Andy Baker has an ambitious project and an album release this coming Sunday from his band of 172 collaborators.
Knowing nothing about the band, but intrigued, we fired off a message to see whether Andy was interested in a chat.
Little did we know at the time, but Andy is fronting one of the most ambitious album projects we have encountered, involving a cast of 172 players from (nearly) all over the world.
And the proceeds are all to go to charity.
To be released on Sunday, 17 January 2021 and, perhaps he’ll come to regret the title, The First One has been four years in the making. We knew straight away that we needed to know more about this seemingly crazy idea.
P3dro: Where are and what are you doing?
Andy B: I’m in Glastonbury, creating a promo trailer for Sunday’s album release.
P3dro: Is Glastonbury home for you?
Andy B: Yeah, it’s my home town. I live between here and London, but since Corona happened and lockdown came into effect, I escaped here. It’s where my mix room is. It was the only place I could get the album finished.
In London I have little speakers on my desk that are “this tall” [i.e. not very]. And it’s not a treated room, so it wouldn’t have been any good.
P3dro: Tell us a bit about the album, because we hadn’t initially realised what a massive project it is.
Andy B: Yeah, it’s a big one, that’s for sure. It’s 172 musicians, all originals, there are no covers. It’s been finished remotely, as are many things at the moment. But it did start with travel, four years ago. I’d been in touring bands and I wanted to do something a bit different – I didn’t really want to start just a normal band again.
I wanted to catch up with friends that I hadn’t seen since touring. So it was the idea to make the album with friends, to go and see them. And it kind of went from there.
At the time, I’d been doing some work with a homeless charity in Devon, taking hot drinks and meals out and supplies through the winter.
Then I’d been travelling in Australia and happened to be there through Christmas, in Melbourne. I’d spotted the homeless community behind St Paul’s Cathedral. I got chatting and spent most of the night with them, listening to their stories. It got me thinking and I decided I would make an album and all the profit would go to charity. And that was that. I literally spent the rest of the trip planning it in my head.
Probably not enjoying the scenery as much as I could have been, but, yeah, started work on it there and then. And that was four years ago; here we are, finally finishing it.
And, we’re already looking to the next one.
P3dro: yeah, you must be pretty much rushed off your feet at the moment.
Andy B: Yeah. Back in September, I had the last minute idea, that although we were well over 100 people, I thought it would be cool to create some more massive gang vocals and add some other little ideas. So, I put out a call and a lot of people joined in at that point. Pretty much since then in September, I haven’t really stopped.
I’ve been working on it every single day, mixing, getting things to match, or the admin involved. And the artwork. Every time I think: “Yeah, it’s done” and then I look at my list and go … Ah!.
P3dro: How many copies of the album will there be?
Andy B: Initially the vinyl is 1,000. But 250 of those are a purely limited edition. There will be two different disc colours. One of them will be what we call “George Colours“, the orange cat on the front. He was around during the process, but recently passed away. Most of the musicians who came around to my house knew him, he was always around. His fur is the colour of the special edition ones.
But also with the special editions, I hand wrote all of the credits for the album with a sharpie, so there are 14 of those to go in the special editions as well, randomly. It was fun to do – it was nice to write everyone’s name by hand. It was a nice way to revisit everyone who was involved.
P3dro: You started this four years ago. Presumably, come the end of March last year, you must have been thinking: “How the hell am I going to finish this off”?
Andy B: Yeah, pretty much. I had a bit of a pause, anyway, in the middle of it, there was a bit of a gap in 2019. Then I kind of hit the ground running and thought: “Right, I’m gonna do this”. And then the world started shutting down and descended into chaos.
But I’m glad in a way, because we made new connections and friends that we wouldn’t have made had we not done it that way. So, that was a real positive.
The only shame about it was that we didn’t get to finish it off with travel. But, then we’re going to kick off again and do it even bigger when we can. When Covid does its walk off.
P3dro: Do you have any plans to gig the album?
Andy B: Yeah, the one beauty we have is that we can go, say to The States, or here, and it would be a different line up in the two countries. So, if we were offered, say one gig, we could do it because we wouldn’t have to fly 8 people over there. We can use local musicians, who would, effectively, still be part of the band.
We’re figuring out some ways to do live versions of some of the songs. We’ll do some of those in a lockdown style.
And then after that, we’ve got some pretty big plans for a follow up. It’s very ambitious.
P3dro: But you’re not going to tell us what it is?
Andy B: It will be done through travel. It will be on seven continents. But that’s all I can say. I’m looking forward to announcing it.
Although, I can say we’ll be setting up a non-profit label on the side of it as well. So, we’ll record homeless buskers as we go around the world and the idea then is to release their recordings and then to make sure they get the money that’s raised. That’s a way they have to see their music released and get the profits, or they can assign to, say a shelter where they live. There are all sorts of options. But there will be many more than the 172 musicians we have on this [album]. And more countries.
P3dro: How did you get involved with Colin’s Punk Rock World?
Andy B: I used to play in a band called Fandangle and I met him from those days. Then I noticed him from his blog and his reviews of bands who I was friends with. He’s just a music loving gig-goer and very amiable to deal with. I do like what he does. It’s a really good way of discovering new bands, that’s for sure.
P3dro: What about when you play live? How many people would you normally have on a stage?
Andy B: Well, this project has never played live as yet, apart from some acoustic sessions in the early days. But, we’re not massive. There’s a long standing friend who will join in on guitar. We’d probably go out with a couple of guitarists, a singer who can cover most of the songs, a bassist and a couple of brass players.
Anything we do has to be “organisable” and not too much complication. Otherwise it would be a head explode moment.
P3dro: Recommend a band or an album you think we should be listening to right now.
Andy B: One of my absolute favourite bands is The Suicide Machines and their new album, Revolution Spring. They’re awesome and it’s a really good album. It’s their first album for ages and I’ve always liked them lyrically and musically. It was produced by Roger Lima, from Less Than Jake – you can hear him in the bass guitar.