My Yorkshire: Snake Davis on his favourite people and places

Saxophonist Snake Davis.
Saxophonist Snake Davis.
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Snake Davis played sax for M People and toured with Lisa Stansfield, Heather Small and the Eurythmics. He moved to Harrogate in his teens, studied at Leeds College of Music and lives in North Lincolnshire with his partner Sally.

What’s your first memory of being outdoors? That would be filling up my little brother’s pram with sand. Yes, he was in it and yes, I was burying him. I’m sure Freud would have the answer to some deep, dark psychological moment I was having. I’m not sure it’s an actual memory as I’ve been shown the hard evidence in terms of photographs so feel as though I remember it.

A perfect weekend for Snake Davis would involve a day's mountain biking in Pateley Bridge. Picture by Tony Johnson.

A perfect weekend for Snake Davis would involve a day's mountain biking in Pateley Bridge. Picture by Tony Johnson.

What’s your favourite part of the county and why? At present it would have to be the limestone area around Grassington. I’ve played the Grassington Festival for the past five years and am looking forward to doing it again this year, but last year I played as Snake in the Wild, leading 80 hapless audience members on a two-mile hike around Threshfield Quarry playing in valleys, by a lake and in disused quarry areas. Each location had fabulous acoustics that brought about an amazing mix of music and nature. It’s such a beautiful area for walking and I found the experience profoundly inspiring.

What’s your idea of a perfect weekend/day out in Yorkshire? My brother Duncan, who fortunately came through unscathed and shows no signs of being emotionally scarred from the sand burial attempt, is a mad keen cyclist and once allowed my son William and me to accompany him on a day’s mountain biking in the Pateley Bridge area. We’re very close and to be in the fresh air in Yorkshire with my brother, that’s a perfect day.

Do you have a favourite walk, or view? That would have to be the Snake in the Wild walk.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star (past or present) would you like to take for lunch, and why? It would always be my good friend the Barnsley Bard and Yorkshire Post columnist Ian McMillan. He is simply fantastic company and a brilliant wordsmith. We’ve been involved in some unique entertainment including the annual Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race and have performed together at Simon Thackray’s excellent off-the-wall evenings at The Shed in North Yorkshire and at the much-missed Beverley Playhouse. If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what or where would it be? On the Snake in the Wild walk we found a quarry lake that was so beautifully blue I named it Glacier Bay to the audience. I believe it has only recently been opened to the public.

Miles Gilderdale is the Yorkshire performer Snake Davis most admires.

Miles Gilderdale is the Yorkshire performer Snake Davis most admires.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity? It’s that straight speaking, gruff, down-to-earth, deadpan and at the same time jovial spirit that sets Yorkshire people apart, with that slightly ironic half smile and humorous delivery while often playing up to the stereotypes such as being tight with money. Yorkshire audiences are also really warm-hearted. It’s different elsewhere.

Do you follow sport in Yorkshire? Not really but I was very excited when Le Grand Départ came to the county and the Tour de Yorkshire is a wonderful event. I was playing in Stokesley marketplace when the race came through.

How do you immerse yourself in Yorkshire’s cultural life? I enjoy the culture of Yorkshire brewing, particularly in the Old Bell in Harrogate, where Theakston, Black Sheep and other real ales are at their best.

Do you have a favourite restaurant or pub? As we’ve just mentioned the pub, I’ll go with my favourite restaurant. It’s called Ogino in Beverley and is a Japanese restaurant. I’m a massive fan of Japanese food. I’ve toured the country at least 20 times and if you added all the time together I’d have been resident for two years.

Do you have a favourite food shop? I’m never allowed to go to Harrogate unless I visit the Cheeseboard where Ribblesdale Blue is always high on our list.

Do you ever find yourself ‘selling’ Yorkshire to others? Yes. Often I appear to be doing it without realising, but spreading the word about Yorkshire and its charm around the world comes through in the various stories I tell in concert.

How has Yorkshire influenced your work? The blossoming of my career happened in Yorkshire while I was living in Harrogate and studying in Leeds. My first soul band Snake Davis and His Alligator Shoes was put together with guys who lived in Leeds.

Name your favourite Yorkshire author/artist/performer.? Miles 
Gilderdale. We were together in Zoot & The Roots. He’s a tremendous musician, writer and a great friend.

What are you working on at the moment? I have a lot of tour dates in various guises this year, but the main one is the Classic Sax Solos tour and the second Classic Sax Solos album. I’m in pre-production for a show with Kiki Dee who recorded an album on Motown’s Tamla Records label early in her career and has never performed the songs from that live.

Check out all Snake’s tour dates at www.snakedavis.rocks