The drums were my first love. I bought my first drum kit in 1987 at the age of 14. It cost £120 second hand, paid off at £5 a week from a paper round, and was a bit of a mongrel, made up with a few Remo heads, and other less identifiable parts. And for reasons unknown, it was painted red & white. Perhaps by a Sunderland fan. I read books, listened intently to Phil Collins, Chester Thompson, Neil Peart, and Bob Dalton of It Bites, and played literally every day. I always loved drummers who attempted to add a new dimension to the music, rather than just keeping time, and in those four guys I had the best teachers around. I had that drum kit for two years, at which point I sold it... for £120 (not a bad deal), and bought a brand new kit. I'd spent two years wanting the Pearl Export, but when it came to it, I changed my mind at the last moment and bought the Premier APK (pictured), a decision I've always very slightly regretted. Armed with my shiny new kit, I played in a couple of bands in my late teens. We never enjoyed much in the way of success, but playing live music was one of the biggest pleasures I've ever experienced. There's not much to beat it.
The guitar has taken over from the drums as my main instrument in the last 15 years. I started learning it in 1991, motivated mainly by a desire to be able to accompany my own singing - a definite drawback of the drums. I learnt a few chords on a battered old acoustic guitar belonging to my Dad, then bought my brother's old electric guitar from him for £25 when he got a new one. I moved on to a Hohner Rockwood LX90 in 1993, which has a surprisingly good tone for its price, and which was the guitar on which I first seriously started writing songs. I then splashed out on an Ovation Celebrity CC167 electro-acoustic guitar (pictured left) the following year, which became the main guitar I played for the next ten years.
I bought a 3/4 size bass for £22 from Basildon flea market in 1992, then immediately bought two books to teach me to play it, which cost almost as much as the guitar. For about a year I fell totally in love with the bass. I found it a very easy instrument to get into, and at a time when playing bar chords on the guitar was seeming like a feat achievable only by contortionists and circus freaks, the ease of the bass was very appealing. I played it daily until my fingers were so sore I could barely hold a pen. In 1994 I bought a second hand Vision bass for £60, then finally got my first brand new one, a Yamaha (pictured) in 1999. The amount I play the bass is directly related to my proficiency at the guitar. As I've mastered the latter, I've felt less drawn to the bass, and apart from an occasional blues jam with my brother, I now play bass very little.
I bought a second hand Romanian mandolin (pictured) on a whim from Basildon flea market in 1992. It was £25, and very slightly damaged, but it has a nice sound. I bought a mandolin chord book the same day, and was soon strumming a few songs. I've never taken it particularly seriously, but that said, I did play it in public a couple of times in 1993, an act which prompted one lady to come up to me afterwards and ask "What was that small guitar?"
I bought this for £25 from the Sussex Beacon charity shop in Brighton in June 2007. It's made by G Houghton & Sons (G H & S), a British banjo manufacturer based in Birmingham. I've been told their factory closed in 1962, so it's probably a good fifty years old.
I've always enjoyed tinkering about on keyboards, without ever becoming much of a pianist. I had a small Yamaha keyboard when I was about 12, then moved on to a full size Yamaha PSR a couple of years later, on which I learnt to play enough chords to blag my way through a number of songs. Next came a second hand Roland EP-3 digital piano in 1993, then the extravagance of a shiny new Casio WK-1500 (pictured) in 1994, which is the keyboard I still play to this day. I bought it mainly to utilise the MIDI facility and use it with my old Amiga computer as a sequencer. I would occasionally program drum and basslines to accompany myself on the guitar. These days I use it mainly as a simple piano, connecting it up to my Roland to fill out the sound.
I used to write a lot of songs, a habit I've found it hard to maintain over more recent years. These days I prefer to butcher the superior work of others. But here's a small selection of musical offerings, some my own, others illegal forays into the world of copyright infringement. These are all lo-fi recordings made with a guitar, a microphone, and a lot of unfounded optimism. Left-click to download and play automatically, or right-click to save to your computer and send off to a record company under your own name.
This was written on 5th August 1993, at a time when I was writing a lot of songs. I tended to write quickly, but this song probably ranks as the fastest I ever wrote - both music and lyrics coming within the space of half an hour. Which is probably the reason I like it - I didn't give myself time to fall out of love with the song.
Having written a song called 'Gone Away', I obviously had to write one called 'Back Again', so I did on 30th November 2000, based on a riff composed whilst idly playing guitar in front of my computer waiting for a friend to come online.
This is a Senators song by Mick and Jim Kitson, and one of my all time favourites. I have a bad habit of taking other people's songs and creating my own arrangements, and this is one such example. The title is especially apt here. Apologies to Mick and Jim for the liberty, but it could've been worse - I very nearly put my metal version of 'The Little Things' on here. For more on The Senators, click here.
A love song from the Ben Folds album 'Rockin the Suburbs'.
You know those sad people who fill their homepages with endless banal lists of all their favourite things, as if they think anyone could actually give a monkeys what their top ten ANYTHING is??? Good. You'll know what to expect here then.
This was written on 5th August 2003, and recorded that same afternoon. It was the third Gardner/Grice song written in three days, and my personal favourite. I added the backing vocals on a whim the following day.
This was actually written on 19th August 2003, more than a week after I'd finished the CD, and was another 'all-in-one' effort - this recording being made within a couple of hours of writing the song.
In August 2003 I got back to enthusiastic songwriting for the first time in ten years, which resulted in a CD of ten songs, recorded in my living room with the windows shut on the hottest week of the year. That's what I call timing. Here are two of those songs, written in collaboration with my lyricist buddy Helen. I like to think of us as the new Lennon and McCartney. I'm John Lennon, obviously, because Helen's 41, so if she was Lennon, she'd be dead. Sorry, was that in bad taste?
My MP3s now feature on the SoundClick website, where you'll find a new recording of 'Over the Railway Tracks', and two new versions of 'Back Again', as well as songs not featured here. From now on, any new songs will be added to the SoundClick site, rather than this page, so ignore the pitiful efforts below, and CLICK HEREto see what's available.
Note: Due to webspace limitations, I have been forced to remove the MP3 of 'It's You' from this site. However, you may still download it for free from the SoundClick site. Hurrah!
I bought a Kramer Baretta (top right) in 2001, partly to pose as a metalhead, but mainly because it came in purple. This was followed in May 2006 by an Ovation Tangent MOB ('My Other Board') (bottom left), which replaced my previous Ovation as the guitar I tend to play most. In April 2007 I bought a Bell & Head 'Bloody Nightmare' electric guitar (bottom right) designed by Cassandra Elk and made in Germany. To be honest I didn't need another guitar at all, but when you can get something like that on Ebay for forty-six quid, you just have to go for it.