It was like a marriage that had gone wrong
Tuesday 22 April 1997
The place: Boulogne Billancourt, a suburb of Paris
The man: Garry Christian, musician
We'd been dropped by our record company because there was a whisper that the Christians had passed their sell-by date. I'd guessed it was coming, because after three albums they put out the "Best of the Christians", but I felt relieved because I didn't think that Island records were right for us. I didn't mind the rejection but I would have preferred being told to my face "We're not the company for you". Deep down I knew there was something wrong with us and the company.
Our manager pushed the Christians into getting some demos together to rekindle the excitement in our music. So the three of us went off to Anglesey and wrote songs. It was working; we were coming up with some strange little tunes. For a while, I was "full on" and even started hawking the songs around to find a new record company. However, it was not working out personally; I'm not the easiest person to get on with on a professional level. I know what I want and if I don't kind of get it, there's friction. The same with the other guys. We'd been together for eight years and I thought, do I really want to carry on like this? Would I prefer to be independent - and only myself to blame if it goes horribly wrong?
It seemed that my life had come to the end of a chapter; great though it was, even great chapters have to come to an end. I went away on holiday for two weeks, to rest and reflect. Finally, I went back and told them I was going. They weren't shocked. It was like a marriage that had gone wrong; deep down everybody knew it, but it took me to say it.
I'd been going back and forwards to Paris for weekends for some time and I'd met a girl - who I really liked - and I decided to buy a flat so we could see more of each other. Going to France gave me the emotional as well as the physical space from the Christians. Away from Liverpool, away from England, and more importantly the other two members of the group. I don't mean it in a nasty way, but you can't move on if you're seeing someone all the time. You end up raking over the same old stuff. Generally, I believe that people would do far more with their lives if they had more courage to turn the corner, but fear gets in the way.
To start off with, my French was non-existent; lots of gestures and hand-waving but no communication. In a country where you can't speak the language, you retreat into yourself, and I started coming up with deep thoughts. There's a track on the album, "Great big city". It reflects my feelings of Paris. I was totally lost. I wouldn't venture out, except to creep to the shops, buy bread and creep back. However, I discovered that I do have a lot to say. Everybody at some time in their life has a troubled mind, and if you're not able to converse with somebody and get these words out of your head - you could go crazy. I coped by writing songs. In another which is also on the album - "Where you are now" - I write about "looking for a shelter from the storm, the night is full of demons, calling from my past". I could hear people calling me from Liverpool - my past, my family, the Christians.
Where I live now is very different from Liverpool. I look out over the Seine and I have a wonderful view of an expanse of trees, speckled with houses and chateaux. In the other direction I can see the commerce sector of Boulogne. The way my mind is right now, this is the best place for me.
Although it is a conservative place, my shaved head does not cause any raised eyebrows. Sophisticated Parisians don't look at you and think, "strange kind of guy". I got more funny looks in Liverpool, where they think they kind of own me: come up, push me, shove me, and demand an autograph.
I feel the move has matured my music. The first Christians album was recorded in 1986. There was no rootsiness, no real instruments. It was all very synthetic, which even at that time I hated. I still listen to Wilson Pickett, Marvin Gaye and early Stax, when they went into the studio and just recorded - we lost that in the Eighties. I'd like to think my new album sounds a lot better than the Christians, where we filled in all the spaces. Now the songs are more intimate.
I'd like to think I can also leave the spaces in my life. I'm always thinking, because I find it difficult to feel content. I'm waiting for that day when I can just go "Ahhh. I feel really cool and happy," but no, I'm still reaching out for that goal so I can really start living. Here in Paris I'm feeling close, very close.
Garry Christian's first solo album, 'Your Cool Mystery' (Coalition Records), is out on 19 May.
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