SWAG 2: The last five years pt.1 – Of Tours and Tendons

If there were to be a ‘Frequently asked questions’ section on the TK website, I’m sure this would be the number one question. Just why has it taken nearly five years to release a follow up to The Water Road?

There’s no one answer to this, as you might imagine, and a combination of things has made the gestation time longer than we would have wished. There is one over-arching thing though that most people don’t seem to realize. With many a band like TK, music is not our day job. We all have careers outside of music that put bread on our table and hours of the day are spent serving our paymasters. We’re all lucky to have day jobs that aren’t overly onerous and at least to some degree are fulfilling in their own right. This is a conscious decision, and there are two conflicting repercussions from choosing to do music this way. 1) There’s less time to dedicate to the making of the music you want to play. 2) The music you make *is* the music you want to make because there’s no need for it to be commercial, to sell lots of units, and to pay the bills. So, overall it’s a compromise, but the long and the short of it is that you’ll never be seeing a TK album per year as you would have had from your signed, fully pro, Prog heroes from the 70s.

But, that’s not the whole story here, and I’ll relate the other elements across a number of future SWAG posts.

But let’s cover one item right away. The Water Road was released early in 2008 and the band immediately started to prepare for a series of gigs later in the year. We played at the Summer’s End festival that year, the Spirit of 66 in Belgium, The FreakParade festival in Wurzburg, Germany, and finished in a wonderful way with a standing ovation from a packed Olympia in Paris, supporting The Musical Box. I had had a double neck guitar built for the tour by the talented Duncan Wales of Organic guitars.

Phil Mercy playing his double-neck guitar

As luck would (or wouldn’t) have it, the guitar was delivered late and I only had a couple of weeks to get used to it before the tour. Long story short, I didn’t spend enough time setting it up to work for me. I spent more time getting used to the Fernandez sustainer gizmo I’d had built in than in making sure it was at the right playing height for me. The result was that I was wearing it too low and, during the numerous lead guitar breaks, was playing them whilst taking the entire weight of a very heavy guitar on the heel of my palm, stretching my tendons to breaking point. Whilst elated coming off the stage in Paris, I was also in agony in my left hand. Which brings us to early 2009.

Thomas’s job had seen him relocated back to Sweden which left the band in a bit of a pickle since we could no longer rehearse as frequently as we once did. We had been offered a slot at the excellent FMPM festival in Canada and were all set to build a North American tour around it in 2009. We reached the conclusion that we had to tour with a dep for Thomas and had even approached a person to fill the role. Neil Durant is the keyboard player for the excellent and underappreciated Sphere3 and has since joined IQ. Well known to Mark from his days with Grey Lady Down, Neil had agreed to tour with us that year.

However, I’d taken a break from playing for a couple of months after the 2008 tour and picked up the guitar again in early 2009. I couldn’t play. Far from healing, the agony as soon as I tried to fret anything was still there. Trips to the Doctors and specialists followed and the diagnosis was given as “Extensor Tenosynovitis” (think ‘tennis elbow for fingers’). I was prescribed physiotherapy and banned from picking up the guitar for pretty much the rest of the year. Sadly, we ended up having to cancel our plans for the year.