The Justin Hayward lnterview

By Shawn Perry

Of all the bands that emerged from the British Invasion, the Moody Blues have the distinction of endurance, based largely on the loyalty of their fan-base. Their career has been a roller coaster of a run, dipping into areas you might not expect from a group of musicians with such humble beginnings. At the root of it is an R&B band that morphed into something else altogether different Ė songs built around sophisticated orchestrations and spiritual, almost cosmic-like lyrics. Over the course of almost 40 years, the Moody Blues have earned reputations as musical perfectionists and craftsman, apparently still in search of the lost chord.

My interview with the Moodiesí guitarist/singer/songwriter Justin Hayward came about after a couple of months of strategic coordination. I was originally supposed to talk with bassist/singer/songwriter John Lodge, but ended up speaking with his wife instead. She was extremely apologetic and explained that John was in London filming a television program. It was a simple miscommunication and we never rescheduled because of the holidays. Then I was offered Hayward, the man who composed ďNight In White SatinĒ and ďQuestion.Ē Sure, why not, Iíll talk to him. So I called him at his home in Monte Carlo and we engaged in some friendly chitchat. He was incredibly friendly and accommodating to my line of questioning. During the whole conversation, I kept wondering if he was wearing a tuxedo. I guess Iíll never know.

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Itís coming up on 40 years that the Moody Blues have been making music. You tour regularly and still make albums. So I have to ask -- how do you keep the band going?

Well, I suppose the music keeps us going. And we make music that has been known for the last three or four decades. People often say, "Arenít you going to retire." But I donít see how I personally can because there are people who are still interested in the music. You say, "Well, I donít want to go on the road anymore." But that wouldnít stop the day-to-day business with the catalog and dealing with the past. So itís an ongoing thing. What I mean is, itís not about personality or fame -- itís about the music.

Ray Thomas recently departed, so now youíre down to three core members. With that in mind, is your outlook on the bandís future as positive and uplifting as the music you make?

Thatís a good question. Iíve never really known what the bandís future is. Iím probably more certain of it now because thereís three people that want to do it. But I was never sure, even going back to 1966. I donít think we ever made long-range plans then. We seem to be making more plans now. I donít know what the future holds. I only know thereís another tour. And Universal is calling for a new album.

With Ray out of the band, does this mean ďLegend Of A MindĒ is cut from the set list?

Yeah it is. Shame, isnít it? I really enjoyed that one.

Last Christmas, The Moodies released December. From what I understand, this is something you have wanted to do for some time.

We certainly thought about it and considered it for a long time. The question was how to do it right. We actually had most of the album together the year before, but then we couldnít put the sort of touring things in place and the kind of promotion we wanted to do. But I think it was a good opportunity for us to do something that we wanted to do. Itís the first time weíve included songs that werenít all written by us.

I love your arrangements of Bachís ďIn The Quiet Of Christmas MorningĒ and John Lennonís "Happy Xmas (War Is Over).Ē Are these favorites of yours?

The Bach piece is. I heard a version on flute years ago, and I always really liked it. I learned the acoustic guitar bit to go along with it just for my own pleasure. Itís something that grew out of it, and I decided to do it seriously instead of just playing with it. The rest of the Christmas songs like the John Lennon thing, I was nervous about. But there was pressure to do them because I think everybodyís idea of a seasonal album needs to include a few of those songs. That song in particular, ďHappy Xmas (War Is Over),Ē is probably the best Christmas song ever written by anyone of my generation. So itís on there for a good reason.

You recorded the album in Genoa, Italy, where youíve made several records in the last few years. What do you like about recording there?

I started working there more than 10 year ago, doing guest spots on other peopleís records. It took me three or four years to convince the other guys to come down there. When they did they realized it was lovely. Thereís a few good reasons. It was such a beautiful place to be -- lovely old house right on the Gregorian coast. The cooking was brilliant. The mother of the studio owner did all the cooking and she was just brilliant. The studio itself is run by a guy who always has state-of-the-art equipment. Heís a real fanatic about sound and how sonically things should be. Everything I took away from there sounded exactly the same as it did in there, wherever I played it. I was never disappointed and the sound was never different. I knew it would really work. It was just a comfortable place to be. And itís a damn sight cheaper than working in the UK. The studios are outrageous there.

You said Universal is calling for a new album, but in the interim they are rolling out a lot of remastered and expanded CDs and DVDs from the Moody Blues catalog. And I understand a couple of your solo albums are also being re-issued.

Yes, absolutely -- Songwriter and Night Flight.

How involved are you with these re-issues?

I remastered them. I remastered the remaster. In fact, I just went back to the original and remastered that. I didnít really like the way it was originally put out on CD. I had no input on that at all. It just sort of slipped through. Thereís a couple of other tracks that went on there too, just bits and pieces. Theyíre always calling for bits and pieces that get overlooked or never used on albums. So, I did have some input. And Iím glad to have them out again. A lot of people ask me about them. A lot of people from the fan clubs and web sites are interested them.

It was quite difficult for me because I was the only one in the group who never had his solo albums. A few years ago, Polygram said to the other guys, ďHey listen, you can have your solo albums back.Ē So they gave them back the masters. But with my albums, they never did. They kept them. And they obviously intended on keeping them for a long time more. What it meant was they were just kind of run down and nothing really happened. It was just that they didnít want to let go of them, they didnít want to let go of the rights. Iím really glad a young guy called Andy Street came to the company and started looking at these masters and decided the definitive versions of them had better be done. And Iím very pleased. They should be out in the next couple of months although I havenít seen a copy yet.

With everything else, I just received the DVD of The Best Of The Moody Blues, which features five videos you made in the 80s.

I havenít seen that either (laughs).

What do you remember about making these videos?

I remember a lot because itís the only time in our career where we seemed to have the power and control. Somebody slipped up somewhere and decided we could control what we were doing (laughs), which rarely happened. It was something we were fighting for in the 60s. We just about made it and split up for awhile.

We scripted them and Brian Grant, a director and friend of ours, directed them. They were completely made by the Moodies. We did them our own way. They were the only successful videos we ever had.

Did you enjoy making them?

I enjoyed it very much. Itís so wonderful when you see something that you did on a few sheets of A4 paper as a kind of a script and theme and storyline. And how someone like Brian could actually put it together for us. We had a guy in the video department at Polygram that wanted to make that happen. Those videos should be credited with the success that weíve had since the 80s. It was built as much on those videos and that particular four and five years of the second half of the 80s where we had a lot of success. Thatís the reason weíre here now still talking and still able to put out new product.

What do you think of the Moody Blues CDs that have been re-issued in surround sound? Are you a fan of surround sound?

I am a fan of surround. I havenít got a system myself. Funny enough, when I go to other peopleís houses and listen to it, I find it a bit intrusive. Unless youíre there just to listen to music. I really enjoy it in the studio. I really like the whole idea. Iíve done a few things in 5.1 and surround sound.

Your music certainly lends itself to the medium. Are there any plans to revamp the whole Moody Blues catalog and release it on SACD? I know that Universal is doing a lot of that these days.

Yes there is. Thereís a lot of talk about that in the air. Thereís a lot of people bidding and vying to do it. One of them is me because Iíd rather do it myself. But getting them to pay for the studio that I want to go and do it in is another matter. But Iím working on that.

Youíre presently selling a DVD of a performance you did in San Juan Capistrano on your web site. What can you tell me about that show?

It was after I did my solo album The View From The Hill. I put a group of guys together, actually two who are with the Moody Blues -- Gordon Marshall and Paul Bliss. Norda Mullen, whoís playing flute with us now, also did a couple of gigs. And the bass player Mickey Feat -- heís French and from around here.

So at the end of a couple of Moodies tours, I just went out and did some gigs -- some theaters, some clubs, some small places like the House Of Blues. I really enjoyed it. A friend of mine guy called Jeff Panza suggested we film it and he got a crew together of students and they just filmed it down there.

Was this at the Coach House?

Yes, it was very nice. A very nice venue, really nice people, quite a nice sounding place. The way they looked after you was great. And it just felt comfortable, so we did it over one night.

I also understand youíre coming out with a DVD of a show you did at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Yeah. It was part of a fund-raising event for the Amazon Conservation Team. It was in June 2003 and I did a few performances there, about three or four. And then one for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame itself. They asked me to come back and do a question and answer with an audience there. So I did that. So they said, ďWell, it was really great, thank you very much, and hereís the video.Ē Iím putting it together with some stuff that I did in a recording studio in New York last year, just some acoustic stuff, and some older stuff from the 70s that was around.

It seems strange you played for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and yet the Moody Blues havenít been inducted. How do you feel about that?

(Long pause) I wish I could say that it kept me awake at night, but I havenít lost any sleep. I think itís quite difficult. Who ever picks the people for that -- itís so subjective. Music is completely subjective. One guyís hit record is another guyís load of rubbish. I know the Moody Blues is a good band, but whether you like it or not is another thing. Iím not surprised that weíre not in there. Weíre English and I don't know if we really fit. But itís important to the Moodiesí fans that we should be a part of it. And thatís it -- Iíd like it to happen for them.

If it did happen, would Ray Thomas, Mike Pinder, maybe Patrick Moraz, turn up?

Thereís a lot of people who could turn up. Iíd put my money on Ray not being there. Thatís because he likes to be at home and heís done with it now.

The Moody Blues have certainly made an impact. What do you think of all these bands that have come along in the last few years, recording and playing live with orchestras?

I think that a lot of the time it just doesnít work. It worked for the Moody Blues because we had something to focus on, which was our first album, Days Of Future Passed. It had orchestral pieces that were a bit familiar to people, the bits after ďNights In White Satin, ď the spoken word stuff, the bit after ďTuesday AfternoonĒ and other bits like that where you could feature the orchestra in their own right. And we could stop playing and let them carry on. I think to use them as a backing group is a waste of time, sometimes. Other times itís just a dynamic, a pompous dynamic. Iíve yet to see a group really do it well. What do you think?

Iím inclined to agree with you. It can sound a bit contrived, I guess. Speaking of Days Of Future Passed, letís go back to 1967 when it came out along with other albums like Sgt. Pepperís, Surrealistic Pillow, The Doors and Pipers At The Gates Of Dawn. What do you remember about that period?

Well you know what they say -- if you can remember, you werenít there (laughs). I suppose I remember being part of something that I thought was going to last forever and get bigger and bigger and bigger and take over the world -- the fact that we were musicians in such a place. Looking back now, it just seems incredibly fortunate to be the right age at the right time at the right place, in that time, in that part of London. I know that most groups then were looking to America. The British rock and roll scene was very, very strong then. The Beatles were always our leader. They were streets ahead of the rest of us.

It was fortunate for us that we went to America in 1968. You had Bill Graham, FM radio was starting, and we were making the kind of music that was kind of non-commercial. We werenít making hit singles like a lot of people still tend do, all the time, in the UK. We kind of rejected that. And in the end that turned out to be the best move we ever made, quite unconsciously. We just wanted to make albums. With the first album, we developed a taste for it, and from then on, we just wanted to make albums. We were very lucky that our integrity set us in good stead in the UK and then America.

From where Iím sitting, it seems as though the Moody Bluesí story can be split up into different chapters. You have the classic seven albums from the 60s and 70s that more or less defined the group; you have the hits and videos of the 80s; and then you have the dazzling live performances of the 90s. How would you describe the bandís place in the 21st century?

(Long pause) I donít know, I might need a few minutes with that one (laughs). I wasnít ready for that. Iíve never known, really. I suppose itís because weíre always looking over our shoulder at our own catalogue. Our biggest competitor is ourselves. Weíre always trying to move on from that, and take it a little bit further. The band has a lot of things going for it, a lot of respect. Itís a part of peopleís lives, and in peopleís hearts and minds.
I think as people and writers, we have a lot to say. And I would hope the naivety of youth has been replaced by some kind of wisdom in the way we write. I feel that in my own writing, I can only believe in what Iím doing now.

This morning I was in the car and ďTuesday AfternoonĒ was on the radio. I have to admit, at the time, I was never really all that keen on it. I know it was our first real hit in America from Days Of Future Past. Now, looking back as I was in the car, I thought, ďThatís really quite good.Ē I finally forgotten the studio, the session, the engineerís face and what was going on, the personal problems. I just listened to it as a piece of music. I think we will always be referred back to those first seven albums. We have to carry that with us and make sure that we never spoil that.

What do you remember about making these videos?

I remember a lot because itís the only time in our career where we seemed to have the power and control. Somebody slipped up somewhere and decided we could control what we were doing (laughs), which rarely happened. It was something we were fighting for in the 60s. We just about made it and split up for awhile.

We scripted them and Brian Grant, a director and friend of ours, directed them. They were completely made by the Moodies. We did them our own way. They were the only successful videos we ever had.

Did you enjoy making them?

I enjoyed it very much. Itís so wonderful when you see something that you did on a few sheets of A4 paper as a kind of a script and theme and storyline. And how someone like Brian could actually put it together for us. We had a guy in the video department at Polygram that wanted to make that happen. Those videos should be credited with the success that weíve had since the 80s. It was built as much on those videos and that particular four and five years of the second half of the 80s where we had a lot of success. Thatís the reason weíre here now still talking and still able to put out new product.

Youíve written so many incredible songs. Do you have a personal favorite?

My favorite, I suppose, is a song on the DVD that just came out which is ďI Know Youíre Out There Somewhere.Ē I love performing it. Wherever we go, people like it. It wasnít a massive hit, but people know it. It was a massive hit because itís about six minutes long and no one did a successful edit on it. Thatís probably the one that gives me the most pleasure. And ďDecember SnowĒ is something that when we first did it, we all had kind of a shiver up your spine and we looked at each and thought, ďOh yeah, itís a winner.Ē
Those two are my favorites now.

Where do you get ideas for your songs?

I often have little phrases that I just write down of things that are in my mind or in my heart that just come. Theyíre about people or events or little stories of things that happen around me. I suppose it just comes from my own life and from my imagination. Itís a thing about getting half a song and then completely it. Itís half inspiration and half work, completion.

Youíve made, by my count, five solo albums, with your last one The View From The Hill released in 1996. Obviously, as youíre constantly busy with the Moody Blues, theyíve been few and far between. When do you know itís time to make one?

When I canít see any prospect of the Moodies recording for a while and when I meet people I think Iíd really like to work with. And I donít mean musicians, maybe technical people who want to paint vivid pictures. I can feel it coming on.

Youíve also played on some very eclectic albums. Iím thinking of records like Flash Fearless Vs. The Zorg Women, which I happen to own, and The War Of The Worlds from the 70s and more recently, Rick Wakemanís Return To The Centre Of The Earth and a show in Zurich I believe you were part of called Art On Ice.

I did a song on the Gaia album called Project For The Environment. Itís a very noble cause and a really nice album. It was produced and put together by Alan Simon. Weíve become good friends. I donít know if itís out in America. Itís available in Europe and the Far East. It seems to be doing quite well.

What is it about projects like these that draw you in?

I just seem to bump into people and things happen, and someone says, ďHey, how about doing this and being a part of that.Ē Thatís how they come together. Sometimes, the music isnít right, and you have to pass on it. Other times, Iíve wished Iíd pass, but the people are so nice and itís a lot of fun, so Iím sort of stuck. Other times, I didnít really think it was going to happen, like The War Of The Worlds, and it becomes massive.

Whatís your opinion on the present state of the music business with the controversy over downloading, sluggish record sales and American Idol?

It looks like weíre about to witness the diminishment of the record company. I was fortunate enough to know the record companies in the great days when they had their own recording studios and auditions. You could literally turn up at a studio for an audition and work with a good producer.

I think there will always be great songs coming along. There will always be a kid with a song in his heart, walking down the street, thatís new and fresh and ready to create an atmosphere in a recording studio, to create some magic.

Iím not so keen on music as a product thatís been hijacked by a few old guys who sell television shows. I donít like that at all. Iím not really a fan of talent contest type shows. I think thereís other ways to do it. Thereís other ways to paying your dues and making it. I think you have to come from the road.

Have you seen American Idol?

Iíve seen it. You get interested in it, but I still get the feeling that the music is being hijacked.

Can you give me a run-down of whatís going on with you and the Moodies over the next year?

Weíre touring in May, June and July in the U.S. And then weíre coming back here in September and October, to Britain and Europe. And then weíll be back in America in November and December.

What about a new album?

Weíre talking about it. Nothing has really fallen into place yet. We have December and fortunately, Christmas will be coming around again and we can give it another go.

So youíll do some Christmas shows?

I think so.

Justin, I have one last question for you today. Youíve described yourself as a seeker of sorts, on a spiritual quest. So Iím curious -- are you still searching for the lost chord?

Yeah. If youíd found it, youíd have to pack up, wouldnít you?

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