Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Smiley guests with Spiderfence!

We all know that Smiley shares his immense drumming skills with a wide range of bands and projects and sometimes it's hard to be able to get hold of some of these recordings as they are direct from the bands themselves etc. In April the 3 track self titled EP by Spiderfence hit the virtual shelves of Bandcamp and it features Smiley on 2 songs.

The other thing about Spiderfence that will mean a lot to many Alarm fans is it is the brainchild of Randy Kerkman (guitar & vocals) who many will know from attending the Gathering which is another good reason to support this project. Bass duties come from Scott Kerr from the punk ska band Five Iron Frenzy and Randy tags their style as alternative gothpop while also name checking the Psychedelic Furs. I can certainly hear those influences and more and would recommend you check it out for yourselves, it's a very good EP!

The whole 3 track EP is available to stream or to buy by clicking HERE for only $3, that's pretty good even in these post Brexit exchange rate days!

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Smalltown Glory Website Launches

Now the successful Pledge campaign is drawing to a close Smalltown Glory have launched their new website which contains info on the band, photos, videos, a blog and a web store. For those that missed the Pledge version of "The Tenement Commandments Vol. 1" EP it is available in the store alongside T-Shirts and a band print.

Check it out and add it to your favourites HERE! (or click on the link on the right side of this site!)

Monday, 29 February 2016

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Mike, Dave, Eddie, Twist & Smiley in charity book.

Eddie with his copy of "Lives & Times"
Alarm fan Tim Darvell has released "Lives & Times" a portrait photographic charity book raising money and awareness for Bowel Cancer charities, the reason this is of particular interest here is that it features Mike, Dave Sharp, Eddie MacDonald, Nigel "Twist" and Smiley. So over to Tim for a bit more info....

"I have been fundraising for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity since my Mum was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2012. She had successful surgery to remove part of her bowel but over the last four years the cancer has spread. She has had three lung operations to remove cancerous nodules. Just before Christmas the cancer spread to her brain so she underwent "Cyberknife" treatment. We will know in a month or two how successful that has been. Next week she will have the fourth operation on her left lung when they will remove the lower lob as more nodules have appeared.

When I decided to start the book a couple of years ago I wondered if it would be possible to meet the members of my favourite band, The Alarm. The first member I approached was Eddie and he got things started with an immediate yes. He then arranged for me to meet him and Nige when Nige was over from the States at the end of 2014. I photographed Mike & Jules at The Scriptures recording sessions at Abbey Road. Jules was very helpful in making that happen. I had just about given up on getting Dave but right at the death he came through and I had a great meeting with him before his gig at Winchester last year. Smiley appears in two chapters as not only was he in the Mike Peters chapter but I also got to photograph From The Jam in Reading when he was drumming for them.

The book took me 18 months to complete and all the proceeds I receive from sales are donated to the charity. To date it has raised about £875. I have had some fantastic support from fellow Alarm fans buying the book. Bowel cancer is the second highest cancer killer in the UK."

You can choose your preferred format and order the book by clicking  HERE! 

Monday, 1 February 2016

RT-Zed site gets a face lift!

Steve Grantley's RT-Zed web site has had a rather nice face lift. Steve has also revealed that a follow up to "Zed Hed" is under way promising  "to take the electronica of "Return To Zero" and combine it with the more organic "Zed Hed" plus adding a Dub element..."

That's definitely going to be one to look out for and in the meantime make sure you check out the new site

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

One Challenge At A Time....New Zealand

In 2013 Lydia Franklin cycled 2400 miles along Route 66 from Chicago to L.A. raising money and awareness for Love Hope Strength as she went. She updated a blog along the way which was later used as the basis for her first book "Putting The Metal To The Pedal" which was an enlightening and empowering glimpse into what she went through on that gruelling journey.

Since that time Lydia has been planning her next challenge, again for LHS, and at the beginning of February she will be cycling the length of New Zealand (not known as being the flattest country in the world!) starting at Cape Reinga on the 1st and ending in Bluff hopefully on the 27th. As with her previous challenge there will also be an end of the road gig (see poster for details).

She will once again be documenting her trip on her One Challenge At A Time blog page which you can find HERE!

For Facebook click HERE!

You can also sponsor/donate etc at her Just Giving page which you can find HERE!

Share the info above with as many friends & family as you can take many shapes and I know Lydia will appreciate any messages she gets along the way!

Monday, 4 January 2016

Eddie Macdonald Interview "Smalltown Glory" Pledge launch.

Eddie Macdonald has been absent from music for a long time but that is about to change with the unvieling of his new band Smalltown Glory and an EP ready to launch via Pledge Music this month! So lets find out what's going on as I talk to Eddie himself ....

You’ve described Smalltown Glory as not a comeback but a rebirth, why have you chosen now to return to music?

After Mike left the band, it was a stressful period of change in my life and I had to make my own way and find a new direction. In my time away from the music world I still kept writing songs but only playing for close friends and family. I have to thank my wife Christina who encouraged me to move forward with this project. I had written 10 new songs in one go and she encouraged me to go into a studio and record them acoustically to see how they sounded, so I did just that.
Why record them acoustically? We always had a principle that served us well in the Alarm. If the song sounded good as an acoustic version, then the chances are the song was strong and would work, so we’d continue. Using that methodology, I used to work up the song and bring to Mike and then we work on it together. This is how the majority of songs were created. Funnily enough, I came across a box the other day with all the acoustic versions of early songs on cassette that later became Alarm classics and some of the titles were really out there…

“New band, new sound and new energy.”  I love this quote! How you would describe the band’s sound?

There is one thing for sure, you can’t beat performing in a band – I am so lucky to have friends like Paul and Charlie – they are such good and honest guys and keep me in check and down to earth with ideas. When I played the songs to Paul he gave them the thumbs up but there was still all lot of work to do and having known him for ages it occurred to me that we should work together, as I’ve never considered myself a singer. Paul has a great voice and having watched him live he always delivers. Both he and Charlie had played in a covers band but with original material they set themselves apart and showed their true potential. It sums up how I feel, whatever it is in life, health permitting, you’re never to old too try something new and give it your all.
Regarding the sound of the band, that has been dictated by the songs. I have always believed this is the right way to go and can’t see any reason to change.

Who would you say has influenced your direction for Smalltown Glory, have your influences changed much since you first started out?

The one addition was that of 12 string guitars, I’ve always been a fan of the Byrds, Beatles and The Smiths and it really suits our sound.

You have always had a “social justice” element to your lyrics, with everything that is going on in the world currently can we expect this heritage to continue?

That’s true, I now have the experience to write about subjects close to my heart – some writers travel and scan the world in search of beliefs and subjects to write about but personally we write about things that move us and things we experience, whether it be love, loss, dreams, aspirations – and subjects close to my heart like protecting our older generation.
The band features Paul Evans on guitar & vocals and Charlie Fowler on Bass, what can you tell us about them?

I have known these guys for years and actually put them together in a covers band – Charlie also played with me in Westway (Charity Clash Band), both being Clash fans growing up, that was like going back to school, great fun and we raised a few quid!
Paul is a talented songwriter in his own right and it will be really exciting watching him develop new material now we’re up and running. Paul is a massive Small Faces and Weller fanatic but also liked the Alarm, although he never admitted to owning any albums, I will keep digging on that one.

Nigel “Twist” features on the EP I believe, were you worried about asking him and indeed having a fellow Alarm member on board for a new project?

Twist is the nicest guy in the world and a kick-ass drummer plus he was into the songs, what is there not to like about our mini reunion?

Have you found a permanent drummer for STG now?

Not yet, I think the next record will dictate what drumming style we are looking for, always on a first record you are getting on your feet and feeling things out – Dan Buskell played a great part on drums as well and we mixed up a few takes to get the best out of performance.

Why have you chosen to play guitar rather than bass in Smalltown Glory?

It may not be common knowledge, but when I got together with Mike to form Seventeen I played guitar and he played bass, and when Dave joined it stayed the same. When we had done a few gigs it was suggested that Dave and I should toss a coin and decide who should take over bass to free Mike up to front the band. Believe me when I say this, thankfully I lost and Dave won the six-string prize. But, this time round you’ll have to fight me to relinquish the 1/12 strings.

Is there a set release date yet and are you planning anything special for the launch?

We launch today (January 5th 2016), via our PledgeMusic campaign and the EP will available to download from January 22nd 2016. There are lots of items that people can view and purchase and after two years from outset it’s finally here. I am proud to say we have made our own record, produced it ourselves, funded it and even launched our own record label to release it, Birth Records.

Have you any plans for live dates? 

There is talk of live dates in 2016, I’m not sure at the moment, don’t want to be presumptuous but hopefully as momentum grows there will be some demand for gigs and we can augment our line-up accordingly. We have Dave Blackman on keyboards and we’re looking to add more musicians as we expand.

What are your ambitions for Smalltown Glory?

To make and record and play gigs that I would be proud of, I have always had a fan’s viewpoint as the reason I always wanted to be in a band was cemented at the age of 12, when I ran away from home to follow Slade. That band changed my life, and when the Clash and the Jam came into my line of sight the future was written.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Smiley's Friends On Sunshine Corner Reviewed

For those of you lucky enough to be going to The Gathering next month you will not only get the chance to pick up the fantastic new album by Smiley early but he will also be on hand at the merch desk on the Saturday afternoon to sign it for you! Those that can't make it to Llandudno can pre-order it now by clicking HERE!

For those waiting to know more then here is my review!

As Smiley comes to the third album in his “Friends” series my anticipation and expectations were extremely high after his previous release “Friends In Far Out Places” proved to be one of my favourite albums of the year and rarely strayed from my playlist. The first thing to tell you is that this album delivers, in fact it delivers in a big way.

For me it no longer really matters who is playing what part on what track as the whole project feels natural and fluid, a band more than a solo outing with guests, and they know they sound fantastic!

Stylistically “On Sunshine Corner” has continued the development that was so obvious on the last album which doesn’t mean that Smiley and co are afraid to experiment and go from a groove-tastic horn laden James Brown tribute in the shape of “What Would James Do?” to the politicised musings of “Oh Lord” which is delivered in a track that Bono would be proud to sing!

The song writing seems more confident here, maybe as Smileys writing partnership with Graham Turner continues to grow, while the use of the different vocalists helps to showcase the diversity of styles.

This is an album that does very little wrong, I’m not a massive fan of “Overfamiliarity” if truth be told and after seeing the track listing I did initially question the need to include a remix of the epic “End Of The World” from the previous album but once you hear the richness of the new mix you won’t mind one bit that you have another version of it. “Rock N Roll Comedown” could quite easily be a very close relative of “Far Out Places” track “Million Smiles” but both tracks work so I’m ok with that, there are plenty of other highly original tracks on offer here.

This is an album waiting to be discovered and demanding your attention, it’s amazing this is coming from an authentically indie background and you wonder how much attention great songs like these could get given different circumstances. Will you hear these songs on the radio? You could, you certainly should but the truth of the matter is that you probably won’t. This is music driven by you, get it, love it, tell your friends, shout it from the rooftops…Smiley has loads of friends in all sort of places and now it’s time to count yourself among them!

Friday, 4 December 2015

James Stevenson And The West London All Stars

After whetting everyone's appetite at The Gathering with how well material from his d├ębut solo album translated live James Stevenson is just about to take to the stage for his first full solo live show when his West London All Stars play The Water Rats in London on December 17th. It seemed a good time to try and get a sneak peek into what we can expect on the night as well as a brief insight into 2016!

You’re just about to do your first full solo gig….what’s taken you so long?!

Well to be honest I always just wanted to be a good side-man – but then I made my solo album and am very proud of it – so I want as many people as possible to hear it. Doing gigs was the next logical step.

So why now?

Well it’s just timing – it took me twenty years to get my solo album together too!

James Stevensons West London All Stars…can you reveal the line up of the band yet?

Still firming up a few things. But Mark Taylor obviously – I couldn’t do it without him. Chris Bell from GLJ on drums. The Rebelles are covering BVs and Terry Edwards is helping out on sax and stuff.

What can we expect from the set, will it focus mainly on material from your album or will it include tracks from across your career?

I will be my whole album

Will there be any covers in the set?

No covers – I didn’t feel that was appropriate right now – it might lead the set in the wrong direction.

Will this be the start of more solo live dates?

I hope so.

You will be supported by the Rebelles and Spizzology, the Rebelles feature both Tracie Hunter and of course your good lady wife and supported the International Swingers so were a pretty obvious ( but welcome) choice, what about Spizz?

Spizz is an old mate. He was the promoter’s idea.

Will you be premiering any new material?

Not at this gig – it is my first after all!

Are the All Stars for the night on stage for the full gig or might you have the odd friend pop on for a song or two?

I might…..

Holy Holy head overseas in January to America, what are the rest of the plans for the band in 2016?

Well Tony (Visconti) is very enthusiastic about taking the band on the road so there will definitely be a lot more action in 2016 than there was in 2015 – now the band is properly up and running.

You come back just before The Gathering, Smiley has said he has the set list and doesn’t know half of it! Is there any more you can reveal?

Well the set is a long way off being finalised. There will be a few surprises as well as the obvious hits.

Are you looking forward to going out as The Alarm again for the Stranglers dates?

Always love being on the road.

It looks like a busy year for Chelsea too with not one, not two but three Anthologies announced (so far!) what can we expect on them and do you know yet what of the live dates you’ll be appearing at?

Not sure. Plastic Head have really got behind Chelsea which is great. The summer looks like it might be a bit of a juggling act. The Cult replaced me with a keyboard player! So although it was great touring with them it does end up being one less thing to juggle.

The International Swingers debut is now in peoples houses and is a great album, is there talk of further live dates or even a follow up already?

The album isn't officially released so a follow up is probably a way off – but live dates hopefully in the spring some time.

It’s the end of the year so what albums have made your playlists this year?

Nothing much has floated my boat at all – sorry to be unenthusiastic – especially not by Sandi Thom! LOL

James Stevenson, as always, thank you so much....see you on the 17th!

Order your tickets HERE!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Smiley "Friends On Sunshine Corner" Preview / Interview

"Smiley's Friends On Sunshine Corner" is the third in your 'Friends' series and brings you closer to home, who is featured this time around?

I didn't even think about another album til the middle of this year. I had written a couple of new songs, then I wrote a couple more and then suddenly had a spurt and wrote about 4 in a week! I worked with Graham Turner again like last time, the old Elton John / Bernie Taupin connection! It was really easy and it was then I considered a new record. We started honing the songs, especially lyrically, he is so good and then I demoed everything myself. When the demos were in place I started thinking about bringing people in.

I wasn't going to use lots of musicians this time but hey ho it started growing! Actually a couple of top players asked to be on the album, you can't say no can you! The big question was who sings what, as I said I demoed them and then decided who would sound best. John James Newman is my fave male singer so he did 4, Kerry did 3, Dorie Jackson did 1 and I did the rest. Musicians were mainly the same as last time with a couple of extra players - David D'Andrade, what a guitarist! (He loved the Gathering by the way)...Gary Nuttall (Robbies' guitarist), Dale Davis (Amy Winehouse), Matt Round (ELO), Kai Stephens (Hard Fi) amongst others. We added a fiddle, some real brass, I even nicked the Acquire choir from Mike for 2 tracks just to add some different flavour to it. I used some key people in the recording process this time. Dave White, who was The Alarm soundman, he mixed the album and Alan Thompson, the BBC Radio Wales DJ, he was my rock! What a great man he is, so positive, really knows his music....loves the album!

Is there a general musical style to this release or will it continue the eclectic nature of your previous albums?

Eclectic as ever! The day there is a musical theme on these records is the day I stop! ha ha

Will you be trying to seek wider distribution for the album or will you be continuing with your cottage industry, truly independent approach?

I would love everyone on the planet to hear it but that doesn't always work....does it Bono!!! It will be available from , iTunes etc plus the wonderful merch stand at The Gathering! I might sit on there on the Saturday afternoon and say hi to everyone - if it's ok with Jules!

With "Friends In Far Out Places" you seemed to build some genuine momentum, videos for some of the tracks, commercially available through iTunes etc - do you feel that with each release you are reaching a wider audience?

It does feel like that. Social media is good for that but it's a fine line between letting everyone know it's available and getting on peoples tits! I hope I am just on the right side of the line.

"Far Out Places" was one hell of a strong album, did it achieve what you hoped it would?

I was genuinely touched so many people liked it. People who I wouldn't have thought, they all seemed to like it (or parts of it). Like a big tin of Quality Street - lets face it no one likes the purple one do they so you can't please everyone! Plenty of toffees on that album for everyone to chew on though.

The From The Alarm set at The Gathering was amazing and I think surprised a lot of fans who maybe hadn't heard any of the solo work from you, Craig and James. What reaction and feedback did you take from it?

That was a really special evening. The fact that the 3 of us were doing it, learning each others tunes, really putting the work in. I was genuinely touched when Adams walked into rehearsals and had learnt my songs note for note....and liked them! I felt very privileged and thought it was a really nice gesture by Mike to let us do it.

I was talking to a certain Geordie mutual friend the other night and I said that you guys knew you had nailed that gig and had fun because you knew it was absolutely on point. Is that an accurate description?

Yes and you know what, it made The Alarm set so much better. We were all so relieved we had pulled it off, not let the other guys down, played those songs live for the first time, James singing live etc. The relief was huge! What better way to celebrate than to go out there again behind the best front man in the world playing those incredible Alarm songs to those incredible fans....Mega night all round!

How was it having Kerry join you on stage?  You've done gigs before but I'm guessing this was probably the biggest to date.

Do you know what? It was her idea to do it like we did. We were walking the dog and I said "Oh Mike wants me to do a couple of songs from my album" she was like "Yeah, brilliant, lets do this and this, get David D'Andrade. Put Jan on the drums, a proper show - bless her, she was right....for once!

How did you decide the running order between you, was it based on the material and the flow of the whole From The Alarm set or did you all resort to rock, paper, scissors? ;)

That was really funny, I was saying James should go first - he was saying he wanted to go last, Craig didn't care! Then someone suggested we finished with a song we could all play together. We were going to do a cover then someone suggested "End Of The World". Everyone wanted to do it so it ended up like We Are The World! ha ha

After how well The Gathering went did you consider the possibility of more live dates or was that just not commercially viable?

I would but it's not the easiest or the cheapest thing to do. You never know but I've got no plans to. James is doing a show in December which is brilliant, then again he's minted so he can! ha ha

Is it something that may happen even if it's just the odd show with the release of "Sunshine Corner"?


For "Far Out Places" you managed to have all of The Alarm appear with the exception of Craig, was there anyone who you wanted to play on "Sunshine Corner" who slipped through your fingers?

Spandau Steve Norman. Only cos I wanted a sax solo and I love him! Nearly happened but he's a busy boy these days. Mark Taylor is on a track, the players kind of fell into place as we went along, there is some great playing on this record. I am truly humbled that they all did it.

Probably the biggest burning question has to be when will the album be available and where from?

February 1st. You can pre-order it now from or buy one at The Gathering!

For a while now you've been promoting the album you have been working on with Graham Turner for Dave Welsh, what can you tell us about it?

Well Graham knew Dave who heard our last album ad wanted to come into my studio and record. So he turns up, he's about 60 Dave, and he sits down with a guitar and says he has a few tunes - 2 hours later he had played me 25 songs all of which have great hooks and melodies and he sounds like Johnny Cash! So I rewrote the tracks with him and Graham did the words it's a brilliant album, you can get it on iTunes "The Dave Welsh Album" - thoroughly recommend it!

It's been a fairly quiet year for The Alarm with Mike very busy with the Strength acoustic dates, then came his diagnosis and then Cardiff. James called it the best gig of his life, what are your thoughts on what for many was a special night?

Ah man I absolutely loved it! We spent a week in Cardiff just me, Mike, James and Mark Warden rehearsing etc, hanging out. Then the day of the show was the only time we rehearsed with the orchestra and the choir, seat of your pants stuff! I agree with James, it was one of my favourite gigs ever. Just shows you how good those songs are when you hear them played like that...Amazing!

I'm not going to ask you about Mikes diagnosis, he's your friend and has the right to his privacy or to choose what he shares with the fans, but I also know that it is an elephant in the room and may impact your answers to the next few questions.

He's doing great.

There have been a few bits of information revealed regarding the upcoming Alarm album but what can you tell us about the current plans and how things are going?

I can't go into detail purely cos he changes his mind every other day but there are some brilliant things coming round the corner for Alarm fans. I'm excited as anyone, trust me you won't be disappointed!

Has there been talk of whether the album will be released in time for the upcoming Stranglers Black & White tour?

As I say major things are planned, can't say more than that!

There has also been the usual fan speculation about whether there will be a full headline tour to promote it in addition to the Stranglers dates, how is this looking as there will also be some more Strength shows from the look of it?

He's got plans coming out of every orifice! Trust me he has things up his sleeve.

January of course sees us back in Llandudno for The Gathering, on the off chance that you can tell us any inside info without being killed by Jules, what can you tell us about plans and preparations for it?

Well, I've got the setlist already, better get learning cos I don't know half of them! As I said if people were at all interested I would love to meet everyone at the merch desk for a chat, armed with a pile of albums! If people are interested I'll square it with Head Office!

It's been another busy year for Archive with "Restriction" coming much quicker after "Axiom" than many had expected, does this mean we might have a longer wait for the next album?

Nope, the new one is nearly finished! They have some amazing things planned so that's gonna be very exciting. Next Autumn I believe it all kicks off.

How does it feel for Archive to finally have a bigger awareness in the UK?

To me they are one of the best bands on the planet, nobody like them! I think it may be one song breaks them here and opens Pandoras Box! Now there's a back catalogue!

Finally as it's nearly the end of the year could you tell us some of your favourite albums this year?

Eagles Of Death Metal, Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, Queens Of The Stone Age, Dave Wesh, Birdpen, Parade, Averydeephole, Royal Blood!

Smiley, as ever, thank you! Have a great Xmas!