ABOUT JOHN

"Music has always been my passion;
I love the way it can take you on a journey
and fire the imagination."

Image of John Holden

John Holden is a multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer from Cheshire, England. 

‘I have had a strong emotional connection to music for as long as I can remember. In particular, at an early age, I encountered progressive rock. I enjoy music that can at times be pastoral and melodic, sometimes powerful and soaring but always constantly interesting. The idea that there are no rules or boundaries has always appealed to me.’

Having played and composed for many years, John made the decision to commit to creating a full album of original material. He decided that involving additional musicians would significantly enhance the music and his debut album, Capture Light was released in 2018.

‘I have been amazed and thrilled by the talented musicians I have managed to work with. Everyone made a fantastic contribution. When you are working with people of such high calibre it really elevates the music and definitely makes you raise your game!’

Commenting on been placed Runner Up in the Progzilla Radio 2018 Album of the Year’;

‘I wanted to see if I could make music that would earn its place in the genre. Thankfully the album was critically well received and given extremely good reviews. It was so exciting to get such amazing feedback from the people who count the most – the wider prog audience!’

Two years later John releases his follow up album, Rise and Fall.

‘I gained a lot of experience creating the first album and was determined the next one had to maintain that quality. I am delighted to say it has exceeded my expectations. Progressive music by its nature can be quite technical, however I wanted to build more emotion into the songs; it takes the music to a higher level and hopefully that feeling communicates to the listener.’

‘My musical journey has certainly been an adventure! I have been told that the music sounds like a labour of love, that is absolutely true and how it should be. I am very proud of the music and hope others will enjoy it too.’

RISE AND FALL

LISTEN TO EXCERPTS OF THE TRACKS AND READ THEIR STORIES

01 LEAP OF FAITH

While visiting Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire we were intrigued by a stained-glass window showing a monk holding a pair of wings. Fortunately, there was a full explanation in the abbey literature; Eilmer was an 11th century Benedictine monk who was the first recorded person to have attempted flight. He was a scholar who studied nature and was particularly curious about the flight of birds and bats.

This was a story that had to be told. We mapped out the song elements on the drive home. Libby said it could be called ‘Leap of Faith’, which seemed a perfect title. It was also clear that it had to be sung by Peter Jones, not that he had knowledge of this decision. Thankfully Peter agreed and represented Eilmer and his brotherhood.

The opening music is the theme of ‘The Comet’. Eilmer saw Halley’s comet as a young boy and once again in 1066 shortly before his death, a remarkable lifespan for someone living at that time.  At the start we find the elderly Eilmer in reflective mood before we hear the abbey bells and his story is told, from his solitary studies to his ascending rise of the bell tower, his leap and fall.

“He was a man learned for those times, of ripe old age, and in his early youth had hazarded a deed of remarkable boldness. He had by some means, I scarcely know what, fastened wings to his hands and feet so that, mistaking fable for truth, he might fly like Daedalus, and, collecting the breeze upon the summit of a tower, flew for more than a furlong. But agitated by the violence of the wind and the swirling of air, as well as by the awareness of his rash attempt, he fell, broke both his legs and was lame ever after. He used to relate as the cause of his failure, his forgetting to provide himself a tail.”  William of Malmesbury : Gesta regum Anglorum, 1125

02 RISE AND FALL

We all have addictions and obsessions but when these get out of control, they can consume us and have devastating effects on those around us.

This song is about someone’s relationship with both their addiction and the person they care about. As they battle with the situation, they reflect on how the person they love has attempted to save them from self-destruction. Clinging to the idea of hope yet knowing the thrill and instant gratification may prove too alluring, even though after the rise inevitably there will be the fall. They know they have to make a choice but which path will they take?

03 The Golden Thread

Libby: As I was already involved with lyric writing, John challenged me to write a whole song that he would then write the music for. This is the opposite of his usual way of working so it posed a challenge for him too. For personal reasons, I wanted to write my own requiem that was also a love song. I was interested by the idea of the golden thread of a person’s life as referenced in the ancient Greek and Roman myths of the ‘Three Fates’. While researching the topic, I came across the 1885 painting, ‘A Golden Thread’ by John Melhuish Strudwick, a lesser-known Pre-Raphaelite artist. I’m a big fan of the Pre-Raphaelite movement so decided to dig deeper. I discovered that some of Strudwick’s paintings were inspired by the poetry of his close friend, George Frederick Bodley whose poetry turned out to be a rich source of inspiration for my lyrics.

We wanted the structure and feel of the song to be in keeping with love songs performed in Victorian parlours with a piano accompaniment. For me, the combination of John’s music, Oliver Wakeman’s piano, the sublime voices of That Joe Payne and Lauren Nolan plus the beautiful orchestral arrangement by Vikram Shankar have resulted in a track that perfectly conveys the meaning and emotion of the piece I had envisaged. I am deeply thankful to them all.

04 DARK ARTS

I wanted to write a song with more of a ‘rock’ feel and a harder edge. The working title was, ‘The Art of Deception’ and that idea quickly took shape in the form of a commentary on the world of politics, social media, the press, the class system, faceless corporations and how these all interconnect. Who can you trust in a world of hidden agendas and sound bites? What information can we believe when attempts to manipulate our opinions through ‘fake news’ and political spin are used so widely?

The lyrics reference the conjurer’s trick that uses distraction and deceit in an attempt to fool us.What is the truth? Who is really pulling the strings? Welcome to the ‘Dark Arts’!

05 HERETIC

Cultural terrorism has existed throughout history. It is an attempt to eradicate a people’s shared identity and to rewrite history to serve the aggressor’s often distorted ideology. ‘Kill the culture, kill the voice’.

This piece was inspired by the tragic reports in 2015 of the destruction of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra by ISIS, and their brutal murder of Khaled al-Asaad, the 82-year-old Head of Antiquities at the site. Despite being interrogated for a month by the jihadis, Mr al-Assad refused to disclose where he had hidden some ancient treasures. He was subsequently beheaded in front of his family, his body was mutilated and hung from a column in the central square.

However, the song also contains a message of hope that, one day, displaced peoples can return to their homelands and way of life. Yet they remember the past and the terrible sacrifices people have made.Empires rise and fall. Ideologies are replaced. But the healing power of love of endures.

06 AFTER THE STORM

This is a tale of escape and hope. People can find themselves in all manner of situations that are not good for them. Sometimes, rather than accept life as it currently is, things must change.  Finding the courage to leave and head off into an uncertain but hopefully brighter future is a hard thing to do.

This song was based on a guitar part written by Oliver Day. As soon as Libby heard it, she said the beat reminded her of the rhythm of windscreen wipers and she pictured a woman driving on a lonely highway in a wide, open American landscape. There is no going back. Eventually the storms both outside and inside pass and the road ahead is calmer and clearer.

07 ANCESTORS AND SATELLITES

For the final track I wanted to return to the theme of ‘The Comet’ and its role as a silent observer of man’s history. But that is a huge subject to condense into a song, so I decided on two moments that seemed to encapsulate that vast sweep of events; ancient hand paintings discovered in caves dating back 40,000 years and footprints left by astronauts on the moon.

The human species is by nature full of curiosity and has developed with amazing pace and ingenuity. As a species we are, as we all know, far from perfect. However sometimes it is appropriate to look at how far we have come even as we accept that we still have far to go and much to learn.

The verses move from early man to a silent spacewalk. The chorus imagines the chants and magic of those gathered around the ancient fire and how those primitive feelings of belonging, communication and the need to share our stories is still deep within us.

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RISE AND FALL

THE COLLABORATORS

  • All
  • Capture Light
  • Rise and Fall
  • Elizabeth Holden
    Elizabeth Holden
    Lyrics
  • Michel St Pere
    Michel St Pere
    Guitar
  • Jon Camp
    Jon Camp
    Bass
  • Nick D’Virgilio
    Nick D’Virgilio
    Drums
  • Lauren Nolan
    Lauren Nolan
    Vocals
  • Sally Minnear
    Sally Minnear
    Vocals
  • Simon Fitzpatrick
    Simon Fitzpatrick
    Bass
  • Zaid Crowe
    Zaid Crowe
    Guitar
  • Vikram Shankar
    Vikram Shankar
    Keyboards
  • Billy Sherwood
    Billy Sherwood
    Bass/Guitar
  • Joe Payne
    Joe Payne
    Vocals
  • Oliver Day
    Oliver Day
    Guitar
  • Oliver Wakeman
    Oliver Wakeman
    Keyboards
  • Emily Dolan Davies
    Emily Dolan Davies
    Drums
  • Julie Gater
    Julie Gater
    Vocals
  • Pete Jones
    Pete Jones
    Vocals/Sax/Flute
  • Gary O’Toole
    Gary O’Toole
    Drums
  • Max Read
    Max Read
    Vocals
  • Marc Atkinson
    Marc Atkinson
    Vocals
  • Jean Pageau
    Jean Pageau
    Vocals
  • Lee-Anne Beecher
    Lee-Anne Beecher
    Vocals
  • Robin Armstrong
    Robin Armstrong
    Mastering

SEND A MESSAGE

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Elizabeth Holden
Lyrics

It is hard for me to imagine making music without the collaboration of Libby. She helps with the lyrics but contributes so much more. We discuss song concepts, usually whilst cooking and having a glass of wine, and how we can bring stories and ideas to life. She assists in all aspects of the process from artwork and visuals to promotion and social media. She also has an amazing musical sensibility and can pick up on things that I miss or sometimes am too close to and lose objectivity. She also has to put up with listening to endless demos and mixes. Without doubt her input is immense!

Michel St Pere
Guitar

Rise and Fall

Having seen Michel’s band Mystery in concert I was very impressed with his song-writing and wonderful guitar playing.

The final song to be written and recorded was Ancestors and Satellites. The music needed a special solo to bring the album to a close; I immediately thought of Michel and was so pleased when he agreed to participate. I could not imagine anything more fitting than the powerful but sensitive guitar solo he provided.

therealmystery.com

Jon Camp
Bass

Rise and Fall

Being a fan of Prog music in the 70’s meant I was well aware of Renaissance and Jon’s bass playing. As the band did not have a lead guitarist, I was fascinated how his playing fulfilled that role in the band.

By chance I discovered Jon lived ten miles from me. We had some initial chats and Jon kindly agreed to add some bass to the song Rise and Fall. Not only is Jon an amazing and unique musician he is also extremely supportive, offering advice and enthusiasm for the music. I am sure we will collaborate more in the future.

www.facebook.com/jon.camp.14

Nick D’Virgilio
Drums

Rise and Fall

I have to admit that Nick has been one of my favourite drummers for the last decade. I knew he had played with Genesis and Spock’s Beard, but it was his work with Big Big Train that I enjoyed the most. Nick is also the resident session drummer at Sweetwater Studios.

I originally asked him to play on the track Dark Arts and was so impressed that I asked him to replace all the drums on four more tracks!

Nick is an amazing musician and brings so much to the music. Absolutely thrilled to have him involved.

www.nickdvirgilio.com

Lauren Nolan
Vocals

Rise and Fall

Lauren sings like an angel. I knew she had a great voice as I had heard the album, Awakenings that she did with Vikram Shankar under their Our Destiny banner.

For The Golden Thread, Libby suggested that we have a female voice to augment Joe’s vocal. I was unsure which lines would work best, so I asked Lauren to sing the whole song. When I heard what she had done it was obvious that it would work best as a duet. The two voices work so well together and are a highlight of the album. Lauren also added her ethereal voice to Ancestors and Satellites which brings a lovely dreamlike texture.

www.facebook.com/ourdestinyofficial

Sally Minnear
Vocals

Rise and Fall

I had watched the DVD Dave & Sally Live in the Studio and was so impressed that Sally was the first person I contacted when recording started on my Rise and Fall project.

Those sessions were really important and gave everything momentum. Sally did guides for Rise and Fall and Heretic (which still has her voice in the mix) and excelled on her featured song, After the Storm.

Sally has such a great voice and is just lovely to work with.

https://www.facebook.com/sallyminnear

Simon Fitzpatrick
Bass

Rise and Fall

I knew of Simon from his work with Carl Palmer. I then stumbled on some Youtube videos where he was doing solo bass versions of songs. I was more than impressed. 

I felt the bass part I had in Heretic could be stronger and Simon duly obliged and for the last song, Ancestors and Satellites, his bass adds a lovely melodic pulse through the verses. I only recently discovered that Simon also played in Celestial Fire with Sally Minnear. A small world indeed!

www.simonfitzpatrick.net

Zaid Crowe
Guitar

Rise and Fall

Zaid plays in the band Axiom. I started following their progress and loved their modern approach to music.
We had some phone conversations and I persuaded him to come up with a guitar solo for Dark Arts.
He sent me what I think is a perfect fit. He absolutely nailed it!
Thanks buddy!

zaidcrowe.co.uk

Vikram Shankar
Keyboards

Rise and Fall

I came across Vikram on Facebook. He was playing some outrageous solos and I was hooked.

I got in touch (as I do) and asked if he would consider doing a solo on a song I was working on; Heretic. He quickly delivered the solo and some additional parts for the song. I was so impressed that I asked him to play on pretty much the whole album.

He can play any style and has the amazing ability to do exactly what is best for any song. He also has the ability to take some of my basic ideas and extended them. The introduction to Leap of Faith and the string arrangements on The Golden Thread are just two examples where Vik’s compositional abilities really shone.

Vik added so much to the album. An immense talent!

www.vikramshankar.com

Billy Sherwood
Bass/Guitar

Capture Light & Rise and Fall

I got in touch with Billy in the spring of 2016. Initially, he agreed to listen to some of my demos with the possibility of doing some mixes. I sent over Crimson Sky and he sent back the track with a much better mix and a wonderful new guitar solo. I was delighted with how it sounded! The next song he worked on was Dreamcatching. On hearing this he told me, ‘The bass could be moving around and creating a lead element, playing simply under the narration; then flying from there with melodies and a sense of soaring.’ That sounded good to me!

For the track Dark Arts, I knew I wanted a driving bass sound that sometimes locked in with the drums and at other times went in its own direction. This was perfect for Billy’s style and adds so much interest to the song.

Billy was the first person I ever contacted and was definitely a catalyst in giving me the confidence to approach others. I am in no doubt that having the involvement of someone with such a great reputation gave some instant credibility. I will always be grateful.

billysherwoodhq.com

Joe Payne
Vocals

Capture Light & Rise and Fall

I read Prog Magazine (of course) and when I saw that someone called Joe Payne had won Best Male Vocalist two years running in the Readers’ Poll, I thought I would check him out.

I found some YouTube clips of Joe singing with The Enid. Both Libby and I were amazed at his range and the quality and tone of his voice; we immediately booked tickets to go and see him live. After the show we met up and had a brief chat; I can’t recall exactly but I probably did ask him if he ever did sessions. Fast forward eight months, having left the band Joe was now pursuing a solo career. I made contact again to see if he might be interested in collaborating on some songs. Having agreed, he worked on One Race; it sounded so good I immediately asked if he would do Capture Light. I knew that song needed a special voice to bring it to life and technically it required someone with a good vocal range. Luckily Joe has a five octave range so I knew he could deliver. The results were beyond expectation – spine tingling! By now I was working on the final song for the album and again Joe agreed to sing on what would become Tears from the Sun

When the time came to record new material, I already knew Joe would be perfect for Heretic and The Golden Thread. While we were sorting out vocal arrangements for these, I asked if he would do me a favour and put down a guide vocal for Dark Arts. He kindly agreed and when I heard it there was no point in using anyone else! Being just a few feet away and hearing him sing the end section was something I will always remember.

Joe is a perfectionist and that is apparent in his approach; his vocal contributions add so much to the ‘emotion’ of the songs which really elevates the material. He also paid me the great compliment of including the song Capture Light in his live shows.

thatjoepayne.com

Oliver Day
Guitar

Capture Light & Rise and Fall

I found Oliver on YouTube; a young musician playing in a YES tribute band. He was nailing all of it – in every song! My thought process was, ‘If he can play Steve Howe solos’ he can certainly play mine.’

With contact made, Oliver proceeded to work on Ancient of Days and we developed a style of working that suited us both. Oliver would send me multiple takes on multiple guitars, and sometimes even multiple pick up choices. I would then select my favourite elements and add them to the master track. I kept sending him songs that needed some additional guitar and he just kept delivering outstanding work. For the song Capture Light, I wanted a string sound evocative of the Renaissance period. I mentioned this to Oliver who told me he had recently acquired a lute – serendipity! Although a difficult instrument to play, within a week I received the beautiful lute part that appears on the finished song. 

When working on new songs I suggested that we do something together. Oliver had some ideas that I took and turned into After the Storm. I hope is happy with how it turned out!

Oliver is a super-talented guitarist; he can play anything; electric, acoustic and in any style – a producer’s dream! 

oliverday.co.uk

Oliver Wakeman
Keyboards

Capture Light & Rise and Fall

Whilst completing the song Capture Light I decided I wanted a better piano sound. This idea then grew into wanting a more lyrical and expansive piano part throughout the song. I was fully aware of Oliver’s abilities having seen him during his tenure with YES, so I made contact to see if he was interested in contributing and ‘yes’ he was! After some discussions he charted-out the relevant piano parts and sent his tracks through. They were stunning! Just what the song needed.

I immediately asked him to play on what was to be the last track to be recorded, Tears from the Sun. This was quite an expansive piece and required a full array of keyboard sounds; piano, electric piano, church organ, harpsichord, synths. In all cases the playing was just fantastic. 

On Rise and Fall, one of the key tracks to get right was The Golden Thread; it needed the fluidity and flavour of the Edwardian era. This was something we discussed, and Oliver delivered just what the song required. 

Working with Oliver is a total joy; such a talented musician.

oliver-wakeman.co.uk

Emily Dolan Davies
Drums

Capture Light & Rise and Fall

I had seen Emily promoting her drumming sessions on Facebook. Her resumé was very impressive, so I decided to see what she could do with Ancient of Days which had sections requiring complex drumming. Emily took on the challenge and provided some wonderful playing. I think she did a couple of takes on the drum solo and that was it! After that she was my go-to musician for drums. Totally professional and nothing seemed too much trouble for her. She also came up with the goods when, at the last minute, I wanted to replace the drums on Crimson Sky and Seaglass Hearts, even though she had only returned from touring in the USA the previous day. Emily is such a lovely person and tremendous player.

emilydrums.com

Julie Gater
Vocals

Capture Light

In many ways Julie was the starting point for the album. She was already a friend of Libby’s and in conversation mentioned that she was looking to create some music for a new venture. Julie was more than capable of writing and playing the music herself, one of her jobs is a piano teacher. But as she also runs a retail business, teaches yoga and does gigs, she felt she needed some extra help. Libby suggested that maybe I could contribute, so we started working together every few weeks and had a lot of fun.

The more I composed, the more the idea of doing some of my own songs developed. I have no singing voice and that had always prevented me from creating fully; now for the first time I could write songs rather than just instrumentals. It was also around this time that Libby began to get involved with writing lyrics. After completing the music for her project, Julie and I continued meeting and the sessions developed into her recording vocals for my material. The majority of the songs originally had Julie singing on them, even if they were guide vocals that I could send to other vocalists. She also has a fantastic understanding of musical theory and possesses perfect pitch. If I wanted harmonies it was like choosing from a menu, ‘Do you want a 3rd above?Or a 5th below?’ Julie played such an important role in making this album happen. Many, many thanks.

julieheavenlyvoices.co.uk

Pete Jones
Vocals/Sax/Flute

Capture Light & Rise and Fall

I first became aware of Pete when he released his Cocoon album under the banner of Tiger Moth Tales. Having already recorded Julie’s vocals, I thought he would be a good match for the duet on Seaglass Hearts. I also asked him to record a simple backing vocal for Dreamcatching. Pete is always busy and in demand. I had contacted him just as he was rehearsing and ready to go to Japan to play keyboards with Camel, so I had to be patient and wait for a ‘window of opportunity’.

A few weeks after his return, Pete got in touch saying he had done the vocals and had also added flute and saxophone parts, should I want to use them. The new parts sounded just great and now I cannot imagine the songs without those elements. 

When composing Leap of Faith there was only one person that I wanted to consider. Luckily Peter agreed! I loved Pete’s ‘choir of monks’ and the perilous flight of the story’s protagonist. The concept was to bookend the album with Leap and Ancestors and Satellites which have some thematic links, it therefore made sense to use Pete again of course he did a splendid job.

A tremendous musician who can play just about anything to an amazing standard. I think maybe in future I might just write some tunes and get Pete to play everything!

tigermothtales.com

Gary O’Toole
Drums

Capture Light

I had admired Gary’s drumming for a while having seen him playing live with Steve Hackett on many occasions. I had recorded programmed drums for the song No Man’s Land, they sounded ok but I knew it needed some real finesse, especially on the hi-hats during the verses. I contacted Gary and he agreed to do the session and kindly added some backing vocals. This was also the first time I had worked with a drummer via the internet, so of course when Gary sent me his finished tracks, I realised the next task for me was learn to mix drums! An excellent drummer and top chap!

gotomusicschool.co.uk

Max Read
Vocals

Capture Light

I had seen Max perform with The Enid and listening to their albums I was really impressed with his production skills and ability to do choral arrangements. The song One Race required stacked backing vocals and there really was only one man for that gig. Max did a wonderful job; his ethereal ‘one man choir’ sounded so good. In particular I was able to empty the middle section to really focus on both Joe and Max’s voices. I loved the atmosphere this created. Bravo Max!

lodgerecording.co.uk

Marc Atkinson
Vocals

Capture Light

I was given Marc’s details by Robin Armstrong when I was enquiring about potential singers. Marc had just released his solo album, Home Grown and I thought he had a great voice. I already had Julie’s guide vocals on Ancient of Days and wanted to hear it sung in a deeper register. I emailed Marc with the demo and he promptly produced some great vocal tracks; his voice has such emotion. I really hope to work with Marc again in the future.

marcatkinson.co.uk

Jean Pageau
Vocals

Capture Light & Rise and Fall

When I came to the final arrangement of Ancient of Days, I decided I wanted a mixture of voices. I thought it would be interesting to have both male and female voices that would combine and evolve throughout the track. I had been very impressed with the Delusion Rain album by Canadian band Mystery, especially the vocals of lead singer Jean. So, in typical fashion I tracked him down and asked him to add his unique vocals to the track. In no time at all he had recorded several takes of both lead and harmony parts. These fitted in perfectly and blended so well with the other vocals. 

Jean and I remained in touch and I thought the title track, Rise and Fall would suit him, as it required a vocal that was both powerful and vulnerable. Jean took the lyrics and altered the opening melody which gave the song an extra dimension.

A delight to work with, Jean possesses a fantastic voice. Merci beaucoup Jean.

therealmystery.com

Lee-Anne Beecher
Vocals

Capture Light

I met singer/songwriter Lee-Anne while I was working in London in early 2016. We quickly established a musical connection and I was excited when she agreed to add her soulful vocals to Ancient of Days. Another outstanding singer, Lee-Anne added a beautiful element into the song. I am looking forward to working with her on future projects.

Robin Armstrong
Mastering

Capture Light & Rise and Fall

I was aware of Robin’s work via his Cosmograf releases. During the course of the projects Robin has been kind enough to give me his opinions and advice. When it was time to get the albums mastered there was only one choice. I wanted Robin to be involved because, not only did I know I would get a great finished sound, but he was already familiar with the material.

Robin makes a vital contribution in helping me get the best possible sound. He picks up every detail that needs correction. He taught me many valuable lessons. A real musician’s musician and a very talented man, I owe Robin a huge debt of gratitude.

cosmograf.com