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Exclusive Interview: Jim Kerr

jimA Blast from the future!!
Lostboy AKA!

This editions’ exclusive interview and featured artist is legendary Simple Minds front man Jim Kerr with the release of one of the most highly anticipated solo projects of 2010.  Having enjoyed a successful career with Simple Minds for over 30 years, Jim now has a collection of his own songs.  From the influences and inspirations that paved the path for one of the most influential bands in history, Jim created an alter ego “Lostboy! AKA” to perform and compose songs which recreate the inspiration and the desire he felt as a frustrated young musician.

As with all songs that Jim has written over the years, to find the true essence of any song is to play it live and that same ethos is transpired to Lostboy AKA. I caught up with Jim to find out what is behind this build up of songs that have been drifting around with him for all these years and why now! Talking from Nice in the South of France a relaxed Jim Kerr, confidently talks about the past, present and the future, with a great insight on how this relentless creative spirit, keeps on rising!

JS)  Jim,  Who is this Lostboy character?

JK) I wanted to do something that took me back to the beginning, I have felt for a while now that I have some kinda unfinished business to attend to, it’s been burning for a wee while and more so recently. I had this feeling that this would happen some day but never knowing when and even more so if there would be a right time!  I have, over the years found a way to revisit the past, which I’m totally ok with.  I have been blessed with a great career with Simple Minds and that story has many chapters still to write, but at the moment I have the creative bug that’s burning brighter than ever before. It’s hard to contain sometimes, I love song writing passionately and for some reason I really fancied a new approach to music. Call it a fresh start and the realisation of doing something without a history. A fresh look kinda revitalised me in a way I had never thought possible. As for the timing of this, it just felt right to do this now and since that realisation everything seems to be falling in place.  The feeling that brings is great and so far so good!

JS) Why has Lostboy come to see the light in 2010?

JK) It just felt right to get immersed into this now, a few reasons & some bizarre coincidences. The time felt right and I really wanted to do this without a safety net, no parachute!  The music has to stand up on its own merits.  As with Simple Minds all songs are born to be played live and that’s the ultimate test for a good song to a truly great song. I am also surrounded by a great dedicated bunch of people who I love working with. Without that I suppose it would be a different feeling and would I still be doing this? I don’t know! I wanted it to be part of a different story. The Simple Minds sound track is constantly evolving but does there have to be only one story?  Is that how my life is meant to be? I don’t think so! I thought a lot about that, after the 30th anniversary tour, it hit me more than I would ever have contemplated. It is good to go back and have a look at the past but you need to find and live that balance – the future is the place we’re going now!

Another major factor is the recording/music business itself.  This wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago as we have always been tied into some contract where you can’t do this or can’t do that. The thing that I disliked the most is the way it was structured, it was a case of doing only one project at a time. There are so many bands and artists that have numerous projects on the go & I always like the idea of that artistically and it keeps life interesting.

As a musician I find myself constantly looking for that creative pot of gold! It’s the same with Simple Minds – on a few occasions I felt we‘d found it!  But even so there is so much still to be discovered!

Simple Minds are also having a wee bit of time out at that moment and apart from a few gigs down under, I had the time to look at Lostboy AKA plus the raw excitement and positive reaction to the demos! All roads just led to where I am now!

JS)  Why the name Lostboy AKA? Wouldn’t Jim Kerr suffice?

JK) Good question, I felt a Jim Kerr album wouldn’t be as challenging and maybe looked upon as predictable. I wanted to create a character born out of frustration and eagerness and to create an entity all on its own. I wanted to emphasise on what I had within that needed to break out – a person consumed within a person!  The idea of going back to when I was a kid and trying to find a way to communicate with the desire to succeed and elaborate on so many influences that contributed to my career, a kinda path I would have taken if Simple Minds had never of happened. Lostboy is a part of me within me! Call it an alter ego!

JS) Describe the music Jim – will the Lostboy sound be similar to Simple Minds?

JK) Of course there will be some characteristics the same, I have sung with Simple Minds for years and my voice is still the same. Charlie Burchill has always played a major part to the Simple Minds sound, live and on record, and of course all the other musicians we have played with over the years.  The instant connection of my voice will be there but there is a new originality to the music, a lot more space, and by using different musicians the whole thing has a very different feel to it. If there were any references to Simple Minds it would be only in the very early days. Jez Coad plays guitar on the album and it has a completely different approach and vibe to it.  Jez also produced the album and he is a very talented producer.

JS) what can we expect with Lostboy AKA Live?

JK) Lostboy AKA live is what I am looking forward to the most.  The level of musicianship I have immerged myself into is exceptional and the set is going to be full of energy and passion. Lostboy AKA kicks off on the 21st May in Aberdeen; Glasgow the following night, down to London on the 23rd and there is also going to be a handful of European dates to follow shortly. We’re playing tiny intimate clubs which I always like.  It also takes me back to the beginning, with Simple Minds – what better way to start the ball rolling in a tiny club with everyone going nuts!

We also intend to play some very rare Simple Minds songs have never been played live before. We are still working on them now but I can promise all the Lostboy gigs will be very special nights indeed; I would love to take “Lostboy! AKA” around the world. These small intimate gigs are just the start of things to come and that’s a promise!

Track Listing

  • Refugee
  • She Fell In Love with Silence
  • Shadowland
  • Return of the King
  • Red Letter Day
  • Remember Asia
  • Bulletproof Heart
  • Lostboy!
  • Nail Through My Heart
  • Solo man Solo Head
  • The Wait

The album “Lostboy! Aka ” will be released on May 17, 2010

For more information on Lostboy AKA please visit www.lostboyaka.com for live dates, news and of course to buy the album

The music has the same energy you would expect with anything from Jim Kerr -   innovative, creative and full of emotion. The whole collection of songs has such a futuristic feel, it’s like nothing you have heard before. This album is not about the past, it’s a glimpse into future, which incidentally, is now!!

Interview: Duane Johns

duane_johns_1Duane Johns is a singer from Cornwall who successfully reached the top 50 in X Factor during 2006 (the year Leona Lewis was crowned the winner). Since then Duane has appeared in the limelight supporting acts like East 17, Cheeky Girls and Journey South.

So how did it all start? When did you realize that singing was your passion?

At a very young age, I knew I wanted to do something involved with singing, at first I was doing stage, you know Panto’s and shows as such, but back then it was just a hobby and to be honest I wasn’t a very good singer! But from then on I just got better and better, and decided to enter singing competitions, one was called the singing sensation and Maggie Moon was a judge and she told me to audition for the x factor that very year!

Also in 2006 I was in a Band called Graffiti Eyes! We sold 150 Albums and was on the radio for a week I have also recently recorded a Disney album for my family and just based it to show my love for Disney!

Singing has always been my passion I suppose!

2006 was a big start for you, when you decided to enter the X Factor. What feelings did you have when you entered the room and stood on that famous X in front of the judges?

Well it’s wasn’t an easy ride, very tough! To be honest I remember feeling very excited and confident and was pretty relaxed actually I sort of just done it! Lol, the best part was seeing it on TV and I felt pretty good about myself.

You successfully managed to secure two yes’s from the judges.

Well this was like 3 years ago now so it’s pretty hard to remember, Simon Cowell was pretty much on the fence the whole time, Sharon Loved me, and thought I was really cute and sweet! And said I seemed like a lot of fun! Louis was also willing to give me a chance! And I was so happy when he had the final say! And he said YES!

What was the bootcamp experience like?duane_johns_2

Bootcamp was another tough part of the competition, every single person that was there were really good and we all had the best chance’s to get though! We had to wait around a lot of the time and only took about 1 minute to sing a song! It was a pretty hard day over all, but I would do it all again!

Are you still in touch with other original x factor contestants from 2006?

I was in the series with Leona Lewis and Ray Quinn. I met Ray at bootcamp, he seemed really sweet! I didn’t get to meet Leona but as we all know she is pretty quite so maybe I didn’t notice her. I did have one friend who was so funny! But haven’t stayed in contact, but she was a character! Lol.

What’s your experience did you gain from the Bootcamp experience?

I think it’s all about standing out and showing yourself off as much as you can! To do this business you have to get people your full attention! Otherwise you just fade into the background! So I think I had a confidence boast, took that away with me and I never lost it! There’s being confident and there’s being big headed! And I know the difference.

In your opinion, do you think TV reality shows like the X Factor are good for the music industry?

Yes I will have to say they are, only because I love reality TV. I think they get you noticed by people all over the world! So yes is my answer to that one! It done me pretty well after all.

Soon after the X Factor, you supported acts like East 17 & Cheeky Girls! Was that a worthwhile experience?

Yes Oh My God! It was my favorite part of 2007! It feels good to support such big top acts that people have heard of, the crowds are always exited! And it always looks good on your CV!!

Which artist did you enjoy supporting the most?

Ooh well I loved supporting the big acts, but my favorite had to be with Chenai from the x factor 2005, it wasn’t in the best place, but I just liked her on the x factor so it was really nice to also watch her sing live!

Do you have any more ambitions in supporting more artists in the future?

Oh yes definitely, my dream would be to support the likes of Girls Aloud, as I just think there amazing! They proved people that reality shows are worth the while. Also Paris Hilton, I know she’s not the best singer in the world! But I love people who want to do well in life and also have fun along the way, she’s such an inspiration, people really need to get to know her before they start bad mouthing her, just for making money! At least she is doing well I also love Emma Soraya Beard, who was a finalists on popstars the rivals and nearly made it into Girls Aloud, I love her because she never gives up even when people put her down she never gives up, I love her music and would love to support her one day!

duane_johns_3Do you enjoy the audience atmosphere?

Oh My God Yeah! I love it when people are listening to me and are having fun, maybe having a little dance that makes me feel so good that I am making someone happy and that is what it is all about! Making people smile!

Any memorable moments whilst on stage?

When people shout nice things! Like Duane we love you! Makes you feel very special! Just because your singing to them and that’s all you are doing, It makes people feel that way about you.

And, embarrassing one?

Oh yes I have had a couple of them, it always happens to me when I sing the same song! REHAB! I’ve been told by people I sing it very well and people all get up and dance! But the only problem I have is that I always forget the words and mix up the verse, so I have left that one alone lol. It just happened every time, even though I knew it off by heart!

What’s your favourite type of audience? (i.e. pub, club, mini arena, etc)

I always think the best type of place would be holiday parks I have only done one and made such a good impression I was asked to come back again, holiday makers always love to be entertained and defiantly at shows if you support an act!

Although you mainly sing cover versions, is there a song that you would like to release as a single that would be officially approved by the original artist?

Well I love to sing covers I just always have. That’s a hard question, there are so many good songs out there, it would be hard to choose, either ‘Because The Night’ Or ‘Parachute’!

Do you prefer singing the ballads or the catchy tunes?

I love singing both, because it’s always good to sing the ballads if you need to show your voice off and it’s fun belting out big numbers!

I also love singing the catchy, Cheesy Faster songs! Just can have so much fun with these tracks!

This year your due to release a second album. What’s your ambitions with this new album?

I just want to get my music heard! By someone who knows I could do well! Someone who will put 110% into me and help me to be successful, I also want people to hear me and just think, Oh Duane Andrew Johns, he’s pretty good! My new album is in the works and I really want to release it real soon, it will have about 15 tracks all covers some people will know them and some people will get to know the others, I’m just waiting for the right time, but hopefully it will do good, as long as people enjoy it then I will be happy.

Have you any favourite tracks on your future album?

Oh yes plenty! I love all my music but the ones that stand out for me are, Parachute, Falling Down, He Said She Said, And Tell Me something I don’t know.

You come across as a very passionate and dedicated singer, have you any future ambitions in writing and launching your very own single?

Well if the right person came along and wanted to do this with me, then I would be more then up for it! Launching a single and getting to number one would be a dream come true! So we’ll see how it goes!

What’s your future ambition? Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Well in 5 years time I would love to be doing it as a full time job, but this business is not an easy one, and it’s very hard to be heard! But I never give up on my dream!

Thank you Duane, it has been a pleasure talking to you and I wish you all the success with the launch of your second album and I’m sure your dedication as a singer will prove to be one day successful and rewarding.

Interview: Jay C

jay1Jay C is a Torquay based rapper and freestyler who has just launched his debut album produced by Relegate Records.  Jay had a few minutes to spare out of his hectic and non stop schedule to answer a few questions by Gary Vine,  which provides a great insight into his aspirations into being a successful and well noticed rapper.

You’ve been rapping since 15 years old? How did if all start?

I started off just freestyling with a friend shortly after moving back to Ipswich from Devon. I had wrote the odd set of lyrics here and there but i didn’t take it too serious. I went to a house party with my brother where he introduced me to a rapper/producer called Mr Woods who was part of a group called Battle Scars, after about a month I got the opportunity to feature on a few of their tracks and the experience made me start to take witting lyrics a lot more seriously.

What made you decide “Rap” was your type of music?

I went through stages of liking different types of music more than others particularly Indie and Rap. When I was 14 I started taking guitar lessons for about a year but I struggled to get into it. To this day I still listen to some Indie music but as I grew older I started to listento more and more rap, hip hop and R’n’B. So I started to write the odd lyric here and there and the more I started to write it soon became clear that writing lyrics and rap music was the thing I wanted to do.

What’s it like working with Relegate Records?

Demanding (laughing out loud) , but I believe in the work we are trying to achieve. You no the old saying “the more you put in the more you get out” and the progression the label has made within the past year is evident where ever we go in the bay.

Your debut album “Letting Them Know” was release on 24th November 2008. Have you achieved your goals through the launch of your debut album?

My expectations weren’t too high as it’s my first album and the current state of the economy is making it harder for Independent record labels to push their projects forward but I believe that no matter how well you do, you can  always do better by pushing yourself that extra mile. We still have plans in action to promote the album but as you may know no one makes it big from their first ever album.

Please provide some more information on how you put the album together?jay_c2

We weren’t 100% aware at the time we were making an album it just kind of fell together after about 8/9 months of solid recording. After Relegate Records became official we realised that we had to start making some money so we picked the best 10 tracks we had done and went from their.

What is your favourite song on this album?

Mummy’s boy by far! I got a few other’s I really like but Mummy’s  boy  the realist track I’ve done.

Does any of your music have any reflection on your life?

Apart from Mummy’s boy and playa 4 life (Jay laughs out loud!) no not really, but this is something I have been working on in new material some of  which will be released quite soon, so keep an eye on  relegaterecords.co.uk for the new singles.

­­­Have you any gigs coming up soon?

Yeah, I have a gig coming up at liquid bar in Paignton on 30th April. I had a gig there in November last year and the night was such a success that the Manager asked the label if I could come back again. I’ve also got a few more gig’s coming up soon but they are yet to be confirmed, I’ll keep everyone informed through the website so keep an eye out.

Do you enjoy the audience atmosphere?

Of course, what true artiste doesn’t like the buzz of a crowd watching you on stage, I’m still growing as an artist so it’s a nice feeling when I see the crowd respond to one of my tunes.

What’s your favourite type of audience? (i.e. pub, club, mini arena, etc)

I’ll get back to you on that one when I’ve performed in a mini arena (Jay laughs)…. so I’d have to say in a club. I do like the atmosphere club crowds bring to the gig but playing in a mini arena is on a different level, I’d love to have the opportunity but we’ll have to see what the future holds.

Every artist whether signed or unsigned have had unexpected encounters on the stage. Can you recall an unexpected encounter on stage that wasn’t suppose to happen?

Yeah, their was a incident at a festival I was performing at last year, where as we were in the middle of the chorus on our main track the needle on the turntable skipped ahead a little and confused the crowd and myself but luckily it didn’t skip to far so I was able to salvage the performance, Touch wood their will be no more in the near future.

Have you got any future album or single releases coming soon?

Like I said earlier I have a few singles coming out in the next month or so and there’s plan’s to bring out another CD around April/May time. I wont be looking to release another album for about a year or so but there will be plenty of fresh new material to look forward to.

Would you like to be profiled as a world class musician?

Who wouldn’t? If I was considered a worldclass musician I’d be grateful that my talent has been recognised to that extent and that my voice has been heard all around the world.

Have you ever considered auditioning for reality programs for shows like X Factor?

I can appreciate the talent of some of the contestants, some of them have amazing voices and without shows like X factor they might never have been heard and given the to shine. But until Simon Cowell comes up with a rap factor I don’t think you’ll be seeing Jay C on an episode of X factor any time soon.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

I would like to have made considerable amount of progress with my music and hopefully have a good reputation throughout the UK as an established artist. I would like to have performed at some big festivals like Glastonbury, maybe to have collaborated with a big artist or producer and have a single in the charts. And ideally not living with my mum and step dad……

The debut album from Jay C is available to download from Relegate Records at www.relegaterecords.co.uk. The album titled “Letting Them Know” which is a landmark in Jay C’s rap career and is the cornerstone of the DSW (dirty southwest) movement which is taking the southwest by storm.

Exclusive Interview: Jim Kerr (Simple Minds)

bobScotland’s Simple Minds evolved from a post-punk art rock band influenced by Roxy Music into a grand, epic-sounding pop band along the lines of U2. The band grew out of a Glasgow punk group called Johnny and the Self-Abusers, which featured guitarist Charlie Burchill and lead singer Jim Kerr.  The current line-up also features Mel Gaynor, Eddie Duffie & Mark Taylor.

As Simple Minds come close to finishing their latest studio album I caught up with Jim Kerr at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales to find out what has been happening and in some sense of the word a look at the past, present and future.  For many years now Simple Minds have gained the accolade as one of the greatest live bands in the World and the enthusiasm for the band and the music has never been stronger.

Hi Jim, how’s the new album progressing?

We have been recording the new album at Rockfield Studios in the picturesque town of Monmouth.  The studio is steeped in history and in a lot of ways very inspirational, the recording process has gone really well and we are all very pleased with the strength of the songs. I take some time out in the mornings to get some fresh air and exercise and you would be amazed how much comes to you with the music that we have been working on and I think it is a good thing to get some space and get some air.  Sometimes it is really difficult to get all the answers to all the questions, but sometimes when you take a step back the answers just naturally come to you and that is one of the great thing about Rockfield.  We have recorded here at various times in our career and every now and again everything seems to come flooding back, but the album is looking great and the more we get close to completion there is definitely an excitement and a buzz in the air.

Have you any ideas on a title yet?

No not as yet – There is a lot of thought and care that goes into a title and we like to work with our graphic designers. They look at the whole feel of the music and a design structure that fits in well with the songs.  We talk about it on a daily basis but nothing is set in stone yet.

How would you best describe the feel of the songs? Also does the selection of songs have the strength of Black & White? Is there a chance you could be playing the entire album live?

With the collection of songs that we are working on now there is a good feel about the continuity of the music.  Some of the songs flow nicely into each other. Black and White was a strong album that had that natural flow.  Often Charlie will send me a riff or be working on the piano and develop a frame and this often inspires the lyrics, in some cases I have a bunch of lyrics and with some of the brilliant melodies Charlie comes up with, like clouds, some great songs just form themselves.

As regards to playing all of the songs live,  I would say there is every chance that we will play the new album but there is a lot of things that this depends upon – for example – how positively the album is received and more importantly the reaction from the audience.  In the past Simple Minds have always tried to play a few promo gigs for every tour – these are essential in order to get feedback and try to capture the feel for the set that we are playing.

It seems like Simple Minds is as strong as it ever was, would you agree to that?

I totally agree – the camaraderie that we have experienced as a bunch of friends and musicians at Rockfield has been totally uplifting – this has definitely filtered down to the music and the band is as tight as ever and the whole experience at Rockfield has been totally enjoyable.  There is a guy here called Kingsley Ward, he is a huge part of Rockfield Studios and every now and again he will come in and tell us a story about some band or one of the many things that have happened here over the years – Queen recorded Bohemian Rhapsody here and many bands have recorded many many great songs and albums here.  This can be a tricky thing – it can be immensely inspirational but also you can get the opposite and create an immense pressure that you have to keep up to the exceptional standards that Rockfield has become accustomed to over the years.

Will any new songs be played on the 30th anniversary tour later this year?

Possibly not – we are looking at this collection of dates as a journey from the beginning really with everything about Simple Minds.  We are playing our “New Gold Dream” album in it’s entirety.  Even though I am a great believer in looking to the future these concerts are about all the highs of Simple Minds and in this case it is going to be a musical journey – but on the other side of the coin it is hard to imagine that at some point we are not going to play a few new songs and we have a huge back catalogue to choose from.  When playing live it is important to keep the momentum going and sometimes when you throw in a new song between two classics you have got to ask yourself, will we loose the continuity and take that risk of possibly going through a dip but I can assure you that these concerts will be a great experience for us and our die hard fans and something special to celebrate all things Simple Minds.

What kind of plans do you have for the forth coming tour, will it be World wide and what kind of venues would you be looking at?

We are looking at all options and venues for next year.  On the Black & White Tour we kind of wanted to play smaller venues, clubs etc.  Sometimes this can be a really difficult thing to do – you can’t rely on the big production and you are kind of stripped of all the glamour – along with the big stages.

An audience doesn’t care what sort of day you’ve had or whether you’ve been touring for weeks. For them, that show is the one they have been looking forward to for months and that’s a magical inspiration. We have always tried to approach each and every gig as “tonight’s the night” it also raises our game to make every night the best night on the tour.

We made it as a great live band playing small venues and at this particular time in our career we thought it would be a great experience to go back and play the smaller circuit gigs.  With more intimacy and a stripped down, more lean production it gave the music a chance to breath and more often than not these little places were absolutely  jumping – and I have to be honest we all loved every minutes of it.

After all these years does playing live still feel great? How do you see the music industry today? If Simple Minds were starting out would you find it easier or harder? What advice would you give to a young band trying to get their music heard in today’s market?

All of us are getting terribly excited at the moment – we are so looking forward to playing live again.  We built our whole reputation on being a great live band, with talent, enthusiasm and with the determination to succeed and I think that still transpires for today.  The whole structure of releasing a record has changed.  When we first started there was no internet or technology and we would make journalists and representatives from record companies come and see us. We were very persistent in never taking no for an answer and the same applies today.  I think this also applies to the future as well, regardless of how the industry changes and trends that follow – enthusiasm and the will to succeed will always be your most powerful attributes in making any band or musical act succeed.

Finally what does the future hold for Simple Minds?

At the moment we are just putting the finishing touches to the album and then Charlie and I are off to Belgium and Holland to be featured in the Night of the Proms Concerts which we absolutely love.  We get the chance to play some of our best songs with a full classical orchestra and we get to play our music to people that wouldn’t normally come to a Simple Minds concert.  After the Proms gigs we start rehearsals for our 30th Anniversary concerts starting on the 26th November at the MEN Arena in Manchester then after that we have a wee break coming up.  2009 is going to be a very busy year for Simple Minds – the album is being released in the early part of next year and then we are going to do a World Tour.  We will be playing in the UK and all over Europe and then on to North America and then who knows where our music will take us.  We are all looking forward to getting out on the road and doing what we do best – playing our music live.

In 1984 as a young school boy wondering what to do next – I can vividly remember seeing “Ultravox” at Cornwall Coliseum,  for those of the same generation the support band was called “Zerra One”.   This was the first taste of live music which lead to Simple Minds at Milton Keynes Bowl in 1986.   It was one of those pioneering moments in ones life where for the first time I knew that I wanted a career in music – whether it was being a performer or behind the scenes.  The compulsion was overwhelming – to this day I have never experienced anything as powerful as that.  Today, 24 years later as I look around my office which is littered with posters and memorabilia and with countless gigs and concerts coming up,  I can’t imagine what it would be like not to have that inspiration at some point in your life.

Simple Minds are about to embark on their 30th Anniversary Tour which includes playing their pioneering album “New Gold Dream” in its entirety and you can see Jim & Charlie at the Night of the Proms concerts in Europe, for all information and tickets have a look at the website www.notp.com

For all the information you need on tickets and dates for Simple Minds forthcoming 30th Anniversary tour the website is www.simpleminds.com

Interview: Level 42

level42Level 42, one of the biggest and most popular bands of the 80s, are back on the road and heading to Plymouth Pavilions on Saturday 18th October as part of a 20 date tour of the UK.

Led by ever-present band-leader multi-talented bass maestro Mark King the group will feature Gary Husband, Lyndon Connah, Nathan King, Sean Freeman and original keyboardist Mike Lindup.

To date the band and Mark have released 14 studio albums, 7 live albums, 6 compilation albums; have had 18 top 40 singles including ‘Lessons in Love’, ‘Something About You’, ‘Leaving Me Now’, ‘Running in the Family’, and ‘Hot Water’; have sold out Wembley for a total of 21 nights and have sold in excess of 30 million albums worldwide. In short, Level 42 proved to be one of the biggest British bands of the 80s and the recent emergence of DVD as a major format has seen a host of re-masters and releases from Universal Music, Studio Hamburg, and River Records among others.

We managed to get a brief insight on what is happening with Level 42 with an exclusive interview with Mark King

Hi Mark, Level 42 are back on the road this October with a UK major tour! Are you looking forward to playing live?

Hi Colin Yes we are, we are in this bi-annual touring situation at the moment, we sort of do a year then we have a year off and then we go out on the road again and I think that kind of keeps things fresh and interesting for everybody concerned, we are playing 20 shows around the UK right the way through October.  We have been busy through the summer too – we’ve been doing festivals, I think we have done 7 or 8 festivals so far and we have got another 4 to go but the reaction we get has been great, we are all really enjoying it

It Sounds like you’re keeping busy

Yeah it’s great – I can’t complain.  I will be 50  years old this year and if anybody had said to me that you will still be shuffling around on stage, middle aged I’d have said you’ve got to be kidding – but here I am and I am thoroughly enjoying it. In fact we are loving every minute on stage.

Do you still enjoy the tours as much as you did when you first started out?  Does playing live still give you that buzz?

I enjoy the gigs more & more – I really do.  I don’t know if it is because the pressure isn’t as intense as it was back in the day, when we were trying to make it!  Having records high in the charts is kind of behind us now and that is fine – that is how it should be really.  But I think not having the pressure of having to come up and do that sort of thing gives you a lot more time to smell the roses as it were and I know that I speak for the rest of the guys in the band too that we enjoy it more than we ever did.

When you are starting off you are trying to prove yourself and it is about getting the money in, you don’t like to say that but now you just enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Yes that’s right – you are so heads down and intent on cracking this career thing and getting it going but then before you look around 10 years have shot by and that is not really the way to live your life.  It is far nicer now.

I’ve got four children – one of them is 11 but the other 3 are all grown up, graduated University and you just think where did that time go.

Level 42 has been such a big part of the UK music scene.  As you are going out on tour how on earth do you pick from the huge back catalogue you have got.

It is not the easiest thing to do and I am always very conscious of the fact that the fans that do come out a see us and have been with us for many years.  This time when we go out on the road  I have actually posted on the website www.level42.com a poll for people to choose three of their favourite songs from any period of ours over the years and if we get special numbers of votes for them then I am very happy to put them in the set.  It is all about playing what the audience want to hear from us and I don’t have a problem doing that at all so it is kind of half up to them and half up to us.

Sounds like a great way to get the involvement of the fans as well!

Yes I hope so – but somebody got a bit carried away on it two or three weeks ago and put in 600 votes  for the same song which kind of ruined everything – so you do get the over enthusiastic ones that can spoil things a bit.

It is great to see Mike Lindup back in the band.  Both you and Mike have been the nucleus of Level 42 – Is it good to have Mike back?

Yes it is wonderful having Mike in – He is such a talented guy and I thank that that has been the talent of Level 42 over the years – that we have always had members come and go and I am always very proud of the level of musicianship that is involved within the band but there is none better then Mike Lindup – he is quite unique and he only sounds like him when he sings and he has a wonderful way on the keyboard so it is always a joy to play with him.

The one thing that has always the signature of Level 42 is the way that bass guitar is played.  How on earth did you learn to play the bass guitar like that?

It is really like drumming on the bass guitar.  I use both hands and when I first started out I did want to be a drummer and I do still enjoy playing drums to this day.  A lot of my hero’s are drummers from past and present and so when I finally took the bass up which was quite late – I did it when I was 21 years old, when the band began – it just felt very natural for me to play it in this percussion way and fortunately the timing was right in the business that people wanted to hear this sort of music.

It is an awesome sound – what is the actual correct terminology – Is it plucking?

Well it is called Slapping or Thumping

Your tour starts on the 4th October and you are going to be down at the Plymouth Pavillions on the 18th October – any message for your fans in the South West?

We have had some great nights in Plymouth in the past so I don’t think this will be any different, we are really looking forward to Playing Plymouth, and the support has always been great in South West.

Thanks Mark, its been great talking to you, Have a great tour and we all look forward to seeing you at Plymouth Pavilions.

There is no doubt that Level 42 are in a league of their own – not only are they a bunch of hugely talented musicians, the song writing is brilliant and they are nothing far short of a total inspiration.  Long may it continue!

For more information on how to buy tickets check out the website www.plymouthpavilions.com or contact the Box Office on 0845 146 1460

Interview: Wishbone Ash

wishbone1After 37 years in the music business Wishbone Ash are still one of the hottest live acts to grace any stage. Blistering live performances, packed venues and guitar harmonies, to die for are just some of the attributes awarded to one of the most influential bands of our time.  A new tour on the horizon and another chapter from the immense talent to emerge from Torquay.  From supporting The Who in their hay day to Bruce Springsteen opening shows for them in the USA, I had the honour of catching up with Andy Powell to find out what makes this musical atom bomb tick, Andy has been busy organising Ash Fest in Florida for 2008 which is a far cry from supporting The Who in Torquay Town Hall many many moons ago

In your long and illustrious career how do you find the music industry these days? Would Wishbone have succeeded back in your hayday if you were relying on downloads from the internet like itunes, tunetribe etc.

The music business has really changed in recent years. I believe we would have succeeded since we would have been in tune with these changes. Talent wins out but more importantly we would have been working the newer areas that young bands today are and don’t forget, we were a band of the people. Always were and still are.

Because of piracy and downloads it has become very easy to get any artists work and back catalogue. Do you think that bands will look to tour more heavily in the future as with downloads wouldn’t it be worth as a band working to get the £25 concert ticket or the 79p per track download?

Good question.  We are being squeezed at both ends because the huge rise in the costs of touring are making it more and more difficult at the lower end of the market which is where all the action and competition is. Plus, I have not seen any appreciable rise in income from downloads for our band working in this area. Touring and playing live is what a band is always about so I would hope that hotel costs and fuel prices don’t rise any higher but the feeling is that they will.

What do you think of acts like Coldplay, Prince, The Charlatans etc who have done just that, giving their music away in National papers and free downloads and hoping for the sell out tours.

It puts all the focus on tours but the situation will always be great for these acts since they can afford to play the market any way they like. In fact, they are the market. The newer acts on the other hand are then forced into these terrible so called 360 degree contracts where a live nation or whatever gets to own these people and every single thing they do; merchandise, downloads, touring – the whole nine yards.  This in my view is a step back for these upcoming acts. It’s like the 1950′s all over again – those terrible tin pan alley days.

At your forthcoming gig at Exeter you are playing with the highly acclaimed band The Hamsters – Is this the first time that you have played with them?

It is. I’ve heard all sorts of great reports and it should be a value for money show for the people, especially if you like guitar playing.

Do you plan on doing any more dates down in South Devon? A lot of people have asked over the years when you are going to play in Torquay which played such an important part in your career.

We will tour again in the spring of 2009 and there is a good chance we’ll play Torquay since it’ll be our 40th anniversary tour and as you say Torquay figures high in the Ash story, it being where the idea to move to London and try to make it first occurred to original members, Martin Turner and Steve Upton.  A lot of people believe that Wishbone Ash was formed in Devon but it actually was formed in London. The precursor to Wishbone Ash was from Devon and that was called Tanglewood which featured Martin Turner’s brother Glen on guitar and certainly was not a twin guitar band, which became the sound that Wishbone Ash is known for.

I see that you are running the Ashfest convention this year in Florida 4th -7th September. Would you ever consider doing a convention in the South Devon Area.

Why not? It’s beautiful down there in Devon and I’m sure we could find a great location. I’ll pass your suggestion on to the powers that be!

How about a message to all the younger Wishbone fans who are looking to catch you guys in concert. What would be a good album to get the essential feel of Wishbone – Recommend a Wishbone Ash starter pack?

”Live Dates’ or ‘Argus’  from the seventies but also, we’ve just done two compilations of the last ten years work; ‘Tough’ and ‘Tender’ which shows the rockier and then the dreamier side of the band’s sound. Our website is very deep and packed with info about the band’s recorded history too. www.wishboneash.com

If you are in a band or if you just love music here is your chance to see one of the great true pioneers of great British Rock live at Exeter Phoenix Centre with one of the most hard working bands in the country The Hamsters.

To buy tickets for the 10th October at Exeter Phoenix Theatre, Exeter call 01392 667 080

Wishbone are also playing on the 11th October at the Hall for Cornwall Truro 01872 262 466

Exclusive Interview: Wishbone Ash

wish10After 37 years in the music business Wishbone Ash are still one of the hottest live acts to grace any stage. Blistering live performances, packed venues and guitar harmonies, to die for are just some of the attributes awarded to one of the most influential bands of our time. A new album, a new tour on the horizon and another chapter from the immense talent to emerge from Torquay. From supporting The Who in their hay day to Bruce Springsteen opening shows for them in the USA, I had the honour of catching up with Andy Powell to find out what makes this musical atom bomb tick.

I know you have a close association with Torquay and the Southwest – could you give me some thoughts on the music scene when it was at its most vibrant – like when Wishbone Ash supported The Who at Torquay’s Town Hall?

We do indeed have a close association with Torquay and the Southwest since the founding members, Martin Turner and Steve Upton were from the Shiphay area in Torquay. Myself and my co guitarist Ted Turner joined these two after they moved to London. Back in the period of supporting The Who, they were known as The Empty Vessels. Strangely enough, I had also supported The Who at Watford Trade Hall so we had that experience in common once Wishbone Ash was formed in London and I believe it gave us a common inspiration.

My inspiration was a lot of the London bands at the time like The Creation, The Who, The Action and The (British) Birds. My new Devonshire friends were raving about The Devarks and Johnny Kid and the Pirates but we quickly all developed a liking for bands we were all being exposed to on the road like Mott the Hoople and Coliseum. Later in the States The Steve Miller Band and The Allman Brothers impacted us. In Devon, they introduced me to Lionel Digby who was a promoter back in the day, a real character with flair who was very much responsible for championing the new music scene in Devon.

In those days, we’d laugh about the scene, calling it the ‘Wild West’ on account of all the fights that would break out at gigs!

Who were your main influences and what presence do they have in your music today?

My personal influences at that time were mostly guitarists. We formed the band in the late 60’s so this was on the tail end of the British Blues Room and Psychedelia. I grew up on the music of The Shadows and through my Dad’s influence, Django Rheinhart but later I discovered Blues players like Albert Kin and in Britain I loved Peter Green’s playing (Fleetwood Mac). Later on Fairport Convention became a big influence and it’s strange because we recently played at their 40th Anniversary show at The Cropredy Festival in Oxfordshire.

Over the years you have been a major festival act – what kind of bands do you remember the most when playing on the big stages in Europe & America?

Well, we played many festivals and headlined our own big European Festival Tour in the 70’s over acts like Ike and Tina Turner, Soft Machine and Mahavishnu Orchestra. In addition we’ve played festivals with everyone from Bob Marley to ELP to ZZ Top and in the States with bands like The Who as you mentioned, Alice Cooper, Steppenwolf, Chuck Berry. We had Springsteen open for us as well as Bob Seger, Kiss and many others. It’s incredible really. I think it was the British Bands like The Who that really showed The Americans how to do Stadium Rock though. They really helped develop the PA Systems and production elements that we take for granted today. In those days we would ship all our custom British ‘Orange’ equipment over there, at great cost. It was important to keep our sound intact for the Big American shows. As a result, we made a big impact with our sound and musical style. The Americans really could not believe the big sound we made since most bands would use little Fender amps and Combos and the PA Systems were like little tannoy systems. The Brits made ‘em sit up and take notice, I believe. They even called it the British Invasion with bands like us, Humble Pie, Free, The Who, Bowie, Sabbath, Ten Years After, Cream, Zeppelin. Great Days!!

It has been documented that Wishbone Ash were the true originators that gave birth to the guitar harmony style of music – Did you intend to pursue that accolade or was it  something that naturally developed when you were recording and playing live together?

Well we had a plan! We knew we needed our own sound to set us apart from other bands. It’s true that like a lot of bands, we developed ideas through jamming together on stage and in rehearsals but the Twin Lead Guitar thing was something that we discovered we could do, since myself and Martin Turner, out bass player definitely had a great sense of melody and harmony through our formative experiences. He had been in a church choir and I had worked on Brass arrangements with my soul band as a teenager. That band was called The Sugar Band. The sound of the guitar section in Wishbone  Ash was almost like a Brass or Horn section and gave us a much wider scope to our sound than just rhythm and lead players. Also, Martin Turner was more of a guitarist himself than a bass player, in some ways, so he would tend to bring in the bass as a third part with Ted and my parts. This really defined our sound and was considered quite brave at the time. Early song examples would be Lady Whiskey and Blind Eye. In addition, we had a very distinct vocal harmony sound which we tended to reject in later years to the detriment of the band’s impact. I believe. Check out The Argus Album – A  song like The Warrior
A few years ago we lost a true genius within the music industry and dear friend Kim Turner. Could you share a memory or time that you shared with Kim?

Well, Kim was Martin Turner’s youngest brother. The Middle  Turner’s name was Glen and he originally came to London with Martin and Steve Upton but found the ‘Big Smoke’ too much. It’s a pity, since he himself is still a very fine player. I often wonder what it would have been like if myself or Ted had teamed up with him. Kim actually was very young when I first met him but he became an excellent drummer and eventually followed Martin and our band to London and got involved in the music business through our Manager, at the time, Miles Copeland. Despite playing with some great people and being a very good musician, he realised that there were opportunities developing with Miles’ new discovery, The Police. Kim ended up becoming their Tour Manager and later he co-managed Sting for many years. There are lots of great stories about Kim. He was a bon vivant and hell raiser and together with Miles’ brother Ian (our booking agent for a time), loved rock and roll until his untimely death from cancer. Strangely enough, his good buddy, Ian was to pass from the same disease. Kim helped Wishbone in many ways and also managed other musicians like Andy Fraser from the band Free. He was a good guy!

Being a band with such a heavyweight reputation – How do you feel about Wishbone’s presence still regarded today as one of the hottest acts?

I feel great about it. We have respect and you can not buy that. Others bestow that on you. Part of the reason is that to a large extent, we have kept our integrity and not sold out. We perhaps never  reached the heights, career wise, of some other bands due to a lack of singles success. We have always been considered a great live act and an albums band. The guitar section and our sound has been key.

There have been a lot of excellent players through the band’s ranks in recent years and this has kept things evolving. Our fans realise that we are always a work in progress and are always developing and changing and they stick with with us. We do not rest on our laurels. Our fans are incredibly loyal. We have a great website www.wishboneash.com and this helps, big time.

Finally what do you think the next ten years will hold for Wishbone Ash?

Well, we’ve just produced an excellent live DVD and a CD of new songs has just been completed which we’ll begin promoting around the world on our shows. It’s called The Power of Eternity.

That takes care of at least the next two years! In the meantime, we’ll be writing more new music and watching out for the next technological development. The record industry is a free fall at the moment so I’m interested to see how our fortunes will fare but I believe if we keep on adhering to our beliefs and keep our integrity intact, we’ll weather the changes. It’s worked for us in the past.

The most important thing is to enjoy what we are doing with passion and hard work. It really seems to do the trick. By the way, in just the next six months alone, we have 110 tour dates scheduled around the world!

Well, there you have it a world tour of 110 dates beckon – but let’s never forget where the journey started, so many moons ago Patrick Moore would struggle in counting them,  A closing word for all of our readers?

I have very good memories of travelling to small gigs in the South West back in the 70’s and rehearsing in Exeter, putting our music together and hopefully we’ll be able to keep popping up in the region  for many years to come!