Photo: Joe Dixey
You are from Nottingham, right?
Yes, Bestwood. The community that I grew up in had quite a bad reputation but was actually great as there was all sorts of people. I was in to music from an early age and there were loads of people really enthusiastic about playing musical instruments - a group of five or six people from around the area. It was great really, and we were on the edge of Bestwood Lodge so there was lot of nature. I think the reason for the troubles is that it’s just that far away from town. It’s kind of like Dead Mans Shoes. At the time – the late seventies, early eighties – it was probably a little bit more sociable. Good memories really.
When did you first pick up the guitar?
I was a bit of a child prodigy, at school they would always get me to play at parent’s evenings. I first picked up the guitar when I was five or six. My dad is a really good harmonica player and I tried to learn that at first, but then his friend gave me this beat-up guitar and that was it. It’s all I wanted, all I thought about. At first I just enjoyed it but as I got older I started to see it as an escape from growing up on a council estate and never being able to get out, although at the time I never felt trapped or anything like that.
My dad is obsessed with music. My parents still live in Bestwood and my dad’s living room smells of vinyl. I was obsessed by The Beatles, it was all I wanted to listen to. My older brother bought an album by The Who - Story of The Who - and I then got in to that type of music. As I got older I started to discover Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones stuff like that. Even in the eighties I was in to sixties and seventies music, I never really got in to stuff like Duran Duran.
As I got to about sixteen I started to join bands because I wanted to play and started to listen to some of the bands coming out at the time like Japan. Because I was too young for punk rock I was in to an assortment of The Stranglers, Led Zeppelin, really weird ska, Bob Marley, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart. I had an older brother obsessed with rock n’ roll, like my dad, so I’ve always been in to the fifties stuff. I was mad on Marc Bolan and stuff like that.
When my brother bought Led Zepellin III, I couldn’t stop playing it, I was obsessed by the guitar. You feel a bit cheated when you get in to music before your time, the guitarist is dead, the drummer is dead, all this music had already happened and eighties music wasn't doing it for me. Day-to-day I probably listen to more new music than anything, I don’t always get in to it all.
What was Nottingham like when you were growing up?
I played in a band with my older brother and then as I got in to my mid-to-late teens I was in a band that played gigs in town. We played pubs like The Yorker on Mansfield Road, which has changed names now. This was when I was at school. We thought we were a sixties rock band. As I got a bit older I got in to different kinds of bands and music.
Nottingham didn’t really have a lot to offer as a town for bands. No-one made it from there apart from KWS and Paper Lace. There were a few musicians rumoured to live around Nottingham. There were no venues really. There was a couple of cool clubs like The Garage and The Hippo, which were great. It was all cover bands. I moved to London when I was eighteen - the band I was in had just split up. They were called Celebrate This, the singer now is John Lennon in The Fab4.
I would start getting the National Express to London. At the time in the back of NME and Sounds there would be ‘bands wanted’ or ‘guitarists wanted’ and I started answering adverts. It seemed there was no way out of Nottingham at that time. It seems mad now, but looking back it really felt like that. When I moved to London it was a different world, loads of musicians, I had a fantastic time.
It seems quite recent that Nottingham bands and the arts in Nottingham are getting a voice, and it’s amazing. It was pretty terrible if you played in a rock n’ roll band at that time in the early-mid eighties. There were some good bands around but it felt so confined. It seemed that no band would ever make it from Nottingham.
How did you make the move to America?
I moved to London and eventually answered an ad in the NME and joined a band with these two guys that had a house. I moved in to their house a week later. We started the band and got this singer that knew a girl in America. This story could go on forever, but to cut a long story short: we had some gigs in America so we saved up for six months.
I worked in a nightclub called The Underground in Croydon glass collecting, just saving up as we didn’t have any record deal. We went over to do the gigs, and at the time it was two dollars to every pound, and the plan was to buy cheap Gibson guitars and come back with new guitars while having a good time in America on a tourist visa. Anyway, this girl got us a flat, she came through and everything, it was amazing. The first gig we did we went down pretty well, it wasn’t amazing, but we came off stage and Guns N’ Roses came backstage.
That was the very first thing we did, we had been there for two weeks. They were getting really big then. This was 1989 and they had just played at Donington and I think people died, it was a terrible thing that had happened. They were really nice and said "You were great" and literally befriended us. Within three weeks after that we were offered a record deal and I ended up staying for five years. I came back to the UK in 1994, though I did visit a couple of times in between.
Did you work on some Guns N’ Roses demos?
Yeah. It was amazing. When we went to American we were all really young and didn’t have a clue about the music business and as such we got ripped-off really badly. At the time when we were hanging around with them guys we got a deal and we got a house. It was an amazing house, it was like Spinal Tap, swimming pool, it was unbelievable and we couldn’t believe that it was happening.
I befriended this guy called West Arkeen who wrote songs with and was a friend of theirs through knowing Duff [McKagen]. When my band inevitably split-up after a year he said, "Do you want to move in to my amazing house in Silverlake?” because he had just started selling some records. He was just a dope smoking dude, a little older than me, but a fantastic guitarist. He was a bit nuts though and I didn’t expect that.
At the time he had a little studio with a tape machine and cassette players. They would come round and we just used to do recording all of the time. Duff would come round, Slash would come round. Looking back it seems bizarre, because since they’ve become really famous, but at the time it was just like meeting some other guys who were really in to music. Obviously it was a little bit more than that as they were the biggest rock n’ roll band at the time before Nirvana came and that kind of thing. I’ve still the demos. I would never ever give them out.
At one point I thought that there might be a chance of joining them, when Gilby Clarke joined, but to be honest I had lost touch with them by the time they were looking for someone else. But I did jam with them in their studio. It was amazing. The band I was in had to get an American drummer because at the last minute or original drummer’s girlfriend fell pregnant and we went over there without a drummer.
We met this guy and he knew them. It was quite a small scene believe it or not. We were totally alien, it was all glam rock bands, dirty jean and long haired kind of guys. They were really in to British music and could relate to a lot of stuff. It was a really great time and I remember when Duff first got some money through, because they all lived in crap flat when I very very first met them, and he bought this massive house. The day he bought it and got the keys we all went to it to have a party.
He had nothing, just some records, a few basses, a couple of guitars, and some jeans and shit. When you think about it, what have you got at that age? 22 or whatever. That was a mad memory. It sounds a bit legendary now, but at the time you don’t think much of it. It’s like having Jake Bugg in my studio then two, three years later seeing his massive poster outside the Ice Arena. I love that, it send shivers down my spine. It’s like every time I do a gig with Spiritualized, I just think that I’m so lucky.
Going back to the Guns N’ Roses thing because I’m a bit of a fan boy. I read that you came up with the acoustic guitar part for their song The Garden?
I don’t know if I did…
West Arkeen is credited on it…
I did play that song before they took it on. I have got cassettes of that whole song. In fact my brother has digitalised them. I wouldn’t like to say that’s true. I would like to say it is, but I don’t think I dare say that.
You don’t want Axl sending around the lawyers…
…cutting my head off or something.
It must have been amazing for you as a young English musician to be transplanted in to LA?
It was surreal. That was am amazing part of it and all happened within the first year of being there. It took a couple of months for us to sign our record deal and extend our visas. The band I was in was called The Medicine Show. We did some gigs and had a fantastic time. We are all still mates but it imploded after a year.
I think we all went a bid mad. But I ended up staying there and doing some great stuff, met some great studio engineers and musicians, but I was desperate to come back to England. I met Julian Cope when he was on tour there in 1991. One day he asked me to join his band and I jumped at the opportunity to come back home. I lived in Wiltshire for two or three years.
Is it true that Julian Cope now lives where you used to live?
Yes and there’s actually a book come out about the whole time [Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On, Jason Higgs]. It’s really hard to explain a lot of it. The author of the book also did one on The KLF. To be honest I haven’t read all of it as I find it hard to read. It was a brilliant time, though. That’s another thing that’s come out, a record last year, and we did a gig, the band is TC Lethbridge. I’m trying to do more but have been too busy with Spiritualized and World Expo music.
Dogntank album sleeve
What was it like working with Julian Cope?
Even though I’ve not worked with him for a while as we had a bit of a falling out a few years ago, was a fantastic inspiration, creative person, and producer. He would blatantly pilfer, in a plagiarising way rather than stealing - everyone does that, everyone I’ve worked with, any kind of writer takes stuff for inspiration, although I supposed there are lines - but he would look at a William Blake writing and go, “I’ll have that” and change it a bit. There’s nothing wrong with that. He was totally inspiring. He would turn up and have the whole thing finished in a day. With Spiritualized I can be working on things for months and years some times. But with Julian and the nature of the music we did it was kind of easy to do that as it was a more generic rock n’ roll sound, and it was easy to achieve a sound quickly in that kind of way, whereas with Spiritualized there are strings and different dynamics.
I really miss him, I’ve not seen him for about four years. I worked with him for about seventeen years, and we made over twenty albums in this studio including about seven or eight of his last solo albums. We did a band called Brain Donor and recorded most it here. One album, Citizen Cain’d, me and him did all of it. We did the demos and I play a bit of drums, so we did the drums, and when we had finished the demos he said, “That’s it I’m putting it out like this” and I said, “You can’t put it out with my drumming on it.” With the help of a computer we sorted it out.
I think he is truly a genius. It was a weird time and I just couldn’t be in two bands at the same time. I tried my best but I ended up almost killing myself to make it work. There was a lot of pressure from Julian at the time and I think he was going through a bad time, he had fallen out with nearly every he knew at that time.
I kept seeing it happen over the years but I think I was useful to him as I played in his band, helped get the band together and had the studio. He’s a great writer, I learnt so much from him just by watching him do his thing. He would have an amazing pop song and you would think if that was in the hands of Simon Cowell it would be a Number One, but he would just make it throw-away and the lyrics would be Julian Cope style.
He got a bit more bitter in the last few years, a bit more political. He’s always been anti-religion and that kind of thing, but he went from a man when I first met him who was crazy about his standing stones and ancient places, which was great, and went from that to hating Muslims and really extreme lyrics. We played a gig at ATP in Minehead, it was the last time I played with him, and I had never felt more uncomfortable in my life.
He seemed to get more sycophantic people around him that was really hard to deal with. He was just playing games. He got some of the crew to wear burkas on stage and it just made me feel so uncomfortable, I hated it, I took a turn and fell over. It was just a bad weekend. I remember the next day I was at the Union Chapel with Jason Pierce doing something called Acoustic Mainline, but Julian’s management hadn’t sorted any of my transport and it had all agreed before.
He just left me to it and I think he knew that I didn’t agree what his feelings where about some of the stuff. But it’s typical of being in a band, you don’t talk about any of it. It was a couple of years after until we actually fell out. It just got more and more silly and I couldn’t keep up with it any more. It was fucking insane.
Is it true that he kidnapped you?
I was on a world tour with Spiritualized, but the problem was that I had booked to play a gig with Julian at the Royal Festival Hall. We hadn’t arranged any rehearsal. When it had come up, it was about six months before I was on the world tour but during that period there were no gigs and the manager we had at the time understood that.
He called me saying Spiritualized has been offered gigs in St Petersburg and Moscow and the trouble was that it was before the gig with Julian Cope but not on the gig. There would be a three-day window for rehearsals. I phoned up the guys from Julian’s band to make sure they could do rehearsals, because there would be no point arranging something with Julian first if the band couldn’t do it. I then rang Julian who said, “Jason’s trying to ruin my career.”
He wouldn’t do it and he threatened to sue me, it got stupid. Eventually, I was in America and a friend and his wife phoned me up and said, “We need to make this work”. I said, “All I wanted to do was make it work and I’ve got to make it work for Spiritualized as well. I know we can do it and I know Julian knows we can too.”
At the time I had been in Spiritualized for ten or twelve years, I had been juggling the two for a long time. Julian only did a few gigs a year, he still does, although he hasn’t done a band gig since. Not to put it down to money, but I have been a professional musician for years and I need to know what’s happening and be in control of it. He didn’t give me enough gigs. I never even thought of it like that because I feel so lucky to do this job, but when the kidnapped me that day I said, “Whose going to pay my mortgage?”
I played a gig in Sweden and got back here. He said, “Meet me at your house” because I had a house in Eastwood which he had a key too and he used to stay there sometimes because he’s got friends in this area. It was totally cool, we were like best mates. I met him at my house and he’s covered in a shroud.
There were two other guys in the car who were old friends of mine who I'd gotten them work for in Julian’s band, but they had become indoctrinated by him, changed the way they looked and everything. He said that he needed to collect an amp from Huddersfield. I said, “Can’t you get some other guy to do that. I’ve paid money to come back on an earlier flight to rehearse?” “No, no, no, we can chat about the set.” I thought, “whatever” - at this point I just wanted to make it work. We got in the car and he said, “You’ve got to leave Spiritualized”, it was this big interrogation.
At first I laughed and then I fucking lost it. We had been discussing this thing for over three months. We had this argument in the car. He wasn’t driving, one of the other guys was. They were dressed like Hells Angels but I wasn’t scared because one of them I had known for twenty years. It was really weird, like an act. We got to Huddersfield and I started walking home, because I realised I only had £6 in my pocket because I thought we were just going to the studio to rehearse and I was going to buy a sandwich. Then they came to pick me up again. It was pathetic, it wasn’t really a big kidnapping, that’s making it a bit dramatic.
We got back to my studio and Julian said, “You are never going to leave Spiritualized are you?” I said, “No, I love Spiritualized.” He said some really weird shit and I almost completely broke down as I couldn’t take it. As he was leaving he said, “I will always love you, man.” That was the last thing he said to me. To cut a long story short - he came back down here and attacked me. Smacked me in fact the day before I went to Russia with sand-filled police gloves on. It was calculated. It was pathetic. I’m laughing about it now but at the time it was horrible, I was totally shocked.
As much as I felt angry at the time, not just about him, but about some of my friends still connected with him, but it didn’t take long for them to fall out with him as well. It wasn’t that bad because I thought of the evidence of how he had been with some other people. He had a guy called Donald Skinner in his band for many years who was a fantastic musician and amazing guy and he kicked him out of the band for doing a crossword.
Doggen with Spirtualized at Glastonbury Festival 2015 - Photo: Shaun Gordon
How did you get the job in Spiritualized?
That was a really weird thing that happened. The band that I went to America with, the bass player was a friend of mine from Nottingham called Paul Stanley. He stayed in America when I came back and worked in a studio film editing. He came over one Christmas and I asked him what was going on and he said that best band he had seen for years was the support act at a Radiohead concert he went to, who were called Spiritualized. This was about ’97. I was aware of Spiritulized and Spaceman 3 and he said, “I have never seen a band that would be more suited to you. You should be in that band”.
Honest to god this is true: literally six months later, I was working on something with Julian and he asked if I’d heard that Mooney, who I'd replaced in Julian's band, had joined Spiritualized, but was now out. I thought that was really weird considering what my friend said. I knew the keyboard player in Spiritualized because he was also in Julian’s band so I phoned him up for an audition.
I played through some songs and Jason said, “It’s good but it’s too much like the record, can you do your own thing?” I was like, “Well great, I’ve sat there learning all of these fucking songs…” Anyway, I felt it went well, I just played whatever came in to my mind, which is actually what I’m probably better at in some ways. He didn’t say I’d got it, but said, “Can you help us audition some other guitarists as we haven’t got a bass player either?” I thought, "that’s a bit cheeky!" It was a strange experience.
Three days later he rang me up and asked me to play this new festival starting up in Palm Springs called Coachella. On the way back he gave me a cassette of demos for Let It Come Down and a said, “Do you want to play on the album?” He didn’t actually ask me to join the band for at least another three years. The best thing was that when we went to play the gig in Coachella, I hadn’t told my friend who lived in California what had happened. We were staying in the Hyatt on Sunset and he lives ten minutes walk from there. I went around his house and knocked on his door and asked, “What are you doing tomorrow?” I’ve loved it ever since.
When Spirtualized are writing and recording are you allowed much input?
Definitely. We have just recorded an album with Youth from Killing Joke. It’s almost finished. Over the years, because I play bass on the albums a lot of the times, usually we would go to Rockfield Studios in Wales and it would be me, Jason, a drummer and a keyboard player, and we would put down the basic tracks, then I would layer guitar and lap steel. Whereas this time, because Youth played a lot of the bass, I played guitar, so I had a lot more input in to the arrangement of it. I felt more involved, which was brilliant.
It seemed at one point half of Nottingham was in Spiritualized…
I know. It’s hard to explain, but I guess this studio became a bit of a base, even though Jason lived in London. I’m not sure why that is because only two of us lived in Nottingham. Because of the studio we rehearsed here and got used to that over the years. The line-up for Spiritualized was the same for about fifteen years up until a couple of years ago, then we went through a bit of a change.
We finished touring and our American record company Fat Possom wanted us to to more work in America, because the whole nineties thing and Spiritualized were getting bigger in America from our last album, noticeably so. It’s been like that since as well in South America and Europe. A lot of bands like Ride and Stone Roses have come back, they’ve got a real bug for it over there at the moment it seems; they have loads of festivals and there are loads of psychedelic artists coming out like Ariel Pink and a lot of artists nod towards Spiritualized as an influence.
Getting back to the Nottingham members; we did a gig last year and Kev Bales, who is a good friend - we worked in TC Lethbridge and with Julian together - and Spiritualized parted for various reasons. We are all still friends. At the time the bass player we had was a guy called James Stelfox from Starsailor. The tour was meant to finish at this particular time. Stel(fox) had stuff to do, the guy who played keyboards in the band is also an orchestral percussionist and plays with the LSO so he had gigs in places like China.
It was two years of touring the last album, but they wanted us to do stuff in America and we didn't know if we could get over there. There’s stuff like visas running out and a problem with Social Security numbers; you now have to have a Social Security number to work in America, but you have to get it from America. So to fly all of your crew and band out costs thousands and thousands. What happened as a consequence, unless you are in a big band that can afford it, the crew end up not getting those gigs any more, and the band end up getting an American crew as it’s so expensive.
We borrowed some musicians from from America: we got the bass player from Interpol, a drummer called Kid Millions, a keyboard player called Evan, and did a tour with Flaming Lips and some festival dates. It was alright but felt a bit weird as we were this dead tight band for fifteen years. We just tailored the set to a more ragged set that was a bit easier to achieve with such a quick line-up.
It was actually really good and in some ways it kick-started the band a bit. We have a drummer who lives in Brighton who used to live in Nottingham, apart from that it’s just me in Nottingham. We did used to have a couple of other guys, some friends of mine that have stood in for periods. Because we haven’t got a permanent bass player, when we did the Ladies and Gentleman shows, we got a friend, it’s just easier as I know them well.
You’ve played on numerous songs as a session musician, too may for us to talk about. How did you get in to doing session work?
When I first moved to London I was putting adverts in Post Offices to give guitar lessons and make money, enterprise a little bit. I met some Rasta’s from Brixton who lived in Thornton Heath where I first moved to. They had a studio in Brixton that I went down to and we had a jam, they were all reggae guys. I got to know the engineer and he got me loads of work. The first thing I did was an Ultrabrite advert when I was nineteen.
It was just a fluke, I never set out to be a session man. When I went out to America and the band split, the same thing, I met a producer who got me on loads of things and he would pay me in cash. Since then I’ve played on things like Girls Aloud’s first album and a few pop records. It’s always been through people I know. It’s sad but it seems how most entertainment industry things work. Then again you tend to make your own luck and determination.
How does it work when you do session work? Does the producer give you instructions on how they want the guitar to sound?
It’s literally like that. You sit there with the computer and it’s, “Can you play something that’s a bit like this?” or “Can you do an American power ballad guitar there?” Nowadays with computers you can just through a lot of shit at stuff. It depends on the producer. I’ve done some work on a Robert Wyatt tracks and a Boy George track as well. The Girls Aloud thing, it was just an engineer and a lot of banter, and when I heard the record and heard my bits I thought, “Oh yeah, I can just about tell it’s me.”
Do you do that surf guitar bit in Sound of the Underground?
I couldn’t tell at first what was me and was wasn’t. It’s a really weird feeling. It’s cut up and pasted all over the shop. At the time I didn’t realise what it was going to be, they had just come out and I wasn’t watching Pop Idol. I did a few other things for that. To be really honest when I did that I wasn’t driving at the time and I lived in Eastwood. I used to get a bus back from Buxton where I used to do the recording, my mate had a studio there, and I remember coming back from doing a load of that stuff and thinking “is this it?”
I think it’s the thing of not playing with any musicians. I don’t even think there’s many musicians on the record, it’s mainly all samples. I’ve got no problem with that but it’s not great fun if you play guitar and you and stuck in front of a computer. It’s also great but I did feel a bit demoralised, I thought, “Is this where music is going?” Then obviously when it came out it was on the radio all of the time and I thought it was great.
Tell me about your involvement with Olive?
I had a friend, when I was doing the TC Lethbridge stuff and had moved back to England, that worked at BMG. She asked me if I would be up for helping to get a band together with these three people that had started a band and started making a record. I got involved at that point. I met them and they were dead nice, they lived in Sheffield and Buxton. I was in Julian’s band at the time and doing TC Lethbridge, so I was living in Wiltshire, but I just got interested because drum n’ bass was new music to me. You would hear it coming out of bedroom windows.
We released You’re Not Alone and I think it got to something like 42 in the charts, and I thought that was amazing. Then Paul Oakenfold did a remix of it. I remember we were on tour in a splitter van, it was a Sunday when they do the chart run down - on the Wednesday we were told that it might go Top Ten - then early on the morning the manager called and said that it was going to be Number One. It was Number One for two weeks running. #
We were on Richard and Judy, the National Lottery show, every fucking thing, and it kind of killed the band and we sort of split up after that. People were arguing about writing credits and things like that as well. It was ace, we were on Top Of The Pops about four times. The alarm would go off and it would be on the radio or you would get in a taxi and it would be playing. Then the next song called Outlaw when to number 14.
I left the band to go on tour with Julian, who I was already playing with anyway, but he was writing a book and had no problem with me doing something else. I joined Spiritualized during that time as well. Quite a lot of time passed between playing Coachella and recording an album at Abbey Road and Air Studios (all with Spiritualized), and I got a call from Tim (Kellett) saying they were going to do another Olive tour in America.
I finished recording the Spiritualized album and went straight on tour with Olive who at the time were just a two-piece, the singer and keyboard player, and had signed to Madonna’s record label. I never really joined the band I was just helping them out. They are wicked people. Even though I was interested in it and that kind of music, I soon realised it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. It wasn’t challenging for me and all the record label wanted was another hit. It wasn’t that kind of band, we would play at raves and stuff. People think “that crap pop band” but actually we were quite out there. I’m probably trying to big it up really…
As a session musician how many big hits have you played on?
I think I’ve played on quite a few top ten records in the time I’ve been doing it. Stuff like Samantha Mumba and a few others that I don’t know whether I should mention. I’ve done all sorts. I’ve recorded with Kate Moss. I’ve recorded nursery rhyme albums. I’ve always been a professional musician and my dad was from the background of always working and I’ve always had a work ethic. Not in the way of prostitutitng myself, I’ve always been lucky enough not to do that really, but I have done some pretty ‘prostitute’ things. If someone says, “Here’s five hundred quid and it’s easy to do”.
I’m from Bestwood, I never thought that I would do what I’ve done. I just love music, I’ve never got bored of it and I’m more deeper in to than I have ever been. The actual art of making music I’m totally in to. It was TS Elliot that said, “If you are doing art after the age of 25 you are obviously not doing it just to get laid.” Although I don’t think I ever did that, it would never have worked anyway.
You’ve always been very generous with your time helping out local musicians…
One of the reasons I got the studio is that I love recording as much as playing. Too much of one drives me mad. I just get a lot of joy out of people who have got a lot of soul and I get excited by other people’s music massively.
I guess Jake Bugg is the most notable one you have worked with?
He came down and I played some harmonica and a bit of lap steel, it was just to help out really, I just provided the studio. I played on some of his stuff. Jason Hart his manager is a really good friend of mine. He helped me out once, played some Spiritualized gigs when I couldn’t do them, because of Julian again. We’ve been good friends since then and he was using the studio and said he had this guy called Jake who was really good. As soon as I checked him out I thought “wow”.
Jay just put his heart and soul in to it. He’s not egotistical at all like a manager, he’s just a musician. He’s took it on board really well. Jason totally wanted to really passionately get him somewhere. He’s working with Georgie, and I know she’s been offered about ten record deals, so I think he’s done it again. When he was playing me Jake’s stuff and I would see what they were doing, it was so admirable his attitude. He could come across in a way as stand-offish, but I don’t think he is, it’s just his personality. It’s actually saved his life because the last thing you want to be is a lap dog to these people, because they will just have you.
Do you play on the Jake Bugg album?
I did start playing with him but it was one of those things where I got really busy, which then enabled Jason and those guys to use the studio. I got asked to play a gig not so long ago but it didn’t work out. I would love to, I hope it happens again, I think he’s awesome. The first time I met him and the thing that made me think that he was really ace was I was playing some harmonica on one of his tracks.
It was an answer and call, so he sings something and then I play. But there was no vocal on it yet and I said, “How can I answer your call when there’s no call, can you do a quick guide call?” He was very teenager-ish and said, “If I’ve got to do it I’m only going to do it once” to Jason. He goes downstairs and does the most fantastic vocal and it was like, “You don’t need to do that again.”
Do you like to keep your ear to the ground in Nottingham to see what’s going on?
I try to through the studio and friends. I must admit that I am quite busy with Spiritualized, then I’ve got this place, and a kid and family, I don’t get to go out as much in Nottingham. I tend to see most bands when I play festivals or if I’m tour I’ll go and see a band on my day off. I wouldn’t say I’ve got my ear to the ground, I wish I did, I’m always wanting someone to come in here and be the new Elvis or whatever.
Sometimes I think I should make the effort to go out in Nottingham more. But I meet people from all over, not just in Nottingham, like this week I’ve got a guy in from Glasgow. I love a lot of Nottingham musicians. A lot of the older ones I like, people like Ben Bennett who made an album in here, it’s just brilliant timeless music; Harry Stephenson, who is a bit of Nottingham legend and on the Dire Straits song that goes “but Harry doesn’t mind” that’s him - he was on Stiff Records years ago. He did an album here with a few other people I work with like Wayne Evans the bass player from Gaffa.
These are all older and when I was a kid these were the bands and I love working with those guys. When they get in here it’s like everyone is sixteen again, you have the same arguments, moan about the same things, mainly the girlfriends or wives, and you realise that people just really love music. There’s a girl called Tiger Cohen-Towell who is really good, I’m hoping to record her again soon, she’s just amazing. I’ll record them, but someone like Jason will then take them and do his thing.
Can you explain your collaboration with the artist Wolfgang Buttress?
He’s an amazing artist from Nottingham. He asked me and Kevin from Spiritualized to compose some music for the World Expo 2015 in Milan. It’s to do with mans’ relationship with bees. We got Amina from Iceland, the Sigur Ros string section, because me and Jason work with them, J-Spaceman is on it, Youth from Killing Joke, John Coxon from Spring Heel Jack, and this amazing cellist Deirdre who helped us compose some of it, and Wolfgang’s daughter does a bit of singing. Everyone who contributed really gave something and it’s just grown. He designed this hive and it reacts with a beehive in Nottingham over the internet - it’s got these LED lights.
We did the music but it’s just got legs; we met Jeff Barrett from Heavenly Records last week and they want to put it out. The other day there was 18,000 people at the British Pavilion listening to it. I think a download is coming out soon and it’s coming out on vinyl. We did a flexi disc of it. We are going to do a gig. We were going to do it in Milan, but we are hopefully going to do it in Nottinghamshire this summer. Real World, Peter Gabriel’s label, are also interested in putting it out. We did it in here and we really enjoyed it. We were using real bee sounds that have never been recorded before. They were recorded on these accelerometers that cost thousands of pounds.
How did you get involved in Deerstock?
I did a charity gig for a friend of mine for Mencap at the Boat Club. He asked me if I could get a band of people together to do it. I had Baz from The Fratellis, my friend who plays with Selecta and now Spiritualized, Kev Bales, the saxophone player from Beautiful South, people like that from professional bands. I had different singers from local bands.
We would do a Sex Pistols song and then Money by Pink Floyd and it was brilliant. Jed who puts Deerstock on asked us. We always rehearse on the day of the gig. Last year we had the singer Vince Eager and did a rock n’ roll set, then we did a Who set with my brother Roy Foster who is a singer around town. It’s just so much fun. Jed is such a lovely guy, I love people who are that positive.
I want you to quickly tell me about a few of your projects:
Really miss it, I love it.
Definitely doing a new album at some point. I’m working on it all of the time.
We’ve been trying to go on tour. We were going to Festival Number 6 but because of Spiritualized commitment we can’t, but are definitely going to something later in the year.
Doggen’s Allstar Band play Deerstock Music Festival, Friday 24 - Sunday 26 July 2015.