In 1992 Dave Brons was in the middle of studying for his final exams. He picked up a guitar and started to play. Then he saw Steve Vai play on TV. He was blown away and he wanted to have equivalent skills. He had to work all Saturday for his dad to earn the £5 he needed for the guitar lessons. He stopped after thirteen lessons, but he was already practicing three or four hours a day. After one year playing Steve Vai’s ‘For the love of God’ (which he had worked out by ear) he auditioned for Music College
The first time Dave saw IONA was in at the Greenbelt Festival 1992. Dave told: “That was a life changing moment. I was in the crowd with 10.000 people and the music just transported me like nothing I’d ever heard before. Those days I was a serious metal-head but I fell in love with IONA and Celtic Rock.”
In his teens and twenties, he played in several metal and cover bands. He also did a few tours to the Far East as a hired guitar player.
It started with a memory stick
Since his teens, Dave (Brons) is a mega fan of Dave Bainbridge’s band IONA. He visited many IONA gigs. He met, and had a brief talk with his idol twice. In 2012 Dave said to John Biglands (the drummer in his band): “After the ‘Another Realm’ gig, I’ll have a chat with Dave Bainbridge. I’ll hand him a memory stick and I’ll ask him to play on my very first album.”
John thought it was not even worth trying, but Dave Brons had nothing to lose. He also reached the Top 10 for an international guitar competition called Guitar Idol. This gave him the encouragement he needed to get Dave Bainbridge involved. So, he handed the memory stick with the songs ‘Voyager’ and ‘Star’.
Within a few days Dave Bainbridge replied with a yes. Thus, the career of Dave Brons started with a memory stick. Dave complements: “And a life time of daydreaming.”
That was the beginning of ‘Based on a true story’, it exceeded all his expectations. He crowdfunded it for £6000 which was a record for UK crowdfunded guitar albums. It sold really well and had lots of really good reviews.
Dave learned that the most important thing is to create music and finish the album, no matter what. A lot of people start working on things and give up on them.
Dave Brons released ‘Based on a true story’ in 2015. It’s really is a fabulous debut, with Troy Donockley as one of the guest musicians. To me, it is still one of the best instrumental albums ever.
But there was more: Dave Brons used to daydream of playing IONA songs on stage with Dave Bainbridge. That dream came true with the GB3 tour. That was, of course, with both Dave’s and Paul Bielatowicz. Dave Brons remembers: “Playing IONA songs was honestly an experience I’ll never forget. I looked at John Biglands, he was smiling ear to ear. Then I looked across at Dave Bainbridge who was also grinning back at me. I wasn’t dreaming, I was living the dream!”
A little later Dave Bainbridge asked his namesake to join his band Celestial Fire.
Not all those who wander are lost
In January (2020), Dave released his second album ‘Not all those who are wander are lost’. This album is inspired by Tolkien. ‘Lord of the rings’ works very well with Celtic influences. But the main reason is that Dave has been a Tolkien fan ever since he first read them, when he was 12 years old.
About the process of composing Dave said: ”I sit down and simply write music. A lot of it doesn’t makes the albums. I just try to write music for the fun of it, in any style with no restrictions. I always imagine a scene from a film, and imagine what would the audience be seeing in their mind’s eye when they hear my music. In that respect, writing this album provided both a challenge and an opportunity. The opportunity was that it allowed me to narrow down the writing to a story arc, and helped me know which compositions wouldn’t work.
The challenge was that the story is really epic and I would have to write a variety of songs that really take the listener on a journey throughout the album. I think I had to hold my compositions lightly, as I probably threw out more than I kept.”
In 2018 I had a lovely chat with Dave (Brons) at Prog Dreams Festival. I remember his enthusiasm and passion, when he spoke about ‘the upcoming album’. It was a long and slow process. Good work takes tons of time. I asked Dave why it took so long.
He answered: “The album ended up having fourteen songs and is over an hour in length.
I can only write two days a week because I need to spend the rest of the week doing things that immediately pay the bills! So, I write and record the demos on Monday and Tuesday, and take them to rehearsal on Thursday. Often at rehearsal, we threw out entire sections which meant that I’d have to try to re-write sections and re-record them. This meant it took a long time to refine the songs. Besides that, I wrote out (by hand) all the parts for the horns, flutes, violins etc. I’m a perfectionist and didn’t want to stop until I felt the music really told the story in the way I wanted. Nobody writes a novel as quick as a newspaper article. This album is meant to be like a novel: something that is multilayered, so people will return to it again and again.”
Very expensive album
Dave realized that it was going to be a very expensive album to make due to the amount of musicians that were going to be needed to make an album this epic: Choirs, orchestral players etc etc.
That’s why Dave launched the crowdfunder. He declared: “Fortunately we raised £10.000, and I spent every single penny to make this album as good as possible. I’m blessed to have such generous and enthusiastic fans!”
When he launched the crowdfunder, the songs were fairly developed. He wrote out all the vocal parts for Maria Mullen and the Great Yorkshire Chorus. So, it was clear to them what Dave had in mind. But the improvised vocal parts that open and close the album were done on the fly at the end of the recording session.
Stephen Bradnum played tuba, French horn, euphonium, trombone and a few other things.
He played the exact notes written by Dave. Dave clarifies: “However, he added a huge amount in terms of how he played the notes; the attack, the volume and the tone. All these things were down to his skill and amazing musicality.”
Dave continues: “Catherine Ashcroft is a folk musician and learned all the parts by ear. ‘The Shire’ is a really difficult piece to play on pipes (and guitar!) I was blown away that she played it flawlessly when we met for the first time. Catherine had a bit more freedom to play what she wanted in other places. Quite a bit of what she played on the opening was improvised. In fact, Dave Bainbridge improvised the chords, while she improvised the melody, all in real time. That was amazing to witness. He just pressed record and they did it in one take. That is what you hear on the opening track.”
Dave sees John and Dan (drummer and bass player) very regularly. He sees Stephen Bradnum most weeks too because they play and teach with the same orchestra.
The rest of the musicians, he only sees very occasionally. Frank Van Essen lives in Holland and Sally Minnear, Dave Bainbridge and the rest of the musicians all live a several hours drive away from him.
The artwork is in ‘Lord of the Rings’ style. Dave commissioned Dan Bell at Middleearthmaps.com to draw it.
The photography location was Dave’s idea too but the photographer, Jonathan Jacob, had the “painting by light” idea to get that surreal effect on the cover photo. It looks like a painting. Nevertheless, it’s shot on location at night in the woods under a full moon.
It doesn’t feel complex
When I was listening to ‘Not all those who are wander are lost’ to review I noticed that all the layers blended very smoothly and excellent together. The tracks are complicated but it doesn’t feel complex to listen. Because even when you’re knackered it still feels so comfortable to listen. I mentioned the danger of getting underestimated. His answer was: ”When you create art, you just know that you like it yourself and you hope that others do too. I have the luxury of creating music that I like with no pressure from a Record Label to make the music in a certain way. So, I just make music I like. That’s it!
It was a huge relief that the album has been selling very very well and the feedback and reviews have been fantastic.”
Dave told more: “Some songs have many layers ‘Minas Morgul’ might ran over 100 tracks of horns, flutes, percussion and multilayered guitars. ‘At the end of all things’ has a lot of brass parts, maybe 40 tracks worth. I had been listening to the album tracks for too long to be able to mix them in an unbiased way. There is always the temptation to turn the guitars up too loud.
Of course, Dave Bainbridge was the perfect guy to mix the album. He understands the rock, the progressive, the Celtic and orchestral side all to a very high level.”
Dave has two sons Kai (12) and Jaiden (9). You can hear Kai on ‘Based on a true story’. Kai was three years old when he sung ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’. Dave recorded that and he used that fort the track ‘Star’.
On the new album, he did the narration on ‘At the end of all things. Now Kai’s voice has broken. So, if he’ll join the third album his voice will be different.
Jaiden sings all the time, so he had to get on the album. The songs required the voice of a child as part of the story telling. Jaiden was the obvious choice.
Plans for 2020
Dave is a busy bee. He has made quite a few guitars and his own tube guitar amplifiers. There are videos of making all this stuff on Dave’s YouTube channel.
Fans know that he loves wild camping with just a hammock and a tarp. Dave told me that he needs to get out. A lot of his musical ideas come to him when he is out in the wild.
When I had this interview with Dave, Corona was not yet that bad in Europe. I asked him for his plans for 2020. He told me that he started writing his third album, meanwhile he tries to promote ‘Not all those who are wander are lost’.
He also likes to write some songs for his dad to play on cello, and with himself on classical guitar. He realizes that his parents won’t be around forever. And his sons will ‘soon’ be leaving home, so Dave wants to make the most of his time with them.
I hope Dave and his family will stay healthy. Thank you, Dave, for this interview. Much appreciated.