An interview with Cally of Bryter Music.
Cally runs Bryter Music, the Nick Drake estate, on behalf of Nick's sister Gabrielle. He recently took the time to speak to Nickdrake.com's Matt Hutchinson about the estate and what's in store for fans over the next year or so.
Firstly Cally, many thanks for taking the time to talk to us, I know the estate is particularly busy at the moment.
Tell us a little about your background and previous career in music.
I went to art school in the mid seventies in the hope of joining the sort of
band I was buying records by, all of whom had attended art schools in
Britain which were exciting places to be in those days.
Though I played in bands there, and we attained some success I was not a
very good drummer and so developed my love of sleeve design as well as going
to work in a Record Company to learn about music marketing.
I left the company to manage Julian Cope amongst others and continued to
design sleeves for musicians as well as releasing records on my own label.
Later I joined Warner Brothers as an A and R man for a couple of educational
years, later migrating to Island Records to become Creative Director over
nearly a decade (the 90s).
How did you become involved with Nick's estate?
Whilst at Island I could take advantage of it's owner Chris Blackwell's
insistence on all staff having a wide and roaming brief and got involved
with packaging and releasing compilations by undersold, unknown Island acts.
These included John Cale, Sandy Denny, John Martyn and Nick Drake; the
poorest selling of the lot.
On each project we worked closely with the artist or their Estate, and by
that I met both Joe Boyd and Gabrielle Drake. I left Island as it became
swallowed up by a Canadian drinks manufacturer, causing Chris Blackwell to
throw in the towel and me to go freelance as a designer, an artist manager
and the manager of The Estate Of Nick Drake for Gabrielle Drake.
What do you see as the primary role(s) of Bryter Music and is there a
general philosophy you try to adhere to?
The role is simple: I manage Nick as if he is a living, touring, recording
artist. (I also manage the band The The and there is no difference in the
two roles). The philosophy of each comes directly from the artist, and is
different for each.
Nick's philosophy was clear whilst he was alive and Gabrielle adheres to
that whenever she can. Of course there are new decisions that demand her to
speculate: an invidious task at times, but Nick's outlook was like a clear
curve on a graph: sometimes it is easy to continue his trajectory in order
to arrive at a decision. For instance, we don't think Nick would like to
have his original songs carelessly sampled, cut-up, re-mixed or butchered as
is normal for much old music these days, so that is a new decision that has
to be made on his behalf, but not too difficult a decision to have to make.
There's a lot of interest surrounding the forthcoming re-release of the
Fruit Tree set and also the projected Family Tree compilation. What
stage are you at with these and do they have projected release dates yet?
We think that Fruit Tree will be out in October. It will be a limited
edition replica of the old Island vinyl set, only on CD in mini-vinyl
replica sleeves with the film 'A Skin Too Few' in the box, plus a new book
on Nick. We hope that this may attract new fans to Nick as well as being
good value to those who may still have the original first CD releases that
were poorly mastered.
Family Tree is a collection of pre-Island recordings, some of which have
been available on bootlegs. Half of the recordings have never been heard
before. All of them are being re-mastered by John Wood, and pitched to the
correct speed (all the bootlegs run at the wrong speed). This release has
been three years in the making. If Nick were alive today, perhaps even
having never released another song after 'Tow The Line' I would, as his
manager, be persuading him to release this early material.
Though a lot of it is hampered by having been recorded at home or on
cassette tape, I feel that the quality of the songs and performances shine
through. It will be important for fans to hear these tracks as intended, as
Nick would never have wanted them released whilst he was recording properly
in studios. They are but an artist's sketches, works-in-progress, and are fascinating
simply for that reason alone.
What else is in the pipeline at the moment?
We plan to have the film tour both the UK and the US in the late spring with
a larger augmented version of Keith Morris' photo exhibition he put on
whilst still with us.
Why do you think Nick's music (and his life) have continued to have such
a strong appeal after all these years?
The very best music knows few boundaries, defined by either age appeal, date
or trend. Nick was equally of-his-time as he was of the future and past.
Nick allowed the listener to interpret and adopt his songs as their own.
Like Dylan he put equal importance on the listener's interpretation as he
did his own, rarely being specific as to the song's meaning as intended by
the author. The mystery is part of the appeal, it helps the listener bring
their own life to the song.
Songs that are ephemeral tend to do all the work for you: as Thom Yorke says
'Everything in its right place'. Nick left gaps and ill defined areas in his
work and seldom felt the need to explain the songs to those that worked
closely with him. You will find that in Nick's songs very little is 'in the
right place'. They remain both darker than the deepest sea, paler than the
Is there one song of Nick's which stands out for you as being a personal
favourite or of particular significance to you?
'Cello Song' the first song of Nick's I heard in 1971. Just as I was amazed
at the power, the performance and complexity of many Motown songs of that
era - here was a simple soul song of equal depth and daring-do. Sort of
'Road'. The most pragmatic song of powerful life affirming intent written in, perhaps,
an era of whimsy and greed.
'Horn' one of Nick's most complex unfathomable songs: a soul stripped bare.
'From The Morning' Nick leaving us with a hope, warmth and a feeling of joy seldom
attributed to him.