Monday, 30 November 2015

Candid Carrott - Jasper Carrott Interview

“I’m having the time of my life and I’ve never worked better,” Jasper Carrott OBE tells me as we discuss his visit to Cardiff’s St David’s Hall tomorrow evening in which he will share the bill with impressionist Alistair McGowan.

“It all came about two years ago when we did the Henley Festival in Berkshire,” recalls Jasper talking about the first time he teamed up with Alistair on stage. “They put us together to do an hours show. He went on for the first half hour and I went on for the second. I was backstage and he was ripping the pants off the audience and I thought “how am I going to follow this?” He finished and the audience went bananas and I did an aside to Alistair and said “Alistair, I asked you warm them up not boil them!” He got me off to a running start with the audience and it was very successful and that’s how we got together. He’s a lovely chap and very talented.”

Birmingham born Jasper started out on the comedy circuit in the early 1970s touring clubs across the UK. He reached the pop charts in 1975 with Funky Moped produced by ELO’s Jeff Lynne, “I think its top of his CV actually” laughs Jasper. The B side featured the comedy dialogue sketch Magic Roundabout which ultimately became the bigger hit. “It sold to discos because deejays would put it on when they were having a break,” says Jasper, “The audience would go “where can we get that? Magic Roundabout is the only hit single with no musical content and yet it was a disco hit – a bizarre single!”

Alistair McGowan & Jasper Carrott
In 1978, An Audience with Jasper Carrott the first of several TV specials placed him at the top of the TV ratings, more success followed over the next decade with TV series Carrott’s Lib, Carrott Confidential, Canned Carrott and the sitcom The Detectives.

“When I did An Audience with Jasper Carrott it was every piece of material I had,” recalls Jasper, “I then had to start from scratch again. I was out on the road and then I did an hours special. Later in '82 we started with Carrott’s Lib and that’s the first time I’d ever written with anybody else, so that was a revelation, been able to write with other people. I always loved introducing new writers and new acts and I’m still doing that now.”

Jasper took a break from stand-up in 2000 but returned to touring two years ago and now happily divides his time between his Stand Up and Rock shows with Bev Bevan of The Move and his appearances alongside Alistair McGowan. I wonder if it’s difficult for him to maintain the pace of new material as he did back in the 1980s.

“I’m actually coming to the end of the material that I’ve written and I’m going to spend the whole of next year writing,” he says, “ It’s very difficult to write now because there are so many comics on the road and they’re all doing similar stuff and I’m trying to be different from them. I’ve got an advantage that I can talk about getting old, I’ve regurgitated some old stuff too. I used to do a routine on the 60s and I’ve brought that back for the present day and that works very well. When I come to Cardiff, people who follow me will get new material and if they do recognise anything, it’ll be a bit obscure but I’ll have changed it. I’m pretty confident it’ll be a brand new show.”

Jasper also holds Wales in high regard and it’s quite clear he can’t wait till he returns “I’m a big fan of Wales and I have a saying that there should be a bit of Wales in everybody’s heart and Max Boyce is one of my best friends in the business. In fact I was in Wales earlier in the year because I was doing a TV show with Len Goodman when you go back to your childhood and I went back to Barry Island because I had a couple of holidays there when I was 13/14 so I went back – terrific!”

I ask Jasper, in closing, if he has ever had a funny incident that has ever happened to him at a gig, he responds with "many" before telling me, first hand, of one of the most comical scenarios.  " I was doing Liverpool Empire and about 5 minutes into it a bloke right from the top balcony in a Scouse accent yelled “Hey! Carrott! We cant hear up here, y know!” I got the sound guy and we moved some cabinets and I started again, then five minutes later he went “Still cant hear, y' know!” Within a few minutes and been in Liverpool he’d formed a union! The only place we could find a seat because it was rammed solid was the stool I was using on stage and he came down from the top, walked on stage and sat on the stool. I performed the show with him sitting next to me for the evening. When I finished he took the bow with me. The audience were laughing at him, I was laughing at him it was a real treat , a fantastic night!"
  • An evening shared with Jasper Carrott and Alistair McGowan takes place at St David's Hall, Cardiff on December 1.
  • For more information on Jasper Carrott visit his official website.
  • A version of this interview by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus on November 27, 2015

Friday, 20 November 2015

Airrion Love Back On Tour With The Stylistics

With instantly recognisable hits such as Stop, Look, Listen to your Heart, You Are Everything and Betcha By Golly Wow, The Stylistics are one of the most iconic groups in soul history. The group still feature two of the original members (Herbert Murrell and Airrion Love) and is fronted by the brilliant Harold 'Eban' Brown, former singer with Wilbur Hart's Delfonics.

The Philadelphia group recorded a remarkable 10 straight top-ten hits during the early 1970s and will being their iconic sound to Porethcawl's Grand Pavillion on November 26. Andy Howells recently put questions to founder member Airrion Love.

The Stylistics came together in 1968 from two Philadelphia Groups The Percussions and The Monarchs. Did you come from musical backgrounds originally and what made you want to become singers?
As a child I was always singing, but other than The Glee Club and All City Choir in Junior High School, that was my only background.

When did you actually realise you’d become successful?
I still can't believe it! In my neighborhood coming up a lot of people knew me because of the music, but I lived there all my life so I was one of the lucky ones. There were a few recording artist from Philadelphia at that time.

You cracked the UK chart in 1972 with Betcha By Golly Wow. How important was it to you break into the UK?
Our management thought is was very important to break into the UK market, in fact our first mini tour we came over for free. The first city we came to in the UK was London. We were schedule to do a lot of promotions and we showcased at a club called Gulliver's.

Two of your hits Stone In Love With You and You Make Me Feel Brand New went on to  really define your sound. Did you have any idea how unique they were when you recorded them and do you still enjoy performing them?
Well, working with Tom Bell at the time, he always produced great songs. And yes when I heard You Make Me Feel Brand New for the first time it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I knew then it was a great song.

The Stylistics were a mainstay of the UK charts as well as the US and gained a UK Number One in 1975 with Can’t Give you Anything But My Love. What was the story behind that song and what did it mean to you to get a number one with it?
We had mixed feelings in the beginning. Tom Bell had stopped producing us after a disagreement with the record company and Hugo and Luigi the record company President and Vice President started producing us. We didn't feel the material was as strong as before and in fact we lost a few fans here in the States because of the change of sound. That album was the first one for Hugo and Luigi so they did a big TV promotion. It did go Gold Stateside, but after that, records sales went down here at home. But overseas it took off not only in the UK but Japan also. From then on it seem the material were written for our overseas market only but we opened two new markets.

You are still touring and performing and have retained a few original members from your 1968 line-up how do you all get on after all these years?
Well like a bad marriage, things start heading downhill, so did our relationship with our lead singer Russell Thompkins. Its been almost 20 years since he left and there's no communication with him at all.

What can fans expect from your forthcoming Wales show?
We've been coming to the UK for quite a few years, and we come to know what our fans expect from us. So we try to give them as much Stylistics Music and we can. We're not going to feature any other music but our own, so they can expect to have a lot of memories flooding though their minds. They might even find themselves falling in love all over again.
This is a funny story, but a woman wrote to our web site that she came to see one of our show with her ex-husband and ex-mother-in-law. After seeing the show which brought back so many memories she felt like she wanted to remarry her ex-husband again.

Out of all the years of The Stylistics success which would you describe as your best moment?
There's one that stands out in my mind, was performing South Africa to 65,000 people.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Laughter Lines With Nish Kumar

Stand-up comedian Nish Kumar is touring the UK for the first time with his new show Long Word… Long Word… Blah Blah Blah… I’m So Clever, will perform at Cardiff's Clwb Ifor Bach on November 17.

The show recently won Best International Show at the New Zealand Comedy Festival and is also one of the Top 10 most reviewed comedians at Edinburgh festival last year. Nish has performed on Dave’s One Night Stand and Alan Davies As Yet Untitled, he’s also a regular writer of Sky One’s The Kumars show.

Andy Howells recently put questions to the comedian.

What made you decide you were going to become a comedian?
I tried to have a real job for a while and I decided that it just wasn’t for me.

If you hadn’t become a comedian what would you be doing?

Who are your comedy heroes?
Richard Pryor, Tina Fey, Louis CK, Stewart Lee, Ross Noble, Amy Poelher.

What’s the funniest experience you’ve had while touring?
I was once chased offstage by a Scottish heavy metal band.

What can you tell us about your new show?
It’s stand up comedy from a clever boy. It’s about politics, diversity and the American Pie film franchise.

What makes you laugh?
The Simpsons

Where can people find out more about your work?
All of it is on

  • Andy Howells is a freelance writer. A version of this Q&A appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide in November 2015.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Meet The Band: Superheaven

Following the release of their second album Ours Is Chrome and their first ever U.S. headlining tour, Pennsylvania's Superheaven are currently touring the UK supporting Every Time I Die. They play The Fleece in Bristol on November 8.

Taylor Madison from the band recently answered questions from Andy Howells.

How did the band first get together?
Pretty much the same way any band gets together. We all played in bands, and wanted to start something new. So we write some songs and recorded a demo. Then we just started playing shows.

Who or what has inspired you most on your musical journey?
 I don't think anything specific. I think everyone in the band started playing at different times and for different reasons. But after playing music for 10 plus years now, I can definitely say that there is a need to create, and that's probably why we continue writing new music.

Can you give us some background about your latest album?
It's our second LP. I don't think there's much background to give. It was a little more difficult to write a second record, but only because there's a desire to make it better, or at least as good as the first record.

You’re touring shortly are you looking forward to that?
Yeah. It's been a little over a year since we've been to the UK.

What can people expect from your forthcoming Bristol gig? 
We have played Bristol more than once. It will probably be loud.

What are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
The new Kurt Vile record is pretty good.

  • A version of this Q&A appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on November 7.

Meet The Artist: Dan Owen

It has been a ground-breaking year for young singer-songwriter Dan Owen. The 23-year- old has gone from playing to tiny audiences in backrooms of pubs to a run of impressive festivals dates, including Bushstock, The Great Escape and Glastonbury.

Following those early live shows, he went on to win Best Young Artist at the British Blues Awards and a surprising accolade came from another audience member, Mick Fleetwood (of Fleetwood Mac), who hailed Dan "at the forefront of the new wave in British singer-songwriter talent". Now, stepping away from the blues and writing new material, Dan is getting ready to release his first EP late this year – produced by Cam Blackwood (George Ezra).

Dan, who hails from Shrewsbury is now headlining a UK tour which brings him to Newport's Le Pub on November 7. Andy Howells recently put questions to him.

What lead you to becoming a musician?
It all started when I was 9 getting my first guitar lessons at school. I failed music but then started playing guitar for my sister who sings, around the pubs when I was 13. As a profession, it was kind of forced on me when I had a workshop accident involving my eye. I couldn't do any of the fine carpentry work anymore so had to give it up and start singing songs for a living.

Who or what has inspired you most on your musical journey? 
More than anything probably the musicians I got to know playing around my home town. The older musicians I got to know and played with on Jam nights and gigs have always inspired me with their crazy stories from the road.

Can you give us some background about your upcoming EP? 
It's all about my own stories and experiences that I've been able to write about over the last couple of years, moving away from the blues covers and doing my own thing. I have kept one blues song on there that always goes down well when I play it live. One for the blues fans. The others are mine though and I'm looking forward to getting it out there. I have been lucky enough to work with a producer called Cam Blackwood, who did George Ezra's album. We had an amazing time making all kinds of noise in the studio.

Are you enjoying touring?
I love touring, it's definitely where I feel most at home, having done 150-200 Gigs a year from a young age, it feels great getting out on the road. I'm currently supporting Rae Morris on her UK tour and it is going great.

What can people expect from your forthcoming Newport gig? 
Everything from foot stomping, hand clapping to those emotional moments, we're gonna have an awesome time!

What are you enjoying listening to at the moment? 
At the minute on the rare days off me and a few mates will sit around with a Spotify account a few beers and play each other music we've discovered from Joe Pugg to run the jewels.

  • Stay in touch with Dan online by visiting 
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on October 30, 2015

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Acid House Pioneers 808 State Back On Road - Graham Massey Interview

From their origins as one of the quintessential “Acid House bands” at the tail end of the 80s, 808 State emerged from the iconic Madchester scene, to their proto-IDM, boundary pushing 90s output, 808 State’s influence on modern dance music can not be underestimated.

At the peak of their powers, the band comprising Andrew Barker, Darren Partington and Graham Massey blew away huge crowds at the Manchester G-Mex with the biggest PA system ever assembled and went on to collaborate with the likes of Quincy Jones, David Bowie and Afrika Bambaataa.

Tomorrow, the band's current tour comes to Cardiff Globe, in which they will air classics from a highly esteemed repertoire loaded with anthems including the seminal In Yer Face and the era-defining Pacific State, not to mention a wealth of electronic nuggets from their trail blazing career. Andy Howells recently put questions to Graham Massey of the band.

808 State are back on the road! Are you looking forward to the new tour?
I always enjoy playing live, its very cathartic. I think we’ve reached a point where the set works as an arc of music that really peaks. By the time we get 30 minutes in I’m usually pretty lost in a vortex where I’ve stopped thinking about the technology and the music’s coming through from somewhere else. Its taken years to reach that point

You are best remembered as one of the first bands to gain some recognition from the Acid House movement – did you feel you were innovators at the time?
Being an innovator wasn’t our goal, we were excited about American dance music in the late 80s, we were excited about new computers, old synthesisers and recording studios. We wanted to put records into the dance clubs where we found our escape.
In the process of discovery and the influence of our mutual record collections thing turned out a bit more fanciful at a rare time when people were open to a new kind of music, even a new kind of pop music. I was as shocked as anyone that our synth fantasy music was on day time Radio. I was talking to Luke Vibert at a gig last week, he reminded me that in remote rural areas of the UK such as Cornwall, where there was only a tiny scene for rave. John Peel's show would be a window on this new alien landscape music coming out of the post industrial wastelands of the UK.  Our work influenced a lot of people to take that music further out. I’m not sure our strength was about floor fillers (though we had a number of them). Our Albums broke new ground and sold well to a wide audience beyond clubbers.

Who were your music heroes and what inspires you now?
Usually people with a strong singular vision of music, Stevie Wonder's synth albums being some of the first that caught my young ears. Bowie was important in my early teens, I got into the jazzier side of rock, things like Santana and Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report lead me toward Miles Davis, who is still my defining musical hero. He never stayed in on one spot musically. similar searchers like Coltrane & Sun Ra. I’m involved in a Sun Ra tribute band in Manchester.

808 State in 1989
Picture: Pete Walsh
Its some 25 years since you first cracked the charts and you will have gained a new generation of fans in that time as well as the ones who remember you from first time around, how does that make you feel?
Well I couldn’t have predicted still doing 808 State 27 years on. I’m surprised how I’m not bored with those tunes yet but music should be timeless don't you think? Its great to address young ears hopefully a lot of our music stands up, and doing it live enables us to mold and update the sound.

What are your memories from playing Wales the first time around?
I believe one of our first ever gigs as 808 State was in Wrexham FC social club in 1988, organised by some friends of the group K Klass. We were booked as a bunch of hip hop bands "Hitsquad MCR" that included MC Tunes and A Guy Called Gerald, we did some acid house at the end of the show. Probably some of the first UK acid house going at that point in time. The club served good pies if I remember correctly. We also did Cardiff Ice Rink in 1992 on a Xmas tour with Madness, 'twas Madness!

He haven’t played in Wales so much over the years, but we did play Port Merrion at Festival Number 6 a few weeks back. We were the last group at the Festival and had the power pulled on us in the midst of doing Pacific State. We had lost track of time and strict licensing laws applied! We carried on with some quiet free form jazz all red in the face and confused.

How has the music scene changed for you personally over the years?
I’ve been involved in music since 1977, so witnessed Punk, Post Punk and the rise of club culture. All these changes were brought on by individuals with a do it yourself attitude.

What do you think has been 808 State’s personal highlight?
There s been many but breaking into the mainstream culture with little compromise seemed like a triumph for a wider ideal than just us, contributing to all I love about music. Playing gigs that had an incredible exchange of energy with an audience. I think audiences used to be a lot more passive in the early 80s then with the dance culture they were as active as the performers, the boundaries broke down a lot, what a great point to be playing and harnessing that energy.

What can people expect from the new shows?
If they’ve never caught an 808 show before people are surprised that it includes a rhythm section (Bass Player & Drummer) but we've had this set up for decades now, it provides a muscular drive to our studio based music. Old classics are transformed into something quite different, there’s also a fair amount of improvisation in the music which I guess isn't usual in Techno.

Do you have any new projects you are working on?
We all are working in a wider context of music, be it DJing or the aforementioned Sun Ra tribute big band, I love improvising and I’ll always find an outlet that enables me to play with other musicians, but also I’ll try out ideas in solo sets in more underground situations. Lots of pointers for these projects on
  • 808 State play Cardiff Globe on November 6.
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus on October 30, 2015

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Return Of The Ordinary Boys - Preston Interview

After a hiatus of nearly 10 years, The Ordinary Boys are back with what is arguably their strongest album to date and a new tour. Hot on the heels of their energy driven single Four Letter Word, the band are playing Cardiff Globe on November 5.

The reformed line-up consists of the original trio – Preston, James Gregory (bass) and Charlie ‘Chuck’ Stanley (drums) - plus new member Louis Jones from celebrated power-pop band Spectrals on guitar.

After a brief stint in the limelight following his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006, Preston has spent the last 8 years building a solid reputation as a successful songwriter, having written hits for John Newman and Example and a number one for Olly Murs with Heart Skips A Beat. Andy Howells recently put questions to Preston .

You're back with a new album and tour, what made you decide you wanted to make music together again?
I had fallen out with our drummer, Charlie in 2004. He only played on our debut album and then as I reached the peak of Saturn Returning I decided it was time to put the past behind me and give him a call. By the end of the phone call we had somehow decided to put the band back together and make a new record! The whole new album and tour is just a way for me to force my friends to hang out with me for a whole month! I can hold them hostage in van and force them to have a lovely time with me.

Its just over a decade since the original Over The Culture Counter was released and you rose to fame quite prominently what was that period like for you looking back?
The first tour and everything around that first album was so exciting. I look back at it as such a nice time in my life. It took ten years of time away from the band to be in the same position, completely unaccountable to anyone, that allowed us to make another record exactly the way we wanted to.

Did your time on Celebrity Big Brother, affect or detract from the inner workings of the band at all?
Massively but it was also an important factor in getting to the place that we are at now. I learned how to write pop music and, although the third album wasn't really an Ordinary Boys album, it taught me how to write pop music, which is what I do for a living now. I write for Olly Murs, John Newman and the Vamps.

Can you give us some background on your latest album?
We have a new guitarist, Louis from the band Spectrals, who immediately became one of my best friends. It's very much an album sparked by friendship and a desire to make some fun, singalong punk rock songs, which is what we always did best!

What are your memories of the first time The Ordinary Boys played Wales?
We played TJs a lot. The first time was supporting the Vandals in the late 90s. We stayed in the bunkbeds above the venue. We returned a few tim,es and were heartbroken to find out that it had closed down.

You're playing Wales on November 5, what can people expect from your show?
Every show on this tour has been great fun. Lots of kids moshing and singing along. We are having a brilliant time and I think it shows!

What do you think you've learned in your time together as a group?
I've definitely learned what the important things the get out of being in a band are. Friendship and making sure the amps are turned up really loud.

Finally, what has been your personal highlight in your time with the band?
We had a number 1 album in Japan and we played a 40,000 seater baseball stadium over there. That! We are returning to Japan in December which is very exciting!

  • Catch The Ordinary Boys at Cardiff Globe on November 5.
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus on October 30, 2015

Snakecharmer To Play Cardiff Globe

Six of the UK's most highly-esteemed and experienced rock musicians have joined forces to create Snakecharmer.

Original Whitesnake members Micky Moody and Neil Murray have teamed up with Laurie Wisefield (Wishbone Ash), Harry James (Thunder, Magnum), Adam Wakeman (Ozzy Osbourne) and Chris Ousey (Heartland) to create classic twin-guitar based rock as it should be played.

With a live set comprising material from their critically-acclaimed 'Snakecharmer' album, coupled with such Whitesnake classics as Ready And Willing, Fool For Your Loving, Take Me With You, Walking In The Shadow Of The Blues and Here I Go Again, Snakecharmer is the genuine article.

The list of world-class bands and musicians that the members of Snakecharmer have collectively played with runs into literally hundreds: Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Joe Cocker, Jeff Beck, Gary Moore, Magnum, Queen & Paul Rodgers, just to name a few.

With their second album to be released soon the band are currently undertaking several live dates and will play Cardiff’s Globe on November 15. Tickets available from