Artists On Albums: AOA#38 (John Parish on Doc At The Radar Station)

John Parish on…

Captain Beefheart And The Magic Band’s Doc At The Radar Station (Virgin Records, 1980)

Captain Beefheart And The Magic Band - Doc At The Radar Station

Captain Beefheart And The Magic Band – Doc At The Radar Station

“Listen to this, it’s the worst thing you’ve ever heard” said the keyboard-player from my first band before sticking a cassette into the van’s sound system. It was an advance copy of Doc At The Radar Station that a friend working in Virgin Records tape copying department had passed to us. I was aware of Captain Beefheart but had never heard anything other than his vocal on Frank Zappa’s “Willie The Pimp,” which had always sounded pretty unsettling to me, but in no way prepared me for Doc. I declared it the weirdest, but certainly not the worst thing I’d ever heard, and consequently the tape became mine.

At first I was most interested in playing it because of other people’s reactions, which were generally not favourable. But it started to grow on me… the captivating vocal on “Sue Egypt,” the driving chaotic rhythm of “Run Paint Run.”  And then, without trying, the music began to make sense to me, as though I’d been in a foreign country long enough for the language to sink in.  I was hooked.

I found a second-hand vinyl copy in a store in Coventry. I loved the cover artwork. I loved the picture on the back of the weird guys in the band, some of whom were using clothes pegs as tie pins – and two of which, some years down the line, became good friends and colleagues.

Trout Mask Replica is generally considered Beefheart’s masterpiece – and I do love that album – but Doc was my way into his music and it will always have a special place in my heart.

Notes On The Artist:

John Parish (photographed by Maria Mochnacz)

John Parish (photographed by Maria Mochnacz)

Having properly begun his music career in the early-‘80s, the Yeovil-born and longtime Bristol-based John Parish is best known as a regular collaborator of Polly Jean Harvey, both as an adaptable sideman across many of her acclaimed solo albums (on/off/on from 1995’s classic To Bring You My Love to 2011’s award-winning Let England Shake) and in an official duo capacity (for 1996’s Dance Hall At Louse Point and 2009’s A Woman A Man Walked By).

Outside of working with Harvey, Parish has also lent his considerable multi-instrumentalist and production skills to the likes of Bettie Serveert, The Eels, Howe Gelb & Giant Sand, Goldfrapp, 16 Horsepower, Sparklehorse, M Ward and many more.

Away from supporting others and following on from his stint as a leading member of Automatic Dlamini during the bulk of the 1980s, Parish has also found time for his own musical ventures. This has primarily led to the appearance of two official solo albums (2002’s How Animals Move and 2005’s Once Upon A Little Time) and to composing a series of TV/film scores.  An anthology of such soundtrack wares – simply entitled Screenplay – has recently been launched on Thrill Jockey.  In support of its release, Parish is touring the UK and Europe across September, October and November, after already completing a series of solo live dates earlier this year.