Thursday 22 October 2015

Graham Day: Exclusive Interview with The ex-Prisoners, Solarflares & Gaolers Frontman about his latest Project...The Senior Service

In our Retrosonic Podcast special with The Forefathers, Graham Day mentioned that he had always wanted to record an instrumental album. When The Prisoners split Allan Crockford and James Taylor went on to form The James Taylor Quartet, (“a kind of Punked-up Booker T” according to Allan), leaving a rueful Graham to reflect. “I remember being quite jealous at the time, I thought the James Taylor Quartet were brilliant at the start. I love instrumentals; I always wanted to be in an instrumental band so I didn't have to sing”.

In the Podcast Graham also expressed, not only an admiration for the work of well known names such as John Barry and Ennio Morricone, but also for composers like Barry Gray (“Thunderbirds”) and Lalo Schifrin (“Bullit”). In fact The Prisoners even tackled Gray’s “Joe 90” theme tune. Throughout his career, in particular with The Prisoners, The SolarFlares and The Gaolers, Graham had written and recorded many notable instrumentals such as “Sitar Spangled Banner”, “Night of The Nazgul”, “Girl In A Briefcase”, “Lunar Girl” and “Apollo a Go-Go”. Ian from Damaged Goods Records even picked out “South Avenue” from The Gaolers “Soundtrack To The Daily Grind” album as one of his favourite songs in our Damaged Goods Retrosonic Podcast special. 

So, now we have the next chapter in Graham’s musical career and the fulfilment of that long held ambition. The Senior Service.

Jonathan P. Barker - The Hammond Organ & The Piano
Q: Please tell us about the other members of The Senior Service, their musical background and how you got together for this new project.

GD: Jon Barker on Hammond. Jon was in the Daggermen, who used to support the Prisoners a lot in the mid 80s. He played bass in the Buff Medways and in the Gaolers. So, a bass player by trade, and a damned good songwriter, but he’s always fancied playing the Hammond so he bought one and decided to form an instrumental band. Darryl Hartley. Most people won’t have heard much from Darryl but he’s been in several low-key bands over the years. Darryl is a guitarist normally, but has moved to the bass for this outfit. He also brings a fantastic songwriting talent to the mix. Wolf Howard has played drums in the Daggermen, Prime Movers, SolarFlares, The Buff Medways and all of Billy Childish’s bands since then, and is also in the Forefathers. The band is Jon’s fault. He bought the Hammond and wanted a band to fit around it so asked us all to join in. The original idea was just to muck about at Jon’s house but it quickly turned into a monster and has produced some of the best material we’ve ever written between us.

Graham N. Day - The Guitar
Q: You have a new single “Depth Charge” coming out in January on Damaged Good Records and an album to follow, what is the album title and when is it due to be released?

GD: I don’t think we’ve got a title for the album yet! It’s bad enough trying to come up with a band name (which we’ve changed 3 times already) or a song title…. We’ve only got 2 songs left to record then it’ll be in the lap of the production Gods as to when it comes out. I would imagine early Spring.

Q: Are the songs on the album all original or will it feature any cover versions? Are there any particular tunes that you would like to have a go at covering?

GD: All the songs are original (or as original as they can be given the limited amount of notes and combinations thereof that already exist). Let’s say, to our knowledge they are all original. With 3 songwriters in the band there’s no room or desire to record any covers, what’s the point?

Q: Are the original songs all new and written specifically for the Senior Service or are they ideas that you have had kicking around for a while that maybe didn’t fit in with previous line-ups?

GD: I think Darryl’s and Jon’s are new. I’ve got six tracks on the album (if “Depth Charge” gets on it), two of which I wrote a few years ago for an intended Gaolers album, but the others are brand new.

Q: Did your interest in cinematic instrumentals first come from a love of movies or was it from hearing the music as a separate entity?

GD: It’s definitely the music I love as a separate thing. For instance the album “No Strings Attached” by Barry Gray is one of my favourite albums, but I’m not particularly into puppets!!

Darryl R. Hartley - The Bass
Q: Tell us some of your favourite movie scores and composers?

GD: My favourite composers are John Barry and Ennio Morricone, but I’ve always loved the bit in a 60s film where they walk into a club and an anonymous band is playing the most groovy tune ever, like “30-60-90” in “Get Carter”. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do, just be in a faceless band in a party scene. I love “Adagio for Strings” in “Platoon” as well but that kind of genius is a bit ambitious for my limited talents.

Q: Have you ever fancied writing a score to a “real” movie such as The Len Price 3 did recently for “Pubmonkey”? Have any opportunities arisen for this over the years?

GD: No, not really. My thing is more along the lines of catchy theme tunes rather than full on orchestral scores. One day when I’ve got some time on my hands I’d like to have a go at writing more orchestral stuff but I’m really not into samples and synths and don’t have an orchestra to hand so it might be a bit tricky…

Q: You’ve mentioned you were influenced by composers such as Barry Gray who wrote some classic TV themes such as “Joe 90” and “Thunderbirds”. What was it about these that captured your imagination?

GD: I love a lot of 60s theme tunes. There’s something about that catchy hook squeezed into a couple of minutes of sheer pointless pleasure, you can’t beat it. The thing is, singing in a band has a lot of drawbacks. For one you never know if it’s going to work. You can’t just plug it in or hit it like the other instruments. Sometimes, particularly if you’re on tour it gets a bit croaky, or you can’t hear it ‘cos the monitors are shit, or if I get run down or have a cold it might go completely. Also, particularly as you get older it becomes a massive physical effort to sing. Having played drums, bass and guitar in different bands over the years I can say categorically that singing is by far the most exhausting. A couple of times on tour with the Gaolers in packed small clubs, boiling hot with stage lights burning your face off I’ve felt like I was close to having a heart attack. Once I had to come off stage and go outside and lay on the pavement just to get my breath, stop the room spinning and cool off. The other thing is you have to write lyrics, and that’s something I really struggle with. Apart from the last Gaolers album where I hit a streak of funny stories, what the hell are you supposed to sing about? So I’m much happier writing and playing instrumentals; they mean nothing, they can be whatever you want them to be and the most difficult thing to write is the poxy title of the thing.

Wolf D. Howard - The Drums
Q: I must admit to having my own play-list compilation of all your instrumentals and it works really well as an “album” on its own. Was there ever an option to release an official “instrumental only” anthology from your various line-ups?

GD: Yes I’ve wanted to do an instrumental compilation for years. Damaged Goods wanted to do it a few years ago, I put the tracklist together but the problem was most of the Prisoners and SolarFlares tracks are owned by Big-Beat. They were up for licensing them but it was too much money for Damaged Good to be viable. I did consider re-recording them but decided there was no point.

Q: I know you said that there were some songs that didn’t work live with The Forefathers because you didn’t have the organ, so will you be re-visiting any of the back catalogue? What can the audience expect at a Senior Service live show?

GD: Good question. We are a tiny bit concerned that an all instrumental set might be a bit boring for the audience and were considering chucking a few songs into the set live. But we’d rather stick to our guns, be ourselves and stick to instrumentals; the audience will know what to expect and can make their own words up if they want to sing along. We’ll keep the set relatively short...We haven’t really worked out a live set yet, but there are at least 3 tracks on the album that won’t work live. I think there may be a couple of Prisoners instrumentals up for discussion, as well as a few covers, but let’s wait and see...

We are extremely pleased to announce that the next Retro Man Blog Night at The Half Moon in Putney will in fact be the launch party for The Senior Service's debut single "Depth Charge" on Saturday January 30th. This will be in conjunction with Damaged Goods Records and also on the bill will be very special guests French Boutik and Of Arrowe Hill. Please keep a check on The Senior Service official Facebook page, the Damaged Goods Records web-site or, of course here on the Retro Man Blog, and we will announce details of tickets as soon as possible.


  1. Brilliant interview. Refreshingly honest & I'm looking forward to hearing Senior Service. Thank you for all the work putting this together & posting! Love, Peace & Happiness Lee

    1. Cheers Lee! Hope you can make the Launch Party on January 30th!

  2. I’m quite looking forward to being exposed to the latest outpourings from this bunch of jokers. Meanwhile, Delboy shouldn’t lose any precious kip about instrumentals being perceived as ‘boring’; JTQ managed to get away with it (all the while they were any good*).

    (*Soz Jim).