Tiger Moth Tales
Classic prog sounds and children’s stories make up the new album from Pete Jones.
Ahistoric village located in the heart of Sherwood Forest, steeped in the myriad fables of Robin Hood, is an ideal location to meet a master storyteller. Tales from the childhood – and indeed, adulthood – of Forest dweller Peter Jones provide the overarching themes of three of the four albums released under his Tiger Moth Tales banner, the latest being Story Tellers Part 2.
His “mid-life crisis” breakthrough album, Cocoon, in 2014 was quickly followed up with Story Tellers Part 1, which was recorded in just 28 days in February 2015, and full of musical vignettes based on classic fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty.
Having released the darkly seasonal The Depths Of Winter in late 2017, which focused on wintery concepts and themes and adopted a less personal approach, Jones yearned to return his Story Telling narrative. But time wasn’t on his side.
“I was going to look at it in 2016, and that didn’t happen… then again in 2017, and that didn’t happen. I also had a bee in my bonnet about doing Part 2 in February like I did the first time – and also doing it in 28 days – but for whatever reason, that first album was a fluke. This time, February never seemed right, nor did I have the time or inspiration.”
Jones’ tight 2018 schedule was dictated by his busy touring calendar, that included live shows with his bands Tiger Moth Tales and Red Bazar, and also tours with Francis Dunnery and Camel.
“I was preparing for Camel, but rehearsals had not really started in earnest. I had just over two months and thought, ‘Let’s get cracking and get it done,’” Jones says. “I didn’t want to keep people waiting another two years, and I wanted to find some of that spontaneity from the first Story Tellers.”
Armed with storylines courtesy of Hans Christian Anderson, AA Milne, Aesop, The Wind In The Willows and The Three Little Pigs, Jones finally found a window of opportunity between March and May to record these next chapters.
A Snow Queen theme had already been mapped out in Kai’s Journey, on which his wife Kimberley and guide dog Darby both appear in “speaking” roles.
“One thing I love about prog is the musical changes that Tony Banks is so good at. A change of chord or instrument greatly changes the mood and that is what has gone into Kai’s Journey, which is a bit of a free-for-all with keyboards and noodling.
“My old friend Mark Wardle plays a trumpet solo on it, and then my darling wife does the Snow Queen’s voice – though I don’t think she’s forgiven me for putting in a vocoder to do weird stuff!” he laughs. “It is nice to have other people on it with me. This is unique to a Tiger Moth Tales album: something I don’t think will ever be repeated.”
With a multitude of projects on the burner, Tiger Moth Tales’ Pete Jones has been busy. But he’s finally found the time to revisit
his fairy tale-themed concept with Story Tellers Part 2, the follow-up to 2015’s Part 1. Jones discusses the art of balancing the silly with the serious, his DIY approach, and writing
songs on the road with Andy Latimer…
The Palace, the other Snow Queen track, has an atmospheric style that strongly hints at a certain former Genesis guitarist.
“I will not mince my words: this is not the first time I have tried to do a Steve Hackett pastiche,” Jones admits. “You can hear it in Sleigh Ride on the last album and bits of Cocoon were very Hackettinspired. All I will say in my defence is that you can never control what you write!”
The Boy Who Cried Wolf, based on Aesop’s fable, may also have familiar overtones. “I am very pleased with that one,” says Jones happily. “I thought that in the unlikely event of David Longdon or Greg Spawton wanting to cover the story, this is how they might do it: that’s one of the inspirations behind it!
“I love doing serious tracks with sad endings like this one, then spoiling the entire ambience of the album by following it with Three Little Pigs,” he continues. “This is the one I thought would be too ridiculous to work, and if there is a sticky track on the album, this is it.”
Suffice to say, …Pigs follows in a fine tradition of silliness that started with the ecclesiastically eccentric The Merry Vicar on Cocoon. Jones, as well as effecting Pinky and Perky style vocals, accompanies himself on the xaphoon (a hybrid of recorder and saxophone) and the trumpet “played very badly”.
Other characters who appear on the album include Toad Of Toad
Hall. “I really went to town on that one with a Genesis style,” Jones says. “I am sure if prog had been around the same time as Wind In The Willows, Toad would have wanted to be ahead of the gang and get into it, even though he knew nothing about it.
“I felt The Depths Of Winter and Tales From The Bookcase [Red Bazar] were both very serious albums, and perhaps a bit too grown-up for me!” continues Jones. “When you listen to Big Big Train, it’s beautiful and moving, but terribly serious! This is the problem I had with The Depths Of Winter because, subconsciously, I was thinking it was going to be full of grown-up themes. Some people might say it was a real step up in maturity but now you have gone back to doing kids’ stories!
“I know that some might say that children’s stories are a shallow theme, but their sentiments are very dear to most people,” Jones says firmly. “But we can give these stories a different interpretation by making the music expressive and more complex.”
More ‘serious’ tracks on the new album include his reimagining of classic story Match Girl and the ballad Eternity, on which he reunites with singing partner Emma Friend. In 2004, Friend and Jones appeared on UK singing talent show The X Factor under the name 2 To Go. “I have never hidden the fact we were on The X Factor and went on the national arena tour afterwards,” Jones says of his popular TV past. “It was 14 years ago, but it now feels like a lifetime.”