So you think I'm successful? Really? Read on...
Andy Pickford is an independent British electronic musician, songwriter and performer. Andy started recording electronic synth-based realisations in 1979, at the age of 14, making him one of the pioneers of the British scene.
Although Andy has remained active since then and has released numerous albums, performed numerous concerts and become an internationally acclaimed name in the field, it remains a very small scene, meaning Andy’s music has never been able to achieve mainstream reach. Income too has been a very rare thing and, to this day, Andy does not make a profit from his work and only makes enough to maintain his equipment and pay some way towards electricity costs. Regrettably, many people, having heard the quality of Andy’s work, find it hard to accept this is the truth. Nevertheless, Andy remains undeterred and believes his music is the one skill in life which brings any kind of reward at all, albeit not in a way which lifts him out of poverty.
Andy’s music therefore, all of Andy’s music, is made on a budget of 0.00! Considering this is the case, the quality of composition and production is extremely high and easily able to stand its ground when set against the music of the wealthy elites such as Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis and suchlike. The downside of course, is that while the elites are easily able to finance CD pressings, DVD/Blu-Ray, tours and other merchandise, Andy, in spite of pressure from fans to be like the elites, cannot afford these things and must very often make do with straight-to-download album releases.
Over the years Andy has had good relations with a number of independent labels who have released some of his music. Whereas this has certainly helped in terms of wider distribution, it has ensured that little or no payment of any kind gets to reach Andy, so he has always ended up struggling to finance new equipment. Much of the gear Andy uses now has been donated by kind fans and friends, most notably Wayne Hadley.
How it all started and where it went… As a young child at the end of the 1960’s Andy would turn on his bedside radio each morning at 5AM to the the opening sounds of BBC Radio 1 - “Theme One”, by George Martin, was a huge inspiration to Andy, who would then try to imitate this and other music on his grandmother’s harmonium. Things got more exciting on hearing the early 70’s wave of synth pop like Hot Butter’s Popcorn and the increasing use of synthesisers in mainstream music.
By the mid-70’s Andy was becoming aware of bands like Kraftwerk. With the advent of artists like Jean Michel Jarre, Tomita, Vangelis, Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream, Andy would save all his pocket money and empty the record shops of Derby and Nottingham of their electronic music albums!
For his 14th birthday, his father bought him one of the new Korg MS20 monosynths. Using this, a Yamaha organ, an Akai GX4000D R2R, a few cassette decks and just about any old gear he could get his hands on, Andy discovered his ultimate passion for composing electronica. His very first album length session was called “Second Approach” (79-80), which was only ever distributed around a few school friends.
Technique and equipment had improved a little by 1982, at which time recordings began for what would be Andy’s first, albeit cassette-based and limited stock album, Linear Functions.
Although numerous recordings were to follow, all of which still reside on very dusty old R2R tape spools, none ever saw the light of day until 1993 when, having begun to work with one of the new midi workstations (Korg T3), bought for him as a birthday present by his girlfriend of the time, he recorded what would then become Replicant. Ashley Franklin of BBC Radio Derby acquired an early copy and loved it so much that he contacted David Shoesmith of Centaur Records. Centaur released Replicant on CD and provided actual shop distribution for the first time. The album was relatively successful and although Andy would see very few returns from it (or any of the other Centaur releases), there was enough at least to finance a bit more equipment. So by Terraformer, the 2nd CD release on Centaur, Andy was using a whole Portastudio, some Boss effects pedals and even a Roland Juno 106 (loaned). The 3rd Centaur CD Maelstrom, was the most successful and utilised an Akai S1000 sampler which was previously owned by Mark Shreeve (and came with several of his disks for use).
Also around this time came a pair of 12” vinyl EPs released by the GPR label in London. GPR promised Andy greater success but presented his music in the form of barely recognisable remixes, by one of their preferred artists who they wanted to promote instead. These EPs did sell a fair quantity and both John Peel and Annie Nightingale were known to have aired this music on their late night BBC Radio 1 shows. But of course the label paid Andy nothing and so he agreed to no further releases with them.
1996 saw a raft of releases, with Ian Boddy’s SER label at the time. Xenomorph and Symbiont (with Ian) were again successful in their field and Ian actually paid Andy some money for them too. Unfortunately, this could only pay off debts.
In 1999 Andy moved on from SER and released Nemesis, but then had to pay the label concerned to withdraw the album, having discovered that the label intended to exploit Andy’s name in order to promote its own preferred artists instead, and because of threats made against the BBC Radio Derby host Ashley Franklin for his continued support in the situation.
Andy then went into semi-retirement, having become very disillusioned with the selfishness and greed in the music scene.
Having discovered more of his spiritual side, Andy went on the produce the album Lughnasad in 2002, which was released on CD by his original label Centaur since he couldn’t afford to release the album at all. Andy received precisely nothing for the album.
Along came Andy’s buddy Paul Nagle and they started what was to become Binar together. As it was and remains now, Binar exists as a vehicle to combine Paul’s quirky unique sound, with Andy’s own brand of ordered structure and melody. The results meet nicely in the middle and over the years, Binar has become its own definitive sound. Thanks to Paul Nagle, Andy studied and finally mastered the subtle art of improvisation. So whereas Binar’s early work would often include rehearsals to give Andy a rough idea of what was to come on stage, these are no longer required. Binar improvises everything 100%.
From 2009 onwards, Andy began archiving a lot of new material. This was the advent of reliable DAWs and virtual synths you could acquire “off the back of a virtual lorry”. So, Andy set sail with his pirate ship and produced such a vast amount of new tracks that come 2014 when talks began with David Wright at AD Music, it was really easy to guarantee David at least 3 new albums of really high calibre music. These are AD’s Vanguard I, II and III. III has, at the time of writing, yet to be released. Vanguard I and II appear to have been quite successful according to AD. Andy has earned very nearly 80gbp from the project so far.
5 EPs also created from the 2009-2016 material were released on AD, which generously forwarded AP enough to purchase a legitimate copy of Omnisphere. These are the Adagiometry series.
Unfortunately, by 2016 the myth that Andy has made lots of money from his work seems to have become widely established among fans and synth music media, to the point that a fair percentage who prefer to support upcoming and obscure artists, automatically overlook the music of Andy Pickford, believing that Andy does not need their support. As a result, Andy Pickford is possibly the poorest and most under-supported of all the established electronic music pioneers of his generation. Indeed, were it not for the extreme generosity of just a few fans, friends and family, AP music would cease to be, entirely. Fortunately, Andy still has a lot of determination and plenty of ideas and only wants to make people happy and entertained with his music. He no longer cares that he’s stuck in no-man’s land between having an established name but lumbered with the myth that this name somehow provides income. It provides zero income bar for some payment towards bills and maintenance. The UK minimum wage is approximately double the income from Andy Pickford’s music and Andy is not eligible for any additional benefits to offset any outgoings.
So as for the future… well it looks like business as usual. Andy has stated that he will keep on composing until he starts decomposing and no longer expects his old age to be spent in anything but poverty. His view is simple: as long as he has his music to escape into, whether anyone cares for it not is now just a secondary concern. Music is all that matters.
Accolades, achievements, sidelines, whatever…
None. With the exception of what’s already been mentioned, Andy has never had any sponsorship, representation, no music aired on television or film or games, no offers of any kind related to his music or the furtherance thereof. People who entered the scene subsequently and whose styles relate closely to Andy’s have either made many tens of thousands and in at least one case, many hundreds of thousands of pounds. Andy’s music continues to be the subject of widespread theft (by Russians), misconception, misunderstanding and ignorance.
Where to get AP music...