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Great Albums: Fresh New Life

p-910

By this time things in my personal life had changed also. I had a vivid experience of God, and knew that I had to change things in my life. After many years of doubting, I just had complete and utter faith in Jesus Christ. For the first time in my life, I just knew he was ‘The Man’, and I had to follow his example for my life. I felt like I had an inner strength which helped to deal with everything in a way I found completely impossible before. When asked to go with my A&R man to a new company, I said no. I saw it as a chance to get away from him. He was a Svengali figure and had very definite ideas about my career and by now we weren’t seeing eye-to-eye. I sacked my manager on the same day. I knew I was doing the right thing, but I didn’t really have any idea how to deal with EMI on my own. The new head of A&R came in and dropped loads of bands. To his credit, he said he liked what I was doing, but hated the whole White Buffalo idea. I stupidly pressed the point but he said that the album would not be released under that name. It was Phil Campbell or nothing. I had to concede.

They released ‘Keep It Calm’ and put the band out on tour with Mike Scott. We did a few more promotional activities, but it definitely felt like things were winding down at EMI. Hardly anyone at the company came to see us play. The album was released some time in the autumn, and we did The Jools Holland Show. That felt good, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy our new ‘friend’ at EMI. A couple of months after the album’s release in December’97, just two weeks before Christmas, I was dropped from the EMI roster. The company was only exercising its contractual obligation to release one single and one album. They did not have to do any promotion. It sucks, but that’s what happened.

p-1111

I then tried to contact you and Phil Campbell disappeared! Even EMI wouldn’t or couldn’t help. So where have you been and what have you been up to?

Okay. This is a long one too. When I lost the deal we were obviously devastated but perhaps due to shock, didn’t show it or even talk much about it. Having had so much from EMI for so long, we naturally assumed that we would just get signed again. To Evan, Matt and myself it was that simple. But as the last five years has proved, it wasn’t. One thing which made life for me and the band very difficult was that I had said goodbye to the chap who had originally signed me to WEA and then EMI. He was the one person who really believed in me as an artist. EMI had talked me up to other major labels. People in important places had heard the name Phil Campbell a lot, although there was never anything to show for it. For all their efforts to promote me, there was no success. I had been dropped and there is a stigma attached to that. Either people had seen me singing at some major label bash or they would just equate me with my A&R guy, and slowly it dawned that I was in effect cursed, and it would take a long time to get back. None of this was my fault and I could do nothing to change it. I still believed I had done the right thing in cutting ties with certain people and had no regrets about my decisions. Rather, I felt sad that I had allowed my life to be controlled by other people. The only thing I could do now was to keep going. I had to ask myself the question: ‘Do you really want to do this or not?’

p-140

I started writing new songs but found it very difficult. I had no idea what to say now. I knew that I had to figure out who I really was and what music I should play to express it. I got into the guitar more out of necessity than anything else. It’s a more portable instrument than anything else. I started to listen to music again and I realised I’d deprived myself of this joy for too long. I bought loads of stuff and listened to music like it was a replacement for drugs. This felt good because it was a healthy drug and it didn’t matter how much you had. My money ran out towards the end of ‘98 and I got a job working in HMV in Fulham. Evan and Matt remained professional, playing in various bands. I was not that great a player, so it wasn’t an option for me and it’s still not! I can’t remember exactly the details of what happened in this period. I do recall it as a low time; bleak and joyless. There were long gaps between rehearsals and it seemed quite pointless to keep going. There was a lot of staring at feet in the rehearsal room and not much honesty being spoken. We were without management, a record deal and we had no money. Even the album we had made (FRESH NEW LIFE) was useless to us. We had no large stocks of it even to sell at gigs. I was angry about what happened but not enough that I wanted to write songs about it. I figured this would just be silly. I refused to be bitter, bitterness, however, refused to let me go.

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