Thursday, 22 August 2013

Willie Nile Interview

With the release of the excellent "American Ride" album I thought it would be a great time to talk to Willie Nile to get the low down on the album as well as asking about his connections with The Alarm...and a certain song about "One Guitar". As Willie has been extremely busy touring in America in support of the album some of the questions about the release are a bit dated but are included here for your interest any way. "American Ride" is now available, that's the important thing and it's brilliant! 

If you haven't heard it or bought it then you can get it from (among others)...

Special thanks go out for helping to make this interview happen (and contributing to the questions) to Nigel Adams, to Kathleen Marhold in the Nile camp for facilitating....and of course to the one and only Willie Nile!

Why did you decide to release “American Ride” via Pledge Music?

We went to Pledge Music to get fan support to help pay for the recording and promotion of the album simply because the expenses were more than I could cover myself and we didn’t have a label behind us at the time so it was all on me.

Did the reaction and support of your fans surprise you – you received your target funding number within 4 days of it going up on Pledge.

Yes it was a big surprise. The fans and friends who stepped up from all over the world were so great. All of us were shocked. It’s deeply gratifying to me and humbling as well that people would send their hard earned money to help us with this project. I think the last couple of albums and all the live concerts we’ve been doing are resonating with people and they believe in it and feel a part of it. And indeed they are. Bless their rock n roll hearts.

Is there still time for fans to order the album?

Yes, I think people can still go there and order CD’s. The money helps to support the things we’re trying to do to get the word out there about the new album.

Will there be a physical release outside of Pledge Music?

Yes. Since we did so well with the Pledge Music Campaign, it got the attention of some record labels, Loud & Proud, in North America, and Blue Rose, out of Germany, who stepped up to license and distribute it and now we have their support as well. There are CD’s available in North America and in Europe and in Europe there are LP’s available as well.

How did you decide what to offer pledgers and what was the most lavish pledge that you offered?

We just offered what we thought people might like.  My manager and I sat down and looked at what others were offering and what we might like to offer and came up with a list. I think the most lavish offering was either to be Executive Producer of the album, or to fly  anywhere in the world, either solo or full band, for a private concert at your home or venue of choice. We did get an Executive Producer. The offer to fly anywhere and play a full band show or a solo show is still available.

What can you tell us about the album?

It’s pretty rockin’ overall, but there are some left turns and right turns along the way. There are songs about the rights of man, songs about freedom, songs about love and hate, songs about loss, songs about God and the absence of God, and songs about standing up for your fellow man. It’s upbeat and full of life. I’m thrilled with how it came out.

Mike contributed to the title track, how did this come about and can you tell us any more about his contribution?

Yes, I’m so happy about that. I had written the song and had a finished version in NYC and a couple months later, when I was on tour with The Alarm in the UK, I showed it to Mike, as we had been talking about writing something together. My original version was kind of a Chuck Berry thing. He said he had an idea about it and went off to a room with his guitar. When he came back 20 minutes later he had put the title of the song in at the end of each verse, as I didn’t have the title in the lyric at that point. He also added a couple of chords. He was thinking of it as kind of a Ramones-style song, pretty rockin’. I really liked the chords he added and the more I played it I thought it might have more resonance if it was more mid-tempo so I reworked the feel and that’s how it came to be what it is now. Thank you Mike, for your brilliance and heart. He knew right away it could be something special as soon as he heard it. I remember his reaction was immediate. Sometimes some songs can hit you that way. It hit me that way when I first started writing it in NY and it hit Mike the same way.

In “American Ride” you name check Elvis and Al Green and have talked in the past about Woody Guthrie, which artists have been the main influences on your music?

I’d say Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, The Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Kinks, The Who. I loved all the diversity that radio had when I was growing up.

-Over what period of time was the new album written?
Most of it was written over the last two years. A couple things are a bit older.

Where do you get your lyrical inspiration from?

Just everyday life. I don’t sit down to attempt to write. I just write when something strikes me, whether it’s some social injustice, or a love song, or a song of passage, it doesn’t matter.  

On “American Ride” you have included a cover of the Jim Carroll track “Friends That Died” what was it that attracted you to it?

I always loved that song. The first time I heard it on the radio it knocked me out. It’s one of the hidden classics of rock n roll. Great lyrics, deep and real. And it rocks the house. I sang it at a St. Patty’s day event and they were honouring artists that died that year and Jim was one of them. It was so much fun to sing I started playing it at my shows. I recorded it to honour my brother, John, who died a few years ago, and Jim, for writing that masterpiece. My band played the hell out of it. We just did 3 takes and the 3rd take was it. And I sang it twice and that was it. That it came together so quickly is a tribute to how great the song is.  I thank Jim for writing it.

Why did you decide to tour prior to the release of the album or will we see a tour later in the year to support it?

I tour because that’s how I make my living and it’s great fun to play. Yes we’re working on putting a tour together now and hopefully will be announcing it shortly.

How did the new material go down on the tour?

Really well. The songs are a blast to play live and the audience reaction is all you could ask for.

“The Innocent Ones” gained great reviews and also contained the classic “One Guitar” and should have been your international break through album. Did it perform as well as you expected it to?

Thanks for saying that. We just got “Rock Album of the Year” a week or so ago for that album from the Independent Music Awards and also the Social Action Award for “One Guitar.” Maybe there’s life in that one yet. I’m very happy with how it was received. I never have any idea how an album is going to do. My job is to write songs that are meaningful to me and record them as best I can. Hopefully they’ll be meaningful and resonate with people who hear it. I’m thrilled with how it came out, as I am with the new one “American Ride.” That comes first. Did it make me stinking rich? Not yet. Still working on that.

Most Alarm fans will know you from The Alarm’s cover of “One Guitar”, what do you think of their  version of the song?

I loved their version of it. A great thrill for me to have Mike and the band record that. Mike is a rare bird in rock n roll in that he cares as much as he does about people and the issues of the day as much as he does. When he sings a song you know it’s coming from his heart and he gives everything he’s got. You can’t ask more from a singer or an artist. He’s got one of the great voices in rock n roll and it’s a real joy to hear him when he sings it. It always comes across as real. The band kicks ass on it. I love it. God bless Mike Peters. They don’t make them like that anymore. He’s a one-man living peace train.

You have joined the band to perform it live on different occasions, how did you find your reception from The Alarm fans?

I had such a great time touring with the Alarm and love their fans. They’re as good and dedicated a group of fans as you’re going to find. Here I am walking on stage with an acoustic guitar and most don’t have any idea who I am. They listened and gave me a chance and their response was really heartening. They dug it and let me know it and I loved playing for them. You feel you’re in a room with people who love music and share a passion for it when it’s honest and real. You can’t ask for more than that.

The UK tour you played in support of “The Innocent Ones” featured James Stevenson on guitar, what was it like working with him?

It was really great. James is a consummate pro, a dear friend, a true rocker, and a great player and mate. The band and I loved having him play with us. We laughed, shared stories, and rocked together every night on stage. James is a class act. He’s seen it and done it all before and to have him be as passionate as he was and is about the music means a lot to me. He knows his rock n roll and to have his blessing and the enthusiasm he plays with every night meant the world to me.

You have an amazing energy on stage, do you have a specific fitness regime?

Not really. I try to take good care of myself. I do a little yoga and some exercises every day when I can. I think the energy comes from the music. Even if I’m tired or not feeling 100%, once the music starts it wakes me up and it’s off to the races. When you’re doing something you care about and your heart is in it for all you’ve got, it seems to make all the difference in the world. I love the songs and playing them for people. If it didn’t mean the world to me I wouldn’t step up on a stage or walk into a recording studio. I don’t want to waste my time or anyone’s time. As long as I’m feeling it I’ll keep doing it. I’m deeply grateful to the people who come out and are so supportive of the music. It’s meaningful to me. They give me all they’ve got and the band and I do the same. It’s working.

When can we expect to see more UK dates?

My managers are working on some dates in Nov. I’m waiting for confirmation. There will be an announcement soon.

Do you have a favourite venue to play when in the UK?

That’s hard to say. Every place has its own character. I just love playing in the UK because the fans are so well versed in the history of rock and I was a British Invasion loving kid growing up. It’s an honour to be playing in this country that has given the world so much incredible music.

When you are on tour do you normally get much down time and if so what do you like to do?

There’s not much down time. When there is I like to have a good meal at a good restaurant and visit the local sites. I love history and there’s so much of it here.

Your first real break through must surely have been when you toured as special guest with The Who, what are your memories of the tour?

It was incredible. I had only just begun playing live shows with a band a few weeks before and when we played a show in LA at the Roxy The Who’s management came out to see it. They dug it and asked us if we wanted to open the tour they were just beginning. I had only done a handful of live shows with a band in my life at that point and here we were opening shows in 20,000 seat arenas across the U.S. opening for The Who. It was an amazing experience. They were all really good to us and made us feel welcome. To see them play night after night was something I will never forget. Every night they gave everything they had and the crowds went crazy. I’ve never seen a band play with such power and finesse night after night. It was stunning to see. I will always be grateful to Bill Curbishley, their manager, and to Pete and Roger and John, for how kind they were to us back in those early days.

Bono and Bruce Springsteen both champion your music is this unbelievable pressure or an amazing gift?

It’s an amazing gift. I’m a very lucky guy to have Bono and Bruce be so generous in their support of my work. Bruce has invited me on stage to play with him many times and has joined me and my band on stage as well. And Bono gave me that great quote to help get the word out about my new album “American Ride”. “It’s a ride alright. On foot, on horseback, with the occasional roller coaster thrown in. There are a number of America’s here to discover. The mythic, the magic, the very real. One of the great guides to unravelling the mystery that is the troubled beauty of America.”  They are both very busy guys and for them to take the time to give their support and champion another artist in this way is both humbling and a great honour. I don’t feel any pressure at all from it. It actually is heartening and gives me more strength and faith to carry on. Bless both of their huge hearts.

What was it like playing alongside Bruce and the E Street Band?

It’s like standing next to an exploding volcano with the amps turned up to 20. It’s beyond fun. Bruce still has the passion of a young kid achin’ to rattle the walls and shake the heavens. And he indeed does that every time. He plays with the fire and passion of a real artist who’s doing it for the first time. There’s not a phony bone up there when he’s singing his songs. And the band is a powerhouse full of thunder. The sound on stage is unbelievable. It’s loud and sounds so pure and right. All of this going on while the crowd is going crazy and it all adds up to a glorious time that I wish everyone could experience.

You have had a few unavoidable long gaps between your album releases do you think this has hindered your career or given you time to grow?

I think It’s done both. I walked away from the business in 1981 after becoming fed up with the hustlers and gold diggers in the business. It was turning into more time spent on business and less time spent on making music and that’s not why I went to NYC in the first place so I said “Screw this” and moved back to Buffalo. It took 10 years to get back on track and yes it definitely hindered my career. On the other hand it certainly did allow me to grow as an artist away from the cameras and that turned out to be a really good thing. I think I’m better off as a result of walking away from all the bullshit and just focusing on my work.

What are your plans for the rest of 2013?

I will continue writing songs and touring to support “American Ride” both here and abroad.

Will you continue to use Pledge Music for your future releases?

I don’t know. It depends on how much money I have and if I can afford to record or not. The fans and friends have been so supportive and helpful to me it’s really hard to believe. They’ve enabled me to make this album and to help get the word out and promote it. If I need to do it again I will but only if it’s necessary. I don’t want to ask too much of them. They’ve been so great.

Any last words?

It’s better to give than to receive. Follow your heart. And give everything you’ve got.

Willie Nile thank you VERY much!

My pleasure. Hope to see you on the trail soon.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Gary Twinn - Forming The International Swingers

When I recently asked Gary Twinn how The international Swingers had formed and who had bought who into the band he decided he had the perfect answer - his diary!

So here it is, with many, many thanks to Gary - the diary he kept while the band formed and played it's first gigs down in Australia!

The International Swingers (Forming the band)

Saturday 19th of November, 2011.

James and Glen flew into Los Angeles tonight. I drove over to James' North
Hollywood flat, then we went to meet Clem at The Fox and Hounds. The pub was
packed and the band playing was great. Clem explained that two of the guys were
from The Cowsills, the band that 1970‘s TV show The Partridge Family was based
on. Anyway, they were doing loads of 60's classics, Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys,
Hollies, and the vocals were spot on. A few beers were shared and plans made to
meet at a North Hollywood rehearsal studio next afternoon. We were creating a new
band that, up until now, had been just an idea, a theory.

About a year before I'd had a call from, Australian tour promoter, Bicci Henderson
who suggested I put together a new group for a tour later in the year. James was in
LA at the time and we got to talking about doing something where we could play
some of our old songs, plus punk and rock and roll classics just for fun. He called
Glen, who liked the idea if he could fit it into his schedule. As well as touring under
his own steam with The Philistines, Glen is performing bass duties with The Faces.
Our first choice for drums was Clem. He'd played with Glen many times and been
part of the Honey-dippers rockabilly outfit with me. Months of planning and schedule
juggling had taken place and now we were all in the same place and ready to see if
we could make a theoretical band "The International Swingers" a reality. We had
booked a warm up show at Skinny's Lounge, a local bar, for next Sunday. We were
to fly to Melbourne the following day.

Sunday 20th

We all arrived around 1.30pm and, with the assistance of studio manager Mark
Christian, set up our gear, instruments and the PA to our liking. A few weeks before
James and I had made a list of possible songs and the plan for today was to run
through it quietly and figure out chords and arrangements. Well that was the plan,
but as soon as I heard James checking his amp by way of a crunching version of
Cracked Actor I knew that quiet was out the window with this line-up.

There were about 30 songs on the list and we ran through almost all of them and
discussed which ones sounded right for us and which didn't. Some, such as Ooh La
La, got chucked immediately. Then we added some, like Friday On My Mind. I think it
was James's idea because of the Easy Beat's Australian connection. After all we
were rehearsing for an Australian tour that was little more than a week away. Clem
suggested The Romantic's What I Like About You, and said he'd sing it.

We played, drank coffee, and played more into the night, finally ending around 11pm.
Over drinks and food at The Federal Bar, we discussed the upcoming tour, the song
list, and plans for Monday's rehearsal. Thursday was Thanksgiving and Clem's
birthday, there'd be no practice that day, so we had to start nailing the songs by

Monday 21st

Monday was another intense work out. After 10 hours of singing the day before my
voice was more than a little raw and my mind was awash with chords and words but
on we went. Beginnings, endings, solos, backing vocals, arrangements, Glen and
Clem both had a great sense of how all the parts should fit together and by the end
of the night it seemed we were getting somewhere.

Tuesday 22nd

LA traffic can be a nightmare so by the time I arrived at the studio the other guys had
been hard at it for a couple of hours and as I walked up the stairs I was blown away
at how great they were sounding. This morning I'd printed out the tour itinerary, which
was sent to me by Bicci, It was looking good.10 dates across the country, the last
three in Perth, Western Australia. I'd lived in Perth, my Mum and family are there as
well as some of my best friends. I handed out copies of the new set list and some
lyrics we needed, grabbed my guitar and joined the band. Another long
afternoon/evening was capped off by a well deserved visit to the Fox for a beer.

Wednesday 23rd

I had a bunch of things to get done today before practice. Pick up dry cleaning, get
my leather pants from the menders, pick up wine for tomorrow's festivities. The sun
was shinning, and I was walking along 3rd Street when my phone rang. It was Bicci.
'Hey' I said, 'I'm on my way to meet the guys. How's it going?'
"Not great' he replied. 'The tour is cancelled'. He started to explain, but the shock,
mixed in with loud traffic was making everything he said into a babble.
Call me back in five minutes, I told him, so I could get to my car and head over the
hill to our rehearsal studio. When Bicci eventually called again I got the story. The
Perth shows were booked through an agent out there who had become concerned
that advanced ticket sales were slow. Most club shows are walk up rather than
advance sales but this guy wouldn’t take the chance. Without the Perth guarantee
Bicci wasn't sure he could pay the tour costs, band, crew, equipment,
accommodation, airfares, etc, etc.

I called James, told him the news, and said I was on my way. Once again LA traffic
was not helping. Glen phoned and said to meet at Starbucks. When I got there the
first thing Glen said was 'Don't worry, it's not your fault'. Clem was equally gracious
saying how this kind of thing happens all the time. James, the ultimate pragmatist,
said ‘Let's get Bicci on the phone and sort something out’. On the speaker phone
Bicci explained the situation to us all and we bombarded the poor guy with questions.
What about one date in Perth or just the east coast?
He promised to look at the options and get back to us.

"Well" said James "we're still doing the gig on Sunday, right?" We all agreed, and off
we went to the studio. By now the set was shaping up but we decided to cut a few
numbers because it was running a bit long, especially if we were not heading for
Australia any more.

A friend of Clem's dropped by the studio and after we'd finished we all set off to
Clem's local sushi restaurant. James and and I stopped off on the way and picked
up a bottle of champagne and a card for Clem's birthday. The conversation was a
mix of disappointment, positive ideas and discussion about what to do with what was
starting to sound like a pretty good band. Everyone had planned to be away for
almost four weeks so we had time on our hands. After dinner the waitress bought out
some green ice cream with a single candle on top. We sang happy birthday to Clem
and declared we'd stay upbeat and enjoy a day off for Thanksgiving.

Thursday 24th

Thanksgiving. I cooked and we opened a bottle of champagne, both as a gesture to
keeping positive in the face of disappointment, and in my case to wash away the

James and Glen came over and other friends, Uschi, Stash, and Tressa, joined us
for dinner. Afterwards, at Stash's request, we picked up the guitars and banged out a
few of the numbers we'd been working on all week. Stash has been on the scene
since the swinging sixties in London and was even in Vince Taylor's band. He loved
what we played and said he would definitely be at the gig on Sunday.

Bicci called, he was working on something, maybe just Melbourne.

Friday 25th

Feeling the effects of the red wine from last night I met Clem, James and Glen at the
studio. Before we quit on Wednesday we'd figured out the set list, where each
number should go, so the show would have some dynamics. Now we started to play
the songs in that order and with minimum use of cheat sheets.

Another friend of Clem's showed up. Merwin is a great guy; funny, amiable and full of
rock and roll stories. He was critical and encouraging about the tunes we were
playing and it was great to get another point of view of what we were up to. That
being said, we still didn't really know what we were going to do after Sunday's show.
By nine o'clock we were done and decided to eat Indian food. The restaurant was the
closest to a British Indian place I've been to in LA. The food was delicious, and we
ordered way too much. About half way in my phone buzzed and I opened my email.

It was Bicci.

Hi Gary,
Talk this over with the guys and let me know your thoughts
Fly into Melbourne as scheduled and we play the two shows there and then do the
Sydney show making it a three show run.
We all looked at each other. ‘You know Bicci best, Clem said to me, is he just doing
this out of guilt or can he really pull it together?’
Let's call him. So there we were with my phone on speaker chatting with a guy on the
opposite side of the world about whether or not we should take a 14 hour plane trip
in less than 72 hours.

Ok, that was it. We all agreed to give it a shot. The International Swingers were going
to Australia.

Saturday 26th

I hooked up with Glen and James at the Guitar Center to buy strings, picks, etc. An
hour later we arrived at our studio where we were greeted by Clem and Robert
Matheu, one of rock and roll's finest photographers. I'd met Rob before but it had
been a while since I'd seen him last. Clem had invited him down to take some photos
of the band. The studio is in an industrial area and we posed around the street
outside the ware houses, next to Clem's car, then on the stairs and eventually inside.
In no time Rob said he had what he wanted and so once again we set to work on the

The week had flown by but at last it all seemed to be gelling. Two or three runs
through the set, a couple of tweaks and it was time to pack up and get ready for
tomorrow's debut gig at Skinny's.

Sunday 27th

Skinny's Lounge is on Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood. Owned by Jeremy
Thomas, it has a fantastic vibe, great staff and the sound system is top-notch. During
the week they feature DJs and indie bands. Saturday night is all about burlesque,
with all the trimmings. Needless to say, we had visited Skinny's on Saturday night,
just to check on the stage, and lighting of course.

The International Swingers debut was to be a Sunday show, a matinee gig, opening
with local band, The Chequers. Within seconds singer Julie Green, and her boys,
blew away any sense of a lazy Sunday afternoon playing a set of full on power pop
rock and roll. Next was Patrolled By Radar, another LA based band, who are gaining
notice across the United States. Their authentic mix of American roots music, with a
splash of sixties Brit pop, sets them apart from other local bands, and this evening
they had the crowd begging for more.

Earlier in the afternoon Glen, James, Clem, Merwin and I had set up and checked
our gear. At 7pm it was time to hit the stage and find out if the labors of our weeks'
rehearsal would bare any fruits. We came on, the lights went up, the place was
packed, and as Clem counted us into the first song, Out Of Control, the audience
surged forward and the sparks flew. Three minutes later Out of Control's last chord,
C, clang, then bam, E minor and we're into Hanging on The Telephone. The surge
from the front was huge, the whole joint was dancing, shaking all over, rocking and

Friday On My Mind, I'm Not your Stepping Stone, Fall in Love With You, I Like It Both
Ways, all thundered along. Next up Glen took over lead vocals for Burning Sounds,
and the crowed loved it. James introduced Jealous and the goths in the audience
pushed forward. What I Like About You featured Clem on lead vocal, with the rest of
us on back ups, and me playing the harmonica solo. By the time we went into Stay
With Me everyone in Skinny's was singing along. All The Young Dudes showed off
our four part vocals, then Call Me turned the room even crazier. The first notes of
Pretty Vacant sent them right over the edge, with a massive spill of punters onto our
stage. Glen and I traded off on lead vocal with an extended sing along at the end.
We said goodbye, but came back on to finish them off with Come On Everybody,
God save The Queen and No Fun.

Thank you and good night.

Just over an hour, and The International Swingers had played our first ever gig. You
couldn't ask for a better audience reaction. When we came out of the dressing room
Skinny's was still full of friends, fans and fellow rockers, including Stone Roses' Mani,
and Blondie bass player Nigel Harrison.

Amazingly it was still pretty early on a Sunday night, so it was off to The Federal Bar
for some dinner and a quiet celebration before flying to Australia the next day.
Monday 28th; 11.45pm, LAX, Qantas Flight 11 to Melbourne, Australia.

Yeah it's a long flight. In fact, come to think of it, if you go any further you're actually
coming back. But, Qantas treat you well and after a decent meal and a couple of
glasses of wine I got my head down and slept for a good amount of the way.
Because of the time and season differences 13 hours after leaving Los Angeles on a
Monday night in winter we arrived in Melbourne on a Wednesday morning ( Tuesday
had completely vanished) and it was summer. We were picked up, along with guitars,
and driven to the Medina Hotel in St Kilda. In the past St Kilda had a reputation as a
rough, bohemian part of town, full of hookers and skinheads. Located by the beach
in the Port Arthur Bay it has now become gentrified and groovy, with lots of cafe's
and trendy bars. Right next door to the hotel was, appropriately, the Next Door Cafe
and that is where the four of us spent our first afternoon. It may have been summer,
but in Melbourne that doesn't mean it's going to be sunny, and it wasn't. It was
pouring cats and dogs so we decided to chill and enjoy a relaxing day off with some
Aussie beers.

Thursday was equally chilled out. I try to go for a run every morning, as does Clem,
so I was really digging pounding the pavement of a new town, running along the
waterfront, taking in the fresh air and sights, working up a sweat and all around
feeling great.

Even better, when I returned to the Medina Bicci called to say that pre-sales tickets in
Adelaide were so good that we'd be going there between Melbourne and Sydney.

Friday, December 2nd

Bicci drove us to Geelong, about 100 miles outside Melbourne, for our first Aussie
show. It may be a country town but the punters were 100% Rock and Rollers. They
gave us an enthusiastic welcome and we gave them our best in return.
After the show we stayed and chatted for a bit, took some photos then headed back
to Melbourne.

Saturday 3rd

Saturday night's gig was at the Corner Hotel in Richmond. A pretty large club, we
could have done with a few more bodies in there. But, the audience were nothing if
not loud and raucous. There were a couple of guys in front who where obviously very
dedicated Twenty Flight Rockers fans. I've gotta admit it felt a little weird singing Fall
in Love With You, as they looked back at me, pointing, and enthusiastically singing
along with every word. And remember this is coming from a guy who wrote a song
called I Like It Both Ways.

There were a couple of problems tonight; Glen's amp died, but there was a spare,
and I broke a string (with no spare guitar). But as Clem jokingly poked fun at us for
our lack of professionalism I started to see that we were becoming a true band of
entertainers, warts and all. With great playing, good ideas, talent, humor and,
actually, a real professional attitude. By now we pretty much knew all the songs
inside out and the stage banter had become a part of the show. In my other bands
I'd always been lead singer, therefore spokesman. But here, there were four people,
with plenty to say, and stories to keep all the fans happy. In fact, one writer
suggested that we didn't need to play but just tell tales of yore. What-ever.
For this show we added a second encore, but we didn't leave the stage, just put
down the instruments, Clem came out front and we asked if they wanted another
song? Seemed fair to us. Less pretentious than walking off and expecting applause
and also a bit more interactive with the fans. If they really want it then we do too.
So, Zowie, Bam "Born To Lose", one of my all time favorite songs. I'd played that
Heartbreakers EP 'til it wore out.

Sunday 4th

Needless to say; everyone slept in.

Clem has some good friends in Melbourne and that afternoon we headed over to
theTote Hotel to meet them for a special 30th anniversary party. Apparently this place
has been hosting great rock and roll shows since 1981 and tonight's was no
exception. The first band, The Spazzys, blew me away. Three awesome girls, bass,
drums, guitar, playing full on power-pop-punk; like the Ramones meets the Surfing
GoGo's. Their songs are catchy, they look brilliant and I'm a fan.

The show was truly topped by Guitar Wolf, from Japan. I don't really know how to
describe their music. It's like the Stooges go Coltrane. I wanted to like it, but half the
time I didn't get it. Nevertheless, they give it everything they've got and the vibe is

During this whole event we were thoroughly entertained and hosted by Mary, Wally
and Amanda. They fed us, and bought us drinks, the entire time. But 11pm on
Sunday is closing time so let's head out. Mary and Wally suggested we attend a
house party, being thrown by the owner of the Dangerfield boutiques.
This guys house is actually a converted warehouse on the banks of the Yarra River.
The place is enormous. There were different themes on the various levels. For
example, one entire floor was a full on disco with a d.j and at least a hundred people

Another floor was for live music, and we caught a few numbers by the band. It turned
out the drummer was the host and he came over and graciously supplied us with
champagne and an invitation to enjoy his shindig. He explained that it was a holiday
party for his staff, a mixture of hot girls and gay men.

James and I explored the house some more and found a karaoke room, an out door
stage with another band, a swimming pool and a huge mirrored room with a bath in
the middle.

Tuesday 6th

We took a morning flight to Adelaide. Our hotel was right in the middle of town, so
perfect for exploring the locale. The weather was beautiful too. Sunny and warm,
Australian summer at last.

Wednesday 7th

Today was my birthday, so I celebrated by going for a run around the city's botanical
gardens and along the river, then breakfast.

In the afternoon we headed over to The Governor Hotel, tonight's venue, to check on
our gear and make sure everything was sounding right. It was. The Guv, is one of
Adelaide's main venues and when we returned that night for the gig the place was

Back stage it was the usual stuff of tuning, set lists, etc, but when the other three
guys and Bicci went into the next room and closed the door I couldn't help wondering
what they were up to. That old paranoia raises its ugly head. A minute later they
remerged and handed me a bottle of Veuve Clicquot
and a birthday card. Even though Glen had been calling me birthday boy all day, the
pre gig nerves had pushed it out of my thoughts.

It was a warm night so lots of folks were on the outdoor patio, but when we came on
there was a huge surge to the front of the stage and off we went with all pistons firing
for a brilliant rocking show. The crowd knew almost every word and were not shy
about singing along.

When we came back for an encore James announced that it was my birthday and
the lads led the audience in the inevitable chorus of happy birthday to you.
As we said thanks and walked of stage James turned to me. "Right lets open that

Thursday 8th

We were up early and on a flight to Sydney, where the stormy weather was causing
delays. When we finally landed it was a scramble to get to the venue and sound
check. Tonight's show at The Metro Theater was being filmed and recorded for a
webcast, so the pressure was on to get everything ship shape.

Bicci had been sure to hire professional road crew for all the shows, and the guys at
the Metro got things up and running in no time. The theater itself is split into two
venues and we were playing the smaller. Very industrial in feel with a really cool
facade made of old speakers, piled on top of each other.

The Lost Souls Club opened up the show and came off to polite applause.
As we walked on there was a bit of confusion from the lighting guy, but Clem soon
put him to rights.

1 2, 1 2 3 "BADAM"! Out Of Control. The lights were up and colored smoke was
pumped onto the stage. The International Swingers were up and rocking for our last
show of the tour. Hard to believe we'd only been playing together for just two weeks.
The crowd in front were very subdued, content to stare and take photos.
Five songs in and we still couldn't get them animated. Then I introduced I Like It Both
Ways as a song about a guy who can't make his mind up.
"What can't he make his mind up about?" asked Clem.
Vegemite or Marmite, I said.
"What about you guys?" said Clem.
That was it. Suddenly the whole place was yelling and cheering as James and Glen
pitted the Marmite fans against the Vegemite lovers. Bonkers, but it worked and for
the rest of the show they were enthusiastically singing, jumping and rocking out.
Stay With Me really had them going, with Glen leading the sing-a-long.
Too soon we ended with Born to Lose and the gig was over.
Check it out on;

After a while we went out and chatted with the punters and friends, including my
mates Joe and Chris from Supernaut, and a very excited Blondie fan named Teena.
Bicci drove us to our hotel, in Sydney's Kings Cross. A little later we walked a few
blocks to Tattler's, a cool little club. The door-man was an expat English guy, sporting
a bleached mohawk hair-do. He buzzed us in, sorted us a table, and bought the
drinks too. Very nice.

The next day we were all heading in different directions. James to Melbourne, me to
Perth, Glen to London and Clem back to LA.

So, there it was. The International Swingers, a theoretical band that had become a
reality, played five shows and now it was over.

Or is it?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Gary Twinn Interview

Not only was I lucky enough to get to see The International Swingers exclusive invite only gig at The Lexington last month but I was also honoured to be introduced to frontman Gary Twinn. Not only has Gary agreed to an interview for In The Poppy Fields, which is presented here, but he has also given me extracts from his diary which charts the formation of the International Swingers and a piece he has written about the Twenty Flight Rockers called "Bernie Rhodes And Me". These articles are great and I will be posting them for you all very soon - so watch this space! First though lets ask Gary about his immediate plans with The International Swingers.

How was the Swingers UK debut for you?

For me the Lexington was a blast.

I haven't played in London since around 1990 so I was excited and even a bit nervous. It was particularly cool knowing that most people there had won tickets through our Facebook and Twitter contests so they obviously wanted to see the band. Then we had loads of friends and family too. Some of my cousins, and my mates from Twenty Flight Rockers.

Why did you decide to play just one very low key date this time around?

We were looking at doing some more shows but James is committed to playing with The Cult until October.

Lots of folks are eager to know when they will get to see the band live, are there any plans for a more comprehensive UK tour?

We are talking about more UK shows late this year. I hope it works out.

What was your reception like on the American dates of the tour?

All the US dates have rocked. We do our best to play a great show and the audiences seem to appreciate that. My personal goal is to give the kind of performance I'd like to see and hear if I went to see a band. We're all entertainers and show offs so we go that extra step!

You stated that the Swingers were formed as a way of "getting a free holiday to Australia", what's the story?

I kept a diary at the time. (NOTE: this will be published separately so keep checking back! Rob)

You previously reformed Supernaut who are obviously well known in Australia so why did you decide against another reformation in favour of the International Swingers for this tour?

 Supernaut reformed for a tour in 2007. It was a kind of package with a lot of other acts who had been popular at the same time. There was a TV pop show called Countdown and we were regulars on it. I hosted it loads of times. It went well and it was great to hang out with old mates. Our final show was in Perth, where we had played our first gigs as school boys. Also Hank Marvin was there and the first rock act I'd ever seen was Cliff and the Shadows, with my mum at The London Palladium. So it seemed to wrap the Australian thing up nicely. Then late 2011 it was suggested we do another tour but most of us decided against it and that's when the promoter asked if I had another band. James was at my house at the time and there The International Swingers begins.

When and how did you first meet Glen Matlock?

I met Glen in the late 80's through Bernard Rhodes, who was managing me and my band Twenty Flight Rockers. Bernard wanted us to start a project for his label, Sacred. We recorded a few songs and "Bike Boy" was released as a single. I like Bernie but didn't work out quite how I wanted.

Dead Horse were similar to The Swingers in being a punk "supergroup" featuring The Damned's Rat Acabies and Generation X's Derwood Andrews with yourself and Glen - was this idea the genesis for The International Swingers?

Glen and I got together with Derwood and Rat with the idea of starting a new band. Bernie wanted to be involved in that too. We wrote and recorded some songs and even had some US dates in the works, then the Sex Pistols reformed, and that was that. There's one song from the time called "Fools Holiday" I wouldn't mind doing with The Swingers.

When did you first meet James, was it during his Generation X days?

I met James when he was in Gene Loves Jezebel and I was in TFR. There was a great London club scene in the 80's, lots of venues and live music. I think we first met at The Greyhound or The Embassy. No doubt Mark Laff, Mick Rossi, Bomber Harris and all the usual suspects were there too.

You seem to have a long history with Generation X having played with James, Derwood Andrews and in Twenty Flight Rockers with Mark Laff. Were they friends of yours before or did it just happen that way?

I'd had enough of Australia and moved back home to London. The final year or more of Supernaut had been pretty traumatic for me, lots of back biting and jealousy so I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do next other than to get away. I was in a club on Wardour Street one night and bumped into INXS who asked what I was up to. One of the guys introduced me to Mark Laff. We hit it off and before long we were checking out guitarists and bass players all over town with the aim of forming the best rock and roll band ever.

We used to go to Tony James' place to rehearse and often it'd be me, Mark, Tony and Neil X playing together while they were working on Sigue Sigue Sputnik. I met Derwood around the same time too. He was looking for a hot girl singer and I introduced him to my friend Elizabeth Westwood and hey presto they became Westworld.

Twenty Flight Rockers split before their time in my opinion, what happened and why do you think you never seem to get the recognition you deserve?

Thanks. TFR, it was a brilliant band to be in. We were all really tight as friends and players. The fans loved us because we gave them some great balls to the wall rock and roll, which was severely lacking in those Goth days. We just never had much luck with record companies or management. Then Bernie got involved and more or less tore the whole thing down.

We were a really strong live, visual group and it's a shame there was no MTV in the UK at that time. Could have been a different story.

(NOTE: I will be posting Gary's "Bernie Rhodes and me" piece in the near future - keep checking back! Rob)

Why is it so hard to get hold of the Twenty Flight Rockers back catalogue at the moment?

There isn't much to get I'm afraid. We released "Tower Block"/"Weekend Revolution" on John Curds' ABC, then WEA did a shit job of putting out our next single. I made a record called "Ride" with Bernie and a bunch of hired guns for CBS that was billed as TFR but that didn't come out either because of some political bullshit that I can't really expand on.

Someone put out a version of the LP and some demos without my knowledge or permission. I've got a great copy of our unreleased live album, "Nine Yards Of Dead Cow". If anyone reading this wants that I'll send them a download link.

What is the latest on The International Swingers album?

We want to record a proper album of original songs. I guess funding is one issue, plus fitting it in with everyone's schedules. We are looking into the idea of doing a kick-starter kind of thing. That way we can pay for recording costs etc and know that folks on-board really want to hear the music. The Lexington show really opened my eyes to the fact that direct contact with your fans is the way to go.

How many tracks are potentially written for the album?

We are currently playing about eight new songs in the live set but we've got a bunch more. Easily enough for an album. I write all the time, as does Glen, so I'm hoping we end up with loads of extra tracks that we can pass them on to the fans as bonus songs, or whatever. Also I've still got songs hanging around from TFR that a re perfect for The Swingers. James and I worked up a song called "Subway Train" that I'm looking forward to playing with Clem and Glen.

When can we expect to see the album released?

With a bit of luck we will record the album late this year and release it soon after. I'm pushing to record it at The Foo Fighters studio 606 in Los Angeles.

Will you include any of the re-workings or cover versions from your live sets on the albums?

Anything is possible, although I think we all agree we want to record new material. Personally if we have enough new songs recorded and there's time I'd be up for putting some cool covers in the bad. I know for a fact that Clem would be up for it. He and I are both big fans of roots and rockabilly and love to play some Elvis or Little Richard whenever possible. I'd like to record our version of "All The Young Dudes" too. I think we give it a fresh approach and James' guitar is simply phenomenal on that song. He really is a proper guitar hero and the sooner Gibson come out with a James Stevenson signature Les Paul the better!

And where's the Glen Matlock P Bass too?

Has there been any discussion of making the album a live recording rather than a studio one?

I was tempted to put out the "Live in Sydney" recording but I'm glad we didn't because the group is so much better now.

How did you break into the film industry and how much of your time is spent working with placing music in upcoming movies?

I've had songs in film and TV before. It's all about who you know and I live near Hollywood so I guess I'm close to the scene.

"F.B.I." will feature in "Homecoming" starring Jason Statham next year, for a band without a record out yet this must be a major coup?

A good mate of mine is a pretty big Hollywood producer, though I've never bugged him to use my songs. His name is John and he loves rock and roll and The International Swingers and kindly passed along our recordings to a music supervisor and bam, there's "F.B.I." in next summers action blockbuster!

Has Clem booked his stand up tour yet?

Clem is very quick witted and smart, which I guess are both key to doing stand up. We have a few routines and banter at live shows. He often offers to translate what ever Glen, James and I say on stage for the American audiences. We pulled the same one on him at the London show translating his Americanisms into British English. It's all in fun.

There seems to be a brilliant camaraderie between the four of you on stage, has this resulted in any practical jokes?

There are a lot of laughs sure but we take what we do seriously and, believe me, we work hard to get the musical performance tight before anything else comes into play.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

As I said earlier, James is with the Cult util late October, although he and I will get together to write mid September before he goes to Australia. Clem is with Blondie through early November and Glen had solo stuff going on to promote his new best of album. Right now we are making plans for November and December and, I hope, much of next year.

We want to tour the UK and there's talk of Australia and Japan too.

In my time I've been lucky enough to work with some great players but nothing has ever felt so good and right to me as The International Swingers. It's like being in your first band, when you just get together with your best mates from school and play for fun. As Clem said, no one answered an advert or auditioned for this group. It could only ever be the four of us.

                                         Gary Twinn, thank you very much!

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Love Hope Strength Fundraising

Just a shout out and a plug to some friends upcoming Love Hope Strength events in case any of you wanted to donate...

Next month sees the two Rocks Events in the UK with Ben Nevis on the 7th of September and Snowdon the following week on the 14th. I won't be at either events but we will still be bringing you some pictures thanks to friends doing them.

Stephanie - Snowdon 2012 
Stephanie will be trekking up Ben Nevis after doing Snowdon last year where I met her and her nephew as we stayed in the same hostel. You can donate to her Just Giving page HERE

Nigel & Sue
Nigel & Sue will be doing Snowdon (2nd year running for them) and have been doing some great fundraising via their local Asda. You can donate to their Just Giving page HERE

Then in October Lydia will be flying to the States to start her cycle ride of Route 66 - yes, you read that right - cycling Route 66!!! That's 2500 miles in a month! There there will be a charity gig at the end featuring Joe Silva and others still to be confirmed. You can follow her progress via Facebook  You can donate to her Just Giving Page HERE

Monday, 5 August 2013

Mike interview on Liz Kershaw show (listen for a limited time!)

Mike Peters was recently interviewed by Liz Kershaw for her show on BBC Radio 6. The interview is conducted via the phone as Mike is obviously in the States currently with Big Country and covers the film "Vinyl" and the Poppy Fields media "hoax".

"Free Rock And Roll" is played before "Sixty Eight Guns" closes the show. The show can be streamed (for a limited time) at Catch Mikes segment about the 1 hour 45 minute mark.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Smiley at the V Festival

Smiley will be appearing at this years V Festival where he will be drumming for Hero Fisher.

Hero will be featured on The Futures Stage in Stafford on Saturday 17th August and then in Chelmsford on Sunday 18th and will be on at approximately 12.55.

More info, including ticket ordering, can be found at

Find out more about Hero Fisher at her site