“We broke up after debating the exact time signature of Solsbury Hill!” Before being able to enjoy lively debate with Peter Hammill, Tim Bowness dated an argumentative prog fan

Tim Bowness
(Image credit: Press)

Sometimes the way artists discover prog can be as obscure and unexpected as the music they create. In the case of potato crisp fan Tim Bowness, the introduction to the genre came via the finger-powered tabletop football game Subbuteo – as he told Prog in 2017.

Where’s home?

I’m from Cheshire, but I now live in a small town in Wiltshire, on the border of Bath and Somerset.

Earliest prog memory?

I discovered prog in the summer of 1976, when I was 12, during a week-long Subbuteo competition in my front room. My friend’s dad had a large cassette collection and, intrigued by the covers, we borrowed some of his albums. Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother and Mike Oldfield’s Hergest Ridge became the musical backdrop to our less-than-beautiful games.

First prog record you bought?

As a result of the ’Subbuteo sessions,’ Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here.

Favourite gadget?

I’ve never been much of a gadget person. That said, I love my computer studio setup that enables me to record quickly, to a high standard, without effort.

What would your specialist subject on Mastermind be?

The evolution of flavoured crisps! Pioneered by Tayto founder Joe ‘Spud’ Murphy in Ireland in 1954, in case you’re interested...

Biggest prog extravagance?

Paying six arms and five legs to see the magnificent Kate Bush live in 2014.

Favourite prog venue?

The Manchester Apollo of my teenage years. It was where I first saw the likes of Peter Hammill, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett and Camel.

Outside of prog, what are you into?

I’m an avid reader and passionate about film. People like David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, Billy Wilder, PT (and Wes) Anderson, Samuel Beckett and EL Doctorow are as important to me as any musician.

What do you collect?

Books and CDs. I have complete sets of releases by Miles Davis, King Crimson, Joni Mitchell, Bowie, Genesis, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Steve Reich, Eno and others. My Bill Nelson collection alone takes up half the house! My biggest literary collections are Kurt Vonnegut, Harold Pinter and the 1960s Mersey poets.

The last prog album you bought?

Godley & Creme’s box set Body Of Work. I’ve always felt that in both their 10cc and duo work, they were among the most inventive and genuinely progressive artists of their time.

Who is your prog hero?

Frank Zappa, due to the vast scope of his output, his enormous talent and his ability to merge the serious and the humorous equally well.

Ever had a prog date?

I went out with someone extremely briefly when I was 17 who had a liking for Genesis. I think we broke up after debating what the exact time signature of Solsbury Hill was! 

Last prog gig?

King Crimson in Aylesbury, 2016.

Who do you call in the prog community for a good night out?

My teenage self would be delighted that I can call Peter Hammill a friend. Peter and I meet up reasonably regularly to right the wrongs of the music and political worlds. He’s as sweet-natured and open in person as his music is intense.

Most important prog song?

In terms of representing the genre at its peak, YesClose To The Edge and A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers [Van der Graaf Generator]. In terms of personal favourites, Genesis’ Blood On The Rooftops and Pink Floyd’s Us And Them.

The best prog gig you ever saw?

King Crimson in the mid-1990s at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. The band played 25 per cent improv in addition to material from Red, the 1980s trilogy and Thrak. Progressive and thrilling.

Which prog musician would you like to work with?

I’ve been lucky enough to work with several of my prog heroes, but if Kate Bush, David Gilmour, Mike Oldfield, Robin Guthrie, Jonny Greenwood, Brian Eno or Andy Latimer are looking for collaborators, I’m in!

 Which prog album gets you in a good mood?

The Canterbury sounds of Caravan, early Soft Machine and Hatfield And The North are the go-to feel-good artists for me.

Pick us a good proggy read.

Strange Fascination, David Buckley’s brilliant book about David Bowie, is worth checking out. Armando Gallo’s Genesis: The Evolution Of A Rock Band was the first music book I read and I still have a great affection for it.

Your favourite prog album cover?

I’m still entranced by the enigmatic 1970s Hipgnosis covers, so Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and Led Zeppelin’s Presence and Houses Of The Holy remain favourites.

What are you up to in 2017?

I’m finishing off an album with Peter Chilvers, mixed by Peter Hammill, and I’ve recorded an album with my pre-No-Man band, Plenty. Beyond that, it would be great to think that No-Man could get together at some point before one of us expires.

Jo Kendall

Jo is a journalist, podcaster, event host and music industry lecturer with 23 years in music magazines since joining Kerrang! as office manager in 1999. But before that Jo had 10 years as a London-based gig promoter and DJ, also working in various vintage record shops and for the UK arm of the Sub Pop label as a warehouse and press assistant. Jo's had tea with Robert Fripp, touched Ian Anderson's favourite flute (!), asked Suzi Quatro what one wears under a leather catsuit, and invented several ridiculous editorial ideas such as the regular celebrity cooking column for Prog, Supper's Ready. After being Deputy Editor for Prog for five years and Managing Editor of Classic Rock for three, Jo is now Associate Editor of Prog, where she's been since its inception in 2009, and a regular contributor to Classic Rock. She continues to spread the experimental and psychedelic music-based word amid unsuspecting students at BIMM Institute London, hoping to inspire the next gen of rock, metal, prog and indie creators and appreciators.