Everyone has a skeleton in their cupboard...and I have to own up to being the bass player in 80's Progressive Rock band Abel Ganz. I also have to admit that it was great fun and I enjoyed every minute of it. If you haven't bought the albums - do it now!
Reproduced from The Directory of British Progressive Rock (January 1996)
Abel Ganz have been together for nearly 20 years, but had been away from the scene for some time. The band were formed in 1980 by Hugh Carter and Hew Montgomery. Influenced by such bands as Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd and ELP, the writing of material headed in the direction of a ‘progressive rock style’! Hugh:
‘We were joined by guitarist Malky McNiven and drummer Kenny Weir, and played our first gig in 1982 at our local community hall for the areas Gala Week supported by local indie-kid band Del Amitri!! Hew and I shared vocals during our set of original material with covers from Genesis (‘Squonk’ and ‘Cinema Show’) and 10cc (‘Feel The Benefit’ and ‘Second Sitting for the Last Supper’). We went on to play a few more gigs around Glasgow, and recorded our first demo ‘The Cottage Session’ which featured three tracks and brought the band to the attention of several progressive rock fanzines, and spread our reputation in Europe.’
By 1983, the band were joined by vocalist Alan Reed and recorded their first full album ‘Gratuitous Flash’, released on cassette in 1984 to coincide with a period of extensive gigging culminating with an appearance at the Radio Clyde Kelvingrove Festival. Hugh:
‘We made such an impression that day that Radio Clyde’s Rock DJ Tom Russell instantly recommended Alan to Pallas who were at that time looking for a replacement for Euan Lowson. A few gigs later, Alan joined Pallas, and Malky McNiven answered the call of the wild to work in forestry in deepest Argyll, Scotland! The combined replacement was vocalist/guitarist Paul Kelly (from Cry Wolf) who played his first gig in a ‘one off’ Montgomery, Carter, Weir and Kelly formation before I took a back seat and handed the bass duties to Gordon Mackie (also from Cry Wolf), whilst still involving myself with the management side of Abel Ganz.
The Montgomery, Weir, Kelly and Mackie formation was by far the most busy gigging formation of Abel Ganz. That line-up also recorded the second album ‘Gullible’s Travels’ in 1985 and the track ‘Unholy War’ from the album was included on the first ‘Exposure’ album (a progressive compilation put together by Steve Wilson, now of Porcupine Tree and No Man). We did try a vocalist Martin Haggerty for two gigs but he didn’t work out so this line-up continued gigging well into 1986 until Kenny Weir left to be replaced by Alan Quinn (again from Cry Wolf...many asked whether we now had Cry Ganz or Abel Wolf!). Many fine gigs were played, including the 1985 Kelvingrove Festival. During 1986 we recorded a new track ‘The Dangers of Strangers’ with a Montgomery, Kelly, McNiven, Carter and Quinn formation for inclusion on the ‘Double Exposure’ compilation album.'
'By the end of 1986, everyone was going their own way with Gordon Mackie moving to Edinburgh and Paul and Alan concentrating on their club band. A chance encounter with Mike Baxter (ex Shoot The Moon) in Safeway in Orchard Brae led to Gordon Mackie joining Identity Crisis who recorded and released a host of good stuff...later joined by Tim Black (also ex Shoot The Moon and also co writer of Ganz's "Gullible's Travels" with Hew, and ex-employee of Hugh's...Rock Family Trees ??)Hew and Hugh went back to just the two of us, writing and rehearsing new songs with Malky making the 200 mile round trip from the Mull of Kintyre to join us on guitar. We played one final farewell gig in 1986 as a ‘Live Aid’ benefit along with local Rush copy band Chasar and supported by a young up and coming Glasgow rock band called Gun! The line-up that night was Montgomery, McNiven, Mackie and Weir with me on vocals!'
'During 1987 we did very little except write songs in Hew’s bedroom but in 1988 we went back into the studio for the third album ‘The Dangers of Strangers’ with Hew, Malky and myself joined by former members Paul Kelly and Alan Reed and session drummer Dennis Smith.’
The title track of the album was a different version to the one that had appeared on ‘Double Exposure’. The album proved to be the band’s most successful to date and following it’s release, the band signed to the French label MSI, who went on to re-release all three self financed cassette albums on CD with new artwork. Hugh:
‘With increased sales and interest in the band, we decided to get back on the road. New guitarist Robert Wilson, drummer Colin Johnson and vocalist Billy Duff were recruited and we gigged around Scotland and recorded another new track ‘The Radical Departs’ for the MSI compilation CD ‘La Mosaic’. In 1992 Billy Duff left to be replaced by Graham Strachan on vocals and keyboards. We played a couple of gigs until Graham moved on. Hew and I had by now set up our own rehearsal and recording studios called ‘The Practice Pad’ and with the increase in business and the more AOR direction the band was taking, Hew decided to quit and concentrate on his own solo material. Replacing Hew was not easy but we eventually settled with Stuart Clyde, a music student who had spent five years with local ‘rock legends’ Glasgow. Chris Forsyth came in on vocals and we started gigging last year and recorded the fourth album for MSI ‘The Deafening Silence’.’
Abel Ganz ventured south for only their second gig in England, playing for the Classic Rock Society in Rotherham supporting Jump. The gig was a success for the band, but all was not well within. Hugh:
‘For sometime I had been unhappy about how things were going with the band, both musically and personally and I had confided my fears to Hew prior to the gig at Rotherham. He had suggested that we should go back to the way things were when we started the band back in 1980, just the two of us writing and recording our own material in a true ‘prog’ style. So, after much soul searching, I resigned from the band after the Rotherham gig. Hew and I are writing and recording together as one band and the remaining Ganz members are continuing as a band under the name of Empire. Hew and I, as founding members of Abel Ganz, have taken our name back and will from now on be Abel Ganz.'
The band played the Rotherham Rocks Festival in September 1995 with Hew and Hugh being joined by Colin Johnson, drummer of the old band, also of Empire (and now of Pallas) and new guitarist Stuart Glasgow. A temporary vocalist was recruited for the gig from a band that has recorded at Abel Ganz’s studio, but the band felt that things went so well it is possible that he will also be used for the new recording. A special three track cassette was released to coincide with the gig featuring early versions of new tracks destined for the next CD. Hugh:
Work on our new album is under way - I put my songs down on 4-track, just basic guitar, bass, drums and keyboards and Hew put his ideas down on computer, and we exchange ideas and start recording in our studio. We thought we would do the recording rather like ‘Dangers of Strangers’, with a small central band (Hew and I) and bring in other musicians as and when we need them. This gives us plenty of scope for getting the right person for the job and means we can get special guests in as well. Hew’s new songs are very much in his old style - lots of fat analog brass sounds and Moog lead sounds and tons of Mellotron choirs. My stuff tends to be a little more ‘acoustic 12 string’. I’m working on a song right now that Hew says sounds like ‘Cinema Show’! We may rework ‘On The Beach’ from our first demo tape for the new album too. The working title for the album is Smile’
That was up to December 1995. Things then went very quiet. Fortunately for all Abel Ganz fans around the world, the band have come out of hiding and things are beginning to happen for them.......
Abel Ganz signed to F2 Records in October 1999. A 'best of' CD featuring tracks from the first three (and the best) Abel Ganz albums, all remastered for the first time, is scheduled for release on 01 March 2002. But even more exciting than that is the promise of a new Abel Ganz CD in 2003! This will be followed by a double CD featuring all the remaining tracks from the band's first three CD's, all remastered, enhanced with additional demos, live and session tracks. A real treat for the collectors!
links - Re
official website of Abel Ganz. Maybe they will
put in a link to my site.
Abel Ganz have released 'Back From The Zone' - a remastered 'best of' CD with one re-recorded track and one new track - buy it now at progrock.co.uk. I did, because I didn't get a free one.
And - if you thought the photos above were embarrassing - try these (£5.00 if you can name the band and members!!)