Category Archives: Interviews

2020 in Darren’s music blog – the ten most popular posts of the year

I wish everyone a happy New Year. My special thanks go to all those who have visited (and hopefully enjoyed) Darren’s music blog during 2020. Weirdly, although I originally started this blog nearly seven years ago mainly to cover live gig reviews, I’ve had far more visits to my site this year than any previous year. This is in spite of all the gigs (and the gig reviews!) stopping in March.

Anyway, as we look back over the year here are my ten most popular blog posts from 2020. Although I’ve covered the usual eclectic range of metal, folk, Americana, brit pop, rock n roll and glam rock this year, it seems that people were particularly seeking out my glam content this year. Glam ended up pulling in eight of the ten top slots. Here they are in order of popularity…

1. Veteran drummer Don Powell out of Slade

When Don Powell announced he had been sacked from Dave Hill’s continuing version of Slade it came as a shock to many, eventually being covered extensively in the music press and the tabloids. I posted the sad news up on my blog within minutes of it being announced on Don Powell’s Facebook page – I was first to report it and for the first 24 hours pretty much the only one to report it. My post went viral and was shared all around the world.

Read full post here

2. Glitter, glam and Blackpool rock: interview with glam rock legend John Rossall

Following the release of his highly acclaimed new album ‘The Last Glam In Town’ I talk to former Glitter Band legend, John Rossall. Our chat covers glam rock, show bands, growing up in Blackpool and, of course, John’s new album and the prospect of touring again post-Covid.

Read full post here

3. Sweet launch video to promote new single ‘Still Got The Rock’ and forthcoming album ‘Isolation Boulevard’

Sweet’s ‘Still Got The Rock’ single was released in digital format in December followed by the digital release of new album Isolation Boulevard. The single is reworking of a song that first appeared as a newly-recorded bonus track on the 2015 Sweet compilation album Action: The Ultimate Story, by the band’s previous line-up. The new version features the current line-up of Andy Scott, Bruce Bisland, Lee Small and Paul Manzi.

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4. Before glam: the debut 60s singles of Bowie, Bolan, Slade, Mud and Sweet

When glam rock burst into the UK pop charts in the early 1970s the genre may have appeared all shiny and new and suitably outrageous but many of its lead players had been trying to make their all-important breakthrough in the previous decade. Five of the acts we look at here all released their debut singles in the mid to late 60s.

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5. Slade legend Jim Lea releases video footage in bid to locate recently stolen guitar

Founder members of Slade were not having much luck at the start of the year. Jim Lea’s cherished Fender Stratocaster was stolen in central London on 31st January. He released a video in the hope that it will prompt members of the public in helping reunite him with his guitar.

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6. Live review: Supergrass at Alexandra Palace 6/3/20

The only live review to make the top ten this year, this Ally Pally gig from the Supergrass reunion tour was actually my penultimate live gig before lockdown. (I managed Glen Matlock at the 100 Club the night after). Without a doubt, for me, the greatest band of the Britpop era, I was at the Brixton Academy on the Supergrass farewell tour in 2010 and ten years later I was excited to be their for the their first of two nights at Alexandra Palace on the long-awaited reunion tour.

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7. Death of a glam icon – Steve Priest: 1948-2020

Steve Priest, bass-player with the Sweet and an icon of 70s glam rock sadly passed away in June following an illness that had hospitalised him. In an emotional post on his band’s Facebook page, former band-mate Andy Scott paid tribute to the best bassist he ever worked with. A phenomenal bass-player whose harmony vocals were an essential part of the band’s classic sound Steve Priest we salute you – a true glam rock icon.

Full post here

8. Slade at No. 8 in the UK albums chart – their highest position since 1974!

I was well chuffed to see Slade’s new greatest hits compilation Cum On Feel The Hitz go straight in at No. 8 in the UK’s album charts back in October. This was the band’s highest ranking in the UK album charts since Slade In Flame was released back in 1974. Even during the days of the band’s early 80s comeback, a decade after glam, Slade albums were still struggling to make it to the Top 40, even when they had a second run of hit singles.

Full post here

9. Slade’s Don Powell recovering from stroke

The run of bad luck for Slade icons in the early part of the year continued. Don Powell, suffered a stroke on Saturday 29th February at his home in Denmark. Fortunately, his step-daughter Emilie, a doctor, was with him when it happened and was able to act swiftly to call an ambulance and get him to hospital. His wife Hanne released a statement and Jim Lea and Andy Scott both sent their best wishes.

Full post here

10. ‘Confess’ by Rob Halford – a gay heavy metal fan reviews the Metal God’s autobiography

As someone who became a Judas Priest fan not long after my dad brought home a newly-released copy of ‘British Steel’ back when I was a young teenager, and as someone who has known they were gay from around that same time I was particularly keen to read Halford’s memoir. There is a fair bit of revelatory gossip and down to earth black country humour but there are many segments that are deeply, deeply moving, too. One of the best rock biogs in ages.

Read full post here

Related post:

2019 in Darren’s music blog

Glitter, glam and Blackpool rock: interview with glam rock legend John Rossall

Following the release of his highly acclaimed new album ‘The Last Glam In Town’ I talk to former Glitter Band legend, John Rossall. Our chat covers glam rock, show bands, growing up in Blackpool and, of course, John’s new album and the prospect of touring again post-Covid.

The last glam in town – that’s quite a statement isn’t it?

People have their own perspectives and thoughts on it. I just wanted to do an album. I’ve not done one for years and years, well forty-odd years, of original songs. But, yeah, I think it’s a bit of a statement really.

It’s such an authentic sound on the album that really captures the original spirit of glam. What was the experience like in the studio, making a glam rock album in the 2020s rather than the 1970s?

Well, for a start in the 70s you were actually in the room with somebody. If anybody was going to record something, they actually came in the studio to do it. You couldn’t have a guitar player playing his part in, say, Berlin and the drummer drumming in Stockholm. That’s a change. That took me a while to get used to.

Clearly it worked! Did you find the technology helped you create that glam sound even though it was recorded in a completely different context?

In some ways it did. But you have to write the song first before you worry about the technology. But I knew what I wanted to do before I started recording. I wanted to update what we did – the Glitter sound, basically. I wanted to bring it right up to the twenty-first century. It’s not been played on radio stations for quite a long time and I kind of wanted to update it. Make the drums a bit more powerful and make one or two subtle changes. But the main ingredients of it, the original production – I wanted to keep some of that magic in it.

You must be very encouraged with the reviews so far?

Yes, I am. It’s like I’ve written them myself almost! It’s a surprise. The reviews everywhere – it’s been beyond my wildest dreams really.

Tell us about some of the people you collaborated with on the album.

I had a few people. Apart from my touring band – that was the basic bottom line – but I had different guests on different songs. For instance, Jon Robb from the Membranes, we got together. I wanted to take the Glitter thing to a bit of a dark side, an almost avant-garde thing. And I found that the most challenging thing, to update it in that way but keep the roots of it still there, you know. Also, I worked with Robert Lloyd from the Nightingales. I recorded three songs with him and also Mark Standby, who’s a long-time collaborator. He was in my band about twenty years ago. He lives in Berlin now. I got Bob Bradbury from Hello to write a song for me. I wanted him to do one where we produce a kind of tribal feel with the drums. And then I got Michael (Wikman) from Sweden who plays the drum track on that. Of course, not forgetting Alan Merrill from the Arrows who wrote ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’ who wrote a song for me (‘Equaliser’) not long before he passed away, a couple of months later.

That was written especially for you for this album, was it?

Yes. We knew each other quite well in the 70s, obviously. But you know, over the years you kind of lose touch, like you do. But in the last five years we reconnected and did about three short tours in the UK. And the magic – he was still the same guy. I really enjoyed the tours we did with him and it’s so sad he never got to hear the finished thing. He actually plays guitar and does backing vocals on there.

Some of the songs on the album are really personal to you, aren’t they, like ‘Blackpool Rocks’?

Well there’s quite a lot of songs about Blackpool that I learnt when I was growing up. Most of them by the great legend George Formby – ‘My Little Stick of Blackpool Rock’ and ‘Cleaning Windows’ and all that kind of thing. But I kind of wanted to do one that went over my childhood. I grew up in Blackpool. My dad was in quite a famous Blackpool band in the Empress Ballroom. He played there for twenty years and as a kid, aged about 10 or 11, I used to go down there about once a week. And I used to stand at the side of the stage. Of course, I liked swing bands when I was about 10, 11, 12. And because he worked at the Tower Company, Winter Gardens we used to get a lot of free tickets to the summer season shows. And the whole atmosphere of Blackpool in the 50s was amazing. And that’s what basically the song is about. My childhood, Blackpool in the summer and my dad, who was still my mentor, even after all these years. So that’s what that was about. I was quite happy when it was done although it was one of the hardest songs to write on the album, actually.

If we can now go back to the very early days of your career. You were leading the Boston Show Band in the late 60s and early 70s and they morphed into the Glitter Band. We tend to think of show bands as mainly an Irish thing, but you were an English band working in Germany, weren’t you?

My first professional job, earning a living, was in an Irish show band. And I lived in Ireland for a few years. And then I joined the Mike Leander Show Band, which was an eleven-piece band, back in 1965. We did an eleven-week tour, an old-fashioned kind of package tour with the Bachelors headlining and people like Susan Maughan. And then the band disbanded and I didn’t know what to do and I thought I’ll start my own band. And that’s what I did a few months after that. Got an act together, got some guys together and we went across to Germany in 1966 and we stayed there for about nearly six years. Of course, there were personnel changes, people leave, somebody wants to settle down and when they got home sick, they’d want to go back to the UK. But I enjoyed doing it. We worked together with Paul Raven (Gary Glitter) during that time. And we kind of split really beginning of 72. We were touring the UK quite heavily. And myself and Harvey Ellison, the other sax player in the band, we had laid some notes down on ‘Rock and Roll (Part 2)’ in December of 71 and we thought the record had fizzled out. Then I got a call from Mike Leander around about the beginning of June of 72. And he asked whether we’d like to re-acquaint ourselves and work with Paul Raven again with ‘Rock and Roll (Part 2)’. And I thought yeah, we’ll do that. We were doing quite well and had some records as the Boston Showband at that time and I did make it a condition – and I liked the idea of Mike Leander producing – I did make it a condition that we would get to do a record after a reasonable amount of time, which we did.

And how many albums did you do with the Glitter Band then?

I did two.

People wouldn’t necessarily think show band to glam rock as the obvious route. But there were parts of the show band sound that became an integral part of the Glitter Band sound weren’t there?

The main thing was that most bands and groups around, they were just guitars and drums and maybe keyboards. Not a lot of them had sax and brass so that was correct. And, of course, in my very early days as a teenager in Blackpool I was playing in brass bands. And ‘Angel Face’ that’s got a kind of brass band feel about it, with the drums and the way the brass section goes especially in the middle eight. Some of those ideas, of course are apparent on the new album. As I said, I only did two albums with the Glitter Band back in the 70s, but this album is kind of the album I missed out on – that I wanted to make. Because when I left, I felt I had unfinished business with the band. I wanted the band to do something in America. We’d done it in the UK and Europe but to me the job was only half done. And I left.

So, this album isn’t just a career renaissance for you it’s actually a career highlight in terms of albums then?

Yeah, it is. When I started making the album it never entered my head, I was going to make a 70s album or a glam album. It’s just me. I’m the guy who wrote those songs in the 70s. And I’m a lot older now and more mature obviously – I hope! And I write songs now. And it’s people who are listening who put you where they think you should be. And it wasn’t a nostalgic album either. I just wanted to make a brand new statement and update the Glitter sound and do some fun songs. And that’s what this is about – having fun really, nothing serious.

You left the Glitter Band in the mid-70s for a solo career. For those who are maybe not familiar with your career since then do you want to just briefly sum up what you did musically between the Glitter Band and now with this album?

Well I did a couple of singles which were quite decent, but I was quite unlucky actually. One was playlisted everywhere. A song called ‘It’s No Use You Telling Me No’ a song I did with Twentieth Century Fox. And lo and behold just as it was coming out, they decided to close their UK office down. And we tried to buy the master back to give it to another record company, but they wouldn’t let us have it. And I was quite disillusioned. Then I went to Sweden for quite a few years. I was relatively unknown there. I thought my music was done but after a couple of years it never really leaves you. And I got a band together – Swedish guys – with the idea of just playing a few gigs, getting together at the weekends just for a bit of fun. But then I started getting invitations to go to Germany playing festivals. Big festivals, a couple of trips to the UK and, of course, it like reawakens you – the hunger. So, we were touring, quite a bit and shows in the UK. Not with any original music just mainly the old hits. And about two years ago I thought it would be nice to go on tour, make a new album with some brand-new songs and that would give me something new and creative. Well, of course, I got the album bit done and I should be on tour really now but obviously I’m not.

Yes, that’s something that’s affected every musician.

That’s the luck again! It strikes!

So, what are your plans now this album is out and assuming at some point venues reopen and we can start seeing live gigs again?

Hopefully, we’ll still tour the album, albeit next March, April, May – whenever we’re allowed to and it’s safe to do so, of course. That’s my immediate plan. Of course, the album’s only been released a couple of weeks so it’s still early days for it. We’ll have to see how we go with the album, really, and then that will decide what I do. But if it remains the same as now, I’ll probably go out and promote the album and do some shows. I still enjoy playing live. It’s still a great feeling you know.

And still going out there playing music. You could be the Jerry Lee Lewis of glam rock. The last glam standing?

Yes well. If the cap fits, yes!

Anything else you want to say?

Well I just hope people give it a chance, give it a good listen to and go out and buy it obviously. And I hope I can perform it next year on some live shows. I know through social media that people really want me to tour the album and that’s what I’ll try to do. So, all I want to say is I hope everyone gets through this alright and we can carry on and life gets back to something a bit like more like normal for us all.

Thanks to Claire Moat and Anne Street for their assistance in arranging this interview.

Related post:

Album review: Rossall – The Last Glam In Town

“We were never about making the same album twice” – Led Zeppelin III: 50th anniversary interviews

October 2020 marks fifty years since the release of the Led Zeppelin III album. Greater Manchester Rock Radio’s Stewart Taylor recently devoted one of his ‘Classic Albums’ shows to celebrating the album’s anniversary. The show included exclusive interviews with all three surviving members of the band. GMRR have kindly shared those recollections from Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones for this piece.

Led Zeppelin III showed a marked progression in style from the previous two albums where the hard rock and blues influences were accompanied by folk influences and acoustic-based tunes. To begin preparing for the band’s third album Page and Plant had decamped to the isolated Bron-Yr-Aur cottage in Wales:

Jimmy Page: “The creative process for Led Zeppelin III changed because the first album had been – I wouldn’t say in a hurry because it was done efficiently and from the period before that we had already started doing a few dates in Scandinavia – and we didn’t stop! We didn’t stop working, all the way through 1969. And we’d managed to do the second album and we were also doing dates and tours in America. And we got our first – what you would call a break. And it was nice because it was fabulous all the energy of being on the road. But it was nice to breathe a sigh of relief and take in the general scent of the countryside… There was still writing going on but it wasn’t the frantic pace of having to do a show that night. The cottage in Wales was one of Robert’s ideas… It was good because it was acoustic guitars and whatever. There was literally no electricity. It was log fire, gas lights and little tape recorders. So the electricity that was in that place was the electricity we were producing with the music if you like.”

Robert Plant: “It had been a real fast quite a rollercoaster to get to that point. From what I remember we really needed to take stock and we were very aware or wished to make a departure of some kind and to calm it all down a bit….We wanted to try and break off, break away and we had an affinity he and I. And even if it wasn’t absolutely the most fruitful moment of the time, it at least allowed us the space to have space. And that meant that when we went on to write further on down the line we had developed the ability to create more space in the music.”

The pair were then later joined by John Bonham and John Paul Jones at another location, Headley Grange:

John Paul Jones: “I suppose it was the first time we’d ever we just sat down together and just tried things, you know, tried lots of different things. We had acoustic instruments as well hanging around. And it was just really nice to sit around a stretch out a little bit I suppose and just experiment. The band was never about making the same album twice.”

On the decision to plant themselves firmly in the ‘albums band’ camp:

Jimmy Page: “It was really apparent what was going on in America. There’d been a number of FM stations that had been established. And these FM stations were playing what we’d now call alternative music – to the singles. And you’d even get to hear them playing a whole side of an album. And I thought – oh boy! This is wonderful. This is the area to go in. Not the singles market because the problem with the singles market, you’d have a single that everyone has worked on… and you’d find bands who did that, the rest of the album material wasn’t very good.  Because they were a singles market band. Not only that you’d find when they did the next album… they have to do something that sounded very much like the single off the first album so everyone knew who they were. We didn’t do that.”

Led Zeppelin III saw the band exploring more acoustic material:

Robert Plant: “The thing opened up much more then. Although it was there – I mean on the second album there was ‘Ramble On’ and on the first album there was ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You’. There was the kind of acoustic element. The variety was there. My performance I wasn’t that pleased with on the first and second but by the third… ‘Gallows Pole is one of my favourite tracks and ‘Immigrant Song’ is, too. They were just so far between the two. And that to me was the beginning of me actually saying yep, boy, you can do something. Rather than it all being in the one idiom if you like. So yeah, I started getting a bit of pride then”

At the end of the hour-long show each of three are asked for their final thoughts on the album, listening back on it now:

John Paul Jones: “Well it reminded me how good a band it was. Also, it reminded me how much I miss John Bonham.”

Robert Plant: “All we wanted to do was keep stretching. This is the whole thing about Led Zeppelin.”

Jimmy Page: “If the band was going to stay together then you could really start going on this road where these initial ideas are expanded…right over the horizon in every direction.”

Thanks to Greater Manchester Rock Radio. You can listen to the full hour-long programme on Soundcloud here:

Related post:

The night Jimmy Page asked if he could hang out with me

Photo Credit: cottage via Andy c/o Wiki

Fifty years of Lindisfarne – interview with founder member Rod Clements

Emerging from Tyneside at the start of the 1970s Lindisfarne quickly carved out a unique place for themselves as one of British rock’s most original bands. Their pioneering sound, combining acoustic instruments like mandolin and fiddle with their electric blues roots, proved the perfect medium to deliver the catchy, memorable songs provided by the band’s resident writers Alan Hull and Rod Clements.

Tragically, Alan Hull died in 1995 and the original band eventually called it a day in 2003. However, for several years now Lindisfarne have been back in business with a classic line-up of long-time members. Fronted by original founder-member Rod Clements and  Alan Hull’s son-in-law Dave Hull-Denholm, they are joined by Ian Thomson (who was with original band throughout the 1990s and early 2000s) on bass and Steve Daggett (who initially played with the band in the mid 1980s) on keyboards, along with fellow Geordie and former Roxy Music drummer, Paul Thompson.

Ahead of their fiftieth anniversary tour back in the spring I caught up with Rod Clements for this interview. Sadly, Covid came along and, like every other band, Lindisfarne’s 2020 tour had to be cancelled. Some new dates have now been scheduled for 2021 – check the band’s website here. Since this interview took place former band member Charlie Harcourt has also sadly passed away.

DJ: This tour marks the band’s fiftieth anniversary. What can fans expect?

RC: Fans can expect a celebration of the band with five good pals who’ve been working together now in this incarnation for six years. Everyone in the band, particularly, is at one with Lindisfarne. And we’ll be playing our handful of hits and lots of other stage and album favourites we’ve accrued over the years!

DJ: Ray Jackson reformed the band a few years ago and then he retired and you stepped in. What was it like coming back to Lindisfarne again and did you need much persuading?

RC: Well it came as a total surprise to me. I mean Ray, as you say, reformed the band. They actually went out under the name of Ray Jackson’s Lindisfarne which, to be honest, I didn’t think was a particularly good idea, in relation to the democratic spirit of the band. But, anyway, after that he decided to retire. The rest of them decided that they wanted to carry on and they asked me to rejoin – which was a complete surprise to me. It was a surprise when Jacka retired and then a further surprise when they asked me to rejoin. I wouldn’t say I jumped at it straight away. I was very, very pleased to have been asked but I had other things going on in my solo career which I wanted to clear and check out with other people before I made a decision. But everybody I spoke to said, “Yeah you should go for it”. And so I did. I accepted. And I’ve never regretted it once. It’s been great on several levels for me. I don’t know how much you know, Darren, about the current line-up. Have you ever seen us?

DJ: Oh yes, I saw you last time you were at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings two years ago. I really enjoyed it. Fantastic!

RC: Well there’s only been one change since then which is Charlie Harcourt has retired for health reasons so we are down to a five-piece. But I think, if anything, that makes us more of a dynamic, close-knit unit. No disrespect to Charlie, of course. Great bloke. Great musician. But I think we’re more tightly focused now.

DJ: And do you still keep in touch with other former members? Obviously two of the original five are no longer with us.

RC: We are in touch to an extent. We don’t see that much of each other. My focus is on the current band. But obviously sometimes messages go astray and things like that. So we’re in touch when we’re relaying them to the people they’re intended for. And there are historic business connections – old and miniscule royalty payments [laughs].

DJ: You need to make sure you don’t fight over the miniscule royalty payments!

RC: Indeed. It’s all very amicable over things like that.

DJ: You were in Jack the Lad at one point when three of you splintered off from Lindisfarne. Will you also be playing any Jack The Lad songs during this tour?

RC: Well we have done. I’m not sure if we’ve any planned for this time out. For instance ‘Why Can’t I Be Satisfied’ we’ve done with this line-up. That was Jack The Lad’s first single. And yeah – we may well do one or two of my other contributions.

DJ: There’s a website that lists all the bands that played on Hastings Pier in the 1960s and 1970s and so I checked and apparently Lindisfarne played there in January 1975 – but you wouldn’t have been in the band at that point I don’t believe? However, Jack The Lad did play the pier in March 1975. Any memories?

RC: I don’t think I would have been there! I think I’d left Jack The Lad by then and been replaced by Ian Fairbairn and Phil Murray.

DJ: So have you any memories of playing Hastings during the 70s heyday?

RC: Well I remember playing Hastings with a later line-up – although still including Alan (Hull). Because Alan was big friends with Kenny Craddock who lived in Hastings and Colin Gibson (both former Alan Hull/Lindisfarne collaborators). So we’ve had good connections with Hastings for a long time. Kenny, of course, is sadly no longer with us. But yeah it’s a nice town to visit. I think we feel a certain amount in common with it. It’s got a kind of a left-field feel about it. It’s a bit alternative.

DJ: And going right back fifty years ago here. You were in a band called Brethren who teamed up with the late Alan Hull and changed your name to Lindisfarne. Now I love that island. I’ve visited several times but who came up with Lindisfarne as the name for the band?

RC: Well, we were already signed to Charisma Records as Brethren and we were recording our first album when Charisma told us there’s an American band called Brethren and they’re going to be huge and we’re going to have to come up with a new name. And we spent ages trying to think of a name – finding one that suited everybody. And then our producer, John Anthony who produced Nicely Out of Tune (the band’s 1970 debut album), was visiting the north-east and we were rehearsing and he was going through songs with us. And somebody mentioned that they’d been up to Lindisfarne at the weekend – just for a trip out. And John said, “What was that? What did you say?” And so we repeated the name Lindisfarne to him and he said, “That’s it!” When he knew what it meant he said that’s the perfect name for you. And we went eh? Really? Because, you know it sounded to us a bit like calling it Wallsend or something like that. And he said, “No, no – it’s a great name.” And I have to say, the more we thought about it, the longer we mused on it, the more appropriate it seemed. You know, being an island and a tidal island – it’s kind of semi-detached from the mainstream. It stands on its own a bit, as we have done, and it’s very much of itself. And it’s a name that’s served us very well over the years.

DJ: He was totally right wasn’t he?

RC: He was yes.

DJ: And are there any final thoughts you’d like to leave us with?

RC: Just to say we are very proud to be out and about celebrating the original spirit of Lindisfarne, musically and politically. And our stance is we’ve retained the first principles and we’re having a great time doing it.

You can check the band’s tour dates for 2021 by visiting their website here

Photo credits: Richard Broady

Related reviews:

Lindisfarne at Great British Folk Festival

Lindisfarne at Hastings 2018

Uriah Heep’s 50th anniversary – interview with Mick Box

Uriah Heep celebrate their 50th anniversary this year. An anniversary tour, like pretty much everything else this year, has now been rescheduled for 2021 but Greater Manchester Rock Radio’s Tony Charles recently caught up with Heep’s Mick Box to reflect on the band’s past half century.

In a fascinating hour-long programme that GMRR have shared with me for this blog, Mick and Tony takes us through the band’s entire history starting with the very early days and the band’s formation. The classic David Byron-fronted years of the early to mid 70s are discussed in some detail, of course, but Box’s reflections on the years that came after that are definitely worth hearing.

Talking about the late 70’s and the band’s temporary implosion following the release of the Conquest album in 1980, Box reflects: “I’ll tell you what it was. I think the writing got a bit too poppy. We started off as a rock band and then you got songs like ‘Free Me’ and ‘Come Back To Me’ and although they were good songs we didn’t really associate them with Uriah Heep if you like and I think a lot of fans fell by the wayside because we lost that rocking edge.”

Uriah Heep bounced back in 1982 with a new line-up and the Abominog album. Box looks back on that now as: “Very much an album of the 80s in its production, in its writing and everything and we had great success with it.”

In more recent years the band has returned to a more classic sound with the last album Living The Dream receiving heaps of praise. Box: “With Living The Dream we had a great producer Jay Rushton and what he did was he kept the heritage of the band and all the trademarks that the band is known for – with the five-part harmony and the wah-wah guitar, the solos, the Hammond organ – and he kept all of those elements but he had a wonderful way of blending them to make them sound very modern.”

Thanks to Tony Charles and Greater Manchester Rock Radio – you can listen to the full hour-long interview on soundcloud here:

Related posts:

Uriah Heep, London 2014

Uriah Heep at Giants of Rock 2018

Uriah Heep, Bexhill 2019

Are you an aspiring Radio DJ? Introducing Greater Manchester Rock Radio

Interview with singer-songwriter Dan Korn of folk/acoustic duo Dan Korn & Joe Sharp

Released back in July Polaris is the new album from singer-songwriter Dan Korn and classically-trained musician Joe Sharp. The two first worked together in 2010, collaborating on a number of releases. Polaris is their first release as a duo, although there have been hundreds of shows across the UK and Europe in recent years and a tour of the US. I caught up with Dan Korn recently to discuss the album, their work as a duo and next steps.

For those who haven’t heard the album how would you describe Polaris and what particular highlights would you point listeners to?

Polaris is an album of ten new songs recorded live at Roedean Moira House Studios in Eastbourne. We see it as an intimate exploration of love and identity in the modern world.

We were keen to capture the raw energy of our live performances by recording the album live. We are the only two musicians on the album, though we play a number of acoustic instruments.

I have different favourite moments from time to time, but at the moment I am particularly fond of the track Idaho, which was conceived in a chilly tent in a campsite off an Idaho Highway. I toured in the US in the summer of 2016 and shivering in that tent was definitely a low point of the tour. It’s a hopeful song though, imagining a time in the future when my ex-girlfriend and I will be friends again and we’ll be able to sit on a park bench together and laugh at the past.

Another highlight for me is Joe’s song, The Promise, the final track on the album. It’s the only song I don’t play guitar on, which makes it both liberating and nerve-wracking to play live. It’s a beautiful song and a great way to finish the record.

This is your first release as a duo but you’ve worked together on a number of projects. How did you first begin working together?

We started working together back in 2010. I was going into the studio to record my debut EP, Dustbowl. We felt a couple of tracks would benefit from the addition of some brass. Joe was a friend of a friend and a trumpet player by trade, so we asked him to play trumpet and flugelhorn on the record. He did so with aplomb. We soon became firm friends and musical collaborators, though Joe has mostly played bass and supplied backing vocals since then.

And you’ve been performing live together as a duo for several years with hundreds of gigs behind you. Was it a conscious creative decision to wait for a while before releasing an album or was it just the way things turned out?

Our setup has evolved considerably over the years. In different configurations, we have recorded two EPs and one LP before this one. Between 2016 and 2018, I toured a lot my own and accumulated quite a few new songs. Joe had a couple of songs he wanted to record too. We were playing better together than ever, so it felt like the right time to enter the studio. For it to be a duo project felt like the most honest and authentic way to go about things at that time.

What have been some of your most memorable gigs?

In 2015, the full band went on a UK tour to promote the release of our Of The Sea LP. We were in Inverness, in a tiny venue with a miniature stage we were somehow all supposed to fit on with a drum-kit. It was a pretty rowdy audience. At one point during the set, we couldn’t help but notice a man’s glass eye fall out and roll across the floor in front of the stage. We watched him proceed to pick it up, blow on it and pop it back in!

The final concert of a tour often turns out to be a favourite. By this time, you’re in great nick because you’ve been playing so much. You’re tired of course, but there’s a feeling of throwing caution to the wind. You don’t have to get up and play again tomorrow, you can just enjoy it. In the days that follow, the post-tour blues will descend as you try to reintegrate yourself into humdrum life. The absence of the adrenaline you have grown accustomed to experiencing performing on stage can be quite difficult to deal with.

In recent years, we have loved playing house concerts, particularly in Germany, where there is a pretty well established scene. It can be a very intimate experience, where you can literally hear the audience breathing. You can’t get away with much. You have to be able to chat in between songs. It’s a really good way to develop your performance skills. I’d recommend it as a good avenue to explore for any singer-songwriter, learning his or her craft.

Name some of the artists that have particularly influenced you.

At the moment, I’m really enjoying Cate Le Bon and Bill Callahan. I went to a Villagers gig in Rotterdam recently, which I found very inspiring.

Given the extremely positive reviews for Polaris when it was released in the summer what are your future plans now, both as a duo and as individual artists?

We’ve been working on another full band album for the last couple of years. It’s being recorded by our guitarist Bob Turley at his Cosy Studios in Kent, where we recorded Of The Sea. We each live in different places and have a lot going on, so it’s a good thing we’re not in any great rush to release it. We’re getting together over Christmas to review things and to work out what our next steps should be. It will be quite different from anything we’ve released before. Watch this space!

Polaris cover

Polaris was released on 19th July 2019 and is available via the duo’s website 

http://www.dankornjoesharp.com/

Photo credits: Carsten Bunnemann

Interview with Sweet’s Andy Scott

This is a longer full-length version of an interview piece that was originally published by the Hastings Online Times here

Ahead of their gig at Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion on December 21st Darren Johnson talks to the Sweet’s Andy Scott who, along with Brian Connolly, Mick Tucker and Steve Priest, was part of the classic 1970s line-up and continues the band to this day.

DJ: The Sweet are well-known for their glam rock singles but there was always a hard rock albums side to the band’s persona as well. Will both of those elements be represented on this current tour?

AS: Yes – more so on this tour than the last one. We’ve had a slight revamp of the band. This revised line-up is certainly more akin to that. A couple of younger guys who are, shall we say, keeping us on our toes again. I would never, ever recommend changing two members of a band. I remember reading an interview with Mick Fleetwood who I got to know in the 70s just before they went to LA and he was saying they were going out there not knowing where the future lay. And he even said to me let’s see what happens. Then I saw what had gone on about two years later and heard, basically, they were looking for a replacement for Peter Green and they’ve got Christine McVie back in the band. They just haven’t got a guitar player who can sing. And it came with the two of them. Stevie Nicks as well (as Lindsey Buckingham). And just look at the way that burst open. So, in my head, I’m thinking Pete Lincoln left to pursue this outfit he’d been using shall we say as a back-up tool to Sweet with two other lead singers from other bands . And all of a sudden that’s taking off and I could see what’s on the horizon. There’s going to have to be a choice made here. And I knew which way he’d probably go because he’d been playing bass and singing with us. And he’s now doing this – because he’s a terrific guitar player and he’s now with a team of people where they’re all in at the starting point. And I thought – well we’re going to have to replace him. Now luckily we had Paul Manzi on the back-burner because he had depped – he’d come in and done a couple of gigs for us so he was an obvious choice.

And then Tony O’Hora at the end of August the bombshell was, “I’m leaving.” And Bruce (Bisland – Sweet’s drummer) and I, who’ve known him for years, were like – oh God, not again. Because we’d had this with him a couple of times, only this time I said there’s only so much you can cry wolf – you know. So I said – I’ll accept it but you’re gonna have to tell me what’s going on. And he didn’t. And then we were doing a couple of gigs in Poland and the Czech Republic and he just walked. So we ended up doing a couple of gigs with my guitar tech on bass and we managed to get Steve Mann who’d been playing with Michael Schenker to come out and finish the dates with us. It was a revelation to see Paul Manzi standing there with no guitar in his hand as a lead singer so the first thing I had to do when I got back – there was was one person on my list of people to call and that was Lee Small. I rang him and he jumped at the chance and so we now have Lee and Paul in the band. And on a temporary basis – but it could become permanent – we have Steve Mann back in the band as the second guitar/keyboard player. And it’s really, really gelling. And now we’ve done three shows in Denmark, one or two in Germany and four in England. We’ve only done nine gigs and my son who’s my sound engineer – I have to take his word because the sound he gets out is always remarkable – he said ‘It’s the best it’s been, Dad’.

Clearly, the line-up change has given the band a new energy but has it led to a change in the set-list, too?

Yes. The driving force for the acoustic part of the set last time we toured was basically me and Pete. And we felt like we ought to go for a bit more like it used to be in the 70s when we did a festival set. You’d get down to the nitty gritty. You play a couple of the heavier rock tunes that people want to hear so that’s what’s happening. It’s a work-in-progress. There will be a new Sweet album next year and we’ll see where we go from there.

And you’re coming to Bexhill on the 21st December which is the last night of the tour. Is that last night of a tour always a bit special or a bit of a relief – or both?

Well it depends who’s around – but I usually try and get some of my mates and anyone who wants to come to the gig and sing a bit or play or whatever. You just never know what happens on a night like this.

The other surviving member of the classic 70s line-up Steve Priest has his own version of the Sweet in America. I believe you tried to get him to join you on stage for the band’s 50th anniversary last year?

I mean look – we can all be angry young men and even grumpy old men. I just don’t like the idea that you can’t mellow in later life. I just don’t know what gets into Steve once in a while. We have contact – every time that I go over to LA, which I do on holiday these days because we don’t do anything in America – he has changed the dynamic of that. He doesn’t do a lot either – but having spoken to a couple of friends of mine who are promoters and stuff in America I said I don’t want to come back there unless it’s as organised as the gigs we do in Europe. And it seems you need specialist help over there. The country is so big you’re not going to end up using your own equipment. Friends of mine in Uriah Heep still go out there and Mick (Box) says you’ve got to get a different head on.

So you’re in touch with Steve Priest but no chance of you performing together?

Well I think the moment has passed. At the end of 2017 I remember I wished him a Merry Christmas and I then said if something’s going to happen it’s going to be next year isn’t it? You know, the fiftieth anniversary of the inception of the band. And then I never heard anything. Then I got a message from him at the beginning of 2018 saying “We are getting involved with a new agent who thinks it might be a good idea if you and I did something.” And my answer to him was sod your agent what do you think about it? If you fancy doing it then we’ve got a starting point but to just do it because your agent says “you should do this, Steve” is coming at it from the wrong angle, I think. I could see where that was going. I would say yes let’s do something but all of a sudden all the rules and regulations come out. And really, if we’re going to do stuff like this, if he’s coming to Europe we have a collaboration and he does it the European way. And I go out to America and I do it the American way – as long as somebody looks after me. But there has to be some kind of continuity within the band as well. And one of the funniest things was a friend of mine from Germany who contacted him said “Would you be willing to come and do a festival?” And the first thing he said was “As long as I can bring my guitar player.” And so we laughed about that. And that never went anywhere. So now I’d much rather be in touch with him saying “Hello, how are you? How are the knees?” you know. And him saying “How are you? How’s your health?”

Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman (writers of many of the hit singles for Sweet) obviously left a huge, huge impact on the band and left you with a slew of songs that people will always link to Sweet. Do you keep in touch with either of them?

Well yeah, I’m in touch with Mike because Mike is still a little bit of a mentor for Suzi (Quatro) and whenever I’ve been in the producer’s chair I talk to Mike about various things. He’s written songs that were on Back To The Drive which was one of her albums. And I’m hoping, because we’ve got a new album that’s coming out, that Mike and I might sit down together. A few years ago he was angling, “Well that could have been a Sweet single.” And we might be able to revamp or maybe write a song together. There’s a man who’s mellowed a little bit and kind of enjoying life again. And I’ve heard he’s back in the UK so, you know, all is possible. I’ve not fallen out with anybody. Life’s too short!

I always thought that Sweet missed a major opportunity for a come-back ion the early to mid 80s? Slade were back in the charts again. Queen were huge. Glam metal was taking off the States but it was the one time in the past 50 years that Sweet were AWOL?

Well you can look at it from all sides. Timing was absolutely everything. We’d reached a point in 81/82 where Steve was now living in America. He didn’t want to be in England. He didn’t want to come back. He feels, so somebody’s told me – I haven’t read all of his book he never sent me a copy – but it’s in there. I remember Mick Tucker saying to me “I don’t know where he got half of his stuff from.” but I said “Look it’s his personal view, Mick. You’ve got to let everybody have that.” It’s almost as if he’s forced to come back to England to record the last album in a studio in West London and he was put up in a hotel that was like a student hostel in Chelsea. And I thought well he stayed with me a little bit of the time and, yes, he was in that hotel for a while because, you know, it was easier and Mick had his problems with his first marriage. And it was a time when, I guess because we were still living our lives in England – this is the way he probably views it, at weekends we would take some time for ourselves and he would be left to his own devices. And any normal guy would be out having dinner with some mates you hadn’t seen for years but I guess he got the feeling that he was just being abandoned. So from that point of view, when the tour finished at the end of 81 – I think it was Glasgow University – we never heard from Steve for ages. He came back to England and it was that next year when Mick had a tragedy. His first wife died. It was a misadventure where she died in the bath. I think she had a glass of wine and was on some medication and he got back to the house and found her there. Well you wouldn’t wish that on anybody, would you? And so he didn’t want to do anything. And I was still out there – producing and writing and playing on other people’s records. And I managed to get a solo deal – first of all with Virgin then it turned out to be Statik. The guy from Virgin had left to form his own label. So for a couple of years – 83/84 – I was releasing some solo singles. And then in 85 – well at the end of 84 – I bumped into our old agent and he was looking after us in 81. And he said, “Oh I’ve got a bone to pick with you. I keep getting loads of enquiries. Are you still working with the Sweet? I didn’t know where you were.” And it just so happened that his office was literally up the Harrow Road from where I was living in Maida Vale.

Then you did the Live at the Marquee album?

Exactly. I managed to get Mick out of retirement. Steve was even at least saying the right things but Mick said ‘He’s not coming back’ so luckily I rehearsed a bass player. The guy who ended up in Sweet actually Mal McNulty. We were using him to rehearse and I said he may not be coming and he said “you’re a mate of mine. I love this”. And, of course, we went to Australia with Mal and the rest is history. We had Paul Mario Day as singer and Phil Lanzon who’s now with Uriah Heep on keyboards.

And with changes of personnel the band has continued to this day.

Yeah. We’ve had a few people come and go but when you look back over thirty-odd, almost forty years of reformation when you say you’ve had six singers hat doesn’t sound too bad really does it?

Other bands have gone through far more haven’t they. Probably Sabbath have gone through far more.

[Laughs]. Well they had a little concept going didn’t they? A new lead singer for nearly every tour.

You’ve had a couple of major scares with prostrate cancer and you’ve been open about that and done a lot for awareness through Rock Against Cancer. How are things health-wise these days?

Pretty good. In fact, I’m due another PSA test so I’d better get that organised hadn’t I? And the other thing is Rock Against Cancer will be coming back next year. It’s coming back on the 12th and 13th of September in the same venue in Wiltshire at All Cannings near Devizes. So it’ll be Rock Against Cancer 8. And it might well be the last one. We’re looking at the moment to see who can come back from previous years and making a real bonanza of a gig you know.

The Sweet play Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion on Saturday 21st December 2019.

Tickets: https://www.dlwp.com/event/the-sweet/

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Related posts:

News: All change at The Sweet

Review: Sweet 50th anniversary concert – Berlin

Review: Sweet live 2017, London and Bilston

Review: Rainbow and Sweet, Birmingham 2017

Review: Sweet, Bilston 2016

The Sweet versus Bowie: the riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie – origins and influences

Review: Sweet at Dartford 2015

Review: Sweet at Bilston 2014

Interview: Darren talks Fag Ash and Beer with guitarist/singer-songwriter Jake Aaron

Guitarist and singer-songwriter Jake Aaron released his debut EP in 2016 to plaudits from folk and indie reviewers. His debut album Fag Ash and Beer was released in September 2019, again to favourable reviews. I caught up up with him recently to discuss the album, some of the musicians he’s worked with, his choice of cover artwork and his teenage love for Iron Maiden.

You have managed to pull together a great line-up of musicians for your debut album? How did they get involved?

I was very lucky! My first songs in 2015 were just on acoustic guitar, but I had an idea last year for a jazzy piece “Give Me Your Horse” which needed a great Hammond player and trumpeter. I made some inquires in the jazz world and the names that came back were Steve Lodder for Hammond and Steve Waterman for trumpet. I contacted them and they both seemed to like the piece – maybe it was the time signature – and luckily they both agreed. I found the bassist Davide Mantovani and drummer Marc Parnell through Steve L. When I was recording the album this year, I felt some tracks needed building up so I asked the musicians if they’d come back in. They’re brilliant players. A couple of the tracks on the album are live takes, “Elvis Has Left The Building” and “New Mexico”, and you can hear how good they are.

Have you been taken aback by the positive response to the album or did you always know you had something special on your hands as soon as you began putting it together?

I’m not sure the album has mainstream appeal, but it does seem to have found a niche in certain music circles which is nice. It’s had some play on BBC Jazz Nights as well as Genevieve Tudor’s Folk Show. My biggest uncertainty was how the album would all hang together as it’s quite a mix of ideas. I just hoped it would somehow. I’ve had a small audience since my EP who seem to like what I’m doing, and it was good they stuck with me, too.

And given the response how come you waited so long to make your first album?

It’s quite a task writing a whole album, and partly it just took a long time to finish the pieces once I’d started. I wrote some of the pieces quickly, whilst others were like watching paint dry, waiting for missing bits of music or words. A couple of the tracks were quite fiddly.

In terms of the album title it absolutely does what it says on the tin – but do talk us through that album cover!

I was working on a very different cover but didn’t feel it was working and was pretty fed up with the whole thing. An old friend then texted me a picture of us playing guitar in his folks’ kitchen when we were about sixteen, smoking and drinking and I thought that’ll do. It tied in with the track “Fag Ash and Beer” and the acoustic aspect of the music. On reflection it possibly wasn’t my greatest idea of all time, and I don’t think it helped promote the music at all. I’m not sure it’s up there with Physical Graffiti. Then again it had personal resonance for me.

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Heavy metal clearly had a big impact on you when you were a teenager. That was what got me hooked on music, too, and I still love it alongside the more acoustic stuff. Are you still a fan?

I don’t put Run to the Hills on any more, but I still remember why I liked it. Maybe it’s a guitar thing and if I didn’t play guitar I possibly wouldn’t have got as much out of it as I did. Some of the guitarists are technical wizards. Eddie Van Halen was just mind boggling. Heavy metal aside I’ve always liked different styles of music, and I like a lot more styles than I dislike. A solitary bagpipe, African drums, a hillbilly picking a banjo … they can all do it for me as long as it’s got a groove.

Name some of the artists that have particularly influenced you as a singer-songwriter.

There are lots of artists I love, but I am not sure which ones influenced me the most. Some of them are pretty inimitable. I also think it’s easier and more enjoyable trying to to play in your own way. I probably got bits and pieces from all over though, from every song and riff I learnt to play. You can’t play the intro to Hey Joe a thousand times and not be influenced a bit.

You have Guy Pratt contributing on one track on the album. How did that come about, and did he share any Pink Floyd tales with you?

No tales of Floyd, though I do know some of Guy’s great tales from my “My Bass and Other Animals”. I’ve known Guy for a long time through one of my best friends. I had an interesting cover for “Give Me Your Horse” of Pancho Villa and his gang holding instruments instead of rifles. The bass player looked particularly cool, like he was some legendary bassist, so Guy came to mind. I emailed him the piece, he liked it and quite remarkably he agreed. A massive honour.

What’s your favourite track on the album and tell us how it came about?

I’ve got a few but I think the instrumental “Elvis Has Left The Building” has a good vibe. It was originally an acoustic song but the band sounded so good I left it as is, like we were Elvis’s warm up band. After we recorded it, I was downstairs in the studio making a coffee and Kenny Jones, the engineer, and the others were playing it back upstairs. We had a busy schedule and when I heard it I thought “Why are they listening to that funk track on the radio? We should be getting on with my stuff!” I liked “New Mexico”, too. I was downstairs again when it was played back and Marc’s beat came pounding through the ceiling – it sounded like approaching Apaches. I was quite pleased lyrically with “Jonah Part 1”, too. It took a while to get it into a shape where it sounded colloquial without being too flip, and I could tell the story in a way I found engaging.

Give Me Your Horse Cover

The single cover art for 'Give Me Your Horse'

And, finally, given the positive reaction to this have you got plans for a follow-up?

I think I’d keep plodding on regardless of the reaction, but it’s good that some people like the music too. I’ll possibly release singles or an EP next if another album is too daunting. I’m quite interested in music for film. A couple of reviewers thought the music was quite cinematic and would fit a Tarantino movie. Clearly if Quentin wants to use a piece that would not be a problem!

Fag Ash and Beer was independently released on 6th September 2019

https://www.jakeaaron.com/

Interview: People watching with folk singer-song-writer Tony Burt

Performing since the 1960s in folk rock, traditional Irish and covers bands as well solo performances as a folk singer, in recent years Tony Burt has shifted his focus to writing and performing his own songs. Earlier this year his album People Watching was released to favourable reviews. I caught up with Tony recently to discuss the album, his passion for music and his thoughts on the contemporary folk scene.

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After decades in the folk/folk-rock scene performing traditional material and covers reinventing yourself as singer-songwriter came relatively late in life. Was there any particular catalyst for that switch?

I moved in 2005 from the Birmingham area to Bromyard in Herefordshire. I’d spent many enjoyable years trekking around the country with Irish folk band, Dempsey’s Lot, mainly as an instrumentalist. Moving to Bromyard added an hour’s travel each way to most gigs. So I left the band and took the chance to spend less ‘music miles’ whilst focusing on more contemporary songs whilst doing more singing.

For those who haven’t heard the album how would you describe People Watching and what particular highlights would you point listeners to?

The title track ‘People Watching’ is key to many of the songs. It was written in the Kings Arms in Cleobury Mortimer, near Ludlow 2 years ago over a couple of sessions. I enjoy observing strangers and inventing imaginary lives for them. ‘Monica Is Taller Than Me’ was based on respectful and relatively lust-free admiration of an elegant waitress in a Scottish Borders hotel. ‘The Village’ pays homage to the ethnic Chinese guerrillas who fought behind Japanese lines in Malaya in World Word II. ‘JJ’s Bar’ celebrates a rock music club in Karnak, Egypt, which has to be one of the quirkiest venues on the planet. Other songs can be more cryptic and emotional but observation of human traits usually plays a part.

I wanted to stay clear, just this once, of an excess of guitar, bass and fiddle so we use less common instruments like harmonium, dulcetone, mellotron and marxophone. Most of the tunes are modal in structure but the overall sound in not entirely folky. I think we evolved a sound that was a bit rootsy and almost Prog in some ways. Boo and Chris added really interesting seasoning on many of the tracks.

How have you found the reaction to the album? You’ve had some nice reviews. I’m very taken with it. It felt like I was stumbling across a long lost classic that had completely escaped my attention until now.

I have been really happy with the reviews and radio plays I’ve received. Some have provided really helpful constructive criticism which I am genuinely taking on board. I love your “long lost classic” comment and I can’t think of anything more encouraging. Thank you!

Irish music has always been important to you although you were born and brought up in Birmingham. Do you feel that’s been an influence on your songwriting now?

The Birmingham district of Balsall Heath, where I grew up in the 50s was in those days predominantly an Irish area. So as I grew up I became very familiar with Irish tunes and songs. At 15 I met my lifelong friend, Tommy Dempsey who had soon dragged me in every cobwebbed den of folk iniquity in the Midlands. He is still going strong at 82 and has the quintessential Irish voice. Many of my melodies have a Celtic structure and Tommy’s singing influenced my timing and phrasing.

Tell us a bit more about the two musicians you work with on the album? Have you been long-time collaborators?

Boo Hewerdine has been a well known producer, singer, guitarist and songwriter for 30 years. Known for his work with The Bible, Eddi Reader, Kris Drever, Brooks Williams and many others. Chris Pepper is owner of Saltwell Studios near Huntingdon. His reputation is growing as a result of his well equipped facility, high skill level and great attitude.

I’ve spent 4 or 5 weeks with Boo over the past 5 years at songwriting workshops. Other collaborators, in addition to Boo, have included Christine Collister, Steve Tilston, Karine Polwart, Edwina Hayes and Darden Smith. It’s fantastic how these talented artists share their knowledge and experience so readily. When I decided to make People Watching I could think of no one better than Boo and Chris to help me. The artistic results were great and we had a really good time too!

Who are your all-time favourite artists?

OMG – what a question!

My earliest influence was, almost inevitably, Bob Dylan. At the same time, the Beatles and the Kinks; John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim. Early songwriters: Richard Thompson, Al Stewart, Bruce Cockburn, Sandy Denny. Out of several dozen more – Elvis Costello, Dick Gaughan, Gerry Rafferty, Ralph McTell.

Are you encouraged by the number of excellent young folk artists out there these days after some comparatively lean decades in the past? And have you any particular favourites?

There is some wonderful new young talent emerging and it seems many are being groomed for sustainable folk music careers with coaching on financial and marketing skills. I know some excellent artists of my generation have lived hand-to-mouth for decades and I hope these youngsters can have a more comfortable life. Granny’s Attic are the young band I know best and admire hugely. I’ve known them since they were about 12! Some of the photos and Videos stashed away could be worth a fortune when their success is complete. Especially Cohen at 13 in his school uniform with a short back and sides performing “The Ship (off the new album) on fiddle. Sorry buddy!

People Watching was released in January 2019 and is available via Tony’s website

https://tonyburt.co.uk/

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Interview with Steeleye Span’s Maddy Prior

This article was originally published by the Hastings Online Times here

Steeleye Span are celebrating 50 years with an anniversary tour. Ahead of their gig at St Mary in the Castle on 21 November, Darren Johnson talks to founder member Maddy Prior.

DJ: You start your winter tour very soon. What can we expect from this fiftieth anniversary tour?

MP: Well we started in the Spring – this is the second part of it. We do some songs from our new album which is called Established 1969 and some classic pieces which are part of our catalogue if you like, so it’s a sort of a mixture. We always do a mixture actually.

One of the things that I like about Steeleye Span is that you vary your set-list from tour to tour. There are old favourites in there but they tend to be a different set of old favourites each time.

We try to keep it varied. If you sing a song for a long time you want to leave it to ‘green up’ as it were. You leave it fallow for a year or two so it sort of greens up again and you have a fresh look at it. And quite often we do slight readjustments of the arrangements and things like that. Sometimes we completely re-arrange them.

You’re at St Mary in the Castle on 21 November. Steeleye Span has had quite a connection with Hastings over the years, hasn’t it?

Yes we do. There’s Liam (Genockey) our drummer – he’s been here forever. And also now there’s Roger Carey in the band as the bass player – so there’s quite a strong connection. And we’re rehearsing here at the moment in Hastings. And also, of course, Peter (Knight) was here for a long time as well. So, as you say, we’ve got strong connections here and we always come here regularly over the years. It’s strong on our map!

For the benefit of our readers who might not have kept up with who’s in the band these days, can you quickly talk us through who’s playing in Steeleye Span these days?

Well, we’ve got some new blood as it were. Violeta Barrena is on fiddle for this tour. She shares the fiddle slot with Jesse May Smart, but Jesse’s just had a baby so she’s taken a back seat for this tour. They’re both brilliant players and they’re both really good improvisers. We’ve got Roger Carey on the bass, Spud Sinclair on guitar and Liam Genockey on the drums. Julian Littman on guitar and Benji Kirkpatrick on various things – guitar, sitar, mandolin. Julian plays keyboards as well, so there’s quite a lot of variety instrumentally. I think that’s everybody – now we are seven!

Can you see Steeleye Span carrying on without you at some point in the future, or would that be like the Rolling Stones without Mick Jagger?

I don’t know. I’ve no idea. But I think Steeleye is mainly about the material. A lot of which came in with Bob Johnson. Peter Knight brought quite a lot in. Rick Kemp brought quite a lot in. This new band – we’ve done another album of traditional material very largely – which we play around with. We write new tunes and get tunes from all sorts of places. But it’s the material that I think is the point of the exercise really.

So that suggests that there could be some form of Steeleye Span continuing without Maddy Prior?

Are you trying to bump me off?? No, it is something that’s talked about. If you think about it as a small family firm that could go on forever. Just getting to know how the material works is the issue if you like, but I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t.

Have there been times when being Maddy Prior folk rock icon has got in the way of other musical projects you wanted to pursue or are you happy it’s never stopped you doing anything else you wanted to do?

I don’t think it’s stopped me doing anything I wanted to do. It’s usually helpful on the whole. There’s nothing I’ve missed out on. We were on Top Of The Pops. That was the biggest thing of the day. And we’ve done a lot of tours of big venues and we’ve worked with material that I dearly love.

There aren’t many people on the folk circuit who’ve done Top Of The Pops. Was that a bit of a culture shock?

We had done a lot of work by then. Sell-out tours and so on – it wasn’t out of nowhere. We were well-known by the time we had those songs and we were on the same week as Noddy Holder and Slade, so that was quite interesting.

When you look around at younger bands – and a number say they’ve been influenced by Steeleye Span – do you feel optimistic about the future of the UK folk scene?

Absolutely. There’s so many brilliant young players. They’ve got their chops together fantastically well and they’re interested in the music and there’s a big movement, so it will be interesting to see what happens and where it goes. But the music comes in and out of fashion and we have revivals every so often, but it never quite goes away. Folk music became extremely unfashionable but that’s all it is – fashion. I’ve been literally right outside of the curve and then it comes back to the middle a bit. It’s part of our heritage and it comes knocking on the door every so often.

Ahead of the tour and particularly ahead of the gig in Hastings, is there anything else you’d like to leave us with?

The band is really, really good at the moment. I had a look at us on Wikipedia and it was brilliant because every so often it said “They came back to form” and I thought that was a hell of a good way of putting it. Because over fifty years you’re not going to be perfect all the way through and it’s been like that. But we’ve been very largely led by the songs so if the songs are good we’ve tended to be better. But we found with different people coming in, they bring different energies and different musical styles and that’s what we’ve been like in Steeleye – things change!

maddy p

Steeleye Span 50th Anniversary Tour Thursday 21 November, 7.30m. St Mary in the Castle, 7 Pelham Crescent, Hastings TN34 3AF. Tickets £26.95 including booking fee available from 01323 841414 and online.

Related posts:

Interview with Julian Littman

Review: Steeleye Span at Ashford 2019

Review: Steeleye Span at Hastings 2017