WriteWyattUK’s Guide to Finding Inspiration … In Spite of These Times, pt. II

In which WriteWyattUK takes a look back – in quotation form – at the pick of our feature/interviews from 2020, the dreaded year the coronavirus carved a devastating impact on the music and arts scene. Click on the highlighted name for the full interview, and we’ll conclude here with the final six months.

July

Live Presence: Prog legend Jon Anderson in concert, hoping to be back out again sometime soon (Photo: Tami Freed)

“At that time, it was the Everly Brothers with my brother, and I’d sing a lot of commercial romantic songs in the mid-‘50s, and then Buddy Holly … and of course Elvis Presley – my brother bought the vinyl Elvis Presley album, and a little Dansette record player, so I heard all those incredible songs. My brother wanted to be Elvis and I wanted to be Roy Orbison, and I’d sing his songs.” Yes legend Jon Anderson on his formative days as a performer back in Accrington, Lancashire

Broadcast Innovator: Steve Barker, a key part of BBC radio for more than 40 years, broadcasting from Lancashire

“We do what we do, we do it from Lancashire, and we’re proud of being from Lancashire, we always have been, and we’re all from Lancashire, but we play music from around the world. We play music that excites us and we think people will enjoy, and that seems to be a pretty clear intent.” Veteran BBC local radio On the Wire presenter Steve Barker on how his county base informs but never rules his love of broadcasting

Liberties Takers: Fontaines D.C. are hoping to be back over in the UK next May, all being well, COVID-19-dependent.

“We actually worked our arses off rehearsing in the summer of 2018 when we were set to go in to record the album, having never done that before. We were really nervous, and we couldn’t believe we’d managed to fool them into giving us a record deal, that kind of mentality. But we also knew, ‘Now we must do the work’, thinking, ‘Oh shit! We need to record these songs’. So we got them really tight. I learned so many things about songs, like the chord progressions that were going on, bar counts, all these sort of things.” Fontaines DC co-founder Conor Deegan III on the Dublin outfit’s work ethic

Interior Shot: Producer Grant Keir on the set of Lift Share with co-leading actor Mark Rowley, and still busy in 2020

“I think television is still a really important benchmark, sets standards and sets viewing figures too. Talk to any of the social influencers, people marking their careers on Twitter and TikTok and all that – if you offer any of them a slot on television, they’ll bite your hand off. It still sets a kind of social, political media agenda. That for me is what’s so disturbing about all the major channels in the UK evacuating the schedules of serious documentary content. We wouldn’t get to make those films Virginia (Heath) made back in the day for (The) Bandung (File) and Rear Window. You couldn’t make them now.” Film producer Grant Keir giving his considered opinion on the continued importance of traditional TV slots

Ferry Share: Director Virginia Heath, centre, with Mark Rowley and Ularu off to the Outer Hebrides to film Lift Share

“I basically got to that story through my colleague at Sheffield Hallam, Paul Atkinson, who’s part of the same research centre. He’d written an article, Hairy Guys in Sheds, and was telling me about it in the pub one day, and I thought that would be a really nice subject for a film. That kind of DIY ethos and anti-corporate spirit, making instruments from found materials. I just found it really inspiring.” New Zealand-born film director Virginia Heath on the inspiration behind the hit Cigar Box Blues music documentary

August

Six Appeal: The Psychedelic Furs, back into light once the pandemic’s behind us all again (Photo: Mathew Reeves)

“It was very frustrating, because we were so happy and excited to get it out and be able to tour with new material. So when the whole pandemic came down we were chomping at the bit to get out there and play to people. That’s what makes it all worthwhile. You can live in a studio, but until you get out and play the songs face to face with your audience, you can’t really gauge the success or failure of a song or album.” Founding Psychedelic Furs member/bass player Tim Butler on his exasperation at not being able to tour 2020 LP Made of Rain

Four Play: Sunbirds Marc Parnell, Laura Wilcockson, Dave Hemingway, Phil Barton, delivered the Cool To Be Kind LP

“I went back and we did a video for that song, back to Hessle Road, where I grew up and used to live. It was very poignant really. It’s changed a lot through the years, but a lot of the same things are still there. Hopefully some things will never change. My old house has been knocked down, but a lot of the same spots are still there that I mention in the song.” Former Beautiful South/The South singer Dave Hemingway on returning to his Hull roots for debut Sunbirds single ‘Meet You on the Northside’

Last Time: BOB in 1991. from left – Simon Armstrong, Stephen Hersom, Richard Blackborow (above), Dean Leggett

“Those recordings were just left on the shelf. For years I wanted to put the BOB archives in order. When I first moved here (West Cornwall) in 2002 I vowed to set up a studio and mix it all, not for any other reason than to get it all out of my system, put it to bed so I could move on, musically. So if I got run over by a bus, people would know what we did.” Richard Blackborow on indie favourites BOB releasing their second studio album, 28 years later than originally envisaged

Banned Substance: Everything, Everything, back rehearsing and itching to get out there again in 2020, but still waiting.

“It’s so often where we default to. We’ve done it a few times. It’s quite an easy way to become uniform. We’ve always admired that kind of utilitarian ‘I’m going to work, I’m doing a job’ thing. There’s also a link to Kraftwerk, DEVO and bands that took what they were wearing almost out of the equation – making it uniform across the band. I’ve always liked that.” Jeremy Pritchard on Everything Everything’s return to the boiler suit look

Belief Systen: Andy Crofts, waking up to all he’s achieved in recent years, and making good use of his spare time

“Well, as you know, that’s what we do, year in year out, touring the world and all those kinds of things. But this quarantine thing has messed everything up and we’re all at a bit of a loose end. We’re all excited, hoping everything will be back to normal next year, but it’s been a bit rubbish in the sense that we just love playing wide. You get a buzz playing live, off the audience and off each other. But on the other side, I’ve pushed myself – I’ve got this book finished, very quickly; I’ve put out some music of my own and for someone else on my label; and I’ve kept busy.” Andy Crofts making the best of not being able to get on the road with Paul Weller’s band in 2020

September

Looking Up: Stone Foundation, keen to get the pandemic behind them and return to the live circuit again in 2021

“Iit becomes more and more difficult to try and keep Paul off our records than put him on them! He’s such an infectious character, and he’s been so good for us. I can’t speak more highly of Paul. His support and the inspiration he offers up is second to none. And just the fact that when he’s in the studio and hearing our stuff … on the last record in particular, there was no plan to have Paul involved. We’d tell him when our sessions were booked in or ask if we could book sessions in his studio. And as is his usual way he’d make sure he’d be down there for a day or two…” Stone Foundation singer/co-founder Neil Jones on Paul Weller’s regular contributions to the band’s LPs

Good Nick: Folk Devils’ Nick Clift in live action, with the reformed version of the band. Hopefully more shows will follow.

“There’s a lot of new material in embryonic form. Because of the way we work it’s not really possible to do it over the internet, better to knock it into shape when we all convene. If Kris, in Scotland, and I, in New Jersey, still lived in London, where the others reside, it would be a lot easier to write and record. But there’s an album brewing, and it promises to be a … beautiful monster.” Nick Clift on the plan to release new Folk Devils material as soon as possible

Monochrome Set: Ginnel. From the left – Paul Lakin, Mark Wareing, Pete Brown, Scrub. Ready to thrill you in 2021

“Happens every new generation … kids see the likes of Oasis, and bang! There’s 100 Oasis lookalike and soundalike bands. Or bang! There’s 100 Nirvana-type bands. The kids need to stop hopping on the bandwagon and look backwards on history and check out stuff from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and so on. There’s loads of stuff worth stealing from. We’ve picked up on stuff, added our own twist … and bingo!” Preston-based ex-Dandelion Adventure frontman Mark Wareing, now leading Ginnel, on the need to keep reinventing, looking backwards to go forward

Artists United: Ray Gange with Clash legend Paul Simonon back in 2013 (Photo copyright: Louisa Philips Kulukundis

“Yeah, it opened my mind, for sure. It’s a cliché, but it broadened my horizons. It certainly did. It gave me a ton of opportunities. I didn’t necessarily grasp them, but they were there. And I think it’s a great document, although it’s a little bit … I’m trying to think of a better word than haphazard …  chaotic in its assemblage, you know.” Ray Gange on the positive side of his lead acting role in 1980 Clash-related film Rude Boy

October

Farm Hand: Carl Hunter, modelling Bruce Foxton’s jacket, enjoying Irlam Live, Summer 2019 (Photo: Steve Grimes)

“It came about during lockdown. I’d drive into Liverpool occasionally, out of boredom really, and the city I grew up in and know like the back of my hand, I’d never seen it so empty. It was almost apocalyptic. I thought I’d take photos, just out of curiosity, document this moment in time.” Farm bassist turned film director Carl Hunter on the inspiration behind his acclaimed More Than Time short film

Hammersmith Valets: Ewan Butler, Ian Hodgson and Stephen Street, set to deliver Bradford’s second LP in 2021

“Fortunately, we’d all grown up with exposure to excellent music, from punk to soul to 2 Tone, and were aware of that kind of music, so it was a development of that kind of vibe. It was never about right-wing, Skrewdriver-type connotations. It was very much related to soul.” Ewan Butler on how indie favourites Bradford were initially determined to reclaim the skinhead look from its right wing associations

“I was offered a support slot for Glenn Tilbrook at Blackburn Museum, and at that stage said to Ewan, ‘Fancy doing a couple of songs for old time’s sake?’ So we started doing ‘Skin Storm’ again, stuff like that. That was the spark.” Ian Hodgson on how Bradford returned after a three-decade sabbatical

Bea Movie: Beatrice Kristi, aka Beabadoobee, delivered her debut album, Fake It Flowers in 2020, to critical acclaim

“It is exciting! It’s also really scary. This album has so much of me in it, so much of my life up until now. I didn’t know that this would become what it has, and I never thought anyone would care – I mean look at my artist name! So yeah, it’s exciting and a little terrifying!” Bea Kristi Laus on her amazement at getting to release her debut studio LP as Beabadoobee, to great acclaim

Looking Up: It turned out to be a year for reflection for David Gedge’s The Wedding Present (Photo: Peter Koudstaal)

“Since Going, Going … came out, and that’s four years ago now, we’ve been doing quite a lot of touring, places where we hadn’t played before like Australia, New Zealand and Asia. So we thought 2020 should be a quiet year … I just didn’t realise it would be this quiet!” David Gedge, who could never have envisaged how The Wedding Present’s less busy 2020 could have turned out

November

Baby Love: New York City punk-rock’n’rollers Baby Shakes made it over to Derry in 2020 (Photo: Nathan Frohnhoefer)

“Since day one, the ‘Tones have been incredibly supportive and encouraging. They’re all super-sweet, really funny and very down to earth. Although we’ve been nervous about supporting them and recording together at first, we all get along so well, and it’s always been such a good time in their company. When we got to chatting, we realised we had a lot in common as far as taste in music and a similar sense of humour. We were literally in tears laughing at their jokes some nights in the studio and on the phone!” New York outfit Babyshakes talk about working with Northern Irish punk heroes The Undertones

Action Stations: Gordon Gibson checks his rising stock at his Church Street HQ (Photo: Neil Cross / Lancashire Post)

“Well, yeah, everyone’s in the same boat. At least we’ve been open as much as we can. A lot of record shops around the country have never re-opened … just doing mail order. They haven’t opened their doors (since last time). But we had to – we’re a record shop and want to meet people!” Action Records shop owner and record label boss Gordon Gibson contemplates the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on Preston’s retail businesses

Tree’s Company: Richard Farnell at home in Sale with a copy of Felt’s Penelope Tree (Photo: Richard Farnell)

“Initially, the first lockdown was pretty positive. It gave us chance to catch our breath, and the website did really well in the first few weeks. However, towards the end it felt the novelty was wearing off, and it was less busy. We furloughed all but two of 11 of us. Our customers were really supportive, and you could recognise many regulars’ names appearing on online orders who we’d normally see in the shop. I hope we get the same level of support this time, but it does feel like this lockdown might be different.” Co-owner of Manchester record shop Vinyl Exchange Richard Farnell on long-term worries as a result of coronavirus restrictions

Work Experience: Robin Turner ticking the no publicity box in the Heavenly Recordings office, all those years ago

“Yeah, it’s 30 years without compromising and being this disparate, extended family, but a family all the same. I mean, I’m still part of it, even though I’ve not worked there for 10 years. Like The Godfather … dragging me back in. And it’s got that identity that makes it work. And you’re right, if you think of comparable labels, there’s Creation, its last records around 2000, and Factory, where it was all over by the early ‘90s. Heavenly’s managed to out-last lots of similar institutions.” Author and music publicist Robin Turner on a new book celebrating 30 years of Heavenly Recordings and how it pays tribute to the label and its cult success

Sun Screen: Saunder Jurriaans, ready to break out and play live, post pandemic lockdowns, on the back of Beasts

“I am and have always been a huge fan of long epic, dramatic, proggy, rock songs! ‘Ghost Walk’ was written a bit later in the scheme of the record and my recording chops were much better, I felt more confident going for it. I played every instrument myself on that one … it was a real exercise in overdubs!” Cult movie and TV soundtrack composer Saunder Jurriaans reveals some of the influences on debut solo LP, Beasts

Curtain Call: Ian Robinson facing the public at Chorley Theatre in January 2016 (Photo copyright: Chorley Guardian)

“When we opened again in September, it was nice to see people back, to catch up with volunteers and our audiences, many telling us it was good to get back to some kind of normality. And really It’s about the fun aspect, meeting people, and all that. It shouldn’t have to be about form-filling.” Chorley Theatre’s Ian Robinson reveals how much he values the Lancashire arts hub and venue’s community feel

December

Drum Major: Simon Kirke behind the kit with Bad Company during their 1979 US tour (Photo: Lyndy Lambert)

“We didn’t just play Stax, we played some classical music. I was really into Mozart and Bach, and we played a lot of Beatles of course. But foremost it was Stax and Motown – that’s how we bonded those Monday nights, and I believe that really cemented us musically for quite a while.” Legendary Free and Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke on his breakthrough band’s initial inspirations

Keeping Going: Kate Stables, trading as This is the Kit, saw off the coronavirus during 2020 (Photo: Ph. Lebruman)

“I really miss swimming! I just want to go to one of Paris’ many excellent municipal swimming pools and plough up and down for as long as possible. I really miss swimming pools. And libraries. I miss all the public services and amenities! Libraries, pools, community centres! We need them!” Kate Stables, the inspiration behind This is the Kit on what she’ll do the moment it’s safe to return to the outside world, post-virus

Glam Survivor: Don Powell gives WriteWyattUK the thumbs-up while recording this June in Denmark at a studio used by The Glam, the band he joined for a cover of Slade’s ‘Far Far Away’ (Photo courtesy of The Glam via Facebook)

“We did our first tour of Australia in 1973 and were trying to find out what we meant to people down there before, which was more difficult to find out in those days, without the internet and all that. When we landed in Sydney, all these cameras and photographers were waiting, and we were looking behind us wondering who was on the plane with us – who were they waiting for? But it was because of the success of Slade Alive, and it was non-stop from there – a great tour.” Slade drumming legend Don Powell reflects on his first tour Down Under and how big the band were there … much to their surprise

That’s it for this year, folks. Thanks as ever for your support. A quick gander at the viewing figures suggests – with less than half a day to go – approaching 96,000 reads on this website in 2020. Thank you all. Plenty going on in 2021 too, some of which I shall reveal as soon as possible in January. Here’s to more great music and a return to live entertainment as soon as we can. Until then, stay safe, and here’s to a happier and healthier 2021. 

About writewyattuk

A freelance writer and family man being swept along on a wave of advanced technology, but somehow clinging on to reality. It's only a matter of time ... A highly-motivated scribbler with a background in journalism, business and life itself. Away from the features, interviews and reviews you see here, I tackle novels, short stories, copywriting, ghost-writing, plus TV, radio and film scripts for adults and children. I'm also available for assignments and write/research for magazines, newspapers, press releases and webpages on a vast range of subjects. You can also follow me on Facebook via https://www.facebook.com/writewyattuk/ and on Twitter via @writewyattuk. Legally speaking, all content of this blog (unless otherwise stated) is the intellectual property of Malcolm Wyatt and may only be reproduced with permission.
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