Former Thompson Twin and now solo artiste Tom Bailey reveals some of the people, places and ideas that have bewitched his psyche
BAROQUE MUSICAL UPBRINGING
“My father was a keen amateur musician and also an early builder of home hi-fi, so not only was I listening to music from an early age, but I was also hearing it very well reproduced. We had these enormous speaker cabinets dominating the living room when I was growing up. My dad was very Baroque classical orientated. It rubbed off on me, as I still love Baroque today. Although I dutifully learned to play the piano, I also grabbed a guitar at some stage, so that was my stab at teenage rebellion I suppose. With a guitar you can retreat to your bedroom to express your adolescent angst.”
“Wendy Carlos was a huge influence. Her realisation of Bach’s ‘Brandenburg Concertos’ formed this weird bridge for me, taking me from being a Baroque nut to an electronics nut. Hearing that familiar music in a way that was completely fresh to my ears was such a magical thing. They’re the most amazing works, I’d recommend them to anybody. They stand alone as this ground-breaking audio document. It’s interesting to look back and see that it was a proper, studio-based classical interpretation, rather than some rock star gurning away on stage.”
“When I was a student, I began to develop an interest in eastern mysticism. I read all the key books everyone read at the time, but for some reason I wanted to take it a step further, so the first thing I did after I left college in 1975 was go to India, where I wanted to study yoga. It became a life-long journey which I’m still on. We travelled over land, through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, so by the time I arrived in New Delhi I was already battle hardened.
“I must have visited India 30 times since, it’s my second home on Earth I think. I don’t know where my first home is these days, although I split my time between New Zealand and France. But Indian culture in general, and my yoga practice in particular, is a fantastic focus for me. Eventually of course I developed a taste for Indian music too and had the good fortune to meet and play with many Indian musicians who were able to teach me, so you could say I’ve had a life love affair with all things Indian.”
NEUROLOGIST ROBERT SAPOLSKY
“Someone who I’ve only recently become aware of, but who’s has had a profound effect on me is a neurologist called Robert Sapolsky. He taught and researched neurology for a long time at Stanford University. I came across his lectures on YouTube, which were produced for medical students learning basic neurology and I’ve completely fallen under his spell.
“He’s a great communicator, he’s funny, and he looks great too, a long-haired bearded hippy, like one of The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. He has some remarkable insights into the way our behaviour occurs as a direct result of what’s going on in our brains. He’s not just a theorist either. Over the last 30 years he’s spent a lot of time living with baboons in Africa, so he knows how instinctive tribal behaviour works at that level and then spots how it correlates with our own.
“Before I read his book, ‘Behave’, and watched his lectures my perception of neurology was very much a closed door, but now I find it the most fascinating. One of the big conclusions arising from his work is that we have very little choice when it comes to our behaviour, which is created unconsciously by the neuro-chemical responses to our experience of everything, going all the way back to an evolutionary perspective. So we’re just the product of something we have no control over, which is a quite liberating idea. It’s also interesting to see people like Sapolsky at the cutting edge of scientific research coming to the same conclusion as eastern mysticism about our ultimate lack of free will.”
LUCIAN FREUD’S PORTRAITS
“I’m a keen, but very lazy amateur painter. I rarely get around to painting these days, but even when I don’t have time to put in the practice I really like to go to life drawing classes and keep my visual acuity honed a little. Some people check in for a yoga or pilates class whenever they arrive somewhere new, but me, when I arrive in a new place I just go life drawing, wherever I find myself in the world.
“I enjoy painting figurative stuff and although I’m not sure I would have liked him as a person, I find Lucian Freud’s paintings wonderful. I really like to spend time with his work. With any great portraiture, you’re looking for some clues of the inner person, that tension between the surface and the interior, feeling like you’ve been let into a secret about the sitter, their thought processes and inner workings, and that’s there with Freud.
“It’s odd that he had that family connection with Sigmund Freud too, which makes you think of that overlap of course, but his work just does that on its own anyway. It makes you engage with the mind of the subject in a fascinating way. All great art should reveal something about the psychology of its creator. And that’s part of the addiction for both the artist and the audience. You feel like you get to know them and on some level you end up caring about that person.”
Tom Bailey’s debut solo album ‘Science Fiction’ is released by Mikrokosmos