Hello, I’m the founder of The Fantasy Orchestra and I’ve been a full-time musician since I left school in 1988.
Having started my musical life playing violin and piano, I got really involved with the electric guitar aged about 13, my main influences being blues, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones.
I formed my own band, Jesse James (hence my name) and joined a newly formed Bristol based psych-rock group The Moonflowers. This band was a very popular live act and toured extensively between ’88 and ’94. It espoused some of the ideals which have continued to appeal ever since: silliness doesn’t preclude greatness; a performance needs to be entertaining; get everybody involved.
The band were quite a phenomenon of their time. I overplayed a lot of heavily psychedelic guitar and got a lot of it out of my system with The Moonflowers, and also a side-project called Praise Space Electric which had more loftily musical aims.
When The Moonflowers drifted apart in the mid-90’s I collaborated with Portishead bassist Jim Barr and we made a “trip-hop” type album called The Invisible Pair of Hands.
Around the same time I started a songs project, called MorningStar, which has made 4 albums since 1997.
Having enjoyed singing in harmony since my time with the Moonflowers I started a singing group in Bristol in 2001 called The Keepers Of The Fire (after a Moonflowers song) for which I arranged a wide variety of material including doo-wop, jazz standards, the Velvet Underground and folk music. This continued in Paris when I moved there in 2005.
Perhaps feeling constrained by years of writing down rigid musical arrangements, I started an improvisation group in 2010 called the Full Moon Orchestra. The idea was to meet every full moon and that the pieces would be improvised yet structured. Each would be led by a different conductor according to his or her idea and could involve use of signs, specific instructions or other props to facilitate the idea. Each session was completely open to all ages and abilities and the audience was encouraged to participate and indeed conduct the orchestra. The idea proved a success and the Arnolfini in Bristol commissioned me to run a year of Full Moon workshops in 2011/12.
Aside from the aforementioned groups I’ve been a long term collaborator in my wife’s band ThisIsTheKit and guitarist and/or record producer of other projects including The Liftmen, KidsAreDead, Andy Skellam and Major Deluxe.
I kind of run a small record label Disco-ordination records mostly for my own and friends’ projects.
I try to go on at least one cycling holiday per year and I sometimes manage to be a member of a badminton club.
I’ve made more than three pairs of trousers, a couple of shirts and a jacket or two on our sewing machine at home. I normally cut my own hair.