The Hatchery - An act of remembrance

When Greenbelt invited us to do a one-off reunion gig to celebrate 30 years of the festival, a remembrance began which took us by surprise: we realised that we had really enjoyed being in Eden Burning and that we were really quite proud of what we did.

That we’re all still friends seven years after our last gig on Greenbelt’s mainstage in 1996 says a lot. We were friends before we were in a band. And that this reunion happened at Greenbelt meant a lot too. It was there that we grew up in public in the first half of the 90s.

Not that we were the best band there’s ever been. But we must have had something. Because – from our first gig in Cheltenham’s Café Tabac on a wet and windy Burns Night in 1990 to that last gig in 1996 – there were always lots of people to see us. And they really enjoyed what we did.

So why end it? Well, it was better than burning out, I guess. Better than just doing things for the sake of doing them. We’d had seven years of Eden Burning being our lives. And we felt the tug of a Spirit who always wants to make all things new. And it was satisfying to go out on a high.

We had grown up out of a Church youth group. We had rehearsed in a World War one pre-fab tin shed at our youth leader’s farm (The Hatchery). We were friends before the band and had remained friends throughout it. All this is somehow really important now we come to look back.

We just had this idea that making music together might be a way of expressing our way of seeing the world. And for seven years – by God’s grace – we had the chance to do just that. But to return to the start: it’s about you, too, the thousands who came to gigs and bought our albums.

Download The Songs Here

We seemed to touch a chord, not only in our lives, but in yours, too. And that’s the most amazing part about all this. People actually seemed to like and value what we did. So this ‘best of’ album is for those of you who remember Eden Burning like we do: with much fondness. We thank you all.

a potted history / discography

A ‘best of’ album is something we never imagined doing. But it’s been fun listening and choosing.

We’ve had to use live versions of our earliest material (from the Thin Walls album and Much More Than Near EP, recorded in 1990 and 1991 at FFG) because those first recordings only ever existed in analogue. Lucky we were still playing them when we recorded Smilingly Home in 1993.

In between those first cassette releases and Smilingly Home, we recorded our first CD album with David Pick at FFG in 1992. Vinegar and Brown Paper is a mellow affair. But it has a REM Green-ness and naivety about it that is still appealing.

Then, Smilingly Home marked the end of our first, night-after-night tour round the UK. Reeling from Plymouth to Aberdeen and back again, it recorded our homecoming gig in Cheltenham. Hundreds turned out and at last we managed to capture some of that raw, live energy ‘on tape’.

Neill, our inspirational mandolin player and main songwriter, left after that tour. We panicked for a while. But Charlie, who’d been travelling with us as our sound engineer, rose to the challenge, learned the jigs and reels and stepped ably into Neill’s shoes. The friends-first theme continued.

As for the songwriting, that was something we’d all have to learn to do. And quickly! By the end of 1993 we had the material ready for our next album. The first project recorded in David Pick’s newly converted FFG barn studios, 1994’s Mirth and Matter proved a dark and difficult album.

We toured endlessly throughout the rest of 1994 and we also released two singles later that year. You could be the Meadow and Be an Angel both got into the lower reaches of the charts, thanks to our loyal and huge fanbase. But all this self-financed and self-managed effort took its toll.

Nive became the next member to ‘retire’ – suffering with stress-related ill-health and realising that the rock ‘n’ roll schedule didn’t allow him to be a good dad to his newly born son, Jacob. The problem was, we didn’t have any close friends locally who could play bass guitar. What to do?

Auditioning for the first time, Mowf came on board in 1995 with his inimitable fretless bass skills and humility into the clique of life-long friends that was Eden Burning. It must have been hard. But Mowf was gracious and he loved the life: all that endless touring and service station food.

Our last album, Brink, was recorded in the autumn of 1995 – still at FFG studios, but this time with Mark Tucker at the helm. Brink marked our coming of age. We knew who we were, what we were capable of, and we’d learned how to write songs. We’d saved the best ‘til last.

The shows that toured this new material were some of the best we’d ever done. We were playing in pukka live music venues up and down the country all the time now. And by the time we played that farewell gig at Greenbelt 1996, we’d gone just about as far as we could go.

As the last song we wrote suggested, the friends who’d grown up together, mastered their instruments together, struggled in their Christian faith together, lived together, tried to love one another and God, and learned to write songs together, had been on an amazing journey.

“I never could play the guitar. But I wanted to. And wanting almost worked.”