April 06, 2019

An interview with Denim Bridges.

An electric double-neck guitar player of the band in the period 1970-1972, Denim Bridges was an important member of the TEB for his big contribution to the electric changes in the music. He was involved in the recordings of "Macbeth" soundtrack and he recorded tracks in the studio for the announced and never realised "The Dragon Wakes" record as recently documented with "Elements 1970-1971" Esoteric's triple CD.
Through the years he gave a great contribution to this Archive in order to offer a correct reconstruction of historical facts.
Being in touch with him again,  I realised I never had a proper interview about his involvement in the TEB's story. This is a preview of the interview will be published on the TEB's exclusive book available soon just through Ghettoraga Archive.

How did you meet Glen and Paul joining the band?
"I answered an advertisement for 'Musicians to join recording band' (words to that effect). I believe it was in Melody Maker but it could have been one of the others. I was asked to audition at the band's base in Balham, South London. It must have gone well as I was asked to join.
I knew of the band as I had been at the Blind Faith and Rolling Stones concerts in Hyde Park. I was very intrigued with the band's music as it then existed but I was even more intrigued by what the band wanted to do with additional musicians and 'going electric' instrumentally. I think the fact that I had a custom built double-neck electric guitar helped me to be noticed."

What you were doing in that period? Did you play with other bands before to meet the TEB?
"I was just playing occasionally in amateur bands and open mics at folk clubs. I wanted to join The Byrds."

Which was your equipment when you met the band? How much your different approach to the music, based on different previous experiences, conditioned the new course of the TEB music from a technical point of view?
"My guitar amplifier was the Vox AC50 an amplifier developed specifically for George Harrison and John Lennon. Where The Beatles went so did I (Haha!). I had my double neck guitar custom built by John Bailey made famous by the lie of Glen Sweeney that one neck didn't work. The top neck was 12 strings and the lower neck 6 strings. I can be seen (and heard) playing both necks on The Lost Broadcasts DVD - so there! I think someone else should answer the second part of your question. I think I was a 'blank page' at that time. "

Denny in these days with his Ibanez.

Have you still your legendary double-neck electric guitar Glen mocked about?
"My double-neck didn't survive the ravaged of New Jersey climate (hot and humid in the summer or freezing and dry in the winter) and, in 2001, the 12 string neck irreparably split along the grain of the wood. So it seems Glen was quite prophetic about one neck not working."

About the composition of 'new' electric TEB music, who was/were the main musicians to be involved as a leader?
"Each member of the band would offer either fully developed compositions (as would be the case for my songs) or partially developed ideas for the band to develop at rehearsals." 

Which was the modus operandi of the band on composing tunes?
"These ideas could be musical modes or scales inspired by music from abroad or from early forms of music. As the new guy with the electric guitar I was, of course, always pushing for my ideas, with a rock sensibility, to be considered." 

About "Macbeth"'s soundtrack: can you tell us which was your main musical influences?
"In reference to the music for Macbeth; as in every aspect of the band's music, we were influenced by many, many composers, musicians and musical forms from exotic parts of the world and from the ancient past too. We applied many of those influences to Macbeth but some scenes of the movie did dictate that we had to be traditional. I took the melody and chords for "Fleance's Song" from a song I had composed before I joined the band. I used just a small part of that song because the stanzas we had been given to work with were very short. I used the line "Oh your two eyes will slay me suddenly" to repeat at the end of the 'verse' as a sort of refrain. Could anything be more contrived? The Groom's Dance was based around a riff on electric 12 string guitar I had (heavily influenced by The Byrds) but with the rhythm of a jig imposed upon it. I suppose it's just a matter of opinion for that to be dismissed as just medieval. For the incidental music for the film, of course, we could be much freer."

And what about your approach to the tunes recording "Macbeth"?
"It is very difficult, if not impossible, to answer that question. For "Macbeth" each scene required a different approach.
Lady Macbeth's theme required at first a 'traditional' melody which then had to get darker and threatening as the piece progressed. To that purpose, I suppose we applied the influences of, for example, Schoenberg as you suggest. The witches theme is inspired by a scale of notes fewer than modern western music typical of eastern or ancient cultures. This could be a real scale or one that we imagined but, hopefully, should portray weirdness and evil to the listener.
We were sharing between us and listening to a lot of music all the time. Absorbing those influence just by osmosis would have flavoured what we did for Macbeth and all our other music. I can't be more specific than that."

Denny playing for German TV in October 1970.

Did you see Macbeth movie? What do you think about it? "I watched Macbeth again only a few weeks ago. It is Shakespeare's dialogue and the acting by the best of Britain's acting elite is of the highest calibre. In my humble opinion there are a few clunky bits but I would rather take from the following story. In the mid-1990s I was at a gathering of friends in Montclair, New Jersey, USA, and we were going to see Shakespeare In The Park. One of the people there was a English teacher at the local high school who in the general conversation said that Polanski's Macbeth was the 'go to' version for his pupils.
I think there are sequences of the movie that don't have music that would benefit from it and a few of our bits work less well than I would like."

Which was the mood when you played on stage with the band? How did you feel  with this?
"I have never suffered from stage fright or any nervousness on stage. I'm aware of what Paul said about skating on thin ice, or words to that effect, and I can relate to that, but I always believed the performance would come together - eventually. Sometimes it would take an interminable amount of time to prompt some members to start to play (as evidenced by "Druid Grocking" on The Lost Broadcasts DVD) and to (loosely) quote a band friend "it always seemed to be grinding to a halt" but most performances ended in elation. Most times our performances worked well - sometimes not so much. Could we then be described as 'thrill seekers'?"

Which gigs do you remember more?
"I remember many shows by who we opened for; The Rolling Stones at The Roundhouse, Cat Stevens at Sheffield University and Love Sculpture at Swansea University. The stage experiences I actually remember most are the ones that were very much out of the norm; like the time Richard Hopkins (from the band Blond on Blond) deputized for the departed Paul Buckmaster. That was a rocking gig. We played at a university in the east midlands and the next day Essex University in Colchester in the open with Roy Harper. Another 'aberration' was at The Alhambra, Bordeaux with Centipede when Glen said "Thank you very much" and walked off stage after 20 minutes or so of us playing. He claimed he thought we had played a full set. Oops! I unfortunately also remember one of our road managers behaving rather badly behind the amps at The Paradiso in Amsterdam at one of the shows we opened for Pink Floyd. Somethings just can't be erased from the memory. Oh well."

Bridges' hands on his double-neck at Abbey Road in February 1971.

Do you remember what's happened after "Macbeth"? Why everything faded away...?
"Although being engaged to provide the music for Macbeth was a great opportunity and a fantastic experience in so many ways it did make the band do a U-turn musically, reverting back to pre-electric Third Ear Band and away from The Electric Ear Band Glen had announced in the press earlier - before getting the Macbeth job I assume. 
This is my read of what happened. I think Glen and Paul Minns decided that TEB should not go electric after all but build on the direction that TEB went with Macbeth. Paul Buckmaster, because of the commitment demanded by his arranging work, decided he could not continue in TEB and his departure was a factor in the bigger picture. Glen had brought in a young chap (I'm embarrassed to tell you I don't remember his name) who played acoustic guitar to fill Paul's position and I wasn't convinced that not replacing the electric bass and adding the acoustic guitar was a good decision. I felt the proposed new line-up and the new (old) musical direction wasn't as inspiring to me as when I joined the band and also wasn't exploiting me as a musician. I was also informed that the recordings we made with the electric band would not be released as TEB were out of contract with EMI. Although I wasn't party to the details I assume that meant the Macbeth album fulfilled TEB's obligations to EMI. So I left. I didn't quit as there was nothing to quit at that time."

Buckmaster, Bridges and Minns playing for German TV (1970).

What have you taken from the experience with the Third Ear Band? 
"When we went into Air Studios' to record the incidental music for Macbeth we used the film dubbing studio (#4) and improvised our music watching the sequences of film that required music. That all went quite well but when we came to be in the control room, for example, to edit or mix the music, we were like the vultures in Disney's Dumbo, a little uncertain and undecided. That's when I stepped forward and that's when George Martin noticed me. I also followed through the recording process by attending Shepperton Studios and supervising the laying of the music into the movie. Soon after I was engaged by Air Studios as a recording engineer and developed later to produce records as an independent Producer/Engineer. That is the big take for me from the Macbeth experience."

How can you describe the emotion to play improvitional music, that magic (or tragic) interplay musicians can live on stage?
"The feeling I had walking out on stage with The Third Ear Band was always a reflection of the last performance. When we had really gelled together, and the pieces worked as well as they sometimes could, I remember very well the excitement I felt and the anticipation of building on what the band had played the show before. When I was in the band, though we improvised a lot of our performances, we had 'islands in the potentially stormy sea' (a mode, a figure or a riff) that we could jump on when things got scary."

Which is your favourite TEB track? And why?
"I would rather use the term 'piece' of music rather than track as until the "Elements 1970-1971" CD became available the piece was unreleased. "Tellus" had a short life in the recording studio as "Ghoo" but as per "Elements 1970-1971" has been renamed "Eternity in D" by John Peel at a live show out of BBC's Lower Regent Street studios. I'm sure the title would then have been provided by Glen probably under duress. Anyway, the 'track' that is now available is a live version. I don't know why the studio version hasn't turned up. I like this piece because it has strong riffs in the bass and guitar that form a solid foundation for the oboe and violin to improvise over. It's hypnotic. So, did The Third Ear Band invent 'Trance'? Maybe. Haha!"

What are you doing right now, apart from working on the tracks recorded by the TEB for "The Dragon Wakes"? 
"I consider myself retired having ceased performing for the retirement homes, condominium associations and beach bars in Florida. That is 2 years ago now. I spend my days working around the homestead, on the vegetable garden, the orchard and generally fixing things. I occasionally play, I played a wedding last year, and get together with old friends to play a 60s night. I, also, volunteer at a Performing Arts Center sometimes mixing sound or just stewarding. That allows me to see and hear a lot of music from a wide variety of bands and solo artists."

 no©2019 Luca Chino Ferrari (unless you intend to make a profit. In which case, ask first)


  1. Wonderful interview Luca! Thank you.

  2. Nice! What happened to the Magus songs BBC sessions touted as extras on the Macbeth CD??

    1. Hi.
      Esoteric (Cherry Red) planned and announced a fourth tracks bonus taken from a 1972 BBC radio programme recording (actually they was two tracks), but when I listened to the masters I realized that TEB line-up was the 'magical' 1969-1970 quartet (with Smith and Coff) and not a 1971-1972 ones... So I asked them to change their scheduled track-list...

  3. Hi and thanks for the interesting interview! I always loved the track "Hyde Park" that the TEB performed for german Beat Club TV program in 1970. It is listed as a Denim Bridges original and I always wondered why it was never recorded in the studio. Any info on that?

  4. Thanks, it's a good question. I can only think that "Hyde Park" was one of the track that the band was working for the planned new album but when the project faded away for making the soundtrack of Macbeth nothing happened.
    Anyway, I've asked Denim to explain us it, maybe sending the original lyrics.
    So stay tuned, I could write something more on a next post on this Archive.
    All the best.