Leeds is in for a very special treat on Saturday July 19th as former Cardiacs songwriter and keyboardist and North Sea Radio Orchestra collaborator William D Drake comes to the city for a one-off Yorkshire date. Performing in the hallowed surroundings of the Holy Trinity Church he'll be playing songs with his bombastic nine-piece band as well as treating the audience to some of his florid, Debussy-influenced solo piano work.
Over the years keyboard maestro William D Drake has performed with a variety of bands including The Sea Nymphs, Nervous, prog-goth band Lafaye, folk outfit Lake Of Puppies and country rockers Wood, but he will probably always be best known for his involvement with the Cardiacs, the band whose chart success has been inversely proportional to the influence they've subsequently had on the likes of Blur, the Super Furry Animals, System Of A Down and Oceansize.
There's a story that founding member Tim Smith formed the Cardiacs merely to get revenge on his brother Jim for all the unkind things he'd done to him as an infant. Tim planned to form a band whose music was so bizarre and complicated that no sane person could possibly enjoy it, and as a result make his brother look a twit trying to perform it on stage.
Unfortunately for Tim the plan backfired. There proved to be plenty of not-quite-sane people who loved the Cardiacs' dizzyingly complex, zig-zagging prog-punk fairground carousel of joyful nuttiness, complete with, according to Tim, "key changes that make your tummy go funny" and lyrics that appear to have been penned by a seriously disturbed children's author.
When Smith chanced upon William D Drake playing piano in the back of pub in 1983, he quickly jotted down a complicated piece of music and challenged him to play it. When Drake performed it with ease, Smith informed him that he was now a member of the Cardiacs – whether he liked it or not.
Drake proved to be a useful addition to the band and played a vital part in shaping their sound during their most successful period, contributing to the albums Big Ship, A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window and On Land And In The Sea, and joining the band for a memorable performance of their single Tarred and Feathered on Channel 4's fondly remembered music show The Tube in 1987.
Marillion's front man Fish was such a big fan of the Cardiacs that he invited them to join the band on their international tour. The fans didn't share the big Scot's enthusiasm, however, and greeted the Cardiacs with such venom that they had to be pulled from the final leg of the tour.
Drake parted company with the band in 1990 but returned with his trusty Television Organ – reputedly built from an old telly – to contribute to the band's 1992 album Heaven Born And Ever Bright.
Since then Drake's been busy working with a host of bands, most notably the brilliant contemporary chamber orchestra, the North Sea Radio Orchestra.
He's also been hard at work on his solo material and last year simultaneously released two albums – Briny Hooves, a band-based album, and Yew's Paw, an album of instrumental piano works.
Evaluating the albums, Word magazine said that Drake "tramples over boundaries of genre and sanity" and concluded that "this bloke might be a genius".
Sure enough, Briny Hooves is a dark and potent brew that reveals just what an instrumental part Drake played in the Cardiacs' idiosyncratic compositions, right down to the eccentric inventiveness, the sudden, queasy chord shifts, the ornate flourishes, the quirky instrumentation and the inclusion of what sounds to be a slightly worse-for-wear village band abducted from the marquee at a drenched summer fete taking place some time during the First World War. Kind of.
It's psychedelic music, but not the sort made by slackers taking fancy drugs invented by US government scientists, rather the product of taking something mind-expanding that Dr Jekyll left sat on his lab bench.
Let's just say it makes your average indie band sound as colourless, derivative, joyless and bland as Westlife.
William D Drake and 'his so-called friends' perform at the Holy Trinity Church this Saturday. Tickets are 7 and are available from Crash and Jumbo Records.
Check out William D Drake here
Drake's old muckers the Cardiacs are also set to play what promises to be an unmissable gig in Leeds. Tim Smith and pals will be taking to the stage at The Cockpit on November 16. Check out www.thecockpit.co.uk for more details.