Wednesday, 23 December 2015

CD Review: The Complete Them 1964-67

Much is often made of Van Morrison’s solo years, so a 3 CD revisit of his earlier material with Them recorded between 1964 and 1967 is extremely welcome.

Taking their name from a 1954 sci-fi movie, Them recorded their debut single for Decca Records in July 1964, only months after making their debut at Belfast’s Maritime Hotel performing charismatic interpretations of R&B blues and soul.

Don’t Start Crying Now paved the way for further hits Here Comes The Night and Baby Please Don’t Go, all included here, along with tracks such as Paul Simon’s Richard Cory and rare BBC radio session recordings of Gloria and One More Time.

Them may have only been under Morrison’s leadership for three years but there’s a wealth of material to enjoy for both Van Morrison collectors and 1960s aficionados.

  • A version of this review by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on December 18, 2015

Book Review: Private Eye Annual 2015, Edited By Ian Hislop

Its Christmas time and bestselling news and current affairs magazine Private Eye have come up with their nineteenth collection of the year’s best cartoons, jokes and spoofs.

Edited by Ian Hislop, the colourful title has become one of the best value for money annuals to snap up over the festive season, and is packed full of content that showcases the very best of the magazine’s unique blend of wit and humour.

Presented in the tabloid newspaper style, the book is almost a Have I Got News For You presentation of 2015. So expect an alternative look at the general election, game shows, public sector services and sport. Similarly there are comical representations of public figures such as Nigel Farage, Jeremy Clarkson, David Cameron, members of the Royal Family and One Direction.

So, before you dismiss 2015 you could do far worse than turn a comical (Private) eye to this end of year satirical review.

  • A version of this review by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on December 18, 2015

Christmas Albums 2015 Reviewed

A Classic Christmas - Blake
It has to be said that Blake, the classically trained vocal trio, have really captured the spirit of Christmas with their uplifting Classic Christmas album.

Besides their irresistible pairing with Dame Shirley Bassey on The Christmas Song, the warm seasonal glow of jazz fusion continues  on fresh interpretations of tracks such as Bing Crosby's Its Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas and The Beach Boys' Little Saint Nick.

There's also a breath of fresh air on traditional songs O Holy Night, In The Bleak Midwinter and Silent Night. An album that lives up to its name, it certainly deserves to sit alongside some of the best seasonal offerings of Christmas past to be enjoyed well into the future.

Kylie Christmas - Kylie Minogue
Kylie Christmas features the pop queen putting her own slant on old favourites such as Winter Wonderland, Let It Snow and Santa Baby (a track she performed on Top of the Pops some years back and seems to have become an annual festive favourite to watch as well as listen to).

To add variety to the album, James Corden, Iggy Pop and the late Frank Sinatra all make audible contributions to Miss Minogue's diverse portfolio of duets (previous musical pairings have seen Kylie matched with Nick Cave, Jason Donovan and Robbie Williams).

Not sure if Kylie Christmas is a Christmas classic though, perhaps it needed a bit more originality, although anyone who has been dreaming of a Kylie Christmas for the last quarter of a century aren't likely to be disappointed.
  • A version of these reviews by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement, The Guide on December 18, 2015

Sunday, 20 December 2015

On Stage: The Snow Maiden, St David's Hall, Cardiff, 2015

If you are already tiring of the stressful clutter of the Christmas season be it present buying or Christmas parties and longing for some genuine magic then St David’s Hall’s ballet season featuring The Russian State Ballet and Orchestra of Siberia is an ideal place to start.

The season began on Saturday afternoon with a presentation of The Snow Maiden, a breathtaking re-adaption of Alexander Ostrovsky’s story set in freezing mid-winter which was ultimately the inspiration for the Disney film success Frozen.

Protected from the outside world by Father Frost, the exquisite Snow Maiden plays innocently amongst the dancing snowflakes in the mesmerising Land of Frost. The fantastical seasonal tale follows the beautiful girl as she dances from the wintry overtones of her snowflake world into the colourful village inhabited by the humans who live there. Venturing too far into her new territory and the Snow Maiden becomes swept away by feelings of both temptation and betrayal.

Anatoly Cherpurnoy conducts The Russian State Ballet of Siberia Orchestra to perfection as the atmospheric music of Tchaikovsky acts as the narrative for the unfolding drama on stage. Ekaterina Bulgutova heads the cast as the elegant and delicate Snow Maiden while Demid Zykov is both colourful and debonair as Mizgur.

There is strong support from Olesya Aldonina as Kupava, Yuriy Kudryavstev as Lel and Alexei Balva as Father Frost, but ultimately it’s the combined work of the dance ensemble can orchestra that make The Snow Maiden the ultimate in seasonal treats for the family.

The Snow Maiden runs until December 21, with further presentations of The Nutcracker and Swan Lake over the Christmas season. To book your seats, please visit or call the Box Office on 029 2087 8444

In Concert: Jools Holland and The Rhythm N Blues Orchestra, Cardiff Motorpoint Arena

The audience at Cardiff's Motorpoint Arena were literally bristling with excitement on Saturday evening as fans took their seats to witness the penultimate date in Jools Holland and His Rhythm N Blues Orchestra’s current tour.

Rhythm and Blues Orchestra guitarist Mark Flanagan  provided opening duties playing a brief set comprising of Americana and acoustic stylised music. Flanagan drew the crowds to their seats very quickly having to send them back for their refreshments before Holland’s orchestra took to the stage.

“Thank you! Goodnight!” joked Holland as he opened his arms to greet the audience when arriving on stage. Holland’s Goodnight would ultimately evolve into a very good night for all in attendance.

Ever the showman, its clear Holland has a love for music and musicians and wasted no time in introducing the percussion, brass and string sections of his orchestra giving each member a chance to display their individual talent on several occasions. Highlights included a rocked up version of Flight of the Bumble Bee (reminiscent in tempo to B Bumble and The Stingers Bumble Boogie) and an R&B slant on the traditional standard, When the Saints Go Marching In.

Holland also celebrated long term collaborator Gilson Lavis, of who, he observed, had met 40 years to the day. Holland stated that Lavis had given the best drum solo he or the audience were ever likely to see. A big statement, yes, but not one that anyone was denying.

There were fabulous vocal contributions from Louise Marshall and Mabel Ray as they lead individually on a blues soaked rendition of My Favourite Game and a Ska rendition of Secret Love.

Singer/songwriter KT Tunstall changed the pace into fast gear with an up-tempo performance of Suddenly I See, while there was also a spectacular nod to Sinatra of a rendition of Night and Day.

Holland’s final guest, the legendary Ruby Turner provided the icing on the musical cake with several songs from the new Jools & Ruby album. The audience by now were also in full swing, out of their seats and dancing to renditions of Ray Charles’ Jumpin' in the Morning and a rousing version of Peace in The Valley.

An encore including Enjoy Yourself and a duet of I'll Be Seeing You  featuring Holland and Turner brought a very diverse and memorable night of music to a close and yes, it was clear, everyone had enjoyed themselves!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

On Stage: Aladdin, New Theatre, Cardiff

If you had three wishes for an ideal pantomime, they would be an all-star cast, a magical story line and stunning special effects. Cardiff New Theatre’s 2016 pantomime, Aladdin, certainly carries all these magical ingredients with possibly their biggest and best panto in recent years.

Aladdin wastes no time in getting into the action with Sam Kane’s gloriously devilish Abanazar setting out on his quest to find the chosen one and seeking the powerful magical lamp for his own. Abanazar is not only jeered and booed by the audience but also shown up for any shortcomings by the beautiful Scheherazade played by Linda Lusardi.

Returning comics Mike Doyle and Andy Jones who play Widow Twankey and Wishee Washee respectively, know how to inject further fun into the proceedings with comic dialogue, slapstick and impersonations. Doyle, is particularly at his best as the pantomime dame and even gets chance to shine a light on a hilarious Shirley Bassey impersonation. Mark Llewellyn Williams Emperor Ming gets to bring his operatic singing abilities to the forefront as well as work as occasional stooge for both Doyle and Jones.

Ian H Watkins, best known as a member of Steps, takes the lead role of Aladdin, displaying versatility as an all round entertainer, singing, dancing and acting while still been a joy to watch. Watkins also gets to sing some Steps hits including The Way You Make Me Feel, a duet with his enchanting love interest, Princess Jasmine, played  by Holly Bluett.

With the action and fun been so involved, Gareth Alfie Thomas' appearance midway through the show as The Genie of the lamp almost comes as a surprise, but a welcome one at that, as he gets a huge cheer and welcome from the audience.

Dance routines provided by a fabulous ensemble cast and the Lori Guppy School Of Dance enhance the show further, particularly a wonderful Peking Keystone Cops style pursuit of Aladdin via Widow Twankey’s Laundry. There are also some stunning special effects including Aladdin’s ride on a magic carpet to Egypt that flies right out into the audience during a musical sequence.

Aladdin has everything you could wish for in pantomime fun and is the perfect Christmas treat for the family. The show runs until January 17, 2016.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

CD Review: Frank Sinatra: A Voice On Air 1935-55

You can’t rewrite history or can you? Most people remember Frank Sinatra these days for his slick performances in the 50s and 60s, the voice of the 20th century, the leader of The Clan (now commonly referred to as The Rat Pack) and the movie star.

Frequently overlooked are his early years, a good two decades formed around regular American radio appearances in which he became the first serious rival to Bing Crosby in the popular music stakes.

Frank Sinatra: a Voice On Air 1935-55 is a fabulous audio document cataloguing a diversity of radio performances from a live equivalent of a top 20 best selling songs show to a dedication programme on the day of the D Day landings.

The clarity on these historical recordings is astounding to say the least and brings back to life one of the most interesting periods in Sinatra’s career with some sharp performances of songs such as That Old Black Magic and It Had To Be You.

Listen out for an early rehearsal take of As Time Goes By, with Sinatra leading the way while the backing musicians still haven’t quite got it together, the consummate performer has arrived but no-one seems to have realised, its a real peek into music history and a must for Sinatra fans.

A version of this review appeared in the South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on December 11, 2015.

DVD Review: Downtime

The current series of Doctor Who may have come to an end but there's a DVD release fans can enjoy between now and the forthcoming Christmas special.

Downtime is a unique British 1995 sci-fi movie from the Doctor Who universe (but unofficial) featuring treasured characters and talent from the franchise and only now released on DVD - it's a must see for fans of the Time Lord.

The adventure features Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney) and Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen) of UNIT who investigate New World University; a sinister school run by Victoria Waterfield (Deborah Watling) and Professor Travers (Jack Watling). The technology obsessed University holds a gateway to Earth made by classic foe the Great Intelligence. Fighting alone and without the aid of their time-travelling scientific advisor, The Brigadier and Sarah Jane are hard pressed to decide who is friend or foe as they search for a missing Locus, which binds the Intelligence's power. The battle is broadened when the Brigadier's own family is threatened and UNIT faces a powerful new breed of Yeti!

An unofficial sequel to the Doctor Who serials The Abominable Snowmen and The Web Of Fear, Downtime neatly bridges the gap between classic Doctor Who and the new series, utilising familiar characters and monsters. Perhaps the most interesting inclusion in this story is the introduction of The Brigadier’s daughter, Kate (played here by Beverley Cressman) who has become a recurring character in the Doctor Who series in recent years.

The two disc DVD available now from Koch Media features the complete Downtime film written by Doctor Who writer Marc Platt and directed by Christopher Barry as well as second disc looking at the making of the film and post production clips.
  • A version of this review by Andy Howells appears in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on December 11, 2015

Christmas Singles 2015 Reviewed

Andy Howells delves into the bag of Christmas singles available for the festive season and cherry picks three releases for 2015.

Red Sky July – Save Christmas Day For Me 
Award-winning Americana trio Red Sky July have released an atmospheric, beautifully orchestrated single for Christmas featuring Beth Nielsen Chapman. Save Christmas Day For Me is original and beautifully produced and destined to become a Christmas classic.

Blake & Dame Shirley Bassey -The Christmas Song
Incredibly, in her 60 year career, Wales own Dame Shirley Bassey has never recorded a Christmas song, so this unique pairing with classically trained vocal trio Blake of The Christmas Song is a bit of an overdue treat. It starts off with soaring strings before moving into uptempo jazz. Irresistible and very festive!

Judith Owen & Harry Shearer – The Best Things EP
Another Welsh artist, Judith Owen and her comedian husband, actor Harry Shearer (famed for his work on The Simpsons and Spinal Tap) have produced a new and original collection of songs continuing the tradition of Owen and Shearer’s own Christmas gatherings around their family piano. The three track EP features two atmospheric piano lead songs from Judith very much in keeping with the laid back sound of last years Ebb & Flow album. The third track Too Many Notes is a soulful jazz inspired number featuring both Harry and Judith on vocals, well worth a listen, and maybe the pair should look to doing an album next year!

  • A version of this review by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on December 11, 2015

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Meet The Band: Molotov Jukebox

After a summer of festival appearances, Molotov Jukebox are touring the UK with an exclusive six date tour showcasing their forthcoming second album Tropical Gypsy. Having already hit their Pledge Music album target and sold out their London and Bristol shows, the London based six piece will be stopping off in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Brighton across November and December and will be joined by special guests The Church, who will guarantee to start each event off on the right foot with their all singing, all dancing, party church service.

They play Bristol Lantern this evening (December 5), Andy Howells put questions to actress and Molotov Jukebox lead singer Natalia Tena. Natalia not only fronts the band but is a familiar face to fans of the Harry Potter movies in which she played Tonks and Game of Thrones in which she plays Osha.

How did Molotov Jukebox come together?
Sam and I met in another band and decided to run away and create our own musical circus. Over the years people have come and gone, we've had 18 different musicians pass through but the Molotov team you see now is a year and half old and it's the one that is going to stay.

How would you describe your style of music?
The clue is in the title of our next album Tropical Gypsy. Through the eyepiece of our London roots, we have tried to fuse together a Balkanesque gypsy sound with the Latin tropical one.

What’s been your best live experience so far?
Playing our first big show in Brazil when we all went as a band to Rio for the first time. We'd done a smaller guerrilla tour a few years earlier that got us in the door on that side of the world. When we came back the second time, we were put in Circo vador, a massive space that on night, which was filled twice over with the most enthusiastic dancing and clapping I've ever experienced.

Can you tell us about Tropical Gypsy?
In the vein of both Balkan and Latin music, we wanted to borrow their devise of putting lyrics that tackle big subjects, like betrayal, loss of all faith and death combined with music that propels the fans to the dance floor with a riot of sweat and wiggle.

Who has inspired the music you make most?
Wow. Tough one. Really it's no one person, it's a step-by-step aural discovery propelled by that first musical love, which for me at 5 was Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Chuck Berry. I musically lived in the 50's and 60's till puberty and with my hormones rushing around, I discovered the female legends; Carla Thomas, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin and Etta James.

You’re also well known for your roles in Harry Potter and Game Of Thrones – how does been in a band fit in with being an actor?
It's a battle because their timelines clash so often and lead to having to make very tough decisions. Sometimes it's seamless and I can juggle both if I work hard enough but when it’s an either or situation, it's incredibly hard to pick.

Do you have any more roles in the pipeline?
Watch this space...

What was the first record you bought?
Ha ha ha ha ha, it's awful! At 12 I saved up and bought one of the Now... something albums. Probably Now 10 it was so long ago. It's had Baby Come Back on it, which I listened to on repeat.

Where can we see you live and what we can expect from the show?
Well we are finishing our UK tour on the December 6 but next year, with our release of Tropical Gypsy on April 1, that's when it will get interesting. We are looking at a bigger UK tour and potentially Europe too, followed by the chaos of the festival circuit in the summer.

  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on December 4, 2015.

Friday, 4 December 2015

DVD Review - DangerMouse: Mission Improbable

I'm one of those people who cringes when I hear the word reboot uttered from TV and movie geeks but when I heard that DangerMouse was making a return to TV even I couldn't resist tuning in to CBBC with my youngest son.

The new series is bursting at the seams with terrific tales of derring-do and random ridiculousness that DM is famous for but with a 21st Century twist that sees our hero venturing even further afield to save the world with a dazzling array of high tech gadgetry and transportation that only the greatest secret agent could ever dream of owning.

Of course, every top agent needs a tip top team to support him and DM’s return sees him joined by some familiar faces as well as some new ones. DM is reunited with his right-hand hamster, Penfold and Colonel K is back to keep a watchful eye over every mission. A modern day secret agent needs state of the art gadgets and luckily for DM, the ingenious Professor Squawkencluck has joined the team and has a gadget for every occasion, although how long they’ll stay in one piece in DM’s hands is another question.

The classic voices of David Jason and Terry Scott as DangerMouse and Penfold have made way for Alexander Armstrong and Kevin Eldon, but the pair along with the voice talents of Stephen Fry, Ed Gaughan, Shauna MacDonald, Dave Lamb and Richard Osman have ensured the spirit and fun of the original shows is still there.

If you missed all the fuss when the show returned in October you can now catch up with the first seven episodes (including the feature length first episode DangerMouse Begins Again) on DangerMouse Mission Improbable.

Compared to some DVD's this is one of the more enjoyable cartoon series that even some of the grown ups can enjoy. As well as DM's classic arch nemesis Baron Greenback and his henchman Stilletto there are also a host of other villains for our hero to fight including a psychotic computerised toilet and a gigantic Welsh space plant with ideas of world domination (and he really sings in Welsh too, because my son, a fluent Welsh speaker, told me!)

  • Dangermouse: Mission Improbable is available now from Freemantle Media.
  • A version of this review by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide during November 2015.

On Stage: Jack and The Beanstalk, Newport Riverfront

Fee Fi Fo Fum I smell the lure of panto fun!

On the evidence of the third night performance, this years Riverfront panto, Jack and The Beanstalk, already has fun oozing out from an already tightly knitted ensemble cast to an audience who doesn't hold back from booing, hissing, cheering and having an all out good time.

Newport’s own Gareth Tempest is at the helm of the fun as the bright and brave hero of the piece, Jack, while established Riverfront favourites Richard Elis and Elin Llwyd raise the bar again this year with respectively fun and feisty appearances as Dylan the Daft and his beautiful sister Jill. Nerine Skinner also returns this year delivering a literally bubbly performance as the charming Fairy Liquid.

There are two new faces too, Simon Nock makes a flamboyantly brilliant Riverfront debut as Jack’s mum Dame Trott, while Patrick Marlowe is devilishly delightful as evil villain Fleshcreep.

The bright comical fun filled presentation doesn’t end there. There’s a few old gags freshened up, The Twelve Days of Christmas sketch presented by Elis, Bock and Tempest been a particular crowd pleaser. The ensemble cast as well delight with fabulous choreography and some nicely turned out musical performances.

The real fun of the show comes from the choreographically challenged cow Daisy operated to perfection by Emma Anderson and Natalia Iles and the spectacular giant operated by Jamie Anderson really has to be seen to be believed.

These are exciting times for Newport and the city has many things to be proud of, the high quality of its annual pantomime is certainly one of them. Don’t miss this year’s show which runs until January 3, 2016.

On Stage: An Evening Shared With Jasper Carrott and Alistair McGowan, St David's Hall, Cardiff

With Britain’s favourite impressionist Alistair McGowan and the original king of stand-up, Jasper Carrott delivering over two hours of side splitting comedy at St David’s Hall on Tuesday evening, the show was set to be a winner from the offset.

Feeling the pressure of a busy schedule in recent weeks, even I didn't realise how much of a good laugh I needed until McGowan stepped on to the stage and recalled a previous visit to Swansea Grand that had seen him greeted at the door by TV newsreader Huw Edwards mother. McGowan immediately dived into a comic news report in the unmistakable style of Edwards before paying tributes to Welsh Sport with perfect replications of Chris Coleman, Colin Jackson and Terry Griffiths.

McGowan diversified further with Moira Stewart’s summing up of reality TV star’s eyelashes getting tangled in a nightclub clash, an energetic performance of Eddie Izzard stepping in as a wildlife commentator and the cast of Dad’s Army re-imagined for the 21st century.

If that wasn’t enough value for money, further treats arrived when Jasper Carrott took to the stage. “Its said you only play St David’s Hall twice,” he began, “once on the way up… Well it’s nice to be back!”

Stark observations on growing old, eating a hot curry from a bowl made of space shuttle re-entry iron and bidding for his own autograph on eBay were a number of scenarios that kept the audience in constant fits of laughter.

A particular winner was Carrott’s graphic description of insomnia and the hell of observing your partners three stages of sleep at 4am in the morning.

An absolute treat to watch, this classic comedy pairing really lifted the spirits of all those in attendance including myself, in fact rereading my notes for this review I’m still laughing. Thank you Alistair and Jasper!

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Pinocchio Story Brought to Life For Christmas

As Christmas approaches, Llanyrafon Drama Group have something a little special in store for their audiences this year.

Pinocchio is adapted and based on the original classic story, and follows Geppetto, a charitable toy maker who makes a wish upon a star, hoping that one day he will have a son of his own.

By magic, Geppetto’s wish comes true as his little wooden puppet Pinocchio comes to life, and when the evil Master of Disguise, hears of this, he plans to kidnap Pinocchio, and keep him for his very own.

Pinocchio promises lots of fun for the family, and is the perfect seasonal treat that everyone should see.

So if you’re looking for something to lighten your “wooden heart” this festive season then pop along to Llanyrafon Methodist church hall, Llanyrafon, Cwmbran.

Performances start today December 4 at 19:30, followed by performances on Saturday December 5 at 14:30, Friday December 11 at 19:30, Saturday December 12 at, 14:30 & 19:30. Tickets are only £5, and can be booked through the box office on 0845 4742545 or via the website on

DBA Reunited For Surburban Ghosts Album - Geoff Downes Interview

Andy Howells chats to prog rock legend Geoff Downes about his latest project with top producer Chris Braide as DBA, Surburban Ghosts.

Three years after their critically acclaimed debut Pictures of You, creative powerhouse duo Chris Braide and Geoff Downes have reunited for the second chapter of their joint venture as the Downes Braide Association (DBA in short), Suburban Ghosts.

Prog legend Geoff Downes has played keyboards in The Buggles, Asia and Yes. He co-wrote the hits Heat of the Moment and Video Killed The Radio Star. Similarly Singer songwriter and producer Chris Braide has written and produced songs for numerous performers including Beyonce, Lana del Rey, Paloma Faith and Britney Spears, in his accomplished career he was awarded Ivor Novello, ASCAP and Billboard Awards It was at The Buggles’ reunion show in London back in 2010 that Chris and Geoff’s paths crossed for the first time.

“Chris was in a band called Producers and said, “I’d really like to write with you one day,” says Geoff, “ He moved to the States straight after that and I happened to be LA a few months later and we both said “Well, lets sit down and write some stuff together.”

With Chris busy working with both Paloma Faith and Lana del Rey and Geoff recording the Yes album, Fly from Here, DBA’s first album, Pictures of You was a culmination of a year of secret ‘moonlighting’ sessions. “The first one was very much testing the water,” says Geoff, “when we finally got together in an organised fashion we thought it would be a good idea to carry on and do another one.”

The sophomore album, Surburban Ghosts, has similarly been put together between both artists other work commitments. The quality of the release howeveris exceptional featuring a collection of melodic pop that is both nostalgic and new. Tracks such as Machinery of Fate and Number One are almost Buggle-esque in approach but with production qualities rooted firmly in the 21st century.

“The one thing we wanted to put to the fore was the synth and the melodies,” Geoff continues, “Chris was a big Buggles fan. One of the first albums he bought was our first album The Age of Plastic, so maybe its an unconscious nod in that direction. We’re not trying to emulate that, but certainly the sounds are nostalgic.”

Geoff has described DBA on his YouTube account as “the best band that will never tour”; I ask if performing live as DBA will always be out of the question? “I do know these things can always change,” he replies, “There are certainly no plans at the moment. Obviously I'm busy with both Yes and Asia touring so I don’t have a lot of time in that department. Chris is flat out with his song writing, but you never know if someone says “I’d really like to put you guys on and see how it goes,” I’m sure there’d be an appetite for it.”

The positive aspect for Geoff is that DBA material is something new for fans to get their teeth into. “Doing something like the DBA album is new music, As much as you want to play your old stuff its important to write new material and develop.”

  • Surburban Ghosts is available now through Cherry Red Records.
  • A version of this interview by Andy Howells was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide during November, 2015.
  • Official DBA website

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Meet The Artist: Rebecca James

Pop, urban, singer-songwriter Rebecca James blends vocal harmonies with a modern urban sound. Throw in a twist of classical training and a taste of youthful exuberance and you have an exciting and dynamic pop star.

Rebecca's single On My Way was previously a BBC Introducing track of the week on BBC 1Xtra. The track is now delighting music fans again with A Gifted Remix featuring the very talented V Simmons.

The remix puts Rebecca in a totally new space which only goes to show off her versatility. Her stunning vocals blend well with the trap style synths and compliments this more gritty remix with charm and bold expression.

After lining up on stage next to some of the UK’s biggest artists at The Wembley Arena and completing her own national schools tour, this has already been an impressive year for the Cardiff born singer, and with her mixtape due out soon as well as other exciting things planned for 2016, it would be best to keep an eye on Rebecca James for the coming year.

Andy Howells recently put questions to the rising star.

Have you always had an interest in music and what lead you to become a singer/songwriter?
Definitely, from the age of 3 years old, I was singing along to my Dad's favourite albums (including Stevie Wonder of course) and then I was doing musical theatre from the age of 6 onwards.. It wasn't until early teens when I really decided to be a singer/songwriter..I realised I loved the theatre but didn't want to be involved in it anymore, there was something else..and it happened to be singing and playing!

Who has inspired you most on your musical journey?
I would say Alicia Keys. She was my first artist inspiration and then I started to read Elton John's songs..And realised I loved them so wanted to write my own stuff and that started from there. Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston have also been big inspirations to me as a young singer.

You’ve had quite a busy year in 2015 – what have been your highlights?
I have indeed. My biggest highlight of the year has to be playing Wembley. The whole day was incredible, something just felt very right and homely when I was on that stage.

What inspired the new remix of your single On My Way?
I just really wanted to hear a different angle on it, I always get curious with my songs that’s why I appreciate remixes so much. I knew Gifted would do an amazing job with it so handed it to him and here we are.

How did you get involved with working alongside V Simmons on the track?
He came down to the studios where I work from a lot and we just vibe'd for a bit and he jumped on the track. He was very quick at doing his verse, it was pretty cool.

You have a mix tape coming out soon can you tell us more about that?
Yes! I cannot wait to release it. I wanted to put something out that showed everyone where my inspirations come from, what kind of thing I like listening to and showing myself (RJ) on different tracks. I've never done anything like this before so it was a challenge but it pushed me as an artist and I hope people who listen to it recognise that and most of all love it as much as I do.

Will you be doing any live dates in the near future?
So..I have a press event coming up for the near future. Its invite only and will be me and my full band with lots of RJ things going on. That’s in Hippodrome Casino, Leicester Square this month. My rehearsal life is based around that at the moment and its been hard work but so much fun, I can’t wait for it to come around.

Which artists and albums are you currently listening to?
Ahh..I’m just gonna reel off some names..The Weeknd, Alessia Cara,Tori Kelly, Frank Ocean (Still..Waiting for his album..still), little bit of Ellie Goulding and the rest just depends what mood I'm in. But they're my main peoples at the moment.

How can people find out more about you and your music?
They can visit my website which is or I tend to post everything on my twitter which is @Rebeccajames_ for gigs, events..anything like that all my information will be over there!

Meet The Band: Josh Flowers & The Wild

Josh Flowers & The Wild are a London based four-piece who blend crunching blues with rock and folk influences. Lead by front-man Josh Flowers, with Squiff on cello, Dave on bass and Reuben on drums, they charm their audiences with country inspired harmonies and high-energy shows.

With their debut EP, Young Bones, racking up over half a million hits on Spotify, the band have recently completed a tour with The Zombies and are currently playing UK solo dates.

An EP, co-written and recorded with Grammy and Brit Award winning producer Martin Terefe (Cat Stevens, Jamie Cullum, KT Tunstall), is set to be released before the end of 2015.

How did you come together as a band?
Me and Squiff met at a studio in North London where I was recording and went for Nandos afterwards. I got extra hot chicken and he got herb & lime, I guess opposites attract. It was fun so we played some gigs together and then brought Dave and Reuben on board over the next year, who make up the rhythm section of Josh Flowers & The Wild.

How would you describe your music?
Someone described it in a recent interview as 'grungy rock meets bluesy country' which I thought was pretty good.

Who are your musical inspirations?
Inspiration can be hard to pin down when you all listen to and make a lot of different music, but I guess the proof is in the pudding. Hopefully our band makes for an enjoyable pudding. My first loves were the old songwriters like Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen; that's what made me want to write. As a band we all love Rage Against The Machine, The Doors, The Black Angels... And more recently Kurt Vile and Leon Bridges have been getting played a lot.

Can you tell us about your current release?
We just made a 3 track CD called Magpie Boy, which is only available in physical form on our tour with The Zombies. We won't be putting it online anywhere, so people have to come to a show to get their hands on one. Our next full release (On iTunes, Spotify etc) is happening in January through an exciting record label we can't mention yet.

Whats been your live show highlight so far?
The first show of the Zombies tour at Kentish Town Forum is still pretty fresh in our minds as it was only two days ago. It was a real step up for us to be playing on a stage that size to a big crowd and feeling totally comfortable doing it. We had a great time!

What can we expect from your forthcoming Cardiff Gig?
We'll bring everything we've got to you guys in Cardiff! It'll be loud and hopefully sweaty and definitely fun.

What can we expect from you in the future?
Look out for our next single in January and then our EP in April, as well as plenty more tour dates and good times going into 2016. Merry Christmas!

A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus on November 27, 2015.
Josh Flowers and The Wild play Cardiff Globe tonight (December 2). For more info on the band visit their official website.