The Blackheart Orchestra make some of the most stunning and captivating music you’ll ever hear.
The duo, consisting of singers, composers, songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Chrissy Mostyn and Rick Pilkington, have seemingly been constantly on the road since forming but managed to get the time to release four sonically stunning albums that have broken and won hearts with their gloriously individual mix of ethereal beauty, Progressive Rock and World Music.
The duo’s constant invention and incredible work ethic has seen them regularly covering the length and breadth of the UK and Europe, multiple festival appearances and massive critical acclaim.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTqZdYqx1jI&w=560&h=315]
This mastery of their craft, always pushing forward to bigger and greater heights, led to their being offered the opening slot for the huge Hawkwind orchestral tour in 2018 which saw both bands play some of the most legendary venues in the country, including two nights at the London Palladium.
Such was the success of the pairing that both bands headed back out on the road together for the psychedelic space warriors 50th Anniversary tour the following year, a trek that saw Chrissy and Rick not only playing to packed houses but also singing backing vocals for Hawkwind and Eric Clapton at Guilford and performing at possibly their ideal venue, the awe inspiring Royal Albert Hall.
Although it’s certainly an experience that’s difficult to top, the band are forever growing and looking to the future with yet more activity planned, the thought of resting on their laurels an alien one to them. With things in a constant state of flux in the music business, Rick took some time out to fill us in on what has been happening.
First off, and most importantly: How are you doing?
We’re doing very well thank you and I think we’re actually enjoying this time of getting off the roundabout and slowing down our lives a little while keeping creating in new and different ways.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eZWUlVNEVI&w=560&h=315]
How have you been keeping yourself busy?
Our lockdown started early as we had to cut a tour short in late February when I fell ill at a gig and had to spend two weeks in Glasgow hospital. When I came out the whole world had changed.
Normal busy for us is doing 100+ gigs a year, living in our van, dining in motorway services, sleeping on venue car parks, and spending most of each day staring at the M6, M5 or M1. Busy now is doing our online concerts which have proven incredibly popular and successful, writing the songs for next year’s album, doing lots of radio, playing online festivals, online chat shows and keeping in touch with our fanbase.
We’ve also been developing an interesting idea of a totally instrumental album. It’s going to be called ‘Mute’ and it’s a collection of some of our favourite tracks off our last three albums but with the vocals removed.
As pure instrumentals the songs take on new lives and are in some cases barely recognizable from their familiar original form. We are in the process of tweaking the mixes, adding some new instruments and extra orchestration and Mute will be released later this year.
Have you been doing any online live shows or seen any good ones?
As soon as lockdown started there seemed to be an instant wave of everyone picking up their acoustic guitar and their phone and I think that’s really great. Maybe it is exactly what we needed by making performing music more pure, simple and stripped – getting things back to a more honest and intimate level.
We watched loads of online shows and decided to wait a few weeks and then try and plan a show that would replicate what we do on stage. Fortunately, we have a large enough space to bring all the gear inside…PA, lights, everything…we turned the house into chaos and then did our show which we really enjoyed.
It’s been watched nearly 9000 times so far and is turning out to be one of the biggest gigs of the year! Our next online gig is scheduled for Friday June 26th at 8.00pm.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTvWwZSn9do&w=560&h=315]
Have you had to change your way of writing material?
Not at all. We have the equipment set up permanently and just dip in when we have an idea or want to feed ourselves with music. Life is a long soundcheck at the moment!
Do you keep in touch with your fellow bandmates / other musicians much?
Yes. Every second.
What plans have you had to change this year?
Just about everything. Like everyone else our whole diary was wiped clean. We still have a load of gigs booked for September through to November and we’re just hoping and praying that things will be nearer to normal by then and we will be able to do them as planned. I’m being optimistic and saying our Autumn Tour will be on!
What do you think of the social distancing gigs (like the one that happened in Kansas this week – 229 people in a 1,100-seat venue) or the thought of drive-in gigs?
If it’s proven to be a safe way to allow people to be together enjoying music and if everyone is prepared to play by the rules and make sure we’re all completely safe let’s get on with it!
How do you think the music industry will have changed after this period of lockdown?
I just Googled the word ‘fallow’. ‘A piece of land left for a period without being sown in order to restore its fertility or to avoid over-production.
I really hope that this period of starvation will make us realise more the incredible value of music in our lives, increase our hunger and appetite for it and bring about a situation where everyone from music creators and music appreciators to governments, arts funders and the whole music business will take a deep breath and think wow, life without music doesn’t taste as good, we’d better take more care of it.
The real worry is that with the music business being, even in good times, a pretty precarious way of life, that bands may fall apart as people turn to other ways of making a living and venues may not be able to withstand the drought, so I’m really hoping that the country will, from the government down to each of us individually, do our best to support and sustain the whole industry so music can come out of this fallow time even more fertile.
What plans have you got for when the isolation finishes and gigs start back up again?
We can’t wait to get on with the new album which is written and ready to go. We’re just waiting for the ok to get back into our favourite studio with our favourite engineer and start putting it together.
Trouble is we keep writing more songs, so if this lasts any longer it’s going to have to be a double, maybe a triple album! As for touring, we’re keeping all dates from September as live so we hope to be out there with you soon.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-aQXlLl5VE&w=560&h=315]
How can people support you during this time?
The biggest feeling of support was when we got literally thousands of beautiful comments on the online show. It was a terrifying experience playing to four table lamps, two armchairs and Chrissy’s dog Bash, but the reaction turned out to be overwhelming and made us realise that for the first time all our pockets of fans from all over the world had got together as one big beautiful family to be with us in the same place at the same time at the same gig.
It really felt like they were in the room with us. It was quite emotional. So please keep watching the online shows, we’re planning to do one each month with other online activities in between, like we recently did an online Question and Answer session where fans could ask questions about our music, our instruments, our favourite albums and songs…loads of fascinating and probing questions that we answered live.
It was scheduled for 30 minutes and ended up lasting 83 minutes, we loved it! Also, our merch shop is very busy with a new range of products like our new t’s, caps and beautiful new large latte mugs so please take a look at that and treat yourselves!
Interview by Paul Monkhouse for MPM