Thursday, 24 March 2011

Interviewing UB40's Brian Travers again, 30 years on

A radio interview in a studio paid for out of UB40 Signing Off royalties 
I had a GREAT day yesterday. Much of it was spent gassing with UB40 horn maestro Brian Travers  in a studio that simply oozes Birmingham rock history. 

That’s him on the left, looking disgustingly healthy; I’m the, er, distinguished elderly gent on the right. The shot's from the camera of the excellent Richard Shakespeare.

And the studio? Well, it’s the studio that ‘Signing Off’ built. 


 We were in Highbury Studio, in King’s Heath. It was built by Bob Lamb, who has drummed for Locomotive, The Steve Gibbons Band, Ruby Turner, and many others, over a forty year period. I last saw him behind a kit with Chrissy Van Dyke’s wonderful but short-lived rock(ish) project, at the Hare and Hounds in King’s Heath, aka hipster central, Birmingham. .

Bob was and is a terrific producer. Head and shoulders above all his other projects, in terms of commercial success as well as creativity, must stand the four track recordings he made with UB40 in a bedsit in King’s Heath. Those recordings became the band's first album, 'Signing Off', initially issued on a small independent record label from the Black Country, Graduate Records.

From the royalties, Bob built his studio. He called it ‘Home Of The Hits’. I’ve worked there often over the years. Now, and at least for the current year, while Bob is travelling, the place has been rechristened Highbury Studio. It is thriving under the shrewd management of John Mostyn, with the likes of Misty’s Big Adventure, Poppy and the Jezebels, and the Alternative Dubstep Orchestra working there.

When Brian Travers and I were discussing doing an interview, it seemed by far and away the best and most fitting place to do it. And I am very grateful to John for instantly agreeing to let us record at his place.

And what did we talk about? What didn’t we talk about is a more appropriate question to ask:  Early days, your Mum and Dad helping you out, Richard Branson as good guy, long-lost country music gems, local radio, Bluegrass, Jazz, parenthood and growing old, the dearth of venues, longevity as a working band, the energy of youth and the creativity that swings wildly around that energy, the importance of supporting a grassroots local music scene and industry… I could go on, but I haven’t even started working my way through the 90 minutes we recorded. But there are some treats and exclusives.

There are other resonances and echoes, back and forth, from the past to the future. Rob Peters was the drummer for much loved 80's Brum inyerface outfit Dangerous Girls. He engineered. And as a result of other meetings during the day, we may well see Brian collaborating onstage with one of Birmingham hottest new young bands in the next couple of months. And I think that is just... wonderful

I don’t know how many programmes I will get from this material. The first one will probably see the light of day toward the end of next month. It will almost certainly get its first outing on Rhubarb Radio. But I plan to make the show available free of charge to any station that requests a copy. Stay tuned. If I make a series out of this – given time and work commitments elsewhere -  there’s an obvious title.  Go on, have a guess.

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