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Who are Hanging the Star?

Hanging The Star is the music of Alx Leeks and collaborator/producer Alan Miller.

The group is a collective of friends. The songs are collection of life stories.

Some of the stories are completely new but others were written a decade ago. The older songs were never loved, never recorded or performed. No-one ever heard them. Thanks to Alan Miller and his persistence they have now been transformed from scribbled lyrics and handwritten melodies.

2012 saw the first EP launch and performance of Hanging the Star take place at Bush Hall in London and more shows are going to take place in 2013 with a smaller group and various members of the collective.

The Collective is a transient group but the core members are myself and my brother Jimmy Norden (percussion), who regularly performs all over the globe with artistes such as Alice Russell, Beth Rowley, Badass Brass and Beth Hirsch. I’m also lucky to have upright/bass guitarist Adam King who has more than established himself on the jazz music scene in recent years as well bagging a first class honours in BA Jazz Studies. The live band also includes the immensely talented guitarist Michael Winawer and my friend from university days, Mr Paul Silver, on keys. The collective also includes designers, photographers and other creative individuals which makes it more of an experience than a music group sometimes!

Alx Leeks’s Biog:
I didn’t need that much encouragement to start the album but life kept getting in the way of finishing it. I didn’t really consider myself as a writer or composer either, but all the musical training I had received during my life seemed to awaken as soon as I started. I had often wondered how much of my education had been ingrained into my subconscious and as I started to finish the compositions I realised that not only was I inherently drawing upon what I’d learned over decades but I was also recording very organically. Better late than never I supposed. By writing for the musicians I knew I had on offer and recording at Alan’s home studio, (often with his dog Billy sleeping on the couch next to me) it became a very earthy, grounding experience. Alan and I would end up working hard for a couple of months but then both of us would get involved in another project and Hanging the Star would get shelved again. I eventually had enough of putting my life on hold and over the last 18 months we slowly started CPR and brought the songs back to life.

For me it’s all about the melody and the lyrics. A lot of these lyrics were written first, some almost a decade ago, and the melodies came later when the stories to each song started to escape from my imagination. I love the idea of word painting – creating music that reflects the literal meaning of a song, how the peaks and flow of the lyrics almost dictate how the melody is going to evolve and vice versa. What I’ve done was probably very much from the subconscious because it has felt very natural getting to the point where I can see my lyrics reflected within the melodies I’ve written. Alan always told me to ‘get into the story’ when recording my vocals and I hope that you’ll hear that when you listen.

I owe my singing career to Norman Edwards, a big band leader from my home town, who recognised some potential in me aged 16 and signed me up to sing with his band. This was the first time I had sung with a microphone as a soloist. Two years later and with a stack of jazz standards under my belt, I emerged knowing that singing was the way forward. Turning down places I’d been offered at Music College to study classical oboe I decided that a more diverse music degree was what I needed so I took a place at City University in London and never looked back.

Between performance modules and writing a thesis on Glam Rock I formed the band Manalishi (the band that broke my heart) with guitarist PJ Norman during our second year, added Jimmy on drums and good friends Rupert on bass and Gino on guitar. Named after the Fleetwod Mac / Peter Green song about money and the devil, Manalishi played the London circuit for many years, recorded two albums at Foel Studios in Wales with Dave Anderson but never really understood what kind of music we were creating. With hindsight (and my current work with bands such as Anathema and Porcupine Tree), I guess we were probably an atmospheric prog rock band. No-one really liked prog in the late 1990s. During our evolution the irony of the band’s name became apparent as we tried not to conform to a commercial model and just do our own thing. Despite much critical acclaim, including from Green himself, Manalishi parted ways in 2004 going on to play in various UK based acts including Ice Cold In Alex, Death By Sadie, tKatKa, Alice Russell, Chancery Blame and the Gadjo Club and Lazy Habits. Pete’s in NYC, Gino’s in Australia, Rups is in the Midlands, Jimmy’s in London.

I met my producer Alan in Hertford. He would get me to sing backing vocals on anything he was working on and I was happy to be making music (with a man who really doesn’t realise how talented he is) and producer who is an incredible guitarist too.

Took a long time to get it together but this album is organically grown in Al’s studio from friendship, fuelled by jelly beans and strong coffee (go on then, one sugar) made by Helen. Oh…and the odd bottle of red……