William D Drake's Biography
Born in Stock, Essex, William D Drake began playing the harmonium as soon as
he was able to stand. When he was five, a neighbour loaned his family a
piano and Drake learned to play, honing his skills by playing duets with his
grandmother. He undertook piano instruction and played in numerous bands
during his time at school.
Drake joined his first significant band, Honour Our Trumpet, in 1982.
It was at their first gig at The Grey Horse, Kingston that Drake met
Tim Smith who sometimes supplied a P.A. for the venue. Tim Smith had already
Cardiacs developed a cult following, winning fans through their
frenetic live performances and recordings and in 1985, they were invited to
be the support for Marillion’s international tour on the personal
recommendation of frontman, Fish. Marillion’s fans hated them,
pelting Cardiacs with missiles as they performed their set, and
eventually, so aggressive was the audience’s distaste for them, the band had
to be removed from the last three dates of the tour.
During this time, Drake, Tim Smith and Sarah Smith (Cardiacs’ member
and Tim’s wife at the time) formed a side project called Mr & Mrs Smith &
Mr Drake. They produced an eponymous cassette LP in 1985 that was
re-released in 2004 as a CD.
formed Cardiacs with his brother Jim, but joined Honour Our
Trumpet (H.O.T.) as bass player. Legend has it that H.O.T.’s
unreleased tape recordings still exist, possibly amongst Tim Smith’s
archives in Wiltshire.
Tim Smith invited William D Drake to join Cardiacs in 1983. The first
Cardiacs gig with this line-up was at the Marquee supporting
Here and Now. Drake’s classical training and skill as a pianist
allowed Smith to write fiendishly complex keyboard parts for Drake to
perform, but it wasn’t long before Drake began to find his feet as a
contributing songwriter for the band.
Drake’s composition featured on such classic Cardiacs’ albums as
Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window, On Land and in the
Sea and Songs for Ships and Irons, but in 1990, he decided it was time
to leave the band to pursue other musical projects. In 1992, Drake, Dean
Gaisburgh-Watkyn of Here And Now and others formed Nervous.
The band’s approach to composition was far from that of Cardiacs and
Drake enjoyed the freedom of their improvisational style. He also began to
expand his keyboard skills, playing Rhodes and Hammond organs as well as his
signature piano and harmonium. Along with performances at the Royal Albert
Hall and Ronny Scotts, Nervous recorded an album Son of the Great
Outdoors at Paul McCartney’s Hoghill Studio and their single, Da da
da, was re-mixed by Nigel Godrich.
Whilst with Nervous, Drake reprised his musical collaboration with
Tim and Sarah Smith forming The Sea Nymphs in 1993. Tree Tops High
was released and The Sea Nymphs were invited to record a Peel
Drake worked on other side projects through this period. He played with the
prog-Goth band Lefaye on their 1995 tour as support for The Cure
and formed folk band Lake of Puppies with North Sea Radio
Orchestra’s Craig and Sharron Fortnam. Lake of Puppies played the
circuit, and recorded four songs, one of which was released on Cardiacs’
Affectionate Friends compilation.
Drake left Nervous in 1997. He joined country-rockers Wood and
embarked on tours of the United States. At this time, Drake began to develop
his solo career, recording his debut album, William D Drake at Tim
Smith’s studio in Salisbury, Wiltshire and releasing the album on Smith’s
label All My Eye. Drake released his debut single, Melancholy
World (Super 8) in 2002, which featured Lake of Puppies’
collaborator, Sharron Fortnam.
As a solo artist, Drake has appeared as a session player for numerous
artists including Rachel Goswell and The Loose Salute. His
composition features on North Sea Radio Orchestra’s critically
acclaimed 2006 debut, North Sea Radio Orchestra for whom he also
performs as part of the chorus. Although Drake thrives on collaboration, it
is his solo work as composer and songwriter that drives him. Yew’s Paw
(Onomatopoeia), Drake’s solo, instrumental piano album, highlights
his talent as a classical composer and pianist, whilst Briny Hooves
(sheBear) reveals Drake’s evolution as a songwriter, singer and
Drake performs his music with Richard and James Larcombe of Stars In
Battledress, and other musical cohorts from music past and present. His
forthcoming double release of the albums Yew’s Paw and Briny
Hooves illustrate the two sides of Mr Drake and manifest a career
spanning three decades of cult status, collaboration, and musical
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