To us, Gandalf Fist’s unusual name conjures up an image of Ian McKellen – white-haired and bare-knuckled – bounding from his corner to sock Sauron squarely on the jaw. (Not that you can actually sock the jaw of a disembodied eye, obviously.) Such primitive pugilism ain’t exactly arcane magick, but there’s a certain method to the ’Fist’s Middle Earthian madness…
“Our moniker was coined on a night out by one of our good friends,” reveals self-styled musical adventurer Dean Marsh. “He was, at the time, apparently obsessed by wizards. He wouldn’t even date a girl unless she could prioritise her top five wizards.”
Luke Severn, Marsh’s sparring partner, explains: “We’re not fantasy obsessives, we don’t go larping on the weekend, running round the woods pretending to be dwarves. Having said that, we love the world that Tolkien created. We’re geeks, don’t get us wrong, but normal, well-rounded geeks, who like the sunshine and football and girls.”
“I quite like wacky band names, so Gandalf’s Fist stuck,” Marsh concludes. “My worst nightmare is that Luke will leave the band and score a hit single with Merlin’s Toe.”
It’s difficult to pigeonhole Gandalf Fist’s chosen style of music, as Severn acknowledges: “Overall, I’m not sure what we sound like… we’ve been described as medieval space rock, so make of that what you will.”
“It’s strange but none of our recording projects ever sounds the same,” Marsh admits. “I learned guitar playing along to Sabbath and Maiden albums, but all of my favourite records are by the likes of Floyd, Genesis and Tull. I am a huge Floyd nut and you’ll hear those influences in a lot of our tracks, but I’m also a keen listener to a lot of traditional folk – those folky shenanigans seem to creep into our music from time to time.”
Among Gandalf’s Fist’s varied output is a concept album based around The Wizard Of Oz (Road To Darkness), an EP that pays fond tribute to their Cumbrian roots (Songs From The Solway) and, most extraordinary of all, a simian-amphibian opus called The Master And The Monkey.
“That was based on a short story I wrote about a talking, legless frog who rode around in the hat on a monkey’s head,” Marsh explains, matter-of-factly.
Severn chuckles: “Luke was sat in the pub, going on that he had written this crazy story about a frog called Pierre du Gâteau. It wore a fez, liked to gamble and win money from drunken pelicans… naturally, I thought this was album material.” Well, that goes without saying!
Having recently signed a deal with US label Out Of The Box Records, next on the pair’s off-kilter agenda is an album called From A Point Of Existence.
Severn: “You know how we said we weren’t Tolkien obsessives? Well, it’s loosely based on the Hobbit story – it’s The Hobbit meets Blade Runner.”
Marsh expands: “It’s basically The Hobbit, but with the fantasy elements removed and a whole lot of wacky stuff thrown in instead. Instead of a dragon you’ve got a ruthless business tycoon; instead of a hobbit you have an ice-cream salesman. The
title track is very much Van der Graaf Generator meets Queensrÿche.”
Can the wacky world of Gandalf’s Fist get any crazier? Yes, probably…
LINE-UP: Dean Marsh (guitar, bass, drums, synthesisers), Luke Severn (vocals)
SOUNDS LIKE: From sea shanties to heavy metal, there are no boundaries for these self-styled medieval space rockers
This article originally appeared in issue 28 of Prog Magazine.