John Wenlock-Smith talks to Nick Fletcher about his new release ‘Cycles of Behaviour’.
1. What are the main themes of the album and why did you choose them?
That’s a good question John. The album has a thread which could be called a concept. The main idea was to have an album that reflected the current state of affairs in the world today. The title hopefully depicts the idea that humanity’s history seems to repeat itself, social and political ideas appear to come around time and again and we don’t seem to learn from the mistakes of the past.
2. Who are your main influences classically? rock, fusion and blues?
I have so many it’s very hard to pick just a few. I think Julian Bream was a huge inspiration for the classical guitar. David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, Allan Holdsworth, Steve Hackett, Andy Latimer and a Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal for the electric guitar.
3. You have a fabulous set of contributors on the album. Were these previously known to you and, if so, how?
Yes I have been friends with all the collaborators for many years, the exception being drummer Russ Wilson. Russ and I had never met before the recording of the album, he came recommended by John Hackett who had played with Russ in the Book of Genesis tribute band and mentioned to me what an outstanding drummer he was. He was correct! Russ is the perfect fit for my music, as he has both the prog-rock and fusion techniques well covered and he is very creative.
Dave Bainbridge is one of my oldest friends, we met in 1979 and have worked together off and on ever since on albums and in bands. John Hackett and I have been working together ever since we first met in 2009 either as a flute and guitar duo or in the John Hackett Band. Caroline Bonnett has also been a friend for many years and is a great singer, producer, sound engineer and keyboard player. Tim Harries and I go back to 1983. Tim was Bill Bruford’s bass player in ‘Earthworks’ and having Tim on the album was fantastic.
4. You used to do some work for Integrity Music, how did that come about and would you have worked on anything I may have heard of?
I worked as a session guitarist and as a producer with Integrity Music. I produced a CD with Dave Bainbridge called ‘Breaking of the Dawn’ and recorded 4 solo CD’s for them. I also produced the Celtic Expression series of 6 albums with Nigel Palmer who was the chap who co-produced and recorded the Iona albums with Dave. Over the years I did many sessions and also worked with Dave Bilbrough in his band for about 10 years.
5. Will you be doing gigs to support the album?
In short, unfortunately, no! Some of the material may get aired as part of the John Hackett Band. It’s impossible to get gigs under my own name at the moment. Also, to put together such a band of great musicians would be very difficult for logistical and financial reasons. It’s a shame as some of the music would be great to perform live! But, unfortunately, that’s the reality.
6. What next from you – do you have any projects in the pipeline?
My next project will be released in June. This is something very different as it is a ‘classical flute and guitar duo’ album with John Hackett. It’s the third in a series we have recorded and this one is the music of J.S.Bach, Handel and Vivaldi! The album is called ‘The Goldfinch’ and named after a flute concerto By Vivaldi.
John is the soloist and I play an arrangement of the orchestral parts….it’s a great work and very virtuosic for the soloist, revealing what a fantastic flautist John is. I am also, on the classical side, currently composing new works for the classical guitar to be published this year.
I have already started writing for a follow up to ‘Cycles of Behaviour’. The plan is to get it released next year hard on the heels of Cycles! It will feature the same line up but with more instrumentals and also a couple of amazing singers who I need to keep under wraps at the moment.
7. Which guitarists do you admire and why?
I love the classical guitar and Ana Vidovic is one of my all time favourite players. Her ability to draw you into her performances is second to none!
With the electric guitar at the moment I don’t hear many modern players that inspire me. That said, there are some amazing players around who blow me off the stage any day!! I do think that Allan Holdsworth was a true genius, and is greatly missed, but most modern players don’t have the visceral quality I like in the instrument….too much technique and little emotional impact. Technique is very important but has to be at the service of the musical content. David Gilmour, Jeff Beck and Andy Latimer are my go-to players for that visceral quality.
8. Which musicians would you most like to collaborate with and why?
Well John, that’s a hypothetical question, all the players I would love to work with are very much above my abilities so even if it did happen I would be so in awe my fingers would never make the notes! However, Chad Wackerman is the most incredible drummer who inspires me with his creativity and amazing chops, Rhonda Smith is a great bass player who I admire greatly and Derek Sherinian, the keyboard player, is another favourite prog musician.
9. What guitar amps and effects do you use?
I use Blackstar amps and mainly Boss effects. I play PRS guitars and a customised Fender Stratocaster.
10. Do you have a favourite piece of music?
Wow! That’s so hard to answer! I love so much music that encompasses so many different genres. Classical music it would possibly be Mahler’s 2nd symphony. Prog it would be ‘Selling England by the Pound’ and jazz, anything by Keith Jarrett.
‘Cycles of Behaviour’ was released March 26th, 2021 and can be ordered from: