In the Autumn of 2020 former Accept lead vocalist, Udo Dirkschneider, began putting together a new project that brought together some familiar faces. Going by the moniker Dirkschneider & The Old Gang, the name is pretty self-explanatory. Along with Dirkschneider and his son, Sven, two former Accept members (bassist Peter Baltes and guitarist Stefan Kaufmann) have also been brought in, along with singer Manuela Bibert.
A single ‘Where The Angels Fly’ was released on April 2nd and has already clocked up over two millions views on YouTube.
More information about the new venture is promised over the coming weeks:
“Anyone who had previously believed that they already knew all the essentials is mistaken. Dirkschneider & The Old Gang started with a sensational video, but only vaguely indicated the entire dimension. So keep your eyes and ears open: From now on it will be really exciting!”
Udo Dirkschneider was lead vocalist with Accept from the bands formation in 1976 through to 1987, performing on numerous albums including the much-celebrated Balls To The Wall. While he rejoined Accept for a period in the late 90s and early 00s he has also enjoyed a successful career with his own band U.D.O.
‘Where The Angels Fly’ released 2nd April 2021 by AFM Records
Alan Hewitt has played keyboards with the Moody Blues since 2010 as well as fronting his own band Alan Hewitt & One Nation. In this interview we talk about growing up in a small US town where all the upcoming local bands seemed to be obsessed with English prog, about eventually getting the call from the Moody Blues and about catching Covid while performing an online gig to a virtual audience. We also discuss his latest single and forthcoming album.
DJ: It’s so nice to speak to you, Alan, and thanks so much for your time doing this. First, I’d just like to find out a little bit about how you got into music professionally in the first place?
AH: Ok, Darren, great to be here… Well, I started out like a lot of kids do, you know, twelve years old and I started on drums and we put a band together. I grew musically as time went on. Those were fun years. My brother actually played bongos in my band and we would play gigs together.
DJ: A percussion duo, you and your brother then!
AH: Yeah! Actually my brother was a real kind of nurturing guy along the way. You know you need someone to kind of help support you along the way. My parents were great, too. So then, had a band – fourteen-fifteen years old – which was a really cool band. It was three of us, kind of like an Emerson Lake & Palmer thing. And we did Tchaikovsky, and we would turn them into rock tunes. And we opened up for a lot of known acts and so that was kind of my start to getting into the little bit bigger realm of things. From that point on I went to Berklee College of Music and that’s where things started blossoming as I started getting some foundation under me. And it moved from there…
DJ: So the prog classically-influenced thing came at quite an early age then?
AH: It was interesting because the town I grew up in (Petoskey, Michigan) was really small. It would be like Cobham, something like that over there. And we had several bands and pretty much all of the bands were into progressive rock. I mean like Gentle Giant, Blodwyn Pig, Genesis, Yes, and of course, Emerson, Lake & Palmer – all of them! Yeah, it’s kind of strange actually. I wanted to go as far out as I could possibly go. Some of the guys I was with that was far enough. I wanted to go even further so that’s why I kind of moved on.
DJ: And eventually at some point the call came to begin touring with the Moody Blues. How did that gig come about?
AH: Well there was quite a gap in there because I had film and TV and then I did some other things. And then along the lines I was in a management group which had Earth, Wind & Fire, Warrant, Moody Blues and the Beach Boys and some others. So that was how it originally all came together. I had met Justin (Hayward) about twenty years prior to me being in the band and we got along great. I had a sail-boat, we’d go out sailing – just kind of hanging. Did a little music but not much. And then, like you said, later on I got a call asking me if I’d be interested in going out. They didn’t tell me it was the Moody Blues though. I said, “It depends who it is but I’m interested.” And after I had a little meeting with Robert Norman who was our agent, he approved it to the next level and then I had an audition – along with some other guys, too. And then I got the gig and that’s kind of how it came down.
DJ: Wonderful. Although you weren’t a nominee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame presumably you were there as part of the live performance?
AH: Yeah, we got to play!
DJ: That must be something!
AH: It was cool. It was really cool. It was a long night for the guys because we were last on – and, of course, they have to sit out there at the table with everybody. But it was really cool. I spent a lot of time in the green room with Ann Wilson and some of the other people that were in there – and it was a gas.
DJ: Because she inducted the band didn’t she?
AH: She did. And it’s interesting because I had met her. I had a band in Chicago back in the mid-80s and they worked at a studio called Pierced Arrow. Remember that song ‘Another Paradise’ with the guy from Loverboy? They were recording that… and I happened to be working a lot at that studio, too, and the guy who co-produced and mixed all of our records was doing that record. And I met her then, so we talked about that and she goes, “Wow, that’s a long time ago.”
DJ: Must have been a fantastic occasion for the band?
AH: Oh yeah. Have you had any of the other guys on? Have you had Justin or John here with you?
AH: Nice. I did his first solo tour with him and it was really nice. Him and John – he’s totally acoustic and plays all his work. And John’s is more of a rock show so it’s an interesting contrast.
DJ: When live performances get going again in the UK, I’d definitely like to see more of them.
AH: That would be nice.
DJ: You’ve obviously continued with a parallel solo career while being in the Moody Blues – and your film and TV work, too. Do you still continue with the film and TV compositions?
AH: I do yeah – I like to stay as creative as possible, so the Alan Hewitt & One Nation project is kind of an extension of the music that I really enjoy – whatever comes out basically because I need that conduit. It’s always coming in and so I have to bring it out. So we’re working on that album and that will be done shortly. We’re moving along pretty good. We’re on about half way through – and some of the new songs are pretty cool, too. And, yeah, the film and TV thing is a continual thing. I do – probably twenty-five shows I have music in on any given day…
DJ: So any shows that British viewers would be familiar with?
AH: I do have some British shows but you’re putting me in the hot chair – what are some of them? I have some stuff on the BBC… I know I have some documentaries. One’s about the redwoods – the trees over here. I think there’s a farm animal show and there was one about turtles, too! There’s three of those – those are documentaries. Of course, I did Bridget Jones – Edge of Reason. I know that’s not real British, but they play British – and there’s one Brit in it right!
DJ: We know that – we’ll go with that! What initially prompted you to put Alan Hewitt & One Nation together then? Tell us a little bit about that.
AH: Well it started, I just had a bunch of different revelations and it’s something I always wanted to do, and I was at a point – we took a break with the Moodies. I think it was at least five months. So it was a time where I could go ahead and start moving along with things. And it started with Jamie Glazier from Chick Corea and Jean-Luc Ponty. And J.V. Collier and Sonny Emory from Earth, Wind & Fire. And then Duffy King who’s my friend from northern Michigan, who was in one of those bands I told you about – and has won tons of awards in Detroit for his music and guitar playing. He was a Gibson clinic guy, too. So that was the foundation of that first band. And then I took a break from it because I got busy with touring with the Moodies and John (Lodge). And then we started it up again because now Duffy King’s still in it and then Billy Ashbaugh from the Moodies – the drummer from the Moodies who joined a few years ago to play along with Graham (Edge). And then David C. Johnson from the Neville Brothers. So then three of us live in Florida. So that made it a lot easier to do things. And then Duffy flies in when we need to do events or anything. We did a virtual ProgStock concert, but we had to go to a studio to do it, over in Fort Myers, and we all got Covid there.
DJ: Oh dear me.
AH: See what we do for the fans!
DJ: So you’re doing an online concert – looking after your audience and everything – but you still get Covid.
AH: Yeah. That was back in October and everybody’s good now. There was a few complications with a few of us but we’re all good on that now. So it kind of evolved into what it is and this way we’re going to be able to tour a lot easier. A smaller group and we have a new agent who is Jim Lenz from TKO. And the guys just all love what we’re doing. It’s just a really good, nice hang because we all get along great so it’s nice.
DJ: When is the album due? Is there a date?
AH: We’re looking for Summer, but it could be Fall. It just depends. A lot of it depends on this situation. It was starting to look good over here and now we’re getting a little bit of an upsurge again but – I’m hopeful.
DJ: I’ve heard the latest single ‘We’re One Nation’ which I love, and I love the sentiment behind that. Do you want to say a little about that and how you were inspired to write that?
AH: Of course, just like you and everybody else we’ve been paying attention to things and I just got to the point where instead of yelling at the TV I wrote it down. And that’s kind of where that came from. It’s not an angry thing but the concept is that if we all just kind of work together we’d be much better off – instead of splintering off into these little groups. So that’s the bottom line.
DJ: And the timing was perfect I think.
AH: Yeah. It definitely was. We had a single before that called ‘One Step Closer’. That’s a little bit more… it’s one step closer to the edge is basically what it was. ‘We’re One Nation’ is a little bit more positive
DJ: I absolutely love it.
AH: That’s good. I’m glad you like it.
DJ: Is there anything else you want to tell us? Any final thoughts you want to leave us with?
AH: Oh well, just we hope everybody can go out and see shows pretty soon and we’re looking forward to doing it, also. And thanks Darren for doing the podcast. Appreciate it.
DJ: It’s really good to chat. Thanks so much and good luck with everything. I hope you can get out performing soon.
AH: I do, too, and if we come near you we’ll see you?
Taking their cues from the classic pop-punk anthems of the late 90s and early 00s Project Revise are a three-piece from Worcestershire inspired by bands such as Blink 182, Goldfinger and Less Than Jake. Project Revise regularly feature on Spotify playlists like ‘New Punk Tracks’, ‘Skatepark Punks’, ‘Pop Punk’s Not Dead’ and ‘Punk Unplugged’. The band performed a live session for BBC Introducing which was broadcast back in January 2019.
Their latest single ‘Hold Your Ground’ is released on March 19th, immediately qualifying them as this week’s featured artist. A catchy, hard-hitting and instantly-memorable slice of pop-punk is all about everyday struggles in life, according to the band, and how to overcome them while still trying to remain true to yourself.
Guitarist/vocalist Chris Tamburro tells Darren’s Music Blog:
“Hold Your Ground really pulls together all the old school punk rock and emo influences we have between us. We really feel as though our musical direction has been progressive over the last year with our previous few singles, but this song really pushes things even further! We genuinely cannot wait for everyone to hear it and are excited to finally get back into the rehearsal studio again to work on some more new music!”
The video for ‘Hold Your Ground’ features almost 70 of the band’s followers from social media joining in with the lyrics, including an appearance from Bowling For Soup front-man Jaret Reddick.
Asking us to imagine what the offspring of the White Stripes and Radiohead might sound like, Kent-based alternative rock band The Fools Horses have recently released their debut single ‘Drifting Away’.
The Fools Horses are Noah Kemp (guitar and lead vocals) and Tommy Pearce (drums). Both just 16, and from the Faversham/Whitstable area, the duo met in school – bonding over similar musical tastes and drawing on influences from bands such as Muse and Royal Blood.
The duo say they explore many styles in their music but for their first single they have gone for that mellow, melancholic alt-rock vibe that Radiohead set the bar for on OK Computer. I love it. Not only have they captured a mood that so many of us must be feeling right now but with this original piece of song-writing they’ve also demonstrated they can turn in a pretty decent melody, too.
Talking about the song Noah Kemp says: “Drifting Away was written in lockdown about losing someone you love and has multiple meanings. On a personal level it’s about a breakup. However, it also relates to lockdown, and how people you used to talk to every day at school or something, are slowly drifting away as you lose contact. I wrote the lyrics by writing down exactly what I was feeling at the time and then sort of arranging them into cohesive lyrics.”
Following the release of his debut album (reviewed here) back in April, the alt-folk musician James Auger aka A Choir of Ghosts releases a new single. ‘Skin & Bones’ is released on November 20th with an accompanying video.
“The song is about the realization that you can’t always ‘fix it’ for the people you love. Sometimes they have to solve it themselves, and you can’t do anything but watch and hope for the best. In order for things to grow to its full potential, you sometimes have to let go,” says Auger.
“It’s a hard realization but I think a lot of people can identify with the feeling of sudden emptiness, when you come to something in your way that you cannot share, but rather have to go about alone. Your only hope lays in that once the obstacle has been passed, you can rendezvous on the other side.”
A spring 2020 European tour was cancelled due to Covid-19, but Choir of Ghosts has now sprung back into life with this gentle, longing beautiful song and atmospheric video filmed deep in the Scandinavian forests.
A new album from blues-infused guitar legend Snowy White and his band The White Flames is due out on 9th October this year.
In advance of next month’s full album release, ‘I Wish I Could’ a delicious slice of virtuoso blues combined with White’s characteristically laid-back and personal lyrics is now available as a single.
Most famous for his 1983 worldwide hit ‘Bird of Paradise’ from his debut solo album, White has developed his own unique style of ‘English’ blues, a combination of clear, clean blues phrases and harder-edged contemporary rock riffs.
In the seventies he toured the east coast of America, getting as far south as New Orleans and discovering the life of a touring musician was one that suited him. By that time he had become friendly with former Fleetwood Mac guitar legend, Peter Green, and they spent a lot of time jamming together. In the Autumn of 1976 he was invited to tour America and Europe with Pink Floyd and the following year went on to guest on the solo album of Floyd’s keyboard player Rick Wright. In 1979 White accompanied Peter Green on his return to the studio after several years away and the album ‘In the Skies’ was the result. Further work with Pink Floyd ensued which was then followed by a three year stint in Thin Lizzy, leaving in 1982 to commence his solo career.
White’s first solo album was entitled White Flames and included the aforementioned ‘Bird of Paradise’ smash. In 1987 White put together a blues-orientated outfit, the Blues Agency, recording two albums. In the 90s White then toured and recorded with two Dutch-Indonesian musicians, Juan van Emmerloot (drums/percussion) and Walter Latupeirissa (bass and rhythm guitar). As The White Flames they recorded a string of albums, including No Faith Required, Restless, The Way It Is and Realistic, performing all over Europe.
A long stint then followed working with Roger Waters once more,which included Waters’ Dark Side Of The Moon and Wall’ tours. In between tours White founded the Snowy White Blues Project, recording the albums ‘In Our Time Of Living’ and ‘In Our Time…Live’.
White’s most recent solo album, The Situation came out in 2018. The new album Something On Me features Thomas White on drums, Rowan Bassett on bass and appearances by various other White Flames.
Following a series of fantastically well-received live dates last year Thunderstick, with their mesmerising singer Raven Blackwing, are back with a new single and a return to live shows. Kent’s legendary rock venue ‘Leo’s Red Lion’ will be the first to support the release on Saturday 8th February.
Barry Graham Purkis aka Thunderstick:“The band will be touring our eccentric ‘Anomaly stage show’ throughout 2020. For those about to experience us live for the first time prepare yourself for the journey. We are the ‘Dark Cabaret Theatre Hooligans’ and we will steal your Rock’n’Roll hearts.”
Raven Blackwing:“I’m very excited about the upcoming release. It’ll be my first Thunderstick recordings. I was given so much love and support throughout my first year with the band, we thought a ‘limited edition’ reworking of a couple of tracks from the ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ album would be a cool way to say thank you. My own particular milestone. It also sets the scene for the band’s very first live album ‘Something Wicked This Way Came…Thunderstick Live in France’. I hope that our fans enjoy both. Luv Raven xx”
The single features the tracks ‘Go Sleep With The Enemy’ and ‘I Close My Eyes’ which will be familiar to fans, reworked for the unique voice of Raven Blackwing. The single is available in both CD and digital formats.
Charismatic Raven Blackwing will lead her thunderous band mates Vinny Konrad (guitar), Lee Quenby (guitar), Rex Thunderbolt (bass) and the legendary Thunderstick/Barry Graham Purkis (drums) on a series of UK and European dates throughout the year. UK festivals ‘Breaking Bands’ on 25th May and ‘Cornwall Rocks’ on 20th November have now been confirmed, with many more to be announced. A new live album ‘Something Wicked This Way Came – Thunderstick live in France’ is set for release in March on Roulette, followed by a brand new studio album currently being recorded for release in July.
Best known for his time with Samson and an early Iron Maiden Barry Graham Purkis (AKA Thunderstick) has been the legendary icon for the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) scene since the late 70s. His eponymously named band, renowned for its female fronted power rock and theatricality, have a considerable heritage. The band played live and recorded for six years both in the UK and in the United States throughout the 1980s until playing their last gig in October 1986. Then In 2016 former lead vocalist, Jodee Valentine, tragically died following a five-year battle with early onset Alzheimer’s. In recognition of Jodee’s memory Barry decided to record some songs that Jodee had performed live. This became the ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ album, the first new Thunderstick product in over thirty years. It was released in July 2017 to enthusiastic reviews worldwide.
Barry:‘It was never my intention to put a performing band together but In light of the positive encouragement I received and much deliberation a new Thunderstick was formed. Staying true to its theatrical recognition we have been gathering momentum once more amongst the rock fraternity. The next chapter in this amazing story is ready for the writing.”
With the general election coming Drew and The Devotees have re-released their single ‘Hard Working People’. A slice of pop punk influenced by the early work of Billy Bragg and The Clash, the song rails against poverty and injustice with all proceeds from the single going to the food poverty charity the Trussell Trust.
Drew Howgill: “Hard Working People was written in 2014/15 inspired by (Green MP) Caroline Lucas’s book in which she criticised politicians for the over-used phrase – which by implication excluded carers, students and others unable to do the 40 hours a week grind. The song is about poverty and observations of increasing use of food-banks. 41,000 in 2010 now up to 1.6 million.”
Drew and The Devotees were formed in 2006 as a songwriting project band, initially with Alef Ahmed in 2008 and from 2010 onwards with US producer Jeffrey Teruel of STIC Studio, Manchester. A follow-up single is due next year with an album out later in 2020.