Monday, 23 December 2013

Music: Interview with Samuel S Parkes

Gomersal-based singer Samuel S Parkes has just received funds to record a four-track EP by fans who heard his music online.

Parkes cut his teeth as lead singer with Leeds indie band The Finnlys, supporting groups like Twisted Wheel, Reverend and the Makers and Ocean Colour Scene, and is now going it alone as a solo artist.

Within a week of leaving the Finnlys, the 24-year-old recorded and released his debut single Work to Live, Don’t Live to Work in November.

“I had got bored of the strength in numbers approach of working in a band and really wanted to step out and show what I could do,” says Parkes.

The single showcased a new direction for Parkes who had taken inspiration for his sound from the Northern Soul and Mod scene of the 1960s.

“You can’t say you’re doing new Northern Soul because Northern Soul was an underground dance scene – American soul music that got picked up by DJs over here,” says Parkes. “The music I’m doing though is definitely Northern Soul influenced – the rhythms, the tunes, the beat – everything about should scream Northern Soul to you.”

Parkes’ love of Mod culture has seen him perform his music in front of thousands of people at scooter events across the UK and Holland. But it is his use of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook that has helped him to introduce his music to fans from around the world.

And through a website called Pledge Music Parkes has been able to get fans to invest in the production of his music.

“We had pledges from all over the world – from Milan and Helsinki. I got in touch with people over Twitter and sent them my single with a link to the Pledge site,” he says. “Because of this funding I’ve been able to record the EP, and we’re going to release it digitally on iTunes and Spotify, and press 50 copies onto vinyl and 200 onto CD.”

Thanks to fan investment, Parkes is currently in the studio recording the Night Owl EP which will be launched at The Library, Leeds, on March 8, 2014. For more information visit:

This article was published by the Yorkshire Evening Post on December 19, 2013.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Music: Interview with Boyzone's Keith Duffy

When Boyzone burst onto the pop scene 20 years ago, few would have predicted the level of success they achieved and that two decades later they’d still be releasing records and selling out arenas.

Comprising Keith Duffy, Stephen Gately, Mikey Graham, Ronan Keating and Shane Lynch, Boyzone scored 18 top 10 hits including six UK number one singles: Words, A Different Beat, All That I Need, No Matter What, When the Going Gets Tough and You Needed Me.

In 2000, the group went their separate ways pursuing careers in such varied fields as music, acting and motorsport.

Seven years later, the BBC reunited Boyzone for a one-off performance on its annual Children in Need show.

“The BBC got us back together to do a medley of three of our big hits,” says Keith. “After that performance, we decided that we’d had a really good time and we realised how much we’d missed each other.”

With new found vigour, Boyzone embarked on a sell-out tour of the UK and Ireland.

After releasing a greatest hits album to coincide with the reunion, the group decided to head back to the studio to record an album of brand new material.But in October 2009, the tragic death of band member Stephen Gately left the band reeling.

“When we lost Stephen it threw us all over the place for quite a long time,” says Keith.

“We couldn’t deal with our lives on our own and we felt that there was a bit of peace when we were together.

“The void that Stephen left wasn’t as big when we were together,” he said. “Stephen was kind of in the room once the four of us were together.”

After long discussions between the surviving members, the band decided to finish recording the album, giving it the name Brother as tribute to Stephen.

On releasing the album, Boyzone toured as a four-piece, dedicating it to their bandmate.

“It was really difficult,” says Keith. “It had quite an adverse effect on us.

“The grieving process hadn’t finished and we were all very much emotionally drained by the end of the tour.

“I ended up in a dark place where I didn’t really know what to do next,” he says.

“I was suffering with nightmares and I ended up having to take a few months off to re-gather my thoughts, to figure out what had happened and to work out how to move forward.

“We moved forward. We dealt with our demons,” added Keith.

The group took time out from touring and recording after the Brother tour finished. They used 2012 to regroup and figure out what to do next.

“2012 was a very quiet year for us and we decided this year that a new studio album with a new dynamic would be a good idea,” says Keith.

“Now that we had come to a good place, to peace with everything, it might be an idea to see how we sound as a four-piece.”

Boyzone recorded the album BZ20 which was released November 25, 2013. The record celebrates 20 years since the group were originally formed.

Returning to the studio without Stephen was difficult for the group, but the experience helped the band to move forward with fond memories of the past and a renewed sense of purpose.

“There’s great camaraderie between us. We reminisce about old stories, stories about Stephen and just laugh because he was such a colourful person, such a character,” says Keith. “He made us laugh so many times.”

Far from being the teenage heartthrobs who made crowds of teenage girls scream on the Smash Hits tour, Boyzone have matured with all band members having children of their own.

“We’ve got nine children between the four of us,” says Keith. “My son is 17 and my daughter is 13.

“We all try to balance our family life with the band and we manage to do that well.

“All of our kids get on really well,” he adds.

“Backstage at the gigs they all hang out together. They really enjoy it.”

For Keith, one of the highlights of his career came when Boyzone featured on U2’s The Sweetest Thing.

“U2 were a big influence on me growing up. Larry Mullin from U2 was a huge inspiration to me and a hero of mine,” says Keith.

“I’ve followed U2 all my life and in my music career I’ve become friendly with the lads.

“They were very good to us when Stephen passed away. They lent their strength to us,” he said.

Over the past decade, Keith has built a career for himself outside of Boyzone, taking to the stage in various theatre productions and starring as bar-tending lothario Ciaran McCarthy in Coronation Street and in the highly-rated Irish TV crime drama Love/Hate.

“My ambition is definitely in the acting world,” says Keith. “I’ve spent a lot of time as an actor on stage and on screen so I’m very ambitious about where the acting career might take me when Boyzone are having down-time.”

Keith’s favourite Boyzone songs:

Isn’t it a Wonder: “It was one of the first hits we had that was written by the lads in the band.”

Picture of You: “It was used in the Mr Bean movie. It was great fun filming the video with Rowan Atkinson.”

No Matter What: “This was a huge hit for us. We once performed the song with Pavarotti – an amazing experience.”

Too Late for Hallelujah: “It’s the most powerful anthem Boyzone have recorded. I love singing it live.”

Who We Are: “An anthem that speaks of union and camaraderie. Going through highs and lows together.”

This article was published by the Yorkshire Evening Post on December 5, 2013, and the Yorkshire Post on December 6, 2013.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Music: Interview with Wayne Hussey from The Mission

Formed in 1986 by members of The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission have secured a reputation over the past few decades as one of Leeds’ finest gothic exports.

Front-man Wayne Hussey lived in Leeds during the mid-80s and has fond memories of the city.

“We were nocturnal creatures back then,” he says.

“We are still considered a Leeds band in some quarters even though none of us live there any more.”

The Mission released their ninth full studio album, The Brightest Light, in September this year which saw the group mature as song-writers.

“If you’re expecting the new Mission album to sound like a Mission album from 20 years ago, it might not be something that you like,” says Hussey. “I’ve read online that some of the fans are calling it the ‘Marmite’ album, which I kind of like.

“The dynamic was great. We set up in a room and played together which is, for a notoriously good live band, is something we really have not done that much of in the past,” he says.

The band members are spread around the world. With Hussey living in Brazil, Craig Adams in America, and Simon Hinkler and Mike Kelly living in Devon and Brighton respectively, getting the band together takes a lot of time and planning.

“We only get together when we have things to do,” says Hussey. “The logistics of getting us together is quite complicated.

For Hussey, the process of writing music comes in waves of creativity, but far from being sporadic, his method is disciplined and focused.

“There are no hard and fast rules with songs,” says Hussey. “ I am not someone who writes all of the time. I collect ideas and when I need to write I dedicate time and tap into that well.

“That can take a few days or it can take a couple of weeks before I hit the juicy spot. Once I do though, it all comes very quickly and there’s a lot of stuff that comes out.

For such an established artist it was quite surprising to discover that Hussey takes a liberal attitude to the issue of internet piracy.

“I’m sure my record company would hate me for saying this, but I have no problem with it,” says Hussey.

“Obviously it has affected sales, but I think that ultimately you’ve got to look at the bigger picture – as a musician and song-writer, I want my songs to be heard.”

This article was originally published by the Yorkshire Evening Post on December 5, 2013.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Music: Interview with Albert Hammond Jr from The Strokes

When The Strokes emerged in 2001 with their debut Is This It, few could have foresaw the instant impact that the band had on the trajectory of rock music. Jon Cronshaw spoke to the band’s guitarist Albert Hammond Jr.

In the early 2000s the indie scene of the mid-90s had been completely overshadowed by the misogyny and brashness of ‘nu-metal’ bands like Limp Bizkit.

But in early of 2001 a three-track EP The Modern Age started making the rounds – it was urgent and sounded like it had been recorded over a telephone. It was like nothing else around.

Over the following months until the group released their debut, to say that the media hype was overblown is something of an understatement.

“We all thought it was ridiculous,” says Albert. “We knew we were a good band – we did have an impact and we did change some things, but you can’t really predict how big your success is going to be.”

“The hype bothered me because I knew it would push certain people away from liking us because of how extreme it was, but I can’t really complain because it help the band get successful,” he adds.

But the guitarist is now back on the road performing his own solo material to promote his new EP AHJ.

“The tour so far has been amazing,” says Albert. “It’s been one of surprise, wonder and amazement.

“The new songs seem to be everyone’s favourite, even though some of the older ones people add memories to,” he says.

“I’ve had a lot of people sending me messages and tweets about how much they’ve enjoyed the shows. It’s been really positive.”

For Albert, his solo work and commitment to The Strokes takes equal residence.

“My intention’s always been to try and write great songs,” he says.

“Nothing’s changed in terms of what I want to achieve, it’s just that my ability and understanding of it has got better.

“I believe that you only get better as you get older, so I don’t save any songs for myself – I give them my best, and I create something better later.

“It’s a constant struggle of trying to push yourself and find fans of what you’re doing and have a career out it,” he adds.

Having a career in music is not alien to to the Hammond family – Albert senior was a highly regarded folk singer. However, Albert never saw becoming a musician as following in his father’s footsteps.

“It’s so funny that people mention my dad,” he says.

“I don’t feel like I grew up in a musical household or anything like that.

“I never really related to it – it was just my dad.

“He never pushed me to music, and when I did want to be in a band he made sure I was doing it for the right reasons,” he says.

“It’s like that thing where have someone going ‘oh, your dad’s a doctor, that’s so cool, what’s that like?’ - I don’t know, he’s just my dad, you know?”

For musical influence, Albert looked to some of the bigger names in rock history and towards some of the more obscure artists in American rock.

“Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison gave me that first little tingle with music.

“Then I progressed to stuff like the Beatles and the Velvet Underground,” he says.

“Guided by Voices were also huge for me – they defined my life and gave me a sense of urgency.”

This article was published by the Yorkshire Evening Post on December 3, 2013.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Music: Interview with Glenn Tilbrook from Squeeze

Best known as the musical mind behind new wave act Squeeze, Glenn Tilbrook will be heading to Bingley this month as part of his solo tour of the UK. Jon Cronshaw spoke to him.

Since their formation in 1974, Squeeze have occupied a strange place in British music, perpetually on the outside of the central music scene.

Their songs were too edgy to be fully embraced by the pop mainstream, but too catchy for the punk audiences.

Even today, the group still find it difficult to get their songs played on mainstream radio.

“With Squeeze, I think had a very small window of opportunity to get through – and I don’t think we always fit the remit,” says Glenn.

“We didn’t tend to get our records played on Radio One and we weren’t quite right for Radio Two – I don’t want to get all Status Quo about it, but it really surprises me,” he says.

“I’ve been invited onto loads of shows on Radio Two, but that never gets followed up by airplay.”

But with hits like Cool for Cats and Up the Junction, they’ve continued to draw in new fans by featuring their music on video games such as Rock Band and Grand Theft Auto, and allowing their songs to be used in cool American TV shows.

“It’s amazing that our music’s getting through to younger audiences all the time,” says Glenn.

“We had a few Squeeze songs included in the series Breaking Bad, and respect from people in their teens and twenties shot right up – it’s a very powerful thing.”

In 2010, Squeeze recorded their 14th studio album, Spot the Difference. The purpose of the album was to rerecord some of Squeeze’s most famous songs as a way to regain some control from their former record company.

“Universal own much of the band’s back catalogue, and because of the way record companies are structured, we’re always in debt to them,” says Glenn.

“If the tracks get used, they get paid. I get paid as a writer, but not as a band member.

"So if we could say to a production company for a movie or advert, ‘you can pay Universal that much, or you can pay us and we’ll undercut our own back catalogue – you get it cheaper and we get paid’,” he says.

“It was such a weird album to make – it wasn’t what I’d call joyful at all.

“It was like solving an incredibly difficult jigsaw puzzle. But it in the end, we were really proud of it.

“We didn’t do it quickly – we did it properly,” he adds.

Away from Squeeze, Glenn has been working on his own solo project which has seen his lyrics more politically driven since the coalition government came to power.

“I’m very proud of the way my lyrics have been developing,” says Glenn.

“It’s very important to me to be saying some of the stuff that I’m saying – I don’t know whether it will make any difference, but part of my job is to say what you see.

“There’s a lot of unfairness with the current government, and believe that we should all be trying make things fairer,” he says.

“In this country, over the past few years, we’ve really started to see a class divide. It’s a divide based on income, and there’s a harder line attitude.

“My son, who’s 21 now, went on the protests against student fees a couple of years ago and was kettled for eight hours – he wasn’t allowed to go to the toilet, he wasn’t allowed to eat – that’s a huge infringement on civil liberties,” he adds.

Glenn will be performing at Bingley Arts Centre on December 11.

This article was published by the Yorkshire Evening Post on December 2, 2013.