Category Archives: Interview

159. SAIICHI SUGIYAMA BAND (+ support JOE ANDERTON BAND) at The NCBC, Essex. Friday, 24th March 2017; including an interview with Saiichi.

Saiichi Sugiyama (Photo: Karen Rockingham)

The Saiichi Sugiyama Interview: Well I must admit my son James and I went along to the NCBC knowing next to nothing about Saiichi Sugiyama, but intending to see his set, having heard good reviews. Then Karen at the club suggested an impromptu interview with the man, which she kindly and quickly arranged for us. No matter that we hadn’t done any research, because after being introduced to him, he told us that he talked too much; so with a minimum of questions from ourselves, he proceeded to tell us all that we needed to know about himself and his music – and fascinating it was too..

PTMQ: We started by asking Saiichi about his work with Andy Fraser shortly before he passed away…

SS: ‘I met a chap who was the UK PR for Andy Fraser, and he was interested in managing me, so we worked together for a while, and Andy got to hear my music. My manager asked him: “Would you be interested in playing bass for Saiichi?”

I had this song called ‘Melting Away’ that I wrote some years ago. Free was very much formative Blues-Rock, and Paul Kossoff was somebody that I listened to a lot when I was young, but I had to stop listening because I didn’t want to be influenced too much. I was on holiday in Japan and I had this strange dream that Kossoff was in an afterlife in a beautiful place, and I came up with this song called ‘Melting Away’. I played it at a blues festival once, but then I thought “This is too close to Free!”, so I set it aside, until I met Andy.

(Image: Saiichi Sugiyama website)

He’d been working all these years to get away from Blues-Rock. So I said “I have a song that I’d love you to play… but I bet you will not want to play it because it’s so much like your old band!” Anyway, he had a listen for the six minutes, and at the end of it he said “Yeah, I’ll do it, sure”. Then I was even more greedy and said “Did you notice there is a section for a bass solo towards the end?” and he said “Yeah I noticed that… that’ll be a challenge!” So he took the song away to California, and a couple of weeks later I got this thing through. He actually worked on the bass, and added things to it. He added some voice operated synthesizer sounds on it. He chopped a few things and arranged stuff; and put reverb on it. His bass playing was very unique.

Somehow I suddenly had this idea of putting a string quartet on it. I loved the way that Motown orchestrated, so I ended up getting in touch with John Shipley, the Musical Director for Jack Ashford’s Funk Brothers. I said “This is not Motown, but can you write a string section for it?” What he sent me was not quite what I had in mind. So I went out and bought a keyboard and my ProTools had some samples, and that became the quartet part. I wanted Andy to hear that but then he went. So that was that’.

PTMQ: Saiichi then told us about his association with Pete Brown – poet and lyricist for Cream among others…

SS:  ‘I met him in early 2000 and he started off playing in my band, because he sings and plays percussion. He said we should record an album, so i said ‘OK if I’m going to record, will you write with me?’ He said OK, so I was quite thrilled to see my songs with Pete on them. I was brought up in Tokyo in the 1960s and I would buy LPs with Japanese liner notes, and they’d talk about Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton… and poet Pete Brown. So the name was very familiar to me’.

Saiichi with The Quill and James, son of The Quill (Photo: Karen Rockingham)

PTMQ: So how did you get into in Western music?

SS: ‘Initially I was very taken with American music. I started off with Crosby, Stills and Nash; and Neil Young; and that got me into playing acoustic guitar. Its acoustic but its not Folk, its Rock. I was really fascinated by the way they played guitar, and then Steven Stills had an album out with a couple of very Bluesy tracks. And it just spoke to me; it was interesting – something different. I wrote a song when I was about ten, and it was a 12-bar Blues number. But I didn’t know it was Blues! Then I got into Clapton – Derek And The Dominoes. Then I dug deeper, into Cream, which I loved more; then The Bluesbreakers’ Beano album.

That’s how I got into the whole thing; because we were going through a period in Japan when people were looking very outward to the West; now they’re very inward looking. Now the Japanese have developed their own style of Rock which is quite Punkish. It doesn’t wash with me. They like their stuff and they really dig into it. But they don’t like somebody like me coming over from England – “He’s Japanese, he can’t be any good!” [He laughs].

Then I had a renaissance with The Beatles when I was about 18, and I really wanted to come here because this is where it was happening. I wanted to see Paul McCartney when he came to Japan in 1980 to play the Budokan. I slept on the street to buy the tickets, but he was arrested for marijuana possession and spent time in jail! So I had to come to England to see him.

But before then I had my eyes set on California because my love was Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. So I went to America for a couple of summers and I loved it. Then I was encouraged by a friend of mine who said “You’ve got to come to England”. So I did and found it more to my liking. I came for three months, which became three years, and now thirty odd years!

I first came over here in 1980 as a musician. I went through a period when I was absorbing everything. In 1989 I met Mike Casswell, Clem Clemson and Zoot Money, and my first album came out in 1994′.

PTMQ: Saiichi also talked about his son Mune Sugiyama, drummer and musical director of the band…

SS: ‘My son was unfortunately brought up, poor thing, listening to all my music! He says: “You really spoilt my childhood playing all these old peoples songs!” But it turned out that he’s actually a good drummer. He had a school band but someone dropped out, so I played in his band which was like a kind of prog/psychedelic jazz type of thing. So we got to know each other musically. Then when I needed a drummer he would come in as a dep. He knows all the songs that I wrote but didn’t do anything about, and he said “look, you’ve got to record these”; and he ended up becoming my producer and musical director of the band. He is my partner in that sense. He tells us what to do. He’s a perfectionist. He’s very bossy!’ [He laughs].

PTMQ: Saiichi is a very friendly, forthcoming and informative man to talk to – and yes, he does like to talk a lot; but that’s a good thing because he told us just what we wanted to hear. So thanks for the interview Saiichi. All that remained was for us to see his live set…

Joe Anderton Band (Photo: Chris Richardson)

But first The Joe Anderton Band set:  Whilst chatting to Saiichi in the Green Room, we heard the support band begin their set; and although I wasn’t able to give them my full attention, they certainly sounded good in the background. When we got back to our seats in the auditorium, Joe and the boys were in full swing with a great Stones cover – ‘Dead Flowers’. They finished with ‘Down By The River’ which I liked very much. What I heard of their set was very good. A band to look out for, I think.

They consist of the excellent young guitarist himself Joe Anderton (guitar and vocals); Andy Hayes (guitar); Joe Fowkes (drums); and none other than Trev Turley (on bass) – a well respected bassist who has of course been mentioned on my site a few times before, not least of all when he played a great gig at the NCBC last year with some good friends (see my review #121; & review #126).

The Saiichi Sugiyama Band set: The headliners were soon on stage. They consisted of Saiichi himself, of course (guitar/ vocals); his son Mune Sugiyama (drums/Musical Director); his long term bassist Ben Reed; Sam Grimley on keys; dep rhythm guitarist Mark Wright; and the remarkable Monica George on lead vocals.

Saiichi Sugiyama Band (Photo: Chris Richardson)

We were soon listening to the opening number ‘Never Turn Back’, off the debut album. This was segued into ‘I Never Turn’ (the newer, up tempo version) on which we first heard Monica’s fine vocal. It was a good start; and immediately followed by the only cover of the night ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’, with a great solo.

Saiichi said that he liked to mix up the eclectic influences of his youth back in the 70s, which explained the next song ‘Just One More Time’, which is quite a fusion of styles. Next he introduced another from the debut: ‘What’s Going On?’, explaining that he was never fully happy with his singing on the original. So this has now been reworked for female lead vocal; and I must say that Monica shone on it. There was some intense solo work from Saiichi on his Les Paul too.

Continuing with the eclectic menu, the band then played a Folk-Rock number called ‘Bitter Ground’ – surprising, and surprisingly good. It was a la Wishbone Ash Argus in its vibe – and therefore, I liked it a lot! The Funky ‘Into Your Arms’ followed, and couldn’t be more different, being described as ‘a dancy number’. Then the Funk continued with a song from The Smokehouse Sessions co-written with Pete Brown: ‘Is That You Baby?’

‘Magic Wand’ – another reworked number from his eponymous album of ’94 – changed the vibe yet again; and ‘China Doll’, from the same collection followed, with its haunting introductory arpeggio, although quite significantly reworked from the original. Rather Santana-esque in its lengthy solo, this one. A newer song ‘Night Indigo’ followed – a moody number with another good solo.  Great drumming from Mune on this one too. More upbeat was the radio friendly ‘Its Up To You’ with its 60s Motown vibe which suited Monica’s vocal style perfectly.

Next the song that I had been particularly waiting for: the Andy Fraser collaborated ‘Melting Away’. Starting with a haunting arpeggio and pensive vocal from Monica, it soon erupts into an unashamedly Free-inspired extravaganza – slow, heavy rhythm riffs interspersed with the gentler arpeggio sections, then giving ground to a Kossoff-esque lead guitar part; a fitting tribute to one of Saiichi’s main influences and a fine memorial to both Kossoff and Fraser. Excellent!

Next up was ‘I Got News’, a song with an interesting lyric and a nice guitar part. The latest single ‘Somewhere Down The Road’ followed. This is of course the reworked version of the opening track from the debut album. The original was very good, but this make-over is excellent; with female vocal and a far more dynamic guitar part. Without a breather, the great rocker ‘A Cellar full Of Noise’ (also co-penned with Pete Brown) ended the the show to great applause. It is a shame that the show overran because I know that the encore (if played) would have included an acoustic version of ‘Crossroads’ which I would have liked to hear. But both James and I enjoyed the gig very much.

The sheer variety contained within Saiichi’s set appealed to me greatly. Little of it could be described as pure Blues of course, but most of it had an undeniable Blues base. Inevitably, Saiichi shone on lead guitar; and Monica was at all times impressive as vocalist. The rhythm section of the band were all tight and reliable throughout.

Farewells: We had another little chat with Saiichi at the Merch desk, and he generously gave me two of his albums – his excellent eponymous debut from 1994 on CD; and his acclaimed Smokehouse Sessions on vinyl; plus his two latest excellent CD singles: ‘Melting Away’ which we’d just heard all about; and the remixed version of ‘Somewhere Down The Road’, which we’d also just enjoyed live.

As we left the venue, we congratulated guv’nor Paul Dean on another great New Crawdaddy gig; and had a few words with Joe Anderton and Trev Turley too. On the way out we bumped into Rock aficionado Stuart Walsh and his lady friend, who were very pleased with Saiichi’s set. And thus ended another good night at the NCBC. Thanks to all performers; the club volunteers; Karen for arranging things and photos; Chris for photos; bar staff; and everyone who was there. PTMQ

Saiichi Sugiyama website

Joe Anderton Band website

New Crawdaddy website

Advertisements

124. THE DEBORAH BONHAM BAND (+THE JO BURT EXPERIENCE) at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC, Hockley, Essex. An interview and gig review. Friday, 19th August, 2016

The stage awaits (Photo: PTMQ)

The stage awaits (Photo: PTMQ)

Preamble: This is a gig that had unfortunately been cancelled twice over the last 18 months or so, due the star of the show, the wonderful Deborah Bonham, having a couple of problems….but as Debs herself would say ‘Shit Happens’! This evening was worth waiting for though, because the lady was seriously in form!

Third time lucky then… but even this show was not without its problems! I’d arranged with Debs and Dave Kitteridge of Touchline Live Music, to get to the venue at 6pm for an interview; but on the way I got a text from Debs’ husband and guitarist Peter Bullick, telling me that the band were seriously late and struggling through horrendous traffic; having been on the road for over five hours (they’d been expecting a two hour trip!) So the band turned up five minutes after myself; stressed from a nightmare of a journey, and in need of food, drink and a sound check! Debs charmingly also brings her two dogs, Fred and Kip, with her to gigs, and they needed a walk; so off she went with the pooches for a quick relaxing stroll.

Debs was soon back. My good friend Rambo turned up around that time, and we sat and watched the sound-check. The band went back-stage after that for some dinner. When she was ready, Debs came and invited us back to the Green Room for a chat…

Debs' dogs Fred and Kip (Photo: PTMQ; taken by Rambo)

Debs’ dogs Fred and Kip (Photo: PTMQ; taken by Rambo)

The Interview:  We began talking about Deborah’s dogs Fred and Kip – there they were snuggled up together on their bed in the Green Room!

PTMQ: Do they go everywhere with you?

DB: Pretty much… in the UK certainly. I haven’t taken them to France yet.

[This reference to France anticipated my next question].

PTMQ: I was going to ask about the French connection, because you sing in French and I know you have a fan base there, so I was wondering how that came about?

DB: I have no idea! I’m not bi-lingual but I do speak French. I was trying to get into France (and Europe) for quite a long time. We did a support tour with Foreigner about ten years ago… went down a storm in Paris… and Holland. Then we went back. We ended up playing some gig that somebody got us. Not well paid, but there was an agent there (who’s been our agent now for four years) – Laurent Milliet of 106 db (they even have my initials DB!) And he’s been brilliant; a great agent. He believes in us. He saw the band. Loves the songs – even has one on his ring-tone! He really pushed; and that has worked. So we play big shows there.

Debs with The Quill (Photo: PTMQ; taken by Rambo)

Debs with The Quill (Photo: PTMQ; taken by Rambo)

PTMQ: So the songs sung in French on your album Spirit were in tribute to your French fans?

DB: Pretty much, yeah. I did them as a thank you, really. Its a funny thing… Laurent doesn’t want me to get too good at French, because he likes the fact that I’m always trying. The audience love that. He said “Non, non, non! I don’t want you to do all ze songs in French.. zey like the English… but one in French!” And he loves the fact that sometimes I get my words wrong and say the most ridiculous things on stage, and the audience laugh!

Rambo: Are the songs written with singing in French in mind, or did you change the words?

DB: No; I didn’t do it! Laurent’s sister-in-law Natalie did it for me, because if you translate literally, its not very poetic. I gave her free rein to make it poetic and put it into beautiful French. She sent it to me and I said “Oh Goodness!” – [laughing] I’d love to take the credit for that!

Rambo and Debs (Photo: PTMQ)

Rambo and Debs (Photo: PTMQ)

Funny enough, ‘Take Me Down’ [or ‘Guide Moi‘] I originally wrote for a Fleetwood Mac film. I was asked if I’d write two songs by Phil Carson at the film company in LA. He’d worked at Atlantic Records for years when Zeppelin were there. He said “Darling, I need some Fleetwood Mac-esque songs, and you’re just the person to do it for me!” So I originally wrote it for that – and then the film didn’t happen! So when I was looking at doing the album [Spirit], I thought “I love that song”, so I resurrected it… had to change the lyric a bit though, because it was specific to Fleetwood Mac.

PTMQ:  Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the Spirit album?

DB: A couple of months before she died I took my Mum to see Robert Plant at Symphony Hall, Birmingham. We had a fantastic night. Then I got an email from Robert’s drummer Marco Giovino (from Band Of Joy), who said “To whom it may concern… I’m a big fan. Do you think Deborah would come and meet me after the show?” I laughed my head off at “To whom it may concern”! So I replied in a completely bogus name and said “I’ll be speaking to Miss. Bonham in a short while, and I’ll pass it on. I can’t guarantee… it depends what mood she’s in! She can be a bit temperamental!” So when I met him I said “What? Do you think I’ve got a lot of staff? My God! I’m playing clubs – not Madison Square Gardens!”

Sound check (Ptoto: PTMQ)

Sound check (Ptoto: PTMQ)

Anyway, he said he had the Duchess album and he was a big fan. I was really chuffed that someone other than my mum had the album! [Just for the record The Quill has the album too… its brilliant!]. So I booked Marco. He lives in Nashville; so I got him a flight over [to record the album]. But then my Mum suddenly passed away. He was due over two days after Mum’s funeral and I said “I’m not going to be able to do this!” So at the funeral Robert Plant said “Marco’s a great guy. Your mum wouldn’t want you to not do it. You’ve got to really dig deep and bring everything out in that record. So that’s why it became Spirit, because it took an awful lot of spirit to get through it. I think in my whole life I only had one year away from my Mum… she was my best friend. It was really, really hard.

PTMQ: Reading the lyrics of the album, its very personal… it does seem that she’s with you as you write.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Barefoot lady sings the Blues! (Photo: PTMQ)

DB: Yeah, its the same with John, Michael and my Dad… they’ve all gone. She was the final one in the family. It took a lot for me to deal with being left on my own… and those four being together, as I see it. So its the spirit of all of them too.

PTMQ: You mentioned Robert. You had him as a guest on the album playing harmonica; but do you regret not asking him to sing?

DB: No. I think he would have said if he’d wanted to. We’ll just hang around for the next record! Of course I want to sing with him! I got to sing with him about a month ago. I’d sung with him before, but he came to one of our shows and he got up with the lads and did ‘When The Levee Breaks’; and then we did Johnny Kidd And The Pirates‘ ‘Shakin’ All Over’. But I got my ‘knee bone’ and my ‘thigh bone’ all muddled up! But it was brilliant. We just clicked – no rehearsal. So I’d love to… Gosh, he’s one of my heroes!

I’ve done a duet with Paul Rodgers too – several actually – one on a record and some at shows. That was a ‘pinch me’ moment, to be able to sing with Paul. I’ve sung with a lot of great people – like Dan McCafferty, when we opened for Nazareth once. He’s never done a duet with anyone before, but he walked on during our set and did ‘Stay With Me Baby’.

Jo Burt... a good experience! (Photo: PTMQ)

Jo Burt… a good experience! (Photo: PTMQ)

PTMQ: Do you have any collaborations planned?

DB: No, nothing planned. But we’re going to see Bad Company up in Glasgow in October.

PTMQ: So will you be back stage? Are you going to be invited on?

DB: I don’t know yet… could be! [She said coyly!] I usually get up and do a number [Take note if you have tickets for Bad Co’s Glasgow gig!], which has been great fun… but it always makes me “Aargh!” shake!

PTMQ: You still get nervous… even tonight?

DB: Yes! Before I go on I’m always really, really nervous. Once I go on I’m fine. But we do what we do… we have a Hell of a laugh. The lads are a great family really. I guess you can get that vibe from the dogs coming? Pete’s sister is here doing the merch too. We try to have a laugh because its a weird life… sometimes its hysterical.

Peter Bullick (Photo: PTMQ)

Peter Bullick (Photo: PTMQ)

PTMQ: So you had a five and a half hour journey and you’re all still laughing!

DB: Oh that journey was horrible tonight! That’s one thing that’s starting to take its toll on me. I really hate being in the tour bus on the motorways. I’ve seen people drive into the back of others. It really makes me nervous all the time.

PTMQ: How about the future? Are you planning another album?

DB: Yeah, next year; I’m writing at the moment… but you know, its a long process for me, because I just write and write and write; and then think “Oh that’s crap!” I do have a built-in ‘crap-ometer’! I only really want to put the songs on that I personally love. I listen and then I think “Yeah, that one passes… that one doesn’t”. I sort of know within about an hour of working on something with the band; and say “Are you getting this? I’m not!” Luckily not a lot of that happens but it does take me a lot of time to make the record.

It’ll be out around next Autumn. We’ve got a studio at home, and Rich [Rich Newman, Debs’ drummer – who had been chilling out on the couch in the Green Room throughout the chat], is going to set it up for us; and hopefully he’s going to do the recording.

Gerard 'G'Louis (PTMQ)

Gerard ‘G’ Louis (PTMQ)

PTMQ: So will it be more of the Rock / Blues / Soul vibe? Or are you feeling like you want to branch out a bit?

DB: Yeah, I think so. We’ve got a bit of a Funk thing going on at the moment… digging a bit of a Funk vibe which I rather like. We’ll still always have a bit of Mandolin and Acoustic… Rock ‘n’ Blues… there’ll definitely be some Blues in there because that’s in the heart of me. Rich is going to lay down some drum loops… just some grooves really; because once you’ve got some drum grooves going, its a lot easier to come up with ideas.

I’ve been asked to do all manner of albums. Years ago I was asked to do a Blues album by Sony Records. I think they wanted to call it something like ‘Lady Sings The Blues’. They’d just done a blues record with Paul Rodgers – Muddy Water Blues … Grammy nominated and all that. [Just for the record, The Quill owns this album too… its also brilliant!]. They heard me sing; came all the way across America; saw us selling out shows; audiences going crazy; and then had a big meeting in their office, and they said “Right, what we want you to do is this…”. And I thought “Hold on, I’ve just done all my stuff…I want to do mine!” “No, no, no… we want you to sing like Billie Holiday!” And I thought “Hang on, I’m a middle-class white girl… I can’t compare my life to what Billie went through! So I thought “Nah!” So didn’t do it; didn’t get the Grammy… and still haven’t! But I don’t regret it for one minute! [she said, laughing].

Rich Newman is in there somewhere! (PTMQ)

Rich Newman… is in there somewhere! (PTMQ)

Rambo: What sort of things inspire you to write your songs?

DB: Life! Most of it is autobiography – things that have happened to me or how things have affected me. But sometimes it just gets a bit too heavy… you’ve got to find something to lighten it up a bit. Then I dig a bit deeper and see what other people are going through.

PTMQ: Finally, do you have any snippets of interesting info for my readers?

DB: Oh, I’m a patron of a charity in Scotland. Its for animals and vulnerable kids. Really worthwhile. Its an animal sanctuary and assisted animal therapy. [Link to Willows Animal Sanctuary].

At this point Debs had to get ready for the show, so after some quick photos we exchanged thanks . ‘Let’s hope you enjoy the show’ she said. We went back out to the auditorium. By then it was full; so we got ourselves a beer and took our seats at the front (kindly reserved for us by Trudie), and waited for the show to begin.

Rambo and I enjoyed chatting with Deborah Bonham. We found her to be welcoming and friendly; informative and open.  And throughout the interview she was laughing and optimistic – in spite of some sadness in her life. It is obvious that her music pulls her through the hard times, and it enhances the good ones too. A really nice person to talk to – down to Earth, fun and interesting… and with a profound spiritual side to her too.

Jo Burt (PTMQ)

Jo Burt on bass (PTMQ)

The Jo Burt Experience’s Set: It wasn’t long before Master of Ceremonies Brian Sangwin was on stage introducing the support: The Jo Burt Experience. This was a solo set from Jo, who of course is also the bassist in Debs’ band, so he had a lot on his plate this evening. He launched into a very good set beginning with ‘Angel Hurricane’ – ‘based on the idea of the Quarter-Back and the Cheer-leader’ he said.

Jo was once a member of (as he described them) ‘the most famous Heavy Metal band in the world’, Black Sabbath; so next he played his ‘Psycho-Country’ version of The Sabs’ ‘Paranoid’ off his solo album. I’ve heard this song covered a million times… but never like this! I liked it though. His song ‘The Night-time’ was played next. He described it as his ‘escape plan’; written some years ago, and based on the Cold War. It was very good. The ‘antidote to that tune’ was ‘Enough Love In The World’; and this was followed by his final number ‘I Wanna Be Free’. All told, a fine set.

The Deborah Bonham Band’s Set: Barefoot Debs and her boys climbed on stage to great applause. The band consist of Peter Bullick (Debs’ other half – on guitar and mando);  Jo Burt (bass and mando); Rich Newman (drums); and Gerard ‘G’ Louis (keys). Debs of course, is lead vocalist and also plays guitar a bit too. These are all well-seasoned musos.

(PTMQ)

(PTMQ)

MoC Brian Sangwin introduced the band and they immediately launched into ‘Shit Happens’. Debs is right… it does! But with an opening number like that you can forget your probs for a while! This was followed by ‘What We’ve Got’ off The Old Hyde album; and ‘I Need Love’ off Spirit. Both of these show-cased Debs’ remarkable Joplin-esque style vocal; with great solos from Pete on these two. It was obvious by then that the band are tight as a unit; with Joe, Rich and ‘G’ impressive and reliable.

Several other songs off the Spirit album were played: ‘Feel So Alive’ with Pete on Mando; ‘Pain Birds’ dedicated to Pete’s sister Belinda on the Merch desk; and ‘Guide Moi‘ (‘Take Me Down’) which Deborah sang in French just for me! That’s only the second time I’ve had a song dedicated to myself by a band in all these years! Je vous remercie, Debs, Je suis Honoré!

'Guide Moi'... merci madame! (PTMQ)

‘Guide Moi’… merci madame! (PTMQ)

It was also very apparent around this time that Debs has a relaxed and fun repartee with the audience and rest of the band – giving as good as she got in cheeky comments from both.  Her performance as a singer is as much visual as vocal – and in both she is exceptional.  She is animated and passionate, and feels every song – they are her songs after all; they are about her.

And the show went on with more from Spirit: the wonderful ‘Fly’ with Jo on mando; and ‘What It Feels’ with great keys from ‘G’. Three songs from Duchess followed: the great rocker ‘Grace’; then her homage to a certain spirit from Tennessee, ‘Jack Past 8’; and ‘Pretty Thing’ with tasty licks from Pete which reminded me a little of Kossoff. Next was a rarity: ‘Heaven’ – an ’80s song that has only recently been resurrected on the Looking Back At The Moon album. Its a Rock ballad, perhaps a little Heart-like in style, but that’s not a criticism! A powerful song that got great applause.

The Old Hyde was mined again for more gold towards the end of the show. She gave us ‘No Angel’, and sung it so well, along with an exceptional visual performance that seemed to come from her very soul. Pete also made himself very useful on this one too, with some beautiful Blues chops. Then it was one of my particular favourites, the rock’n’Roller ‘Devil’s In New Orleans’. Excellent!

(PTMQ)

‘No Angel’ (PTMQ)

Finally ‘The Old Hyde’ itself was introduced, which she preceded with a heart-felt speech that moved many in the audience. It is a song about hope, love and optimism; dedicated to those loved ones sadly gone. She thanked everyone for coming and began the song. She sang it with a genuine emotion, but was impressively controlled throughout the performance, in spite of being obviously moved by it herself. Marvelous. A standing ovation ensued.

Encore! What can you follow a show like that with? Only a rocker from the Led Zep back-catalogue would do. What else but the classic ‘Rock’n’Roll’? It was delivered as near to the original as you are likely to get here in Essex, and I loved it!

Fin: We had a quick few words with Deborah at the end and congratulated her on a magnificent performance. There were several people I knew in the audience. All agreed that it had been a fantastic gig. So big thanks to everyone concerned – especially Debs – plus Dave, Trudie, Brian and Steve of The Touchline for once again hosting a fabulous show. (Dave even made us a welcoming cup o’ tea – a rare pleasure! Cheers Dave!) Lights; sound; organisation and hospitality were second to none as usual – that’s what you expect from the Touchline… and that’s what you get! Au revoire! PTMQ.

[Deborah Bonham website]

[Touchline Live Music website]

Thank you Touchline and good night! (PTMQ)

Thank you Touchline and good night! (PTMQ)

120. CHANTEL McGREGOR at THE NEW CRAWDADDY CLUB, Billericay, Essex. Interview and gig review (+ support from the House Band THE HEATERS). Friday 5th August 2016.

Chantel in conversation with The Quill (Pic: PTMQ)

Chantel in conversation with The Quill (Pic: PTMQ)

Preamble: Over the last couple of years friends and acquaintances have been urging me to go and see rock guitarist Chantel McGregor; so this is something that’s been on my wish list for a while now. Unfortunately, every time I thought I’d get to one of her gigs, something cropped up to prevent me from going! I’m glad to say that that is a situation that’s at last been put right, because my son James and I were able to get down to see her at the New Crawdaddy Blues Club, Billericay, Essex, on a very warm summer Friday evening recently – and furthermore, she kindly agreed to an interview beforehand.

The Interview was arranged rather hastily when we arrived at the club (thanks to Karen of the NCBC and Chantel’s team); and James and I were soon invited back-stage to the Green Room. Chantel is a friendly, approachable and modest Yorkshire lass from Bradford; and welcomed us warmly, introducing us to the band. These are: Colin Sutton (bass); Andy Mapp (drums); and keeping an eye on things as well as being van driver and ‘general dog’s-body’, Chantel’s Dad, Alan McGregor. All were chilling out with a pre-show pizza!

(Pic: PTMQ)

(Pic: PTMQ)

I’ve never written about Chantel before, so we asked her to tell us how it all began. (At this point my dictaphone decided to pack up; leaving me to take notes the old fashioned way; so I must apologise for the lack of proper quotes!) But she told us that she began playing guitar from the age of three. Her Dad Alan was playing rock gigs, so its something that she’s always known. At around twelve she was playing stuff like Metallica and Grateful Dead; and after concentrating on her studies she started gigging with her own band around Bradford at the age of 21; covering the likes of Trower and Tull, as well as ‘more obscure covers’; and developing a fan base. From the age of 25-ish she began penning her own material. She’s now 30 – so a good 90% of her life has been dedicated to guitar music!

Her influences are eclectic; but she particularly mentioned Steven Wilson of Porcupine Tree as influencing her wonderful BBA nominated song ‘Walk On Land’; Sound Garden (for her ‘Your Fever’); Jeff Buckley (for ‘Eternal Dream’); and poet Nick Drake (for inspiring ‘Anaesthetize’ – her song about addiction). And she has what she termed as ‘Sponge Days’, where she chills out watching TV; reading books and poetry; and generally absorbing the world around her and all its arts. This inspires her music and lyric writing… and it seems to be working well, I must say!

(Pic: PTMQ)

(Pic: PTMQ)

We asked her about her recent jam with Joe Bonamassa. ‘I Emailed Joe, and he rang back’ she said. JB invited her to his gig in Manchester for a chat, and she ended up jamming on stage with him. She has also met Clapton; Raitt; and Fleetwood Mac. This hasn’t done her international profile any harm at all; and she now has a thriving US fan Club – but no plans as yet for a US tour.

So what has the lady got planned for the near future I wondered? She is planning an acoustic album at the moment; for which she has twelve pages of themes and lyrics written out already. This is a project that will be worth checking out, as she is as adept with the acoustic as with the electric; and various songs on her two albums can testify to that. Apparently just before we arrived, Chantel gave an impromptu acoustic performance after the sound check, for those in the audience who’d arrived early enough; after someone had asked about the chords she used for a particular song.

Chantel had also recently dislocated her knee after a bizarre accident at home; ‘…and I wasn’t even drunk!’ she laughed. She was strapped up in a leg brace. ‘I’m walking like a penguin’ she said. But to be honest it was hardly noticeable covered in her long black dress, and she carried on regardless.

(Pic: PTMQ)

(Pic: PTMQ)

We thanked her for speaking to us, and after a few photos, we returned to the auditorium. Whilst we’d been talking to Chantel, we could hear the House Band, The Heaters, playing their covers set. It sounded good, but we only caught the end of it unfortunately.

The gig: It wasn’t long before Chantel was climbing on stage. Alone, She donned her acoustic and began to play the wonderful ‘Home’; followed by ‘Anaesthetize’. Then she was joined by the band for the haunting ‘Inconsolable’; half way through, seemlessly changing from acoustic to Strat for a lengthy and superb solo – the boys in the band providing a reliable framework for the lady to improvise at will. For me this was an early highlight of the show.

Time for some Hard Rock then! ‘Freefalling’ from the debut album hit us next. And this was quickly followed by the Sound Garden influenced ‘Your Fever’. Excellent! And the rockers kept coming: ‘Burn Your Anger’; and ‘Lose Control’ (the title track from the latest album); continued the vibe, before she played the bluesy ‘I’m No Good For You’ off her debut album Like No Other.

But another highlight was due…she played a Prog-Rock instrumental called ‘Summat About Flies’ which pretty much blew me away! It was this number more than any other which demonstrated her consummate fretboard skills; and I was very impressed by it indeed.  (Watch it here thanks to Paul Hawley). I was then left wondering how on Earth she could possibly follow that! ‘Shall we do err..’ she said ‘…’Purple “something?”… yes it was the old Prince classic! And what a sublime cover it was too. Probably the best cover of it I’ve ever heard – she made it her own.

Then Chantel introduced the band, and thanked all present, before launching into the magnificent BBA nominated ‘Walk On Land’. This provided the finale to the main set. Again a truly wonderful rendition with a fine solo; and an apt song to end on. Inevitably, ‘Encore!’ was of course demanded; and was duly given in the form of ‘Take The Power’ – the opening track to her latest album Lose Control. Phew!

Throughout the gig Chantel’s playing was very impressive; and matched only by her faultless vocals, which were clear and beautiful. She has a great confidence and repartee with the audience too, which is something I like to see and hear from performers. All in all it was a fantastic gig – and I now know what I’ve been missing out on! I’ll see her show again, for sure. So if you haven’t seen Ms. McGregor yet, don’t delay – buy the tickets ASAP!

Thanks to Chantel and her fine band and support team; and to Paul Dean and all the wonderful volunteers at The New Crawdaddy for once again putting on a cracking show. PTMQ

Chantel’s website

New Crawdaddy’s website