SEPTEMBER 2008 - No 27
JOHN FISHER (1960 – 2008)
It is with the deepest regret we have to announce John Fisher, Audience’s drummer since our reformation in 2004, has died.
In March 2007, we reported in Newsletter No. 20, “A Few Bars on Mars” - http://www.audienceareback.com/news/news_20.rtf - that John had been admitted to hospital with a liver infection. This quickly turned to jaundice and the underlying cause was diagnosed as pancreatic cancer. Bluff Derbyshire stoic that he was, John brushed aside any suggestion his calm and philosophical response to the disease was ‘courageous’. And because he didn’t fancy dealing with the inevitable change in friends’ attitudes, he opted to keep the matter, if not a secret, then quiet, thereby enabling him to continue playing and teaching without well-meaning folk continually focussing on how he was doing.
We were all disappointed when John’s fluctuating health and treatment schedule precluded the rigours of last year’s Canadian tour. But closer to home, he managed gigs with his other bands - Blues Academy, Dover Soul and The Simon Hopper Band (see websites below) - and fulfilled his traditional role, arranging the score and playing in the pit band for the annual pantomime at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre.
When Audience reformed, we knew it would not be easy to find someone open-minded and versatile enough to fill the spats of our original drummer, Tony Connor. Tony’s main influences were from the jazz world, particularly Joe Morello of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and he was as much a percussionist as a drummer. A straight-down-the-line rock drummer could never fulfill the requirements of this band. It’s just the way it is. We’ve never been straight-down-the-line.
Howard, Keith and I auditioned several drummers in 2004 and approached a number of old acquaintances from ‘60s/’70s prog bands of renown. Nothing quite worked and if we were going on the road with what we had, we knew we would have to narrow the range of our projected live set drastically, which we really didn’t want to do. We even considered gigging as a trio rather than setting out with the wrong drummer, but that, too, would have precluded songs we knew folk would want to hear. Then someone recommended John. Minutes into rehearsal, we knew we’d found our man.
An eclectic history, playing blues, rock, swing and soul, with big bands, orchestras, small jazz combos and behind singer-songwriters provided John with an attitude that prejudiced against no form of music so long as it was good. His ability to listen, his easy, floating style which owed so much, like Tony, to jazz influences – albeit Basie rather than Brubeck - were ideal, as was his dry wit and his immediate desire to contribute ideas rather than simply copy what Tony had previously committed to vinyl. Audience had never been able to play “Nancy” live. It always sounded manic, stilted and dangerously unsteady. John came up with a way of playing the subtly changing rhythms that made immediate sense, got Nancy under control, and brought her alive for the first time.
John, like Tony before him, was an intelligent musician who knew his way around keyboards, trombone, all manner of percussion instruments and who could also sing. His contribution to Audience is nowhere better heard than on our 2005 live album “alive&kickin’&screamin’&shoutin’”, which contains fine examples of the inspired punctuations, fills and flurries he brought to our music.
Howard was the last of us to see John, and described him then as being in good humour, though obviously very poorly. His last words to Keith and myself came by text, saying, “It was an honour and a privilege to be a member of Audience and to meet and make music with you”. That was John’s matter-of-fact way of waving goodbye. Well, it was a privilege to have him in the band – a big hearted, funny, generous bloke and a remarkable musical talent, terminated far too soon at the age of 47.
Our thoughts are with John’s partner Andee, his family and his wide circle of friends. If you would like to pass on your own condolences, memories or thoughts to them, please contact me at email@example.com.
Howard’s website: www.luminousmusic.co.uk
Richard Ansell’s website: www.richardansell.com
Blues Academy: www.bluesacademy.co.uk
Dover Soul: www.doversoulband.co.uk
Simon Hopper Band: www.simonhopper.co.uk