Musicians Corner Special: "The Lives & Times of Richard Wileman" an exclusive TWR interview with Mr "Karda Estra" himself. Interview conducted in the salubrious surroundings of the JP Wetherspoons pub Bristol on Thursday 7th April 2005.
TWR: So, Richard why did you decide to become a musician?
RW: I was a late beginner, my school threw me out of music class because I couldn't shake a stick with a bottle top nailed to it correctly. My mum is a pianist and she failed miserably to get me to play the home organ (laughs). And when we were all sixteen you either had a motorbike or an electric guitar and I had an electric guitar; I thought it was safer. So I started playing and taught myself and it was a ver steep learning curve and I found something that was that easy and I seemed to enjoy that very much and that's how I started, because everybody at my school was doing it.
TWR: What or who were your influences?
RW: At that time like everyone else at my school up in Nottingham in Kirby in Ashfield; it was listening to heavy metal so I was in the Iron Maiden fanclub and learning to play along with Black Sabbath so I started playing along with all of that. Things I don't listen to at all now! (laughs). That's how I started.
TWR: When did you first start to think, maybe I can do something professionally?
RW: I think reasonably early on. I moved down to Wiltshire and in the Sixth Form College I had a band but it didn't really get anywhere; there was a lot of writing but not much playing ability going on. I took a little bit of a turn when I was 21 or 22 when I bought a drum machine and a keyboard adding other instruments and other ideas and I was drawing from different influences. The people I learned with we were all listening to the same stuff and we were a second rate version of the things we were listening to and I couldn't see any point in doing that and I tried to expand out in music. With Lives And Times it was a new singer; a female singer and we had lots of different influences as well which were brought in and so I guess at that time; around 1988- 89 we started sending out demos and I have a lot of "near miss" stories from '89 to'90: we were played on Radio One and Melody Maker were coming to see us. There were all sorts of things happening and all sorts of major labels interested. Lorna was doing sessions for Andy Partridge and things like this, TV commercials and it all seemed to be happening but we just couldn't seem to get them to sign on the dotted line.
|Brian Lane's management company were interested and we met all these various people and we carried on and found out that there was quite an underground of labels or what you call "Progressive" music although we were on the fringes some of them were quite open minded about what we did. Simon Medhurst loathed us because we weren't "Prog" whatever that might be? And so around that time we realised that yes, we can do it ourselves and there was an EMI CD pressing plant in Swindon and we were able to produce locally and get distribution. I had a deal with SI for a couple of albums and then we went on Cyclops. So, at the start of the '90's we started doing it and we have always been semi-professional and that’s the way it has always been and it is a tough climate in which to get this stuff going professionally.|
TWR: Did you actually have any formal musical training?
RW: Yeah, I taught myself electric guitar for three years and playing along to records was my learning but I did…. Probably because of getting the Bay Of Kings album I suppose and I thought classical guitar; you can play the bass lines and the lead at the same time and so I went and had some classical guitar lessons locally just for a couple of years and then bowed out because I had pretty much learned what I needed to and I can play by ear.
TWR: Do you actually write your own music down or do you play it totally…?
RW: I play it totally on what is in my head. I have to orchestrate a lot of what I do for the classical players that I use but I use the computer for 90% of that. It is a blessing and a curse, you can pick things up quickly and you can memorise them and it is great you don't have to have a prop but at the other side of it when you need to communicate it to other musicians it is still the best way of doing it! (laughs). So, I have had to learn as well as I can but fortunately, technology has been on my side and I have got up to speed. I can look at the score wen things are wrong and I can correct things but it is a lot easier.
TWR: With Lives And Times did you ever do any gigs?
RW: yeah, we played… really over the East and the West and lots of gigs in and around London. It has been interesting doing… Lives And Times was not a regular "band" but more a regular thing and easier to do a gig or to get a recording going and do the traditional method than it is with Karda Estra where I sort of took advantage of all the things that having your own recording equipment can do and you can do anything. If you need just one toot of the flute for one tune then you don't have to worry about that flautist being bored for the rest of the gig. So you get a very exotic palette but by the same point when somebody says "Right, put it somewhere" it's like "My God…" so what tends to happen is I have had quite a few people interested in what I do and various production companies and things like this but a lot of it; unfortunately; doesn't excite me and I have been to some fairly awkward sessions and meetings and I try my best to be professional and do things with it and fortunately as I have got a bit longer in the tooth I have got the belief that these CDs that I have been doing; people have enjoyed them and if I stick by my guns I have hopes that people can enjoy something that is a little bit more sophisticated. It might taken them time to adjust to it but it has taken me time to grow it so I don't expect it to be immediate.
TWR: Does the name Karda Estra actually mean anything?
RW: Right, for my sins I like old Hammer Horror films (I knew there was a reason why I liked this guy - AH) and from Plague Of The Zombies there is a Voodoo ritual and two of the words in it are Karda Estra (laughs). I'm hoping it is not a real Voodoo ritual! I suspect it is nonsense but that’s where it came from, anyway. You are always looking for a band name that is unique and that nobody has heard of so I thought if anybody has got that voodoo chant as their band name then I give up, I can’t think of anything else! (laughs).
TWR: The first K E album that I encountered was Constellations with the Steve Hackett cover version on it but the rest of the albums have been such an eclectic mix where do you get your inspirations from?
RW: I try… if you have got a completely open canvas and you have any tune you can do and who knows if it is good or bad. But when I have got an idea for something it helps focus me and so I try and get a theme because it is a good editing process. If I felt like being loud that day but the tune didn't require it then it is a good filter if I am working by myself then I have got other voices saying "Ah ah, that ain't right" but there are other elements to it that are very vague, I mean Constellations went through all sorts of strange forms. It was going to be called Titan originally and it was going to be like a Sixties atomic movie soundtrack (laughs) that was the original idea for it but then I decided that I wanted to do something more autobiographical and I had a very strange school reunion thanks to "Friends Reunited" and I had been to the school which was about to be demolished and I had a big black cloud over me for no reason; I had been chatting to two friends and having a great time and I don't know if it was the passing of time or what but the best way of exorcising that feeling was through music and I did actually speak to a good friend of mine about getting some lyrics together and I was going to have a go at a vocal album but it didn't work and I mainly do instrumental stuff and the words were too specific and I needed something more open ended and I didn't want it to be too obvious like the places where I had lived and the answer was above me all the time! And so I went on the Internet to see if many people had done music based around the constellations.
So there were little things and I was thinking what can I do? The reason why I chose the Southern Cross is that it is the brightest constellation but it is the smallest and I liked that idea. If you think about yourself; you are all that you know so you are the brightest thing in your world but in the scheme of things we are all little tiny grains of sand. So that was a metaphor that I could use. Scorpio was there because it was my star sign.
TWR: I loved Eve because I loved the idea behind it even though I hadn't read the story until I read the sleeve notes. It is post Frankenstein but pre Metropolis and all of the albums are so packed with ideas and visual images that they should be in films; they ARE film scores and your most recent project: Voivode Dracul… why that has not been used on a proper documentary about the character I do not know. Did you really get immersed into that?
RW: To me it was very sensual; the idea I was very interested and that was why I didn't do the story in chronological order and I picked out certain points which were interesting and I am happy for people to use stuff that has already been written and produced in documentaries etc but I need to start exploring various marketing tactics.
And there we draw this interview to a close. Hopefully it gave you a small
insight into what it is like to be a creative artist and if you want a chance
to explore the world of Karda Estra further, check out our competition elsewhere
in this edition for a set of Karda Estra albums and also check out Richard's
own website: www.kardaestra.co.uk
for further information about his current and future projects. My thanks to
Richard for taking the time to chat to us here at TWR.