By Nicky Baldrian

After four years of struggling 1999 finally sees the return of ex Walk The Wire keyboard player Nigel Hobbs with his new album "The River's Too Wide" and oh boy what a fantastic musical journey this record is.

Walk The Wire were a UK based band who gained considerable praise in the rock press,(even Kerrang rated them at the time, a mighty achievemnet considering grunge music was in full swing), anyway having heard three rough tracks earlier on in the year, i think it's safe to say that Nigel is gonna turn some heads.So i caught up with him prior to the albums release for a mini interview.

N.B: What happened with Walk The Wire?

N.H: To be honest, so much water has passed under the bridge since Walk The Wire that I would rather concentrate on what's happening now and look to the future. But I will try and answer your question with some words from the liner notes on my new album..... Walk The Wire split up after eight years of chasing a dream (only to find that when we found it, the dream wasn't what we were expecting!) Don't forget that before we recorded the album we had been together for 7 years and we had got to the stage where there was nothing more we could do with the band given the musical climate at the time. People were pulling in different directions and the band just sort of fizzled out rather than anyone saying "Right, that's it. I quit!" There was a little animosity when the drummer and guitarist were replaced by two guys from the French band Tilt but I'd rather not dwell on that too much. If you want to dig deeper, there will be a copy of a full length interview I did after the band split which will be on my forthcoming web site!

N.B: Do you have any fond memories of those years with Walk The Wire?

N.H: Sure, in our original line-up, we achieved some great things - a bloody good album, good magazine reviews, doing Radio One, playing at The London Astoria with FM - we got further than we ever thought we would but there was nowhere left for us to go after that but backwards. It's a shame there was a little bitterness at the end though. But it's history now and I'm pleased to be involved in happier activities.

N.B: Why did you decide to beacome a solo artist?

N.H: Well, after WTW split I spent a short time writing some film soundtrack stuff for a video company. I didn't really find that musically stimulating enough and I got straight back to writing songs. I had actually amassed a huge amount of material that I had kept back because it was either unsuitable for Walk The Wire or because I had intended to include it on a second WTW album. So, in the winter of '95 I found myself without a band to play my songs, no studio to record them in and no record contract. On reflection, the latter was probably a blessing. What I did have was a few ideas and some good friends. I knew there was close to zero chance of using any of the big, expensive, commercial studios in London, so I built my own - far away from city life, and named it Sleepy Hollows (by contrast to other studios I had worked in, this one is extremely relaxing!). And it's there that I have locked myself away for what seems like all of the last eighteen months or so. How na´ve I was to have believed I could do it in under six! The result of this will be my new album


N.B:Tell me about the new album and which direction does it flow in musically?

N.H: Well, the new albums contains nine songs and clocks in at just under an hour. It consists of some new songs, some songs that I wrote a few years ago but were not suitable to use with Walk The Wire, and two instrumentals. I'm incredibly excited about it because I'm so pleased with the strength of the material. It's difficult for me to tell you a musical direction because I allowed myself total creative freedom when I wrote the songs and I didn't have the restrictions that being in a band places upon you. You know, when you're part of a five piece unit, you may have an idea which you can hear as a completed song in your head. You play it to the band and by the time the arrangement has been thrashed out, it has sometimes changed radically from what you originally had in mind. Sometimes egos are involved and sometimes you bow to the 'democratic view' even if it goes against your gut feelings for what you think the song should sound like.

Well the beauty of doing this as a solo project is that I could record the songs exactly as I'd intended. I could get the other guest musicians into the studio and say "this is what I'd like guys" and they'd do it - and the songs ended up much as I had imagined they would. If you want a guide as to the musical style, then I would say that two songs have some similarities to my writing style as it was with Walk The Wire but in general there is a bit more influence from my 'progressive rock' roots. Obviously there is more emphasis on the keyboard and orchestrations but it's still a rock album. There are some great contributions from two of the previous Walk The Wire guitarists (Andy Webb and Kevin Skingley) and also a good freind of mine called Barry Oldnall. The best advice to anyone is, of course, buy it and find out!

N.B: Originally you were going to call it "Lightning Road", why have you decide to change the title?

N.H: Well, Lightning Road is the title of a song that I wrote for Walk The Wire and it's included on the album with a much more acoustic arrangement. I liked the title of the song and the images that it suggested to me from the lyrics. I had even got as far as having the cover designed! However, another song ('The River's Too Wide') which started life as just a melody for a chorus eventually ended up as being a 19-minute epic! The song is very visual and I felt that it just naturally became the centrepiece for the album. So 'The River's Too Wide' it was. This meant getting scrapping all the artwork that had been designed, getting back in touch with the photographer and then several weeks of intense work (mostly with him trying to make sense of all my crazy ideas!) However, the end result is definitely worth it!

N.B:What are your plans for this album?

N.H: To get it promoted as much as possible and to get people into what I am doing here and now. Obviously I get asked alot about the old WTW days but really that is well and truely in the past and it's time to move forward.

N.B:Do you have a deal yet?

N.H: The album will be released initially though my production company 'Lightning Productions' and promoted through our internet web site. I have had some preliminary discussions with some companies for a possible overseas deal but nothing has been agreed as yet. Unfortunately, because of the long delays I have had in getting the album through the final production stages, the launch puts me right up against the Christmas season. Everyone's money goes on big names and their greatest hits CDs. It's tough being an unknown!

N.B:What about touring? Will you play any of the old Walk The Wire material?

N.H: Touring would be fantastic! I have some musicians in mind for a band but I will wait to see what the initial reaction is to the album and then we'll probably put some dates together for early next year. As to playing Walk The Wire songs - well once again, I wouldn't want to go out and play a show which wallowed in nostalgia but it would probably be nice to play one or two of the old classics. In fact two of the songs on the album I wrote for Walk The Wire and we did in fact play them live. 'Lightning Road' and 'Living a Lie' would make an appearance and then maybe 'The Knives Are Out Tonight'. We'll have to see!

N.B:Lastly,it's great to see you finally back on the scene,is there anything that you would like to say to your fans?

N.H: To those who were fans of Walk The Wire and have stuck around to see if any of the band members ever appeared again - God bless you and thank you for your patience! I have worked long and hard to produce something that I am personally very proud of. I hope you like it too. To anyone new who has never heard of me
give it a try. There just might be something on it that takes your fancy!