How I Failed To Become A Dumper Truck Driver

Published on June 19th, 2015


A shot from a recent concert at Cadogan Hall, London

When I was about four I wanted to be a yellow dumper truck driver. I don’t think there WAS a choice of colour in those days, – they were all yellow. Anyway that made it easy, no choice. As I grew up, having failed to become a dumper truck driver, I was faced with lots of choices. Policeman, Soldier, Songwriter, Merchant Navy Bloke, Animator, composer, all sorts of things. Ultimately at the ripe old age of 18 I decided I wanted to be quite a lot of those. I got it down to Army, Music and Animation. You could do Army and music together by joining the army bands but you had to go in as a private soldier and I wanted to be an officer straight away like my pals from school. Ideally I wanted to be the conductor straight away. What a silly idea! Anyway,having announced to my dad that I was now a professional songwriter (never having earned a penny at it) I launched myself into a frenetic freelance career trying to get my songs recorded, teaching myself to score and conduct music (my A Level grade E in music didn’t cover the subject at all!) – and this had become my great passion. It certainly was the case that through blagging and bluffing I DID get to conduct the strings on somebody’s record when I was 18 so I guess I jumped a few ranks that I’d have had to have worked through in the army! Not that I was any good. I could write a whole book about embarrassing moments I’ve had conducting orchestras when I was very wet behind the ears, but it’s a great way to learn. They can be very unforgiving, some of them. For the most part, however, I’ve really enjoyed my relationships with all the orchestras I’ve conducted and musicians with whom I’ve been lucky to work. The LSO, LPO, RPO, the Sydney Symphony Stuttgart Philharmonic, lots of different ones.

Because I’ve been active in so many areas of music (heavy rock, pop, straight classical, classical crossover, blues, film soundtracks etc) anyone trying to put me in pigeonhole would probably pick the easiest (The Wombles) – and I don’t mind that. I even had a chance to do a bit of classical stuff in that short but busy period when I was about 23, turning out hits for my furry friends from Wimbledon Common. My appetite to work in all the different genres has decentralised me from pretty well all the genres, in that I am not a member of any particular club. So I’m not a rock star, not a famous conductor, not this, not that. I’ve described myself as a born outsider, but that’s perhaps a bit snobbish of ME, not the other way around. I like to think I can fit into all of these genres alongside the specialist practitioners of each of them, but I am unlikely to get the approval of some of the more tribal critics. Music has become, like most other things, very tribal, – I’m deliberately using that word again. I’m afraid I just have to take that on the chin.

It’s because I love writing for the symphonic line-up so much, that I grab any opportunity to compose a Symphonic Suite or other concert-style piece. I was lucky to have been commissioned by the Military to write a piece for the massed Guards’ bands for the Queen’s 50th Wedding Anniverary, and several other such “posh” occasions, although “military” isn’t symphonic; it’s still thrilling and challenging. I do love working with every possible line-up, and of course military brings me back to my early ambitions to be a military band musician.

However, the new album on Dramatico Records is a collection of the more traditional-sounding symphonic pieces, as distinct from the more weird and experimental things that have often cropped up on my solo albums, six of which I made for Epic Records. I hope you enjoy the collection; composing and performing pieces like this is what I most love to do. Or maybe not. Maybe writing the music and lyrics for songs. Maybe producing other artists. Maybe animating Wombles. Maybe driving a dumper truck…

“A CLASSICAL TALE” – Mike Batt/Various Orchestras. On Dramatico Records, July 2015 (Amazon for pre-order) (Soundcloud: The Dublin Overture)


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