Spotlight On… Chris Guard

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*** Spotlight On… Chris Guard ***

I remember first seeing Chris Guard on screen as Ken Hodges in ‘Casualty’, prior to this he already had a wide range of acting credits and continued to build on this post-Casualty. However, music has become the dominant feature, lately and he is currently one half of the band ‘Leapfrogtown’. I give you the multi-talented Chris Guard!

Thank you so much for talking to Break A Leg Review, you’ve had a successful career to date as a musician and an actor, what inspired you to want to go into performing?

I was born into a family of actor/writers but music was around too. Flanders and Swann of Hippopotamus fame, were among many inspiring visitors, and mum was in several episodes of The Goon Show. Meanwhile Dad’s type-writer was forever hammering out plays for The Theatre Royal Windsor. I enlisted several perplexed infants for my first band at the age of 6 which was also when I wrote my first play – all one, mistyped page of it! It was printed in its hilarious entirety in the Windsor theatre programme. Basically I just liked creating things. The BBC’s David Copperfield came as a surprise. A friend had been up for a part and they hadn’t found their lead so my name came up. I was at Latymer Upper, a direct grant day school, so there was no plan for me to act, but I was allowed to audition and it just kind of happened. Next thing I knew, Dame Flora Robson was feeding me cold soup and Sir Ian Mckellen was waiting to play my grown-up self.

What has been the most memorable moment of your career, so far?

So many. First day on that first job – David Copperfield at age 12 – because it just felt so natural. Like a carpenter’s son picking up his dad’s chisel. It was a job, and I just got on with it, and everyone was so supportive and grateful because I seemed to know what I was doing!

First gig fronting a loud, new-wave band at the Windsor Castle, Kilburn.

Riding western-style with Brian Blessed on sets that had been used for Clint Eastwood movies in Almeria. That was Return to Treasure Island.

Playing the main stage at the Lively Bird Festival with The Bloogs.

Working with Sir John Gielgud was a revelation and playing the piano for Elizabeth Taylor in her hotel suite in Vienna was surreal.

Which musicians influence you?

The Overture to West Side Story was the first music that really turned me on. Leonard Bernstein – genius. Currently Robert Smith of The Cure continues to write in middle-age with fantastic freedom and passion. Beggar’s Banquet by the Rolling Stones is English rock/blues at its best. I still listen to that. Underworld are my favourite techno band. High intelligence, great beats.

So, Leapfrogtown was ‘born’ in 2013, how did the collaboration with Stuart Walton come about?

I’ve been working with Stu for years, ever since the legendary Indians in Moscow imploded and he was looking for a new project. They had started in Hornsey near Hull and worked their way to sell-out gigs in London and appearances on The Tube. Until 2013 we were principally writing and recording but when The Bloogs fell apart, we decided to step up and front it ourselves. So we’ve recruited a young band to keep us on our toes! We’ve also collaborated on music for Chinese animations, school songs and Indian film scores.

Where did the inspiration for the name Leapfrogtown come from?

Simple one that. The Bloogs were stuttering for logistical reasons so we started a side project. Gradually it took over and leaped over the other one. So I dubbed the project Leapfrogtown and it stuck.

As a song writer, what is your format for writing a song? Do you start with the lyrics, for example?

No format, but there is a loose technique that works for me. I’ll have a central idea, which will usually be the name of the song, and an idea of what I want to say. Then I get a rhythm going on the guitar and start building lyrics that travel towards that central idea. Like tributaries to a lake, the lake being the chorus. Once I’ve got the basic verse/chorus/chord structure I can add more words another time. But just as important is getting in the right head state. Some exercise til I sweat, a cold shower and a couple of beers is a great release. You get out what you put in. You can’t write in a vacuum.

What’s new for Leapfrogtown and how would you describe the music you create?

Now we’ve got a band we’re putting gigs in place and filming a ‘live’ video. We’ve been compared to Bowie, Roxy Music, Foo Fighters – but with a contemporary twist. The album is quite varied. Art rock, post-punk, ska, electro – it’s all there. Eclectic, electric, eccentric.

What are your main ambitions for the future?

To get on a big festival stage again, with the sun shining and the wind blowing. To finally get my art exhibition organised. And a dark, magical role in a movie.

Favourite Things (give me your first reaction to these questions):

Favourite music video?

Novocaine for the Soul by Eels

Favourite restaurant?

The Paris, Coverack, Cornwall

Favourite hobby?

Ornithology

Favourite cover version to sing?

A cover of a cover: Bowie’s take on Sorrow, as recorded by ‘Them’

Favourite way to relax?

Pilates, walking, Guinness, hugs.

Follow this link to the website for leapfrogtown: http://www.leapfrogtown.com/

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