In January 2021 I approached Camel drumming legend Andy Ward to see if he was interested in talking about his brief time in the band, he told me he didn't do interviews anymore, but thankfully he did break his own promise to answer a few questions by email. Andy and his wife Didy are now retired and spend their time gardening, Didy told me that they thoroughly enjoyed seeing Fish on the recent Gardener's World episode and it brought back many memories.
As Andy doesn't do computers, Didy was left with the task of typing everything for him so we kept it reasonably short. Big thanks to both Didy and Andy for taking the time.
MMM: You left Camel after the Nude tour in 1981, you had a few health issues at the time and you took a few years off. Were you actively looking for a new band in 1983 when the Marillion gig became available?
ANDY: I was playing a few jazz gigs with friends and working as a barman and not really expecting a permanent band
MMM: Were you aware of Marillion before they offered you the job? Can you tell us the story of how that came about? Who approached who etc?
ANDY: I had been reading about Marillion in 'Sounds' magazine, so when I went to pick up my drums at Nomis studios they were there auditioning drummers so I gave it a go.
MMM: What were your first impressions of the guys in the band and their music? Fish wearing greasepaint etc
ANDY: They were really nice guys and their music impressed me. As for the greasepaint - it certainly made Fish stand out on stage!
MMM: Was there any one moment or song that made you say yes this is the job for me right now?
ANDY; No - I was just glad to be in a 'proper' band again.
MMM; It's been said that because of the bands admiration for your work in Camel, you never even had to audition, is that true?
ANDY: Pretty much. I remember after we played a couple of songs Fish just said "Let's cut the crap - do you want to join?"
MMM: After joining the band, you really didn't have much time to learn the set, your first gig was at the Marquee May 12 under the pseudonym Skyline Drifters, The Marquee was always a favourite venue for the band and their fans, do have any memories of that first show?
ANDY; I had a couple of days to learn the whole set at home, so I was pretty nervous. But it went really well.
MMM: You only had a short time in the band, but in that time you crammed in some very iconic moments, The Garden Party video must have been one of the first things you done in the band, it's still my favourite video, looked like a lot of fun, what do you remember of that day?
ANDY ; My main memory of that day was that in one scene Fish fell on me - and I've had a bad back ever since.
MMM: Next up was your first TV appearance with the band on May 20 on The Old Grey Whistle Test, you had done it a few times with Camel, it was huge step up for the band, were you or the band nervous about doing the show?
ANDY: I remember that Pete was very nervous so I told him just to pretend it was a gig, not TV.
MMM: Every band remembers their first Top of the Pops, it's a special moment, Garden Party was Marillion's, I remember it well, it changed my musical tastes for ever, I've heard different stories from different artists over the years that said filming TOTP was usually chaotic, how did you find it?
ANDY: It felt phoney as we were miming which I tried to make look obvious, so they cut me out of most scenes! Served me right!
MMM: You played a few festivals around this time, Mannheim, Wurzburg, Glastonbury, Parkpop and Roskilde where Fish either fell or jumped into the crowd and couldn't find his way back, any memories of these shows?
ANDY: was great, as was Roskilde, but to be honest they all kind of blur into one. It was 40 years ago, after all!
MMM: By August and the onset of the band's first US and Canadian tour, you had had a good few gigs under your belt, were you feeling settled in at this point or having any second thoughts about your position?
ANDY : I felt pretty settled at the time; don't remember having second thoughts.
MMM: There are various stories on how the US tour went, it ended with the last few shows being cancelled after a show in New York and you allegedly being put on a plane home by Paul Lewis. In the book Separated Out , it mentions some incident in a hotel lobby with a cigarette machine, that being the straw that broke the Camel's back for the band, (pun Intended) I don't think I've ever seen your comments on what exactly happened. What's your version of the events of that day?
ANDY: I can't really remember 'machinegate' but I must have done something pretty bad. I think they had already decided to fire me though - I certainly felt very isolated by then.
MMM: How was that flight home? your head must have been reeling?
ANDY: I felt upset, angry, guilty but relieved that it was over. I had never been fired before, but I knew it wasn't working, because of my mental state and excessive drinking. The two are closely linked. Looking back I now know that this was all symptomatic of the bipolar I was to be diagnosed with many years later.
MMM: Back in the UK, you're still in the band, you play 2 more shows, the Reading Festival and a warm up show for that at Liverpool Royal Court. Had the band called time on your position in the band before these shows? because they had brought in John Marter on drums for these 2 shows and you were playing some percussion, the band effectively being a 6 piece. What's your recall of these events? Were you upset at being relegated to percussion?
ANDY: I wasn't sure what was going on, although I know that they asked me to play Reading as a friendly gesture. But I wasn't sure if they wanted me back in the band... They didn't!
MMM: In your short time in the band, Did you ever have any writing sessions with the band?
MMM: What are your high and low points from your time in the band
ANDY: The high point was when I first joined and we were getting to know each other. The low point was when Fish stopped talking to me, halfway through the US tour, after a silly misunderstanding.
MMM: Final question, will we ever see you on a stage or record again?
ANDY: No - I'm happily retired and living in Suffolk with my dear wife Didy. Life on the road has no appeal to me now, though I have very fond memories of bashing the skins as a younger man.