eastern…. A really playful band, they were a gateway for me to bands like Pink Floyd.

An obsession of mine is Aphrodite’s Child. My younger brother’s been an important part of my music schooling. He gave me a cassette, saying, ‘Check this lot out, Demis Roussos is on it!’. It was incredible! Next I’m walking down Falmouth High St, go into the Cancer Research shop – never anything there except Face Value – and 666 is in the racks for 75p! I’ve bought it several times since.

I used to be a skateboarder and Love loomed large, along with lots of great psych. Out Here is a favourite. It’s kinda ‘out there’ ha ha; beautiful songs plus the invention of drum ‘n’ bass halfway in!

I’m a big Roxy Music fan and a friend of mine made a compilation with Quiet Sun on it so I had to get Mainstream [see reissue review page 109]. That was roughly at the same time as Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Birds Of Fire. Good cover art! It’s such a shredding album. And it sits next to is Amon Düül, who I love in all their incarnations.

Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three isn’t a very good cover but you grow to love things like this don’t you? Fantastic record, it’s got the much-sampled One Way Glass – and it’s on Vertigo too. Important!

I have to mention Tonto’s Expanding Headband for more of an electronic side. They worked with Stevie Wonder and were two properly baked British hippies that built the world’s biggest sythesizer. But my first electronic record was Donna Summer, I Feel Love. I heard it on the radio with my parents on a summer holiday. It proper freaked me out, totally hypnotic, driving on a tiny road that hugged the Pyrenees mountains, dad driving really fast!

I really like twofers and I have Kevin Ayers and Soft Machine in this format. Ayers is such a legend, quite a role model for me – liquorice fag paper rollies, glass of wine on the go – and I do rock a sailor top now and again with a ‘band’ I have called Seahawks, in a cosmic naval style. Which brings us to Caravan, In The Land Of Grey And Pink. This is a bit kinda [cheesy DJ voice] ‘Canterbury Sound’ but I was recommended it. Of course I loved the illustrated cover, but it was years later that I bought more of their music and made more connections. All the albums I have with illustrated covers have influenced my art in a subconscious way I think. Part of my brain is going ‘illustrated cover, buy that!‘.

After I did my fine art degree I meandered for a bit living on the Isles Of Scilly, boat building. My friends ran a fanzine in Cornwall called Slouch that I drew things for, then I moved to London and did sculpture and painting. My big break was working for Super Furry Animals. I’d been showing my work by putting on shows in bars, doing club flyers and psychedelic all-nighters. Creation Records got in touch to see my book. I didn’t know the band, but we had mutual friends. My first commission was Radiator [1997], and it grew from there. Now the ‘monsterised’ creatures in the back of my sketchbook began to evolve. I got lots of work in Japan and a line of toys were developed. Monsterism had arrived, cute but menacing!

As I’ve got older I’ve got a wider filter and allow myself to be surprised. Flawed albums are often the best. Doing a drunken podcast in my old flat with DJ Godsy [Cherrystones] I discovered Two Sides Of Tony McPhee. I love The Groundhogs but I wasn’t ready for this. On the cover, he’s just a guy in a denim shirt, long hair, big moustache. But the sleeve has holes die cut in his face on one side and teardrops on the other – it’s a concept album. Side A is about his wife, who he hates, then the B-side is a 25-minute anti-hunting song, recorded by a man in a cottage in Suffolk with two ARP synths and a Bentley Rhythm Ace having a breakdown. Bonkers!

Final choice? Fairport Convention, What We Did On Our Holidays. Again, illustrated cover. Recently I found out that Fairport drew that, doodling on a wall during recording. And there’s more to this record too. I used to go to Green Man festival a lot [in Brecon, Wales] and one year the VW we went up in exploded and everything got destroyed apart from my record bag and a suitcase that belonged to Jason Pierce from Spiritualized. The bag melted around the records, but even after a dousing with water Fairport survived with just a ripple in the cover! Tale In Hard Time is one of the most uplifting songs I know of, first played to me by Kieran Hebden from Fourtet when he DJed our club night.

I’m lucky. All my collection is tempered by people who are obsessed by music, way more than I am, so I get the best crumbs from the table…”