Friday, 30 October 2015

On Stage: The Ministry Of Science, Newport Riverfront

“Why wasn’t science this much fun when I was a kid?” is what I thought as I watched The Ministry Of Science present a Brainiac style dynamic, fun and informative show at Newport Riverfront on Thursday afternoon.

Boring old text books were out as young presenters Mike and Vicki talked excitedly about names that had previously been presented to me without any sort of passion by tweed wearing schoolmasters a few decades ago.

The groundbreaking work of Bell, Da Vinci, Pasteur and Edison among others, came to life through visual recreations of some of sciences greatest discoveries. The effects of liquid nitrogen on a bunch of flowers to building a hovercraft on stage from everyday items made science cool for everyone. While youngsters from the audience were encouraged to take part in static electricity experiments, a grown up was given the task of using pedal power to create her own smoothie.

Any adults who had long forgotten the names of the chemical elements were given a two minute refresher courtesy of Mike’s rendition of Tom Lehrer’s 1959 song The Elements which incredibly names 102.

Experiments were made relevant as it was demonstrated how a Plasma Ball could power fluorescent light strips akin to Star Wars light sabres. With a variety of fabulously loud explosions occurring throughout the show from further experiments The Ministry of Science Show was definetely fun for all the family.

Find out more about The Ministry of Science online:

Meet The Artist: Julian Argüelles

Esteemed British saxophonist Julian Argüelles brings his working quartet, Tetra, to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama tonight. This follows the release of his the album Tetra which also features Kit Downes (piano), Sam Lasserson (bass) and James Maddren (drums).

Known widely as an original member of seminal big band Loose Tubes, as well as for his outstanding compositional and performing involvement with the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, smaller creative ensembles have always been close to Argüelles’ heart, previously recording with suchluminaries as Mike Walker, Dave Holland, Martin France and the late John Taylor. In this new release, his respect for, and collaboration with, today’s eclectic strain of younger jazz musicians kindles a mutually imaginative spark with an equal emphasis on composition and freedom of improvisation, often melodically or texturally blurring those divisions.

Having already worked successfully with Downes and Maddren, Argüelles knew that they would possess an innate ability to connect with the complexities of his writing, as well as the spirit to soar extemporarily – and bassist Lasserson was discovered as the perfect rounder of this creative circle. Tetra have toured variously over the last three years, developing and shaping their alliance into this vibrant debut recording which ripples and sings with unpredictability and consummate musicianship.

Andy Howells recently put questions to Julian Argüelles about his forthcoming Cardiff show.

What inspired you to become a musician, were you from a musical background?
Well, the journey has been a long one, as it is for everyone. At first my motivation was just to have a good time playing music, as much as a social thing as a musical one. Then music became a way of expressing myself and making sense of important issues regarding life.
My parents weren't especially musical, but my brother, who is a couple of years older, had a great drum teach which led him to become interested in Jazz and he joined a local big band. I basically followed his path a couple of years behind him.

What drew you to the saxophone?
An amazing set of circumstances. I seem to remember putting my hand up in class, I guess I was about 8 or 9, when the teacher was organising who was going to play musical instruments. I hadn't thought about it before, but I suddenly fancied a go. My hand shot up somewhere between double bass (too big) and trombone (not cool), sax wasn't an option, clarinet and I became connected Once my brother became interested in jazz, it was only a short, and a very welcome, hop to the alto saxophone. Luckily the schools i went to seemed to have good peripatetic music teachers.

Did you have a driving influence or music hero who inspired you?
Thousands: people from countries I have never been to; musicians who i have never met; musicians from other genres; people who have never recorded anything; and many musicians I have been very fortunate to play with. But three musicians stand out because I became obsessed by their music at a formative and important stage of my development - Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Keith Jarrett.

You are probably well known for your work within the big band Loose Tubes but with tetra you are working within a quartet, what are the major differences you find when performing within a smaller group?
I don't have a preference, I enjoy both hugely. But I would say as a performer I prefer the intimacy and the solo and group improvisation possibilities of a small group. As a composer/writer I enjoy larger groups because you have more possibilities in terms of musical colour, orchestration, more individual voices, and there is nothing quite like the sound of a big band all 'breathing' as one, it can be very powerful.

Can you give us a bit of background about Tetra the album?
I met Kit and James through a bass player called Euan Burton, we did some gigs together in Scotland, I was surprised that they knew some of my tunes. Sam, I found after a bit of research after getting some recommendations of younger bass players I didn't know. I love the band, it seems that anything is possible with these guys. We've been doing quite a lot of playing over the last 3 years and after one of the tours we recorded this music. Originally it was conceived as a long suite with improvised interludes, we now play the music as stand-alone pieces. Recently the band has done several gigs as a septet with the addition of another sax player, trombone and trumpet.

What can people expect from the performance and the masterclass at your forthcoming show?
We'll be playing music from the CD of course as well as some new and not so new music. Of course the live experience will be very different to the CD, more risks and playfulness. I'm not sure what will happen in the workshop, there are several ways it can go, we'll certain play a bit, show examples of some of our ideas, lots of talking, and discussing things I feel are important about being a musician and writer. Hopefully it'll be very interactive, they are the most fun.

Do you get a good cross range of ages at your shows and do you feel there's a lot of appeal for jazz with younger music lovers?
Yes, I think so - and a fairly good percentage of women in the audience too, which is important I think. The colleges and schools are making lots of young people interested in jazz, and thats an amazing if you consider the TV coverage of jazz in the UK is shocking, and the jazz 'infrastructure' has been having a tough time for years.

What have you got planned for the future?
I have this 2 week tour coming up. Trips to Germany, Ireland and Copenhagen are coming up in the next month. I have to finish a set of arrangements of Phronesis music for a concert at the London Jazz festival with the Frankfurt Radio big Band. And I have just relocated to Austria and started a teaching position there.
Oh dear, I think I am busier than I thought.

For further details visit
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on October 30, 2015.

Meet The Band: The London Souls

THE LONDON SOULS, who hail from New York City, comprise guitarist/lead singer Tash Neal and drummer/singer Chris St. Hilair and play Cardiff's Great Hall on October 29 as part of their latest UK tour.

Andy Howells recently put questions to Tash Neal...

How did the band form?
We met as teenagers in New York City. There weren't that many kids playing the kind of music at the time that we wanted to play so we had a mutual group of friends that brought us together. As we were both singer songwriters and multi instrumentalists we created songs in an interesting way and grew along the way as musicians. We started playing high school coffee houses with friends and then night club venues, some of which we were too young to play in at the time but that didn't stop us. I remember many times hiding in backstage green rooms or avoiding security because of too much suspicion. "Lemme see that ID again !"

Who or what has inspired you most on your musical journey?
I think wanting to become better and grow as artists. If you feel you're not the best you're going to be and you haven't done your best work, it's a great driving force and inspiration. I think if you make music you're of course going to hear things that influence you growing up that you eventually shed or evolve with, but it's our inner journey with music and expression through our instruments and songs, that defines the journeys identity. And of course hearing music that moves you deeply and perhaps inspires you to take a different path musically is something that happens all the time. It's both how I got started and why I keep going.

Tell us a little about your most recent album
The album we just put out is our proudest work to date. All of the tracks Chris and I recorded live with drums and guitar, and then did what we wanted switching between instruments for what we thought best suited the song. It was a great experience as everything was really inspired in the moment and we worked very quickly getting through the recording process. There was a very clear vision for what would make everything we brought bring the best out of the song. We've been touring heavily supporting the album and playing the a lot of the songs live. We've got a bunch of songs ready for the next album, and a few we've already been playing live.

Do you enjoy touring?
We're actually touring at the moment while writing this. Touring is always great when you're playing your music for people in an immediate way. It's a really special experience. We're especially excited to be returning to the U.K. playing with catfish and the bottle men. We love playing for UK crowds and we love a lot of music from the area. I mean our name's the London souls !

What can people expect from your forthcoming Cardiff gig?
People can expect to see a loud sweaty, rock and roll band giving 1000% of their soul into the music. Expect to feel good, and expect what I'm assuming will be well priced beverages, hopefully.

What are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
We're actually listening to All Things Must Pass by George Harrison at the moment. It's one of the greatest albums of all time. Wah-Wah, and What Is Life are incredible pieces of music. We've also been listening to Sly and the Family Stone as well.

For more details on The London Souls visit

  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplent The Guide during October, 2015.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

In Concert: Donovan In Concert. New Theatre, Cardiff

Few artists can command an audience for two hours sitting on a rug and performing their greatest hits on an acoustic guitar. Yet this is clearly the natural habitat for Donovan who performed to a packed house at Cardiff’s New Theatre on Monday evening.

The singer/songwriter who clocked up no less than eight Top 10 hits between 1965 to 1968 gave the audience an authentic 60s style concert.

Opening with his 1965 debut Catch the Wind, Donovan encouraged the audience to indulge in the art of “community singing” before he launched into a fabulous harmonica solo.

Songs such as Colours, Jennifer Juniper and Buffy Saint Marie's Universal Soldier were interspersed with tales about the mission that both he and fellow songwriter Gypsy Dave planned on popular culture on the beaches of Cornwall in 1963. Later, he revealed they would become victims of The Drug Squad’s first busts. There were also stories of going to India to find inspiration and enlightenment with The Beatles and how his comic song The Intergalactic Laxative was inspired by a children’s TV programme following the first moon landing.

The concert  also featured a performance of his beautiful song The Promise, which he said he will never record, making Donovan's rare live performance even more extra special.

“The idea of the 50th anniversary for me is to come out and thank you,” Donovan told his audience at the end of the evening before treating them to renditions of Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow. I, like many others was glad he did. Thank you Donovan for adding to life’s great soundtrack!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Meet The Band: The Milk

London band, The Milk recently released their second album entitled No Interruptions.

Fuelled by a rediscovery of the music and artists that originally inspired their formation, the four walls of their studio were ablaze with a soundtrack of Bill Withers, Isaac Hayes and the Isley Brothers throughout the songwriting process of the album.  Now out on tour with a date at Bristol's Thekla on October 29, Andy Howells recently put questions to bass guitarist Luke Ayling.

How did the band form?
The first incarnation of the band and still the original line up started way back when at secondary school. Mitch, Rick and Dan were all in the same year; drawn together through a love of music, Oasis and the excitement of the Brit pop era they decided to start a band. A bass player was needed, having shown an interest in the instrument and being the only bloke they knew that could afford a bass at the time my brother Mitch asked if I wanted to join. I accepted and even though I'm older than them all, I'm still thought of as the new kid! The band has become more of a family than just a band. and my relationship with Mitch, Rick and Dan is likely to be the longest one I'll ever be involved with! The future wife is gonna love that!!

Who or what has inspired you most on your musical journey?
Each member of the band can relate to their own musical heroes and inspirations but for me its James Jamerson... The man was a genius on the bass and as the link between melody and rhythm in the legendary Motown house band the 'Funk Brothers' pretty much performed on, and wrote the bass lines for more hit records than any other musician. He revolutionised modern bass playing and I always try to channel my inner James Jamerson when I write my bass lines!

Tell us a little about your most recent album No Interruptions
Our second record, like many others before us, has been a life affirming but at times painful experience. For all the good we did on our first record, we felt that there we're many unanswered questions. It was important that this album put the record straight, not just for our fans and peers but for ourselves. Favourite Worry is born from the difficulties that everyone feels as they move through life, the dreams that falter, the friendships that struggle or the love that falls away. Each song is born from this very personal atonement that each of us has had to reconcile ourselves with. It was vital that the record demonstrate the many years we have played together, the blood harmonies and sibling rhythm section. Just as importantly the need for the sound to reach deep into the guts of the listener, as so many of our influences do, was always at the forefront. In Paul Butler we found a kindred spirit, musical guide and friend who helped us create our atonement. We hope you enjoy it

You’re touring shortly are you looking forward to that?
Being in a band for me is split into two very distinct yet equally rewarding experiences... We came to the end of the first at the beginning of the year when the writing and recording of the album was finished. Now its time for the second and that's taking the record on the road and showcasing it to as many people as we can. There's a beauty to the recording process, its very much a personal, emotional and isolated experience for the band but when you come to tour and perform these tracks live there's nothing that can quite explain the feeling of getting on stage and performing in front of an audience eager to listen. I can't wait to hit the road, the set we have planned is one you won't wanna miss.

What can people expect from your forthcoming Bristol gig?
Its not often you get to play in the belly of an old boat... Its a venue that's a one of a kind so expect a room that's Hot, Sweaty and filled with a Soulful sound from a band at the top of their game... Bristol is a town we always look forward to returning too, not only is it a beautiful place to be but it has always provided us with some of the best and most memorable after parties on the tour.

What are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
Im really enjoying Tobias Jesso Jr at the moment, he harks back to a classic song writing style that would prick Lorraine Ellison ears. 'How Could You Babe' is a real treat but his whole album 'Goon' is well worth a listen. I also really digged the new Alabama Shakes LP thats was out earlier in the year.. 'Sound & Colour' was a familiar follow on from the debut but with a voice like Brittany Howard's theres not much that soulfull bunch from across the pond could do wrong in my eyes! Other than that Leon Bridges, Foals, & Churches to name but a few are all releasing or have released some great tunes this year!

Stay in touch with The Milk online:
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on October 23, 2015

Crazy Cavan To Rock Out With Jools Holland On BBC Radio 2

A band formed in Newport over 45 years ago that went on to have success around the world will get recognition from one of Britain’s top musicians, Jools Holland when they are featured on his Radio 2 show next Monday evening.

Crazy Cavan ‘n’ The Rhythm Rockers fronted by Cavan Grogan formed in Newport in 1970. The band that specialised in their own brand of original Rockabilly music would become a welcome breath of fresh air in a music decade that would ultimately be dominated by glam rock, disco and punk. They not only gained a strong following at Wales’ venues but ultimately would become a major attraction when they moved to London counting The Clash’s Joe Strummer and a young Jools Holland among their fans.

“Cavan saw an advert in Melody Maker around 1970 asking for rock n roll bands to play in London,” recalls Rhythm Rockers lead guitarist Lyndon Needs to Andy Howells as he looks back at the time the band took their first tentative steps away from home for an audition.

“Back then, the M4 wasn’t completed, so it took us 5 hours to get to London in a beat up Bedford van (stopping off at a pub or two on the way). When we got to The Fishmongers Arms, Wood Green, we had about 20 minutes to jump up on stage in our drape jackets, playing rockabilly and our own songs which just blew them away. “

The band then started getting regular gigs in London which although drawing them away from their home turf actually helped them build a wider following into Europe, Scandinavia and the USA. Unbeknown to the band until recently was that one young visitor to their gigs in his teens was Jools Holland who would later find success as a musician and television and radio presenter.

Cavan was invited to play with Jools and his band last month. The programme will be aired on BBC Radio 2 on Monday evening and will feature Cavan discuss tracks that have inspired him on his music journey by Elvis Presley, Ronnie Hawkins and Charlie Feathers. There will also be an airing of two new tracks from The Rhythm Rockers latest album, The Real Deal due for release soon.

“Its great to get appreciated and get the respect from the likes of Jools Holland,” continues Lyndon who was present at the recording session which also saw Cavan perform Fats Domino’s Don’t Blame It on Me with Jools and his band.

The Jools Holland Show featuring music from Crazy Cavan ‘n’ The Rhythm Rockers will be broadcast on BBC Radio 2 on October 26 at 11pm and will be available on the BBC’s I Player for 30 days after broadcast. For further details on the band and their latest album visit their website

  • A version of this interview by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on October 23, 2015

CD Review: The Sound Of McAlmont & Butler (20 Year Deluxe Remaster)

David McAlmont and Bernard Butler were probably one of popular musics most underrated and overlooked musical pairings. Following the success of two singles Yes and You Do and 1995’s fabulous debut release The Sound of…McAlmont & Butler the pair pretty much went their separate ways only to reunite briefly a few years later for a second album.

But despite their solo paths moving them into different quarters over the 20 years since those recordings, the magic of McAlmont’s almost angelic vocals alongside Butler’s driven guitar sound when the pair have come together are always a joy to savour.

The Sound of McAlmont and Butler has been reissued on several formats, remastered by Bernard Butler himself, and also features a bonus disc on CD encompassing rare B sides, BBC radio sessions and instrumentals.

Bernard Butler has also prepared a new mix of the albums best track, What’s the Excuse This Time?

Certainly there are no excuses for missing this smart reissue of a Britpop era classic.

McAlmont and Butler are also back on tour and play Bristol’s 02 Academy on November 6.

  • A version of this review appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on October 23, 2015

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Meet The Artist: Ciaran Lavery

A native of Aghagallon in County Antrim, Ciaran Lavery has been mapping the diverse trajectory of the human heart since his debut album, Not Nearly Dark, in 2013. Lavery sings from the inside out in a voice that augments the candor of his words over predominantly acoustic templates channeling the sonic spirit of America. Think Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and, however incongruous the assimilation of influences, hip hop. Small wonder that Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody has used superlatives such as “stunning” and “magical” to describe him.

Andy Howells recently interviewed the man who teeth in his teens on the local music scene as front man of seven-piece alt-folk outfit Captain Kennedy.

What lead you to becoming a musician?
I have been involved in music for the past decade or so of my life, I guess at this point I wouldn't know what else to do. I started out wanting to play the electric guitar and form my very own punk rock band as a teen, but I quickly realised the instrument wasn't for me as much as I tried. So with some help from my brother in law I started picking up the acoustic guitar. Songs followed suit after about a year of painstaking practice

Who or what has inspired you most on your musical journey?
There's been so many people both directly and indirectly that have shaped the musical landscape around me. I am personally indebted to my brother in law Stephen who brainwashed me from a young age, feeding my brain with Neil Young, Townes Van Zandt, CCR and Woody Guthrie. A few years ago a good friend of mine Paul Wilkinson was influential in the steps I took as a solo performer and helped to mould the lo fi sound I love so much. My family obviously are a massive influence and support network. Indirectly I have to thank Jason Molina & also the world of hip hop for having such an influence on an impressionable 13 year old me; for that I am grateful

Can you give us some background about your most recent album?
I have just recently finished recording a new album and it's quite different from anything I've done before. The whole thing is very nostalgic for me personally and I've included a few things will hopefully help a listener along the same path. There are elements of both light and dark which I'm drawn to with all my music, but also room to boogie; I can't deny anyone that chance

You’re touring shortly are you looking forward to that?
I really am excited. I'm visiting a lot of new places and am looking forward to meeting new friends along the way. It's always a bit of a mystery what to expect from shows in new towns or cities so I've taught myself not to expect anything and just see what happens. Either way, it'll be a blast

What can people expect from your forthcoming Cardiff gig?
Really sad songs, lots of stories and horrible bad jokes. I like to think my shows break down the barrier that can appear between the performer and audience - it's gonna be a lot of fun

What are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
Lots of stuff. In no specific order; Paul Buchanan, Kendrick Lamar, Anais Mitchell, Gillian Welch & some Cold War Kids

  • Ciaran Lavery plays The Louisiana, Bristol on October 23 and Dempsey's, Cardiff on October 24. For more details about Ciaran and his music visit
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on October 16, 2015

Centrestage Cymru Hairspray Stars To Appear On BBC Wales' X-Ray

As well as putting the finishing touches to next weeks production of Hairspray at Newport's Dolman Theatre, the cast from CentreStage Cymru have also been busy taking part in BBC Wales ' magazine programme X-Ray.

The cast last week met with presenter Rhodri Owen to participate in a section of the programme which will look at various brands of Shampoo which ties in neatly with their forthcoming musical production of Hairspray which takes to the Dolman Theatre stage between October 21 - 24.

Hairspray cast meet Rhodri Owen of X-Ray
Picture: Jordan Archer
X-Ray will air on BBC One Wales tomorrow evening and will feature some of Hairspray's leading ladies.

Hairspray features Jordan Archer in the role of Edna and Becky Barnbrook as Tracy.

The production will be directed by Christopher Harris with music direction by Victoria Bryant and choreography by Sharon Fitzgerald–Higgins.

Tickets for the show are already proving popular with  both Friday and Saturday performance now sold out although there is limited availability for the Wednesday and Thursday shows.

Book online at or call 01633 263670 for further details.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Meet The Artist: Matthew Halsall

Matthew Halsall is one of the brightest stars on the UK jazz scene. With five albums already under his belt, his languid, soulful and deeply expressive playing has won him a legion of fans with critical praise from everyone from Jamie Cullum and Gilles Peterson to Jazz FM.

His last album When The World Was One was the iTunes jazz album of the year 2014while his follow up with The Gondwana Orchestra, Into Forever on  Gondwana Records was released earlier this month.

To coincide with the release of the album he is set to tour with his Eastern-tinged, hard grooving Gondwana Orchestra. As well as a string quartet and very special guest vocalist Josephine Oniyama, expect an intimate night of wonderful music in the company of some of the UK’s finest musicians.

What lead you to becoming a musician? 
My parents were really into music and as a child they encouraged me to listen to lots of different genres of music and took me to watch all types of live performances. They also gave me the opportunity to try all sorts of musical instruments, and after watching a jazz big band perform Miles Davis’s Milestones and Dizzy Gillespie’s A Night In Tunisia I fell in love with the trumpet.

Who or what has inspired you most on your musical journey? 
I draw a lot of inspiration from meditation and Buddhist philosophy. At around thirteen years old my parents moved house and I ended up attending a Maharishi School and began studying transcendental meditation and yoga alongside my GCSE’s. People have said that my music has meditative qualities.
Around the same time, I attended the school I got hooked on dj’ing through a friend and started listening to really eclectic dj mixes by Mr Scruff and Gilles Peterson and they introduced me to the music of Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane, Dorothy Ashby, Yusef Lateef, Leon Thomas, The Cinematic Orchestra, Mulatu Astatke, Don Cherry and many more.  
I also think that travelling has had an effect on my composing as I often think about a place I’ve been too and try to capture the feelings I had in that place and I’ve named a lot of my compositions after places I’ve been to.

Can you give us some background about your new album? 
My new album (Into Forever) started out as a studio album and my main focus was to challenge myself both as a composer and producer. I really wanted to learn without any restrictions in terms of line up, the instrumentation just had to complement the mood of the compositions and over two years it rapidly evolved into something really fresh and interesting.

You’re touring shortly are you looking forward to that? 
Yes I’m so happy to be able to take the Gondwana Orchestra on tour with me! It’s going to be so nice to hear all the instruments and vocals live on stage. This is a very rare opportunity for me as taking eleven musicians and a sound engineer on tour is not cheap!

What can people expect from your forthcoming gig at St George’s Bristol? 
Well the line up features myself on trumpet, Josphine Oniyama vocals, Jordan Smart saxophone/flute, Rachael Gladwin harp, Taz Modi piano, Gavin Barras double bass, Luke Flowers drums, Margit Van Der Zwan cello, Rhiannon James viola, Jote Osahn violin and Natalie Purton violin.
We’ll be performing two sets of original music crossing through genres such as jazz, soul, classical, folk and even library music. It’s really important to me that the sets are well balanced, with lots of variation in tempo, mood and instrumentation.

What are you enjoying listening to at the moment? 
I’ve been listening to The Cinematic Orchestra a lot, as I’m fascinated by Jason Swinscoe’s production, he often starts with couple of samples or loops from film soundtracks and then carefully selects musicians to jam over those loops and the tracks slowly evolve into something truly amazing and original. It’s a very time consuming process, but is well worth trying. I have used similar processes on my latest album. I would compose bass lines, piano, harp and string loops and then bring in a percussionist or drummer and work very closely on the groves. This really helps create more glue between the whole band and makes things feel a bit funkier.

For more information on Matthew and his music visit

Matthew Halsall plays St George's, Bristol on October 15.

  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide during October 2015

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Blurred Vision Commemorate John Lennon's 75th Birthday With Single Release - Interview

October 9 2015 would have been John Lennon's 75th birthday and to commemorate the landmark event Canadian pop/rock trio Blurred Vision have released a single entitled Dear John which celebrates the late Beatle’s musical legacy and his contribution towards world peace.

“We just wanted to write a song dedicated to someone who played a great role in our lives as artists,” Blurred Vision lead guitarist and vocalist Sepp Osley told Andy Howells earlier this week. “To speak about this concept of peace in a time when our world needs it most, especially in our generation with what we’re facing, it’s so important to use music as a tool rather than a background thing.”

Blurred Vision which also features Sepp’s brother Sohl on bass and Ben Riley on drums are currently based in the UK. The band noted for their psychedelic rock influences rose to prominence with an updated version of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall which met with approval from Roger Waters. Their debut album Organised Insanity was released earlier this year.

"We’ve had a phenomenal response from critics and fans from around the world," says Sepp of Organised Insanity, “Dear John was part of that album and we’re excited about getting that song out to the world now."

Dear John is accompanied by an extraordinary video featuring signs, cards and birthday wishes for John Lennon from across four continents, plus some of Lennon’s iconic Imagine lyrics, will accompany the video release. “Yoko Ono gave us the permission to use the lyrics of Imagine which people will see in the video, which was incredible because we got the go ahead from her camp,” reveals Sepp, “we’ve incorporated those iconic lyrics with our own song and it’s our sort of play on what John Lennon wrote about.”

Sepp thinks that Lennon’s music and most importantly the message behind it is timeless. “John’s music and what he stood for inspired us as this generation’s artist. The Beatles transcend time really when it comes to how many people they’ve inspired around the world and how they keep inspiring our generation and the next to come.”

Dear John is available to download from iTunes now, proceeds from the release of the single go to benefit

  • Keep up to date with news about Blurred Vision by visiting their official website
  • A version of this interview by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on October 9, 2015

Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou To Play Cardiff Glee Club

Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou
Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou make a welcome return to Wales tonight.

The pair have just released their fourth studio album Expatriot produced by Ethan Johns. Expatriot sees the duo finally liberated from their folk shackles to reveal their most hard hitting release to date.

Its been three years since their last offering La Ferme De Fontenaille which had been their third release in as many years, a run only interrupted by a major European tour during 2014 supporting Tori Amos.

Expect to hear new sounds from the duo as they open for Ron Sexsmith at Cardiff’s Glee Club this evening.

For ticket details visit and for further news on Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou visit their website

Friday, 9 October 2015

Meet The Band: The Amazons

Junk Food Forever is the new single from Reading-based quartet The Amazons.

Finding themselves amongst a furor of industry-interest, The Amazons have been causing a stir whilst keeping their cards close to their chest. Something In The Water – the only track available online until now – attracted widespread interest in the band, and has left newly established fans and industry-ears with a fervent desire for more.

Ploughing into 2015 with unwavering momentum from an exciting end to last year, The Amazons have had a diary filled with live dates. Kicking off the year by supporting The Kooks throughout Germany, the band headed back to home shores with shows booked in nationwide.

Andy Howells puts questions to Matt from the band

How did the band form?
We just came together over a couple of years of thrashing it out in separate bands. Me, Chris and Elliot were in a band looking for a new drummer. We went through around 8 drummers before we found Josef, who was pretending to be a bassist in another band at the time.

Who or what has inspired you most on your musical journey?
Wouldn't be able to put a finger on one band or event. It's more like a series of events and bands that kind of form your taste over time really. Off the top of my head hearing bands like Arcade Fire, Bombay Bicycle Club and older bands that we introduced to first like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd changed things for us. I think your musical journey and life journey are very connected so events like break-ups, landmark gigs and even deaths all contribute to what we're doing now.

Can you give us some background about your new EP?
The EP is half a round-up of the songs we've released since the beginning of the band and half where we're going next. The two newer songs are produced and mixed by the amazing Catherine Marks who we came in to contact first when she mixed Junk Food Forever which is also on the EP, as well as Something in the Water which is the first song we released.

You’re touring shortly are you looking forward to that?
The feeling is a mixture of uncontainable excitement and crippling terror. The level of pressure between a headline tour and a support one is huge but we're really looking forward to stretching our legs and getting some game time around this pleasant green land in which we inhabit. I have been informed that tickets are selling in every city which is very exciting too.

What can people expect from your forthcoming Bristol gig?
A lot of hair, a ton of sweat and a bit of blood (sometimes). Tears are always on the cards but haven't happened yet. It's loud and heavy but I think the songs always cut through.

What are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
The new Tame Impala album 'Currents' seems to be currently on repeat in the Amazons camp for sure. Me and Joe love the new Florence and The Machine and new Gengahr record too.

The Amazons play Bristol Louisiana on October 15.

  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide during October 2015.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Meet The Band: Victoria

VICTORIA are Alex Thomas (guitar), Charlie Martin (keys), Chris Moore (drums), Harry Johnson (bass) and Joe Housley (vocals), five young guys who live in London and eat, sleep and breathe music - all masters of their craft - skilled players, songwriters and composers.

Refreshingly, the band make unashamed pop-rock - infectious, feel-good anthems - from their North London house share. Their latest offering, Summertime, was released recently and is an uplifting track that encapsulates the spirit of the often short-lived British summertime that rouses us briefly from hibernation year after year.

Their energetic live performances and the individual personalities of these five riotous boys is captured entirely on record. Summertime follows on from Into The Wild, Victoria‘s first single, released in February earlier this year. Andy Howells recently put questions to the band.

Who are you and how did you come together?
We're Victoria and we're made up of Charlie Martin (Piano), Joe Housley (Vocals), Harry Johnson (Bass), Chris Moore (Drums) and Alex Thomas (Guitar).

Where are you from?
Four of us are originally from Somerset but Joe is from Bridgend. However, we all live together in North London now which is loads of fun.

How would you describe your music style?
It's been referred to as 'anthemic rock pop', which we rather like.

What’s been your best live experience?
We played a sellout headline show in Hoxton in East London earlier this year - that was a pretty special moment for us as a band.

What are you working on at the moment?
We're currently working on our next single which we're really excited about it as it's by far our most ambitious track yet - keep an eye out for it later in the year.

Where can people hear your music?
Our first two singles, Into The Wild and Summertime can be found on our YouTube channel by searching for 'VictoriaBandUK'. They are also both available on all major digital stores (iTunes etc).

  •  Victoria will be supporting Alexander with Peasants King at Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff on October 6, 2015
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on September 25, 2015

Meet The Band: Peasants King

The Rhondda Valleys lie in the heart of South Wales, and what was a former mining location has grown to become synonymous with soaring melodic rock music as Chicago has with the blues. These valleys are home to a hot bed of young talent where one band in particular, Peasant's King, have continued to fly the flag with their own breed of soulful rock with their stomping brand new single Give A Little Love.

The band will be playing Cardiff's Clwb Ifor Bach venue on October 6. Andy Howells recently spoke to Rhod from the band.

How did you come together as a band?
We all knew each other growing up, and some of us had been in other bands together before. It wasn't until a previous band with our bassis Lewys, singer Dan and Rhod (myself, guitarist) fell short of a couple of members that Peasant's King formed. Our drummer Harry and other guitarist Josh joined at that point and here we are today!

Where did you get your name from?
When choosing a name, we were looking for something that fits our heritage. The band name is something that represents us and that we’re stuck with for life, so we addressed it in the same way that someone would address getting a tattoo. We wanted something that represents where we are from and our culture so the name ‘Peasant’s King’ worked well, and it coincides with the history and landscape of Wales.

What’s been your best live experience?
A couple of summers ago we played Young People's Village at Builth Wells, it wasn't long before we were set to play Reading and Leeds festival. When we first got onstage, the tent was pretty empty, but we started playing and people just flooded in – which felt awesome! The atmosphere was electric and to this day it's probably the most excited crowd we've ever had. We absolutely loved that set.

Can You tell us about your new album?
It's something we've been working on for a long time now, probably about 2 years in all. It's a concept album that follows the life of a guy called David, which is based on the Grandfather of our singer Dan, who passed before he was born. It's been a great experience writing a story alongside the album and we can't wait to get it out for people to hear! It's been a long time coming.

Where can people see you live and what can they expect from your gig?
Our gigs are always listed on our Twitter and Facebook pages. Getting an audience involved and having energy on stage have always been hugely important factors to us when playing live. People can expect a lot of movement and a lot of fun! We like to make it an experience for everyone in the venue.

Where can people hear your music?
All our videos are on YouTube, just search for Peasant's King! Our two EPs are also on Spotify. We’ll also have David ready for you later this year!

What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
It's all Spotify on iPhone for us! We actually have a pre gig/on the road playlist that we put together for those long journeys on the road. It's a pretty eclectic mixture, but there's a lot of good old rock and roll for when the energy levels need a boost. AC/DC, Toto, Thin Lizzy etc.

  • For more on Peasant's King visit
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on October 2, 2015

Friday, 2 October 2015

From Acolyte To Wolflight - Steve Hackett Interview

Prog rock pioneer Steve Hackett’s Acolyte to Wolflight with Genesis Revisited Tour brings him to St David’s Hall on October 10.

A founder member of Genesis and successful solo performer in his own right, Steve will be revisiting material from his early Charisma label years as well as presenting his more recent work, together with a selection of Genesis tracks previously unheard live.

“We’re going to do two sets and try and please everybody,” Steve tells Andy Howells, “those who want the new stuff and those who want to revisit the dream again.” "The dream" of which Steve refers to are his early years with Genesis of which he regularly performs classic material much to the delight of the bands legions of fans. “We’re doing it in surround so it will be as totally immersive as I can make those concerts,” continues Steve, “ It will be the most ambitious two sets I’ll be doing, it’s quite a commitment and there’s a lot of rehearsing beforehand but it’s a lot of fun. We’re still building it day by day.”

Steve’s most recent album Wolflight was released earlier this year and has a real epic quality not just for the tracks themselves but also for some the excellent videos he has made to accompany some of the songs. These include the albums title track and another song Love Song To a Vampire.

“The whole album has got a kind of a cinematic aspect to it,” says Steve, “I didn't design it in terms of the album been adjacent to video. Video is a genre that many people no longer subscribe to but then I’m not trying to get hit singles out of that, I’m using long form videos to get ideas across. We’ve done a couple of videos which are 7 minutes each in length so we haven’t gone for the short songs at all, we’ve approached it from another angle. There’s another one in the making so it’s the most heavily videoed of all the albums and it just seems to have a life of its own basically. All music is a shot in the dark, if it strikes a chord with people, that seems to be a happy accident. I mainly try to please myself with stuff and I’m very difficult to please, I think that’s the best yardstick I can offer.”

Later this month, Steve will also be releasing Premonitions - The Charisma Recordings 1975-1983, a comprehensive reissue project that includes his first 6 albums on the Charisma label, together with a wealth of previously unavailable live material. “Its got the title I intended for my first solo project,” reveals Steve, “ I had a sneaking feeling that many things like it were going to reveal themselves, it was a premonition of a solo career to come. The record company weren’t thrilled with that at the time I suspect. It was a little threatening to my tenure with Genesis or the credulity of been a band member and having a parallel solo career.”

“Its lovely to be celebrating the new album as well as the past glories of Genesis,” continues Steve who reveals he’ll play several songs from the early Genesis canon that haven’t been performed live in decades. “Its 40 years hence since I’ve done The Cinema Show and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway lots of old things that became classics after their time. Always on a slow burn, Genesis didn't emerge on the scene fully formed as some other bands it took a long time for Genesis to achieve total world domination.”
  • Catch Steve Hackett at St David’s Hall, Cardiff on October 10. Call 02920 878 444 for ticket details.
  • A version of this interview by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment section The Guide on October 2, 2015.
  • Back To Genesis - An Interview with Steve Hackett 

Meet The Artist: Willy Porter

“All our second chances come when we’re done closing our eyes,” writes Willy Porter in a lyric from the title track of the new album Human Kindness. Porter’s new record encompasses more than the outstanding musicianship audiences and critics have come to expect from this indie-artist, it is also a call to make a positive impact in our own communities.

Featuring the talents of artists such as Martin Barre, Natalia Zuckerman, Carmen Nickerson, and Peter Mulvey, Human Kindness sets Porter’s blistering guitar work against a big studio sound on a stunning book of songs that explore themes about connection, compassion, and the human journey.  Willy plays Cardiff this weekend and recently took time out to answer questions from Andy Howells.

I understand Human Kindness has been a few years in the making, what was the initial inspiration behind the album?
The initial inspiration came from an incident in England while on tour with Jethro Tull several years back. I had watched an Arsenal Football match with my friend Tom in a pub and as we exited onto the busy street, I looked the wrong way for traffic and stepped out as a bus was flying towards us. Tom grabbed my shirt and said, "steady there, mate". As the bus went by I felt the breeze off of the mirror on the side. It dawned on me later that "doing the right thing" is reflexive for almost all human beings-- we are hard wired for that. That led me to write the tune, Human Kindness, and the central theme of the record was in place.

You’ve got several guest musicians joining you on the album, how good is it to get input and ideas from others when putting a record together?
I have been very fortunate to cross paths with tremendous musicians from many different disciplines. As a producer, I enjoy following the direction a song suggests, and then finding the right people to fill the rolls within that vision. Having the input and creativity of other musicians, particularly my core band, is simply invaluable to me. I couldn't have made this record without all of these amazing humans.

Tracks like Chippewa Boots and A Love Like This have a real feel good and harmonious vibe about them, how important is it to you that your music is uplifting?
I strive for emotional balance in a collection of recorded songs. I think an album needs to have that balance to be listenable in its' entirety. So, I try to put some tunes in the mix that lift the tempo and drive a bit more to keep the more contemplative moments anchored.

You’re touring with the album for a year with The Year Of Kindness, can you tell us a little bit about that?
We have tried to find ways to give a bit more. It is a mission for me and my label team to find interesting and helpful ways to involve a charitable collaborative approach as we pass through different towns. We have partnered with local food banks & women's shelters, for instance. This year we also created a scholarship fund in the name of a recently deceased bass player I worked with for years. Doing small things on a local level has added more momentum and purpose to what we do.

How do you balance been a musician and a family man when you’re on tour?
I listen to what is happening when I am away from home. I try to focus on what the time line is like where my family is concerned. Touring is narcissistic to say the least. "I have to be here, I have to sound-check, blah blah blah..." I get on with it and don't complain to those at home.

You’re returning to Cardiff this weekend following a few appearances last year including a memorable Roots Unearthed gig with Martyn Joseph at St David’s Hall. Do you enjoy playing Wales?
I loved playing at St. David's Hall with Martyn, and I have had a great time at every show I've ever played in Wales. I've also enjoyed exploring the beautiful countryside, visiting the writing cabin of Dylan Thomas and touring the mining museums. I admire the spirit of the Welsh I have met, warm & compassionate, but with a steely hard work ethic built on a strong sense of history, like the confluence of poetry and rugby.

What can people expect from your Cardiff show? 
I'm excited to play many tunes from Human Kindness as well as some new songs and catalog favorites. I'll have my 9-string baritone along on this tour as well, so some songs I couldn't play on the last tour will be in the running.

What are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
I'm searching for melodies these days. So much contemporary music seems to feel flat in that regard to me. I've been listening to Neil Young's Harvest record as autumn kicks into gear here. Also, Dark Side of the Moon continues to inspire me as one of the best productions ever. Jeff Beck Wired is the disc to drive to. Finally, Bruce Cockburn's Nothing but a Burning Light has been creeping in there as well.

  • Willy Porter plays Cardiff’s Beulah Community Centre on October 3. For further information contact 07792 798564.
  • A version of this Q&A appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on October 2, 2015.

Meet The Artist: Sunjay

Singer/Songwriter Sunjay plays Chepstow this evening. With a style that has that natural drift between folk and blues the young performer has already received numerous accolades including winning the Wath Festival Young Performers Award. Sunjay also made the final selection for the BBC’s Young Folk Award in 2012, had three nominations at the Exposure Music Awards 2014 and was also recognised by the 2014 British Blues Awards. Andy Howells recently put questions to the young musician.

How did you get into singing?
I come from a musical family, my dad sings and plays guitar. I realized (although perhaps not consciously at the time) that I needed music and saw that I could use a Guitar to accompany myself. I asked for a Guitar for Christmas when I was 4 and began to start sing more seriously.

Where are you from originally? 
I was born in Derby, but I've always lived in the West Midlands.

How would you describe your music style?
It's folk, blues and everything in between!

You already have a few albums under your belt, how do you feel you've progressed as an artist in the years you've been recording and performing live? 
I have become a better performer and much better at being in the studio and the recording process. I've also learned a lot about how things work within the music business. I think of myself predominately as a live performer, CD's enable me to get out and play live.

Your playing some Wales dates on your current tour - have you enjoyed playing Wales in the past? 
Playing in Wales is always great, I think this is my 4th visit to Wales and I'm looking forward to it.

Who are your musical influences? 
My first introduction to music was a programme on TV called The Day The Music Died, which got me into Buddy Holly. Through Buddy I discovered people like Elvis, Little Richard & Waylon Jennings. Then after a few years I got into singer/songwriters like James Taylor & Joni Mitchell.

What are you listening to at the moment? 
The last few artist's albums I've bought have been, Ian Siegal & Trace Adkins.

  • Sunjay plays Chepstow’s Mackenzie Hall on October 2 (call 01291 689910 for information).
  • For further information on Sunjay visit and
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on September 25, 2015

CD Review: Light Up The Dark By Gabrielle Aplin

Light Up The Dark is Gabrielle Aplin’s follow up to her critically acclaimed 2013 debut English Rain.

While her debut album featured her in full singer/songwriter acoustic mode with songs such as How Do You Feel Today? and Panic Cord, Gabrielle’s new offering shows a different side to her musical talents from the offset with the harder edged title track setting the pace for a much fuller band sound  for the rest of the album.

There are some very accomplished recordings  which grow with repeated listening, the Rhythm and Blues smoothness of Heavy Heart, pop of Sweet Nothing and blues of Fools Love make up a varied programme which all contribute to a very satisfying and accomplished sophomore release.

  • A version of this review by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on October 2, 2015.