Category Archives: Music news

News: “Thirty years and a lot of hard work” – back catalogue of Heavy Pettin’ released on 29th November

Scottish hard rock band Heavy Pettin‘ see their 1983 debut and two subsequent releases being reissued on CD on 29th November.

Named after UFO’s 1976 studio album the band was formed in Glasgow in 1981 when guitarist Gordon Bonnar, drummer Gary Moat, bassist Brian Waugh, vocalist Steve ‘Hamie’ Hayman and lead guitarist Punky Mendoza joined forces. They gigged extensively before releasing their debut single, ‘Roll the Dice’ in 1982 on Neat Records. The single caught the attention of record bosses at Polydor and the band soon found themselves with a major label deal and Queen guitarist, Brian May as co-producer. Their debut album Lettin Loose was released in 1983 to very favourable reviews.

Hard rocking but more polished than most of their contemporaries on the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal scene, with their punchy choruses and harmony vocals Heavy Pettin’ took some of their cues from the previous decade’s glam and classic rock era. Touted as a possible next-big-thing after the mega success of Def Leppard two more albums followed: Rock Ain’t Dead in 1985 and The Big Bang in 1989. In the latter part of the 80s, however, things never really quite worked out for Heavy Pettin’ and the band had already spilt by the time their final album was released in 1989.

Heavy Pettin’ (now featuring two original members Gordon Bonnar and Hamie) reformed in 2017 and a brand new album is planned for 2020. Original Heavy Pettin drummer, Gary Moat, meanwhile, now fronts Burnt Out Wreck who released their second album last month.

Reflecting on the Heavy Pettin’ re-releases Gary Moat tells me:

“It’s taken 30 years and a lot of hard work from my management and wife to finally have the three Heavy Pettin albums back in safe hands. This time through Burntout Wreckords the royalties will make it back to Universal & Heavy Pettin!”

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This official licensed re-release of Lettin Loose includes newly written liner notes by Ross Muir and two rare bonus tracks: ‘Roll The Dice’ and ‘Shadows Of The Night’

Lettin Loose, Rock Ain’t Dead and The Big Bang are all released on CD on 29th November by Burnt Out Wreckords via Cherry Red Records.

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Related post:

Burnt Out Wreck – interview with Gary Moat

 

Review: ‘Rebel Sounds’ exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, London

Walking into an exhibition and hearing ‘Teenage Kicks’ blasting out at full volume as you step through the door is probably not the typical visitor experience at the Imperial War Museum – but my trip coincided with the museum’s ‘Culture Under Attack’ programme. With a free day in the capital and browsing possible exhibitions I might take a look at I happened across the IWM’s ‘Rebel Sounds’ – one of three concurrent exhibitions that form the Culture Under Attack season.

The exhibition is intended to illustrate how music can be a force for resistance and rebellion – even under the most desperate of circumstances. From undercover jazz nights in Nazi Germany in the 1930s, to the burgeoning cross-community punk scene in Northern Ireland in the late 1970s, to Serbia’s underground B92 radio station challenging the violent nationalism of the  Milošević regime in the 1990s, to the artists making a defiant cultural challenge to Islamist extremism and its ban on music in modern-day Mali – the exhibition is testimony to the power of music to lead us out of darkness.

The exhibition is not a particularly large one and it focuses solely on the four snapshots in time and place listed above. However, while I’ve seen far more extensive music exhibitions with a far bigger range of exhibits, few have left me feeling as moved as this one. A wonderful celebration of the beauty and determination of the human spirit, even in the grimmest of times, this exhibition is well worth a visit. What’s more it’s completely free of charge, as is access to the other two exhibitions in the series – one looking at how British museums and galleries protected works of art from destruction in the Second World War and the other examining the destruction of cultural heritage during times of conflict, whether a deliberate strategy or collateral damage. And, of course, if you still have time to spare after that there’s all the usual tanks and medals and wot-not to see.

Rebel Sounds – part of the Culture Under Attack programme runs until 5th January 2020. Entrance: Free

https://www.iwm.org.uk/events/rebel-sounds?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIk6ayrZCw5QIVB7LtCh0IVQK1EAAYASAAEgJARfD_BwE

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News: Scottish folk band Skipinnish celebrate twentieth anniversary

Scottish folk band Skipinnish celebrate their twentieth anniversary this year. The band’s origins may have been modest, gigging in pubs and bars and village halls but their rise in recent years has been phenomenal – with prestigious venues selling out, many millions of streams on Spotify and other platforms and their latest album Steer By The Stars reaching number 4 in the charts. And that was not some obscure specialist folk chart but the actual official UK mainstream charts .

Now the album has been nominated for Album of the Year at the Scottish Trad Music Awards. Fans of the band can vote for the album here: https://projects.handsupfortrad.scot/scotstradmusicawards/voting/

Visiting familiar themes for the band of ocean, island, landscape, love, hope, mortality, friendship and the pull of home the album was officially launched to a packed house at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall back in May this year and has gone on to attract many enthusiastic reviews.

The band’s twentieth anniversary is officially marked with a special performance at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on October 25th and that will be followed by a short tour of Scottish venues in December.

https://www.skipinnish.com/

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Interview with Pete Way – ahead of his UK tour Darren talks to the former UFO bass supremo

This interview was published by Get Ready to Rock here

It wasn’t that long ago that the only news we’d be reading about Pete Way was in connection with his various ongoing health battles. But now, following a well-publicised autobiography in 2017, he’s back on the road performing. A UK tour begins later this month and a new album ‘Walking On The Edge’ is due out at the end of January. Always a charismatic stage presence in his UFO days (the archetypal motionless bass-player mode was never one for him) one of rock’s most colourful characters and, improbably, one of the great survivors of to-the-limits rock ‘n’ roll excess is now back as front-man of his own Pete Way Band.

What can fans expect from the tour?

Wild rock – with a couple of ballads. For the shows there’s stuff from the album, stuff from The Plot – the album with Michael Schenker, there’s the Amphetamine album, I do a little bit from Waysted and I do the obvious songs, the ones that everyone remembers, from UFO. You know people buy a ticket and they want them. I was talking to Phil (Mogg) recently and he said the same: ‘you have to do them’.

Out of all the classics that you had a hand in for UFO which are the ones you are most proud of?

Oh that’s difficult to say really. We do ‘Shoot Shoot’. We do ‘Too Hot to Handle’, ‘Doctor Doctor’…

And so you’ve been getting a good response from audiences so far then?

Oh incredibly so, yes. I mean we go out of our way to do that. There’s no indulgent excess but people come along for a guitar show. I mean there’s a lot of lead guitar. Playing in UFO or Waysted there was also a lot of guitar. The thing is there’s nothing too egotistical. We just play the songs.

Do you play bass throughout the show or is it just certain songs?

Here and there. I could be 100% vocals or I could be 100% bass and get another singer in. But, you know, I wrote all the words when I wrote these songs. Apart from, obviously, the UFO songs where it was with Phil. You would have to give Phil a very precise melody and he would write the words as he saw it to fit – but I would give Phil the melody.

On the tour you have Burnt Out Wreck supporting you – another band with musician- turned-frontman in the form of former Heavy Pettin drummer, Gary Moat.

Yeah Gary is very talented. I mean, yes, I see the AC/DC influence but they write all their own songs. They compliment what we do. All my songs are about my experiences in life which is a bit like something from a Quentin Tarantino film. They balance that out with what they do.

You’re clearly still in touch with Phil. Could you imagine sharing a stage with UFO now?

Nah. My main focus now is on vocals. Everybody says to me you’ve got character in your voice and, you know, it seems to work so I’ve got to get on with it. My heroes are not the vocalists who sound like opera singers. They are people like Bon Scott and Bob Dylan.

Your autobiography ‘A Fast Ride Out of Here’ in many ways is that familiar tale of middle-class suburban kid becoming wild rock star. But the wildness started fairly early on didn’t it? You say in the book you first smoked heroin at 13, for example.

When I first met Phil I was, like, 15. The people we hung out with were the people who were older. It’s like David Bowie said – we did things that other people thought incongruous. But I felt comfortable in that role and in going into things with that attitude to life. But, of course, the icing on the cake was actually getting to America. Suddenly, we’d got money, you know. But we were professional in that we always gave a good show. Because if you’re in a shambles it’s always easy to mess up. But we were totally focused on the show and it was only afterwards when we’d get fucked up. It really was a journey. I could blow half a million in a year but, you know, we always gave a good show.

In your book Joe Elliott of Def Leppard is quoted as saying: “If you threw Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood in a bucket and mixed them up you’d end up with Pete.” Is that a fairly accurate description of you?

Oh, Joe and I go back a very long way. Myself and Ross Halfin are always having a bit of a laugh at Joe and, you know, he would say anything about people to go (adopts mock Yorkshire accent) ‘I’ll fucking get him back for that’.

After all the health battles you went through: addiction, cancer, heart attacks – there must have been times when you thought you wouldn’t be performing on stage again. What does it feel like to be out on the road again?

Great. It was three or four minor heart attacks but the prostrate cancer was the main thing. And you don’t know you’re ill until you find out from a professional. For me if I was feeling a bit under the weather I’d just have another drink or do another line or something but it gets to that point where you have to get checked out. It took me a long time to grow up. I still haven’t really grown up. And so it was a health battle of my own making. And now, ironically, I have to take medication because of all the drugs I used to take. But I’ve written some good songs and I’m looking forward to getting the album out there and getting out there with the show.

The Pete Way Band’s #ExpectTheUnexpected UK tour begins on October 23rd. Full tour dates here: http://www.peteway.co.uk/tour-dates/4594565419

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Related posts:

Review: UFO at Shepherds Bush Empire 2018

Review: Michael Schenker at Shepherds Bush Empire 2017

 

News: All change at The Sweet

Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist, Tony O’Hora, has left The Sweet. In a statement put out by the band on social media the musician is said to have left for “personal family reasons”. Led by Andy Scott, one of the two surviving members of the classic-era foursome, the band’s line-up had been stable for a  good number of years and attracted many favourable reviews for the sheer professionalism and quality of their live shows. However, lead singer/bass-player, Pete Lincoln, left earlier in the year and is now followed by O’Hora. Old Sweet hand, Steve Mann, is stepping in once again to assist the band on their remaining 2019 dates. Lee Small comes in as a permanent member playing bass.

The band’s full statement is reproduced here:

“Tony has left Sweet. A month ago Tony handed in his notice to quit Sweet citing personal family reasons. We were unsure how to deal with his request as it had happened previously. This time however it was serious and though difficult, we have had to make changes to move forward. We respect his decision and wish him well for the future. So with the future in mind I can now reveal how the band will look going forwards to 2020. Let me start by saying that having to replace two members in quick succession is not something I would recommend to anyone but it gives one great satisfaction when it comes together. Steve Mann will be rejoining Sweet for all dates in November and December including the “Still Got the Rock Tour UK”. Our last show in Kelbra in September featured Steve and it was brilliant to have him on stage with us again. Our “newbie” is Lee Small. He will play bass and add another brilliant voice to the band. To say I am very pleased is an understatement. Paul Manzi will now be the Frontman, lead vocals and occasional guitar. Anyone who saw us perform at Kelbra will have seen him in full flow. So there it is – Sweet – looking forward to the future and seeing you at one of the 34 shows in November and December. Not forgetting our Australian fraternity and our upcoming appearance on Rock the Boat 2019 departing Sydney 19th October.”

I’ll be catching the band on their 2019 UK winter tour – watch this space for a review.

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Tony O’Hora (right) with Andy Scott (left)

Related posts:

Sweet 50th anniversary concert in Berlin
Sweet in London and Bilston 2017
The Sweet versus Bowie: the riff in Blockbuster and Jean Genie

News: ‘Say It All The Time’ – East Sussex duo Milton Hide release fund-raising single to raise awareness of male suicide

Released: 10th October 2019 (World Mental Health Day) in digital formats

Prompted by a bleak mood that came over him during a walk on the South Downs one day and the subsequent death of a musician friend who had tragically taken his own life, East Sussex-based singer-songwriter, Jim Tipler, was inspired to write a song putting all those feelings into words. Recording it with his wife and musical partner, Josie, the duo joined forces with acclaimed producer and musician, John Fowler, and talented local film-maker, Alex Thomas. Proceeds from sales of the single will go to CALM – the Campaign Against Living Miserably. CALM is leading a movement against suicide, the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. They run a confidential advice line seven days a week.

Milton Hyde’s Jim Tipler comments:
“The inspiration for Say It All The Time was in fact a short film called ‘Black Tuesday’ which I made for a competition entry a couple of years ago. It was a three-minute long movie of a walk on the South Downs. I was in a very bleak mood and I just started filming what I saw and then came up with a script. I’ve never felt ‘suicidal’ but on that day, for no apparent reason, my mood was very dark. I don’t usually write songs about feelings. They tend to be more kind of story or situation-based but the lyrics of this song tie in quite closely with the script of the movie and speak of how many of us, particularly men, hide our feelings, when actually the ‘brave’ thing to do is to share them. I came up with the idea for turning the script into a song shortly after the shocking news that a fellow musician and friend that I had only recently got to know had taken his own life. This was only a few months after a member of my extended family had done the same.”

“I’m really hoping the record and video boost awareness of what can only be described as an epidemic of male suicide and will maybe raise some money towards running a helpline that could save a life or make life a little more bearable for those who have lost loved ones this way. CALM seemed like a great fit. Josie, my wife and bandmate, and I have three grown-up sons so we are only too painfully aware of the terrible statistics around male suicide.”

Simon Gunning, CEO of the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM), said:
“As an organisation that has always worked closely with the music community, we’re delighted that Milton Hide have chosen to support CALM with their new single. Music can be a powerful forum for conversation and expression, so it’s great to see the band sharing such a positive message and using their platform to raise awareness of the issue of suicide and of the services that are available to anyone who may be going through a tough time.”

Reflecting on the process of recording the song and filming the accompanying video, Jim, comments:
“John Fowler’s treatment of the song is incredible. He is such an amazing musician and producer. He discussed what he wanted to do with it in terms of giving it an epic sound whilst retaining the dreamy ethereal quality of Josie’s voice. He did most of the instrumentation, with me doing my acoustic guitar thing and backing vocals. those people that have heard Milton Hide before might be a little surprised but we are so excited by what he’s achieved. Independently of that, a talented film-maker friend of ours, Alex Thomas, said he really wanted to do a video of it. We thought it churlish to refuse both of these generous offers and thought that we could repay that generosity by helping a charity. We roped in loads of mates to help depict a party scene where the host is the centre of attention but feels isolated. A brilliant way of showing the loneliness we can all experience in a crowd.”

Information about CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) can be found at: https://www.thecalmzone.net/

Milton Hide is Jim Tipler and Josie Tipler

Website: https://www.miltonhide.com

Say It All The Time cover image

Preview: Media OS 5.1 – an interactive multi-media event by Partial Facsimile at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings 27th September 2019

MEDIA OS 5.1 – An Interactive Multi-Media Concept Album

Partial Facsimile are a Brighton-based sound and visual arts collective who specialise in research-based projects, live music, film soundtracks and site-specific performances. Media OS 5.1, concerns the over-stimulation of digital information and its effects on human behaviour and they bring the live multi-media show to Hastings in September.

Through their eyes, the audience can see films concerning global warming, fake news, social media consumption and surrealism to name a few. Those attending will be able to interact with the films using their smartphones via an app linking them to the scientific research behind their work.

You can see a brief promo clip ahead of their tour here:

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Ahead of their performance at St Mary in the Castle on 27th September, I caught up with Partial Facsimile’s Ben Baxter (voice artist, bass player, guitarist, writer, composer) to ask what audiences can expect.

“The audience can expect two extremely high quality live music shows in surround sound with huge projections, films and visuals,” explains Ben. “Media OS 5.1 by Partial Facsimile is a concept album written about INFOBESITY and ten film-makers were commissioned to create content specific for each track in their own unique film or graphic style. The six piece band are sculptured with lights and will play behind the large semi-translucent projection screen with the films being the main focus for the audience. During the performance, the audience will be immersed in a 5.1 surround sound circle of speakers and can use their smartphones to snap QR codes that appear on the screen.”

The interactive element is an important part of their work work. I ask Ben if that perhaps brings an element of unpredictability to the evening?

“The question of predictability is interesting,” says Ben. “At many concerts the audience are often encouraged to focus on the performance rather than on their smartphones. In our show we are encouraging the use of phones to heighten the experience of attending Media OS 5.1. However, you can never accurately predict human behaviour so we will have to wait and see if the audience engage or not.”

The evening will also include ‘Abstractions’ by Richard Norris which is a solo live performance and interpretation of his studio project.

“It is a deep listening ambient experience with visuals by Blue Carbon. Mr Norris has just performed this show at London’s famous South Bank Centre as part this years Meltdown Festival curated by Nile Rogers. Richard will also be spinning tunes after the show to round off the evenings entertainment.”

“We feel that live music and especially multimedia performances are in need of support. A ticket to the entire evening is the same price as two pints of beer and less than a packet of cigarettes! We strongly encourage the people of Hastings to come out and support the event in the beautiful setting of St. Mary’s in the Castle.”

Tickets available here

As an exclusive offer they are offering free student tickets for the Hastings show to the first 100 students to apply using the following link here

Website: Partial Facsimile

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News: Cleveland Rocks – iconic independent record label relaunches

Cleveland International Records, the US independent record label that brought us the likes of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell and Ronnie Spector’s collaboration with the E Street Band in the late 70’s and early 80’s, is back in business,  relaunched earlier this year by the son of its late founder, Steve Popovich Sr.

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“My dad’s story is pretty fascinating, here’s this guy who grew up in a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania to becoming one of the most beloved and respected people in the history of the record business,” says Popovich Jr. He began working at the label out of high school during its second incarnation (1995-2003). “The idea to relaunch had been simmering for a while,” he adds, “when my father’s estate was finally settled after seven in a half years after his passing, it seemed like the perfect segue to me transitioning away from my company, Wrecking Ball Entertainment to relaunching Cleveland International.”

In the 90’s Popovich Sr. famously took on the might of Sony – and won. Popovich sued Sony for non-payment of royalties from Bat Out of Hell royalties. The case was settled out of court for nearly $7 million. As part of the settlement, Sony was required to place the Cleveland International logo on reissues of Bat Out of Hell. When Sony failed to comply, Popovich took to the courts once again and a jury awarded him an additional $5 million in damages in 2005. In 2012, Sony reached a final out-of-court settlement with Popovich’s estate over more unpaid royalties revealed in an audit performed prior to Popovich’s death in 2011.

The label is marking its relaunch with a CD and LP re-release of its mid-90’s all-star compilation called, Cleveland Rocks. In addition to Meat Loaf’s “Paradise By The Dashboard Light,” the 13 track collection includes classics by Ian Hunter (“Cleveland Rocks”), Ronnie Spector & the E Street Band (“Say Goodbye to Hollywood”), Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes (“I Don’t Wanna Go Home”), Just Us Girls (“Time Warp”), Iron City Houserockers (“Have a Good Time But Get Out Alive”), Euclid Beach Band (“There’s No Surf in Cleveland”), The Boyzz (“Too Wild To Tame”), Essence (“Sweet Fools”), Mike Berry (“I Am A Rocker”), The Rovers (“Wasn’t That A Party”) and Bat out of Hell collaborators Jim Steinman (“Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through”) and Ellen Foley (“We Belong To the Night”).

The album ends with Ian Hunter’s iconic paean to Cleveland. Although originally released by Chrysalis on the You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic album it became something of an anthem for both the city and the label. Hunter writes on his website The Horses Mouth, “The inspiration for Cleveland Rocks goes back to the old days when people used to make fun of Cleveland. Cleveland was ‘uncool’ and LA and NYC were ‘cool’. I didn’t see it that way. Lotta heart in Cleveland.”

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Cleveland Rocks released by Cleveland International Records April 5th 2019

https://www.clevelandinternational.com/

Interview with blues/Americana rising star Elles Bailey

This interview was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here

I recently caught up with blues/Americana singer-songwriter Elles Bailey to talk about her newly-released album Road I Call Home, about the impact of her critically-acclaimed debut and about her current tour.

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GRTR: Your debut album was fantastically well-received. At what point did you start to feel you had something really special on your hands? While you were writing? Or recording? Or mixing? Or not until you started to see the reactions and read the positive reviews?

EB: I guess it was when the critics and their fans got there hands on it and the reviews started to come in that I was like ‘hang on, I think folks are really liking this!’ I find it is really hard to be objective about your own music but I am really pleased that Wildfire got the reviews it did, across genres! That took me by surprise.

GRTR: You must have felt under quite a bit of pressure when it came to putting the second album together. What was your overall philosophy when it came to writing and recording Road I Call Home?

EB: Just be honest – I wanted to write an album that was honest, bare to the bones, not sugar-coating anything!

I guess there was a bit of pressure when it came to putting this album together but it was such a blur of a year I am not quite sure how it all happened! I’m currently sat in my managers office and looking at the vinyl…. And that’s weird, actually having it physically in my hand and thinking – ‘how the hell did this happen?

GRTR: What has the experience of co-writing with some of these iconic song-writers been like, compared to writing songs on your own?

EB: I love to collaborate when I write, its great being in a room with someone sparking off ideas and working with folks like Roger Cook, Bobby Wood and Dan Auerbach is kinda mind blowing. Every now and then I have to pinch myself just in case I am dreaming!!

GRTR: What’s been your most memorable live gig so far and how much are you looking forward to doing Ramblin’ Man in July?

EB: The album launch at The Lexington in London was totally off the chain. The album had been out a couple of days and had loads of people singing the words back to me! I felt like crying it was so emotional! I’ll never forget that gig!

Ramblin man….. I can’t wait and am so excited to finally see Beth Hart live!

GRTR: There’s a lot of different influences in your music – from blues to country to rock to soul. Name some of your favourite artists.

EB: Gosh I have so many but right now I am listening to Mavis Staples, Christ Stapleton, The Band, Larkin Poe, Hozier ( I love his new record) and Ida Mae to name a few.

Elles Bailey’s Road I Call home was released on March 8th. Review here

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Photo credits: artist publicity

 

Interview with Steeleye Span’s Julian Littman

This article was originally published by Get Ready To Rock here 

Interview by Darren Johnson

Next year iconic folk rockers Steeleye Span celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. 2019 will see a brand new album and associated tours as the ever-evolving band mark their half century. More immediately, however, there is the matter of an autumn tour. Lead guitarist, Julian Littman, takes time out of the band’s rehearsals to have a chat with me ahead of the first live dates next week.

“The band is in a really good place,” he enthuses. “It’s sounding great. And when it’s heavy it’s really heavy and when it’s light it’s nice and light, which is great. Because we do wander into prog a little bit as well so it’s a really good combination. The whole idea of the band is that we unite folk with rock. That’s what we try and do but never losing the folk tradition and all that stuff. So it’s in a really good place and we quite often do very old stuff from Steeleye and then, of course, brand new stuff. We do a couple from the Wintersmith project we did with Terry Pratchett so we go right across the board with it. And of course we’ve still got Maddy – thank god. And our latest addition is Benji Kirkpatrick who is a fantastic player – bouzouki, acoustic guitar and mandolin. And he’s the son of (former member) John Kirkpatrick. The tradition is going well. We’re now having people’s sons in the band you know. And it sounds fantastic because Benji keeps that acoustic thing going because we’ve got Spud Sinclair on electric guitar so it’s really good.”

Littman has now been with the band eight years and his creative input on recent albums ‘Wintersmith’ and ‘Dodgy Bastards’ has been widely praised. I ask him what it was like, not just being a newbie in a very established band, but a newbie who has actually gone on to put their own indelible stamp on the band, someone who has really made their mark on the sound and feel of Steeleye Span.

“Well, I like to think I have but at first it was really daunting. Really daunting – because I was following in the footsteps of Ken Nicol who is an amazing guitar player. But everyone’s different so the philosophy is like – you are different so therefore you are ok. But at first it was really difficult. Everyone was very welcoming but I used to get quite nervous really and think ‘oh god I hope I can do this’. And then gradually as I found my place you kind of find your feet. And then I started writing and now I sing a couple of lead vocals. And gradually the anxiety left and I could start to enjoy it and start to be relaxed – in that I wasn’t going to get fired and stuff like that. And it was a process. It probably took a couple of years to settle in and to find where I could contribute. So yes it was daunting to say the least when I first joined, but you do settle into these things and if people like you and they like what you do then gradually you get your confidence.”

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The wonderfully prog-folky ‘Wintersmith’, the band’s acclaimed 2013 collaboration with the late author Terry Pratchett, deservedly received very positive reviews. For me, it stands up as not only one of the best Steeleye Span albums of recent years, but one of their best throughout their long career. I ask Littman if we are likely to see any similar literary collaborations in the future.

“Well obviously poor Terry – we have no more Terry. He loved the band, of course. I’m sure we will but not at the moment.”

Rather than seeing ‘Wintersmith’ as an entirely new way of working, however, Littman sees similarities with the way the band has always approached its material.

“In a way every song that Steeleye does is a literary collaboration because basically we take a lot of old ballads – as in tales of sorcery and witchcraft and incest and death and murder and all that – and we take them and it’s almost like collaborating with someone else anyway. Most of the songs are stories. Every song is a collaboration really because we rarely write things that are absolutely, completely original. For instance, in the new album we’re doing a John Masefield poem which is called Roadways. Because John Masefield was very fond of the sea and wrote a lot about the sea. So it’s about longing for sea. He’s saying my road, the right road for me, is the ocean. So that’s a collaboration.”

Littman clearly has a deep attachment to Steeleye Span and what it represents. I ask if he was always a fan of the band, prior to joining.

“Well I’ve sort of been by default almost. I’ve always listened to Steeleye over the years. I don’t think I bought an album, as such, but I was so aware of them. I hadn’t seen them live I have to say but friends had records and I used to hear them and so they are almost part of the DNA. If you like the folk rock thing Steeleye and Fairport are the two aren’t they.”

Of the Steeleye Span albums he doesn’t play on he singles out one from the mid 70s Mike Batt-produced era as his favourite.

“I would say I think it’s Rocket Cottage. They’ve done god knows how many albums and there’s something on every album that you go – ah I really like that one.”

Finally, before he gets back to rehearsals, I ask him what fans can expect from this latest tour.

“Well basically we’re not going to do any of our albums in their entirety because we did that last year. But we’re going to do three songs from the new album so there’ll be three completely new pieces that no-one’s ever heard. And then we delve back a bit. We’re going to do a couple of the epic ballads. We’re going to do some from the album Dodgy Bastards. And we’re going to do one we’ve never done before called Gulliver Gentle – verging on pop, probably the poppiest one. And we’re doing an a cappella piece written by Rose Kemp, Maddy’s daughter, and that’s called Reclaiming and it’s about reclaiming things for the future and ecology.”

As our chat draws to a close I tell him that one of the things I really like about Steeleye Span is that although they have a huge back catalogue every tour has a different theme and a different feel to it, whereas there are some bands of a similar vintage whose set-list changes very little from one tour to the next.

“We try and do that,” Littman agrees. “We always do try and keep it new and exciting and fresh or – play things that people haven’t heard for a long time. We always try and keep it going – keep it fresh, keep it exciting, keep it surprising sometimes.”

Steeleye Span’s Autumn 2018 tour kicks off at the Lyric Theatre in Carmarthen on 1st October. Full tour dates here: http://steeleyespan.org.uk/sample-page/tour-dates-2018/

Related articles:
Steeleye Span at St Mary in the Castle, Hastings 2017
Steeleye Span at Cadogan Hall, London 2015 
Steeleye Span at New Forest Folk Festival 2014