Interview

Sometimes things happen we have no control over, and it catapults us into a new direction in life.

And so it has been with Cumbrian based Phil Furneaux, teacher-come-saxophonist, who for much of his life has worked teaching physics.

However, when his daughter Kate was tragically killed in a road collision shortly after gaining her Ph.D., Phil turned to the saxophone to find expression for the emotional turmoil he experienced, and to ultimately craft music in celebration of Kate's life.

Phil's new album "A Real Distraction" was launched in June 2014 at Portland Street in London, and features many of the tunes his growing fanbase will recognise instantly as being "Kate's Tunes", albeit recorded to a far higher standard and mastered professionally. But amongst these favourites there are new tunes making their debut, a sure sign that Phil has moved on both creatively and emotionally.

As much as "A Real Distraction" is testament to Phil's desire (perhaps even need) to create something of quality as a fitting tribute to his daughter, to my mind it also stands as tribute to Phil's own tireless devotion to the not-so-insignificant task of publishing a record, armed essentially with just some very simple ideas, boundless enthusiasm, and a very determined "finish what you start" attitude. The sense that Phil has grown with the record is tangible, and it's something Phil recognises.

"Finishing this album has certainly given me a sense of achievement. I am very happy with the outcome. My playing has improved, I have got to work with a lot of good people. My appreciation of finished recordings by other artists has increased."

So where did the title for the album come from?

"I spent many months discussing and thinking about the title, as it clearly comes from the tragedy of losing Kate - but I like the final version: it's not too dramatic."

Did the recording take long to complete?

"I started recording the project about 8 months ago. It was a real buzz going down to Portsmouth from Cumbria in my camper and staying over for 4 days. After that initial session, I took the project to London and continued with it there."

How had he found working in professional studios?

"I found the studio environment difficult to reproduce the “feel” of the tune as I wanted to get it right first time. But both David and Duncan were brilliant at not putting pressure on me, and allowed the riffs to flow naturally. It was always very frustrating when my lip gave way and I had to rest."

Were there particular moments you can recall as highlights?

"Working with Krys in Brampton Community Centre recording a live version of Sunday Morning in Paris - when we finished that first take and it was good? That was a very emotional moment for me."

Sunday Morning in Paris holds special significance for Phil, as it's his favourite. He maintains it still captures the rawest emotions he experienced in those early days of his bereavement.

"There were other highlights too - like getting the box of CD’s delivered! And doing a search on iTunes, and seeing my album coming up! And working with Mandy Powell in the Black Saloon Studio - that was a privilege."

Mandy Powell has credits for working with A listers like Sir Paul McCartney, no less. On this occasion she was involved in mastering A Real Distraction. She is but one of a number of collaborators and helpers credited on the album, and Phil has done his best to mention them all.

From here Phil is turning his attention to arranging live dates, and will be performing the album live in the autumn.

His interest in technology continues. Over time Phil has equipped himself with a computer system and other hardware and software for making music, pretty much learning as he has gone along - technology he now uses when performing live. He shows an interest and is always learning, keen to exploit technology as well as play music.

His latest interest?

"Creating dancing light patterns, using an interactive software program, so I can make and control shapes on a screen, simply by playing."

Speaking of technology: "A Real Distraction" is available now on iTunes and CD Baby, and the CD version is available from Phil in person - just contact him by email to arrange payment and delivery.

Author: David Day, July 2014
Photography: Unknown


Interview from 2012