Howard Jones

The O2 Academy, Birmingham, 30th November 2013.

 

Howard Jones

 

As a young teenager in 1983, I queued in line at the old Birmingham Odeon, eagerly waiting to see one of my pop idols of the time. Howard Jones was taking the world by storm, leading the way in the electro-pop revolution. The bushy-haired musician was touring with a mime artist named Jed, pioneering the use of drum machines and sequencers in ways that made him stand apart from the early synth-pop acts of the time such as The Human League, Gary Numan and Depeche Mode. Fast forward to tonight and once again I was getting that little buzz, waiting in anticipation to throw off the mental chains on this, one of three shows marking the 30th Anniversary of the release of his debut single ‘New Song’.

 

Howard Jones

 

With no support, Howard’s set would be split into three parts – acoustic, multimedia then full electric set. Dressed in a dapper brown checked suit, Howard took to the stage for the first set of acoustic songs. Sitting behind a single keyboard and accompanied by percussion and acoustic guitar, Howard easily weaved his way through the set, interjecting witty banter with the crowd in between tunes, which included the melodic ‘Tomorrow is Now, Straight Ahead’ which was dedicated to his late father, and the crowd-pleasing ‘No One is to Blame’. The second, multimedia set was truly spectacular. Hiding behind a semi-transparent curtain suspended over the full length of the stage, Howard could just be seen stood at his trademark bank of synths and keyboards. The projected animations and graphics introduced everyone to Howard’s new project is entitled ‘Engage!’. Then the curtain fell to reveal Howard, backed up by a drummer and keyboard player, thus allowing him to occasionally escape his own keyboards and wander down to the front of the stage to engage the audience. Prior to the show, ticket holders were invited to download a number of free phone apps to use during various parts of the show as well as to wear a coloured glove. In addition, lashings of ultra-violet make up was liberally applied to the most adventurous. Every ticket holder also received a free limited edition Howard Jones 30th Anniversary CD that comprised a personal selection of Howard’s favourite recordings over the past 30 years.

 

Howard Jones

 

Howard Jones

 

Howard Jones

 

After a quick costume change from mad scientist persona to a more darker leather jacketed look, Howard hit the stage for the final full electric set, celebrating his best known songs such as ‘Like To Get To Know You Well’, ‘Life In One Day’ and ‘Things Can Only Get Better’, culminating in a tremendous encore with ‘What Is Love’ and ‘New Song’. After thirty years, Howard is still proving he is yet another 80’s icon who refuses to give up and has proved that he is one of the most talented writers and performers of recent times who is still willing to take risks to ensure that he continues to operate on the cutting edge of today’s music.

 

Howard Jones

 

Howard Jones

 

See the full picture set here:

Howard Jones

Words and pictures by Stephen Turner

Black Star Riders

With support from The Dead Daisies and Western Sand.

Wulfrun Hall Wolverhampton 30th November 2013.

Wolverhampton has been well and truly gearing itself up in anticipation of this evening, as tonight The Wulfrun is playing host to the outstanding Black Star Riders with support from The Dead Daisies and Western Sand.

With the room already three quarters full, Western Sand set about making their acquaintance with the Wolverhampton audience. Hailing from the south of England, Tyler Hains (vocals and guitar), Jimmy Bradshaw (lead guitar), Findlay Hotchkiss (bass) and Nathan Kay (drums) have made a worthy niche for themselves with an admiral repertoire of no nonsense rock ‘n’ roll that certainly fitted the bill tonight.

Western Sand

A little bit of detective work on our second band for tonight, The Dead Daisies, had uncovered a line up exciting enough to take your breathe away – let me show you what I mean… The Dead Daisies comprise of Jon Stevens (Noiseworks/INXS) on vocals, Charley Drayton (The X-pensive Winos/The Cult) on drums, Richard Fortus (Guns N’ Roses/Thin Lizzy) on guitar, Darryl Jones (The Rolling Stones) on bass, David Lowry (Red Phoenix/Mink) on guitar and Dizzy Reed (Guns N’ Roses) on keyboards.

Charley Drayton - The Dead Daisies

With their self titled album release having received some pretty healthy reviews, their set list tonight gave us the opportunity to hear several tracks from it and included the recently released UK single ‘Lock ‘n’ Load’. The Dead Daisies are a band destined to make seriously good rock ‘n’ roll and I can’t wait to see them back again sometime soon in this neck of the woods.

Jon Stevens - The Dead Daisies

Our headlining act Black Star Riders have touched the hearts and CD players of many since their respectful inception in December 2012. Borne out of the greatness that is Thin Lizzy but with the intention of writing new music in their own and current vein, the rock community has watched and listened to that which these world renowned musicians would set about creating, and if the genuine acclaim and support that went out to the band from The Wulfrun’s audience is anything to go by, this evolution is one that has readily been met with much approval.

Scott Gorham - Black Star Riders

Black Star Riders storybook set list visited upon several tracks from their first album release, with its title track ‘All Hell Breaks Loose’ detonating The Wulfrun into life. From a personal perspective, those first few seconds of hearing the velocity of the crowds roar, the feeling of their forward surge behind the pit barriers and the combined and blistering adrenaline kick that was erupting up on stage, all made for one of those breath taking moments that you don’t tend to forget!

Ricky Warwick - Black Star Riders

And the great music and the good times kept coming. With several Thin Lizzy classics such as ‘Jailbreak’ and ‘Emerald’ fuelling their set on further – Black Star Riders held nothing back! Wolverhampton was witness to a spectacular display of dazzling guitar riffs courtesy of Messrs Scott Gorham and Damon Johnson, the rich and rugged vocals of Ricky Warwick, a plethora of rolling bass lines provided by the one and only Marco Mendoza, that were delivered in true partnership with the master drum strokes of Jimmy DeGrasso.

Marco Mendoza - Black Star Riders

Set List: 1. All Hell Breaks Loose 2. Are You Ready* 3. Bloodshot 4. Bad Reputation* 5. Before The War 6. Jailbreak* 7. Hoodoo Voodoo 8. Massacre* 9. Kingdom Of The Lost 10. Hey Judas 11. Southbound* 12. Kissin’ The Ground 13. Valley Of The Stones 14. Emerald* 15. Bound For Glory 16. Cowboy Song* 17. The Boys Are Back In Town*  Encore: Whiskey In The Jar* and Rosalie**

Thin Lizzy* Bob Seager**

It is nights like this that personify the worth of supporting live music the world over, whether you are there to see a promising up and coming talent or to soak up the mightiness of the masters in their field. This evening brought me many memories and I look forward to the many more musical highlights that I’m sure are still yet to come from these three great bands.

Words and Photography by Sue Wardle.

Skindred Interview

Mark Lloyd put down his camera just long enough to catch up with Benji Webbe and  Arya Goggin from Skindred…

Benji Webbe - Skindred

Mark: So, let’s just start off nice and casual guys, ‘cuz I did threaten to ask you about breakfast Benji….
BW: Yeah, what did I make?
ML: For those who don’t know, we met Benji in the Spar this morning buying his breakfast and I threatened to ask him what he cooked.
BW: Well, I’ll tell you what I cooked. Basically I got some eggs and I got beans and my father used to call it Akipatashy (?). I think he made that shit up but basically what you do is you get 6 eggs in the frying pan, bit of butter and you start making scrambled eggs. Then you add the beans. Mix that up, put the toast in the toaster, it pops out, you put it all on a plate and you got Akipatashy. I had one sachet of ketchup left from McDonalds yesterday so I had that on top and that was it. No salt and pepper though which I do enjoy and that’s Akipatashy.
ML: Have you copyrighted that?
BW: Not yet no, but it’s definitely the students meal of all! Forget the pot noodle shit
AG: All the food groups are there. It’s y’know, nourishing. Eggs for protein.
BW: yeah but I won’t be doin’ that for a while now. I live in a built up neighbourhood and I got different cafes I can pop to most mornings
AG: I had a heart attack sandwich this morning, sausages and bacon
BW: Woooo!
AG: Mikey cooked it. It was good!
ML: So basically the whole band do all their own cooking
BW: Let me tell you something. Dan Pugsey our bass player,he could have his own show! You name a spice and that fucker got it in his cupboard! Every spice on the planet and if there’s a spice he hasn’t got, he’ll go hunt for that shit. We went to India and he came back like this (hold arms out in front as far as he can)
AG: It’s his passion man, when its your passion you’re gonna do it aren’t you?
BW: What I’d like to do on our dvd is have Dan do a cooking thing on the extras. Cooking with Puggers!
AG: We already did a come dine with me didn’t we?
BW: Yeah and he should be actually on it and we could be the band that entertains.

ML: Seeing as you’ve mentioned India, what made you decide on Mumbai for the video shoot for Kill the Power?
BW: Cuz they gave us money! No, we needed a video to the single and we were gonna do it in the UK but the guy we wanted to use was just umming and aring and the time went past so we thought “fuck him then we’ll go and do it then” so we went to India for our show and talked to our manager. We thought making a video in India would be really different.
AG: While we were there we had five days off anyway so we thought if we could do it in India what’s that worst that could happen?
BW: Get arrested and killed by the Militia!
ML: Yeah we heard there were a few issues….
BW: We got chased by the police!
ML: Did they catch up?
BW: No way dude!
AG: How it worked was basically the director had a fist full of cash which was our budget and he’d basically pay off people as we went. You can’t actually film in India, it’s something to do with filming permits that are something like £15,000 or something and you have to pay everyone off.
BW: As well as paying the fifteen grand! You’ve still gotta pay people on the street so we did it guerrilla style.
AG: So we’d get the taxi driver to wait for us and give him a couple of quid. We drove his taxi round and paid for a guy to stand at the end of the street watching for police. Then the police turned up and we had to pay them.
BW: And we did it, I mean all the scenes in the video when I’m walking around looking over my shoulder I’m looking for police and stuff.
AG: It was all one take as well. It was like “quick, next one!”
BW: And we had to go to all different alleys and we had to drive all around Mumbai and I tell you what, that place is BIG!
AG: It’s huge. I mean we had the same guy that did the location stuff for Slumdog Millionaire so he was taking us to all the proper brutal spots.
BW: Its funny ‘cuz I look at all the pictures and it still looks romantic but when you’re there it’s like “fuck me this is disgusting!” Its all bugs and rats and shit! I went to the toilet when he (Arya) was doin’ his scene outside the temple. I went to the toilet round the back and the guy said “just go there” and I was like “no, no I’ll use the toilet”, so this fucking toilet was kegged with 2,000 years worth of piss and shit! And then Dan said to me “did you look up?” apparently there was spiders in the rafters this big (Holds his hand up) and I fuckin’ slipped when I went in there as well! But that’s the way they live you know. If I could do anything on this planet it would be to make the people living on the streets better. I mean you see these shacks and they’re not there by choice, it’s because that’s what they’re given. It’s what their parents had and their grandparents had. Fucking 25 generations all living in the same place. It’s heavy. If I could help in a real way like give them toilets, I would man.
ML: Were you advised for health reasons not to go out there?
AG: We had to have a whole load of jabs. And I had to wear a vest and I get bitten all the time.
BW: Dude we went through so much spray just caking ourselves in it! It’s heavy man. It’s a fun video but India is a heavy fucking place.
AG: It really suited the lyrics though and it’s different and stands out from a normal rock video and that makes us happy.

ML: All your songs have got a feel good factor to them but there’s always a serious theme
BW: Lyrically I’m always saying something you know. I’m always on about basically the story of David & Goliath cuz I know there’s always gonna be a giant in somebody’s way trying to push them down. Whether that be pizza, or the government. We got the fist on the front, but the fist for me is just unity and the basis of most of the lyrics on the album is about overcoming your fears, your monsters and your demons in life and becoming a better person. I’m not talking about being a better person than your neighbour who’s a wanker. I’m talking about being the best you because the best you is different from the best me. We can’t expect everyone to be the same. Skindred’s lyrics are always gonna be about that, taking over the bullshit in your life and controlling it you know? If you’re gonna leave a message you gotta leave a positive one.

ML: So this is your second time playing this kind of festival, first being Hammerfest and you ignited the crowd there are you hoping for the same tonight?
BW: I have a great time every time so I hope they do too.
AG: I think they’re ready for it
ML: How are you going to wind the energy back for the unplugged set later?
BW: We don’t wind it back bro! It’s what I do, get them all going, call them wankers! I love that shit! I can honestly say that we’re the first band to do a wall of death AND an acoustic session. A wall of death acoustic is something to watch. And the great thing about it is we make this shit up as we go along.

ML: Are you bringing the helicopter out tonight?
BW: It’s the crowd that brings the juice you see. If the crowd brings the gas and the petrol, I’m the catalyst.
AG: If they’re good they get the helicopter.
BW: They’re usually good.
AG: It’s like Christmas every day with us.
ML: So you never know from one show to another what’s going to happen?
BW: No not really
AG: It’s exhausting for me, I never know what he’s going to bloody do! I just try and keep it all together!
BW: Well, I’m not gonna jump into the crowd from fifty foot!
ML: Please do, I could get £250!
BW: Nah man, there’s plenty of that shit at home!

ML: Next year sees quite a big tour for you guys
AG: It’s to support the new record which comes out on the 27th January and we’re touring from the 22nd. We’re doing the UK, Europe, Australia, America so we’re going to be away for a while
BW: Because of what we do, we play some strange bills. The one year, we played with Pulp and Mastadon! We played one the other day with Ellie Goulding. It’s funny, no matter what audience they put us in front of, we work!

ML: I suppose the amount of musical influences you all have helps
BW: Well that’s it, people say to me they come for the drum ‘n bass or they come for the guitar. You get a room full of people that would never be in the same room normally but because of the music, they’re all dancing. You get the girls shaking their asses, the guys throwing up horns. It’s a beautiful thang!

ML: Obviously you’ve done some collaborations, with Jacoby (Papa Roach) for example. Is there anybody else you would like to do a collaboration with?
AG: Elton John!
BW: Yeah he’s an amazing song writer and he sounds good! Elton John & Skindred.
AG: I reckon that would be a good laugh actually.
BW: He’d have some badass tales.
ML: Imagine that interview!
BW: I like the way he used to dress in the old days when he used to go crazy. I thought that was amazing.

ML: Well, I won’t keep you guys any longer as you’ve got loads more people to speak to, so here’s a question I probably should have asked in the beginning. What question do you hate being asked?
BW: How long are your dreadlocks? AND how long have you been growing them. It’s fucking bullshit. Ooh anything you can find on wikipedia!
AG: Yeah that’s for lazy interviewers!
BW: So I say fuck you! Go on wikipedia! All you’re questions are rubbish!
AG: I don’t like “How did you get your band name”, “How do you mix the different styles of music” If I’m talking to someone, like we are now, its all about present stuff. Everything you’ve asked has been current. You haven’t asked about fifteen years ago. We’re talking about now and that’s what we want to talk about.
ML: Thank you so much for talking to us guys. Enjoy the acoustic set and looking forward to seeing you tonight
BW: Nice one man, thanks!

Interview and Photograph by Mark Lloyd (Amplified Gig Photography)