Hi my name is Michael Colin Crook, mccrook or just CROOK. I have taken to just using my last name for this musical purpose to keep the name existing for my family line. I have many brothers & sisters but the ones who carried the name have all abandoned it through marriage, for fairer or fouler options. I also have no children and barring unforeseen events, I will keep it that way. So the name is carried on through the songs, projects and albums that you are making contact with now.
I was born in Manchester in the 60s which lends it self to a groovy romantic tale of great music and bohemian values informing my path into the arts. Not exactly, my early memories of music were fairly limited. I can only remember my parent's record collection containing The Everley Brothers, Neil Sedaka, Cliff & The Shadows. It always makes me smile when I think of how, to this day my Mum loves Cliff Richard and my Dad loves The Shadows and it sometimes felt this was the only thing that linked them.
I started playing music quite late. Barring a strange but valiant attempt at the age of 7 to make a guitar from a piece of 3 ply using an old style razor blade, I didn’t play anything until my early 20s. As with the majority of the planet I loved music. I loved Rock. AC/DC, Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Hendrix, Joni Mitchell and Elvis to name the tip of the iceberg but I only decided to start playing when I heard a little known (but known all the same) band called To Hell With Burgundy play at The Green Room in Manchester. I remember very vividly turning to my friend and saying “This is what I want to play”. They were signed to Factory this band were the acoustic flag bearers in a sea of a Dance and post Punk revolution. Please check them out!
Starting with poetry and simple chords I plunged into the mode of singer/song writer. (And to be fair I have not stopped writing poetry or using simple chords). My first venture into the studio was with a trio called Feathertone. Me on vocal & guitar, Gail Brown adding beautiful, haunting harmonies and Chris Kennish joined later adding sensitive and melodious bass lines… on his bass. We recorded 4 songs. Open Your Heart, The Ring, Book Of Ancient Rights & Five Senses. After some deft pencil art work from Richie Henderson who created the cover based on a Pre-Raphaelite painting called “When Apples were Golden…” which would have later significance. We self released some tapes into the world and played the clubs and acoustic nights of the North. This was the most wonderful period and brought the best feeling in the world. But as is the passage of time we moved on, with no regrets or bad feeling and for reasons beyond my capability to remember. As quick as that became that I stumbled into a glorious period of folk music with 2 of the best fellows one could meet. Chris Kennish ditched his bass for a guitar and we roped in a fine performer of grand stature and talent, weighty personality and an obese amount of confidence, Mr Guy Hepworth A.K.A. Biggs. The Goddess ordained the creation of The Golden Apple. This musical venture was to be my guide, my training ground, my musical diary, my protector, my saviour. The music was raw (Still is!) the performances were pantomime filled nonsense of drinking, shouting, laughing, swearing, and all more often than not, in harmony. Playing with these 2 joyous spirits help me take my self more seriously as a musician and less seriously as a human being. We have been together in trio or duo form for over 20 years and I don’t regret a moment.
During periods of lull when other projects drew us away my call was the CROOK solo projects. Before the release of “When a Door Closes” I produced 2 other albums, Heart & Mind 1999 and Still Life 2006. The contents of these 2 projects (lyrics, arrangement, music & performance) have been all my own efforts. Well almost all. I received musical and production tutoring from a good friend and early mentor in the shape of Steven Murphy who helped engineer Heart & Mind. Another has been a more sustained relationship. My experience has been that when people have listened to these albums they remark initially on one thing. “Who is the girl singing with you?” On several tracks and on both albums, I have used a playful, coy, delightfully English and sometimes haunting female vocalist Diane Watson. She has graced my albums and given them an element of class and a gentle dynamic. Alas I did not invite her to contribute on “When a Door Closes” because I wanted to find out if it was just her people were listening to .That said, you will find her influence stretches further and deeper in all 3 albums than her mere vocal input. I thank you Sweet Daine.
Along the way I have collaborated a few times with other artist and writers, Richey Henderson, Jake Wilson (Product of Barry), Mike Lee (Wake) but none more so than Karl Walsh. From the days of To Hell with Burgundy and throughout the years, Karl has continued to be an inspiration in every aspect of my life, as well as in my artistic endeavours. Our first real project together (because before I could play T.H.W.B. let me do some performance art with them on stage) was a dance outfit called D.N.A. Karl sung, Steve Townley wrote and played the music while I continued my performance art role. Donning a zebra crossing, belisha beacon on my head with an acid house happy face painted on it, I would big fish/small fish my way through a set of low key, rhythmical chill out, dance tunes. Heady days!!
Since then myself and Karl have performed in 2 other bands. Supergimp; a theatrical, fetish rock band comprising of Karl on Drums, Simon Watson on Guitar, Matt Jones on Bass and myself fronting the band. For 2 years this was the only thing that mattered along with Absinthe and rubber costumes. The sum total of this venture was 3 decent recordings (Watching You, Absinthe & Perfect thing) and a cracking low budget music video. (It will be out there somewhere!!) Our next adventure was slightly more conventional. Straight up, groovy, 70s style rock band The Visitors. Karl fronting the band, me on guitar, Wayne Shotton on Drums and as is tradition, a sequence of bass players. Kev Bell (the original) and Paul Pettrico (a one off). I love this band and the love child produced was the album “Above You”. Great rock tunes under the warm, influential umbrella of Bowie, Bolan and Mudd ;) A good excuse to put on a pair of silver pants and jive like Quatro. Again, check it out.
The Visitors, like The Golden Apple, has a life of its own and will continue to be in my sights for future ventures. For now I’m happy writing music, playing when I can and hopefully entertaining some people along the way. When I read that last sentence back it feels like a life worth living. I hope this has entertained you too. Keep music live, record music for life.