Interview with John Corabi from The Dead Daisies

Rock group, The Dead Daisies released their latest album Make Some Noise earlier this year and saw it reach number 35 in the UK album charts. Since then it’s been non-stop for the band who are about to embark on their November UK tour co-headlining with Irish band The Answer, stopping at Sheffield’s Corporation on November 14th.

The Dead Daisies frontman and ex-Mötley Crüe singer, John Corabi talks about what in store for the band and their fans.


Given the varied groups you have all played in before, how did The 

Dead Daisies come about? Do you feel like a Rock Supergroup?

John: Well The Daisies was started in 2012, by David and a singer named Jon Stevens in Australia and I personally wasn’t there in the beginning, and don’t really know what happened before I got here but, I’ve been told that they wrote a bunch of material, and recorded with a bunch of session players, and decided to put a “band” together to tour. It was kind of “ass backwards” actually, cause most bands get together and write for a while, then try to get a deal, record an album, then go on tour. So I guess there were a couple of members that didn’t quite work out along the way. I don’t exactly know the time frame on when Marco and Brian got involved but they been involved for a few years now. I’ve been with the band since last January, as Jon Stevens left the band to do some solo recording. We’ve recorded 2 albums since I’ve joined (Revolucion, and Make Some Noise) and things have been steadily getting better with each tour!!! The band doesn’t consider ourselves a supergroup, we like to say we’re more like a “boys club”, as we’re more a bunch of really good friends that share the same love of classic rock music, if you will, and we’re just having a ton of fun doing this!! We’ve all known each other for 20+ years so, it’s been an incredible couple of years hanging, creating, and jamming live with each other!!!

Your latest album ‘Make Some Noise’ came out in August and charted well across the globe, are things getting bigger with each release?

J: Yes!!!!! We’re very excited about all the NEW places we’ve been invited to, i.e. Japan, South Korea, South America, etc., and the growing amount of fans, and the amazing support they give us in the places we’ve played already. I think we’re tapping into a huge segment of people that just dig good classic music, and the fun and excitement that we all used to feel when our favourite bands would put out a new record, or come to town for a show. The energy the fans give back to us via email, and at the shows is really great, and again it reassures us that Rock is still alive and well, and the music fans are still there and ready to “throw down”!!! We’re all very blessed to be in this business this long, and still be able to do what we all LOVE, and continue to make new music and make new friends all over the world!!!!

Are you consciously developing the bands sound with each recording or is it a case of going with the flow when writing songs?

J: Its very much a “go with the flow” thing here. We’re a bit geographically challenged as David lives in Sydney Australia, Marco, Doug, and Brian live in Los Angeles, and I live in Nashville. So, both records I’ve done with the guys have been written and recorded very quickly. We start with a bunch of riffs, and just develop them together. We’ll get what I like to call a “map” or a song foundation, and we just record it onto a laptop or cellphone. Once we had enough material we sifted through all the ideas with Marti Fredrickson, and decided on the best 13-14 tunes. We started laying the rhythm tracks down all together in the same room, so we could all play off of each others energy. I’m usually in a separate room scatting and trying to develop a melody. Once that part is finished, we go off into different rooms and Doug worked on his solos, and I worked on lyrics and melodies. There’s no egos at all in the process and we all kind of bounce the ideas off each other and get input when it’s needed. I’ve gotten some great input from all the guys at times for lyrics or titles, so it’s all very band oriented..We all work about 12 hours a day, everyday, in the studio and just get extremely focused on the work at hand. As we’re laying down vocals and guitars you begin to hear other ideas for the songs because you really begin to get a feel of how the song is going to sound, so there may be a bit of experimenting. In a nutshell, basically we just write, record, then play around a bit with the tunes, and let the songs go where they want!!!! We did both records (Revolucion and Make Some Noise) this way, and the process of writing, recording, mixing, and mastering was completed in a little

over a month both times. When we talked to Marti about producing, we just told him we wanted to do a good old fashioned, classic rock record. Thats about all the thought that went into the sound…

You are playing across the UK, what have been the groups experiences over here up till now?

J: Playing in UK has been AMAZING for all of us!!!! The fans are awesome, and have been extremely accepting of all of us, separately and together. It gives us a chance to see and hang with some mates. Personally, I’ve played England a couple of times when I was doing my solo acoustic shows and had a blast!!! I was schooled on a few different warm beers and managed a bit of sight seeing, but not much! I’ve got quite a few friends there, and enjoy seeing them every time I’m there, and I also LOVE the history of UK, so that intrigues me as well.

Is there a venue anywhere in the globe that you enjoy playing at the most?

J: That’s a hard one… We all just LOVE playing!!! Theres a bunch of places, even here in America that I haven’t played yet so, after 25 years of touring, there’s still a lot of famous venues that I’d LOVE to play!!! I think playing The Download festival last year with The Daisies, was awesome, as I read about that when it was called The Donnington festival in magazines as a kid in Kerrang. I was supposed to play there with Motley in 1994, on a bill with Aerosmith, and for some reason we cancelled, so I was more than disappointed, but it was definitely a bucket list gig. Playing Budakon with Motley in Japan was great as well, and thats another legendary venue, that I remembered from the Cheap Trick album. I think my biggest wish is to play my hometown in Philadelphia at the new Spectrum, and Madison Square Garden cause that’s as legendary as you can get!!! Hopefully it won’t take that long to cross those venues off the list…

You are starting this UK tour off the back of the KISS KRUISE – whats it like to play to a boat full of rock fans sailing around the caribbean?

J: Doing the Kiss cruise or The Monsters Of Rock cruise is ALWAYS a blast!!! It’s a festival on a boat with people from all over the world. How could you not dig that? The Kiss guys are always very accomodating, and we can’t thank them enough for the invites the last couple of years!!! Personally I’ve got a pretty long history with their fans, as I had a band called Union after Motley Crue, with Bruce Kulick, who used to play guitar with Kiss. I also have a side band with Eric Singer, the current drummer from Kiss, called “ESP”. So, it’s always a blast doing that! This year should be a real party cause a bunch of good friends are playing as well, so it’ll be out of control I’m sure. Kiss has Skid Row, Whitford/St.Holmes, Kings X, this time, so we’re excited to see and hang with them all. It’s pretty cool when you can go onto a huge cruise ship, and soak up some sunshine, hang with friends and fans, have a few drinks, and then go play and listen to great music! It’s a bit of a “work vacation” as I get to bring my wife and have a quite a bit of fun..The fans are always very

polite, and respectful, so we always have a great time!!!!

You are co-headlining with The Answer from Northern Ireland in the UK and Europe, have you played with them before, what are your thoughts on the Irish rockers?

J: We have never played with them before but, I’m very excited to check them out. Everybody we’ve spoken to has given us great feedback about the guys, so I think it’ll be a GREAT tour!!! We’re all big Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore, Rory Gallagher, U2 fans so we know Ireland has some great music coming out of there. There’s a huge list of amazing talent then and now from Ireland so I’m beyond curious to see what the guys are all about. Most of the people we’ve met from there are always very jovial, so we’re really looking forward to meeting them, and hanging and maybe even having a drink or two…They are Irish, so I’m training my liver as I type…hahaha!!! Oddly enough, I’m also doing the Monsters Of Rock cruise with my solo band, and their on the boat as well in February, so this tour will be the warm up for that too!!!

Out of all the band members who would be the most rock’n’roll?

J: 1- Brian, if you love drums and animals!!!!
2- Doug, if you love guitar heros and guys with good abdominal muscles!!!
3- Marco, if you love bass, and Salsa, anything Latin and eyeliner!!!!
4- David, if you love guitar, Aussies, pilots, and shopping!!!!
5- And yours truly if you’re into incredibly talented, handsome, savvy,

poetic, Godlike, HUMBLE singers such as myself….

Has the notion of taking it easy ever entered your head or is life on the road too addictive?

J: I STILL LOVE being on the road!!!! And obviously you’ve never seen me with a POWERTOOL in my hands…(not good) But, right now, The Dead Daisies are really picking up a lot of steam, with our new record “Make Some Noise” and we’re touring until mid December of this year, then taking off January and February of 2017, then picking right back up again in March. I also have a new live solo record coming out in January, (94 Live, One Night In Nashville) so I’ll be touring to support that with my band during The Daisies’ off time.. I guess if you still really enjoy doing something you love, it’s not really considered work…is it???


In Conversation with The Levellers’ Jeremy Cunningham

2014 saw folk-rock legends, The Levellers set off on a world-wide tour, celebrating their success in the industry after over 25 years. Bassist, Jeremy Cunningham talks to Charlie Barker about the highs and lows of their career, politics and the beauty of being independent musicians.

Charlie: So you’ve had the best of 25 years in the business and you’re embarking on this latest European tour, how many different countries have you been to so far?

Jeremy: Well, we’ve been to Holland, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark… I think that’s it so far!

C: You’re on the UK leg of it now and it is all surrounding the Greatest Hits record you’re bringing out. So as a band, who has travelled the world playing your music going to so many places. What’s left to do?

J: We’ve done an awful lot. We’ve played in a lot of small clubs around the world, right up to big venues and small festivals to huge festivals. I don’t know. We just like playing.

We don’t really rehearse unless we’re changing and rearranging stuff, which we do quite frequently, but if we just sit around playing our old songs it’s quite boring. As soon as we set foot in front of an audience, it’s just like it’s the first time we’ve ever played them. We’re really conscious that we want to give the best. We’re more conscious now than we were when we were younger of giving the best show we could possibly do. We spend a lot of money, more than most people on our show: our lights and our sound and bringing in any other bits and pieces. We like people to think they’ve had a bit of a party and their money’s worth, so we have confetti cannons, lasers and stuff. We’re from the rave generation: old school!

C: Not once have I ever seen a quiet Levellers gig.

J: It doesn’t exist unless we’re doing an acoustic set.

C: After all this time on the road, what do you think keeps the fans coming back?

J: ‘Cause we’re f**king good! That’s it basically. What we were saying about having a good time, it’s absolutely true. We’re also talking about important issues in our lyrics, issues that people identify with; political issues and personal issues. We put that in music that you can dance to and basically forget about all your troubles and at the same time you know you’re connecting with the real world. It’s not just pure escapism. I think that’s what people like and because we f**king deliver!

C: Do you think you’re seeing more of a younger audience going down the generations?

J: Seems to luckily for us! We’ve still got the young kids at the front and the older guys at the back. It’s very important for us to have the younger kids at the front, ‘cause they’re the ones that jump around. They give us that reciprocal thing, between band and audience. That gives us our forward momentum that we have to have to really deliver. What we’ve found, as this is our 26th year and in a couple of months it will be our 27th year, we’re seeing the kids of our original followers who have been trawling through their Mum and Dad’s record collections and are now just about scraping old enough to come and see us.

That accounts for some of it I think and the rest is people discovering us as no other band really sounds like us. We’re quite unique, so we have that kind of position and because we’re not just a musical thing. If young kids are more inclined to want to know more about the world around them, then we fit quite nicely into that scene of talking about important things. But at the same time they can still go and drink Jagerbombs and jump up and down at the front of a gig.

We were all in a student union bar the older day feeling like the oldest people there. We were still drinking Jagerbombs for two quid each and misbehaving ourselves, we always do!

C: You’re playing along with some impressive names tonight; you’ve got The Selecter and newcomer, Laura Kidd (She Makes War). How did it come about and did you personally choose who to gig with?

J: Yeah we personally chose both of them. Our agent Dave saw Laura, sent me an email and a couple of clips on YouTube to check her out and I thought she was absolutely brilliant and I sent it around the rest of the band. When we realized she was available to do this, she was the first person we asked and she was up for it. Then The Selecter, we hadn’t really thought about them being: an independent, reasonable sized band in their own right. They were actually in New Zealand at the time, but our agent said they’d be up for it if we asked them. So, we asked them and here we are.

C: In terms of genre, you’re both very different but I think you’ve got a lot of shared values.

J: It’s dance music effectively. Musically it is different but values and the political ethos are very similar. It’s funny ‘cause we used to be into them when we were at school! It’s good to have a band that’s older than us!

C: It will be good to see how you and the two-tone genre come together on stage.

J: Well we do sing songs together. Pauline comes and sings a song with us and Laura comes up and sings. We use the horn section from The Selecter on a song as well.

C: Keeping on an independent theme. You’ve been with a major label in the past and you went away from that. There’s been a rise of independent artists recently; do you think this is the way forward for new artists these days?

J: Yeah, we always signed to independents. We signed to Warner Bros. for one album but that was because our indie label was sold without our consent and we ended up there. They didn’t really want us, so they put out one album and then we bought our way out of the contract.

Pretty much since then we’ve had our own record label because now technology allows that and that it didn’t used to back in the day, it was too expensive with big recording studios and tape. Now you can record an album in a room smaller than this [dressing room] as long as you can get a drum kit in it and a few people. We like to record live so if you can do a drum kit and room for us to stand about and a couple of computers, then we can record onto that. With social media now and the Internet, which never existed when we were first around and probably at our biggest, you can put out your own records and do your own publicity. You can have a pretty reasonable amount of success doing that.

We do hire publicists and pluggers when we bring out albums just to give it that extra kick, but when we haven’t actually got an album we are selling what we have through our website and we just have our normal crew of people who work for us and that has worked for us. It’s quite minimal like a little cottage industry. I think it is the way forward, I think it always has been the way forward it’s just that the means haven’t been there so much in the past.

C: The new album features some great collaborations on your hits over the years; people like Frank Turner, Imelda May, Bellowhead and Billy Bragg. If you could collaborate with anyone dead or alive in music history who would it be

J: It’s pretty easy. We’d all say Neil Young. Bob Marley would be pretty cool, maybe Jimi Hendrix, but we’d all say Neil Young. We have supported him quite a lot back in the day.

C: Your music has always featured strong political, social and poigniant comment. It’s easier now for artists in the age of social media to take a stance and get their message across. Back in the day when you were starting out surely that would have been a hard road to take?

J: It’s never the easiest path if we’re talking about anything political because then you’re going to be in opposition to someone. This is why most young bands today steer well clear of politics ‘cause they want to make a career out of music. We were never interested in making a career out of music, we wanted to do that but we were more interested in getting our point of view across.

I think it’s always hard but in the days when we started in the very late 80s and early 90s, it was just at the end of Thatcherism and the country was more receptive to people who were saying political things because they were so disillusioned with politicians.

It was obvious those were the songs we were going to write, we just hoped people would get it and they did. We were surprised how much they got it and how massive we got. Then we got a bit disillusioned because we got “we’re so huge, we should be seeing some sort of change” as that’s what we’d always encourage and we didn’t. So we had to re-evaluate what we were doing and we put a lot of money into putting alternative political groups together (before social media) so they could network together but then all they did was argue! So then we decided “Oh f**k it, let’s just be a rock band” and we’ll do benefits for the causes we agree with.

So now we do a combination of the whole lot but with social media it’s a lot easier and these days because we’re so known as a band with a political ethos we don’t really have to explain ourselves like we used to. People just either get it or they don’t and that’s it.

I think now, starting out as a political band it would be harder. Things are just grey and insidious now, when we were starting out things were really black and white between Tories being bad, the Labour Party probably still bad but better! When the Tories were in, they’d been in for so long; our lifetimes basically.

We don’t really trust any politicians, which is why we have to say our own thing.

C: I know Frank Turner, has never been shy of saying political things even in the early days.

J: He’s a nice guy and he’s done very well out of it as well, which is good I think that he is because it shows it can be done. Whereas a lot of the young bands we meet are just really scared of saying anything, if they’re even interested in the first place if they want to make a career out of it, which is the first mistake I think. You shouldn’t go into music trying to make a career out of it because that’s very unlikely to happen. You should go into it because you love doing what you’re doing, you have something to say and you’re just driven to say it. Anything else is a bonus.

Pasta, Performing & Perfect Producers: In Conversation with Lucy Ward (Part 2)

Derby based Brit-Folk star, Lucy Ward has had a busy couple of months; a tour with her new band, a variety of festival appearances, most notably a fantastic performance on the Leftfield stage at Glastonbury; and working alongside Billy Bragg on the 14 -18 Now project commemorating World War One.

Our writer, Danny Stockdale managed to grab a chat with her before the rollercoaster set off…

Lucy Ward
Danny: Stu Hanna (of the folk duo, Megson) has been involved in producing the two solo albums and has supported and played with you in the band, is he a Phil Spector-type mentor or role model for you?

Lucy: I think he’ll be pleased with that comparison! Working with Stu has been a fabulous experience for me, as was making two albums which were very different from each other. When we made the first I was very young. I didn’t know how I wanted things to sound so we spent a lot of time playing the songs and talking about the sound that we wanted. All the time I was learning what phrases to use to let him know how I wanted the editing to go. It was a collaborative process but led by Stu , which was an amazing experience for me.

When it came to making the second record it was much more of a level playing field, coming to the album as friends rather than producer and artist. We spent a lot of time drinking tea and eating biscuits as well as making the record and that’s a really special thing. Making, recording music with Stu, and having him as producer has certainly been a relationship I’m pleased happened, all be it completely randomly, I’m really pleased that we came together and that I hope we can continue to make records together in the future.

D: How did the partnership come about?

L: I got introduced to Stu by the fabulous Mick Peat, co-organiser of the Derbyshire Folk Festival and presenter of Folkwaves on the BBC. He’s a Derby bloke and was very supportive of me when I first started out. Knowing that Stuart was an up and coming producer, he introduced me to him at a conference and for a while we ended up on a lot of the same bills with Megson. At first we were acquaintances and then we started chatting and it was just great.

I knew I wanted to make an album but the right opportunity hadn’t come up so I said to myself after I finished my A-Levels “I’m going to give this five to ten years of plugging away on the club circuit to see where I can get”. I’d actually had a conversation with my parents and said that “the likelihood is that I’ll still be living with you, is that cool with you?”

Then I got this email out of the blue, it was Stu and it said Navigator Records want to work with me on an album. There is me looking at this email saying “Do you even need to ask?”

So that’s how it came about and then to end up with Navigator being your record label was fabulous and above what I’d anticipated I would achieve. Then to be in a situation again with a producer who is so generous with his time and who wants to work with young artists to develop their skills, rather than whack out an album of commercially viable songs as quickly as possible turned out to be an incredibly fruitful relationship for all of us. It’s a really good position to be in.

D: I’m very envious of his hair.

L: Stu is the most stylish man in folk music. I’m throwing that out there, I think its true!

D: What has been the best advice that Stu has given you?

L: Lots! I would say that Stu’s been someone who, even when we haven’t been making records I’ve been able to ring up and say, “this opportunity has come up or this has happened, what do you think? What’s the standard? I don’t want to mess this up, I don’t want to get messed around”.

He’s been a real font of information and support in that respect, totally, and that’s been really nice to have. I think Stu has mainly taught me not to be precious about your songwriting. When we made Adelphi Has To Fly I came to him with every song being a ballad. They were all seven minute epics and he was like “Can we cut that verse? Can we cut that?” and I was really hurt! How could he want to get rid of words that I’d written! But he’s right, they didn’t take the story forward and it was dead space in the song and that really helped shape the way I looked at my songwriting. By the time I got to Single Flame with every song I was like “We can cut that and we can cut that bit out Stu, and we’ll speed it up and get it through! Three and a half minutes, let’s go!” and he’s going “Woah, Luce, no”.

Not to be precious and to enjoy collaboration because I’m quite sure that without Stu, and without the musicians we invited to play on the record it wouldn’t have been the record it was, and I like to think of it as a collaborative effort that I was lucky enough to be at the front of.

D: Are there any plans for future collaborations with Stu?

L: Well, we’ll see. We’ve just started talking about plans for a third record, in very loose terms and I’m only just getting round to thinking about it and starting to write for it. So we shall see what happens but it’s all being talked about.

D: Is there a lot of pressure from the record company to produce a third album quite quickly or within a certain time frame?

L: No not at all actually. I don’t know if it’s a folky thing or its just the people I happen to be working with currently, but I think they know that I’m not done and I’ve got songs in me and that I’m ready to start working on it. I think they are quite happy. I’m very lucky to be working with Navigator because so far it’s been the type of experience where they would rather wait for a great album that the artist feels good about, than rush you into something that isn’t right for you because at the end of the day, you’re the only person who can sell your record.

We’re not Beyoncé, we’re not Adele, there aren’t millions of pounds going into production and marketing and so they really need to believe in what you’ve got to offer to spend your life travelling up and down the country singing those songs.

D: A couple of years ago when I first saw you at the ‘Look’ Benefit Concert you’d just won the BBC Folk Horizon Award and it almost seems within a blink you’ve been nominated for the BBC Folk Singer of the Year Award. How does that feel?

L: That was a bit mental to be honest with you! I held a vague hope that Single Flame might be considered for an award, or best original track or something. I didn’t think it would happen but I certainly was awaiting a call, or hoping for a call… and then the call came and it said “I’m terribly sorry but ‘Single Flame’ didn’t get nominated for anything” and I thought “That’s totally fine, there’s been loads of great records out this year.” Secretly I was disappointed, then they said “but you are nominated for Folk singer of the Year.”

I said “Are you sure?” It feels very strange to go from Best Newcomer to being considered best on the scene, and there’s no higher compliment and I hope that I can work and live up to that.

D: How’s life been since the nomination and awards night? Has it been any different?

L: Grand really, what more could it be! The nomination was an amazing thing to happen and it was a great opportunity to share and to celebrate, and to let audiences know that it’s a thank you, and that’s a nice position to be in.

The award’s night was just fabulous. I’ve never been to the Albert Hall before and oh my, it’s an amazing building! I didn’t expect to win, I’m twenty-four, a couple of years after the Horizon Award, I didn’t want to count my chickens for it and just wanted to enjoy a wonderful evening. It was rewarded when Derbyshire brought it home anyway!

D: I enjoyed all the pre-award fake rivalry you had with Bella Hardy, who won the award.

L: We were doing the Penguin gigs together so it seemed like a great opportunity and Bella is a good friend, a fabulous musician and a lady I have a lot of respect for so I was very happy and losing out to a mate is the way to do it, I reckon.

D: The lovely thing about the Folk Awards is it doesn’t seem to have the major music industry rivalries, it just seems like a folk club that’s been taken to the bigger stage and everyone is just pleased for everyone else.

L: A folk club where Jarvis Cocker is sitting on the next table to you. That is just the perfect combo. We spend a good portion of our lives on the road, you’ve bumped into the majority of people in the room somewhere before, even if you don’t know them, they are still a familiar face or they are talking to someone you know and I suppose as bijou and niche as our scene is in many ways, it seems that no matter how much it grows it maintains its sense of community. We’re all trying to get along. All of these musicians deserve to be here and many more besides who the folk awards don’t have space to honor and appreciate.

D: It seemed like a Derbyshire and Sheffield sort of a night, because obviously there was a big representation from both.

L: Yes it was a bit wasn’t it? It kept getting mentioned and I was thinking the people at home must be thinking, what’s cracking off here? It’s like when you when you watch Today in Parliament and everything is London-centred, they are going to think that folk is just Sheffield-centred. I think that is just how it fell this year and really proud that the Midlands and Yorkshire are a huge and vital part of what’s bubbling and really hot on the folk scene currently. That’s certainly exciting and something to be celebrated alongside all the other counties who bring their spin to everything.

I think Scotland was well represented, they didn’t necessarily win as many awards this year but they were all there as nominees. We were actually sat on the table with lots of the Scottish musicians and it was really fabulous. The best bit being when the Morris Dancing was on, someone turned to me and said “Well, that is just a bit weird isn’t it?”

I think the Folk Awards this year in terms of what was shown on the television really walked that line of glamour and eccentricity and that has got to be a great example of what folk music should be.

D: Bella Hardy seemed genuinely surprised to get the Folk singer of the Year Award.

L: Yeah, she’s a very modest woman. We’ve just done a gig together last week and the MC started introducing each of us and he said, “Here we have BBC Award winning Bella Hardy” and she pipes up “Yeah, I won it for best shoes!”

She’s really modest and like all of us on the scene, to be nominated is great and if you win, it’s even better but you try not to think about it because look at the category we were in, to lose to an absolutely incredible musician and amazing songwriter.

Then there’s Fay Hield with the Full English and between all of us women, a whole female category was grand. We are such diverse musicians with different styles and I wouldn’t guess which of those ladies would win, and I think Bella must have been in the same position judging by her speech being mainly about tea!

D: Did you have a speech prepared?

L: Certainly in my head, like who do I make sure I thank, but beyond that I didn’t think about it because I thought “You’re tempting providence there girl, stop thinking!”

D: The final question before I let you go is, will 2014 be mostly focusing on the band-related projects?

L: It’s a mixture, it is a huge part of the year. We’re going to be touring together and we’ve got the festival season but during that time I’m going to be writing and recording the new record for release in Summer 2015. I’ve got collaborations in mind, been talking to people about just writing and opportunities. So its certainly going to be a packed year I think. I have things bubbling under the surface ready for 2015 to pounce with all sorts of different projects.

Pasta, Performing & Perfect Producers: In Conversation with Lucy Ward

Typical of Lucy Ward’s down-to-earth nature, I grab her for questioning around at her Mum’s house following her fifteen minute demolition of a plate of homemade pasta. Agenda Magazine writer, Danny Stockdale talks to Derby’s own star of Brit-Folk, Lucy Ward as she is about to embark on the first tour with her new band line-up; stopping by in Derbyshire’s Matlock Bath Grand Pavilion on 25th April 2014.

by Elly Lucas

by Elly Lucas

Danny: You seem to be really excited about Friday and the start of the tour…
Lucy: Yes, it’s really good! I’ve been kind of nervous about it for a long time, with it being just a step in a different direction, would the audience like that? Also you’re taking five other musicians on tour with you; you want them to have a good and exciting experience. It felt like a lot of pressure. I really , really wanted it to succeed, but it’s all going well, everybody’s working hard and all of the musicians are working hard to make the music sounds awesome.

D: With your success as a solo artist, what made you decide to form a band?
(The Lucy Ward Band consists of Belinda O’Hooley (Rachel Unthank and the Winterset), Heidi Tidow (O’Hooley & Tidow), Stephen MacLachland (The Willows), Joy Gravestock and Sam Pegg)
L: A first record for any solo artist I think is really important for it to be a calling card for the sound that you can produce live. I think particularly when you’re a folk artist and you’re going to be going up and down the country to folk clubs and venues. If they [the audience] come and see you live and you sell them a record where it’s you and a fifty-two piece band it’s just so incongruous. It didn’t feel right. I think a second album is an opportunity to lay down a lot of the things you hear as a songwriter and put them on the album. People took to it [the current album Single Flame] really well, it was successful and had good reviews and so at the launch we decided it would be fun to get together some of the musicians who had performed on it to do a band gig and it just felt awesome! For me it was such a different experience to be sharing the stage and the energy with different people who were bringing their own awesomeness to the table. I think I got the impression from speaking to the audience afterwards that they felt we were able to walk that fine line of connection, which I feel is one of the most important parts about what I do and what I offer as a musician, that audience banter and togetherness but all this music didn’t take away from the intimacy.

So then I went off on my solo tour and I was just missing the sounds and ended up talking to the musicians who now form The Lucy Ward Band, saying “I really enjoyed it! What do you think? Do you think it (a band) is feasible? Would you like to do it?”.

Everyone said yes and it’s happening! It’s not the end of folk clubs and solo performances, but it’s really exciting to be able to realize all of those sounds live and the harmony. It’s so hard to sing harmony as a solo performer…but I’ve already got four great singers up on the stage so we go for it like that!

D: How much of the idea to form a band was influenced by the ‘Mills & Chimneys’ project?
(The 2010 ‘Mills & Chimneys’ project was a collaboration between Derbyshire folk musicians (Lucy Ward, David Gibb, Elly Lucas, Sarah Matthews, Julian Butt and Mike Smith) who worked with together with schools to create an album of songs which represent Derbyshire.)
L: I would say that Mills & Chimneys has been the most consistent experience I’ve had collaborating with other musicians and it’s different in the respect that it’s solo people contributing equally to a band, whereas obviously this band is my music and the musicians put their own spin on top of that. I would certainly say that it has been my main experience of touring with other people and if The Lucy Ward Band can have half as much fun as Mills & Chimneys managed to have then we’ll have a really great tour and a really great time!

D: I was thinking as a solo artist it is essentially the relationship between you and the audience which determines the gigs success and if that’s not quite there on the night it’s pretty difficult. Whereas if you have other people on stage you can make your own fun and that feeds through to the audience, would you say that’s fair?
L: Yeah, I think there’s something in that certainly. I hope that bad nights are a thing of the past, but rather you have good nights and really good nights. That can be for all sorts of reasons including the mood of the audience. I think when I’ve been in those situations where perhaps I feel like I’m trying to gain the audience’s approval, having these musicians around me in the few gigs we’ve done together as a trial has given me the confidence that the music can speak for itself. I don’t need to be nattering away for them to get the point which is a lovely position to be in and I hope that it will make for a different experience to my solo shows.

D: I think it probably would do. It’s been lovely to see you so many times over what seems to be a couple of years and to see you confidently taking hold of the stage. Now from my point of view because I know your set list I’m able to see it from an objective point of view, looking at how engaged the audience is and how lovely it is to see the audience really taking to you…
L: That’s really cool! That’s really nice! It has been a mad few years and I have spent a lot time honing my craft, going up and down the country, speaking to all kinds of people and I hope that means that there is very little that can phase me in that live experience now. It’s all the better when people shout out and sing and we have this amazing communal space. I’m hoping that the others musicians will just add to that.

D: You mentioned about the public response in those two shows already, what has been the general public response to the Lucy Ward Band project?
L: I think people seem excited by it, like you said at the beginning, I’m excited and I think that has been a bit contagious for some people which is lovely that people are getting on board. I think a lot of my reviews have mentioned what a surprise Single Flame was and in a positive way. Making comments like “How can the person who wrote Adelphi have written this record?”, which I reveled in because I thought that’s what you want as a musician.

I’m 24 and I hope that experience of experimenting with new sounds and songwriting styles isn’t over and that I can write albums that sound like different people. I think people who perhaps had their view of my style and performance perhaps saw me as someone quite lightweight because of how fun I like the “in-between death songs” moments to be. This record maybe said to some of my critics “oh no, she’s singing and these are songs about big topics, environmental change and politics”.

D: I suppose seeing your music as being minimalist, sparse and your voice being your main instrument, this is different. This is more about the tapestry that comes out of this project and your songs…
Yes! That’s a good word to use. The bit I’m most excited about is that it’s going to give me the freedom to sing more. There are times when I’m handing over the guitar to the fabulous Heidi Tidow and it gives me the space and the freedom to really stretch my voice. I’m hoping that in having more instruments it gives me the opportunity to get down to the barebones of what I love, which is passionate singing and I really hope that comes across.

D: I suppose not having to concentrate on playing the guitar helps that.
L: Yes, things can happen around me and I can focus on the songs and stories as well as I possibly can.

D: Have you had the opportunity to write together as a six-piece?
L: So far we haven’t tried to write together, we have so few moments with everyone’s schedule. The focus has been on getting the material for the tour really tight. In terms of what we create together, I’m not a dictator! If you’re going to enjoy playing the music and express that passion and enjoyment when you play then I want you to claim it for your own! If you’ve got an idea, then try it! If I don’t like it, or if it doesn’t work we can move forward and work on something else. We’ve tried to create music which is collaborative within the confines of the songs that stand. There are arrangements of songs which I’ve never performed live but are on the record which will be heading out on the tour so people can expect things they’ve certainly not heard me perform before with this line-up.

D: What can people expect from spending an evening with the Lucy Ward Band?
L: Well, I’m putting on songs from Single Flame and indulging the songs I have refrained from performing live on tour. We’ve also got a few cheeky covers up our sleeve for you! Lots of passion and excitement. I hope something we can achieve is a really electric atmosphere because that’s how it feels when we play together!

D: You mentioned about the covers, are you allowed to reveal any of those or are you keeping those a secret?
L: We have already put online our cover of Come on Eileen but everything else is a secret. You’ll have to come along to hear it!

D: I was wondering, could there be an album of ‘pop-songs-done-in-a-folk-style’, inspired by the Sidmouth Cabaret in the offing? Is that a possibility?
L: I don’t know about an album! I think by the time I’ve finished this tour I’ll have enough to do an album but I think it’s kind of fun at the moment to just have them up your sleeve ready to whip out on an unsuspecting audience. You don’t want to give it all away!

D: Common People has always gone down a treat particularly when I’ve seen you performing around Sheffield…
L: (Laughs) I don’t sing that as much anymore, I didn’t sing that much on the last tour, but if I’m going to get requests for anything then it’ll be that.

D: You’ll have to bring it out as a single.
L: Well that one has been recorded but many moons ago so we’ll have to see if there’s room in the calendar to bring it out sometime.

D: What’s it like going from being just you and Rob, to being one of six others at a gig?
L: It’s certainly a different dynamic. I get really nervous before I go on stage and I think it’s just me working myself up, but if I didn’t feel that way I’d worry that I didn’t care enough about how the gig went. Within the band there are five other people who are dealing with the things they do before they go on stage, some are just totally chilled out and they’re looking at me thinking “is she ok?” when really it’s just what I’m going to go through with every gig and it’s not a problem.

Then there are people who like to eat early and others who like to eat late and that’s another interesting aspect. I think musicians are very ritualistic and we like to do things in our orders to know that we’re going on stage as prepared as we possibly can be. The problem being when there are six sets of rituals pushing against each other! But I think when we’re on tour we’ll probably get in sync!

D: I have visions of you being like one of those tourist guides with the umbrellas, telling everyone where they need to be…
L: That would suggest I’m organized! That’s another thing, you have to turn up a lot earlier to gigs when you have drums, that’s the only thing that’s changed for me!

In Conversation with The Stranglers’ Jet Black

They’ve been loved, hated, dismissed and revered. No strangers to controversy, The Stranglers can hold their heads high in the face of their harshest critics and prove their success and longevity as they celebrate 40 years together. Their Ruby Tour stops by South Yorkshire’s o2 Academy in Sheffield later this month on 15th March. Editor, Charlie Barker, talks to drummer Jet Black about the past, present and future of the group.

Jet Black

Charlie: You’re embarking on a 28-date tour with The Stranglers, what can the gig-goers expect from you guys this time?

Jet: Well, what we specialise in is excitement.

C: It’s 40 years you’re celebrating now and you’re still so enthusiastic about it, which is great.

J: It’s quite a fun thing to do. As we say in the trade, it’s better than cleaning windows!

C: In all the years that you’ve been gigging, can you think back to any time or any one show you’d love to do all over again?

J: It’s impossible to answer but since you’ve asked it; just to remember how bad it was in the early years.

C: What kind of struggles did you face as a band starting out?

J: When we started as a band, everyone really, really hated us and of course a lot still do but in the early days nobody liked us at all. We arrived at the end of Glam Rock and we didn’t look ‘Glam Rock’ and still don’t. People just didn’t understand the change and it took about 3 years before anybody at all showed a real excitement about what we were doing.

C: The band has evolved so much over 40 years; do you have a favourite era?

J: The end of the 70s was the most frantic period because when people started to get excited about what we did because we were so different to what other people were doing. That was memorable for that reason but all the different decades are memorable for different reasons and the audience has matured with us.

C: There are quite a lot of younger people following you. You’ve got quite a broad appeal.

J: We do indeed. A lot of people come independently and a lot of the young people are children of those who’ve been coming for decades. It really is all sorts, it is a cosmopolitan crowd that goes to a Stranglers gig!

C: Baz, the newest Strangler, joined you in 2000. I believe you’d already met in the mid-90s.

J: Yeah, he did a couple of tours with us playing in another band and we just thought he was a great player.

C: What was it about him that made you think he was the right guy for The Stranglers?

J: We did an audition and he was clearly the most exciting performer.

C: Coming into a band at that late stage he did, that must have been a tough knowing all the history you’d built up?

J: It was a daunting task, I don’t know if I could have carried it off as confidently as he did. It took a lot of our audience a while to get used to the new face but he’s such a self-confident person it wasn’t a problem for him.

C: Our reader’s question is from Russell in Derbyshire and he says, ‘Tell us about your life before The Stranglers and is it true you owned a fleet of ice cream vans?’

J: That is true, yes! Any reader you have who’d like to know about the band should log onto our website, there’s masses of information there especially about my pre-history it’s all there.

C: Were you an entrepreneurial guy?

J: I was a small-time businessman, I don’t claim to have been an entrepreneur but I did have my fingers in a number of pies! I did quite well but I reached a stage in my life where I just decided I wanted to do music.

C: As you’re coming up to 40 years in the business, you’ve got this tour. What’s in the future for the band?

J: As far as I can tell, more of the same. We plan to continue doing what we do as long as we’re capable of doing it and people want to come and see us.

C: Long may it continue!

In Conversation with Pauline Black

About to embark upon their ‘Too Much Pressure’ UK tour, following on from their impressive, energetic headline set at Sheffield Inner City Music Festival: Tramlines in 2013, The Selecter are back in the Steel City on 2nd March at the o2 Academy. Iconic singer and front woman, Pauline Black talks to editor, Charlie Barker about life on the road after 35 years, her passions and influences.

Charlie: You’re celebrating 35 years in the business, what’s the key to keeping a group going and touring so long?

Pauline: I think obviously it helps if you’ve had some hits in the past, which we have and also I think that it helps if people are still enthusiastic about what you do. Both from the people who are in the band and also from the audience’s point of view. Fortunately a lot of people very fondly will remember The Selecter and even more fondly remember the two-tone movement and the two-tone tour that we did with The Specials and Madness and On My Radio still gets a lot of airplay.

C: When you have been that successful everyone still wants to hear those hits. Do you ever get tired of playing things like that?

P: I like performing so, that’s like saying to somebody in the theatre ‘Do you get tired of reading Shakespeare?’ I’m not trying to put On My Radio on a par with Shakespeare, but you find new things in it every time you do it and its a different audience that you’re doing it to. You can either be in a band where you’re one of the people just goes through the motions and you take no notice of the audience and its as much as you can do to get out of the tour bus and get on stage, or you can actually get involved in the moment and actually enjoy live performance. I enjoy live performance and certainly with Gaps Hendrickson the other singer in the band he enjoys it and there is nothing more that we like. In the two-tone genre of music, we’re the only band that has a male and female duo up front. I think people quite like that even though we maybe bend the rules of that a little. I think people generally like hearing people who look as though they are engaged in the sound and are a bit more varied than having just one singer up front doing their thing all the time.

 C: You certainly go for it in every performance I’ve seen you!

P: I don’t know of any other way. People think that I’m mad or something but I don’t know any other way of performing. Christ, if you’re going to go out on stage you’d better perform!

C: When you started out in music it was 1979, would you have ever believed back then that you’d still be doing it today?

P: No. You’re quite young I take it? Let’s go forward 35 years; do you think you’ll still be doing what you’re doing today?

C: Well life evolves so much and I think for me to keep enjoying what you’re doing whatever that may be, that’s always been my aim.

P: That’s exactly the same aim that we’ve got. When we finally got back together again in 2010 after a bit of a hiatus we didn’t just want to come back and say ‘Oh well, let’s go out and truck out the hits again. Let’s make some new records’ and we made two; Made in England and String Theory. We now have a touring set, we did up to 80 shows last year, with a set that embraced all of those records and it was probably our best year so far because it was both looking to the future and looking to the past, which I’ve thought is pretty much what we should be doing. We’re in a unique position to be able to do that. So it’s not like ‘Oh my god, in 1975 we’re doing exactly the same as we are now’. We’re not. I feel as though any band that has been going as long as us, you have to embrace your past and when these things come along; milestones like 30, 35 and 40 years its like being in a very long marriage, you’ve got to keep it fresh. We have to do something about making people interested in the band again, which isn’t just playing On My Radio but looking back at those past songs and renewing that for us, because there’s a lot of that material on the Too Much Pressure album that we don’t do anymore. Mainly due to, we’d be on stage for hours every time we played and that’s just not practical.

It’s really great to get back into rehearsal and look at those songs and say ‘Oh yeah, I’d forgotten about that. How can we make this fresh and what’s happening now that maybe wasn’t happening then?’. It is a new era and a different spin on a song and that’s what makes a classic.

C: You’re a very strong female front-woman and you’re very much one of a kind. Who are the people that have inspired you?

P: Even if I told you who inspired me to perform, you wouldn’t really see much of that in what I do or have decided to do. Its very much the way that I am. I got really, really tired of the people who preceded my generation and particularly for black women as well. There weren’t really too many ways either the old sequined dress or the ‘Mister Whippy’ hairdo or wig. I just didn’t see myself being like that on a stage. It just seemed a bit boring and a bit interchangeable. I felt that if you were going to do something, if you’re going to make the music memorable and different then obviously what you brought to the table in the way you looked and the persona that you had, maybe you should make yourself stand out in that way too. It’s part and parcel of the same thing. I was lucky enough to have grown up in times where there were some pretty strong women around. There’s a very famous photo that has myself, Poly Styrine, Debbie Harry from Blondie, Viv Albertine from The Slits, Siousie Sioux and Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders and we’re all just sitting there together, we’ve all got our clothes on just looking at the camera. That would be a complete and utter rarity for anything like that to be done today. If you took similar females in each of those facets of music and put them all together it would probably just be a who could have the biggest hair, have the most flesh on show and all of those kind of things. That’s a bit like saying presumably my music doesn’t mean that much? To my mind. In those days all of those women, I feel in their particular genre were great musicians and songwriters as well. Particularly Poly Styrine who sadly is no longer with us. I consider myself lucky to have grown up at the time I was in. When I came along and thought ‘F**k it, there’s rude boys. Why can’t there be Rude Girls?’ it was like I’d just invented a ‘Rude Girl’ in that way and it seemed to resonate with other people up and down the country and before you knew it every time you went out on tour there were lots of little clones of oneself hanging around. But that’s cool!

C: In a very male dominated industry and being a woman on your own surrounded by guys in the group, was that hard for you?

P: I think it was probably harder for them! No pun intended! I don’t know any other way, it’s not like I’d ever gone away and thought I’ve got to put together an all-female band.  The Body Snatchers were around, they were an all-female band and they were great and I love what Rhoda Dakar did. I think uppermost in my mind was to get out on stage and not knock over the furniture and sing and try and get my thoughts and feeling into the songs that I wrote.

C: Whilst taking a break from The Selecter you worked on your acting career. You must be quite busy right now but do you have any other acting projects in the pipeline or anything else we’re going to see from you personally?

P: No, I’ve spent the years between 1982 and 1992, pretty much full time acting or presenting stuff on TV. I had a show called Black On Black, which was like the first black magazine programme on TV and that had about 3 series. I just did a whole range of stuff acting-wise, every now and again I do bits and pieces on TV but I kinda got that out of my system. I like doing what I’m doing at the moment, which is a very hands-on musical career.

I like doing things for radio in particular that highlight the black experience or the black female experience or just female experience in this country. Whenever those opportunities arise it is just a great thing to be asked. I narrate loads of things sometimes on TV, normally a black artist from the past like Ella Fitzgerald or Sister Rosetta Tharpe or something like that because I’m always very happy to see that these women are being recognised and maybe I can bring something to the narration of it.

C: As one of the most influential artist in your field, who do you see as the future of British ska and reggae?

P: That would be really, really difficult. We’re taking out 3 bands. We’ve got 26 dates and we won’t have the same support band for all of them. So we thought we’d parcel it up between three separate bands. One of them is a reggae band called Talisman, who were around during the 80s when we were around and I still really fully respect them and they have really lovely music. Another one is called Stone Foundation, they’ve got a soul thing to them and they’re really young guys and the one who I really like and they’re really up and coming, they’re called By The Rivers. They are young guys who are into reggae and I really love that about them. They do really great shows and I’m looking forward to that. It is like all generations are there and will be joining us to celebrate this 35th year.