South Downs Way
Peter Lacey & Stephen Kalinich Interview

By Ronnie

Right: Photo by Paul Adsett

Sometimes, interviewing an artist that you have interviewed many times before is a daunting task. Are your questions relevant? You wonder if you are repeating yourself or asking the same questions with a slightly different twist. I had the same initial trepidation when interviewing Peter Lacey for the 5th time.

But as I listened to South Downs Way, the questions jumped out at me. But, it is not just a Peter Lacey album. This time, he collaborates with poet/lyricist, Stevie Kalinich. It is a match made in heaven, because the end result is possibly Peter Lacey's finest album.

I recently talked to Peter and Stevie about their collaboration and the many themes of South Downs Way.

E.C.: First, how did the Peter Lacey/Stevie Kalinich collaboration come about?

Peter: Stevie was here in Sussex performing with local guitar Maestro Richard Durrant at the annual Brighton Festival. Paul Adsett, Stevie's friend and promoter is also a local lad and has all my albums. Paul suggested we meet due to an affinity both musically and as wordsmiths. On our first meeting we began writing together, based on the conversations we were having about our lives. It was most spontaneous, most inspiring.

Stevie: I met at a pub with Peter alone and in the first meeting he told me about the inspiration of his friend, Wally Thomas who was deaf & blind and the song Humanity was born. I was moved and touched by the story. It blossomed from this and I kept sending him poems and lyrics and ideas for songs.

I thought and wrote I Know Roads because of all the journey of life and the many paths. It is a metaphor for every journey and is about our search for meaning and fun and joy and just being alive. Peter is a joy to write with....He also has a lot more drive than I do for following through.

E.C.: When you two did agree to work on a project together, did you have a "theme" in mind for the album? Or did you play it by ear, just collaborating on assorted songs?

Peter: Stevie is extremely prolific as a poet/lyricist; words pour out of him like a natural spring. He's also open and generous and gave me carte-blanche to choose from all the words he was writing on a myriad of themes. It was only later that we realised that Sussex played such an important part in our liaison as Stevie was a visitor here and fell in love with the landscape. I live here and have always felt the same from a small boy spending many happy hours playing on the hills. (The South Downs - Downs is an Anglo Saxon word meaning 'inhabited hill'). It was Paul Adsett who suggested the title of the album and it all seemed to fit perfectly into place.

Stevie: Personally I had no concept in mind I just started writing. Concepts come about as one moves through a process. A concept is a man-made way to arrange thoughts that may be connected, but in the beginning I do not have a plan. I let it unfold and see what takes shape and then maybe then I craft it into a cohesive whole. Many people do this but they have a plan, I did not in the beginning. Others do it and do not tell.

I was very moved by the Somme in France and the battlefield, No Mans Land. Also the Chattri burial grounds for the Indian Soldiers on the South Downs; the men who go to war and die. It all fits in and it pulled it self together because of Grace. It was like a gift through me. Mostly inspired by the First World War and the War Poets like Wilfred Owen but it is for all wars and all times.

E.C.: (FOR STEVIE) You've worked with so many artists over the years. Is there a certain "something" creatively that an artist has to have for you to work with? Is it their knack for melody - or their past material?

Stevie: I couldn't care less about the past work. Are they inspired? Do I connect with them? Do we have joy in our mutual creations? Most of the time I never liked the melodies, but with Peter I did and he is a sweet, kind soul with abundant talent and generosity of spirit.

I was inspired by the Downs but really a friend of Paul Adsett's. Martin Healey and his wife Sarah are avid walkers and they took me with them and introduced me to the Downs. We even talked of doing a recitation and bringing people there to see it for one of the festivals. I love it there and I picked blackberries with Martin and we walked through the cow fields and he told me everything about it. I wrote the poems and then later we went and Paul Adsett took pictures. Peter was more involved with Paul on this album than I was. Paul has been very helpful on many projects and his wife Ashley too.

E.C.: (FOR PETER) You were already working on a project before you started your collaboration with Stevie, correct? In a recent conversation with David Beard, he mentioned "We Are the Sand". Did any elements of that project come in to "South Downs Way"?

Peter: Yes Ronnie, I was working on another solo album and in collaboration with David on tunes that are evolving from songs included on the ESQ CDs such as the 'Under God' project in dedication to Carl Wilson. The South Downs Way songs were all done in one go entirely independent of anything else, which gives it its own identity.

E.C.: (FOR PETER) "South Downs Way" is your first collaborative effort, correct? Did working with a partner make the creation easier than your past solo albums?

Peter: It's the first to be made public. In the past I've worked in lots of collaborations. As I grew up musically I found I could be entirely self-sufficient. That said it was very easy to do South Downs Way as I was freed up by not having to be the lyricist and that meant I could concentrate on all things musical. It worked a treat even though I say so myself! Stevie is a gem.

E.C.: Were ALL the lyrics on the album written by Stevie? Or was there any collaboration on lyrics?

Peter: Yes, the lion's share. As I say, I contributed the 'Shine On Stevie K' line - and the sung part to the South Downs Way suite, 'Over the green hills'. The thing is - my lyric writing is slow and persnickety.

Stevie: I will let Peter answer this even though they are my words I feel it is a collaborating because I let Peter edit and I was not strict or rigid with him. If I did not like something or felt it did not work I will tell him. I wanted him to have a no block approach and if I said it has to be this or that it may have limited him. I gave musical ideas. This is my sense of it see what Peter says. The arrangements and instruments are Peter's doing. It is a tough one to answer. Peter listens to me and I believe we collaborate at least I would hope so.

Peter: Stevie is a conduit for all that he feels, and all that concerns him, there's nothing contrived, nothing forced. It's a joy to work with someone who has 'feel-flow'! The process sometimes saw Stevie expressing with great impressionistic passion his idea how a piece or a song could be. He is musically charismatic by which I mean he oozes musical ideas by suggestion in the same way he expresses words. Such is his enthusiasm you can't help but get his drift however unorthodox it is. Such fun! We could be walking or driving and he'd burst into all sorts of musical sketches! Good for me, I knew what he meant!

He reminds me of the Ted Hughes poem, 'The Thought Fox' where Hughes uses the novel metaphor of a fox as opposed to the well worn Muse. The fox is the poem, the poem the fox, it comes towards the artist waiting for inspiration, first inchoately and the nearer it comes the more form it provides. I also see him in his own line from 'Play On Maestro'. "The conductor waves his wand again....Play!" That was partly the nature of our collaboration.

Other times I wrote the tunes from his written words on my own- the way I would usually. In the case of Stevie's lyric/poems, the words jumped off the page and suggested strong musical ideas in themselves. In terms of collaboration it was ideal as it was all facilitated. Stevie gave me space to breathe, to get the nitty-gritty of the songs together in the writing and recording process. I can truly see why the Wilson brothers found Stevie so delightful to work with.

E.C.: I'd like to ask about the actual recording of the album. On one of the videos (I forget which one) Stevie is holding a guitar. Did Stevie play any instruments on the album? Did Peter play most of the instruments? Or were there other players involved (For example, the Indian instruments)?

Peter: I played all the instruments including the Indian ones (somewhat rudimentarily I might add). The other player on the album was Alex Dalton who graced the SDW suite with violin. Stevie loves 'Within You & Without You' so I just had to get some Indian sounds in there that became 'The Rose & The Weed'.

E.C.: (For Peter) Looking back on your other albums, can you name some differences in recording methods?

Peter: One interesting one was 'Widows Whispers' in that Stevie had returned home to LA to later return to do his Galactic Symphonies' album with Richard Durrant. Whilst at home he sent an mp3 of his recitation of the piece. I couldn't use it as the mp3 sound quality was poor. Nevertheless I built the instrumental backing up around his voice using the mp3 as a guide. On his return to these shores Stevie did a fine job of redoing the recitation over the instrumental track matching the tone and delivery as the consummate pro he is!

So, the main difference was often building a track around a recorded spoken part and having the pleasure of creating a hand-in-glove musical backdrop. Something I've never done before. And what a difference that makes to opening up expressiveness beyond the standard song format...it stretched me. Thank you SJK....

E.C.: (FOR STEVIE) Compared to your past projects, did this one come together pretty quickly in the studio?

Stevie: It came together in an unplanned grateful wonderful way. It is impossible to compare it with anything I have previously done. I loved doing it. It was sheer joy rejoicing a celebration, even in the War Zone of men and women trying to help one another.

Above: Photos by Paul Adsett

E.C.: The whole album seems to be a balance between really heavy themes (war) and light themes (hope and beauty). You have "You can see beauty everywhere...it's there" to "These are the voices of war". At the very beginning you have the "Roads in the heart and mind". Was "South Downs Way" meant to be a subtle metaphor about the "journey" aspects of life?

Stevie: More than a subtle metaphor: at times more like knocking your teeth out ...hitting you in the gut, like Widows Whisper and 27 Young Men but South Downs Way is more subtle yes...Life is light and heavy, at least it has been for me and I want to celebrate it all and have people remember that these freedoms we have were bought at times with blood and sacrifice and these freedoms are such a gift to us. I want to sing to every soul who fought in every war that hoped for a greater time and gave the ultimate sacrifice.

E.C.: Despite the images that you evoke of the horrors of war, another theme seems to be "hope". Lyrics such as, "Go with the flow, play on maestro"; "Let your sorrows go"; "Can't You Feel the spirit?" Are you trying to express an eternal hope for mankind, despite war? Or is war just a part of human nature that we cannot change?

Stevie: I believe there is hope for mankind and it starts with our own inner journey and wars seem to be inevitable, but we must rise to a new consciousness which is difficult but we must take our own footsteps, be on our own path and it is worth it...for the present and the future. I am outraged at the horror of the planet but there is so much good and so much beauty and I want each of us to contribute in our own way to each other...

E.C.: (FOR STEVIE) You mention, "our own inner journey" - what is your spiritual position? I like how you touch on "spiritual" matters, but not in a "preachy" way. Do you prefer to instill "ideas" rather than specific dogmas?

Stevie: My position is be open to what will rise up within you and be revealed. Every journey is a journey towards knowing our self better and I have demonstrated in my life the more loving I am the more I flow and express kindness and love the more the Universe and beauty within and without open up to me but I believe each soul must choose for itself and I would never want to preach or say how to do it there are a million discoveries and each one is unique. However in life if you try to follow the path of someone else you are bound to eventually fail and must find yourself in all of it.

I believe we are spiritual beings and matter is mostly empty space tied together by forces of gravity and they are held together in my sense of things by consciousness. We are all parts individual of a magic wholeness of a tapestry of sweet milk called Grace. Does this resonate? If you are to narrow too selfish you fail and you fall if you are giving you will triumph it does not mean you will not meet adversity in the world and you must use discernment and wisdom too.

E.C.: "At the Village Hop" - seems to lighten the "heaviness" of the album, like the laughing at the end of "Within You, Without You" on 'Sgt. Pepper'. Was that the intention of the song - to leave on an uplifting note?

Peter: You are spot on Ronnie! One or two reviewers have baulked at a perceived 'corny' quality to 'Hop' but Stevie and I had a lot of mad moments during the recording sessions and it was important to include a sense of fun into the album amongst the gravitas of the much of it.

Stevie: I agree with Peter This was one of the most fun, insane tracks on the album and it does lighten it up. There was so much joy and in reality the themes are hopeful. Yet they describe War but they point toward sanity; an affirmation that we will not stand still and witness atrocity without rising up against it. I love Peace and I believe in Peace and am committed to it but there are times when we have to have courage and face an enemy...

E.C.: What is the message behind, "Can't You Feel the spirit?" Again, is that the "spirit of hope?"

Stevie: The spirit of inspiration, of hope. that despite the horror, life can get better for more people, that selfishness can be curbed, channeled, that an enlightened humanity could do wonders to make the possibility of the world a better planet to inhabit, where children can believe there is a chance...that there is concern in the world...

E.C.: On "This is the Time For Laughing", I love the line, "Shine on Stevie K." What is the meaning behind that line?

Peter: Well, as I said I didn't get involved in the lyrics other than that line and the sung part of the suite, 'South Downs Way'. Likewise, Stevie added the lovely lilting tune to 'Catch The View' and the speaking in tongues come scat of 'Village Hop'. Stevie has actually had a tough time of things recently, health-wise. I was amazed at his determination to perform and write despite these difficulties. It’s a rallying cry and a celebration of spirit in the face of adversity.

Stevie: Although I stand in adversity up to my eye balls and sometimes under water. This is the time for laughing. It is easy to do it when things are smooth, but if one is able to do it when things are rough and at breaking point, then one can triumph and shine and Peter responded in this manner. It is how we deal with our sadness, our sorrow that makes the difference in this life.

E.C.: I've seen three videos for the album on youtube (South Downs Way, Widows Whisper, I Know Roads) - are there any more pending?

Peter: Not at present - the 'I know Roads' video is an extract from a documentary being made abut SJK by Chris Allen, so look out for that! Stevie can tell you more...

Stevie: I am open to more videos.

One more thing or two. I love working with Peter we will do more and I think a writer who can tackle any subject and not run away from a challenge is wonderful to work with and that is Peter Lacey. Check the Pink Hedgehog site where I said more about him.

Past EAR CANDY articles about Peter Lacey:
Interview (June 2000)
Interview (August 2000)
Interview (October 2001)
Interview (May 2003)
The Importance of Peter Lacey (October 2003)
Interview (Aug 2005)