Robert Fisher is quite a surprising fellow. Founding and only permanent member of Willard Grant Conspiracy, Robert bounds up to me, about 6 feet tall like they only seem to make them in America and offers a hand. In a booming voice he declares “Hi, how ya doin? I’m Robert”. I know. Its impossible to miss him – I could hear him singing from outside in the street.
I’m politely waiting for soundcheck to finish up so that we can film our acoustic session, and Robert, flanked by his backing band – Paul Tasker and Iona McDonald of Doghouse Roses- gets out the booming voice again. He could manage heavy metal, opera or yodelling with equal ease. But he sings songs of religious doubt, wandering, wondering and pain. He sings like he lost his lover to Johnny Cash and John Cale in the whiskey-fueled poker match from hell.
Then outside to record the session. More surprises. “There’s a kid right there”, Robert booms. “Oh shit,” I offer. Looking round, I begin to feel a bit uneasy on my feet, ready to make a break for it. “Want to come over and have a listen?” he offers. Eh? They shuffle over. “But you gotta be quiet”. They shut up. Robert keeps playing, not even breaking stride. After the song, one of the kids looks up, wide-eyed: “I wanna be as good as you one day.” Well I never. The gentle giant politely shakes each one of the kids’ hands, “Goodbye, see you later, I’m Robert”. They know.
Willard Grant Conspiracy – Vespers
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And I guess the most surprising thing yet about Robert Fisher is his insistence that Willard Grant Conspiracy is, somehow not just his band, but a full collective. He never refers to “my band”, only to Paul and Iona, “the rest of the band”. Right enough – look through Willard Grant’s extensive back catalogue and see a wide range of musical influences at every turn. Paul elaborates. Robert and Doghouse Roses met during a recording session in Glasgow, when they were sharing recording space. Robert was hooked, and invited them on tour with Willard Grant. Its a collective, but each artist retains his or her individual identity. Hence the odd occurrence of Doghouse Roses supporting that night for Willard Grant Conspiracy (featuring Doghouse Roses). Confusion reigns. A band opens for itself. Alt country perfection fills the void. Enjoy it.
Doghouse Roses – Gone There
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Robert, Paul and Iona are currently on a 2-month tour of Europe as Willard Grant Conspiracy. The stunningly beautiful new album Paper Covers Stone is available here on itunes.
Filmed by Will McConnell
in Belfast, September 2009