by Michael Popke
Jem Godfrey, perhaps best known in Britain for producing that country's popular girl group Atomic Kitten (and wearing the white shirt in the image on the left), went prog several years ago with a collective known as Frost*. But he looked back more than once, and now — in a brutal, startlingly honest announcement in the band's online forum — he’s seemingly put Frost* on ice for good:
There’s not really an easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it. I’ve decided to suspend the Frost project with immediate effect. If this were somebody else’s band, I’d just say I was leaving, it would be so much easier, but it’s not so easy when you’ve created the band in the first place…
The reasons are many - I don’t feel comfortable any longer in the role of singer/front man/keyboard player/principle songwriter/principle cheque writer. Truth be told, I never have. It’s all got a bit out of hand from the gently self-mocking studio project I started for fun in a shed in East Sussex in May 2004 when I was young and happy and it was always sunny.
More than that, though, trying to juggle two full-time careers as I have over the last 7 years has been a tough task and has ultimately become a price too high to pay in certain areas of my life. One of which is my health. I’ve been to a very dark place over the last 8 days and ended up in a pretty bad way. Although I’m now emerging out the other side (a stone lighter into the bargain), I have realised that I have some serious issues I must address. I’m no longer young, I’m no longer happy and the sun is no longer shining.
These issues have made me realise that life is sometimes about doing what you must do when the time comes, regardless of what other people might want or expect of you. Some things are bigger than music or bands, expectation or disappointment. Figuratively speaking, I’ve now been given a yellow card and my priority now is to get myself back together before I get sent off for good.
So what now?
Nothing. I’m going to go to ground for a bit. Be private. Grow some veg. Get well.
And reflect. It’s been an amazing journey full of brilliant moments. Too many to list, I’m sorry it’s stopped like this, so abruptly, but I’ve been at my wits end lately and I’m no use to anybody in an urn.
I hope you’ll understand. Thank you for being brilliant.
I must say, even if you’ve never heard a note of Frost*’s music — and I’m betting many readers haven’t — this is devastating news. To witness a man crumble as Godfrey does in his closing paragraphs puts music (and not just Frost*’s music) in much-needed perspective.
Godfrey has frozen Frost* before, most publicly following the release of 2006’s love-it-or-hate-it debut Milliontown, recorded with members of IQ, Arena and It Bites.
That was the wrong thing to do, Godfrey (at the time, a 37-year-old father of three children under the age of 4) told me less than a year ago. “I completely adore being in the studio, making albums and being a part of the whole brilliant magic that goes into the writing and recording process,” he said. “What I dislike quite strongly is gigging. We did a show [recently], and I had to leave at 7 a.m. on Saturday, drive five hours to the gig, do the gig and then come home the next day. The journey home took seven hours because there was a big accident on the motorway. It totally wiped my weekend out, took me away from my family for two days, and all for 90 minutes’ worth of average work. I played terribly."
Frost* eventually thawed out and went on to record Experiments in Mass Appeal, a powerfully moody and riveting album that blurs the lines between symphonic prog, hard rock, progressive metal and indie pop. It features soaring vocals from ex-Darwin’s Radio singer Declan Burke and met with critical acclaim.
I’ll admit that I almost hated Milliontown, but Experiments in Mass Appeal, well, appealed to me. A lot. Frost* even released a two-CD/DVD set last year called The Philadelphia Experiment, recorded at the Rites of Spring Festival in Pennsylvania, and it became one of my favorite live albums of 2010.
Maybe Godfrey was never completely comfortable on the prog stage, and perhaps that’s why he appears to have trouble making up his mind about the future of his music and the Frost* brand. But now it's clear he needs a real break, and no one can blame him. Stay warm, Jem.