John Wenlock-Smith Interviews Chris Braide of Downes Braide Association

Geff Downes, Chris Braide

Chris Braide of Downes Braide Association talks about the new album ‘Halcyon Hymns’.

John Wenlock-Smith:  Good day Chris, are you well?

Chris BraideYes, I am fine thank you getting on as best as we all can in these times.

JWS: I do like the new album (‘Halcyon Hymns’), I think it is quite positive.

CB: That surprises me as other friends have asked if anything has happened and am I okay? I think lyrically this album is a lot darker than its predecessor (‘Skyscraper Souls’), that album was like evening whilst this is more of an afternoon album, colour wise. I would say this one is orange where ‘Skyscraper Souls’ was a deep blue, this one has some rather dark songs, like Remembrance for instance.

JWS: How did this album even come about?

CB: Well, with the virtual shutdown of the industry and tours being cancelled etc. it was very much a case of ‘right what can I do now then?’. This album came out of that period, Geoff (Downes) had sent me some ideas and I got to work on them. I chose to look at the world as it was when I was younger, the endless summer days, cycling around everywhere, pure rose tinted nostalgia for a world that had been but suddenly was not available to us now.

JWS: This album has some guests too?

CB: Yes, we have David Longdon on one track, Marc Almond on another, Ash Soan (my colleague of 20 plus years) on drums and a few others too, it makes for a nice mix.

JWS: So how did you and Geoff originally meet?

CB: I met Geoff at a one-off Buggles reunion in London. I was part of a group called The Producers with Trevor Horn who was, of course, the other Buggle and he asked me if I’d like to be an honorary Buggle for the evening, I said yes very enthusiastically and we had a great time of it. I met Geoff and enjoyed his company and felt we had a good connection.

I was due to move to Los Angeles shortly afterwards, when I told Geoff he said that it was no problem as he was due to be in LA himself soon as Yes were due to record the ‘Fly From Here’ album. Geoff and Trevor were back in the Yes camp for that project and when he was doing that album, he would come and visit me at my home. We started to write together songs that would become the first Downes Braide Association album.

JWS: I have the live album and DVD set and I will be reviewing this latest album for Progradar too.

CB: Cheers for that. We enjoyed that gig at Trading Boundaries, did you go?

JWS: I wanted to be but it was a bit too far to travel to East Sussex I am afraid but I did enjoy the album and the DVD. If you had been playing locally in Stoke or Crewe, I would have been there

CB: Well, hopefully when everything gets back to normality then we can start gigging again, I have other musician friends who have also been unable to do anything this past year!

JWS: So Chris, I know you have a long musical history but what sort of music really gets you?

CB: I’m a huge Marc Bolan and T-Rex fan have been seen I was a kid really. I also like Yes, the whole spectrum of their sound and, of course, the fantastic covers. Which is why we enjoy working with Roger Dean who crafted those fabulous sleeves that you could lose yourself in whilst listening to the albums.

I also really like Kate Bush who surely must be a really unsung progressive icon with the stuff that she has done for the past 40 years or so. If I was stuck on a desert island I’d take Marc Bolan, Yes and Kate Bush’s music to sustain me.

JWS: I saw Kate on her only UK tour in 1979 in Birmingham, she was quite remarkable. It was the ‘Wuthering Heights’/’Lionheart’ albums tour, if I recall correctly?

CB: Wow, what a fantastic memory! She stopped touring as that tour was cursed when a lighting guy fell (Bill Duffield) to his death at the warmup show in Poole. It was later coined ‘The Tour of Life’ and Kate did a benefit concert for Bill in London as the end of the tour, it must have been amazing.

JWS: I can remember if being very visual and extremely exciting to a young 19-year-old, as I was then. So you have also been involved with loads of modern “Pop” acts along the way, I believe?

CB: I was originally a solo artist signed to Dave Stewart’s ‘Anxious’ label (on which he released his debut solo album ‘Chapter One’ in 1996). This was before I moved to LA and began working with the likes of Sia, Christina Aguilera, Pixie Lott and Yuna, amongst others, getting into writing these songs for these different artists, I am a writer, that is what I do.

JWS: But your love of music stretches a lot further than just Pop?

CB: It certainly does, it’s far wider than that. I love the progressive stuff and I like to combine that with certain Pop sensibilities, if I can, and DBA gives me a vehicle to do just that.

JWS: I think that when this album is released it needs to get to a far wider audience, if possible, as lots of people of my age and younger will find much to enjoy here.

CB: Yes, indeed it is but it’s getting it out there that is the hard part!

JWS: Well you need to get your DBA Songs onto mainstream media. Get it onto Good Morning Britain for instance or get Clarkson to use it on the Grand Tour etc. Obviously we will try what we can but it’s only scratching the surface really, the album is out on the 5th February in the UK?

CB: Yes, the day before my birthday.

JWS: Oh wow! well, Happy Birthday for the 6th then, dare I ask how old you will be?

CB: Well, I feel like I am still 19 really but I will be in my 40’s. I’m actually really enjoying my 40’s, its even better than the 30’s were and the 20’s were too! In fact, I think every decade has just been better for me.

JWS: Well I’m 61 now and my best decade was my 50’s. A lot happened, I got divorced, started writing reviews and did interviews with people like Keith Emerson, I’ve even interviewed Geoff once. I started dating and eventually got remarried again so it was a great decade for me, you have this to come, I guess. Anyway, Chris, my time has gone so thank you for talking to me, I appreciate it and all the best with the new album!

CB: Thank you too, I have enjoyed it.

DOWNES BRAIDE ASSOCIATION Announce new album Halcyon Hymns

CD/DVD Released on 5th February

Downes Braide Association (DBA) announce the release of their new album Halcyon Hymns. The CD/DVD is out on 5th February 2021, and 2LP White Vinyl edition on 26th March 2021. 

The first track to be taken from the album, Love Among The Ruins, is out now:

Halcyon Hymns will be the fifth DBA collaboration and follows their previous critically-acclaimed studio albums Pictures of You (2012), Suburban Ghosts (2015) and Skyscraper Souls(2017). The duo have also released Live In England (2019) recorded at their first ever concert at Trading Boundaries, East Sussex, in 2018.

Pre-order Halcyon Hymns: CD/DVD https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/downes-braide-association-halcyon-hymns-cd-dvd-edition/

2LP White Vinyl:  https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/downes-braide-association-halcyon-hymns-limited-edition-2lp-white-vinyl/ 

Following two more successful and enjoyable evenings at Trading Boundaries in February of 2020, Geoff Downes returned to Wales and his projects while Chris Braide returned to LA and struggled to find motivation with the unfolding events in a world of lockdown. Inspiration would return following a call from a close friend.

“Marc Almond suggested I ‘get stuck into another DBA record’ to lift the malaise,” say Braide. “Somehow It was hard to muster any enthusiasm for it. We had all been so upbeat at the recent shows and now here we were in a collective, creative void. It’s odd the way inspiration strikes though and it never ceases to delight and surprise me when the muse comes to play and it can happen at any time and without warning. 

“I opened up a folder of new DBA ideas Geoff (Downes) had sent to me a while back and which I’d listened to briefly and had made a note to do something with them at a later date. I can’t say why it happened but one day in the studio as I listened to the bits and pieces of ideas suddenly the songs started tumbling out as if by magic. I’m not exaggerating or being melodramatic. These new songs sounded like personal reflections, they just wrote themselves. It was so easy, so enjoyable and so meant to be. Like a gift.” 

A few words from Geoff: “It was so great to witness Chris’s creativity making my fundamental ideas come alive. He took the bare bones of melodies, harmonies and textures I sent him, and somehow crafted these into something way beyond my expectations or imagination. ‘Love Among The Ruins’ is one of the many examples on the album of his rare genius at work.”

Love Among The Ruins is a delightful and uplifting love song, reflecting memories and tributes of a long lost halcyon time in life. The first track to be taken from the new album, Love Among The Ruins, is out today 4th December.

Halcyon Hymns also features contributions by Marc Almond (ex-Soft Cell) and David Longdon (Big Big Train).

The CD/DVD package also includes video footage of legendary artist Roger Dean’s painting sessions as he creates the album cover artwork for Halcyon Days together with lyric videos for three tracks from the album.