Category Archives: MUSIC

Blues Legends Visit Stockton

Fast closing on their fortieth anniversary, London Blues legends, Nine Below Zero, are heading to the north-east this weekend to take on the sights and sounds of The Arc.

Formed by Dennis Greaves back in the heady days of the late seventies only three members of the early line-up remains, Greaves being flanked by Mark Feltham, who talked him into reforming the band after a brief hiatus in the mid-eighties, and Mickey Burkey.

The band you see now though are an incredible eight piece, compared to the quartet that hit the London club scene back then and it was during the inaugural years they were known as Stan’s Blues Band, playing mainly at the Thomas A’Beckett Pub on the Old Kent Road before being managed by Mickey Modem and persuaded to change their name “to something sharper,” Greaves going with Nine Below Zero after a tune penned by American blue soloist, Sonny Boy Williamson.

Successful outings, and the subsequent name change, proved beneficial, being picked up first by A&M Records, releasing their first album in 1980 entitled Live at the Marquee; twenty-odd albums later and they are still going strong, especially after playing in and around the old London suburbs saw sessions with The Kinks, The Who, even going on to headline at the Hammersmith Odeon alongside respected bluesman, Alexis Komer.

“I thought we were the only people playing blues, but when we got on the circuit I discovered there were other bands out there”, Greaves remembers. “There was Red Beans and Rice, The Blues Band, The Little Roosters, The Inmates, Dr Feel Good – it was quite a big thing.”

 

They persevered, took the capital by storm, made sound-waves that continue aplenty today.

That is, in part, down to the incredible fan base they’ve garnered down the years and, having moved with the times themselves, moulded into the Blues band that appears today.

“We went to Woolworth School and the Thomas A’Beckett club backed onto that,” Greaves continued.

“It had a lot of music and boxing shows on and we managed to get a residency with them (in those formative years). We were paid £25 for each night that we did, usually a Tuesday, but there’s been many highlights since then.

“I was asked recently what the highlights have been and you can look at the twelve nights with Eric Clapton at the Albert Hall, playing with ZZ Top, the Kinks, the Who, appearing on the South Bank Show and the Old Grey Whistle Test and The Young Ones, there’s been many a highlight.

“Then we kind of went our own way a bit. Mark (Feltham) went off and did some amazing session work for seven years and I went Los Angeles with The Truth – all I did was eat Mexican food and write songs, getting lost in the band, getting ensconced into reading and writing music.

“Then Mark called me up and said we should all get back together, which we did, so it’s his fault.

“It’s different now though, a lot different and we’ve doubled the size of the band to cope with that, now taking around an RnB extravaganza. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do and felt as though the time was right with the extra material we have.”

With an impressive back catalogue Greaves, Feltham, Burkey et al take pride in working in an ever-changing music industry and, knowing that some of the roots, that club feel, has been lost in transition, aim to keep the sounds going.

He added: “We’re just about the music and getting that club intimacy right, but we can also float in our own little ocean and be able to deliver; so long as we can do that then the fans will be there. As for the new album (13 Shades of Blue) and coming back north, we love Stockton and the venue is great, has a fantastic vibe about it.

“We’ve always done something in the area as we love what it’s about so it’s a privilege to be able to do these and we certainly think they love their RnB as well.

“As for the album, it’s dedicated to those Blues singers who have slipped under the radar and is the versatile colour and styles of the Blues.”

 

FEATURE: Global Rock Star Returns To Tyneside

Last year rock legend, Ron ‘Bumblefoot’ Thal, appeared at Newcastle’s O2 Academy where he was ably supported by Twister; the former Guns N’ Roses guitarist appearing onstage wearing a Newcastle United jersey, playing ‘Local Hero.’

Twister’s then drummer, Kyle Hughes, made that much an impression that he parted ways (on good terms it needs saying) with the band, becoming a session drummer working with Aurora Dawn and the Screamin Skulls whilst keeping in touch with, and having occasional dates with destiny, with Ron – it is a friendship that sees the duo re-unite in Newcastle as part of a mini-tour.

Ron has played music since his school days and now, forty years on, he’s still touring, as a soloist and with his own band, Art of Anarchy, playing with some of the biggest names on the planet (he’s just finished a tour with the ‘Platinum Rock All-Stars,’ with Carmine Appice (drums), Rudy Sarzo (bass), Geoff Downes (keys), Gene Cornish (guitar) and vocalist Phil Naro), as well as nine years with ‘the most dangerous band in the world.’

“I started playing very young and if you go by my first original song demos and gigs at the age of seven, it’s nearly forty years,” began Ron.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same. I’ve found that the roads to get from point A to point B have changed due to technology and business economy, but points A and B haven’t changed. It’s still about giving people something a real piece of yourself and giving people an experience that juices up their spirit.

“In those first gigs forty years ago, I’d cut up pieces of paper into home-made confetti and give out cups of it to the audience to throw in the air at the end of the show. Thirty years later and I’m standing on a stage in an arena with ‘confetti cannons’ spraying confetti it high in the air, colours raining down on a cheering audience of tens of thousands. And I think to myself, ‘Man, I’m glad I didn’t have to cut up all THAT confetti before the show.’”

The more things change, the more they stay the same, words which relate to all within an ever changing music industry, whether locally, nationally or internationally.

The same can be said of ‘that’ band, relationships Axl Rose, Dizzy Reed, Richard Fortus et al had en masse, Ron joining guitar greats with Guns like Tracii Guns, Robin Finck, Tommy Stinson, Buckethead, and DJ Ashba.

He joined as an experienced guitarist following recommendation by virtuoso performer Joe Satriani, officially to fill Buckethead’s previously vacated slot, making his ‘debut’ at the Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC, in May 2006.

Staying until 2014, Thal was involved with the Chinese Democracy album in 2008 and the video release of Appetite for Democracy 3D, along with numerous high profile tours, also partaking several solo projects before announcing in late 2014 that he would be leaving to focus on his solo career.

It was a solo career that had seen ‘The Adventures of Bumblefoot’ released in 1995, re-release as a 15-year anniversary issue in 2010, garner lots of reviews, and had Thal on the newcomer lists in many magazines.

He added: “That album got a good reception when first released in the mid-’90s, making ‘Best Newcomer’ lists in guitar mags, lots of positive reviews.

“The good thing about the re-release is that I had a transcription book of the album that I was able to release, 200 pages of extreme detail of every track played on every song, including music notation, tablature notation, including fingers used and picking details.

“I did all the transcribing and type-setting myself, it was 12 months of work. Early next year will be the 20th Anniversary of the follow-up album “Hermit”, which I’ve re-mixed and re-mastered this past Summer.”

It adds to what has been a rollercoaster ride that’s not only seen solo performances and a spell with Axl, but also release Art of Anarchy onto an unsuspecting, ultimately pleasing world, a band set up with John Moyer (Disturbed) with Jon and Vince Votta.

Five years on and they’re as strong as ever, and on the verge of releasing their second studio album after their self-titled album, ‘Art of Anarchy’ was released last year. The new album will be done with former Creed vocalist, Scott Stapp providing extra kick.

“Art of Anarchy was born out of a long-time friendship with Jon & Vince as I used to produce their bands in the late ’90s and we remained friends throughout.

“In 2011 they wanted to record ‘the album they always wanted to make’ ad we started doing that. Over time it grew wings and became something more, it became a real band, and despite many challenges it’s made it to the recording of its 2nd album and the beginning of live shows.

“Things have definitely fallen into place now though and you can hear the personalities of the band members in each song.

“Scott’s distinct vocals, Moyer’s grooves, the Votta’s metal sound, and I bring in some eccentricity. Put us all together and it balances into songs that wouldn’t happen the way they do with anyone else.

“We’ve all been busy with our own touring but it’s getting there, we plan to have the full-length album out in March 2017.  Our first single and video “The Madness” from the upcoming album was released October 7.”

Be Forever Mine Released At Independent

Sunderland certainly have something new and exciting to shout about as Indie Rock band, Social Room, successfully released their new single, Be Forever Mine, at Independent Sunderland at the weekend.

The six-piece, fronted by vocalist Matty Smith and consisting of Alex Gunn (bassist), Adam Potts (guitar), Simon Bewick (guitar) and Chris Leonard (keys), with the injured drummer, Sticks, being ably replaced by Tim Harker.

With support coming from Teesside band, Plastic, Independent was filling nicely by the time Social Room took centre stage, and what a performance they gave with debut single SR7 as much received as latest hit, Be Forever Mine was.

Not only did first and last go down well but others, One More Round, Great Escape and a very rousing rendition of Underworld’s Born Slippy added to what can only be described as exhilarating, thunderous, a classic show for the ages, was put out by Sunderland’s finest sextet.

The crowd were with the lads from the off and, as their set progressed, the vocal support increased peaking with football-esque chants of Social Room, chants the band not only played to, but increased their tempo of.

Looking towards an exciting new year these indie diamonds are certainly a one to watch with Be Forever Mine putting the band onto a new spectrum; if you’ve not seen them live then see them, if you have seen them then you certainly need to go back.

Social Room and Be Forever Mine were certainly not Born Slippy and if you want One More Round then Let Me See You Work It.

Longsands Return At The Cluny

Time stood still for nobody on August 12 as indie rockers, The Longsands, made their eagerly anticipated return to the music scene, showing little sign of a recent hiatus as they, quite literally, rocked The Cluny.

Backed already by celebrity support in Bez from the Happy Mondays, and Whispering Bob Harris from BBC Radio 2 they made sure that the fans got all that and more when performing tracks old, and new for their adoring fans.

They were there, in their hundreds, old and young alike – even former ‘Sands guitarist, Gaz Ormston put in an appearance in support of his former colleagues.

Craig Redpath and The Red Jets opened in style and set the tone for what would fast become an exhilarating night of non-stop indie rock that was certainly worth the journey out.

When they finally took the stage The Cluny erupted, rightly so as it had been a while since they last played together as a full band.

Opening proceedings with the first track from their new album, a masterpiece in ‘Adrenaline Junkie Flu,’ embarking upon a full repertoire of sound from both ‘Meet Me in Spanish City’ and ‘Us & Them.’

There was even time for an unscheduled acoustic set mid-show thanks to an issue with Callum Thompson’s guitar that needed urgent repair, showing that anything can happen performing live.

Interaction with the fans was in order throughout, it always is at a Longsands gig; they don’t demand it, it just comes naturally for who they’ve become, more so as tracks such as Bully, Where’s My Daddy Gone and Scissors and Stone among others.

Favourites such as Streets and Pavements, North South Divide, Standing in the Shadows and Little Britain got deserved, welcome reception.

Trevor Cox and Ian Barnes vocalised to the hilt, Callum Thompson and David Stanyer chipped in with their own around their strumming to their hearts content, and Paul Stephenson had his drums reverberating around the venue adding extra to the occasion.

No matter what they played from their impressive catalogue of music, Longsands followers old and new hung on every last note.

It was like they had never been away, and the return, well it could be the start of something really special.

 

FEATURE: Longsands No Longer Standing In The Shadows

Following a brief spell in the wilderness, The Longsands are back with a new album and a string of UK shows in 2016. 
The band, originating from Cramlington in Northumberland, consists of Trevor Cox (lead vocals), Ian Barnes (guitar), David Stanyer (lead guitar), Paul Stephenson (drums) and Callum Thompson (bass).  They rose to dizzy heights after the release of their critically acclaimed debut album ‘Meet me in Spanish City’ in 2012; performing live on Radio 2, sharing the stage with Jools Holland and Ocean Colour Scene and receiving huge praise from the likes of Bruce Foxton and Dave Stewart. But what have they been up two for the last few years and why has it taken so long for new material? I caught up with The Longsands last week to find our more…
“It was the second I walked off stage having just performed to a sell-out crowd at the Dublin Academy for the second night in a row, I remember it like yesterday,” recalls Ian. 
“I walked straight out into the crowd and up the stairs to where my Mum and Dad were sitting.  I held my Dad’s hand and asked, ‘did you enjoy that mate?’ As he looked back at me proud as punch and smiled, I knew that this might be the last big show he’d see me perform at.” 
Ian’s Dad, had been diagnosed with Cancer just weeks before the band headed over to Ireland to tour with Ocean Colour Scene. 
“Paul was going through something very similar.  His Mam had taken ill just days before our tour with Ocean Colour Scene.  He was unable to come and we had to get replacement drummer Ian Richardson in last minute.  As you can imagine, this was taking its toll on us all and at a time when the ball had really started build momentum, the band just wasn’t the main priority.”
“Everything we were going through made us all take stock of our lives.  We’d been on the road touring and making records for 7 years nonstop!  Something had to give; I decided that I would not continue as a full time band member anymore.  Everyone was very supportive and we all agreed to put family and life before the band and take some time off.  Although none of us said it, I don’t think we thought we’d make another record at that point.”
Unfortunately Paul’s Mam and Ian’s Dad both lost their battles with cancer later that year. 
Fast forward to early 2015 and on a cold Tuesday night in Cramlington, The Longsands regrouped to discuss the making of a second album. One thing that tough times often bring with them is creativity, something this band have always had in hoards! Armed with an arsenal of new tracks Ian and Trevor had written during this period The Longsands were born again.
“We rattled through the songs and it was like we had never been away!  If anything we sounded better,” recalls Stan.  We decided very quickly that we should book some studio time and just go in and record them, live, raw and as a work in progress.”

The end result was stunning! At the back end of last year fans were finally treated to two new releases, both unique in their own right. The first was released days before the General Election and was entitled ‘Tomorrow we Vote,’ a classic track timed to perfection; although Ian insists it’s timing was completely coincidental! 

The second was the provocative ‘Standing in the Shadows,’ already a timeless classic having been performed at previous Longsands shows in the past but never recorded. Both feature on the upcoming album ‘Us and Them.’
“The mix sounds great and we’re really excited about it. The new album has an interesting element to it. We’ve just tried to write about what has been going on. The music and message is very ‘here and now’ and I think that it will be something people can relate to.” 

For lead guitarist David Stanyer the return signifies the magnitude and standing which The Longsands have on a national level adding: “We hadn’t seen each other or played together for quite a long time prior to the recording.”
“Some of the songs weren’t even finished and we were still writing them in the studio. But the vibe we got off each other being locked away for that week away from everything got us doing what we do best, being lads, having a laugh and playing great music!”
“It’s been a long time coming for us and the fans but I think it’s been worth the wait. It’s our second coming so to speak.”
It’s evident that The Longsands would love another run, with the album, the bands long-awaited second, and subsequent gig at The Cluny, hopefully being a catalyst for bigger days ahead.
After all, who could forget the challenges they laid out between late 2010 and early 2011 with the likes of Mike Tyson, Shay Given, the Newcastle Falcons et al remember them. It’s certainly crossing the minds of the lads and their manager Steve Wraith.
Vocalist Trevor Cox added: “I’d like to be able to get back out there and get onto national radio, like we did with Bob Harris, but we just need to keep things tight and give people a good show, after all that’s what they want. We may even play some tracks that nobody has heard before as well (at the gig).
“A lot of things have changed in all our lives but, saying that, I’d love to go on from this and make a third album; with having a strong team around us we feel there’s more credibility to what we have produced this time around on ‘Us & Them.’ I found it really encouraging to get all of the band together and we should be able to keep things going.”
What about ‘Us & Them’ though?
Longsands followers have waited a long time for new material which the new album brings, nearly four years have passed since the debut ‘Meet me in Spanish City’ was dropped with classics such as ‘Little Britain,’ ‘Streets and Pavements’ and ‘Bully.’
Now, with the new album fans will soon be raising the roof to ‘Standing in the Shadows,’ ‘Berlin,’ ‘Choices’ and more.
It’s certainly gearing up to be a night to remember, an unforgettable one where The Longsands live up to the prophecy from The People newspaper in that they are a “Newcastle band set to be huge.”
You can follow The Longsands on Facebook and Twitter @the_longsands 

Welcome To The Social Room

There’s a plethora of indie rock sounds coming out of the north east region in recent times and Sunderland-based six-piece, Social Room, are firmly adding themselves to that list.  
Consisting of vocalist Matty Smith, guitarists Adam Potts and Simon Bewick, bassist Alex Gunn, drummer Adam ‘Sticks’ Jefferson and keys specialist Chris Leonard the lads finish 2016 with an unexpected, but welcomed, Ubeat award nomination for ‘Best Band,’ where they face some stiff competition.
Forming just last year, this was their first summer doing festivals, an occasion they used to show themselves on the bigger stage. Now though they are in need of keep the momentum going and, with the following they have already gathered in their native Sunderland, they can build towards a productive, progressive future in the music industry.
Now, as they prepare for their fourth single, and second single launch with Be Forever Mine (at Independent, Sunderland on December 17),Social Room are preparing themselves for the next step in their music journey, and as friends it’s a one they’re looking forward to doing.
“Matt (vocalist) and I have known each for years and I went to college with one of the other lads,” began guitarist Adam Potts.
“We’ve all known each other through mates and, as we’re not getting any younger, thought we’d give it the best shot we could.
“It was difficult to start off with as well but we had a great debut year (two gigs at Newcastle’s O2 Academy and a successful first single launch at Independent are testament to that) so we’re now just looking at keeping things going, getting that momentum on our side and, with our own place we can just go for it without distraction.”

Be Forever Mine comes fast on the heels of tracks like Let Me See You Work It, and SR7, their debut single and provides that mix that has already seen them likened to artists such as the Arctic Monkeys and the Stereophonics whilst stating influences of Kasabian and the Rolling Stones.
“We’re enjoying it and lucky that we have built up a really good fan base already,” continued Adam.
“When we released the single on video it had something like 1700 views in just 12 hours and over 3500 by the end of the week which was crazy; although we got a little worried to begin with when we noticed the likes and shares on social media but that it had had only ten views (time lapses can do that with technology).
“We’re lucky to know the people that we do though and they’ve been a great help, more so with the videos we’ve released. Now though the focus is firmly on the single launch and we’re hoping that we can sell this out just as we did last year.
“That was probably the best gig we’ve done so far and the atmosphere in there is amazing, then we can look at next year where we’re hoping to focus on gigs and festivals on the road some more, get our name out there.”
Describing their music as being soaring “melodies underpinned by dance induced rock and roll beats.” Follow them on Facebook and Twitter @SocialRoomBand.

Sirens Prepare To Make Noise

Newcastle-based all-female trio, Scream of Sirens, are a rock band out to make a lot of noise and show that, in the words of their latest single, they are going to ‘Get Some.’

Fronted by vocalist Steph Dawson and flanked by Ruth Cranston (guitar and vocals) and Emma Anderson (drums and vocals), the trio only recently came into the scene in their current form late last year and are presently making announcements aplenty regarding singles, signing with a publishing company, and enlisting the guidance of a Media & PR specialist.

“We were approached by Wipe Out Music Publishing’s John Esplen as they were very interested in what we’ve been doing,” began Ruth.

“He’d heard our single ‘Get Some’ on BBC Introducing and liked the differing styles which we offer (in comparison to other clients they have). They’ve already got a good, varied roster so we are definitely looking forward to working with them.

“Our EP, Scream, which was released earlier this year, has been signed over to them and we’ve been afforded plenty of options to work with them in the future which is great for us.”

That EP contains tracks such as ‘Let You Go’ and ‘Get Some’ which came fast on the back of a debut show which saw them supporting Cherie Currie, the voice of The Runaways, putting them straight into the mix and which had Currie saying afterwards: “You rock, great band, keep it up!”

In the twelve months ‘Scream’ has done just that, screamed at the rock-loving public meaning they are looking at more, and sooner than later, Ruth adding: “Both the EP and the single, ‘Get Some’ has been going down really well which is amazing for us, we’re delighted they done as well as they have.

“The single, ‘Let You Go,’ has been done for a video now which will be released in the next few weeks and we’re hoping we can get another one out before the end of the year, after that, and a few gigs, we’ll take a little time to finalise the album which comes out later next year.”

Whilst planning their album for 2017 this year for Scream of Sirens will finish with October finales at the Vintage Rock Bar in Doncaster, and at the Blazing Rag in Mossley, and the possibility of two regional shows just for good measure.

You can follow Scream of Sirens on Facebook and Twitter @scream_sirens.