Procol still have a long way to go
"I can't see the day when the group will split up – we still have a long way to go." So says Barry Wilson, who has been drummer with Procol Harum for the past three years, answering the recent rumours that Procol were about to disband. The group have only recently completed their fifth album, as yet untitled, which will be released within the next few weeks. Barry says that things follow on naturally in Procol and this album, which they are highly pleased with after six weeks recording, is no exception. "I think we are getting away from using the organ to great lengths and, especially on the album, the piano and guitar are the lead instruments. It always is very hard to find an adjective which describes the music you're playing, all I can say it just feels right for us and it follows on from what we've been doing before." Brushing modesty aside, Barry praises to great lengths the song-writing talents of their own Keith Reid. He agrees that Reid is grossly under-rated in this country and also feels that Procol guitarist Robin Trower is another who never gets the appreciation he deserves.
However, getting back to songs, Barry says that Gary Brooker and Keith formed the group with the sole purpose of projecting their own songs. "In a way I suppose you could say it's Keith's and Gary's group. They first started off as songwriters and decided that their songs could be best performed by themselves, so Procol Harum was the first main vehicle for them."
On April 1, Procol go to America for the umpteenth time in three years. In honesty it has been in the States that Procol have culled their biggest following and it has all, in one way or another, constituted something of a loss to British rock. "We generally go to America about twice a year but we are only going to go for a month at a time now; before we used to go for two. The thing about America is you only really make it after you've been around for a while."
What comparisons could he draw between British and American rock bands?
"Well, I don't listen to a lot of rock music but from what I have heard it seems as though a lot of it is just floundering around and it's the same here as it is in America. "I dig the folly kind of bands like Pentangle. They are a really fine group. There are others too, like Fairport Convention and their offshoots who are all good. "For any group to be worthwhile, I believe they must have a definite style. Something like what Elton John had on his first album but from what I can see there aren't too many British groups who have anything definite or a clear direction to follow: but as I say I don't follow it all that closely. Anyway, when something extraordinary comes out you soon hear about it. In America there are a few bands I really love like The Band, The Mothers Of Invention and Dr John The Night Tripper."
With Procol's tremendous popularity in America (which can be proved simply by comparing album sales with those in Britain) would they ever consider a permanent move there?
"Oh no, never, we would never think of taking permanent residence in America because I think we all love England too much. There's nowhere like it, you know, after you've seen the rest of the world. We could probably live across there because we have a lot of friends but there won't be a permanent move."
Finally, again speaking of the rumoured Procol break-up, Barry says he does not know how the rumours started, "although," he says rather cryptically, "when we came back from our last visit to Italy, we were very tired and everyone was a bit crazy and I think things got a bit out of hand."