Michael, what was your musical background and formal musical training before
forming Curved Air?
I started with the normal piano lessons at around the age of 7 and at
the same time started as a chorister in Salisbury Cathedral Choir. At
the school that adjoins the Cathedral I also had a few lessons on violin
and drums. The violin was a disaster because I hated the way I sounded
during my first efforts. I managed to play a few times in an orchestra
but it wasn't my instrument! At 13, my parents gave me an acoustic guitar
and that became my main interest. I had a couple of formal classical
lessons on it but had to learn Beatles and Stones songs so that put paid
to the lessons. I became head chorister in 1964 - when I was 14, as my
father had been 30 years before! At St. John's public school in
Leatherhead I played in bands and was "relegated" to playing bass
because nobody else wanted to -- it was widely believed that it didn't
have the sex-appeal of electric guitar or drums. Trust me they were
When I left that school -- early due to too much concentration on rock
and roll -- I went back to Salisbury to a Grammar school which I hardly
attended due to joining a soul band on tenor sax. I moved to London at
16 and, after answering an advert in Melody Maker, joined the New
Overlanders on bass. Then on to The Nicky James Band where I had my
first taste of orchestra arranging and conducting.
How did you join Curved Air? Were you looking for a permanent gig?
I did a short spell with a
one-hit-wonder called Arthur's Mother and then another Melody Maker
advert led me to Curved Air.
Yes I was looking for a permanent gig. The audition gave me some doubts,
though - the loudest I'd ever played, and only an audition, and although
I read music, was surprised to be given a rather fast line to
sight-read. Was this rock and roll or a bunch of Music Academy
graduates? Turned out to be both, to my surprise.
A single, "Sarah's Concern," was released prior to the third album,
"Phantasmagoria." To my ears it's one of the best Curved Air
compositions, yet it made little impact on the charts. Now, it's
incredibly difficult to find a copy. Do you know why was it left off the album?
Now it's admission time. My memory for details and particular events is
sadly depleted, partly due to various excesses which I'm happy to say I
do without now. (Well a couple of pints never did anyone any harm, did
they?!) "Sarah's Concern" is a title that rings a bell but that's all the
reply I can give!
As with the "Second Album," writing credits for "Phantasmagoria"
rather ominously divided between album sides, perhaps predicting the
coming split. Why did Darryl, Francis, and Florian leave after this
album? Was it personality clashes? Differing musical tastes and
As far as I could see the above three reasons are all true and probably
the only ones except perhaps a yearning to do everything each his own
way. I now sympathize (empathize, perhaps) completely. I don't think
Florian thought it would really be Curved Air any more. Do you know that
the new band was to be called the Sonja Kristina Band or Kristina -
Wedgwood or something, but we were informed (by management) that it would be called
Curved Air!!! BUT, you should definitely get the real answer from the
horses' or geniuses' mouths.
After the breakup you and Sonja were the only two members of the
left. How did you choose the new members of the band: Eddie Jobson,
Kirby Gregory, and Jim Russell?
Eddie was someone we'd seen at the Roundhouse with a Newcastle band
called Fat Grapple, and we just invited him to join. He played violin of
course but the most interesting thing was that he used an old upright
piano mic-ed up rather badly. Oh, how things have changed. I remember he
played very hard to get considering he was a 17-year-old in the face of
a fairly major force in English music at the time! Kirby and Jim had
connections with Clifford Davis, our beloved manager at the time. No
Wasn't it a bit stressful on a pair of relatively unknown (but
enormously talented) teenagers stepping into the shoes of seasoned
veterans like Darryl and Francis?
They threw themselves into the task with reckless abandon, but the
disparity in musical tastes between Eddie and the other two was quite
obvious. I think it was actually that disparity that created such a
spark in the music.
On the fourth album, "Air Cut," you play an obvious leadership role
the band. In fact, the entire album has a "Wedgwood feel" to it, much
like Caravan's "Cunning Stunts," and "Blind Dog at St. Dunston's." The
song "Two - Three - Two" in particular could easily have come from
either of those albums. Comments or observations?
I actually don't think leadership is a word I would use. We all had a
great influence on the whole thing. Personally I think Eddie's
contribution was the thing we all felt the most - not in any guiding
sense, but just as a result of the powerful music he produced. I do
remember vividly the recording of the backing track for "Two-Three-Two."
It culminated in that same feeling one gets now and again when the music
takes the lead and the musicians just follow. Exhilarating. Thanks
particularly to Kirby and Jim. The same occurred on the final take of
"Not Quite The Same" on "Phantasmagoria." Or (a question directed to
Francis) was it just extreme relief that we'd got through it in one
piece? In answer to your comment about its similarity to material on
the Caravan albums, I've never thought of it that way, but you may well be
Any truth to the rumor that there was a great deal of friction
Eddie and Kirby attempting to pull the band in two different
Yeah, well....... that was certainly there but you'd have to ask them as
to how conscious an effort to "pull" it really was. I certainly felt it.
The # 1 question from Curved Air fans: Why on earth has "Air Cut"
been released on CD?
A hundred people or more have asked me alone, let alone others involved.
No idea, and I haven't had really any contact with the people who are
rereleasing stuff on CD. If nothing surfaces soon and when I have time I
must find out what the hell's happening!
Following the release of "Air Cut," additional sessions were
which were released some 16 years later as the "Lovechild" album. The
division in the band seems much wider on this album than on "Air Cut,"
plus there is less of that "Wedgwood feel." Actually, the album sounds
like a group of solo compositions (albeit some very good ones) just
thrown together in random order. Comments?
I don't even have a copy of "Lovechild" although I have heard it once.
Again, I have to find out more details about this album myself, because
although some tracks definitely include me, there are some that I have
no recollection of. Sonja would surely know more about it.
The "Air Cut" incarnation of Curved Air played a number of concerts, and
reviews were apparently very favorable. Were any of these performances
As far as I know, no.
Why did the band dissolve yet again after the "Lovechild" sessions
By then there was a clear difference between the direction Jim and Kirby
wanted to take the band and the style in which Eddie excelled. The
pressure of having two "camps" in the band was just too much.
From an interview conducted by Richard Wynne in December 1998.
Prior to joining Caravan, Mike worked with the Kiki Dee Band touring England and he
appeared on her single "Hard Luck Story," produced by Elton John.
He played with The Overlanders on their singles "Unchained Melody" and "These are not my people,"
and with the Nicky James Band on the albums "Nicky James," "Thunderthroat" and "Every Home
Should Have One."
Following his departure from Curved Air, Mike arranged and conducted a 45-piece orchestra for
John Entwistle’s fourth solo project, "Mad Dog." He then joined Caravan, and toured extensively,
contributing to the albums "Cunning Stunts," "BBC Live," "Blind Dog At St. Dunstan’s," "Songs for
Oblivion Fishermen," "The Show of Our Lives," "Ether Way,"
"Canterbury Tales," and the just released "Surprise Supplies" from another 1976 BBC Concert.
After his stint in Caravan, Mike moved to the U.S.A., becoming involved in session work and doing some
live performances in Los Angeles, Denver and Alaska. He helped to build and run the first 24-track
studio in Alaska.
He moved back to England and put the finishing touches on his first solo album, "Places Like
These" on Voiceprint Records.
Currently Michael is concentrating on building his own digital studio in Bryrup, Denmark. He
is also playing some solo dates, with an eye towards recording a new album.
Designed by Richard Wynne