Swoon: A Brief Interview with Graham Lant

lantNot the least enigmatic part of early Prefab Sprout history relates to the drummer employed for the Swoon recordings, Graham Lant. Lant was a well respected musician in the NE region at that period, and apart from playing on Swoon also worked with the Kane Gang and was featured in the short Tube documentary on the label from 1984 from which the picture is taken.

But he’s since disappeared from view and outside his immediate circle nothing much is known about his contribution beyond the playing on the recording.

By a complete fluke I happened to encounter him online, and he was kind enough to answer a few questions relating to Swoon, so this is by way of a minor Sproutology exclusive. But before launching into that, it’s worthwhile passing by way of some comments made by Dave Brewis, the Kane Gang guitarist and producer of Swoon, taken from the now defunct Zorrophonic Prefab Sprout forum:

Graham Lant is indeed an excellent drummer, and I seem to remember that everything he played on Swoon was a first take, live with Paddy & Mart. Don’t know anyone else that can play “Cue Fanfare” at all, like the record.”

The basketball is a plastic football being bounced in the kitchen of the studio by the roadie, which was intended to be in time with the start of the song; although he couldn’t hear the music for the noise of the ball he managed it, first take again! The regular bass drum was brightened up in tone to take over from it for the rest of the song.”

I started my questions by asking Graham first how he came to Paddy’s attention:

I was playing with the Kane Gang in a club – Paddy was impressed with the backing tape and how real we all sounded – Martin and Paul [of the Kane Gang] did not play instruments live so it fell to Dave to produce backing tapes, but if the rhythm section is live then the overall sound can be quite authentic of a live band; Dave will verify this – some bass players and drummers can produce a fantastic feel. and that is my kinda thing – if it feels right then it is right. One of the live Green Isaacs has a better feel than the album.”

I vividly recall listening to Swoon in the 1980s and marveling at the complexity, pondering how such bewilderingly unconventional music could have been presented to other musicians. I asked how this had come about, and about the recording process:

Some demos, old recordings. But mostly in the rehearsals, playing and playing till a song worked. Mart was a great bass player, not conventional, which made some of the grooves quite special. Once we were happy with the songs and had even played some of them live before the recording, it was fairly straight forward – most of the tracks were played (me, Mart and Paddy) with Paddy singing a guide vocal while Jon recorded me and Mart live. After three days most of the backing tracks were done (mostly first takes too) then I left so Paddy and Wendy could do their bits and returned a few weeks later to put the rhythm to Cruel (which was already recorded) and some bits and bobs.”

Lant did play some gigs with Prefab Sprout. He noted that the Liverpool and the El Hacienda shows had him on drums, which he knew not least because no one else played Cue Fanfare, and recalled:

It was all very business like – arrive with plenty time to sound check, play great set, pack up and head home. (All of us and the gear in a small van)”

Of course I had to ask how the relationship had come to an end:

Well. Paddy may not thank me for my honesty – when Dave and myself were paid, I have to say we were disappointed. We had put a lot into Swoon and both felt a flat fee was not enough. We tried to negotiate points on album sales (a small %) and accept the flat fee but we could not get any movement… and on that I was gone. I love music and playing music but I’ve always felt I should get a fair wage for a fair amount of work.”


5 thoughts

    1. absolutely no idea where that came from, hadn’t noticed it before. There’s no connection with real names or anything interesting like that, just a typo. Tend to disconnect my brain from my fingers sometimes.

  1. I’ve absurdly only just rediscovered Swoon after loving it when it came out, and have been struck by the quality of the drumming. I play drums and learned with headphones and favourite cassettes, but things like Cue Fanfare would have just scared me off. Now in my 50s I’m a regular gig player, and I’d have a go at it, but no way could I do it anything like as well as him. But it’s not all about show-off technique, it’s about the feel, as he says above. the whole band just sound so great and fresh on the whole album. It’s very straight, very live, but very intricate and it all works. In many ways I prefer it to all the big production jobs that followed. I wondered what became of Graham Lant and all that talent, but sadly it seems it didn’t continue in any significant way with recordings. Check out the fills that precede the returns to the verse in the wonderful Ghost Town Blues, they’re just sublime!

    1. And they both have a yet more-metalhead brother: the mighty Cronos (Conrad Lant), bass player, lead vocalist and frontman in the pioneering metal band Venom. Strange that Antton is not mentioning that, not even when he talks about his time in the “Black metal legends Venom”.

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