Interview With Nick Fletcher

I sat down with fellow Yorshireman, and all round good egg, Nick Fletcher to talk about all things music. We discuss how it all started, his influences, his latest album ‘Quadrivium’ and the current state of the music industry and it sounds like two mates talking in the pub. However, I can confirm that no alcohol was consumed…

Progradar: Nice to meet you Nick, are you alright?

Nick: Yes, I’m fine Martin, how are you?

Progradar: I’m good thanks. This was instigated by the post you put on (Facebook) by that musician friend of yours where he said, in so many words, that there is no point making great albums any more! I think you are a little older than me but we are both from that generation where music was all about the hard copy, spending your 80 pence pocket money, or what you got in those days, on vinyl. I thought it would be good to have a chat about that and the state of the industry but, also to get a bit of background.

I got to hear about you from John Wenlock-Smith and his reviews of your albums at Progradar, especially ‘Quadrivium’. I get drawn in by great album art and I love the cover of that album so, after reading John’s review, listening to the album and chatting a bit with you online, I thought it would be great to find out more about you. From a bit of research, I found that you left music college in 1981 and became a classical guitarist, a teacher and a session guitarist. That’s the bare bones so can you fill me in on your back story?

Nick: Originally, I wanted to play the electric guitar when I was much younger. Then I came across quite a few bands in the 70’s where guitarists were venturing into other areas of music as well and I got to hear people like Steve Hackett, Steve Howe and Jan Akkerman, those kind of players who were also introducing elements of the classical guitar into what they did. That kind of sparked my imagination with getting involved in, and developing, that kind of playing.

When I was younger, If you wanted to take playing the guitar more seriously, the only outlet you had really was to do a classical music course, there was nothing else available in those days. You either did that or there was one course available in Leeds, a jazz music course and, at the time, because I’d been getting into the classical guitar, I didn’t feel that was appropriate for me, so I went down that classical route.

I then became a classical trained musician and, when I left there, I started doing concerts, I was doing a lot of teaching but I was also playing the electric guitar, playing in a lot of bands, I used to play with Dave Bainbridge quite a bit. Dave went to the Leeds College of Music and I went to the Huddersfield School of Music and we met through a mutual friend and formed a couple of bands together.

Of course, as soon as we left college, which would have been ’81, like you said, it was a bit like a scorched earth, ‘progressive rock’ what’s that?, that’s all done with now!

Progradar: Yes, and I’ll put my hands up here, that was the start of the New Romantic style of music, bands like Simple Minds, Duran Duran, Ultravox etc. and I loved them!

Nick: And there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that I went into music college in ’79, came out doing some classical stuff but also wanted to do some progressive rock but it was like, well, where’s it gone!? In two years it had vanished! I couldn’t get a gig, there were no gigs to be had, no one was interested!

So, to that end, I got involved doing some jazz and jazz fusion stuff because there were some gigs for that kind of thing. I also got involved with a couple of record companies at the time who needed a couple of session players to do some stuff for them and I developed a bit of a career in doing that as well.

Progradar: Did that desire to play progressive rock disappear or was it always there in the background with no outlet to take it any further?

Nick: It’s like anything in life, if you’ve got the opportunity to do stuff then you get on and do it but if the opportunity isn’t there, you have to find a different way, don’t you? Basically, the doors were shut on that for me for many years and then I had a family and, of course, that entailed not being able to go away from home too much because of the kids and everything.

So I did develop more and more solo work and more and more teaching so I could make a living out of doing that. I didn’t actually play the electric guitar in a band for twenty five years, I stopped playing it really.

Progradar: So no noodling in the back room if you had half an hour then?

Nick: I probably would do a bit of that, yes, but very little really for a long period of time because it just felt inappropriate, it just felt like that opportunity had gone, to do that kind of music. Then I did a solo concert, in Sheffield actually, and John Hackett was in the audience. John introduced himself at the end of the gig and, of course, I knew straight away who he was, we got chatting and I discovered he lived in Sheffield too.

We got to know each other, it must have been around 2009, we started playing together and then, through John, I met Steve (Hackett) and became friends with him. John then wanted some help with the launch of an album he’d done, I think it was called ‘Another Life’, he had to go and do a lunch show in London and was a bit terrified of it as he’d never done that on his own, playing keyboards and presenting your songs.

I said to him one day, why don’t you play it with me, let me have a listen and have a run through and see how it goes. So he did and, as he was playing, there was an electric guitar and amp in the corner that belonged to his son, I switched it on and started playing and John suddenly stopped and said, I didn’t know you played electric guitar like that, you kept that quiet!

I just said I hadn’t done it for a long time, he was just astounded that I could play the electric guitar! So he said do you want to come and join me, it would help him and give a bit more of an interest to the performance if I played guitar as well, so that’s what we did. I went down with John, we did that and then, when we came back, John thought well I could put a band together, he’d always wanted to do it and then he asked me if I’d play electric guitar.

I thought that it sounded like a bit of fun so, yeh, let’s do that and it morphed into being more than a bit of fun, I thought, after a while, I’ve really missed this, what have I been doing for all these years? It was the opportunity, you see? the opportunity arose and I took the opportunity and went with it. It kind of revitalised my whole interest in the electric guitar, I think that it had always been there but, because I hadn’t had the opportunity, I’d put it to one side.

I then started to develop that playing seriously, did some writing, did some work with John. We did an album together in 2018 called ‘Beyond The Stars’, which I think John Wnelock-Smith reviewed as well, and then I started doing some more solo stuff, which I’ve been doing ever since and that’s about it really.

Progradar: So, to put you on the spot then, would you say that you are an electric guitarist who can also play classical guitar or classical guitarist who also plays electric? Or are you just a meld of both really?

Nick: I’m a meld of both…

Progradar: You’re a guitarist basically?

Nick: Yes, they’re both two quite different disciplines. The technique and the approach to playing are both quite different really, I think one of the reasons I shut down the electric guitar is, while I was trying to build up the classical playing, there was too much coming from the electric side and it was interfering with the development of that technique.

The thing is, once I had developed that technique, I could go back and play anything, it just opened up the doors, technically, to go into all sorts of areas with the guitar that I otherwise would have found more difficult to do, I became more adept at using my fingers, basically!

Progradar: Is there one you find more enjoyable than the other? Or this that saying that, if you had two kids, which one do you like more!?

Nick: There like two sides of the same coin, I enjoy playing solo, performing on my own but it’s a very different discipline to playing in a band and I enjoy that side as well, it’s more of a social thing. You interact musically with each other and also on a social level. So, for me, it’s the best of both, I like doing both and I’d find it hard to stop doing both, doing one of them exclusively. I’d like to keep doing both.

Progradar: It surprised me, even after reading John’s review of ‘Quadrivium’, how modern it sounds and it’s quite heavy in places. When you read your background, you think here’s a guy who’s a classical guitarist, you think that here’s a guy who plays electric but will be more intricate, delicate in the way he plays it but ‘Quadrivium’, in places, just absolutely blows you away! Not that I can see you with hair down past your shoulders playing speed metal Nick! but there’s some really technical playing on the album.

Nick: Those days have gone, yes, but i did have longer hair in my youth!

Progradar: You mentioned those guys at the start, people like Jan Akkerman, Steve Howe and Steve Hackett, but, when you first started playing the guitar, were they your first influences?

Nick: No, one the influences that got me into the electric guitar was Hank Marvin, there was a Shadows album in the house, I had an older brother who introduced me to music that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I heard Hank Marvin and I thought it was just magic, what’s that sound? That got me into the electric guitar, it really sparked something.

After that, what really got me into the electric guitar was listening to Jimmy Page, I heard some early Zeppelin stuff and it kind of blew my mind, those sounds he was getting out of the guitar, I thought I want to do some of that! That really sparked my imagination, I think Jimmy Page is a great individual player, there’s a real character to his sound.

I also liked some quite melodic players as well, and I still do as one of them is still going, that’s Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash. I really liked Andy’s playing and I still do, I think he’s actually quite an underrated player, a fabulous electric guitar player.

Progradar: I’ve recently got back into collecting vinyl and I’ve literally just bought the Wishbone Ash live album, ‘Live Dates’, there’s some really good playing on that! I quite like to listen to a studio album, I like the structure but, then again, if a live gig is done right, it can be brilliant on record.

Nick: Talking of live albums, probably the biggest influence on me, musically, in the early 70’s was, more than anything, Focus, because, Focus, for me, had everything. They had this classical thing going on, they had jazz improvisation, they had really great, bluesy, rock roots, they had it all for me.

I thought they were such an interesting combination of music that made you think, well, actually, why is music in a box? Why do we compartmentalise it because, actually, here’s a band that can fuse it all together and make a sound that’s so original, very unique and it’s brilliant. It draws on all the things that I was interested in.

I still think that ‘Focus – Live At The Rainbow’ was one of the greatest live albums that I’ve ever heard. I’ve listened to it recently and it’s so good, these guys were in their 20’s and, bloody hell, could they play! The music they were playing was just off the chart! I still love it today, I think it’s a great live album.

Progradar: I didn’t get into progressive rock until the late 80’s/ early 90’s, the first prog album I heard was Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe, then there was Rush ‘Hold Your Fire’, it was my ex-wife’s stepfather who introduced me to those. Before that, as we’ve touched on already, my original musical influences started with The Police in the late 70’s but then, like my friends at school, I got into Duran Duran, Ultravox and Simple Minds, bands like that.

When I left school, a friend of mine was heavily into hair metal, heavy rock, Van Halen and all that sort of stuff. I don’t know if you remember but, in the late 80s’, Channel 4 was the first channel that would have programs on after midnight and there was one called ‘Music Box’. We used to got to the pub, get in and we would listen to ‘Music Box’, it was when David Lee Roth had just left Van Halen and he was with Steve Vai on ‘Eat ‘Em And Smile’.

So that was an influence, then I got into progressive rock and then it was the blues. I remember seeing Joe Bonamassa play at Bridlington Spa and B.B.King playing Sheffield Arena with half of it curtained off, he was too big for the City Hall but not big enough to fill the arena! As things have gone on, I have settled back into progressive rock so my musical influences are all over the spot.

I do like the fact that I didn’t get into progressive rock until the 90’s because, now, I can discover it all, I’ve bought every Genesis album on vinyl. People would say to me that this band sounds just like Genesis but the only stuff I’ve heard is Land Of Confusion! So I think that’s why I tend to write about a wide variety of music due to my musical influences over the years.

Nick: Which is great, the interesting thing about progressive rock is that it does incorporate so many other elements. If you’re generally interested in music, it’s a stylistic form that actually incorporates stuff from all over the place that you’ve dipped into over your life. You like that and you like this and , all of a sudden, you hear someone putting it all together. If you’re somebody who is open to music then progressive rock is amazing, it’s a great thing.

Progradar: I would never have listened to jazz music without listening to progressive rock first.

Nick: Well, I didn’t either.

Progradar: If you take jazz on it’s own, originally I just wouldn’t have listened to it!

Nick: I got into jazz music probably through Bill Bruford. When he left Crimson and he started doing his own thing, I bought his albums and they were just incredible, well crafted albums, the music, the production, everything about them. But listening to those albums got me interested in what had influenced him, why is he writing that stuff, where is it coming from? Then you delve back into some other stuff and realise, well, that’s jazz, isn’t it? It’s not coming from rock or blues, it’s coming from a different place all together. So I think listening to Bill Bruford really helped me develop an interest in other music as well.

Progradar: I got, through working with David Elliott at Bad Elephant Music, into Snarky Puppy and delving into their back catalogue. I do like a bit of trumpet and cornet, I love saxophone and things like that and the only sort of reference, when you mention saxophone to most people, is Gerry Rafferty and Baker Street or Tina Turner, We Don’t Need Another Hero, those are the two that everyone comes up with! I think you’re right in what you’re saying, it opens you up to so many other things. It’s like sponge, isn’t it?

Nick: It is and, if you’re open minded, and want to be educated a bit more, broaden you’re horizons, you can listen to this stuff and it takes you into other areas that you never have probably gone into.

Progradar: Talking of your solo career, when you first start writing an album and, to be fair, you’ve probably got another that you’ve already started now, how do you go about writing? Where do you get your influences from for the tracks? Do you have four or five all on the go at once or do you start with one track, finish that and then go on to the next one?

Nick: I do tend to have lots of ideas which, over time, either become something or they don’t. If it’s a strong idea, you’ve developed it and then I go back and I play stuff, an idea that I might have had and thought I couldn’t take it anywhere. Strong ideas tend to develop and start to have a life of their own.

The initial idea will spark off the rest of the progression of the music, it will develop out of that. If the idea that you had isn’t going anywhere then it tends to just become a dead end but I do tend to have several pieces of music on the go at once, I don’t just write one piece and then move on to the next.

Progradar: Obviously, if you’re in a band then you’re all working together, you’re bouncing ideas off each other, as a solo artist do you bounce ideas off, say, your wife or fellow musicians or is it just something you keep to yourself?

Nick: No, it’s totally in my head, it is literally in my head, I write in my head.

Progradar: So you’re not going to have any idea of how your music is going to be felt by anyone else until you’ve literally finished and played it then?

Nick: The thing is, I don’t use any software and I don’t record anything at all until I go into the studio, I write it all out, apart from the improvised sections, obviously I don’t write them. The main structures of the pieces are all written out and I play around on the guitar and practice what I’m going to record but I have an idea in my head of what I want it to sound like but it’s not until I start recording it that it starts to unfold. So it’s very gratifying when you’ve finished an album, that was what was in my head and now it’s out of my head and on record.

Progradar: It’s very organic then, it’s a very organic process…

Nick: It is very organic, I don’t use software and, this is going to sound weird, I don’t plug the electric guitar in to write, I just play the thing with virtually no sound at all.

Progradar: It’s like a silent disco!

Nick: It is a bit like a silent disco, it’s a bit odd. The reason I work like that is because, if you play an idea with a great sound then you tend to develop the idea using the sound, the colour of the sound that you’re working with and it kind of develops from there. For me, I like to work purely with the music, I think of it like a pencil sketch, an artist would often do a pencil sketch of a landscape and then they would take into their studio and fill it in with the colour and the paint and develop it from there but they would always start from a pencil sketch.

You look at Turner’s work and he always had loads and loads of pencil sketches, so did Constable, any of these landscape artists and they would go into the studio and develop it, using the colours that were available, to make it come alive. That’s exactly how I think of it, I sketch out lots of ideas but I have no ideas of how the sound is going to be appropriated until I actually start the recording process.

A lot of people these days, they use the equipment, they use the sounds to generate the music, the form and the structure. There’s nothing wrong with doing that but, for me, it just doesn’t really work like that because I have such a lot of strong ideas in my own mind. I feel that you could spend hours and hours messing around trying to find the right sound whereas I don’t have that problem.

Progradar: Do you think you write music like that because of your classical training?

Nick: I think it might partly to do with that, I’ve never really thought of it in that way, it just feels right to me to work like that, you know?

Progradar: Getting on to the elephant in the room and what initiated this conversation in the first place, the Spotify and streaming generation. It’s a generational thing, our generation, we loved that thing of going down to the record shop and buying the vinyl buying the CD and having the physical product in our hands.

We didn’t have instant access to the music, our Spotify was almost the radio, wasn’t it? That was where you’d hear snatches of music and, if you liked it, you would go out and buy the album, you wouldn’t have the option of, having heard that one track, now being able to stream the rest of it. My own personal opinion is that it has devalued music massively.

Maybe due to my influence, my stepson will listen to the whole album from start to finish but he is an anomaly of the current generation. The whole point of the music that you write, that Big Big Train write and the bands that I really enjoy listening to is that they write an album of songs and they will put them songs in order, in the structure, that they are meant to be heard in. You’re not supposed to pick a little bit out here and there and I find it frustrating!

Nick: I do as well. For me, going back to my classical background, I view albums as like symphonies, you know? The reason the LP came into being was because it was a way of fitting a symphony onto a disc, that was why the LP originated, there was no other reason why the LP should exist. A long player exists because record companies wanted to find a way of putting long form music onto a recording. For me, the progressive rock stuff is the same, it’s an album that has a start, it has a finish, it takes you on a journey, it takes the listener somewhere.

They’re not just disparate tracks, it’s not a ‘best of’ album, it’s something that’s got a narrative and a direction. It unfolds like it would a film, you go and watch a film, you don’t pick and mix or watch that scene and watch that scene just because you like them, you watch the whole narrative start to finish. That’s the process, that’s the enjoyment of watching the film and, for me, it’s the same with music, it unfolds over a period of time, it takes you on a journey and it stimulates your imagination.

Progradar: I think the question posed by the musician you quoted was, is there any point in making a great album anymore? In his opinion, it didn’t have a place in today’s society. Well, I disagree, I still think that music like that is an art form and art is still out there. As people still paint pictures, people still like to listen to music.

Nick: Definitely and, like you said before, it devalues it. If you start cutting it up into bits, little sounds bites here and everywhere, you devalue the whole thing. In fact the YouTube generation of people who go out there and do their thing, play their guitars and play their songs, they have thirty seconds to get somebody’s attention because there’s so many millions of people doing it. They’ve got to do all this stuff which, half the time, isn’t very musical, it’s just to get people’s attention.

In the old days you’d have record companies doing their best for the bands or the artists which would give them longevity over a long period of time, they’d put money into it, they’d develop the artist and the companies would see a return for their money over a period of time. Whereas now everyone wants instant everything, they want instant return on their money, instant gratification from the music, you know.

There’s not many gigs, everyone’s just sat in their bedrooms playing music and hoping that, within thirty seconds, someone will take notice of them or they’ll switch onto the next one. What’s that doing to music? It’s just devaluing the whole thing.

Progradar: You’ll be like me, there was an old record store in Bridlington called Turners and they had listening booths. You’d get the album out and put the headphones on. On a Saturday you’d spend hours in there but you’d come out of there having spent quite a few quid by the time you left!

Nick: Exactly, it was all part and parcel of the enjoyment of the music. It’s a generational thing because kids these days have so many other distractions what with games and everything. We never had that when we were younger, music was part of our culture.

Progradar: It was a tactile thing, wasn’t it? It’s lost that tactility.

Nick: Definitely, I hope it comes back but I’m not going to stop doing it.

Progradar: I don’t want you to stop doing it! I want to hear what comes next after ‘Quadrivium’, I love that album. Right, we are going to have to wrap it up now Nick, I really appreciate you talking to me tonight, it’s been brilliant.

Nick: It’s a pleasure Martin, thanks for talking to me. I start the new album soon and I’ll keep you in the loop.

Quadrivium’ was released on 15th September, 2023.

You can order the album (and all of Nick’s other projects) direct from Nick’s webstore here:

ONLINE STORE | Nick Fletcher Guitar (

You can read John Wenlock-Smith’s review of the album here:

Review – Nick Fletcher – Quadrivium – by John Wenlock-Smith – Progradar