Sunday, 31 March 2013

After 36 years, KK Downing split from Judas Priest. What happened next?

It took Judas Priest a decade to start getting a fair share of their money. KK Downing tells a cautionary tale.

Judas Priest are one of the most storied of Midlands hard rockers. Formed in 1973, with the odd strategic hiccup, they came to define quintessential British classic heavy metal. They were louder than anyone else. They had way more leather, studs, pyro... and Harleys... onstage than anyone else. It’s been said that without Priest, there wouldn't have been Kiss

Priest launched their first album just about when I first went on air as a rock jock at the old BRMB. It wasn’t a big success. In fact, it took Priest quite some time to hit their stride - Wikipedia makes oblique references to unfortunate management - but when they did, they scored big time. 

I’ve done gigs with them (smoked out at Barbarella’s), interviewed them lots, seen them grow to enormodome stadium status in the US, and even wound up programming some of their more crossover material daytime at radio back in the day. But all that was a generation ago. Time for a bit of catchup.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Selecter at Reggae City in May: It's not the same old show

Pauline Black talks racism, sexism, 2-Tone, Ska and Reggae, re-forming your band, keeping it punchy, and not wallowing in black and white nostalgia.

I’m not absolutely sure, but I'm probably the first (legal) radio DJ to put The Selecter on air. We used to do sessions at the old BRMB Radio, recording up and coming West Midlands bands just as they came to the boil. This included UB40 and the Specials, pretty much all in quick succession, in 1979 . It worked a treat: the station scored great listening figures and got to look - very unusually for the old BRMB - hip and cutting edge. And the bands got exposure and MU scale cash. Everyone was happy. It worked. Just saying...

So, back in the day, Pauline Black came in for an interview to tie in with the session. Now, Pauline Black’s on the phone ahead of a string of midlands dates - you'll find them at the bottom of this post. 34 years on, The Selecter is touring again, and a stroll down 2-Tone lane it ain't. Two new albums, new members to go with founders Gaps Hendrickson and Black, a richer mix - and the same fierce attitude. 

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Toy Hearts head for the Western Swing motherlode. It's like Moseley. With horses.

Toy Hearts take a leap, not quite into the unknown, but certainly into a whole world of unpredictable. 

Last Thursday 28th March, Birmingham’s Toy Hearts played a hometown gig with Brooklynite Rebecca Pronsky as their special guest at the Hare and HoundsThen it’s off on the road again. In May they play a farewell gig, again at the Hare. 

Two days later, they relocate to Austin, Texas, for at least four months. Bags packed, gigs set up, visas sorted, cat rehomed. That is, all things considered, one hell of a jump. 

Toy Hearts are no strangers to the US. A family band - sisters Hannah and Sophia, and dad Stewart Johnson – they have taken their blend of bluegrass and western swing stateside for years. You might say that’s coals to Newcastle, but they’ve been generously and warmly received. That speaks volumes. And if you check out the USA Toy Hearts videoclips in this post after the jump, it all seems to fit. Still and all, it’s one thing to travel to the States and get a warm welcome; it’s quite another to take yourself to the home of Western Swing and systematically build on that.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Abbey Road studios; a session for national radio. A new name for some, but not for regular readers.

This blog doesn't normally cover the same artist twice in three months, but if the circumstances are exceptional, it's worth breaking that rule. Like now.  

Today’s a bit special. Bright, cold, the sun burning through the mist, promising.  I’m in London, not the West Midlands, for a good reason that connects very sweetly with this blog. It’s horribly early. I’m waiting for the caffeine to kick in.

There’s a live recording session about to take place, at Abbey Road. That’s the Abbey Road: the recording studios, with the pedestrian crossing and the 80 years of music megastar history. One of the UK’s very top studios, it’s no longer a discreet working complex set off from a genteel Camden street. The Beatles saw to that. Now, the front wall is covered with tourist graffiti, and there’s a webcam on that crossing. In fact, as I walk up, there’s a tourist snapping his mate on that crossing, and royally pissing off the rush hour traffic as he does.

George Barnett and team – Team GB – are smiley and bright. He’s here, with band the 9th Wave, to record a session, for Absolute Radio. Now, just consider: a session for a national broadcaster – one of the majors - is a hell of a feather in your cap when you’re 19 and still unsigned. I hate that expression, by the way.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Beyond the band #1: UB40's Earl Falconer. EDM, Circus Records, global DJ superstars, management....

He may be, like the rest of UB40, getting on a bit, but Earl Falconer has quietly fashioned a whole new music direction away from the band. And it’s being lapped up by kids who would sneer at Red Red Wine. That's if they even knew the song.

It’s a long way from being the next hot thing to building a career and making a living from music. I’ve always been interested in how musicianship and career thinking develops as life goes on. Some people become fine craftsmen; some give it all up with happy - or less than happy - memories, some change direction, or revise their ambitions, some become businessmen. A few stay blazingly creative all their lives. 

UB40 guitarist Earl Falconer is sitting in front of a plate of pasta in the Cross in Moseley, Birmingham. Next to him is Lanval Storrod, onetime UB40 manager, who partners Earl in his new ventures. We’re going to talk about Circus Records; this post is not, like others in this series may turn out to be, about surviving the old band. In fact, UB40 isn't really on the agenda. There is a lot to say about UB40, of course. When the time is right and the legal and financial dust has settled, then I’ll dive right in, possibly after checking with m'learned friends.