The History of Tinyfish
It all began with a pair of broken arms and two dodgy eyes.
It’s 1978, the year that Jim Sanders and Simon Godfrey met at school in East Sheen (South London). Although each had been aware of the other since the age of five, the two would have been on nothing more than nodding acquaintance, save for two medical problems that forced them together and would eventually lead to the band we know today as Tinyfish.
Jim had been diagnosed with a rare retinal disease which had a good chance of robbing him of his vision, and had recently undergone laser eye surgery. Simon more comedically had broken both arms after falling off a roof, leaving him with seriously weakened joints. As part of their convalescence from their respective surgeries, both boys were excused sports for six months.
While the rest of the kids kicked the living crap out of each other under the pretence of playing football or rugby, Jim and Simon sat on a low school wall watching the on-field carnage and eyeing one another warily. Initially Simon was the talkative one while Jim sat silently, but as soon as the subject matter turned to music, both began to find some common ground, and the conversation became a two way street.
Initially, Jim had been a Rock/New Wave fan who loved Thin Lizzy (above all others), but incongruously, also the Skids (who would later become Big Country) and the Rezillos (who wouldn’t). Simon on the other hand was a fan of ELO and The Sweet but both agreed that music, and in particular, rock bands, were the bee’s knees.
Around the same time , Simon had struck up a friendship with another boy at school called Paul Worwood, initially during school music lessons. The pair were both big fans of Dungeons and Dragons and would play the game constantly throughout their teenage years.
As the 70’s gave way to the 80’s and the three grew to be good friends, Jim drew Simon and Paul towards a new love; heavy metal. Over the next three years, the trio saw every metal band that played at their local venue (The Hammersmith Odeon). While the three saw the likes of Thin Lizzy, Saxon, MSG, Iron Maiden and The Scorpions, their listening tastes also encompassed bands such as Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and Magnum.
Jim had first played ‘Going For The One’ by Yes to Simon back in the 70's (Simon rather uncharitably dubbed it ‘f***ing Country & Western’. To be fair, Jim told Simon not to bother with Jethro Tull, as he thought they were arse... without actually having ever heard them. Twit.). Jim persevered however, and when he spun ‘A Farewell To Kings’ by Rush in an afternoon listening session, Simon was well and truly hooked. He now also likes Yes very much. Hah! Jim now also likes Jethro Tull. Hah! Hah!
During their time at Richmond College (South West London), Jim and Simon met guitarist Nick Denville, and formed their first band, with Paul joining on bass soon after. Paul was the only person they knew who owned a car. They also thought he was a top bloke, and so without mentioning the car caveat, the three miscreants cajoled Paul into buying a bass guitar and an amplifier. They called themselves ‘Blackstone Edge’ and they were bloody rubbish. All they needed was a keyboard player to crown their musical ineptitude.
Simon’s younger brother Jem was 14 when he received his first keyboard (a Casio home synth which he put through a flanger pedal to make it sound cosmic). Jem was initially invited to rehearsals to hold the lyrics up for Jim to sing from while the rest of the band played. It soon became obvious to the guys that Jem's talents were wasted as a music stand and so he was invited into the band. This line up survived for a few months before Nick Denville left to live a happier and entirely more melodic life elsewhere.
The band continued, and Simon relentlessly poured prog music into Jem's head which was immediately absorbed by the young keyboard player. Less than six months later, Jem had learned all of Tony Banks’ keyboard solos from both Seconds Out and Three Sides Live along with Rick Wakeman's and Patrick Moraz's solos from Yesshows. With Jem's considerable technique, and the band hungry to write original music, the direction of the band was truely set towards progressive rock. The name Blackstone Edge was soon dropped in favour of ‘Freefall Warriors’ (after a story in a Doctor Who comic) which very quickly contracted simply to ‘Freefall’ and with the addition of vocalist Andrew Lovatt, the band began to rehearse in preparation for live gigs.
During this time the band bumped into actor Tony Aitken who had worked during his less successful years as a supply teacher at Jim and Simon’s school in the 70’s. Tony was looking for musicians to back him in a covers band, and the guys duly offered their services (even though they then had no live experience whatsoever). The arrangement worked so well that they kept the band going for over a decade and it was there, working the pubs and clubs of southern England, that they learned the musical chops that would serve them so well in later years.
In parallel to their function band work, Freefall practice/writing sessions continued. As luck would have it, IQ rehearsed in the studio next door to them, and on the back of their first gig, attended by IQ’s then manager, they managed to land the support slot at IQ’s Christmas show at the Marquee Club in London. Gulp.
Thankfully, the band hit it off immediately with the crowd and soon managed to get a string of gigs with bands like Jadis, Ark, Galahad, Mentaur and Geoff Mann from Twelth Night. Freefall looked as though they were going to make a big impact with the prog community but after an ill-judged attempt to ‘go commercial’ in the early ‘90s, (Bloody managers!) Jim left the band and the remaining members recruited a very nice gentleman called John Boyes on guitar. However, the moment was lost and the band soon fell apart.
Jim and Jem briefly went on, to form Pop-proggers “Charlottes’ Web” before Jem gave up the scene to work for national radio (although Jem's involvement with prog would be re-ignited a decade later with the formation (with John Boyes) of the Prog supergroup Frost*).
Meanwhile, Simon and Paul formed an acoustic outfit called ‘Men Are Dead’ with keyboard player Col Alkins and lyricist/harmonica player Rob Ramsay. Simon had met Rob way back in the early 80’s at Richmond College, at the same time Freefall were making their first tentative steps in music. They became good friends and Rob was always involved at some level, either by helping out at gigs or writing the occasional lyric.
Men Are Dead began to play gigs on London's open mic scene (where any artist can roll up and play a short set of between two and five songs) and the band proved to be extremely popular with both audience and fellow musos alike. Col left after their first album, but thankfully, Jim once again joined up with Simon and Paul as a second guitarist, along with Wayne Collier, an extraordinary drummer who played in almost every band in West London. What evolved was a prototype Tinyfish sound and much of the band’s current style comes from these early twin guitar shows.
The millennium came and went, and so did the name ‘Men Are Dead’. In came Simon’s alter ego ‘Simon Walsh’, a nom-de-guerre he still uses today when playing solo acoustic gigs. Whilst notching up appearances in the UK, Germany, France, Estonia and America, they recruited a third guitarist (Tim Eyles) and all looked rosy (if a little Lynyrd Skynyrd) in the garden. Behind the scenes however, things were not going well with the band. Frustration with the strict definitions of acoustic music imposed by many clubs and venues began to take their toll on both the music and musicians. Their material was becoming more complex and the songs started to push past the three minute mark, as the band's deep-seated prog influences once again made themselves felt.
Finally in the late autumn of 2004, after much soul searching, Simon sent Jim an e-mail suggesting that maybe there was little more they could achieve as an acoustic unit and perhaps they should return to their progressive roots. Jim happily agreed and an invite was duly sent out to both Paul and Rob asking if they would be interested in joining, which thankfully they did.
Simon disbanded the acoustic band, with Tim Eyles joining the punk-pop band ‘The Random’ and the four remaining musicians assembled in Simon's loft and began writing and rehearsing. Within six weeks it was obvious that there were real possibilities in the music they were making, but the question as to how to record this new material was causing them concern. None of them could afford to go the professional route, so the decision was made to turn the loft into a studio, and try it themselves.
Robert had set up Lazy Gun Records several years previously, to promote both Men Are Dead and Simon Walsh, and suggested that this new band join the roster. This gave them complete artistic and financial control of their work.
Bloody tight bastards.
Finally the subject of the name for the band reared its ugly head. There were thoughts that they could resurrect the name Freefall but that idea was soon discarded. This was a new band, and it deserved a new name (besides, someone else was now using ‘Freefall’ and they looked bigger and meaner than this band). It was Jim that quipped that they were just tiny fish compared to some of the huge prog bands still out there and within moments the name had stuck.
The problem remained that they were a man short for playing live shows, but in the studio, that base was covered by Simon who, happily, can play both drums and guitar in equal measure (although not at the same time). Meanwhile, the studio had taken shape and the band had found that familiar progressive chemistry once again. The smiles were back on everybody’s faces, and the band had a sound they could work to develop.
When the talk turned once more to live performances, Jim mentioned that he knew a drummer of many bands, the semi-Italian Leon Camfield, and after a few rehearsals (and many beers) together, Leon (for whom truely progressive music is a long held love (note King Crimson tattoo on arm)) enthusiastically joined to complete the Fab Five.
So here we are in 2010. Tinyfish have gigged around the country, released both two albums, a mini-album, and a live album & DVD, and have arrived at a destination where they feel at home, and are proud of their journey to this place of better dreams.