July 31, 2015 Comments (0) Views: 6237 Events


Gagarin AKA Graham Dowdall is a prolific artist whose main sphere of operation is electronic music. From recording with such musical luminaries as Nico, Stephen Mallinder and Richard H Kirk to releasing on Yello’s Solid Pleasure label, his career started in the early 80’s as drummer for cult band Ludus. He is currently active under his Gagarin monicker , playing shows and remixing artists whilst also being a full time member of the legendary Pere Ubu. We asked him some questions about his genre defying career… 


How did you get involved with making music, what inspired you?

      I was brought up in musical environment. My Scots grandfather was a church organist and choir leader. I grew up singing all the time – I was a very good boy soprano and Scottish folk was the first music I engaged with. A very early memory is walking up and down the bass pedals of my grandad’s church organ. Then we had a piano in the house and I used to make up tunes on the keys and also the inside of the piano which I found much more exciting than the keys.

   Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Environmental sound both urban and pastoral, stuff I come across on the radio, abstract ideas, messing around with old synths.

    You were a member of Eric random and the bedlamites, a collective of luminaries feat stephen mallinder and richard h kirk ,how did you get involved with the sheffield scene?What was western works like as a studio?

I met Eric when I was in Ludus. We were signed to new Hormones and I hit it off with Eric straight away though there was a lot of competition between the bands. After being sacked from Ludus Eric asked me to join him to realise a big band version of Ravel’s Bolero which led to the Bedlamites. Eric knew everyone in Manchester and Sheffield and we started to do some recording at Western Works and again I found like minded souls in Mal and Richard. They were open minded, relaxed and experimental and working in the studio was great. It was ina post industrial wasteland and scruffy but had lots of great synths and other toys. It seemed that Clockwork Orange was always playing on a loop in the background or some weird art movie, herbal libation was regular and the vibe was always fun and creative. One day I was recording some bongoes under headphones. I had my eyes closed and was in the groove. I opened my eyes to see what seemed like a cloud of smoke emitting from the room and shouted ” the studio’s on fire “. It wasn’t – I had been stamping my feet as I played and it was a cloud of dust coming up from the carpet.

  You worked and toured with Nico , how did this come about? What was it like working with Nico?

Same week I got sacked from Ludus I got lots of invites and one was from Al Wise who became her manager asking me to join a band he was putting together for her. I jumped at the chance and met her in a studio on the Bury new Road. Like everything else in Manchester those days it was a messy place and the mics didn’t work but Nico sat right next to me and when she started to sing every hair on my body stood on end. Incredible. Working her was variable – to begin with she was a smack addict and so things could get very messy especially if she was without. However she rarely put on a bad show. She could be moody like everyone but was frankly a joy to work with – open minded and encouraging. She was a good mate as well as an incredible performer.

     The rave culture boom of the late 80’s –  as a primarily electronic artist, was it an exciting development and logical progression to you culturally? How did Sonexuno come into being?

For me it was much more exciting than punk as the music was much more to my taste. I loved the DIY ethic too. I’d always loved electronic music and had been using syndrums and samplers since they were invented. I’d grown up loving a wide range of music from avant garde to disco and I Feel Love was and is one of my fav tracks of all time. So Rave seemed logical for me though I was already a bit old for scarfing loads of Doves and staying up all weekend. It was a multi cultural scene and pretty anarchic. After Nico died I’d worked with James Young in Faction with Sharon Quinn singing but wanted to go a bit more dancey so started working with just Sharon originally then a couple of DJ mates sitting in. We made a track Alchemy which I got Richard H Kirk to remix. It did pretty well and gave us the chance to play lots of club rave events and also to do that drive around record shops selling vinyl thing. Good days.

   How did Gagarin come about? What inspired the project’s genesis?

I was on tour in Russia and Yakutia with a very weird band Infidel and Sonexuno at the Britronica festival in Moscow. I heard lots of great electronica acts and was inspired to do a solo thing where I could just pursue exactly what I wanted instrumentally. I chose Gagarin because of the russian influence and also the retro futurist thing which is central to the Gagarin ethos. I’d always admired Gagarin – the ambition of going into space where no-one else had been – aiming for the stars literally.

   How did you end up as a member of Pere Ubu?

Infidel was led by a guy called Nick Hobbs who was also a manager of people including Pere Ubu. David Thomas had a side project 2 Pale Boys with two mates Keith Moline and Andy Diagram. Andy couldn’t do a short tour so Nick suggested I depped. I met David and we hit it off. Over the next few years I depped in 2PBs and he asked me to do live sound for various projects.  One thing led to another and eventually a call from David when he said ” Dids, I’m afraid I’m going to have to sack you as soundman…pause…cos I want you to join the band.

  Do you have any stories,anecdotes funny or otherwise you would care to share from your career?

Too many to start on – you’ll have to read my eventual autobiography when I have time to write it. Being on tour produces so many great tales of weird characters, events, places so it would be remiss of me not to commit some fo them to paper in due course. At the moment I’m too busy to think about the past too much.

   What current music are you a fan of?

Actress, Lacker, Stickin the wheel.

    Have you ever written a soundtrack for a film? if not is it something you would consider?

I’ve done little bits and pieces but that’s something I would really like to do. I think my music would really suit that medium. early on I did a lot of contemporary dance and theatre stuff and I think I have a talent for narrative and mood that would work in film.

   What are you currently working on and what are your plans for the future?Also Is there work by one of your projects you would like to reissue or bring more into public  focus?

Doing a few remixes at the moment and about to do stuff for the next Ubu album. Lots of my old stuff deserved more attention but I’m not really interested in looking backwards. I love the fact that these days people can find all sorts of obscure things and hopefully people will naturally come across some interesting old stuff.

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