Pete: Guitar, Bass, Keyboards
Kirk: How long have you been in Glasgow?
Angela: We came back to Glasgow in May 2014. I spent 34 years abroad – the first few in France but mainly in Switzerland.
Pete: We met 20 years ago on the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. We were both working for the International Red Cross. So, I tell people she recruited me: first as Head of Delegation, North Korea; then Bass Player for her band; and then Husband! I think it’s a good career progression.
Kirk: Tell me something about your continuing relationship with music throughout your time with the Red Cross Angela.
Angela: I remember working in Armenia in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake of December 1988 that wreaked havoc on the country and its people. Following the disaster, there were 40 days of mourning, in which there was no music, no dancing, nothing. I realised how important music was to me during that time, and when I came back I wanted to make music but I had no experience whatsoever. So, opportunity met chance and I was approached out of the blue by someone who was looking for a second singer in a Rock band. She said that, because the music was so loud that they needed another voice to carry over it! At first, I resisted as I had just come back from the field and had just started a new job within the Red Cross. I had moved into the office of a colleague about to retire, and when clearing out his things he had handed me a little plaque he thought I might find helpful which read:
“The mistakes you most regret in life are those you didn’t make when you had the chance!”
So, whilst thinking of all the reasons to say “no” on the phone, my eyes fell on that plaque on the wall, and I decided to go for it as long as I was not the main singer. The band made it very easy for me when I went for the audition. I emphasized I just wanted to harmonies and had no desire whatsoever to do any leads. So, I got the job and that’s how my musical life as a singer started off as a backing singer in “The Quest” Rock Band!
Kirk: How long were you in that group?
Angela: A few years. One thing led to another. The other singer, Colette Marx-Nielsen (incidentally, also a Glasgow lassie) and I had a great rapport, and we started alternating songs and harmonies. She encouraged me to write a song for the band. I remember sitting in the Café du Soleil in Geneva writing that song, and when the band heard it they called it “Le Blues”, so it was a Blues song! We recorded a few compositions with The Quest. However, it was only after meeting Pete that the serious recording started on our joint musical journey, and between 1998 and 2007 we wrote six albums of primarily original material.
Pete: We had a studio in the house in Geneva, and all the time that we were working we managed to keep the music going. I reckon there must be about 200,000 CDs around the world with our names on them!! That’s why, up until a few years ago, we were almost exclusively studio musicians, because we both had our day jobs to keep going.
During that time, we also managed to get contracts with 2 record labels, and as long as that record industry existed we had our little moment of glory. And then about 2008/2009 things went pop and one of the companies went out of business overnight with debts of 2M Euros and the other company went into suspended animation, so all of that came to an abrupt halt.
Geneva is not a huge place, there is a population of about 200k in the city itself, but it has a large Brazilian community. At about the same time as the record companies went bust, we met some people from this community and we got completely sucked into this scene. We were totally blown away to the point where I taught myself the language.
So, as the record industry declined, the live playing in the almost invisible but very vibrant Brazilian music scene in Geneva really took off and I was playing about 150 gigs a year. And I was playing with marvellous artists. People I would have never thought of playing with in my life at that level. What I really love is that in Brazilian music, complication does not exist for its own sake but rather it’s at the service of beauty.
That is one of things that we really miss here. I thought we would have found a Brazilian music community here but we have not.
But having said that, the reason we decided to come back to Glasgow was because we knew how good the live scene was here in this UNESCO City of Music. Two weeks after we arrived here we were playing a festival! We were playing with a subsection of the Strathclyde Youth Jazz Orchestra. And it has not stopped since.
Kirk: Yes, I see that you are very busy on the scene.
Pete: We are busy because we do so many different things. Our passion for Brazilian music is embodied in our pet project, Nossa Bossa. However, we also have a jazz quintet, an acoustic set with various guests, and we formed a Blues band last year with some of Glasgow’s finest musicians. It’s by diversifying that we get to play a lot.
Kirk: So, we have talked about how Angela started her singing career what about you Pete. How did you start?
Pete: I started playing guitar when I was 14 because I thought it would deliver the chicks but it never did! Forty-three years later here I am! I’m a Gemini…
Kirk: So am I.
Pete: …so as you know then, we are good at doing different things. I was already playing seriously during my University years. I’m a medical doctor by training. The year I got my MD (1986) I played 100 gigs! So this was a problem, because although I had just graduated as a doctor I wanted to be a musician, because I was young and totally wrapped up in music but I did not feel that I had the courage to tell my parents. They had supported me all through my medical studies and I couldn’t say “You know what, I’ve decided to become a starving musician!”. I couldn’t do that.
I made the decision at the time to sell my instruments, because if I felt that if I could not do that for a living then I would not do it all. It was like severing a limb! But looking back, I’m really happy I did that. I had a career – but what is more important is that I had incredible human experiences which I would never have had AND I am STILL a musician.
Kirk: How critical do you tend to me of the music you produce? I know a lot of musicians find it hard to label a song as “finished”.
Angela: When we are recording our music I always want to go back and change things but Pete has often had to put his foot down and say, “It’s finished and we shouldn’t touch it again.” But after many years recording in studio, you learn to move on.
You don’t have that luxury of “tweaking” when you play live. However, there are other rewards. As well as The Quest, I also played a lot of live gigs with “Les Horribles Cernettes”, which was a parody of a 60’s Girl Group with CERN and we sang about particle physics – quarks, protons, muons, microwaves…and all sorts of things to make scientists laugh. There were 4 of us and we all dressed up in 60’s outfits. We danced as well and had all sorts of actions that we did while we sang, often mimicked by the concert-goers, and it actually took off in quite a big way!
Pete: To the point where “Les Horribles Cernettes” (Same initials as Large Hadron Collider) featured in what we believe was the first ever picture of a band to be put on the World Wide Web!!!
First image to be uploaded to the Internet. The Cernettes
Fact: We now post approx 657,000,000,000,000 pictures every year but Angela was there in what, to our knowledge, was the first one ever of a band! MIND BLOWING!!
Angela: We performed at CERN to amazing audiences for the 20th anniversary of the picture being uploaded, and then for the very last time for the 25th anniversary in July 2017 with both performances being webcast live. Can I just say, I think it was really because of the picture, not because of the music!
Editor’s note: This is typical of the humility of Angela and Pete. I would advise anyone to check out the history of this couple of extraordinary people!
Kirk: The journey from the Cernettes to Blues in Glasgow?
Angela: I got drawn into Blues by surprise really. I don’t have that gutsy big voice that I would associate with a “Blues Singer” and our repertoire with Dear Green Blue reflects that, but it is also growing following on from our work with John Scott, who is an amazing Blues musician and whose earthy vocals provide another dimension to the sound palette of the group.
For me what’s important is sharing the pleasure of music and making people feel good, and when people come here (Avant Garde) on a Sunday afternoon, it’s to soak in the vibrations and feel good and if we can help them do that then that’s huge motivation for me and a great reward.
Kirk: There’s a lot to be said for having a haven like this to disappear to every weekend. A wee escape from Facebook and The News.
Angela: And have a dance It’s all age groups as well.
Kirk: You have a group called Nossa Bossa as well?
Pete: Yes, that’s our Brazilian music project with guitarist Stuart Drever and Bill Kettle on drums. Saxophonist Nick Gould has also been guesting with us recently. We are very fortunate to play with musicians of this calibre.
Kirk: Pete, I understand that you have now gone back to recording. Can you tell me a little about that?
Pete: Yes. After so many years Angela and I decided to try our hand again at composing and producing tracks in our signature smooth jazz style. We soon found out that we have not lost the knack. Beginning in November 2017 we have been putting out a new track every couple of weeks under a new project name of “Groove Planet”, distributed over some 30 digital distribution platforms as an entirely independent project. This is done without any expectation of fame or fortune, for there is none to be had in music nowadays. We do that to fulfil our social role of artists and add our tiny contribution to the beauty of the world. In so doing, we take great pleasure and we hope to give some to our listeners too. According to the reviews we have gathered from professionals in the sector, it seems that we are going in the right direction.
For more information, including songs and videos, check out: https://www.grooveplanet.co.uk/
For more about Les Horribles Cernettes: https://www.facebook.com/Cernettes/
Kelvinbridge Underground, Glasgow