Watch out – there’s a storm coming! Hurricane#1 are back with an epic new single – What About Love? – and their “pure rock and roll” album, Melodic Rainbows, is due out later this year.
I spoke to frontman Alex Lowe, who reformed the band in 2014, following a battle with cancer, to find out why only the strongest will survive…
Well, blow me down – it’s 20 years since ‘90s indie-rockers Hurricane#1 released their debut single, the anthemic Step Into My World.
Signed to music mogul Alan’s McGee’s label Creation Records in 1997, the band was formed by guitarist Andy Bell after the demise of shoegazers Ride.
Andy Bell was joined in Hurricane#1 by singer/guitarist Alex Lowe, bassist Will Pepper and drummer Gareth “Gaz” Farmer.
In 1997, I was working as a music editor on a South Coast listings magazine. I fell in love with Step Into My World when I was sent a promo cassette of it by Creation’s press officer. With its big, guitar-heavy, stadium rock sound – Andy Bell channels Neil Young – and a killer chorus, it became one of my favourite songs – and it still is…
A few weeks before the single came out, I was sent to interview Hurricane#1 at The Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth, where they were supporting fellow Creation label mates, punk-poppers 3 Colours Red.
Backstage before the gig, I sat down to chat with the band members. I got on with all of them really well, but I was particularly drawn to Alex.
A former boxer, the Scottish frontman had a cool, tough-guy look, a wicked sense of humour and a great, raw and soulful singing voice that sounded like Faces-era Rod Stewart.
Before the interview could begin, Alex insisted that there was someone missing who needed to be there.
“Where’s Jack?” he asked, adding: “We can’t do the interview without Jack.”
“Who’s Jack?” I asked, naively.
“Ah – here he is,” said Alex, producing a litre bottle of Jack Daniels and pouring us two glasses…
Since that day in 1997, when Alex and I first met, we’ve remained great friends.
Speaking to me in August 2017, he reminisces about our initial encounter: “I will always remember that. Oh – we had fun in those days. I loved every minute of it,” he says, laughing.
“They were great days – very special. I just can’t believe it was 20 years ago. Where does the time go? It was a great scene to be part of – music meant something back then. I just don’t feel like there is anything around anymore…”
Hurricane#1 split up in 1999 – Andy Bell left and joined Oasis and Alex embarked on a solo career. Sadly, in 2013, Alex was diagnosed with cancer, but he overcame his battle with the disease – well, as the title of the 1998 Hurricane#1 hit single says, “Only The Strongest Will Survive” – and, three years ago, he reformed Hurricane#1 – albeit with a new line-up.
Alex is the only original member in the current reincarnation – he’s joined by Carlo Mariani (guitar), Chris Mullin (bass) and Chris Campbell (drums).
Hurricane#1 are about to unleash their fourth album, Melodic Rainbows, in the UK. Released in Japan late last year, it’s the follow-up to 2015’s pop and country-flavoured Find What You Love and Let It Kill You and is a much heavier record than its predecessor – it’s a big, noisy rock and roll album, with dirty guitars and a whole lot of attitude.
There’s also a stand-alone single due out later this year – the epic What About Love? – and some live shows planned for September, including Beano On The Sea in Hastings (Sept 8-10) and the Shiiine On Weekender (November 10-13,Butlin’s Minehead Arena).
I asked Alex to tell me more about the band’s plans for the rest of the year…
Q & A
How are you doing?
Alex Lowe: I’m feeling good at the moment – it’s great to speak with you again, as it’s been a while. There’s great stuff happening in the Hurricane#1 camp – lots going on, with a new single, album and gigs.
You’ve just signed a record deal with UK indie label Strawberry Moon Records? How did that come about?
AL: I can’t actually remember to be honest – ha ha! It’s just one of those things that happens when you are least expecting it. They got in touch and that was that really – it was very quick and informal.
You’re gearing up for the release of a new single What About Love? When’s it coming out and what can you tell me about it?
AL: I think we are looking at a September/October release. I wrote it very fast, while I was sat at the kitchen table – the cat was staring at me, over a glass of JD…I was aiming for a big, anthem-type song – something people can sing along to and remember quite easily. We recorded it at a studio called RSD in Scotland.
You’ve given me an exclusive sneak preview of the song. It does have a big sound and you play guitar on it, don’t you? The solos remind me of those on Step Into My World…
AL: That was intentional. I wanted to get back to that early sound of Hurricane#1 – that epic feel. I played all the guitars on it, as Carlo was ill at the time – we needed it done quickly.
‘I wrote the new single very fast, while I was sat at the kitchen table – the cat was staring at me, over a glass of JD’
Will the single be on your new album, Melodic Rainbows?
AL: No it won’t – we have decided not to put singles on the albums, but just do entirely different tracks, like The Beatles did.
The album has already been released in Japan. When can we expect it to come out in the UK?
AL: We are looking to release Melodic Rainbows very soon – maybe October. We do have 50 Japanese, signed limited edition copies available from our label Strawberry Moon Records.
Why did you release the new album in Japan first?
AL: We got an email from a label interested in releasing it, so we thought they could be the guinea pigs for the release, so we gave it to them and they put it out.
We recorded the album in Scotland, in a town called Turriff – my friend Steve Ransome engineered it. It’s a great place to record, as it’s in the middle of the Highlands and there’s no one around to bother you.
‘I wanted to get back to that early sound of Hurricane#1 – that epic feel. I was aiming for a more pure rock and roll album’
Let’s talk about some of the songs on the new album. It feels more full on and ‘in-yer-face’ than its predecessor, Find What You Love and Let It Kill You. Some of the songs have got dirty, loud guitars and big beats. What were you aiming for with it?
AL: I was aiming for a more pure rock and roll album – a guitar album that was full of noise – and I think we accomplished that pretty well.
Carlo is a fantastic guitarist – all the band are great players – but I wanted him to shine through and he did. There’s some special playing on there from all the guys.
The opening track, I Wanna Kill You, is very noisy – it’s garage rock and roll. Is it about your battle with cancer?
AL: It was about killing cancer – nothing else. A lot of people thought it was about killing people! It’s not – it’s about killing cancer.
Liz Don’t Cry is an old song – I can remember you playing it to me years ago. What can you tell me about that song? It reminds me of R.E.M…
AL: Yeah! I remember when I had just written it and I played it to you on my acoustic guitar. It’s an old song reworked and it’s one of my favourites.
It’s actually about a next-door neighbour I had named Liz – she had just lost her father and I saw her crying in the garden, while she was hanging out washing. It was very sad to see.
‘Nobody knows how to speak anymore, or relate to each other in the non-cyber world. It’s very depressing to see sometimes’
The song LOL is Hurricane#1 goes dance-pop! What’s that all about?
AL: It’s a piss-take of the internet and mobile phone generation and all their vocabulary, like LOL and PMSL – all that nonsense. Nobody knows how to speak anymore, or relate to each other in the non-cyber world. It’s very depressing to see sometimes.
You worked with Danny Saber (Black Grape, The Rolling Stones, The Charlatans) on the new album. How did you hook up with him?
AL: I met Danny through a friend – Mark Millar from the blog XS Noise. He let Danny hear a new track of ours – Danny loved it and wanted to work with us.
Looking back to the late ‘90s, do you wish Hurricane#1 hadn’t split up when they did? Could you have made at least one more Hurricane#1 album?
AL: We could have done loads more albums and we should never have split up – it was ridiculous. Nobody had faith more than me in the band and nobody worked harder. It was very sad when we split.
When, in 2015, you played a Hurricane#1 comeback gig in Brixton, with your new line-up, Andy Bell and your former live keyboard player, Nick Moorbath, turned up to watch the show. How was it seeing them again?
AL: It was good to see Andy – he was a changed man, much more open and friendly. Nick has never changed – he’s still the same as ever and always up for something. It was great to see them at the show.
‘We could have done loads more Hurricane#1 albums and we should never have split up – it was ridiculous’
Are you still in contact with Andy? He played ‘backwards’ guitar on Think of the Sunshine, from your last album, didn’t he?
AL: I am still in touch – yeah. We text now and again, or tweet. He played on Find What You Love and Let It Kill You – he actually played on two of our tracks, one of which we didn’t use for the album. We might stick it out as a single or a bonus track one day.
This September, you’re playing some gigs, including Beano On The Sea in Hastings, with some other Britpop bands, including The Bluetones, Cast and Space. Are you looking forward to it? Do you stay in contact with many of your friends from ’90s bands?
AL: It’s going to be a blast! We can’t wait to get back on stage and blow the windows out! It’s great seeing all my old mates from The Bluetones and Space – they are all great guys and fantastic bands.
You were supposed to release a solo album earlier this year – the first single from it, Coal Trains, came out a few months ago.What’s the latest on the solo record? When’s it being released?
AL: I will be releasing a solo album, but I’m not sure when because we are so busy with Hurricane#1. My last single was all over the radio. I think it’s had around 12,000 downloads, so it’s looking great.
What music – new and old – are you listening to at the moment?
AL: You know me, mate – it’s The Stones and The Beatles and lots of Americana stuff as well. Townes Van Zandt and Johnny Cash….
There’s a Hurricane #1 documentary being made. What can you tell me about that?
AL: We’ve been filming footage for a brand new documentary and we are urging fans who’d like to be in it to send in small clips of them speaking about the band. There will also be a few rock and roll stars in it, as well as some old friends and colleagues.
‘It’s going to be a blast! We can’t wait to get back on stage and blow the windows out!’
As we said earlier, it’s been 20 years since Hurricane#1 started out. What would you like to be doing in 20 years’ time?
AL: Just to be alive I think. I have lost so many friends over the last three years that I just want to survive and to be able to look back and say I gave it my best shot.
So, how would you like to be remembered?
AL: That’s a tough one, but I think I would like to be remembered as the guy who never gave up.