The last time Say It With Garage Flowers spoke to Ocean Colour Scene, Specials and Paul Weller guitarist, Steve Cradock, it was during lockdown last year.
Used to being on the road, he’d kept himself busy during those weeks of confinement in 2020 and early 2021 by remixing and reissuing his second solo album, Peace City West, which came out last year, and working on a new instrumental record.
“Everyone has got their own stories about those strange couple of years – I had more time than I’ve ever had before. It was liberating in one way and it went on for so long it became like a dream state, didn’t it?” he says, speaking to Say It With Garage Flowers from his home studio, Kundalini, in Devon. “We could still work on music, so it was really hopeful.”
The instrumental album he was crafting has just been released – it’s called A Soundtrack To An Imaginary Movie and it soaks up influences including jazz – Cradock was reading Ashley Khan’s book about John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme while he was making the record and he immersed himself in that classic album – as well as folk, Easy Listening, soundtracks and classical music, but, he says, “ultimately, I could play most of these tunes on an acoustic guitar or piano. I loved the melodies. The second side is quite piano-led.”
Guests on the record include Cradock’s wife, Sally, on gongs and Tibetan singing bowls, UB40’s Brian Travers (saxophone), Jess Cox (cello) the Stone Foundation’s Rob Newton (congas) and, from The Specials’ touring band, Nikolaj Larson (Hammond B-3 organ) and Tim Smart (trombone). Cradock’s son, Cassius, plays piano too.
“I went from listening to Radio 6 to Radio 3 – I was listening to a lot of classical music. That was around me all the time,” he says. “Some of the tracks on the album are indie-classical. Two pieces of music came together on the same day – it just sort of happened. I played the melodies on acoustic guitar and I thought, ‘There’s something there.’ ”
He adds: “I had a couple of tracks before that, including the one where Brian Travers plays saxophone [Sarcoline].”
Travers, who died last year, recorded the sax parts for Sarcoline 10 years ago, and Cradock had it as a demo.
‘Lockdown was liberating – it went on for so long it became like a dream state’
The track, which also features Hugo Levingston on flute, is haunting and moody – it sounds like the theme for a ‘70s TV show about a private detective who lives and works in a shadowy city and hangs out in a jazz club in his spare time.
“The idea was that it’s in a jazz club and you’re walking between each floor, which has different music or a different take on the same melody – that was the vibe. You hear an acoustic and flute version and then you walk into another room and you hear the same track playing, but with loads of reverb,” he explains.
So, has Cradock always harboured a desire to make music for films? “I’ve never thought about it – the album title was meant as a joke,” he says. “I’ve always worked on pieces of music… Back in the day, with Ocean Colour Scene, those became Hundred Mile High City, The Riverboat Song or You’ve Got It Bad.”
‘Dragon’s Blood is a bit strange. I played it to my dad and he said, ‘You’re taking that off, aren’t you?’
His wife, Sally, is on the eight-minute, meditative and minimalist mantra Dragon’s Blood – she is credited with playing Nibiru gongs and Tibetan singing bowls. “She’s a gong master and she’s into hypnotherapy,” says Cradock, adding: “A Love Supreme starts with a gong… I was having lots of gong baths and getting into it – the healing of the hurts.
“Dragon’s Blood is the first song on side two – it’s a bit of a strange one. I played it to my dad and he said, ‘You’re taking that off, aren’t you?’ I wanted to have different flavours on each side, so that’s what I thought should start side two because it’s been transcending me, without sounding up my own arse. It was an energy or a power. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but give it time and get into it – if it’s the right moment, I think it will really take you somewhere.”
‘I was having lots of gong baths and getting into it – the healing of the hurts…’
So, is he a spiritual person? “I wouldn’t know if I am or not. I think everything’s spiritual, so that would be a ‘yes’ probably.”
Some of the tracks on the album, like the opening composition, Lapis Lazuli, which has some beautiful cello on it, are quite melancholy and pastoral… “Yeah – it’s reflective,” says Cradock.
On the other hand, there’s Cochineal, which is groovy loungecore, with Hammond and congas – lift music goes vintage sci-fi. “When I first heard it, it reminded me of the Wurlitzer that I used to hear playing when I went ice skating,” he says.
The final track, Gunjo, has some Bacharach-style Easy Listening brass on it, courtesy of Tim Smart from The Specials. “I love the melody line, which I think is really memorable, and the way it has time signature changes – I don’t normally do that,” he says. “It goes from a 3/4 waltz to a 4/4 thing. It is a bit Bacharach, I suppose.”
‘I sent the record to Weller – he listened to it all the way through and said, ‘Wow – it’s a journey’ ‘
Does he think this album will surprise people, as it’s very different to his other solo work? “Yeah – that’s good, isn’t it? I sent the record to Weller – he listened to it all the way through and said, ‘Wow – it’s a journey’.”
So, we’ve got the soundtrack to an imaginary movie – now someone needs to make the film…
Back To Business is a new collection of groovy, hipshakin’, organ-heavy instrumentals by duo Bangs & Talbot – pioneering acid jazz DJ, musician and producer, Chris Bangs, and mod keyboard wizard and founding member of The Style Council, Mick Talbot.
The two of them have made their first album together in 20 years and it’s a scorcher – just the kind of soundtrack for a long, hot summer.
Talbot lays down some great Hammond, Wurlitzer and Rhodes piano, while bassist and drummer Bangs ensures the tracks always have a great groove – from the jazz club vibe of Sumthin’ Else to the Latino-soul-meets-West-Coast-Beach-Beat-sound of Surf ‘n’ Turf, and the explosive Kookie T, which, with its blaring brass and high-octane Hammond, sounds like the theme to a car chase scene from a Swinging Sixties action-thriller.
Marvin Gaye’s soul classic, How Sweet It Is, has been reinvented as a cool shuffle – Brand New Heavies’ guitarist Simon Bartholomew provides some tasty licks – while Stingray pays its respects to gospel and evokes the atmosphere of legendary California club P.J’s.
It’s Alright takes a trip to Detroit, with fuzz guitars, and the jazzy Leela’s Dance has more than a touch of Dave Brubeck’s TakeFive about it.
“A lot of our past stuff was influenced by the ‘70s, but Chris wanted to get back to some ‘60s stuff – good grooves that were danceable,” explains Talbot, speaking to Say It With Garage Flowers.
“That’s the great thing about a lot of this album – it’s either head-nodding or dancey. It’s got a lot of different grooves, but most of them are quite immediate.”
He adds: “I’m not always sure what all the influences are because on a lot of the tracks Chris puts an infectious rhythm together – he likes playing bass and he also plays drums, guitar and keyboards.
“Sometimes he suggests stuff and asks me to adapt it – I’m not precious. He might do a slide on a keyboard on one of his demos, I’ll get the gist of what he wants me to do and redo it all, and then he’ll say, ‘I really miss my slide!’ So, I say, ‘Put it back then!’ [laughs].
‘Chris tries to paint a picture with sound – each track is a vignette of a movie’
“Chris does a lot of different things – he’ll give an arrangement to the horn players of him singing what he thinks they should play, so you get a funny demo with him singing, thinking he’s a saxophone.
“He tries to paint a picture with sound – each track is a vignette of a movie. It creates an atmosphere and conjures up an image, but, Chris is so poetic he wants to tell you what that image is.”
Did you make the record during lockdown?
Mick Talbot: Yeah – but there were various times when there was a little bit more freedom. We wanted to try and capture the atmosphere of half a dozen people playing in a room, but that wasn’t possible at the time. Chris and I were only in the same room on two occasions – the rest of it was all done [remotely] with musicians we know.
While we were locked down, I did a few remote sessions, but I always go to my friend Ernie McKone’s studio, in Muswell Hill, where a lot of my vintage gear is, like my old Hammond, Wurlitzer, Clavinet and Rhodes – he maintains them for me.
All those ancient things need care and attention – they get a bit sick if you take them on the road without souping them up – and he’s got the space for them. The colours on my palette are all there – the five or five principal sounds that I gravitate towards.
‘All my ancient gear needs care and attention – it gets a bit sick if you take it on the road without souping it up’
I did a remote session for a fella in New York – having been around for quite a while, it’s amazing to me to think I’ve just done something that’s on an album in New York and I didn’t have to go there…
The shenanigans people used to go through when they were doing an international project in the old days – they were scared of putting analogue tape through X-ray machines because you could wipe it quite easily. You couldn’t leave it in your hand luggage. Now I just do a session and, with a little ‘ping’, it’s gone thousands of miles and it’s on someone’s track.
How did you first get into playing keys? Are you self-taught?
MT: I’m a mixture of things. My nan was a piano player and she played by ear. I was quite enchanted by that and I asked her to try and show me some things, and she did, but she couldn’t really show me much because it was hard for her to explain the instinct – she just did it. It felt a bit mystical to me.
She told me there was a lady round the corner who taught piano, but I had the horrors about that because I wanted it to be like how my nan did it – like magic. She said, ‘If you’re keen, you don’t need to stick at it,’ but I did it for three years and it benefited me more than I thought.
Once I’d got the rudiments, and I got more of a personal taste for music, the fact that my teacher was principally a classical one, I wanted to try and apply that to the playing that was on the records I liked to buy. By the time I was about 12, I started trying to form school bands, so I stopped going to piano lessons and tried to develop what I’d learnt.
When you were growing up, were you listening to soul, jazz and funk? Have you always been into that?
MT: I liked all the English ’60s bands as well, but I guess they were R’n’B or soul-influenced. My mum was quite a fan of Motown, so, when I was really small, that was playing a lot.
My dad was more of a modern jazz fan, which I got to understand more as I grew older. He was good at sussing out records that would bring us together – he got me a Sly & The Family Stone album and said, ‘Some people think this bloke is jazz, some think he’s rock and some think he’s soul – they’re having trouble defining him, but I think he’s good and I think you might like him, but I don’t like all your music…’ We bonded over that.
When you and Paul Weller formed The Style Council, people had trouble labelling you too, didn’t they? You embraced so many influences: soul, pop, funk, rap, jazz, house music, European café culture, classical…
MT: We were only drawn to things that we actually liked – it wasn’t a calculated thing. We didn’t come into the studio one day and go, ‘We haven’t done anything that sounds like Kraftwerk yet.’
To me, it all seemed to make sense – the more you look into music and go a bit deeper… The European influences, for instance – elements of Debussy, Ravel or the Romantic Classicists – a lot of that music, in turn, influenced people like Duke Ellington, Burt Bacharach and Thom Bell of the Philadelphia sound.
‘The Style Council were only drawn to things that we actually liked – it wasn’t calculated. We didn’t come into the studio one day and go, ‘We haven’t done anything that sounds like Kraftwerk yet’.
Prior to forming The Style Council, you were in mod revival band, The Merton Parkas. When you were growing up and listening to soul, was it then a natural step to becoming a mod? What attracted you to that scene?
MT: When I was really little, I can remember that I liked that look, and then, in London, in the mid-’70s, just prior to the punk thing, there was a real explosion of energy with Dr. Feelgood – they influenced a lot of the punk bands with their attitude and their look. I liked that on the sleeve of their first album [Down By The Jetty], it almost looked like they were from another time, like the mid-’60s.
Fast forward a couple of years and I saw The Jam just before they got signed to Polydor. I thought, ‘Hold on, this is a band for my generation’ – no pun intended – who were more of my age than Dr. Feelgood and they had some affinity with that ’60s mod thing and they were playing a few soul covers in their set.
I did see a lot of the early punk bands, but I thought their image was artificial on some levels – I knew a lot of weekend punks who dyed their hair green with food colouring and washed it out before they went to their respectable job. I thought it would be nice to be someone you could be all the time, and there’s no doubting that there’s a generation of bands who were so influenced by The Jam.
‘I saw The Jam just before they got signed to Polydor. I thought, ‘Hold on, this is a band for my generation’ – no pun intended’
Of the first five bands that surfaced with New Wave or punk, I felt The Jam were the most honest. A lot of them were trying to say it was Year Zero and that they weren’t influenced by anything, whereas The Jam weren’t shy about saying they were influenced by The Kinks, The Beatles or Wilson Pickett. It wasn’t like they’d just been dropped there by a spaceship in 1976.
‘I knew a lot of weekend punks who dyed their hair green with food colouring and washed it out before they went to their respectable job’
And I guessed you carried that approach through to The Style Council, as on the front cover of your second album, Our Favourite Shop, you had a store featuring memorabilia, books and records from some of your favourite writers and musical artists. You were literally wearing your influences on your sleeve…
MT: The visuals on that record had far-reaching consequences – people were trying to find copies of books that were out of print… I’ve met people who’ve said, ‘I think I’ve got three-quarters of what’s in that shop!’
The nice thing about that sleeve is that 90 percent of what was on it was mine and Paul’s and the rest of it was stuff that we wanted that we got our designer, Simon Halfon, to source. It wasn’t put together by a stylist – it came off our bookshelves or out of our lofts. It felt part of our makeup.
I always love reading about who or what influences the musical artists I’m into – it often sets me off listening to them and discovering new stuff…
MT: It’s the same with me. As a kid, I’d read about The Beatles and thought that maybe I should check out The Everly Brothers or Little Richard – whatever they were talking about. I liked The Rolling Stones as well and they helped me to find out about Howlin’ Wolf and Solomon Burke. It’s a nice process – I guess some bands are more open about that sort of thing.
Are you a record collector? How do you listen to music?
MT: I listen to it on any format because the moment you rely on streaming – I don’t want to get into the politics of that, but they don’t bloody pay you enough – there’s sometimes a grey area. Things are missing, like you particularly like a B-side of a 7in single, but it’s not on Spotify. Why haven’t they got the one I’m searching for? It’s an anomaly.
‘I’m not a music format snob, but I appreciate there’s something about magnetic, analogue tape and vinyl that is just warm and nice’
Wiggle Wiggle, the B-side of the Bangs & Talbot vinyl single, Sumthin’ Else, ison Spotify… What’s your hi-fi setup at home like? Is it a big system?
MT: No – just normal speakers. My brother-in-law found me an old Dansette – sometimes I like to stack up some singles on that. I don’t do it all the time, but it might be influenced by something, like finding a rare record in a little junk shop, and I think ‘I’ll definitely have to get that red plastic thing out again…’
I’m not a format snob, but I appreciate there’s something about magnetic, analogue tape and vinyl that is just warm and nice.
You’ve played with so many acts, including Dexys Midnight Runners, Galliano, Gene, Candi Staton, The Blow Monkeys, The Young Disciples, Monks Road Social, Wilko Johnson, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend… Any collaborations that stand out?
MT: It’s really hard to pick out one. It’s whatever I’m currently working on.
Different things have enchanted me for different reasons – there are people I’ve not recorded with, but I’ve worked with… I did Jools Holland’s Big Band for a while, when his brother, Chris, who plays Hammond, took a couple of years out. That gave me the opportunity to play with Ronnie Wood, Dr. John, Edwyn Starr – all sorts of people. When you’re working with Jools, you’re never quite sure who you’re going to get. It’s quite spine-tingling when you’re playing with a legend.
It was a real thrill for me to work with Wilko Johnson – it was really mad, because I used to see him at Hammersmith Palais in 1976, and then I ended up working with him. He’s so influential.
Through working with him, I got to work with Roger Daltrey, and out of that I got to play with The Who very briefly. I filled in for a charity event – we did a medley. It was thrilling to be sat behind Pete Townshend while he was swinging around – that was a buzz.
‘I did Jools Holland’s Big Band for a while. That gave me the opportunity to play with Ronnie Wood, Dr. John, Edwyn Starr – all sorts of people’
There was one week in 2018 when the second Wilko Johnson album I’d played on came out, as well albums by Roger Daltrey and Ray Davies that I was on. They were all recorded at different times, but it was like three buses turning up at once.
People say to me, ‘What are you up to? Are you still in the music game?’ ‘Well, this week, I’m up to quite a lot, but next week it will look like nothing’s happening…’
I’m really looking forward to the next Monks Road thing coming out, as it’s been put on hold for a while. We did the third album [Humanism] in Spain, but we ended up doing the new one in London, at RAK Studios, in one week. I love that studio – I’ve been fortunate enough to have been there a few times in the past couple of years and, for me, it’s second only to Abbey Road in terms of an old-school studio that still has every option available.
‘It was a real thrill for me to work with Wilko Johnson – it was mad, because I used to see him at Hammersmith Palais in 1976’
We have a mutual friend, Matt James, who was the drummer in Gene. You’ve played on his debut solo album, Breaking The Fall, which is released next month, haven’t you?
MT: Yeah – that was really nice. He had a few of the old Gene boys [Steve Mason – guitar, Kev Miles – bass) involved. It was great to catch up and play on it.
Matt always had that vocal thing going on – I can remember when I was playing live with Gene, they’d sometimes get Dodgy’s drummer [Mathew Priest] in, so Matt was featured more as a vocalist and a guitarist.
It’s great that it’s always been in him and that he’s got round to doing his own album. There’s one song that’s quite Northern Soul on it and a nice one where I played an accordion sound, with a rural or Cajun influence, or a bit like Ronnie Lane.
So, what’s next for you?
MT: I’m halfway through working on an album with an act called BirdSMITH – they used to be called First Congress. They’re the vehicle for a songwriter called Tom Van Can – he used to be a director of independent films. I first met him about 12 years ago, when I did some stuff for a soundtrack. He’s focused on music now. They had a single out called Kiss It Better – it got played on Radio 2 a bit.
I’ve not seen Candi Staton for a while – she’s coming over for a handful of festivals, so I’m going to play with her – and the next Monks Road Social album should be looming soon.
I’m also working on a second album for what I hope is an ongoing project with Chris Bangs, and there’s a Jam and Style Council exhibition on in Brighton [This Is The Modern World]. They’re showing the Style Council documentary [Long Hot Summers: The Story Of The Style Council] and I’ll be there for a couple of days, doing a Q and A.
Nicky Weller [Paul’s sister] is curating it and she tracked down one of our early video directors who had lots of outtakes – there’s all sorts of things. Her partner, Russell, has been editing stuff – he sent me a film of me playing with The Jam at The Rainbow, in 1979. I had no idea anyone was filming it.
Were you pleased with the documentary? I watched it earlier this year, on Sky Arts, and I thought it was brilliant.
MT: It was good – it was very hard to try and shove everything into one film, but they did a good job. It really reflected the personalities of a lot of people well.
Paul and I did a combined interview – the people who put the film together were hoping there might be a commercial DVD release, because they said they’re sitting on about half an hour of stuff from us that they couldn’t get in that’s really funny. It shone a light on some things, but it didn’t work in the film. I guess it’s all owned by Sky… it’s not my shout.
How was it talking about that time again? The film was pretty candid…
MT: Having to film it over a couple of days and dredge up seven years of your life was kind of exhausting… it was a bit of a blur.
A lot of it was shot at Paul’s studio – while I was down there, I played on three tracks for his album, On Sunset, which he was just finishing. I thought I played on two, but it turns out I’m on three. There was so much going on.
The Style Council got back together to play one song at the end of the film, It’s A Very Deep Sea. How was that? It’s a lovely performance…,
MT: I was really pleased it came together. I saw Paul play in London a few weeks ago and it’s in his set now – I don’t think he’s played it live for a very long time and it’s nice that’s put a new focus on it.
I had concerns about whether or not we should work up three or four songs, in case it didn’t click, as it had been so long, but Paul went, ‘No – just that one.’ He was very definite about it and he said, ‘If it works – it’s great, and, if it doesn’t, we don’t have to use it.’
I was really hoping it would work, but if hadn’t, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world, as nobody knew about it but us.
People might think we sweated over it for a long time – I listened to the song a lot at home – but, when we did it, we started playing it, Paul thought it was really good, his instinct kicked in, and he said, ‘Let’s take it now.’ We only played it through all the way once. It felt good – a real pure performance.
‘Having to film the Style Council documentary over a couple of days and dredge up seven years of your life was kind of exhausting… it was a bit of a blur’
Do you think the film has opened up the Style Council to a new audience? You were so ahead of your time and more groundbreaking than you’ve been given credit for…
MT: It can’t do any harm. I was at a family party the other Saturday and I was quite surprised at some of my wife’s younger cousins who were aware of us. I think a lot of that is down to the documentary.
Some of the political issues you were writing about back in the day are still relevant now, aren’t they?
MT: Some of Paul’s more pointed lyrics seem like they were written about today, but they’re from 35 years ago. It’s astonishing how little things change.
Back To Business by Bangs & Talbot is released on June 17 on Acid Jazz. It’s available on vinyl, CD, digital download and streaming platforms.
Guitarist James Walbourne is no stranger to Say It With Garage Flowers – we’ve interviewed him before about his folk-rock duo, The Rails, which he formed with his wife, Kami Thompson, but we’ve never chatted to him about his rock ‘n’ roll roots… until now.
Walbourne, who plays in The Pretenders – Chrissie Hynde calls him ‘the definitive guitar hero’ – has unleashed his new project, His Lordship, a kick ass, rock ‘n’ roll duo with drummer Kris Sonne. The pair of them share vocal duties and when they play live, they’re joined by bassist, Dave Page.
The band’s debut EP, His Lordship Play Rock ‘n’Roll Volume One, is a riot – six no-nonsense, down and dirty, blistering covers of some of their favourite rock ‘n’ roll songs.
It was recorded in Copenhagen – after a long day of recording a set of original material for an EP, His Lordship kept the tape rolling and, in one take, laid down some loose, high-octane versions of songs by the likes of Gene Vincent, Jack Scott, Link Wray and The Killer – Jerry Lee Lewis.
‘His Lordship Play Rock ‘n’ Roll Volume One, is a riot – six no-nonsense, down and dirty, blistering covers of some of their favourite rock ‘n’ roll songs’
Available now digitally and on vinyl in the near future, it will be followed by an EP of self-penned songs, including the band’s latest single, All Cranked Up, a raw and ferocious rock ‘n’roll-meets-punk-anthem-in-waiting – ‘I’m all cranked up with nowhere to go’ – that clocks in at just over two and a half minutes, and sounds like it was written about the frustration of lockdown.
Next month, the band head out on a tour of the UK and Ireland – the dates were postponed earlier this year, but they’ve now been rescheduled. His Lordship literally were ‘all cranked up with nowhere to go…’
“We’re a live beat combo – that’s what we are and that’s what we do,” says Walbourne, in an exclusive interview with Say It With Garage Flowers. “We’re dying to get out there…”
How did His Lordship come about? Did it emerge from Mother’s Little Helper, your rock ‘n’ roll covers band, which played in North London, in venues like The Boogaloo, in Highgate?
James Walbourne: It came out of the ashes of Mother’s Little Helper – we wanted to do original songs. Mother’s Little Helper was just a thing we did for a bit of fun – we thought, ‘Oh, fuck it – let’s play some rock ‘n’ roll!’ It was playing things we love, with no pressure, and then it kind of morphed into His Lordship.
Mother’s Little Helper were a trio, but His Lordship are a duo. Aren’t you a three-piece when you play live?
JW: Yes – we have a bass player. He’s a guy called Dave Page and he’s fantastic. We’re a live trio, but, as a band, it’s me and Kris.
How did you meet Kris?
JW: We did a Chrissie Hynde solo tour of the States together – she’d made a record called Stockholm in 20014. We’ve been good friends ever since.
When Mother’s Little Helper wound up, Kris and me talked a lot about what we would do – the original [songs] aspect what always the way to go. If you play rock ‘n’ roll covers, you’re a rock ‘n’ roll covers band – there’s only so far you can go.
The aim was to have a bit of fun, but then we went, ‘Oh fuck – we’ve got this great song that we can play, let’s try it.’ Now we’re building up our original songs – we’re on track to release three EPs this year. Doing rock ‘n’ roll covers was a great way to start a band, but, for us, it wasn’t enough.
‘If you play rock ‘n’ roll covers, you’re a rock ‘n’ roll covers band – there’s only so far you can go. We’re building up our original songs – we’re on track to release three EPs this year’
Your debut EP, His Lordship Play Rock ‘n’Roll Volume One, is out now as a digital release, with a vinyl version to follow. It’s an EP of covers… Did that come about by accident?
JW: Yes – we were in Copenhagen and we did a bunch of original recordings for an EP, but, right at the end of the session, we thought ‘Fuck it – let’s just leave the tape running, film it and do some rock ‘n’ roll songs.’ It’s all live – there were no second takes. They’re songs that we’ve been playing for a long time – they’re some of our favourite tunes. It’s as simple as that – we just love playing them. We have a new EP of original songs coming out in July.
Will your new single, All Cranked Up, be on the EP?
JW: Yes – that’s right.
‘We’re a live beat combo – that’s what we are and that’s what we do. We’re dying to get out there’
One of the lyrics in the song is: ‘I’m all cranked up with nowhere to go’, which sounds like it could be a comment on lockdown…
JW: It was written before lockdown – we’re like an oracle. We can see into the future.
You’re a professional musician – how did you cope during lockdown?
JW: Initially, I was fine, because me and Chrissie did a Bob Dylan album [Standing In The Doorway: Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan], which was good, and we wrote another Pretenders record. I did a lot of writing for His Lordship too. It was fine up until Christmas time, which was when I wanted to kill myself.
‘Lockdown was fine, up until Christmas, which was when I wanted to kill myself’
Do you write all the songs for His Lordship?
JW: We write together – it’s very much a collaboration. I couldn’t do it without Kris. This is the first time I’ve been in a band where the drummer’s been so important! [laughs]. He brings something different to the table that I would never think of. It’s just great. I’ve never had as much fun – me and Kris just laugh all the time. And cry… We laugh and cry, Sean [laughs].
I think me and Kris doing this was a reaction to everything around us – the number one thing is to have a really good time doing it.
Now you’re back playing live, how have the His Lordship shows been going?
JW: Brilliant: we’re a live beat combo – that’s what we are and that’s what we do. We’re dying to get out there.
Where did the band’s name come from?
JW: We got the name from… [laughs]. I don’t even know how to explain it. We were playing a gig at Goodwood House – where the cars are…
The Festival of Speed?
JW:Yes – the Festival of Speed. The backstage area was in the house. It started as a joke – I started calling Kris ‘his lordship’ and it stuck. It was a nickname, but then we thought, ‘actually – it’s good. Fuck it – let’s use that!’ And there you go…
Is there an album planned?
JW: Initially it will be a series of EPs. You make a record and it takes a year to come out… We haven’t got that sort of time. We just want to get out on the road as soon as possible. We’re going to build it up and keep playing – we’re old school, really. The live shows are the thing – that’s where we thrive – and we make the EPs off the back of those.
‘It’s a misconception that rock ‘n’ roll is easy to play or record – especially old school rock ‘n’ roll. It’s an art’
Every time I’ve interviewed you in the past, it’s always been about your folk-rock duo, The Rails, but this time we’re chatting about rock ‘n’ roll, which is your first love. How did you get into it? Were you a rock ‘n’ roll fan as a kid?
JW: Yeah – my took dad me to see everyone. When I was really young – six or seven – I went to see Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis. They were my favourites – rock ‘n’ roll is still sort of my favourite music. It’s taken me until now to figure out a way of doing it – Kris has made it possible. I’m in cahoots with somebody else who has the same outlook – we both like that rock ‘n’ roll weirdness. All the great rock ‘n’ roll tracks have something strange about them – we’ve tried to get that. It’s a misconception that rock ‘n’ roll is easy to play or record – especially old school rock ‘n’ roll. It’s an art.
You played guitar on a Jerry Lee Lewis album, didn’t you? What was it like meeting him?
JW: Indescribable. I’ve never got over it! [laughs]. I can’t top it!
How do His Lordship capture that authentic ’50s or ’60s sound when you’re recording?
JW: We’re not into that at all – we’re not trying to replicate it. It’s not like a Civil War re-enactment! We want to make it modern. Without sounding like a cliché, we want to take it somewhere different. We like what The Black Keys and The White Stripes have done – we’re haven’t got our rockabilly trousers on! It’s our attitude, more than anything – our spirit.
JW: We did it before lockdown – it was a brilliant experience and I met some brilliant people and made some great friends for life. Everyone on that session was great – it was a great musical experience.
Did you enjoy playing the songs in concert, too? I saw one of the London Soulsavers shows and it looked like you were having a great time…
JW: After not doing anything for so long, it was really cathartic. But then I got Covid… but that’s another story.
‘His Lordship has taken over from everything – it’s basically what I want to do. It’s such great fun’
So, what’s next? Will The Rails be doing anything new?
JW: Not really – we’ve got a live record that I’m putting together. We’re not as busy as we were, but when it’s right, we’ll do something else. His Lordship has taken over from everything – it’s basically what I want to do. It’s such great fun. Me and Kris are so into it.
Do you take turns at who is his lordship?
JW: No – we’re both lords all the time. And other people can be lords… You could be a lord, Sean, but it depends on what you’re wearing.
I won’t wear my rockabilly trousers…
Finally, Chrissie Hynde calls you a ‘guitar hero.’ Who are your guitar heroes?
JW: When people ask me that, I never know what to bloody say. I’m very wary of being boring in interviews, but, this will surprise you… Probably, my guitar hero, who made me want to play, is Stevie Ray Vaughan. He’s the guy who really spoke to me in my formative years. There hasn’t been another one like him.
Could he have been a lord?
JW: He’s the king.
His Lordship’s debut EP, His Lordship Play Rock ‘n’Roll Volume One, is out now as a digital release. There will be a vinyl version out soon on Psychonaut Sounds.
His Lordship are touring the UK and Ireland in July – for tickets and more information, click here.