Bowes & Morley: Moving Swiftly Along for a second classy album.
The always interesting Danny Bowes talks about the music behind the new B&M album and what's in the pipeline for 2004.
G'Day Danny....a few interview questions for you regarding the new Bowes & Morley album! This is the second B&M album for you two - what was the plan going into recording this one? More of the same, or something even a little further different?
[DB] We did the last LP all in one studio, but for this one we decided to spread ourselves around a bit. This gave us some nice perspective changes which we find helps a lot when you're zoned in on a set of songs. Apart from that the introduction of covers was different this time. The idea was suggested by a good friend at our label in Japan, and it eased the songwriting burden for Luke. Some covers were pre-planned but some happened in the studio. The band was different too, so I guess you could say most aspects of this record were different from the first one.
To me it sounds like more of the same - fun, good time, feel good blues and soul influenced pop/rock. Is that where your heart lies, or do you have an equal love for heavier things?
[DB] You're right in as much as B&M is a vehicle for us to play around a bit with musical styles, but we're aware that it always has to stack up as a piece of music. We can't escape from the fact that we have our own styles of playing, singing and writing, and they all come from our influences growing up. We are not introspective people, you only have to spend 2 minutes with us to know that, so the uplifting fun songs come out naturally because of who we are. I like that fact that we can move around with B&M, and provided we get the thumbs up from the buying public through sales, we'll continue to do so.
I found myself happier to enjoy this record as I had my Thunder fix from last year's album. How did you feel recording this with that in mind?
[DB] I think this is a good point. When we made Moving Swiftly Along, there was no plan to reform Thunder, and when it was released the Shooting At The Sun LP was not recorded, so I'm sure some fans thought it would not happen. I must confess I had no intention of making another Thunder record when we made MSA, but fate is strange, and things change, so now SATS is out there to show Thunder is back, and I hope Bowes & Morley will be accepted as a family member rather than a replacement. I see no reason why the two cannot peacefully co-exist.
It seems your vocals flow effortlessly - is that how it is or do you have to work hard to keep your voice in shape?
[DB] I open my mouth and it comes out, it's as simple as that. It hurts sometimes as I can sing twice as loudly as is good for my health, but it's not something I can do anything about. It's a big help having Luke writing the songs for me to sing. We've known each other a long time and worked together for almost all of that time, so there's a working practice that's very well established and we both like it.
Luke's an amazing songwriter - does he ever surprise you with some of the songs he comes to you with?
[DB] Yes, all the time. This is amazing when you consider he's been chucking songs at me for over 25 years.
Do you have a say in the material you work on, whether it would be better for Thunder or Bowes/Morley?
[DB] Luke writes the songs and is the music man. I am nuts and bolts and money, oh and singing. We agree on almost all issues (this is why we're still good friends and work mates). I trust him to write the songs in the appropriate vein for the band (whether it be B&M or Thunder), and he knows once he has I'll sing it the way he wants it done, not because he will tell me how he wants it done, he doesn't have to. His writing and my voice have evolved together, side by side. This is where the working practice comes in from the last question. It's not a situation you could manufacture, it's just happened over many years.
How about the cover tunes on the new album - why those ones in particular?
[DB] We played Living For The City when we did live shows in 2002 for MSA. I love Stevie Wonder, he's my all time favourite artist, and to be fair I didn't really care which song it was, I love them all, but this one works for the whole band, both live and recorded. Come Together In The Morning was Luke's choice, he loves the tune, as do I, and it fits the vibe of the whole LP. I think the band are fantastic on that song, and the girls doing the soulful backing vox really make it fab. Why Did You Do It was suggested by Mark Taylor, the keyboard player, during a jam. We pieced it together from the bits we knew and found later it was close to the original recording by Stretch. To my knowledge it has never been covered before, but having sung the last verse I know why! Not looking forward to that one when we play live... I Can't Stand The Rain is a classic, and it has been done a lot, but we decided to give it a Little Feat type approach (LF were also one of my big loves as a kid), and once again it was a jam. It's loose as hell, but I love it.
You and Thunder have covered a few artists over the years. What other artists/songs would you like to cover given the chance?
[DB] That's a secret. I could tell you but I'd have to kill you afterwards.
The Thunder Online machine seems to be really cranking along...live releases, DVDs, online sales of these albums...has it been a blessing in disguise for you guys?
[DB] Not a blessing in disguise, just a blessing. We made a conscious decision when we got back together that we would do it ourselves and use all the tools available. I run this thing like an army camp. It's hard work, but it's beginning to show good results.
Is it far more liberating for you to be free of record label constraints?
[DB] Absolutely. I have moments when things are not going well, when I think it would be nice to have it back the way it was, but it only lasts a second and then reality bites. Not having vast resources means we're limited in what we can do some of the time, and that's frustrating, but at least we decide on the course of action and make it happen.
Are you happy with the responses from the last Thunder album? It really was a return to the classic sound. What next for this year's Thunder album?
[DB] I'm extremely pleased, both with the LP and the way it's been received. It's still selling across the world, almost a year after it was released, so our efforts are definitely paying off. As for the next LP, I cannot say. Luke is locked in the studio writing away as I type (well I hope he is, he said he would be), like me, you'll have to wait and see, but obviously I'll know before you...
And as you are always busy, I had better ask what else you are working on and what is planned next for Thunder and Danny Bowes?
[DB] The Live At The Bedford Arms CD is about to be sent out to the people who were at our 2 Christmas shows. They bought tickets that included a live CD and they'll receive them soon. It will be available to buy for those who weren't there, exclusively via Thunder Shop on our website (www.thunderonline.com) as of March 15th. The Christmas shows were filmed for inclusion in a DVD, and that is in progress. Hopefully we'll have that ready before the summer. B&M have UK shows in June, Thunder are set to play shows at various times throughout the year (again info on the site), and hopefully we'll have the new LP out in the autumn, and we'll do it all again...
All news as always will be on our website.
Anything you would like to add?
[DB] Buy Mo's Barbeque, and play it very loud. It'll make you feel good and upset your neighbour's. What better reasons do you need?!
Thanks again for taking some time out to do this interview. It's always fun talking!