Your Gateway to Music and More from a Christian Perspective
Slow down as you approach the gate, and have your change ready....
By Chris Chagaris
Nick Beggs has an affinity for the Chapman Stick, a unique but versatile, 10-stringed instrument with which a performer is able to play bass and melody at the same time. Nick's latest venture with it is his second solo, all-instrumental CD, The Maverick Helmsman. There are ten tracks on this CD, all written by Nick except for "My Joy," which he co-wrote with a sax-playing friend. All of the tracks consist solely of Nick playing the Stick, with no other instrumental adornments.
Beggs, who is known for playing bass and Stick with Iona, Kajagoogoo and other ensembles, has been playing the Stick since the 1980's. "I was basically blackmailed into playing stick after Limahl (ex-lead singer) left Kajagoogoo," he says. "The rest of the band members told me that if I would take over the lead vocals, they would have a stick made for me to use on the second Kajagoogoo album, Islands."
Beggs explains how the inspiration for Helmsman came about. "The record emerged from my learning a new computer software package. I had just bought Logic 6 and felt this would be a good way to introduce myself to its workings."
The influences and inspirations behind this album are different from those that drove Stick Insect, Beggs' first solo Stick album, which was released in 2002. "Stick Insect was written to accompany my art exhibition in Finland, just after I'd finished touring with John Paul Jones." Beggs, an accomplished artist who paints and draws, says that the music on Stick Insect influenced his art, and hints that "there could be more of that to come."
Helmsman overall has an intimate, personal feel, and two songs on it most emphasize this mood: "Willow", with its sweet, lullaby-like rhythm, was written for Beggs' youngest daughter, and "When We First Met," with dulcet, winding tones resembling an intricate dance, was written for Begg's recent marriage. The other songs on the album range from contemplative ("The Meaning of Everything," "The Vigil") to subtly upbeat "The Maverick Helmsman," and "Highland Saunter" - "The oldest piece on the CD, written in 1983," Beggs says.
Beggs has said that his time playing in Iona was special, but when asked if any of the spiritual and Christian overtones of Iona's music have infused themselves into this current CD, he says, "Not really. I think the spiritual aspect of our lives should be instinctual rather than literal. I've tried to allow melodic ideas to grow from who I am, rather than from a spiritual ethos. Because I think everything is one and the same rather than separate and different." Nick Beggs also says that in light of this, he thinks spiritual influences will be a part of his future musical endeavors, "whether I choose them (to be) or not."
Beggs says that there are no current plans to tour for Helmsman, "unless someone was to offer me something. It takes a tremendous effort to make a tour happen, and I don't know if I need the stress," he says, candidly. Nick is similarly forthcoming when he compares his solo career to his time as part of an ensemble. "My Stick career has been very separate to the rest of my musical direction," he says. "I've always tried to be as self indulgent as possible with it, avoiding three minute pop songs." Currently on his agenda is producing a new band, Industrial Salt, from his hometown of Leighton Buzzard, England, along with Kajagoogoo band mate Steve Askew. And, Nick will soon be touring and is recording new material with the reformed Kajagoogoo with band mates Steve Askew and Stuart Neale.
Asked if he will be playing the stick onstage with Kajagoogoo, Nick Beggs gives us something extra to look forward to. "Yes, I will play it on "Turn Your Back on Me," and maybe take a solo."
For more information on Nick, visit his website at www.nickbeggs.co.uk. For more information on the Chapman Stick, visit www.stick.com.