WITH CHRIS KIMSEY, PRODUCER EXTRAORDINAIRE: “I LIKE THE PROCESS OF RECORDING, CREATING THE ATMOSPHERE, AND WORKING WITH A BAND ON TALKING ABOUT ARRANGEMENTS”

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The Four Steps. No, no numerical error involved here to refer to one of Hitchcock´s masterpieces, but it sure would serve as the title of this interview. That´s all it takes to get in one of the most significant landmark places in the history of popular music of at least the last 50 years. Four doorsteps, the only border that divides the world this side of life and the entrance to the Olympic building, located in the Barnes neighborhood, just across the Thames, perhaps the most legendary of all London recording studios alongside fellow Abbey Road. And also in the whole of England. Formerly established in 1906, first as theater of its own repertoire company under the name of Byfeld Hall, which ran until the end of the ‘50s, when it turned to a television studio, it was in 1965 that the Olympic Sound Studios firm decided to purchase it and thus give way to the most celebrated of his activities: that of independent recording studio, within its walls some of the most seminal sessions in the history of English rock and pop music took place. Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, the Stones, the Beatles, The Who, Bowie, Howlin ‘Wolf, Ray Charles, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Clapton, B.B. King, Ten Years After, Spooky Tooth,Barbra Streisand, Stevie Wonder, Roxy Music, Jethro Tull, Prince, Queen, Supertramp, Van Morrison, Thin Lizzy, Iggy Pop, Motörhead, The Yardbirds, Madonna, Oasis, Duran Duran… The list could go on and on, just to mention the main names. That´s how Olympic managed to set an unparalleled reputation that revolved around its axis composed by sound quality, technical excellence and unrivaled atmosphere, making it the place that led the cream of rock and pop on both sides of the Atlantic to agree that it was “the studio where we have to go to”.

1In January 2009 Olympic Studios shut down its doors for the first time ever, which led the British record industry to lose one of its most important recording spots. The building would later reopen at the end of 2013 under the name of Olympic Cinema, modifying its original geography to house two single movie theaters that featured hi-tech sound technology, also adding a restaurant, a café, and a room or gold members. But those four steps remained  the same as they did in the early days. The same ones that, with a few tiny interruptions here and there, Chris Kimsey has been crossing since 1969, when he was just a teenager with a slight amateur inclination towards the recording industry, landing in Olympic with the mere intention of finding a job to support his personal expenses.
Almost half a century later, that young fellow who was first given the job to serve tea to the employees and musicians who worked in the establishment, would eventually become one of the most renowned producers, mixers and sound engineers in music history.
MADHOUSE met Chris Kimsey in November last year right at the place that gave birth to his career nearly 50 years ago, like time hadn´t gone by at all and, again, beyond those same old four steps.

2My first question is about one of your most recent works , Thirsty´s ‘Albatross’ album, which I believe you enjoyed doing very much.
Yeah, that album’s getting some really good reviews actually.

I don’t have the albums, but I got to play them online. And I’m really happy about Guy Bailey.
Me too, it’s a great vehicle for him. I tried on quite a few occasions to get him involved with other things. He’s ok for the writing part but he doesn’t want to go and do it live. Which is a shame, actually… he does do some things live, like he did with the Peckham Cowboys, but it’s a shame, because he could teach a lot of kids a lot of stuff. But we get on really well, and I like his kind of approach and his voice. He recorded most of it in his bedroom. He has no regard for compressor or limiters, everything has to be up to 11, but it works, I like it, so it’s good fun.

You know, I like the Quireboys, but actually my two favourite albums of the band are the ones with Guy. They used to be more rock ’n’ roll before he left the band.
It’s a good combination that he writes the music, and the melodies, and he’s really good at lyrics too.

3

Thirsty´s debut album

You had a great time working with him since their very first album.
Yes, when was it, 4 years ago? And it’s good to see they got back together to do a second album as well.

But they don’t want to do it live.
Oh no, and that’s a bit of a problem. It’s got to be Guy, you can’t get someone else to play the guitar.

Yes, but when I interviewed him he told me he cannot do it because he also needs the guy from Squeeze, the drummer, who’s not always available.
Yeah, that’s true but I don’t know.

I must confess, Chris, you have such a great background, I don’t know what to start with.
Well it all starts in here! (laughs)

How long have you been working in the music industry and mainly how did it all start for you? I mean, you probably were like all of us, somebody who likes music. How did it all happen?
It started here in 1967, I got a job here as a tea boy. I didn’t know what was in these four walls. I just saw “Olympic Studios” outside. And before that, at school, I was involved with recording the music or sound effects for school plays, because I had a tape recorder. I had a tape recorder from a very… I had my first tape recorder when I was about 9 or 10. I used to love listening to film soundtracks and musicals, not rock and roll or anything like that, but more orchestral, my parents gave me a tape recorder, because you could buy pre-recorded 3 ¾ ips (inches per second) tapes of musicals and film music. Not vinyl, they didn’t have vinyl. So I was introduced to the tape recorder at a very early age, and that went on at school they would ask me to record if there was any sound effects, or any spoken word coming from the speaker, so I was involved with that. And that excited my ear about the fact that one could capture a sound on tape.

4

Olympic Sound Studios, in the ’60s

So you were basically “the music guy” at school.
I was the sound guy at school. And that actually went on because when I was 14, I was asked if I would like to go to a recording studio that was owned by the Inner London Education Authority, which was the school authority of the time. And they had a studio off Tottenham Court Road. I used to get on the tube from Morden to Tottenham Court Road, I think maybe twice a month, for the Saturday, to this school and the studio was tiny. It had a Vortexian four channel mixer which was just four volume knobs, and a stereo Ferrograph tape recorder it might have been mono actually. I got the bug there even more. And I was very fortunate because one of the first people that I recorded there was Dame Sybil Thorndike, who was a very famous celebrated actress at the time.  She was like Laurence Olivier in that area and I was recording her for a ‘Son et Lumiere’, a show that we had at my next school where I also had a tape recorder. And at this studio, this is quite fascinating, there was myself, and there was only one other student, a young student who is a couple of months older than me. He was from the East End of London, and I was from the South of London, and we both went to this studio on Saturdays, and his name is Ray Staff. Well Ray went on to become and is one of the best mastering engineers in the world. He runs Air Mastering. So he ended up getting into the music business. He started at Trident. So the two of us young kids we were recording various things, and the teacher who was running the program, he was a music teacher for the school, and he was a jazz musician, and one afternoon he said “when we finish, would you stay behind because I want to record my jazz trio?” So I stayed behind.

5

Actress Dame Sybil Thorndike, one of the first voices recorded by Kimsey

Because you were “the sound guy”
At 14 years old, I was “the sound guy”. And years later I saw him playing for Elton John, because his name was Ray Cooper.

Oh, of course, the bald guy with the glasses! Elton’s legendary percussionist!
Yeah, so Ray was this little school music teacher, and Ray Staff and myself never would have had an idea that many years later we would all be in the music business and kind of top of what we do.

That’s a great story!
So after that, moving on a few years, 16 and a half years old, I didn’t want to do further education, I left school, and I was looking for a job. I used to have a girlfriend who lived around the corner, so every time I came over to see her, I would come in here, not really knowing what was inside. I knew they were recording something. And I asked them for a job and they said “no no, no jobs, go away”. And I kept coming back, and eventually they said “give us your name, your number, and if anything comes up we’ll call you”

So it paid off after a while.
Yeah. I didn’t go to any other studios, I didn’t write to anyone I didn’t attempt to. I was about to start a job as a supermarket fitter travelling around the UK fitting out supermarkets. ‘Cause another girl friend, her brother owned a supermarket fitting company, so I was going to start work for him on a Monday, but fortunately Olympic called up on the Friday and they said “can you start next week?” 11 pounds a week. “Just come in”

When was that, in 1967?
Yes, March ’67.

Were you a music fan before that? Were you into rock and roll? Did you go to see shows?
No, I wasn’t into rock and roll at all. No, no, I was into musicals, I was into film music, totally orchestra-orientated. That’s the sound I loved. I also listened to the radio a lot, so I liked popular music. I didn’t go to gigs. I wasn’t into Hendrix, or Cream, or the Stones (laughs)

6

McCartney, Glyn Johns and Jagger working at Olympic

Now that’s interesting because you ended up working for them, when it wasn’t your thing.
No, it wasn’t my thing. In fact, I remember my first session. I was an assistant to Glyn Johns at a Stones’ session. I’d met Glyn only once before, I’d never met the Stones. I was in the studio setting up. I can’t remember who arrived, but one or two of the Stones arrived, and I actually called security, because I thought there was someone, you know, someone breaking in, or trying to steal something (laughs), they looked very dubious. They weren’t like the musicians, I was used to working with in orchestras and stuff but that soon changed.

That’s when you became a record producer and a mixer.
No, for maybe three years I was an assistant engineer. And the studio manager, Keith Grant, who built Olympic Studios, who gave me my job, he said, “the longer you can put up with being an assistant, you’ll learn and learn and learn”, which was so true. So I was an assistant for three and a half years, and then my lucky break really was when I was an assistant on a Johnny Hallyday album. The engineers at that time were all house engineers, they were all paid by Olympic, they weren’t freelance engineers, except for Glyn, he was one of the first freelance engineers.

7

1970: Keith Grant (left) and Scott Walker

So you were pretty much coming around here every day.
Yeah, so I worked on orchestra sessions, jingle sessions, jazz sessions, pop sessions. No rock and roll. That wasn’t until later. And so for three and a half years I was an assistant, and then on one session with Johnny Hallyday, just started recording the album. On the second day the Olympic engineer didn’t turn up. He didn’t turn up because he didn’t like the French people. It was kind of strange because the producer, Johnny’s producer, was actually American. His name is Lee Halliday, from Oklahoma, he’s American, he lived in France. So they were trying to figure out who could engineer, as they got musicians coming, and Lee said “Well what about Kimsey? What about him?” And they said “well, he’s never engineered before but I’m sure he can” So I jumped in the seat and that was it. I never left the seat after that. And Johnny fell in love with me, I mean, he loved the sound. After that I had a very, very strong relationship with Johnny, I must have done maybe five albums with him.

8Do you remember what the first one was?
The first one was ‘Flagrant Delit’, it’s got ‘Jolie Sarah’ on it, and the album cover is a cobbled street, with like a bronze bust of his head with his fist punching through. Mick Jones of Foreigner was in that band, he was Johnny’s guitar player, way before Foreigner. Mickey’s has got to learn his craft writing and playing for Johnny.

And it was a great time for Johnny Hallyday, he was great in England.
No, he was never popular in England, but he was always recording generally in London. And those sessions were fantastic because the producer we would have Ringo was on drums, well some of the drums, Peter Frampton was on the sessions, Gary Wright of Spooky Tooth... So I got to meet all those musicians making this album, and became very good friends with Peter Frampton. So that led on for me to carry on and work with Peter.

I’ve always wondered if it’s easier to be a record producer, or a mixer. If you had to choose one…
If I had to choose one, I like the process of recording, creating the atmosphere, and working with a band on talking about arrangements. Not mixing, I’d rather be recording or producing. I mean, I enjoy mixing too. I think I’d rather mix things now that I haven’t recorded. I mean, I just finished an album with Peter Perrett, and I said at the beginning “I don’t want to mix this”. I want someone else to mix it.

And you’ve actually did more recording than mixing all through your career.
I’ve got no idea, I don’t know. I mean, I generally do mix what I’ve recorded.

As a record producer or mixer, do you have the chance to choose the artist who you work for? I mean, can you say “yes” or “no”? Or do you have to follow orders from Olympic?
Yes, I can now. With Olympic no, it was always who they said I had to work with.

Whatever artist…
Yeah, whatever one. But what was strange, I didn’t stay working for Olympic very long. After I had that session with Johnny Hallyday. I did some albums with Ten Years After, I was still an Olympic engineer.

9The ‘Watt’ album?
No, the bigger one, ‘Space In Time’, which was one of my favourite albums. And Gary Wright I was recording him as an Olympic engineer. I think I was only an Olympic engineer for maybe a year, and then I was getting so busy I thought “I’m gonna become freelance and do it on my own” And I did. I was still working here all the time (laughs) People were coming to me, and fortunately the best people were coming to me, or good people.


How did you manage to find the time to work for Olympic and also freelancing?

Well, I think I must have been at least a year engineering for Olympic, and then I decided to leave. But most of the artists wanted to record here anyway, and Olympic didn’t have any problem with an outside engineer working here. And it’s the same with Glyn. The reason why Glyn came to Olympic, or one of the reasons, was that Abbey Road would not allow outside engineers. A lot of studios wouldn’t allow that, you had to be an engineer who worked in the studio, in house. And Olympic didn’t have that rule, so it was one of the first studios to enable the freelance engineers.

Very interesting. So your first job with a rock and roll band was in 1970, wasn’t it? I mean, the ‘Led Zeppelin III’ album, the ‘Watt’ album by Ten Years after, as an engineer, and then as tape operator for the Stones’ ‘Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!’. Since this is the place where you actually began your career those albums meant an easy or a difficult start? I mean, you worked with the Stones and Led Zeppelin in the very same year.
Well, to me, it wasn’t difficult, as all those artists weren’t important to me, because of the musical background that I enjoyed, or came from. I would have been very nervous if I’d be working with Nat King Cole or Frank Sinatra. Still to my date, they’re idols. But the Stones, their music at the time was like “oh, it’s ok, interesting”, Zeppelin “ok, that’s interesting”. That type of music was very new as well, so it was groundbreaking stuff, so you weren’t really aware that you were working on something that was so groundbreaking, although I suppose with Zeppelin you would have felt it a little more than the Stones. The whole Zeppelin thing was quite the whole mystic around it. That Zeppelin thing was bigger than the band itself.

Do you remember the very first time, the very moment you met the members of Led Zeppelin and the Stones? I guess you were pretty relaxed as they weren’t Nat King Cole or Sinatra.
Yeah, it was here. I was just relaxed and doing my job.

Were they nice to you?
I don’t remember anyone being…No one was being an arsehole. Yes, they were nice, they were fine!

It was a natural feeling, you didn’t feel subordinate to the musicians.
Yeah, you were part of the team. It’s all a team thing, so… You might see an argument between the band and the producer, or the band and the engineer, but that was it. But not really “arguments”, no.

11

A session at Olympic in 1971 including Ringo Starr, Klaus Voormann, Peter Green and Steve Marriott, all facing B.B.King.

The following year, in 1971, you did B.B. King’s album “In London”…
Yes, that was B.B. King doing sessions at Studio Two. I think that was only for a couple of days. I don’t remember that very well, that’s why I think it wasn’t a week over there. It was more like a “in and out” job. I was definitely not aware of who B.B. King was at the time.

But the same year you worked with the Stones for the “Sticky Fingers” album, who you had already met before. The album was recorded here in Olympic, as well as in Trident studios, and then also in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Being it such an important album in rock’n’roll history, any memories of the recording? Is there anything left to say?
No, I think it’s all been said. But I remember the strings session for ‘Moonlight Mile’ with Paul Buckmaster. I remember that was done at Basing Street Studios, that wasn’t done here. Actually that was maybe the first time I really felt the power of an orchestral arrangement with rock music. Because his arrangement was absolutely mind blowing on that. And to hear the orchestra alone was quite beautiful. Although I had recorded an orchestra with Del Newman for Ten Years After, that was quite a smaller orchestra. The arrangement on ‘Moonlight Mile’ was really quite grand.

12

Tony Visconti and Chris: a clash of legends

So that’s when orchestra meets rock and roll, and that’s when you started getting interested in it.
Well, an album I’ve just finished now has got orchestra through the whole album. It’s not rock ’n’ roll, it’s more R&B, old school r‘n’b. But I brought Tony Visconti out of retirement. Not that Tony’s ever retired. Not many people realise that Tony is an excellent orchestral arranger, and writer, and conductor. He does everything. I knew this. We met each other about 3 years ago, just before David (Bowie) passed away. We became very good friends. So when I asked him to orchestrate this album he was like “Really, wow, yeah!”, and he did such an incredible job. I also got Paul Buckmaster to do one song as well, which was good, but Tony was quite incredible.

So was it you who recommended him for the Stones’ sessions?

For the Stones? No. I don’t know who that would have been, actually.

And he did ‘Sway’ as well.
Yeah, ‘Sway’ too. I don’t know how that connection came up. I’m pretty sure it must have been a Mick connection, it wouldn’t have been a Keith connection.

You worked with many people here at Olympic, like George Chkiantz, Glyn Johns, Roger Savage, Eddie Kramer, Jimmy Miller…Any memories of them?
I’ve never worked with Eddie. I knew him, but never worked with him. Jimmy Miller was a terrific producer and mood creator, and he had a wonderful ear for percussion. Jimmy just made everyone feel good in the room, and if there was a problem, he always knew how to sort it out and to keep the flow and the energy going. He was a good man.

Cut to 1973, when you did The “Brain Salad Surgery” with Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Peter Frampton’s ‘Camel’ album.
ELP, yes, but I didn’t do the Peter one, Eddie Kramer did that. But Emerson, Lake and Palmer, that was really fun, I enjoyed doing that. I wanted to work with them, so it was great when I got the call to do it.

13And then in 1974 you were producer and engineer for Bill Wyman’s ‘Monkey Grip’, which happened to be the first solo album by a member of the Rolling Stones.
It’s true, Bill’s was the first, yeah. I don’t think I was producer on that, I think I came in to mix some of it, because a lot of it was done in the States, I believe. Bill was always in Olympic. If he wasn’t doing a solo album, he was working with a band called The End, and I engineered some of that, so Bill was here a lot doing different things other than the Stones. And he asked for me to work with or Keith Harwood, who was another Olympic engineer, but he went freelance. Keith, we were very close friends. Keith recorded a lot with Led Zeppelin, and he did “Black and Blue” with the Stones.

There’s a few words dedicated to him on the back cover of the Stones’ ‘Love You Live’ album.
Yeah. He died of a car crash when he was coming back from Stargroves, from Mick’s house.

14In 1976 you did Peter Frampton’s classic ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ album, which is one of the best selling live albums ever. Did you or Peter know at the time it would be such a hit album?
No. I mean, we knew it was good because when mixing it, you just got a wonderful euphoria feeling from listening to it. And that’s because the audience really made that record. You can just feel the communication of the audience. It was commented we added more audience, but we didn’t do any of that. That’s exactly how it was. No fixes, no additions. I recorded two concerts for the album, and Eddie recorded some and there were others. I recorded less than the others, but I mixed the whole thing. And I had so much fun mixing it. I remember the flanger, which had just been invented. I used it on the Fender Rhodes, on ‘Do You Feel’, on Bobby’s (Mayo) solo. Yeah I had great fun, but when we finished mixing that album, because there was a very small budget, we had only mixed a single album, and then Jerry Moss came down for playback with Peter’s manager, Dee Anthony. And we playback’ed what we mixed one album and Jerry said “where’s the rest?” And we said we were told by Peter’s manager we could only do a single album, “nobody wants a double album”, and Jerry said “no, you have to do a double album, the whole show” So we went back in and mixed the rest of the album.

And then it became such a hit album.
Yeah. It was nearly a single album. It’s still a great album to listen to. I know that Peter has remixed it a few years ago. I haven’t listened to the remix (laughs) I don’t quite see it. We’ve had this discussion about a lot of records that get remixed, classic albums that get remixed again is like “why?” Why remaster, when you can get it right the first time?

15

A young Peter Frampton and a young Chris Kimsey working on “Frampton Comes Alive!”

Right, if it’s good, why touching it?
Exactly. Most remasters are done, so the record companies think they will re-sell again but a lot of them, when they remaster it, they fuck it up. It doesn’t sound as good as the original.

Somehow the record companies need to tell the audiences “you should get this as it’s a remastered version”. That’s probably the trick to sell them again.
The thing with the remasters is, a lot of the time, they don’t even ask the producer or the engineer, they just go ahead and do it. There was a terrible remaster of the Stones, “Some Girls” album. It was terrible, actually terrible! Six months after the release, the public put it up on Amazon, “this is the worse…”. Then I contacted the Stones’ management and they said, “well it’s got a 5 star review on Rolling Stone”, we don’t really care.

Well, as far as I remembered, it’s Mick Jagger who gave orders to remaster it that way. In the end I think he just doesn’t like to go back to the past. He hates nostalgia.
Mick doesn’t like to go back at all. Absolutely, yeah. Actually I have to say it’s quite remarkable how they are touring and doing the gigs. The rest of them are holding up well. There’s only two albums that have been remastered that sounded better, and that was Marillion’s ‘Misplaced Childhood’. The original sound was really good but they guy who orchestrated that, Simon (Wilson), he worked for EMI, and he really loved what he was doing, he really appreciated what could go wrong. So he really kept an eye on this whole remastering thing. And he also was in charge of remastering the Peter Tosh ‘Mama Africa’ album. So sometimes it can come off good but I still think what’s the point of doing it, if it sounds great already? It’s more of a sales venture for the record company.

It all just comes down to put a sticker on them reading “remastered version”, suggesting that you’ve got to buy it.
Yeah, you should put a sticker on it saying, now in “mono” (laughs)

16By the way, talking about the Stones and remastered versions, before you co-produced some of their albums, in 1978 you worked as an engineer for the original ‘Some Girls’. During the recording of the album, there were reportedly lots of problems concerning Keith, as he wasn’t showing at the studio when it was supposed. How did you cope with that?
Yeah, we were always waiting for them to show up anyway, not just Keith. Keith would be there, but he still had his habit, so he would disappear to the toilet for maybe an hour, so we’d be just hanging around, waiting. But actually Mick was very supportive during that time for Keith, he knew what Keith was going through, he knew the pressure. He also knew if he didn’t get through the Stones wouldn’t be any more. I think there was an ulterior motive as well. He wasn’t slagging him off or complaining. He was really helping him. That was good to see that friendship.

And just 2 years after that you worked in the “Emotional Rescue” album at the same studio in Paris, Pathé Marconi, as associate producer and engineer mixer. There were lots of outtakes from both the ‘Some Girls’ and ‘Emotional Rescue’ sessions.
Yes, quite a lot of material that never made it to ‘Some Girls’, some of it ended up in ‘Emotional Rescue’, and what else left over ended up on ‘Tattoo You’.

17

Chris and Keith Richards during the mixing of “Get Yer Ya-Ya´s Out!”, 1969

So at the time you were finally really into rock’n’roll.
Yeah, actually ‘Some Girls’ in a way was one of the easiest albums to record in so much as when I walked into the room, I knew exactly how I wanted to set the band up, and the sound that I wanted from the room. I put a little P.A. up, so you could hear Charlie’s snare drum and bass drum, ‘cause they didn’t want to use headphones that much. And also to put Mick’s vocals through because I had this feeling they were a live band. In the studio, you don’t want to restrict them. You want to give them the capability of a feel like they’re playing in a club or just playing live. So the setup I had in that studio worked well. The console worked really well, and the control room worked really well too, because it was so small, you couldn’t get more than three people in there. It was kind of strange, really, because it’s the first time that I’d been asked to record the whole album, the whole sessions. Mick and Keith hardly ever came in the control room, I think they may have came in once or twice during the first 2 or 3 days, and just listened they didn’t say anything about the sound. And that was it. Left me to it really after that. I just carried on doing what I wanted to do inside, and outside as well, as I helped with the guitar sounds a bit, mainly in volume, or maybe a pedal.

And you had won their complete trust at that stage.
Yeah. To me they didn’t impress me as rock gods. They were just a bunch of musicians. And I was trying to help them capture something.

18

Kimsey and Ronnie Wood. On the Stones: “To me they didn’t impress me as rock gods. They were just a bunch of musicians. And I was trying to help them capture something”

And you got a great sound. I mean, the original one, not the remastered version…
Yeah! (laughs) The sound from that album is quite unique because of the set up, and the console as well. That was a very special time. I kinda knew that. Keith knew it as well, because there was a period where…We weren’t supposed to stay in that room. That was the cheaper room, with an old EMI desk. We were supposed to go into Studio 2 which had the big new Neve desk. The recording area was just as big, there were two very large rooms, but I loved the sound that we were getting from the studio with the old console. And so did Keith. We actually said to Mick, “we shouldn’t move” Because Mick was for, you know, “the future”.

So once again, why touching things when they’re ok?
We didn’t, thank God.

Did you have unlimited time to work in the studio?
Yeah, pretty much I think they would have booked like two months or something. That studio that we stayed in was a quarter of the price than the other one so it worked out good for everybody in that respect.

Was it easier working in the ‘Tattoo You’ album, as most of the original tracks were already recorded?
Well, we didn’t record anything for ‘Tattoo You’. It was stuff that I found, stuff that I knew that I recorded and hadn’t been used. So there was a good five or six songs. If I know that that’s what I’ve recorded and was around for there must be something on other albums.  So I started to look back at ‘Goats Head Soup’ and ‘Black and Blue’ and found a few other wonderful gems.

Did you choose the songs for the album, or was it a Mick and Keith decision? Or the three of you?
No, it was more the fact of what was available, and also what was the most near completion in regards to melody and lyrics for Mick.

But things like ‘Heaven’, wasn’t that new?
No, that was recorded in ‘Some Girls’, or maybe ‘Emotional Rescue’. I can’t remember which album, but that was Paris, yeah.

19Maybe ‘Litte T&A’ was a new one.
I can’t remember where the stuff I’d recorded whether it came from the ‘Some Girls’ or the ‘Emotional Rescue’ sessions. It was across the two. More likely from ‘Some Girls’, funny enough, ‘cause ‘Emotional Rescue’ was at a slower pace in making that record. It wasn’t as much fun as ‘Some Girls’. The energy had changed. Maybe by that time Keith had straightened up by that time? He must have been. So he would have suddenly started to wake up.

Probably the oldest one was ‘Waiting On a Friend’
That was from ‘Goats Head Soup’. The same with ‘Tops’. But ‘Tops’ was from Glyn, I think. That was when he was in Rotterdam with the mobile truck.

And then you were there for the complete change of ‘Start Me Up’ from the early reggae version to the rock n’ roll pop one?
Yeah – one of their biggest songs.

So your first real co-production with the Glimmer Twins was ‘Undercover’?
I can’t remember how the credits go. It’s a very underrated album. I think it is better than ‘Emotional Rescue’. I enjoy it more than ‘Emotional Rescue’. It was a very dangerous time with them. Because they were not getting on at all. I would love to get hold of the multitrack of ‘Undercover’ because I could use that for teaching because it was like no other track we’d recorded. It started with Charlie playing timpani and Mick on acoustic guitar just the two of them and it just grew from that. I had this crazy idea how I wanted to mix it. It took me two or three days to mix with all the backward stuff. It was all tape – no digital. I loved doing that – quite fantastic.

In Paris?
No, that was mixed in New York. It was recorded in Paris and then at Compass Point and New York.

A year later you were working with The Cult on the ‘Dreamtime’ album.
Yeah, that was in Berlin. I did a lot of work in Berlin. I did two Killing Joke albums in Berlin at Hansa, I did a JoBoxer record, Marillion’s ‘Misplaced Childhood’, The Cult, Spear of Destiny, a band called Eden. I think that was all in Hansa, I love that studio.

20How was working with Marillion like?
I loved it. We just did a film actually, the “making of” ‘Misplaced Childhood’. We had the multitrack there, which was fantastic to listen to it from Hansa – that magic hall. They also had the original track sheets, which was my writing, and the detail in the track sheets was amazing. It had to be very well classified, because it was a concept album. Song, going into song, going into song, continually on a reel of tape, you had to really plan ahead, so that everything correlated, that you didn’t have different things ended up on different tracks. You had to be very very thought out. And it’s quite amazing to look at what I did. Even the band said “well, this is incredible, we never knew that you did that, it sounds really good!” And it was the cheapest album I’ve ever made, and the biggest-selling album I’ve ever made.

Was it working with them more the kind of music you liked? Like “let’s get away from rock’n’roll a bit and work with some really serious people”
(Laughs) Yeah, it was actually. Well the Stones are more blues than rock and roll, I mean, Zeppelin and the Stones, are nowhere near the same. They are both called rock ‘n’ roll. The Stones were verging on the softer side, well not “softer” that’s not the right word. Yeah, it’s different, isn’t it? But Marillion were a lot more theatrical and cinematic. I liked working with them a lot, and I liked their music. But just as much as I like Killing Joke, which is the total opposite (laughs) Now that’s rock’n’roll to me, that’s heavy rock’n’roll. But see, with Killing Joke there was an orchestral element in Jaz Coleman’s composing, in the keyboard player, in his compositions. There was a very grand kind of sound to it.

Jaz Coleman arranged the Rolling Stones pop symphony you did?
Yes he did – he did four or five, ‘Angie’ is amazing. I love that album. That got five star reviews on Amazon. A beautiful album. The record company really fucked up on that. They didn’t know how to sell it. They got more savvy on later albums.

Do you prepare yourself in advance to work with different music styles? I mean, you jumped from the Stones to Marillion to Killing Joke…
And then to reggae!

And then to reggae.
Well I just love reggae really. I love all genres of music. Although I don’t like Metallica. Could I work with Metallica? No, I don’t think I could work. That would drive me insane. But there was another very heavy American band, they were huge. I had to say “no”. It’s one name…

Slayer? Anthrax?
Tool! They were huge. Massive. I got the call from them when I was working with the Gypsy Kings (laughs) And I’m like, trying to give my production observations to Tool while I’m working with the Gypsy Kings! It was insane.

By the way, right after Marillion you got to work with Ace Frehley, the ‘Frehley’s Comet’ album. That must have been fun.
Well, I didn’t do much on that. It was because of my friendship with Bill Aucoin. Ace was pretty messed up and needed help.

He just cleaned up after all these years.
Sometimes I get called in to work with artists who are impossible or generally fucked up. If I can break through and get to their heart and the soul, then I will do that. If I don’t have that connection, then I can’t do it.

So how do you manage if you’re not able to get that connection?
Then I don’t work with them. Like I said before, I just finished an album with Peter Perrett, who was in The Only Ones.

Yes, I remember them, ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’…
Yeah. But Peter had severe heroin addiction, for 25 years. I can’t believe he’s still alive. But he’s been clean for 7 years, but in those 7 years there were so many demons and problems, because his kids are in the band, and they suffered immense abuse from his parents being drug addicts for all their lifetime. But I had great joy in making that album, and what was really, really lovely, and this is what I think I’m good and which I get great reward from. It got to a point where Peter said “I can’t believe that I’m working with you because I trust you in everything” And it’s wonderful when you get that back from an artist. Not only if they’ve been through a major life crisis or not? it’s nice when you get that from a straight artist as well. It’s a wonderful album, and I’m very proud of it.

So, back to the questions…
Back to the future or past! (laughs)

22Yeah, I love that, “back to the past”… You worked with Peter Tosh on the ‘Mama Africa’ album. How did you enjoy working with him?
No, he was an arsehole. I loved his voice, and we had a very strange relationship in the studio because he didn’t have much respect for anyone other than himself. Not even the musicians! So he would just come to the studio, play three or four songs, all very simple, everyone would learn it, and then he’d say “ok I go for some fish!”, and he’d fuck off and come back in the evening to see if we done it. We finished it and done it and then he would put his vocals on top. I loved his voice, but as a person he wasn’t a very nice man.

So it must have been quite difficult to work with him.
Well, not difficult because he wasn’t there! That was the best thing! (laughs) As opposed to Jimmy Cliff, who was the opposite. Jimmy was like working with an angel, he’s such a wonderful person.

I believe Peter was there but then he wasn’t there, as he was always high.
Yeah. And there’s a very famous story when Donald Kinsey, the guitar player from Chicago, who was on that album. We both had this idea that Peter should do a cover of ‘Johnny B. Goode’, the Chuck Berry song. So one morning I played it to Peter and he said “me no sing no white man song”. So the next day I brought in a picture of Chuck Berry and said “this is the man who wrote ‘Johnny B. Goode’“.

He didn’t know Chuck?
No, he didn’t know him. And then he said “him brother, me do the song!” (laughs) And he did it very well. He changed the lyrics, which I loved, “the gunny sack”.

But Peter had such a great voice.
Wonderful voice, yeah. Wonderful songs in the album, actually. I still love the album, I love songs like ‘Glass House’ (starts singing). He was a great singer. And I met a lot of great musicians working on that album, like Sticky Thompson, the keyboard player Phil Ramacon, who lives in London. I just got to do a session with him, hadn’t seen him since then – so that was quite wonderful.

1989, another Stones co-production, ‘Steel Wheels’, a different kind of sound for the band.
Yeah different also in so much as I take a much broader control – not sure that’s the right word. I had a vision for a sound for that whole album, that it should be quite rich, quite lush. Not as raw as ‘Exile on Main Street’, not as trashy as ‘Some Girls’, I really wanted quite a big fat warm sound in the production.

It sounds clean and polished. More metallic.
Yeah, clean and polished, it was meant to sound like that. The whole thing in the arrangements and backing vocals it was more of a produced album, and I was really happy with the way it turned out, because before I started it I knew I wanted it to sound like that. Because in my mind was the next album, I wanted to go and make another ‘Exile’. I wanted the next one to be completely the opposite. But I thought to get it to work you’ve got to have a very new sounding Stones’ record. I don’t think there’s a Stones’ album that sounds like ‘Steel Wheels’ but that would be the shock, because after that you would get back to the grime.

And by the way I just remembered about ‘Let’s Go Steady’, this unreleased song from the ‘Emotional Rescue’ sessions that…
That’s a duet of my wife with Keith!

It always was one of my favourites Stones’ outtakes! How did that ever happen?
That’s very sweet. She would be very pleased to hear that! Actually that was recorded in Compass Point studios, in Nassau. My wife Kristi would travel everywhere with me, this was before the kids were born. I think it was like 2 or 3 in the morning, and Keith said “hey get Kristi, get her to come over, I want her to sing on this”.

I think she said, “no” because she could sing it better in the morning.
Did she say “no”? I can’t remember (laughs) Not at this time.  But anyway, she did it later. I think that they did one take. They were singing together live! It was great fun.

And Mick was out of the picture at the moment.
I don’t think Mick was on the island actually! (laughs)

And she did good!
She did really good! I mean, yeah, really really good! I mean, she had no time to learn the song. It was as if they had always sung together. It was quite special. She was quite instrumental in helping Keith finish “Slipping Away”. He had “slipping away, slipping away, slipping away…” for at least 2 years. Just that bit. But he didn’t have the other bits. And then one night when we were in Montserrat we were having dinner over at Keith’s house, and he was playing that, and Kristi started to sing something different, it just pushed him somewhere else, and he got to finish the song.

I love that one.
Yeah, that’s a lovely song. “First the sun and then the moon…”

R-2595654-1300717083We were talking about Guy Bailey and Thirsty at the beginning of the interview. And in 1992 you worked with the Quireboys for the “Bitter Sweet and Twisted” album, the second one featuring the original line-up, when Guy was still in the band.
Oh that was a nightmare! I inherited that from Bob Rock, that was with the song ‘King of New York’. Bob Rock started to produce that record and record it, he kind of walked away. I guess someone offered him more money, so he walked away and left it, and it ended up with me. And what I say is horrible is because the way that Bob recorded it. It was in the day when we had Sony digital machines, and Bob had linked up three 48-track machines. So one machine is full of guitar solos so I had like, you know, 48 guitar takes to go through. The whole album was like that. Everything had been replaced and replaced and replaced, and it took me a week, ‘cause I wanted to go back to find out the original recording, or where did this start from, and it took me a week to find that, which was a nightmare.

But you still liked the band.
I liked the band, yeah. I liked Spike and I liked Guy.

23A year later you worked in the ‘Full Moon, Dirty Hearts’ with INXS. Of course Michael Hutchence was such a prominent singer and star. Any anecdotes from that time?
Yeah, that was here. And Michael was a lovely man. He was one of the most gracious people that I’ve met and worked with, actually. Especially, I asked him to sing on the ‘Symphonic Stones’ album. I wanted him to do ‘Under My Thumb’. Michael came on board, he was absolutely thrilled to do it. And he was just so much fun to work with in the studio, very quick and very intelligent. Just a really nice guy, I got on really well with him. And, as a bonus one night, and this was when he was going out with the model Helena Christensen, he said “can you look after Helena for me?” Of course, no problem. (laughs) He was a sweet lovely man. When we worked on that album, it was kind of strange because, I had met them in Paris when I was working on a Stones album,  over there, and we got together, and they played me like half of that album. I thought it was demos, ‘cos it sounded really pretty ropey, it sounded rough, and I said “it will be great when you record it properly” And they said “that is recorded properly” And I went “oh!” (laughs) They said “do you think we should do this again?” So we came here and we recorded it, we didn’t do the whole album and we did that duet with Chrissie Hynde, which was crazy. She arrived and we were already doing the vocal, the duet, and she said “I’m just gonna go out to do some shopping”, and she went out for 5 hours. She has “studio stage fright. She hates being in the studio. So she came, she looked and listened and went.

Maybe that’s the reason why she always takes so long to put a new album.
Maybe. 5 hours, that was exaggeration, but it was a good hour and a half (laughs) You know, “where did Chrissie go?”

In 1995 there was another Stones album you worked in, ‘Stripped’, and also the Chieftains’ ‘The Long Black Veil’.
Oh yes. I’d been working with the Chieftains before, because I’d become very good friends with their manager Steve Macklan, because I’d been working with the Canadian Colin James, producing two of Colin albums. So I met Paddy (Moloney) through that connection. And then I worked on the album, which had many guests. The Four Stones, Sting was on one, Bono on another. I remember going to a meeting with Paddy and Mick in Ireland, about which song to cover. That’s when it was a shock to Paddy that Mick knew ‘The Long Black Veil’. He didn’t think Mick would know it. I did a couple of things with the Chieftains. Very sad. The harpist of the band, Derek Bell, very talented, he passed away, and they did a live tribute album that I mixed with Paddy.

For a change, then in 1996 you worked with the Gypsy Kings, the ‘Compas’ album.
That was fun. I enjoyed that, because my whole ethos on that album was that I didn’t want any brass, no horns, or any drums. I just wanted the Gypsy Kings. But I did take Pino Palladino for bass and Jon Carin for some keyboard. But I had great fun making that album. But the problem with them was that their manager, Claude Martinez, he kind of owned more of the Gypsy Kings than the Gypsy Kings owned. He’s a very shrewd businessman. But he kept an eye on their writing because they were very bad. They would come in and play a song. They pitched it, and they had nicked it from someone else on the radio. They just heard it and they would do it and he said “no you can’t do that, that’s whatever it is”. So he was good otherwise they would be in court all the time.

Now I’d like to ask you about working with Ray Davies, which was in 2007. Was it difficult?
Yeah, he was difficult, he was interesting! I’ve got a lot of sympathy for Ray. I saw him just recently, ‘cause I’ve been working doing the Peter Perrett album at his studio, Konk Studios. Now he’s very lovely, he came in to say “hello”, which was very nice. But he’s driven by demons. I think it gets to a point in a solo artist’s career, where they always get frightened of putting anything out. Because they obviously want it to be successful in a way, and I think that’s a wrong thing to do. I think you should just keep “putting it out, putting it out”, and once you start to stand back and worry,  then you start second-guessing, and it’s never good. So the album I worked with him on, he re-recorded it, I think, two times again. He just kept doing it with different people. Yeah he’s a lovely man. What amazed me the most, actually the two most incredible experiences with Ray was one when he said “which acoustic guitar should I use?” “oh this one I wrote Lola on?” I said “Lola, I think you should use that one”. But also, in doing vocals with him, we recorded the track and then he would go sing like three takes of vocals, and when he came in the control room he said “I want the first verse from take three, the second line of verse two from take one, the first line from take two”. And I put it all together and it was perfect. He has an amazing memory. Amazing. He was weird and wonderful.

It’s been a fantastic interview, Chris, and so I guess I’d like to close it by asking you about your recent work with Thirsty, which is actually how the interview started.
Guy had recorded pretty much everything, and then he needed someone to come in as an overview, so I would go to Guy’s and listen to everything, and make suggestions on arrangements, or whatever. And then Guy would implement that. Maybe oversee the arrangements and make sure the vocals were good, and then I mixed it all. So it was more of an overseeing situation, but then when it got to mixing I did what I want mixing wise.

How long did it take to get it all together?
I mixed it really quick, I mixed it in about 4 or 5 days. Very quickly. But I did a lot of work with Guy at his place building the tracks. I knew what I was gonna do, or what I’d have to do. The first album, ‘Thirsty’, I actually think I worked on it for maybe 4 months, but the second one, ‘Albatross’, was a lot quicker.

You returned to Olympic Studios in 2014. Why was that?
I returned to Olympic because I became very good friends with the new owners and they know nothing about the music business, they’re in film business and graphic design. They were absolutely thrilled to meet me because I became the link back to the musical history of Olympic, because I go back to the beginning of Olympic. And through that they invited me to … they knew Olympic’s heritage of the best sound, so they wanted the best sound for the cinema. So I designed the sound in the cinema for them. Most cinemas have a kind of off the shelf sound system. This is not that, this is a completely unique system, so I helped to do that, and then I introduced them to Keith Grant, ‘cause Keith was still alive when they bought the building, and also to help with the 50th anniversary book they’re making. We have selected 120 albums of the 900 and something that were recorded here, with all the album covers. And they’re going in the book. And I’ve been speaking to different artists like Cat Stevens. I got a lovely letter from him getting different bits and pieces from different artists.

It must have been a difficult task to pick them.
It still is, because we wanted 100, but we can’t get below 120. It was very difficult. When you look at what was recorded in this building, it’s quite ridiculous. I begin to really appreciate and understand, “what Olympic!”, they get incredibly excited because they know only a fraction of what’s gone on here. And then all that led to me discussing with the owners about building a studio here, and it was gonna be in a tiny little room in the basement a couple of years ago, but I couldn’t do that, because it wouldn’t be Olympic, it would be too small. So now we’re building one on the roof, the other roof, which is as big as Screen one. It’s a big room. We’ve just finished the first sound proof wall, we have to do the floating floors next, so hopefully it will be opened in summer, next year. That’s what I’m aiming towards. So that will be a complete joy for me. It will be my design, I mean, I’ll be here, I’ll be the manager, and I’ll be working in there for sure. We are looking forward to that very much.

So who are you working with now?
The last song mix for Peter Perrett. An album with Noah Johnson. Another artist I’ve been working with. That’s maybe one of the best albums I’ve made. I’m so happy with that one. It’s a soul, Marvin Gaye type album. He’s Welsh and got a helluva voice, a great songwriter. I pulled out all of my knowledge. That’s the one with Tony Visconti on the strings and Paul Buckmaster. Steve Jordan on some drums. Jennifer Maidman on bass, Jon Carin, amazing album. All my friends. We are mastering it now. It should be out in May.

You haven’t worked with any South American artists yet, and you sure know there’s a lot of music there.
Yeah, I know, some amazing performers and music. I was just talking about it, that would be exciting.

Is there any artist or band you would love to work with that you haven’t worked with?
I love Laura Mvula. I met her several times. I don’t think I could work with her, she’s got her team but I love her work. Also with a band called King King, a big blues band.

Ok Chris, thanks for a fantastic time and interview…
Oh! Pete Townshend, I’d love to do Pete’s new album. We met the other day, he’s writing at the moment. He’s been working upstairs, we had a good afternoon, it was funny. And also because he’s in the book as well with his solo album ‘Who Came First’, and also ‘Who’s Next’ which was done here. He’s got a console I’m thinking to put in the studio. It’s a special console, so he lent it to me. He’s got the only one in the U.K. That’s was very nice of him.

24

The article´s author and Chris at Olympic, November 2016

So, once again, thanks so much, if this is not the best interview I’ve ever done…
Oh you say that to everyone! (laughs) Thank you as well, I enjoyed it too!

*With special thanks to Martin Elliott (http://stonessessions.com/) for facilitating the interview and also for suggesting some great questions.

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AN INTERVIEW WITH DANNY FURY: “TO ME, PUNK WAS LIKE A FIRST BREATH”

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Original article (in Spanish) published in Revista Madhouse on August 26, 2017

A few days ago we published an exclusive interview with Alan Clayton, the man behind the Dirty Strangers, which also featured Danny Fury, the band´s new drummer. Now it´s time to take a 180-degree turn and present one with Danny himself, with Alan´s participation, which also took place last November in London. How´s so? That day, both interviews were done almost at the same time, which explains why both Alan and Danny are commenting on their bandmates’ interviews. Danny Fury could be considered the quintessential drummer of the Post Punk scene.

1With an artistic background that led him to be part of a vast number of bands (mainly the last line-up of the Lords of the New Church), he now spends his time between the Tango Pirates, Danny´s last personal project, and as his role as drummer in the Dirty Strangers. But what better than him to tell his own story?

Somehow I’d thought that you’d been born in England, but I’ve just found out you were actually born in Switzerland. So how did you get to England in the first place? Were you already playing in bands in your home country?
Danny: I was already playing in bands all my life and, if you have a look at my record collection, you can see most of my favourite bands were from England.

When was that?
Danny: That was in 1984.

So what were your main influences at the time?
Danny: First bands were Hendrix, and stuff like The Sweet. All that glam stuff. Alice Cooper, you know. I also liked the Stooges and MC5, but that came a bit later, to be honest. And then came Punk, which to me was like a first breath or something, you know.

2

Danny, in the late ’80s

I remember some artists from Switzerland, but they all were mostly into Heavy Metal, like Krokus.
Danny: Well, Switzerland was always more about technical artist. There’s no inspiration coming from there. Everyone was just trying to be someone else, it seems, just like today, everybody’s trying to be someone else.

Why did you choose England and not Germany, as there was always a big rock scene there too.
Danny:
Yeah, but it’s still more or less the same, they just tried copying other things. There was After Punk for a while, where they tried to find their own stuff. Bands like Kraftwerk came out of that scene. But all in all the German or the Swiss bands were trying to copy the English bands.

Since you played with so many bands, I’d say you’re quite a quintessential drummer in relation to the Post Punk era. Starting with the Lords of the New Church.
Danny: I never thought of myself like that, but if that fits, in a way I’d say “yeah!” (laughs) But I guess there are others too. I just don’t wanna grab all the glory. But yeah, I’ve done a lot of work, that’s for sure. And I’m really passionate about doing so. Yes, people might have noticed that.

So you were in all these bands. Would you say you were just at the right time in the right place?
Danny: Well I guess I just got lucky about running into the right people. It was what it was, it could have been more too.

You were friends with the members of Hanoi Rocks. Am I wrong or you were moistly friends with Razzle?
Danny: No, I’ve actually met Razzle before he died. I was good friends with Nasty (Suicide), the main man. And we played together for a while in bands. Just before the Lords, he was gonna have a band with Stiv Bators and Dave Tregunna, you know.

Did that happen in Switzerland?
Danny: No, I was already here in London. I met Dave when he left the Lords. At the time, he was in a band called Cherry Bombz for a while, and he left them as well. And when I read that he left them, I wanted to start a whole new thing, and a friend of mine knew him, and then he introduces us. In fact, after we did a few sessions, Stiv called Dave one day and decided to do that band.

3

Rogue Male (Danny is second from left) That’s how the ’80s were like!

Which was the very first band in London you played with?
Danny: Well, the first band I was working on a professional level was Rogue Male, which was a bit more like Motörhead.

More heavy metal oriented…
Danny: Yes, quite a bit more heavy metal, you know, although it was more like rock than heavy metal. But they were supporting major bands on a major level, so I wanted to play a bit of that. And it was like going to school, you know. I learnt a lot, and then I met Dave and I was right on the track I wanted to be.

You did only one album with Rogue Male, and then came the Lords. How long did you stay in the band for?
Danny: Well, I’ve played with Dave for many years, but the actual time I was with the Lords…I thought it was longer, but now after they did some research about a film they’re doing on Stiv (“STIV: The Life and Times of A Dead Boy”), I think it’s close to 3 years.

4

Relaxing by the pool with Stiv Bators and friend (Danny on the right)

I cannot actually remember how many albums you recorded with the Lords…
Danny:
We did a live album (“Second Coming”) and then a 12” in studios, the one with a cover song, “Making Time”, which was a song by The Creation. Yeah, we covered that song.

But you sure did a lot of touring.
Danny:
Yes, and that was the main thing, it was pretty much non-stop in those days.

How was it being in a band with Stiv Bators? Was he really that wild, as always described?
Danny:
Well, as you can imagine, it was wild and crazy, never a dull moment, you know (laughs) It wasn’t definitely boring for a second.

How close you were to him? Was he friendly to be with?
Danny:
Yeah, we were in it together, because he was crazy enough, like staying up for days, you know, and I guess the others got tired. I joined the band, and they were already going for 4 or 5 years, or even 6. And I was the new boy! (laughs) But we were little brothers, you know, I think his birthday was a day after mine. So we were really close from the start. And he sort of took me under his wing, you know. He wanted to educate me into his style of rock and roll.

5So, in a way Stiv adopted you…
Danny:
Oh, I was his little brother or something, and he educated me on all sorts of things (Alan laughs)

Why are you laughing, Alan?
Alan: Because I’ve done Stiv’s last tour, the Dirty Strangers supported him. That’s how I met Danny first of all. We’ve been always friends of Brian’s and Stiv’s. And then Danny joined. We didn’t know it was Stiv’s last tour. I’m laughing because I know how it was, he was just a crazy man, a crazy lovely man.

It’s always nice to have a straight opinion about him from a bandmate.
Danny: He was very encouraging and very witty. And he just had this aura about him, you know, he was someone special, for sure. When he walked into a room he sort of commanded it without doing much. He just had that thing that some people have. Very interesting. He’s a special person in rock’n’roll.

And he’s still much loved after all these years.
Danny:
Yes, he is. Talking about Keith (Richards), I think they were friends as well. Yeah, because he was hanging around with all the punk guys when Stiv was in the Dead Boys, and Stiv told me he used to look after Marlon (Keith Richards’ son) apparently.

I believe Keith got onstage with the Dead Boys in a New York Club in 1981.
Danny:
Yeah!

6

Danny on Stiv Bators: “He was very encouraging, and very witty”

After the Lords of the New Church came Kill City Dragons, with your pal Dave Tregunna in the band as well. Do you think you got to a more professional level than what you did with the Lords?
Danny: When you say “professional”, what did you mean by all that?

I mean, maybe they were more your own kind of thing and you were more in control of all that.
Danny: No, not at all, in fact the Lords were actually my favourite band at the time, so they were exactly my thing, you know. I came to London to look for a band that was a bit like the Lords, and I ended up in the Lords so, you know.

Then why did you leave the Lords, or how else did it happen?
Danny:
Well, Stiv called it off, he broke it up.

So you never left the band, its actually the band came to an end.
Danny: Yes, Stiv told us onstage that that was it.

He did it during a show? I didn’t know that. Did you or the rest see it coming?
Danny: Yeah, that was actually our last gig, it just came out on YouTube. It’s actually cool to watch, but it’s that long story, if you don’t mind… Sort of what happened was, I was living off the gigs at the time, and they were suing everybody. There was no money coming in other than the live gigs. And then a tour was cancelled. And to cancel a tour you’ve got to have really good reasons, you know, as it costs a lot of money to set it up. And then the band needed a singer for the tour. And that made Stiv really upset, you know.

So the band was stopping, and you were looking for another singer.
Danny: Just for that tour, really. It’s not that we were thinking of replacing Stiv. But at the last minute they couldn’t do it. If he couldn’t do the tour, then we would lose a lot if cancelling it. It had nothing to do with me or Brian or all that, you know. Stiv agreed to have Dave Vanian (of The Damned ) replacing him, but I guess that was not fine with anybody. And Brian put it out in an ad, looking for someone else after Dave couldn’t do it. But he probably didn’t tell Stiv, you know. And then Stiv got really upset. And on the encore he wore a T-shirt with the ad on it. And that’s how it ended.

I know it’s a long story. I think what he was crazy about was having somebody else fronting the band after all those years.
Danny:
Yes, the communication didn’t go right, and people got upset, you know.

You were a fan of the Lords before you actually joined the band, which was your very kind of thing, and then you ended up joining the band you ever dreamt of being part of…
Danny: Yeah. I liked the while concept, the things they were saying. And their lyrics, which spoke to me, you know. Just the whole idea of what it was about, to use rock as a sort of atmosphere to a thing. All that information. And it really had that depth that sort of spoke to me. It was more profound than, say, a dance band. Something very unique as well. And a great image too. And Stiv was such a great performer, in a way like Iggy Pop, really wild.

Just like Ronnie Wood, who always thought “someday I’ll be in the Rolling Stones”
Danny:
There’s Ronnie Wood, and maybe a handful of others, but there’s not too many people in the world that would have imagined they’d end up playing in their favourite band. In fact I didn’t know if that was really happening, or if I was dreaming, you know.

Not many people get their dreams fulfilled.
Danny: It’s actually funny because I had supported the Lords at a gig before I joined them, and I talked to Stiv at the show and asked him if he knew a band in London I could join, and he said, “well, if Nicky dies, you can have his job” You know, just making fun. And it actually came true. He really liked that, he actually told the Press about that. He was really into the stars and things that aren’t meant to be, things like that. So that fit right into this.

Everything came into place.
Danny:
Yeah, he thought that was meant to be, you know.

So that’s when you thought to yourself, “ok, I’m staying in London”
Danny:
I was already here, but at the time coming to London was like coming home. It was a place where you could be yourself. Because it’s such a big place, so you can be more anonymous, you could really be yourself. Because I grew up in Switzerland.

7

Danny in his teen days

Where was that, Basel?
Danny:
Yeah. It’s one of the biggest cities in Switzerland, but it’s really a small town. So when you’re walking down the street, nobody cares, you just can be yourself. But at the time the English were kind of reserved, it was easier to meet foreigners, as English seemed to stick more to their own. Still I liked to grew up in London, everything seemed rock and roll, even riding a bus or going shopping. It was an inspiration that I found here.

Where did you live in London when you arrived?
Danny:
At first I lived in Hackney, ‘cause there used to be squats in those days, so you didn’t have to pay your rent. You just found am empty place. And that’s actually how many musicians managed in those days, living in squats and stuff. So that’s what I did.

Somehow it´s always thought that people coming from Switzerland are all rich.
Danny: Well, that’s a cliché. Everybody thinks that if you live in Switzerland, you live in a chalet.
Alan: Are you rich?
Danny: Of course I’m rich, I’m from Switzerland! (laughs) The thing is, they really do have a high-living standard, compared to everywhere else, they probably did a bit better than anywhere else. And there’s a lot of rich people too, that’s true. ‘Cause a lot of rich people moved there for tax reasons, or whatever.

Are you still in Hackney?
Danny
: No! Back then Hackney was a bit of a slum, actually.
Alan: Yeah, and it’s a trendy place now, isn’t it?
Danny: Yeah, everything’s changed. Now there are luxurious places everywhere.
Alan: It starts out just as anywhere. The artists move in, ‘cause it’s cheap. The artists make it trendy, and then the developers move in.
Danny: That’s it.

Well that’s how Chelsea was in the ‘60s, and who lives in Chelsea now?
Alan:
Yeah, rich people.

So Rogue male, the Lords of the New Church, then came Kill City Dragons, and then what was next? Was it Vain? If so, then you had to move to America.
Danny: Yes, that’s why I lived in San Francisco for 7 years, and I loved every minute of it.

8So how does a Swiss man that’s based in London starts working for an American band?
Danny:
Well, they played with Steven Adler of Guns N’ Roses at the time, and he still had a lot of drug problems. And in the end I guess he wasn’t reliable enough or something, and they heard that Kill City Dragons split up, and they called me up. I guess I just arrived on time. I had spent nine winters in London and the band just broke apart, and I had worked hard for the last 4 years so, and then when the guys in Vain called me, it was like “yeah, let’s go to California! Fuck this shit, I’m gonna get out of here!” (laughs)

That’s probably why many people from England move to California and never come back.
Danny: Here it’s so wet and cold, it really gets in your bones.
Alan: London is 2 degrees colder than anywhere in England.

And mostly wet.
Danny:
Yeah, it blows from the ocean.
Alan: I must say it’s not how I remember it was when I was younger.
Danny: It used to be worse.
Alan: Yeah, I think so. Before, it had never been warm till the end of October in this country.

9

Kill City Dragons (Danny, far right)

OK Danny, once again, you left the Dragons in 1994 and then moved to California to join Vain. How was to move from London to California? And how long you were in the band?
Danny: Oh absolutely, it was a different planet, a different culture. And I was with them for 4 years, and then Grunge happened and the audiences got smaller and smaller. W started playing stadiums and we ended up playing empty clubs, you know. And then the band members sort of drifted off and there was no work for a long time, unfortunately.

So that meant when Vain was over you had to move again.
Danny:
After 4 years I was kind of illegal there, you know. But then I stayed on for another 3 years and tried to get something together. There are a lot of great musicians in San Francisco but I couldn’t get anything together, nothing solid and after 3 years I decided to go back to Switzerland.

What happens to a musician when suddenly a band’s over and you have nothing coming? You’re kind of stranded…
Danny:
In my case, it was a big impact. First of all you have to get by, unless you have some money coming in from things you already did, the royalties. So you have to take little jobs and give lessons, or work in record stores. Anything that comes along.

And you managed to do it.
Danny: Yeah! Obviously I’m still here! (laughs)

10I needed to ask you that, you know. So then you went back to Switzerland.
Danny: Yes, and it’s hard to get something together if you don’t have any funds or resources. I ran out of funds and things then got a bit deppressive, and I had a big disillusion with the business part of it, you know. I still loved music. I realized in general no one cared about the real things I cared in music, and it really sort of get in my bones. And also the fact that if you’re someone’s drummer you’re supporting a guy with a vision, you know, and if that keeps falling apart and then you start over and over again, and after a while you run out of steam, and that’s what happened to me, so I sort of couldn’t see what I could do. Basically I had to stop playing music for a few years. And then when I had the urge again I bought a guitar and learn a few chords. But I was already writing lyrics since I ever came to England.  I was learning English, and that inspired me to write. So I said to myself, “let’s try something else from a different angle”, you know.

At the time you only played drums, or you were already singing as well?
Danny: Yes, I’d never sung, I just played drums. I tried writing songs and I’d never thought I could come up with anything I later realized it was good. I just thought I didn’t have that talent, and then after that break that lasted for about 3 years, I didn’t touch an instrument for that time, I bought the guitar, learnt a few chords, got my lyric book out and just started to see if I could put things together. Just for myself in the bedroom, you know.

So you didn’t waste your time.
Danny: No, I just got into songwriting, but basically I had to go way back and start over. Because I figured if I was gonna do something again had to be more in control. And if you’re a songwriter, people may leave, but you can keep going until other people arrive, you don’t have to find a new songwriter all the time. It’s not easy to find a really good songwriter, you know. But as time passed by my friends went “oh you sing really good, you have a good voice!” and stuff, and that really gave me confidence to put a new band together. And eventually we recorded an album.

11The Wild at Heart one?
Danny: Yes, that’s how I called it, and we recorded it in Switzerland, as I got back home as it made more sense ecologically, as I was really like burnt out, money-wise, and it was easier to start again there. I wasn’t even sure if I was gonna release it but I wanted to record it, but then many people came to the studio and I ended up calling Dave to play bass on it.

It’s strange because there’s like a scene of musicians that shift between bands. I mean, Dave Tregunna was once in the Dogs D’Amour, then you were in the Dogs for a while too.
Danny: Well, that’s because in a way we share the same musical taste, you know. And then it’s almost natural that you know people that way along that wavelength, then you call them, as you know they can do that kind of music.

So what happened to Wild at Heart?
Danny: So we recorded this album (“Chasing the Dragon”, 2007) with Dave and a really good guitar player who was a friend of mine and whom I’d been in bands before, but I knew they weren’t gonna be a permanent band. Dave lived in England, and this other guy had his own band, so for a while I was trying to get a line-up that could play live. So I did, but I wasn’t really happy with it, so eventually I thought that I should move back to London. I met a girl over there and she became my bass player, and then we ended up in a relationship, so it motivated me to come back here, as she really wanted to go to London. So I came back here in 2010 and found Timo (Kaltio) and Dave, who were not doing anything, just watching TV and not playing music, so I said to them “guys, I wanna start a band, and you’re just sitting around. Come and play with me” And they did. But I had my girlfriend who was already playing bass, and I wanted Dave. And I couldn’t have two bass players, you know. And I didn’t want to kick my girlfriend out of it as she had already played for a few years, and she’s done a good job, she was the best of the lot, so kicking her out would have been unfair. But Dave was playing acoustic guitar at home, as we lived together at the time, and I said to him “why don’t you try rhythm guitar?”, which was a challenge for him. So finally Dave joined the band as guitar player. And they called it Tango Pirates.

All this while you sang. And the first time you didn’t play drums.
Danny: Well, I had already done it a few years, so I had the biggest experience.

12Now that’s a great name for a band! I guess I read the story about the name somewhere, but can you explain it to me anyway?
Danny: Yes, the first blues and Chess guys that came to New York, they didn’t know what to make of themselves, so they called them the Tango Pirates. You can Google it, there’s some hilarious articles in the New York Times from the 1920’s where “they come to the cities to seduce your daughters with sex and drugs, the devil’s music!” and all that stuff, “beware of the tango pirates!” (laughs) And I thought it was amazing that no one actually had used it yet. It’s like part of rock’n’roll history and no one had actually got onto that, you know.

You know, tango is our music down in Argentina.
Danny: Tango was taking over in the 1940’s, they actually were going to jail for dancing the tango, can you imagine? I think that the Church and state were more together in those days, and I think the Church managed to outlaw tango, as it was really frivolous, you know. And then the sexiness of it, as it was too sexual. And you had like 3 months in jail for dancing it, if they caught you. Of course it was originated in South America.

Do you remember this band called Bang Tango? Which I never liked, but anyway those must be the two only rock bands with the word “tango” in their names.
Danny: I really didn’t like them too. However I think the name was catchy, just two easy words to remember.

13But the Tango Pirates are still going, aren’t they?
Danny: Well, actually I’m still working, but anyway there was this first line-up that went on for about 3 years, and then sort of that other members became too busy, so I just wanted to work more and find more people that could concentrate on that one band. Before I knew everyone was in five bands, and in the end I couldn’t get them together anymore, and I got bored waiting for them.

You still haven’t released an album with the Tango Pirates.
Danny: We never did an album, I couldn’t actually finance an album. So we did EPs. By now there are 3 EPs out.

Well, Chuck Berry used to release just singles and EPs for a long time, and compilations, and then he started putting out albums in the ‘70s.
Danny: I know, and the Sisters of Mercy also did EPs for a long time before they put an album. It’s just a financial thing, I have enough songs for three albums right now.

So you finally became a songwriter.
Danny: Yes, and that was something that really perplexed me, ‘cause I never saw or thought I’d have that in me, you know. And that really surprised me. I’m immensely happy because now I didn’t depend on other people so much anymore. I could do my own thing. And also, when you do your own stuff it’s more tailored to exactly who you are and where you wanna go and how you wanna express yourself. Of course now it gets difficult as you have to find people that like your vision.

People who are on the same wavelength.
Danny: It’s a problem, but still easier than finding songwriters. But again, it’s a great experience and it also lets me experience music from a different angle, which is completely different if you’re just a drummer.

Drummers usually don’t write songs.
Danny: Normally they don’t, but it helped my drumming ‘cause now I’m playing more for the songwriter than for the show .

Are you writing on your own, or you also do with somebody else?
Danny: I was writing on my own for a long time, because I didn’t have a songwriting partner, by then people started to co-write with me. I wrote a lot of songs with Dave, and some with my girlfriend. There was another great guitar played in the second line-up, who I was really close to, and in the same wavelength, so there are still some really good songs that haven’t been recorded yet and that are really good.

When was it that you’ve been part of the Dogs D’Amour?
Danny: That was sort of in between. I did a tour with them, but I wasn’t actually a full member. I don’t think they have a steady line-up these days, I think it’s just people that tour.

So that was before the original line-up got together again.
Danny: Yes, that’s how it was. The original band was great!

14

Alan Clayton, Danny, Brian James

Then how did you end playing with the Dirty Strangers?
Alan
: You want me to leave the room? (laughs)
Danny: You know, like Alan said before, we’ve known each other for a long time, and I saw a lot of their gigs, and I guess they needed a drummer and they just called me up.
Alan: Do you know how I got close together with Dave Tregunna? ‘Cause he played in my dad’s band. Dave and Danny were very close friends, and Danny came along to see some shows. And I hadn’t seen Danny for a long period of time.
Danny: And the tango Pirates and the Dirty Strangers, we did some gigs together, so we didn’t lose contact. And a couple of times George couldn’t play, so I filled in.

Is the band planning to a record a new album, now with Danny as a full member? But please this time don’t take another 4 years!
Alan: Yeah, oh no no no…
Danny: Hahaha!
Alan: I know, we’re famous for that. It was good timing, wasn’t it Danny? Danny filled for George a couple of times, and it was great. And Danny got the songs.
Danny: Well, I tried to progress.

15

With ex Lord of the New Church Dave Tregunna (left)

Danny, same question I asked Alan a while ago, what’s your take about the current music scene?
Danny: I do care a little bit. I’d like to be hopeful and see rock going strong but, to be honest, I don’t really see that right now. I see all the old people still doing great, and a lot of nostalgia, and then young kids trying to be something they’re not really, or just trying to be someone else. And I miss personality, string characters like there used to be. And the internet and the social networks have a lot to do with that. Social interaction has changed and that’s reflected on almost everything. But luckily there are still young guys rocking, so hopefully someday it’ll see the light.
Alan: It doesn’t have to be rock’n’roll for a message,if someone’s got something decent to say it can come across in any music.
Danny: I saw on TV kids being asked “what do you wanna be when you grow up?” And they asked “I wanna be famous” But they didn’t sat “I wanna be a singer” or “I wanna be a painter” Just being famous.

Well thanks so much to both of you!
Alan: Are you alright with it?

Sure, it was more than I expected. Come on, it’s gonna be a long one, if you have the time to read it.
Danny: Sweet!
Alan: Yes, and always interesting to see!

16

 

CON DANNY FURY, BATERO ICÓNICO DEL POST PUNK: “PARA MÍ, EL PUNK FUE COMO RESPIRAR POR PRIMERA VEZ”

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Publicado en Revista Madhouse el 26 de agosto de 2017

Hace unos días les ofrecíamos una entrevista exclusiva con Alan Clayton, miembro central de los Dirty Strangers, que también contaba con la participación de Danny Fury, el nuevo baterista del grupo. Ahora se trata de hacer un giro de 180 grados y entonces presentar una entrevista a Fury, con la participación de Alan, también realizada en Londres en noviembre del año pasado ¿Pero cómo es esto? Tal como se dieron los acontecimientos durante aquella jornada ambas entrevistas se realizaron casi al mismo tiempo, por lo que hubo aportes de cada uno de ellos en los reportajes a sus respectivos compañeros de banda. Pero nunca es tarde para apuntar que, coyunturalmente hablando, el protagonista principal de esta entrevista podría ser considerado tranquilamente el baterista por excelencia del post punk. Y no hay mucho más que agregar al respecto.
1
Con un currículum artístico que lo llevó a pasearse por una buena cantidad de proyectos y, principalmente, la última formación de los recordados Lords of the New Church, Danny ahora reparte su tiempo entre seguir dándole forma a su última aventura personal, los Tango Pirates, mientras sigue ocupando el rol de baterista de los Dirty Strangers, a quienes se sumó el año pasado como miembro estable. Pero mejor que lo explique él mismo.

De alguna manera pensaba que habías nacido en Inglaterra, pero acabo de enterarme que en verdad naciste en Suiza. ¿Cómo es que llegaste a Inglaterra, entonces? ¿Participaste antes de bandas de tu propio país?
Danny: Había tocado en grupos toda mi vida y, si mirás mi colección de discos, vas a ver que muchas de mis bandas favoritas eran inglesas.

Y eso fue en…
Danny: En 1984.

¿Cuáles eran tus principales influencias en aquel momento?
Danny:
Las primeras fueron Hendrix, y cosas como The Sweet. Y todas esas bandas del glam. Alice Cooper…También me gustaban los Stooges y MC5, pero para serte honesto eso vino algo después. Y después llegó el Punk. Para mí, el Punk fue como respirar por primera vez, o algo así, sabés.

2

Danny, allá por fines de los dorados ’80

Puedo recordar algunos artistas suizos, pero la mayoría son de la escena del heavy metal, como Krokus…
Danny:
Bueno, Suiza siempre fue más que nada sobre artistas “técnicos” No hay inspiración que venga de allí. Todo el mundo quería ser otra persona, que es lo mismo que está sucediendo ahora.

¿Cómo fue que elegiste Inglaterra, y no Alemania? Digo, allí también siempre hubo una escena grande…
Danny:
Sí, pero es más o menos lo mismo, solamente intentaban copiar otras cosas. Por un momento estuvo lo del after punk, donde intentaban encontrar su propia cosa. Bandas como Kraftwerk salieron de ahí. Pero después de todo, las bandas alemanas o las suizas trataban de copiar a las británicas.

Diría que, al haber formado parte de muchas bandas del post punk, tranquilamente podrías ser considerado un baterista por antonomasia de esa era. Comenzando con los Lords of the New Church.
Danny: Nunca pensé eso de mí, pero si es que es título encaja, de alguna forma diría, “yeah!” (risas) Pero pienso que también hay otros, no quiero llevarme todos los laureles. Pero sí, hice mucho trabajo, sin dudas. Y soy muy apasionado al hacerlo. Y la gente tal vez haya notado eso.

Al haber estado en todas esas bandas, ¿considerarías que estuviste en el momento y en el lugar justos?
Danny: Bueno, creo que simplemente tuve la suerte de conocer a la gente indicada. Fue lo que fue, y también podría haber sido más.

Sé que eras amigo de los miembros de Hanoi Rocks, y principalmente de Razzle. ¿Es correcto?
Danny: No,en verdad conocí a Razzle antes que muriera. Era muy amigo de Nasty (Suicide), con quien tocamos juntos en algunas bandas. Antes de los Lords él estaba por formar una banda con Stiv Bators y Dave Tregunna, ¿sabías?

No, en absoluto. ¿Eso sucedió en Suiza?
Danny: No, yo ya estaba aquí en Londres. Conocí a Dave cuando se fue de los Lords. En aquel momento él estaba en Cherry Bombz, y también los dejó más tarde. Y cuando leí que se había ido del grupo, justo cuando yo quería hacer algo nuevo, un amigo mío que lo conocía nos presentó. De hecho, después que hicimos algunas sesiones, un día Steve llamó a Dave y decidieron hacer esa banda.

3

Rogue Male en pleno: Danny es el segundo desde la izquierda. Créase o no, este look hacía furor en los 80

¿Cuál fue el primer grupo en Londres con el que tocaste?
Danny:
La primera banda con la que trabajé a niver profesional fue Rogue Male, que era un poco como Motörhead.

Algo más pesado, ¿o se acercaba más al heavy metal?
Danny:
Sí, algo mucho más heavy metal, si bien era más rock que metal. Pero siempre estaban teloneando bandas de mayor nivel, así que yo quería tocar algo de eso. Y fue como ir a la escuela, sabés. Aprendí muchísimo, y entonces después conocí a Dave, y estaba en el camino en que siempre quise estar.

Después de Rough Male, entonces, entraste en los Lords of the New Church. ¿Por cuánto tiempo estuviste en el grupo?
Danny:
Bueno, toque con Dave durante muchos años, pero en cuanto a cuánto estuve en los Lords…Pensé que había sido mucho más, pero ahora, después de una investigación para una película que se hizo sobre Stiv (N. de la R.: “STIV: The Life And Times Of A Dead Boy”, aún sin estrenarse), creo que fueron cerca de 3 años.

4

Momento de relax piscinero a fines de los ’80; en el agua está Stiv Bators, sentadito en el borde está Danny.

¿Entonces cuáles fueron los álbumes de los Lords en los que estuviste?
Danny:
Hicimos un disco en vivo (“Second Coming”) y después un 12 pulgadas en estudio, que es el que tenía el cover de “Making Time”, la canción de The Creation.

Pero sí en cambio giraron mucho…
Danny
: Así es, y eso fue lo principal, en aquellos días casi no parábamos.

Mucho se ha dicho sobre los días salvajes de Stiv Bators, ¿pero cómo eran realmente según la opinión de alguien que los compartió junto á él?
Danny:
Bueno, como podrás imaginarte, era algo salvaje y loco, nunca un momento aburrido, sabés (risas) Definitivamente no hubo ni  un segundo de aburrimiento.

¿Cuán cercano eras a él? ¿Stiv era amigable con vos?
Danny:
Sí, estábamos en eso juntos, porque él era suficientemente loco. A veces Stiv estaba despierto durante días, sabés, y pienso que los demás se cansaron de eso. Para cuando me uní al grupo, ya hacía 4 o 5 años que ellos estaban tocando juntos, o incluso 6. ¡Y yo era el chico nuevo! Pero éramos como hermanos pequeños, sabés.  Creo que su cumpleaños caía 1 día después del mío. Así que fuimos muy unidos desde el vamos. Y es como que él siempre me protegió. Siempre quiso educarme en su estilo de rock and roll.

5Entonces vendría a ser como que Stiv te adoptó…
Danny:
Oh, yo era como su hermano menor, o algo así, y él me educó respecto a un montón de cosas (Alan se ríe fuertemente)

¿Por qué te reís, Alan?
Alan: Porque yo trabajé en lo que fue la útima gira de Stiv. Los Dirty Strangers fuimos soportes de los Lords. Así es como conocí a Danny por primera vez. Siempre habíamos sido amigos de Brian (James) y de Steve. Y después llegó Danny. Me río porque sé cómo fue. Stiv era un tipo muy loco, un loco encantador.

Siempre es bueno tener una opinión sobre él directamente de un compañero de banda.
Danny:
Stiv era alguien muy alentador, y también muy ingenioso. Y tenía todo ese aura a su alrededor. Era alguien especial, sin dudas. Cuando entraba en una habitación, se imponía entre todos sin hacer mucho esfuerzo. Tenía eso que algunas personas tienen. Muy interesante. Es una persona especial en la historia del rock’n’roll.

Y alguien que continúa siendo adorado, a pesar de que ya pasaron muchos años desde que murió.
Danny:
Hace un rato hablabas con Alan sobre Keith (Richards), y creo que ellos eran amigos. Porque en esos días Keith andaba mucho con los punks, en la época en que Stiv estaba en los Dead Boys, y Stiv me contó que a veces cuidaba a Marlon (N. de la R.: Marlon Richards, el hijo de Keith), aparentemente.

Lo que sí sé es que Keith se subió a tocar con los Dead Boys en un club en New York en 1981.
Danny:
¡Sí!

6

Stiv Bators, “alguien muy alentador y también muy ingenioso”, según Danny

Después que se terminaron los Lords of the New Church formaste Kill City Dragons, nuevamente junto a Dave Tregunna. ¿Pensás que eso los elevó a un nivel más profesional del que habían llegado con los Lords?
Danny:
Cuando decís “profesional”, ¿a qué te referís exactamente?

Quise decir, si era algo más personal, y que al mismo tiempo lograbas manejar mejor.
Danny:
No, para nada, de hecho los Lords eran mi banda favorita de aquel momento, por lo que eso era exactamente lo mío, sabés. Llegué a Londres buscando una banda que se asemejara a los Lords, y terminé en los Lords.

¿Entonces cuál fue la razón por la que te fuiste de los Lords? ¿Qué terminó sucediendo?
Danny:
Bueno, Stiv lo canceló, disolvió al grupo. Y nos lo dijo cuando estábamos en el escenario.

¿Se los dijo en vivo, durante un show? No lo sabía. Supongo que nadie se lo veía venir…
Danny: Sí, y ese fue nuestro último show. Apareció hace poco en YouTube. Es muy lindo para ver pero…Es una larga historia. Lo que sucedió fue más o menos que, en aquel momento yo vivía de los shows, y todo el mundo estaba demandando a todo el mundo. No tenía ningún otro ingreso, salvo el de los conciertos. Y entonces cancelaron un tour. Y tienen que existir muy buenos motivos para hacer algo así, sabés, porque montarlo cuesta mucho dinero. Y la banda estaba buscando cantante para esa gira. Y eso enojó mucho a Stiv, sabés.

¿Estaban buscando a un vocalista para reemplazar a Stiv en la gira?
Danny: Sólo para ese tour, en verdad. Nunca pensamos en reemplazar a Stiv. Pero a último momento no se pudo hacer. Si él no podía hacer la gira, eso significaba que íbamos a perder mucho dinero cancelándolo. No tuvo nada que ver conmigo, ni con Brian, ni nada de eso. Stiv había estado de acuerdo con que lo reemplace Dave Vanian (N. de la R.: el cantante de The Damned), pero creo que nadie quería eso. Y Brian puso un aviso en un diario, buscando a otro cantante. Pero probablemente no se lo haya comentado a Stiv, sabés. Y entonces Stiv se enojó muchísimo. De hecho en los bises del concierto Stiv usa una remera con el aviso impreso en ella. Y así fue como terminó todo.

Sin dudas le molestó que alguien ocupara su lugar de frontman después de todos esos años.
Danny: Sí, la comunicación no funcionó, y la gente terminó enojada, sabés.

Eras fan de los Lords, que también tu tipo de música, y terminaste convirtiéndote en miembro del grupo del que siempre soñaste en formar parte.
Danny:
Sí. Me gustaba el concepto general, las cosas que decían. Y sus letras, que era como si me me hablaran a mí, sabés.  La idea completa de lo que se trataba la banda, eso de usar el rock como un tipo de atmósfera para algo. Toda esa información. Y que tenían esa profundidad que parecían hablarme. Era algo mucho más profundo que, digamos, un grupo bailable. Y también algo muy único, y con una gran imagen. Y Stiv era un performer genial. Como Iggy Pop, de alguna manera. Realmente salvaje.

Como el caso de Ronnie Wood, que alguna vez se dijo a sí mismo  “algún día voy a estar en los Rolling Stones”
Danny:
Como el caso de Ronnie Wood, y tal vez algunos pocos más, pero no existe mucha gente en el mundo que podría haber imaginado acabar tocando en su grupo favorito. En realidad, no sabía si estaba sucediendo, o si lo estaba soñando.

Hay sueños que son muy difíciles de cumplir.
Danny:
Es algo muy divertido, realmente, porque yo había sido telonero de los Lords con otra banda antes de ingresar, y en es show hablé con Stiv y le pregunté si conocía alguna banda en Londres en la cual pudiera entrar, y él me dijo, “bueno, si Nicky (N. de la R.: Turner, el baterista original de los Lords of the New Church) se muere, podés tener su puesto” Lo dijo en joda, sabés. Nicky no murió, pero después terminó haciéndose algo real. A Stiv le encantaba esa historia, siempre se la contaba a los periodistas. Stiv estaba muy metido en eso de las estrellas, y cosas así. Y esa historia encaja mucho en todo eso.

Todo cayó en el lugar justo.
Danny:
Sí, y él pensó que era algo que tenía que suceder de esa manera, sabés.

Y seguramente fue ahí cuando dijiste, “ok, me quedo en Londres”
Danny:
Ya estaba aquí, y en aquel momento llegar a Londres era como llegar a casa. Era un lugar donde podías ser vos mismo. Porque es una ciudad tan grande, que podés sentirte más anónimo, realmente podés ser vos mismo. Porque yo crecí en Suiza.

7

Danny en su temprana juventud, suponemos que en Suiza, aunque la alfombra parezca persa

¿En Basilea?
Danny:
Sí. Es una de las ciudades más grandes del país, pero en realidad es como un pueblo pequeño. Y entonces, en Londres, cuando vas caminando por la calle, a nadie le importa, podés ser vos mismo. Pero al principio los ingleses eran algo así como reservados, más apegados a sí mismos. Aún así me gustaba crecer en Londres, todo parecía más rock and roll, ya sea viajar en bus, o salir de compras. Aquí encontré una inspiración.

¿Tenías donde vivir al llegar a la ciudad?
Danny:
  Al principio viví en el barrio de Hackney, porque en aquel momento existían los squats , entonces no tenías que pagar alquiler. Uno encontraba un lugar que estuviera vacío, y listo. Y así fue como muchos músicos se la arreglaban en aquellos días. Así que eso fue lo que hice.

De alguna forma, siempre se pensó que la gente que viene de Suiza es rica.
Danny:
Bueno, es un cliché. Todo el mundo piensa que si vivís en Suiza, vivís en un chalet.
Alan: ¿Sos rico, Danny?
Danny: ¡Por supuesto que soy rico, soy de Suiza! (risas) En verdad lo que sucede es que tienen un estándar de vida alto, en comparación con otros lugares. Probablemente les haya ido mejor que a otros. Y también hay muchísima gente rica, eso es verdad. Porque mucha gente se mudó allí por temas impositivos, o lo que sea.

¿Y ahora seguís viviendo en Hackney?
Danny:
Ya no. En aquel tiempo, Hackney era como un tugurio, realmente.
Alan: Sí, y ahora es un lugar de moda, ¿no?
Danny: Sí, todo cambió. Ahora está lleno de lugares lujosos.
Alan: Es como en todas partes. Los artistas se mudan ahí, porque es barato, pero después hacen que se ponga de moda, y llegan los desarrolladores.
Danny: Es así.

Es lo mismo que ocurrió en Chelsea en los ’60. ¿Y ahora quién puede vivir en Chelsea?
Alan:
Sí, la gente rica.

OK Danny, volvamos a las bandas en las que estuviste. Rogue Male, después vinieron los Lords of the New Church, luego Kill City Dragons…¿Y después que vino? ¿Vain? Ahí fue cuando tuviste que mudarte a los EE. UU.
Danny:
Sí, fue por so que viví en San Francisco durante 7 años. Y amé cada instante estando allí.
8
¿Cómo hace un suizo que vive en Londres para llegar a formar parte de una banda estadounidense?
Danny:
Bueno, por entonces Vain tenía a Steven Adler de Guns N’Roses como baterista. Y Steve todavía tenía muchos problemas con las drogas. Y al final supongo que él ya no les resultaba más alguien creíble, y al mismo tiempo habían escuchado que los Kill City Dragons se habían separado, y me llamaron. Creo que llegué justo a  tiempo.  Había pasado nueve inviernos en Londres y la banda se había disuelto después de trabajar duramente durante 4 años, y cuando me llamaron de Vain fue algo así como “sí, ¡vayamos a California! ¡A la mierda con todo esto, voy a escaparme de aquí!” (risas)

Ese sea tal vez el motivo por el que muchos ingleses que se mudan a California, jamás regresan.
Danny:
Aquí es tan frío y húmedo, que se te mete en los huesos.
Alan: Londres es 2 grados más frío que cualquier otro lugar de Inglaterra.

9

Kill City Dragons: dale duro con el look

Ok Danny, retomemos. Entonces te fuiste de Kill City Dragons en 1994, y luego te mudaste a California para unirte a Vain. Reitero. ¿Cómo fue el cambio de estilo de vida para un suizo que vivía en Londres? ¿Y cuánto tiempo estuviste en la banda?
Danny:
¡Oh, absolutamente! Era como estar en otro planeta, una cultura diferente. Y estuve con ellos durante 4 años, y entonces llegó el grunge, y con eso las audiencias eran cada vez más chicas. Comenzamos tocando en estadios y terminamos tocando en clubes vacíos, sabés. Y luego es como que los miembros de la banda se fueron yendo a la deriva, y casi no hubo trabajo durante un largo tiempo, lamentablemente.

Entiendo que eso significó que tengas que mudarte de lugar nuevamente.
Danny:
Después de estar ahí durante 4 años, ya era como estar ilegal. Pero me quedé 3 años más intentando general alguna otra cosa. Hay muchos grandes músicos en San Francisco, pero no lograba formar nada, nada sólido, y después de esos 3 años decidí retornar a Suiza.

¿Qué es lo que siente un músico cuando su banda se acaba y no tenés ningún proyecto en mente? La sensación debe ser la de estar varado…
Danny:
En mi caso, fue algo de gran impacto. Primero que todo, tenés que arreglártelas para sobrevivir, a menos que obtengas dinero de cosas que ya habías hecho, como los derechos de autor. Entonces tenés que agarrar todo tipo de empleos chicos, o dar clases, o trabajar en disquerías. Lo que sea que aparezca.

10¿Y te las arreglaste para lograr eso?
Danny:
Sí, obviamente. ¡Aún estoy aquí! (risas)

Necesitaba preguntártelo. Y entonces después volviste a Suiza.
Danny:
Sí, y es muy difícil poder organizar algo si no tenés fondos o fuentes para hacerlo. Me había quedado sin dinero, y todo se volvió bastante depresivo, y tuve una gran desilusión con la parte del negocio de la música, sabés. Aún amaba a la música. Me di cuenta que, en general, a nadie le importaban las cosas verdaderas de la música que a mí sí me importaban, y es como que eso caló en mis huesos. Y después también está el hecho de que, si sos el baterista de alguien, estás apoyando a alguien que tiene cierta visión, y si eso sigue yéndose abajo, y después que lo intentaste otra y otra vez, después de un tiempo te quedás sin vapor. Y eso es exactamente lo que me sucedió a mí, no lograba ver lo que podía hacer. Básicamente tuve que parar de tocar música por unos años. Y más tarde, cuando volví a tener la necesidad de hacerlo, me compré una guitarra y aprendí unos pocos acordes. Pero ya venía escribiendo letras de mucho antes, desde cundo había llegado a Inglaterra por primera vez. Al mismo tiempo aprendía a hablar inglés, y eso me inspiró a ponerme a escribirlas. Así que me dije, “probemos con algo que sea desde un ángulo diferente”, sabés.

¿Por aquel entonces solamente tocabas la batería, o también cantabas?
Danny:
Sí. Nunca había cantado, solo tocaba batería. Intenté escribir canciones, y nunca pensé que podía salirme algo, hasta que más tarde me di cuenta que podía hacer buenas cosas. Nunca pensé que tenía ese talento, y entonces, después de esa pausa que duró cerca de 3 años, sin haberme siquiera acercado a un instrumento, me compré la guitarra, aprendí unos acordes, saqué mi libro con las letras de canciones que tenía escritas, y me puse a ver si lograba poner algo en marcha. Tocaba solamente para mí, en mi cuarto.

Bueno, eso significa que no perdiste tu tiempo.
Danny:
No, para nada, me puse a escribir canciones, pero esencialmente tuve que volver al comienzo, y empezar de vuelta. Porque pensé que, si iba a volver a hacer algo, tenía que ser algo que estuviera más bajo mi control. Y si escribís canciones, los otros músicos podrán irse, pero vos podés seguir adelante hasta que aparezcan otros, y de esa forma no tenés que andar encontrando alguien que escriba las canciones todo el tiempo. No es fácil encontrar un buen escritor de canciones, sabés. Pero a medida que pasaba el tiempo, mis amigos me decían, “¡oh cantás realmente bien, tenés una buena voz!”, y cosas así, y eso me dio la confianza necesaria para formar una nueva banda. Y eventualmente, después grabamos un álbum.

11¿El de “Wild at Heart”?
Danny
: Sí, así es como nombré al proyecto, y lo grabamos en Suiza, ya que al volver a casa todo tuvo más sentido a nivel ecológía, ya que yo tenía la cabeza quemada, monetariamente hablando, y fue mucho más fácil volver a empezar estando ahí. Ni siquiera estaba seguro si alguna vez se iba editar, pero yo quería grabarlo. Mucha gente comenzó a acercarse al estudio, y terminé llamando a Dave (Tregunna) para que toque el bajo en el álbum.

Siempre pienso que es como que existió una escena paralela en el rock inglés cuyos músicos pasaron, casi todos, por las bandas de los otros que también al componían. Digo, Dave Tregunna estuvo en los primeros tiempos de los Dogs D’Amour, después junto a vos en los Lords of the New Church, y años más tarde vos mismo pasaste un tiempo por los Dogs.
Danny: Bueno, eso se da porque de alguna manera todos tenemos los mismos gustos musicales, sabés. Y entonces es casi natural que conozcas gente que esté en tu misma onda, y después los llames, porque sabés que pueden hacer ese tipo de música.

Ok, continuemos con Wild at Heart entonces…
Danny:
OK, entonces grabamos el álbum con Dave y con un gran guitarrista que era amigo mío, y con quien también había estado en bandas anteriormente, pero siempre supe que no iba a ser una banda permanente. Dave vivía aquí en Inglaterra, y el otro tipo tenía su propio grupo, así que por un tiempo estuve buscando una banda que pudiera tocar en vivo. Y lo hice, pero no estaba muy feliz con ella, así que eventualmente pensé que debería mudarme de vuelta a Londres. Allí conocí a una chica que luego fue mi bajista, y con quien terminé relacionándome, lo que me motivó a volver aquí, ya que ella realmente quería ir a Londres. Entonces volví  en el 2010 y me encontré con Timo (Kaltio) y con Dave, que no estaban haciendo nada. Se la pasaban mirando TV, no estaban haciendo nada de música, y les dije, “chicos, quiero poner en marcha una banda, y Uds. Se la pasan sentados. Vengan a tocar conmigo” Y lo hicieron. Pero estaba mi novia, que ya tocaba el el bajo en el grupo, y al mismo tiempo yo quería que Dave esté en la banda. Y no podía tener dos bajistas, sabés. Ni tampoco quería echar a mi novia, que hacía rato estaba en la banda,  y que además venía haciendo un muy buen trabajo, era la mejor de todos, por lo que echarla hubiera sido muy injusto.  Pero Dave hacía tiempo que estaba tocando guitarra acústica en casa, ya que por entonces vivíamos juntos, y entonces le dije, “¿por qué no probás tocar guitarra rítmica?”, lo que era todo un desafío para él. Y así fue como finalmente Dave se unió al grupo como guitarrista. Y lo llamamos Tango Pirates.

Y a todo esto, finalmente vos estabas cantando en una banda. Y también era la primera vez en que no tocabas batería.
Danny: Bueno, ya había hecho lo mismo durante unos años, pero igualmente esa fue fue la gran experiencia.
12
Tango Pirates es un gran nombre para un grupo. Creo haber leído al historia en algún lugar, ¿pero me la podrías contar de todas formas?
Danny:
Desde ya. Los primeros músicos de blues de Chicago, al llegar a New York, no sabían muy bien para dónde ir, y entonces alguien comenzó a llamarlos Tango Pirates (“Piratas del Tango”) Podés buscarlo en Google, y aparte también hay algunas notas muy graciosas publicadas en el New York Times en los años ’20, donde dice que “habían llegado a las ciudades para seducir a tus hijas mediante el sexo y las drogas, ¡la música del diablo!”, y todo este tipo de cosas. “¡Cuidado con los tango pirates!” (risas) Y pensé que era increíble que nadie haya usado ese nombre hasta aquel momento. Es algo que es parte de la historia del rock and roll y nadie lo utilizó, sabés.

Supongo que estarás al tanto de que es uno de los estilos musicales por excelencia de mi país, Argentina.
Danny:
El tango era algo muy bandido en los años ’40, de hecho iban a la cárcel por bailarlo, ¿podés creerlo? Pienso que la Iglesia y el Estado estaban muy relacionados en aquellos tiempos, y supongo que la Iglesia se las ingenió para marginar al tango, ya que era algo que resultaba realmente frívolo, sabés.  Y después está todo eso de la sexualidad del tango, porque era algo muy sexual. Y si lo bailabas, te llevaban preso por 3 meses, si es que te agarraban. Desde ya, se originó en Sudamérica.

Ya que estamos, ¿recordás al grupo Bang Tango? Nunca me gustaron, pero como fuera, deben ser las dos únicas bandas del rock de la historia con la palabra “tango” en sus nombres.
Danny:
Tampoco me gustaban, para nada. Igualmente pienso que el nombre es muy pegadizo, se trata de recordar sólo dos palabras.

13Pero fuera de tu trabajo con los Dirty Strangers, los Tango Pirates siguen activos, ¿verdad?
Danny:
Bueno, en verdad sigo trabajando con ellos, pero de todas maneras, hubo una primera formación que duró por alrededor de 3 años, y después es como que los miembros del grupo estaban muy ocupados…Y yo quería trabajar más, y con gente que pudiera concentrarse en la banda. Antes que me diera cuenta, cada uno de ellos estaba en al menos cinco bandas, y al final no pude volver a juntarlos, y me aburrí de esperarlos.

Los Tango Pirates no editaron ningún álbum hasta el momento.
Danny:
Nunca hicimos un álbum, realmente nunca pude financiarlo. Así que hicimos EPs. Hasta el momento se editaron tres.

Bueno, Chuck Berry se la pasó editando singles y EPs durante muchos años. Salvo las recopilaciones, recién comenzó a lanzar LPs en los años 70.
Danny:
Lo sé. Y los Sisters of Mercy también hicieron sólo EPs durante un largo tiempo, antes de lanzar un disco. Es algo financiero, de hecho tengo canciones como para tres álbumes.

Y fuera de todo eso, finalmente te convertiste en compositor de canciones.
Danny:
Sí, y eso es algo que realmente me dejó perplejo, porque nunca pensé, o vi, que podía tener eso en mí, sabés. Y me sorprendió muchísimo. Ahora soy inmensamente feliz, ya que no necesito tanto de depender de otra gente. Puedo hacer lo mío. Y aparte, cuando hacés tu propio material, es algo que se ajusta más a quién sos realmente, hacia dónde querés ir, y cómo querés expresarte. Por supuesto, por otro lado se hace difícil encontrar gente que comparta tu manera de ver las cosas.

Gente que esté en tu misma frecuencia.
Danny:
Es todo un problema, pero aún así, resulta más fácil que el de encontrar gente que escriba canciones. Pero reitero, es una gran experiencia , y también me permite experimentar la música desde un ángulo diferente, lo cual, si sos un baterista, es algo totalmente distinto.

Los bateristas no son de escribir canciones…
Danny:
Normalmente no lo hacen, pero ayudó mucho a mi forma de tocar batería, porque ahora me centro más en eso, que en el show en sí.

¿Estás componiendo canciones exclusivamente por las tuyas, o también con alguien más?
Danny:
Escribí solo durante mucho tiempo, porque no tenía un colega para hacerlo, pero después algunos empezaron a co-escribir conmigo. Escribí muchas canciones con Dave, y algunas con mi chica. Hubo otro gran guitarrista en la segunda formación del grupo de quien estaba muy cerca, y en la misma onda, por lo que hay muchas grandes canciones que aún no fueron grabadas, y que son muy buenas.

Sé que, si bien fue de forma muy breve, alguna vez pasaste por los Dogs D’Amour…
Danny:
Eso fue algo, digamos, intermedio. Hice una gira con ellos, pero nunca fui integrante estable. Creo que hoy día no tienen formación fija, son sólo cuatro personas que salen de gira.

Entonces eso sucedió antes que la formación original vuelva a juntarse, que igual terminó siendo algo muy efímero.
Danny:
Exactamente, fue así. ¡La banda original era grandiosa!

14

Alan Clayton, Danny y Brian James: la actualidad les sienta bien

Ok, yendo al presente, ¿cómo fue que terminaste tocando en los Dirty Strangers?
Alan:
¿Querés que salga de la habitación? (risas)
Danny:
Sabés, como dijo Alan, nos conocíamos desde hacía mucho tiempo. Vi muchísimos de sus shows. Y supongo que estaban precisando un baterista, y entonces me llamaron.
Alan: ¿Querés saber cómo me hice amigo de Dave Tregunna? Eso se dio porque Dave tocó en la banda de mi padre. Dave y Danny eran íntimos amigos, y entonces Danny era de venir a ver mis shows. Y de hecho hacía mucho que no lo veía…
Danny: Los Tango Pirates y los Dirty Strangers hicieron juntos algunos conciertos, así que nunca perdimos contacto. Y también hubo un par de ocasiones en las que el baterista anterior, George, no pudo tocar con ellos, y yo lo reemplacé.

¿Planean granar un nuevo disco con Danny como miembro fijo? Eso sí, por favor que esta vez no les vuelva a llevar 4 años hacerlo…
Alan:
(Risas) Sí, oh no no no…
Danny: ¡Jajaja!
Alan: Lo sé, somos famosos por eso. Fue un buen timing, ¿no Danny? Danny reemplazó a George en un par de shows, y fue genial. Y Danny también captó todas nuestras canciones.
Danny: Bueno, intentaba progresar…

15

Dave Tregunna y Danny: la combinazione vincente

Te formulo la misma pregunta que le hice a Alan en su entrevista, y en la que también participaste. ¿Cuál es tu opinión sobre la actualidad de la escena musical?
Danny:
Algo me importa. Me gustaría ser esperanzado y ver que el rock vuelve a hacerse algo fuerte pero, honestamente, no veo que eso esté ocurriendo ahora. Veo que los músicos de antes aún lo hacen bien, y que hay mucha nostalgia, y después chicos jóvenes intentando ser algo que en realidad no son, o tratando de ser otras personas. Y extraño eso de la personalidad, personajes fuertes, como solía haber. Y tanto la internet como las redes sociales tienen mucho que ver con eso. La interacción social ha cambiado, y eso se refleja en casi todo. Pero con suerte todavía hay chicos jóvenes rockeando, así que espero que algún día eso vea la luz.
Alan: No tiene que ser necesariamente rock´n´roll para que tenga un mensaje, si alguien tiene algo decente para decir lo puede hacer con cualquier tipo de música.
Danny: Veo en TV a chicos  que les preguntan, “¿qué querés ser cuando seas grande?” Y ellos contestan, “quiero ser famoso” Pero no dicen “quiero ser cantante”, o “quiero ser pintor de cuadros” Sólo quieren ser famosos.

Bueno, ahora sí, ¡muchas gracias a ambos!
Alan:
¿Todo bien con la entrevista?

Desde ya, ¡fue más de lo que esperaba! Y aparte fueron suficientemente extensas, como para que no quede nada afuera.
Danny:
¡Genial!
Alan: Sí, ¡y es algo que siempre va a resultar interesante leer!

16

WITH ALAN CLAYTON OF THE DIRTY STRANGERS: “I WRITE BETTER WITH MY BACK AGAINST THE WALL”

Standard

Original article (in Spanish) published in Revista Madhouse on August 13, 2017

And on the eight day God created The Dirty Strangers. Or something. Because the story of one of the most particular London cult bands of the last three-odd decades actually had to do with earthlier facts. No eighth day of creation, then. God has never taken up the work again, he just had to settle for seven days to do what he could do. Instead came Alan Clayton, singer, guitarist and, most of it all, main man behind the songs of the Shepherd´s Bush band, one of the most cosmopolitan areas of the British capital city.

1..

The Dirty Strangers in the ’80s: Ray King, Dirty Alan Clayton, Mark Harrison, Scotty Mulvey, Paul Fox

Like in a theater programme, to get to know about the days and the times of the Dirtys suggests a brief description of the cast. The first name on the list is irrevocably (again) Clayton, the band´s heart and soul, or as clearly described in the group´s website: “The band were on a mission: carrying a torch for rootsy rock’n’roll as invented by Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry but laced with a little bit of Otis Redding soul and a side order of punk attitude” Oh yes. The original cast that spawned the early days of the Dirty Strangers’ biography continues with Jim Callaghan, most remembered as the Rolling Stones’ touring security chief  for at least 30 years, currently retired, who Clayton used to work for when he still hadn´t picked up the music path. Next is former boxer Joe Seabrook, Alan´s close friend, who also did Security for Callaghan before becoming Keith Richards’ (yes, that Keith Richards) personal bodyguard, till he passed away in 2000. There´s also Stash Klossowski De Rola (better known as Prince Stash), an aristocratic dandy all the way from the London ‘60s bohemian scene, one of Brian Jones’ closest mates, whom he was busted with on a historic drug raid in 1967. Last but not least is the very Keith Richards himself (yes, that Keith once again) as prime eventual catalyst, who thanks to all the aforementioned characters ended up being not only the band´s unofficial godfather, but also a very close friend of, of course, Alan Clayton’s. One thing lead to another and, 30 years and four albums later (“The Dirty Strangers”, “West 12 To Wittering (Another West Side Story)”, “Crime And A Woman”, and “Diamonds”, a compilation), the nowadays four-member group (Clayton on vocals and guitar, Scott Mulvey on piano, Cliff Wright on bass and drummer Danny Fury) prepare to record a new album early next year. As they’ve been doing since their early days, in the meantime they´ll keep doing the odd club circuit in England, with 3 gigs in Spain by late September (in Barcelona, Zaragoza and Reus) recently added.

2..

A promo poster of the Dirtys’ self-titled first album, with Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood as guests

NO SLEEP TILL HAMMERSMITH
REVISTA MADHOUSE visited Clayton´s place last November to interview him and go over the band´s history. In order to get to Dirty Alan´s headquarters (which backyard includes an intimate and tiny personal recording studio) one needs to reach the Hammersmith and Fulham Borough, in West London, not far from the legendary Wormwood Scrubs prison, which involved a truly funny question after asking a local lady about the right directions in order to get there by mentioning the traditional jail (“Oh, your friend lives there?”) Along with Alan was bandmate Danny Fury (once drummer of the Lords of the New Church, among other great bands he was in), whom we´ll soon feature an exclusive interview with too. So here´s a smooth (and sometimes also wild) ride about the lives and times of the Dirty Strangers in the very own words of its creator, a rock’n’roll task that took him longer than, rather more than, seven days.

3..

Clayton, Wright and Mulvey, on a recent show

The Dirtys were born in the mid-80’s but what before that, I mean, personally, as a musician?Alan: The band formed in ’78. I mean, I started playing guitar I suppose in ’76, something about that I used to write songs and poetry. Because most of the people think that when I met Keith, that’s where the band started. And the reason why I met Keith is because we were very successful. The Lords of the New Church were a big band, and the Dirtys had their own scene playing the Marquee. Your career moves very fast when you´re young.  And about three years before I met Keith, I met him in ’81, we had already headlined the Marquee.

So what´s the story behind you getting to meet Keith? How did that really happen?
Alan: I was the Jack of all trades, and one of my jobs was, like, Security. Joe Seabrook was one of my best mates, I knew Joe before he met Keith. My first day with Keith was in Big Joe´s pub.

4..

The Verulam Arms, Joe Seabrook´s former pub in Warford

Joe had a pub?
Alan: Yeah, in Watford, called The Verulam Arms.

Watford? That’s Elton John’s hometown, isn’t it? That’s close to where I’m staying now, in Hemel Hempstead.
Alan: Right, very close. In fact Joe had a place in Hemel Hempstead as well.

So Joe was doing Security at the time.
Alan: Yeah, he had a pub, and he was doing Security, and we became good friends. He was the Stranglers’ bodyguard, Big Country’s bodyguard…

Then how did you meet Jim Callaghan?
Alan: Jim and Paddy was the one I worked for, it was a firm called Call A Hand.  So I worked for Paddy and Jim, and Joe came to work for Paddy and Jim as well. Because of Joe’s immense stature and presence, he became a bodyguard as well.

5..

Keith Richards and Alan in the early ’80s: friendship and guitars

He was a boxer, wasn’t he?Alan: Yeah, he was.

So you were doing Security on your own.
Alan: Yeah, working for Jimmy, for Jimmy Callaghan.

And then I guess you met Keith through Joe…
Alan: Yeah. And because I had this musical connection with Joe, when Joe started working for Keith, he wanted Keith to hear our music, ’cause he knew Keith would like it. Carlton Towers in Knightsbridge. He took me out to meet Keith. And it was funny because he brought me into his bedroom. I arrived at the hotel 11 in the evening, so I was working during the day.  And I said “when are we going to see him?”, and Joe said, “he doesn’t get up until 2 in the morning”. Fuck it! I’d been at work all day!

How did you feel about that at the time? Were you somehow excited? I guess you’ve always liked Keith as a guitar player…
Alan: Of course I was excited! I had other people I preferred but I liked the stuff he likes, Otis Redding, Motown…The Stones were always a band I liked, but I liked The Who more, as they were always more of a London band for me. So that’s how I met him. I remember I went into his bedroom in the Carlton Towers, and Joe said “this is Alan, he plays in a band that sounds like the Stones used to sound” And Keith said “look forward to that, it’s been a while” And two days later he’d say to me “I’m off to Paris now”, and I said “oh I’d never been to Paris”, so he sent his chauffeur around asked me to take a guitar and swordstick and said “come and stay with me in Paris”. And I’d only known him for 2 days, you know.

Just like that.
Alan: His chauffeur turned up in Keith’s Bentley. Picked me up and drove to Paris. His dad Bert was still living in Dartford, where Keith came from, so on our way to Dover, he picks up Bert. So that’s me and Bert in the Bentley, we went to Paris.

6..

Keith and Alan in recent times: friendship and sofas

The three of you.
Alan: Well, Keith was flying there. Just me, Bert and the chauffeur.

That must have been a great ride!
Alan: Oh it was good!

Great story, and great way to start as well!
Alan: But I’d already been in the studio with Ronnie (Wood). We’d done “Baby” and “Here She Comes”, and “Easy To Please”.

And that’s on your first album.
Alan: Yeah, right. And then “Thrill Of A Thrill” So I’d already been recording with Ronnie, and Keith helped set up shows in Paris. We still never had a record deal, and it was only a couple of years later when Mick (Jagger) was doing his solo album, and all sort of fell into place.

And all because of Joe, right?
Alan: Yeah yeah. Joe was a major part of my career, because the first live shows we’ve ever done was in his pub. But before that I was working for Jimmy Callaghan doing Security. I worked at the Stones’ concerts Earl’s Court in ’76. I had lots of strange jobs from Jimmy. I used to clear out brothels. That’s a house with prostitutes.

Where was that?
Alan: In Soho. And then I used to work for Jimmy, and clear out those brothels.

Yes, Jim used to be very nice with me in the USA in ’94 while I followed the tour, very helpful.
Alan: He’s a lovely man. It was through Joe that I met Keith, but Jimmy was my first friend.

7..

The Ruts. Paul Fox is holding a beer can.

STRANGERS IN AMERICA
Alan, I want to ask you about Paul Fox, who was formerly with the Ruts, but he was an early member of the Dirty Strangers, in the first line-up, wasn´t he?
Alan: Not in the first line-up of the band, but in the first one who went to America. And he also played on the first album, but it was Alistair Simmons, who also played in the Lords of the New Church. He wrote “Baby”, “Running Slow”…There are still songs I’m doing that I wrote with him. And when Alistair left the Dirty Strangers, he joined the Lords of the New Church. Lovely and fantastic bloke, but couldn’t keep it together all the time, you know. As for Paul Fox, it was funny, because when Malcolm Owen, the singer…You know about The Ruts, don’t you?

A little bit…
Alan: The Ruts were gonna tour with The Who, but Malcolm was a junkie, and he fuckin’ had to cancel a tour with The Who. It was a real unfortunate ending for him. When I used to work doing Security, I’d seen The Ruts and I thought “I could be a singer in this band” They came from West London as well, so there was a bit of a connection there. And 3 or 4 years later I’m in the back of this cinema in Kensal Rise in London, trying to get a gig in this old cinema, it’s not there anymore. And Paul Fox was there and he said “you really remind me of my old singer” And I said “you know what, when your singer died, I was gonna fuckin’ apply for the job” And then he said “I wish you had”, ‘cause after Malcolm died, The Ruts went in a complete different direction. And I got to know him. He had got on stage with us for a couple of gigs. He was a new friend I had found I really liked. And two weeks before we were gonna tour America Alistair fucked up. We had just got a manager and this tour would cost him a lot of money. And Alistair was always on that edge of being brilliant or fuckin’ terrible. The last gig for the Hells Angels, you know.  He was so out of it he couldn’t play his guitar. And my manager said “I’m not paying the money to take him to America” All the temptations he would be offered over there…

Huty21393 021

Oh yeah: More Dirtys, early days

So he wasn’t part of it.
Alan: No. it was a big decision. He was my best friend. We sacked him two weeks before they toured America. It was one of our goals. So I rang Paul Fox up and asked him to do the tour. And then he joined the band.

How was that American tour?
Alan: We only toured the East Coast. It wasn’t actually a tour, it lasted for seven days or something.

All small venues?
Alan: Well, we played the Cat Club in New York, which is a big one. And places around New York, you know. Boston, etc.

So that was the first time the Dirtys played there.
Alan: Yeah. We didn’t have a record deal then either.

And that was before you met Ronnie.
Alan: No, I’d met Ronnie! A couple of years before.

Ok you had already recorded the songs, but you didn’t have a record deal yet.
Alan: Yeah. We recorded with Ronnie, and then we recorded with Keith. Mick had bought his solo album out. That’s how Keith had the time.

9..

And then one day the Dirtys met Ronnie Wood…

The album was produced by Prince Stash, but how did he get into the scene?
Alan: You know, Stash got busted with Brian Jones. When Keith came to the studio to record with us, Stash was with him. If you see that photograph…There´s a photo with all of us in the studio with Keith and Stash. And afterwards Stash said “who is bringing the record out?” So he formed Thrill Records after “Thrill of a Thrill”, the first song on the album. So he formed the label and dedicated a year of his life. I mean, it got released worldwide, and it done well. It all seemed so easy at the time, but now you say “fuck I would love to have that now”, you know. And he put money into it, he was great. I have some great stories about him. Do you remember Pinnacle, the distribution company for independent record companies. When you went down there you had 20 minutes to state your case, 45 minutes later Stash is still telling them what a fantastic album it was…

So everything just clicked.
Alan: It did, but when we were in America it all started to go wrong. What happened was that in Britain we sold a lot of albums, and when Stash took it to America they used Keith’s name as an advertisement. Keith played with us before he did his first solo album. And when he started his first solo album, which was a big deal at the time, it was in his contract that he wasn’t on any other albums, and Jane Rose (Keith´s manager) always said “when Keith records with friends, it’s best to let the people find out about Keith playing on it otherwise it could go wrong”. So in America Stash added a sticker on the cover of the album saying “The Dirty Strangers featuring Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood” And Keith was just about to release his solo album exclusive, and so our album got banned in America. And I understand why it wasn’t smart how they advertised it in America. So everyone just fucking used his name as if it was an advertising tool.

10..Was it Stash the one who came up with the idea of putting on the sticker on the album?
Alan: Oh yeah, that must have been Stash, yeah. Keith played on that as a friend.

Changing the subject now…A few years ago you worked with John Sinclair, who used to manage the MC5, and also an activist.
Alan: Not just the manager, he was the inspiration, he was a lot more to it.

That´s right, in fact he was one of the founders of the White Panther Party. But hen again, you worked with him in his “Beatnik Youth album in 2012. I saw that video on YouTube that…
Alan:
Oh but that’s different to “Beatnik Youth” Well, you know, John Sinclair and the MC5. I didn’t come across him, really. My knowledge of MC5 came from Brian James. And I got a phone call from George Butler, the drummer before Danny in the band, and he went “I got a friend of mine, Tim, from Brighton, who would like to do recording with John Sinclair. Can we do some recording in the studio” And I said “yeah, of course” So John Sinclair came over. I found out about him, I was intrigued about him…And he came over and, like when I met Keith, it was almost the same, I instantly bonded with John. I thought “another kindred spirit!”

11..

John Sinclair, a legend in b&w

Yeah, he came a long way.
Alan: Yeah, he’s been around. And at the time of “West 12 to Wittering”, Youth produced some of it. You know “She’s a Real Boticelli”, the single…

Oh I love that song! That’s one of my favourites.
Alan: If you asked me how I wrote that…Youth produced the single, A Youth mix. You know Youth, he produced The Verve. He was the bass player in Killing Joke. He’s fine when producing. He’d done The Verve, he’s got a band with Paul McCartney. He’s a really great bloke. Told him that I had met John Sinclair, and he produced “Lock and Key”, and he said “why don’t we do an album?” So we wrote an album.
Danny: That’s cool.
Alan: Yeah. It’s waiting to come out as well. Fuck it, it’s a fantastic album! The sort of music I’ve never really been involved into, ‘cause Youth comes from different areas. We’ve known each other for a long time. And John Sinclair, that was it. ‘Cause John was going around Europe playing, he lives in Amsterdam now, and he’d be picking up these generic bar bands that would be in a bar, and they would just played blues, and he’d do his bit of poetry over it. What me and Youth wanted to do was taking it to song level, so he had an album with actual songs, not just generic blues with beat of poetry. So we used his beat poetry as the verses, and we got choruses. So he turned them into songs.

Would you say you were part of the London punk scene, or was it general rock’n’roll?
Alan:
No, I came after with the Dirty Strangers. When Punk was going, I loved Punk, it was fuckin’ great, ‘cause it took me from being a bloke that only got to play in his bedroom to someone that believed that could form a band. And I really did. And I could always write songs. I could always write poetry and stuff like that, so I loved the punk scene. At the time in 1976, I was 22, and all the punks were pretending to be 16, 17…All the punks like Mick Jones, Tony James, they were my age. 22 or 23. So even when I wasn’t in a band, I knew Mick Jones before he was in The Clash, because I used to work in Shepherd’s Bush’s Hammersmith College of Art’s building, and he was an art student there. His first gig supporting The Kursaal Flyers at the Roundhouse. So I felt connected to the Punk scene because I knew Mick. It was a heavily West London-influenced scene, so I was right in the middle of it anyway. And they were all my age. And about that time I was doing Security at all the concerts, so I’d see all the bands. And I’d say it definitely inspired me to form a rock’n’roll band. All the punk bands I liked were really rock’n’roll bands with a new energy.

You always seemed to me to be deep into ‘50s and ‘60s stuff.
Alan:
Oh I just love rock’n’roll, you know.  What I love more than anything? Seeing women dance when we’re playing…

12..WITTERING HEIGHTS
I’d like to talk a bit about the “West 12 to Wittering” album. Once again, we know that Keith played piano there, and he actually plays in a several songs. So does Ronnie Wood. Plus it’s not only my favourite Dirtys’ album, but one of the few albums that I’m always playing at home ever since I got it. That’s how much I love it.
Alan:
Thank you, thank you very much.

And just a few days ago I was walking down the streets here in London playing it on my iPod, and it’s an album that gives you that perfect London atmosphere…
Alan:
Of course, it’s about London, definitely.

I mean, you don’t play Madonna when you’re walking down in London.
Alan: Hahaha! Yeah, the Dirty Strangers is a good choice. And the story about it is, I’d just done the ‘A Bigger Bang’ tour with the Stones, and the Dirty Strangers hadn’t been going for about 8 years.  I’ve done the ‘A Bigger Bang’ tour for about 2 and a half years, and while I was away I wrote a lot of songs, and when I came back I decided I wanted to get the band back together, but at the time it was only me, John Proctor, and George Butler, just a 3-piece, and we were called Monkey Seed.

You changed the name of the band?
Alan: No. What happened was, the Dirty Strangers were sort of dissolved, we never split up. We’d hadn’t played for too long, not earning any money and, you know people get demotivated. So when I decided to get the band back together, I wanted it to be a fresh start. So I wanted a new name. I wasn’t gonna do any Dirty Strangers songs, only new songs. But I wrote all the Dirty Strangers’ songs anyway. So I went to Ian Grant, which just got Track Records, and I said to him, “I’ve got this album of songs. Do you fancy signing me to Track Records?” He said ye. He likes the stuff I’m doing.  And he said “why are you changing the name?” I said “well, because I want a fresh start” And he said “Alan you’re 50-odd” (laughs) “You’re not twenty anymore!” And he was right! He said “listen, you’ve got all this reputation as the Dirty Strangers, basically you are  the Dirty Strangers. Why would you change the name? It never gone wrong for the Dirty Strangers” So he said, “I advise you to call the band the Dirty Strangers”. And I went “all right” Sometimes you’re happy for people to tell you this stuff, ‘cause you don’t realize it sometimes. You think, “yeah I have a new band, I’m gonna call it this, I’m not gonna do The Dirty Strangers” So we got that together, I told Keith, and he said “do you want me to play guitar on it?”, and I went “no, I’m playing guitar on this one” And I said “can you play piano on it?” And he went “yeah, fuckin’ of course!”, you know. And that’s why it’s called “West 12 to Wittering”, because he lives in Wittering, and I took my recording gear from here (W12), and we set up camp.

13..

Alan Clayton, ex-bass player John Proctor and drummer Danny Fury

Where did you record it?
Alan: In Redlands. His stuff, the piano, was recorded in Redlands.

So you stayed with him at the time there?
Alan: Oh, I stayed with him lots of different times.

It’s beautiful in there, isn’t it?
Alan: Yeah, lovely. So much so, if I moved from London, that’s a part of the world I’m gonna move to.

Small world, two days ago I saw Ian Hunter in Shepherd’s Bush and, as I left, I met this couple who live there.
Alan: Ian Hunter? Did he play Shepherd’s Bush?

Oh yeah. Just 3 days ago. He never played in South America, and he’s not likely to play soon, so I couldn’t miss it. With Graham Parker as support act.
Alan: Oh I love Graham Parker!
Danny: Do they advertise it these days?
Alan: It’s like if it’s sold out, there’s no advertising.

I’m sorry, now I’m starting to feel guilty!
Alan: I didn’t know that he was playing some time.
Danny: If you go to the websites, usually they’re there.
Alan: Usually there would be an ad in the Evening Standard, or in Time-Out.
Danny: In the past it used to be Melody maker, you found all the gigs in there.
Alan: Time-Out for me. Growing up in a band, was the place where they put all the gigs in, and now it’s selected gigs.

DIRTY, STRANGE AND CONCEPTUAL
What about “Crime and a Woman”, the new album? I know it’s a concept album.
Alan:  It’s a story that goes from start to the end, if you want it to be a story. If you want it to be a collection of rock’n’roll songs, it’s a collection of rock’n’roll songs. But there is a story within it probably for my own benefit, more than anybody else’s. It’s a story that goes for it.14..

Yes, you told me it’s an album you wanted to do in a more personal way, after I asked you why Keith isn’t in the album, and you said you wanted it to be “your” album.
Alan: Yeah yeah. Because the thing is, it is great having Keith as one of your best mates, but the downside is once you play your own stuff, whenever anyone comes to see you some are disappointed I’m always getting this continuous question, “Would Keith be playing with you?” or “Would he be turning up?” I understand why more people say that, but it’s not his band. It’s my band that he happens to play in now and then, it is  the Dirty Strangers. And this one, I wanted it to be representative of us live, what we’ve recorded.

Well, I still love the album a lot.
Alan: I love it as well, because it sounds great. “Keith, can you come and play on this?” And he’s great, but he’s not playing live with us.

You’re always writing on your own, you’re the only one that writes the songs for the Dirtys, isn´t it?
Alan: And now I’ve been playing with Danny for a little while. Danny writes songs, and sure he’ll contribute down the line.

But basically all the songs on the new album are yours.
Alan: Yeah, but there’s a couple like “Running Slow” and “Are You Satisfied”, which was co-written with Alistair… He’s been dead for 10 years. He was a good mate of mine. And “One Good Reason” was co-written by Tam Nightingale. And Scotty co-wrote “Short and Sweet” But really, it was my album.

What inspires you to writes songs? Is it everyday life?
Alan: Definitely, everyday life. If I have a lull in my life, like a lot of people I write better with my back against the wall. When I’m comfortable, when everything’s alright, I find it very hard to write songs, ‘cause my life is at peace. Don’t you find that Danny, if there is turmoil in your life, then  you write better songs?
Danny: Yeah!

Then there wouldn’t be any blues players.
Alan: Yeah, exactly.  It’s the hard time that make you dig in and dig deep.

And I believe it’s the same with writers.
Alan: Yeah. Well how many tortured writers and comedians we know? People that are manic depressive, they put this beautiful work out.
Danny: They focus on their inner turmoil.

Somehow you’re exorcising your problems, you know what I mean. It’s therapy.
Alan: That’s definitely right. If I have something strong my mind, I’ll definitely write a song about it.

15..

The Dirty Strangers today. From L-R: Danny Fury, Alan Clayton, Cliff Wright and Scott Mulvey

Out of the lyrics, you don’t find bands like the Dirty Strangers around these days. I mean, all that bluesy lowdown rock’n’roll with a punky edge….And now Danny’s welcome, so that means some fresh new blood.
Alan: Yeah, right!

MAYBE IT´S BECAUSE I´M A LONDONER
What’s your take on the current London music scene?
Alan: You know, can I be honest to you? I don’t give a fuck about the music scene, I only care about the Dirty Strangers. When you’re in a rock and roll band, you can’t care about anybody else. Really, because you fuckin’ love rock’n’roll. Don’t you think that’s right, Danny?
Danny: Yeah, you´re sort of caught up in your own thing, you know. But if I can maybe answer that thing, I’ve got a little different impression anyway, as I’m still a little bit interested in what’s going on. You put new stuff in the context of old so, in a way, if you want to release it to the world, you work. That’s what my interest comes from. It’s actually, like Alan said, it’s a limited customer, you know. But I think there’s a lack of personalities, a lack of true expression, everybody seems to copy something that’s already been done before.

Well, that’s because they’re only after the money.
Alan: Yeah yeah.
Danny: Either it’s music you just make for money, but there’s not much that really reaches and touches, you know what I mean, a genuine expression of a personality.
Alan: Also, I’m still discovering music from the ‘50s, you know how I mean, there is such a body of music out there.
Danny: So much music out there…
Alan: I’d like to know if there’s still music going on, with youngsters. It’s not for me to comment what 15 year olds like, ‘cause I’m not 15 years old, right? But at my own age I know what I do, I play rock’n’roll.  I see many bands compromise, but we never compromise, we just play what we play. During my career I have been really trendy, then forgotten, then trendy again. You just do what you do.

Yes, it’s just like you said, it’s always about going back to the past, there’s so much in there.
Alan:  I listen to the radio a lot, so I don’t shut myself from the outside world. But there’s still people writing great songs. With rock and roll I am very protective, you’ve got bands who toy with rock and roll.
16..As it was just a word…
Alan: Yeah, and I live my life for it. I know I’ve done it for a long time.

So, if I may ask, what do you do for a living out of the Dirty Strangers?
Alan: I’m Danny’s butler! (laughs heavily)

You know, I was just curious…
Alan: He’s from Switzerland. He has loads of money.

You know, people from Switzerland, they’re the rich ones…
Alan:
Of course they are! (laughs) They’re employing us all.
Danny: I have to change his name to James or something… (laughs)

18.. BOB & MARLEY & ALAN & JOHNNY
Alan, there’s a funny story involving you and Bob Marley I’d really like you to tell me about.
Alan:  Of course I’ll do! When I was working for Jimmy Callaghan, in the late ‘70s, and we were working at Crystal Palace’s Bowl, which was an outdoor concert in South London. And at the time the backstage area didn’t have dressing rooms, it was big tents. And it was my job to look after Bob Marley’s tent. Big Joe was there. And what happened, back then, security wasn’t like it is now. The backstage area had low fences all the way round, not a lot of security, so every Jamaican seemed to think it was their right to meet Bob Marley.  So they were jumping over the fence, trying to get in his tent, and I was the only one stopping them.

He was the big thing.
Alan: Of course he was, the big thing for Jamaicans. It was the spiritual man for them, and everything. And the people that were trying getting into his tent didn’t like the fact I might be in the way to stop them, as that was my job, and what happened was there was always commotion going on. And someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, “come in”, pulled me into Bob Marley’s tent. Bob Marley’s sitting on an amp playing guitar, and he rolled this big spliff. And all the time Bob Marley was just playing guitar they got me stoned to calm me down. I was 20 or 25 minutes in there. And then they sent me outside, ‘cause I had calmed down.

Come on, 20 minutes with Bob Marley, that’s a great story!
Alan: Yeah!

Were you into Jamaican music at the time?
Alan: You know, when I was young, my first music was ska. Johnny, my dad, was a teddy boy, so he loved rock and roll. He’s a singer, you know, I’ve done an album with him.

Yeah, I’ve read about that.
Alan:
And Keith’s playing on it, and Bobby Keys. That’s my dad’s album, Johnny Clayton.

Was it released? Or is a personal recording?
Alan:
No it’s not, but it’s gonna be released. Brian James, Keith Richards, Bobby Keys, Jim Jones (of the Jim Jones Revue) and Tyla, all playing with my dad.

19..All studio sessions?
Alan:
Yeah.  But this record, “Crime and a Woman”, we finished recording it at a place called The Convent who ran out of money but had already pressed the CD. Cargo distributed them, which we sell from the Facebook site, from the shop site. That’s the next release, my Dad’s album. The John Sinclair one was already out on another label, and the Dirty Strangers are about to record another album. But before that we’re gonna re-release the first one with all new stuff, outtakes… I think that my dad’s album is gonna be released at the same time of that. There’s only great people on that.


Yeah, great line-up! Can’t wait for that. So are there any new songs, or is it all cover versions?
Alan:
  No, all Dean Martin songs, and Frank Sinatra. So the band is Mallet on drums, Dave Tregunna, he’s bass player on it, Scott Mulvey of the Dirtys is playing piano, and I’m playing acoustic on it, and then we’ve got guest guitarists and a guest saxophone player as well.

Are the Dirtys going to play in other countries, or you’re more London-based?
Alan:
Oh listen, we wanna play everywhere! We have played in Europe. We’re at a new stage with Danny now. We really needed someone to be a bit more at ground level managing us, and Paul my son is doing all that.

He’s very enthusiastic.
Alan: Yes he is, he is his father’s son. So yeah, we want to play everywhere.

As a musician, is there anybody in special you would have liked to play or record with?
Danny:
He really wanted to play with me.
Alan: My dreams are true now, my dreams have come true! I tell you, if it wasn’t Danny (laughs) it would be someone like Otis Redding, he’s my favourite singer of all time. Yes, my favourite singer, end of story.

Oh you’re a soul man.
Alan: Yeah, but my daddy was a teddy boy, so I’d come out this weird mixture.

It’s all the same, it’s all great music, whether it’s soul, rock’n’roll, rhythm and blues. And then all those black guys!
Alan: They can’t speak like me, but I can speak like them! Hahaha!
Danny: They feel it from the heart, I mean, they’ve got that feel. And Alan’s got such a great voice on top of that.
Alan: Thank you! We should stop on a high now… (laughs)

20..y

The article´s author along  Clayton and Fury: The Dirty Three

Just like you said, it’s mostly about going back to the past, that’s when the greatest music was done. Just yesterday I was playing my all-time favourite live album, ‘Jerry Lee Lewis at the Star Club’ in 1964, which is like the wildest album ever. Now that’s real heavy metal. Someone even referred to it saying “it’s not an album, it’s a crime scene”
Alan:  Yeah! I’ll tell you a funny story that Ronnie told me, when he was on tour with Jerry Lee, he’d done a tour with him.  They were both walking through the hotel lobby, and this woman came up and she threw her arms around Jerry Lee, and she went “Jerry Lee, you smell lovely, what you got on?” And he said “I’ve got a hard-on, honey. I didn’t know you could smell it from there!”
Danny:
That’s awesome!
Alan: That’s a great one, isn’t it?

I love those stories! Any other stories you want to tell me?
Alan:
Do you want to know how “She’s a Real Boticelli” got written?

21..I’d love to. So when somebody’s a real Boticelli?
Alan: Well, I’ll tell you what it was, right? I was down at Redlands, and me and Keith were in the kitchen, cooking. I was peeling potatoes and Keith is preparing the meat. In England when you grow up there’s a set of books called “Just William” And the character is a boy about 13, lives in the country, he’s got parents and he’s got a sister, and he’s always having adventures. And everybody who’s English would know about these books. I’m sure every country’s got its own books, but it’s a boy, and he’s in a gang called The Outlaws who have a rival gang. There are all these strange characters who pass through his village. Musicians, tramps, fairground people…And they’re written by a woman. And all my life I was growing up thinking it was a bloke, and it’s a woman, Richmal Compton. So this woman has written all these fantastic boy’s adventures from the perspective of a boy. So we found out that me and Keith liked them, we found out a mutual love when we were growing up. And when the Stones’ office found out our love for the books they sent the books in CD form, so we used to listen to them while we were cooking. And one of them starts “she’s a real Boticelli!”, and actually someone says she’s got a real bottle of cherry, and we misunderstood that, right? I looked to Keith and he said “that’s a fuckin’ Chuck Berry title, isn’t it?” So it’s all from when we were cooking, from his CD, from his book. So we just nicked the first line out, and wrote the whole song “She’s a Real Boticelli”

Great story, and also coming from Redlands, just like “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and the gardener story. Oh you know that…
Alan:
Right!

All right, you know we could be talking for hours, but I think it´s time to leave, you’ve got to do a show, so let´s go there! Thanks so much!
Danny: Let´s go!
Alan: Oh thanks so much to you! And don´t forget your bag!

www.dirtystrangers.com
https://www.facebook.com/thedirtystrangers

 

El retorno del hombre más valiente del Universo. Bobby Womack. HMV Forum, Londres, 27 de Nov. de 2012

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ImagePublicado en Evaristo Cultural en marzo de 2013

Robert Dwayne “Bobby” Womack es un cantante y compositor norteamericano que lleva más de cinco décadas de carrera en sus espaldas. Leyenda viva del soul, Womack supo también abarcar a lo largo de su carrera géneros como rock & roll, doo-bop, gospel, country y R&B.

ImageLondres es una caja de sorpresas. Depara muchas, por cierto. Para los acólitos de la música en cualquiera de sus géneros, o los admiradores de las artes en general, designarla como una de las mecas más prolíficas en cuanto a espectáculos se refiere (y en lucha codo a codo con New York) no resulta menos que harto evidente. Ambas metrópolis ostentan dicho título, tal vez como ninguna otra. Pero es, quizás en el terreno musical, la más convocante de ambas. Por su azarosa posición continental observando al resto de Europa, y por considerarse uno de los polos artísticos más prolíficos de todos los tiempos. De alguna forma, la frase es conocida: “todo pasa por Londres”. Basta con hojear un diario o revista, cualquier día, hacerlo al azar, y encontrarse con la oferta más variada en lo que a espectáculos se refiere. Situación que puede llegar a abrumar y perturbar, incluso a las plateas más sedientas, cuando la falta de tiempo juega en contra. Porque el día nunca pero nunca alcanza. Y es que en uno de esos periódicos, revistas o afiches, uno se encuentra con el notición de un show de Bobby Womack. Espectáculos que difícilmente –sino imposible– tengan lugar en nuestro país. Vamos, o en Sudamérica toda. Artistas de culto que pueden desaparecer en cualquier momento. Conciertos a los que más vale asistir, si la buena suerte que significa estar en el lugar y en el momento correcto así lo sugiere. Por eso, aquella mañana del 26 de noviembre fui a desayunar al bar a la vuelta de la esquina (bah… al restaurante de paso), como había estado haciendo casi todos los días durante mi estadía en la capital británica. Los integrantes de mi familia amiga, en cuya casa me alojaba, se despertaban muy temprano y la opción de hacerlo junto a ellos con el frío otoñal de las 6 de la mañana (digo, para no perderme el tradicional desayuno), no sonaba muy seductora que digamos. Sobre todo si uno acostumbraba a caminar la capital por un mínimo de doce horas diarias, para luego desmayarme en la cama, casi catatónicamente, una vez de regreso a casa. Todos y cada uno de los días. Más aún, si la casa estaba situada en los suburbios, unos 16 km. al norte de Central London , el centro propiamente dicho de la ciudad (me costó un tiempo aprender que los ingleses le huyen a la palabra downtown), y a casi 2 horas de buses combinados (y claro, otras dos para regresar). Aquella era otra de las tantas mañanas en el bar/restaurante, entonces. Desayuno inglés oficial sobre mi mesa: huevos fritos, tocino, salchicha, frijoles, hongos y tomate al grill. Salsas inglesas (varias) y la tostada de rigor. Una auténtica sobredosis de colesterol británico. Y una merecida recompensa para un visitante que pasó sus dos primeros días en Londres (y en mi primera visita a Inglaterra) lidiando con una indescriptible gripe estomacal que me sometió a una dieta estricta y única de té medicinal. Y a un tour permanente de 48 horas a lo largo y ancho del baño (¿hubiera sonado menos escatológico escribir toilette?), con una pequeña ventana al Londres del más allá por cuya conquista rezaba y que, mientras tanto, ahora no paraba de maldecir. Plenamente recuperado semanas después, y con la taza de café de rigor, entonces. Junto a ésta la página del diario anunciando el show de Womack al día siguiente en el HMV Forum en Kentish Town, apenas a unas cuadras de la hipervisitada área de Camden Town. Un concierto caliente en una ciudad helada en pleno otoño boreal cuando, promediando la tarde, no queda nada luminoso allí arriba, salvo la luna y las estrellas. Y a 24 horas de mi corriente desayuno. Es que Robert Dwayne “Bobby” Womack, con casi 69 años a cuestas, oriundo de Cleveland, Ohio, estaba de regreso. Un nuevo regreso, en rigor.

ImageUno más de sus tantos retornos, a pesar de su monumental talento como compositor, músico y cantante, si tenemos en cuenta sus innumerables desapariciones de la palestra a título de una extensa carrera plagada de todo tipo de situaciones trágicas, mala fortuna y una serie de adicciones que le depararon una no menor cantidad de zigzagueos con la muerte. Trayectoria que comenzó en 1960 como cantante de The Valentinos y, al mismo tiempo, como guitarrista del eterno Sam Cooke, una de las más finas leyendas del Rhythm and Blues, Soul, Gospel y Pop de toda la existencia, de alma y piel tan negra como Womack. Con más de medio siglo de carrera a cuestas, Womack nunca ha sido un gran vendedor de discos –prefirió ganarse la vida sobre los escenarios–, pero sí ha compuesto una buena cantidad de canciones que le valieron un podio especial, principalmente, en la hermandad musical negra de los últimos 50 años. Pero también en aquella otra audiencia, la de un público blanco cada vez más seducido, desde los tempranos años 60, por aquellos que todo lo originaron. Sin ir más lejos, fue la pluma de Womack que escribió It’s All Over Now, canción que los Rolling Stones grabaron en su segundo álbum y que, además, les valió su primer No. 1 en los ránkings británicos, superando cómodamente las propias ventas de la versión original de Womack.
Desterrado por muchos de sus contemporáneos de la escena del Rhythn’n’Blues tras contraer enlace con la viuda de Cooke al año siguiente, Womack optó entonces por oponerse a grabar muchas de sus propias canciones, en su lugar prefiriendo que las graben otros músicos, como el gran Wilson Pickett, o la mismísima Janis Joplin.
Cientos de vidas después, en 2012 Womack estaba de regreso con su nuevo trabajo de estudio The Bravest Man in the Universe. Producido por Damon Albarn (más conocido como cantante de Blur, y uno de los factótums del proyecto de rock virtual Gorillaz) junto a Richard Russell, el fundador del sello XL Recordings, la dupla fue la auténtica responsable de rescatar a Womack de un nuevo anonimato, tal como años atrás también lo habían intentado con el poeta y músico Gil Scott-Heron. El disco gozó de una muy cálida recepción en las estaciones de radio londinenses y, masivamente aclamado, colmó ambas presentaciones de éste en Londres.
Aquella noche del 27 de noviembre, para el segundo y último de los dos conciertos, la multitud que circulaba por las inmediaciones del HMV Forum era una curiosa mezcla que reunía fans de antaño y amantes del Soul, quien aquí subscribe, entre ellos.
Tiempo antes, en las fechas de presentación del disco en su propio país, Womack ignoró casi completamente su nuevo trabajo. Pero lo pensó mejor para los shows londinenses. Habría resultado imperdonable que no lo hiciera. Para ello abrió el concierto con un set separado del que luego sería el espectáculo principal, enteramente dedicado a sus nuevas canciones (las que obvió en Estados Unidos) a modo de introducción y en plan de música electrónica (¿soul electrónico?), segmento al cual sumó la participación de Albarn y Russell (en piano y teclados, respectivamente), más otros dos músicos, compartiendo escenario. Womack al frente, enfundado completamente en cuero rojo, y con gorra al tono, pasó la mayor parte de set sentado, quizás conciente de los problemas coronarios que lo estuvieron afectando, y de un cáncer de cólon diagnosticado recientemente.
Apenas un puñado de canciones entonces, sólo las de The Bravest Man…, y turno para un intervalo. En no más de diez minutos Womack retornó al escenario junto a su banda completa para iniciar el auténtico viaje al pasado que la audiencia, en su mayoría negra y colmando el teatro reclamaba –al fin y al cabo, el motivo principal de la velada– y que registraría un cambio total de atmósfera. Del íntimo y frío set inicial a la travesía directa al mundo del Soul de la segunda parte. Un ataque total de “negritud”, en composé con las luces que ahora volvían a apagarse, tiñendo el Forum de oscuridad para dar paso al acto final de la noche. Esto es, “Womack, el soul brother” en estado puro. Logísticamente, el propósito de dividir el concierto en dos bloques cobró sentido, gracias a la imponente personalidad de Womack quien, a pesar de su eventual fragilidad física, asombrosamente posee un registro vocal indestructible. Cada una de las canciones representa una historia diferente de otra, así y todo amalgamadas por el clima de lucha “día a día” al que tantas veces se refirió a través de su pedregosa carrera en algunos de sus más grandes éxitos que esa noche cantó, como That’s The Way I Feel About Cha, Harry Hippie o, por supuesto, It’s All Over Now. El punto emocional más alto fue, sin duda, para A Change Is Gonna Come, el clásico de clásicos de Sam Cooke en la cual Womack compartió la primera voz con su hija, una de las tres coristas de su grupo. “¿Pueden sentirme?”, disparó a la multitud. Así, Womack no sólo se ocuparía de su mentor. El “Hombre Más Valiente del Universo” tampoco dejaría de omitir las menciones a James Brown o Marvin Gaye, rindiéndole homenaje a con frases del tipo “¡Yo aún estoy aquí!” o cuando recitó “ha sido difícil vivir pero temo morir”, antes de recibir una ovación demoledora y, con la ayuda de un asistente, abandonar el escenario para fundirse en un abrazo con Albarn. Y encandilar a una audiencia que lo esperó por años, que tal vez fueron demasiados y bastante hostiles, pero no lo suficiente como para poder con su osada valentía.

Stones.50.Londres

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Publicado en Evaristo Cultural en enero de 2013

Brian, el Fundador
Corría el mes de mayo de 1962 y un tal Brian Jones, con 20 años de edad, devoto poseso de la escena del Blues que llegaba del otro lado del Atlántico, bohemio distinguido, eximio guitarrista y armonicista, talentoso multinstrumentista y recientemente llegado a Londres desde su ciudad natal de Cheltenham, condado de Gloucestershire, colocaba un aviso en la publicación Jazz News, convocando a músicos a participar de una audición en vista de su más deseado proyecto: una nueva banda de Rhythm & Blues, el estilo por el cual vivía obsesionado.

ImageLos interesados no tardaron en llegar (es necesario citar cada uno de los honrados nombres que fueron apareciendo?) y así, idas y venidas mediantes, y tras lograr adentrarse en la por entonces subterránea escena del R&B local (considerada toda una excentricidad para los tiempos que corrían), Brian se convertiría en el fundador de los Rolling Stones. El mismo que eligiría a sus miembros, que le daría el nombre al grupo y decidiría qué tipo de música tocar. Y el que les conseguiría sus primeros shows. El resto es historia. Con el transcurrir de los años perdería su rango original de líder de los Stones, eventualmente desplazado a un lugar secundario tras el enorme suceso de Mick Jagger y Keith Richards como compositores, y como figuras centrales en las presentaciones de la banda. Por una larga lista de cuestiones, desde las más y menos entendibles a las menos considerables y, principalmente, por desarrollar una fuerte adicción a las drogas, Brian también perdería su integridad física y emocional, bastante antes que le fuera sugerido abandonar el grupo a mediados de 1969. Brian Jones, el creador, también acabaría perdiendo su vida, en julio del mismo año.

ImageEl Milagro de Dartford
Son casi 50 minutos de viaje en tren hasta Dartford. Al menos eso es lo que me asegura el guarda de la terminal de trenes de la estación Victoria, después de la de Waterloo, la de más tráfico en Londres. Ha salido el sol y el reloj de Victoria indica que se acerca el horario de partida que figura en mi boleto. La estación de trenes de Dartford representa uno de los momentos más sustanciales en la fundación de los Stones cuando, en la mañana de un día de octubre de 1961, un tal Michael Philip Jagger, residente de ese suburbio londinense, en el condado de Kent, al sudeste de la capital británica, se encontró casualmente con un tal Keith Richards, habitante del mismo distrito, con quien 10 años antes había sido compañero de primaria en la escuela Wentworth. Jagger cargaba una buena cantidad de vinilos de Blues y Rock and Roll de su colección (Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Little Walter) que encandilaron a Richards. Keith llevaba una guitarra eléctrica. Juntos compartieron el viaje en tren hasta Londres, 26 kilómetros a lo largo de los cuales Mick le sugirió a Keith unirse a Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys, el proyecto amateur de Rhythm and Blues al que Jagger dedicaba buena parte de su tiempo y que, más tarde, con la llegada de demás acólitos (de vuelta, ¿es necesario citar cada uno de los honrados nombres que fueron apareciendo?) se convertiría en The Rolling Stones. Ha pasado más de medio siglo desde aquella gloriosa jornada y estoy en un tren rumbo al suburbio en cuestión. Son 11 estaciones, sin incluir las de destino y llegada. Lo sé muy bien, las voy contando una tras otra a medida que el tren atraviesa la periferia londinense. Denmark Hill, Peckham Rye, Nunhead, Lewisham, Blackheath, Kidbrooke, Eltham, Falconwood, Welling, Bexleyheath, Barnehurst… ¡Dartford! El personal de la estación me observa con curiosidad, se preguntan qué hace alguien sacando fotos de la estación de manera tan deliberada. Quizás desconozcan que estoy en “Tierra Sagrada”. Y que mi peregrinaje continúa con una visita al hospital de Livingstone donde, contribución de sus padres mediante, dio a luz a Mick y Keith en 1943. Y una pasada por la Dartford Grammar School, de la cual Mick fue inmaculado alumno y capitán del equipo de basketball. Pero son más de las 4 de la tarde y, una vez más, soy víctima del implacable otoño londinense y su noche prematura. Es hora de retornar a la estación para abordar el tren de regreso.
Insatisfecho, visitaría Dartford nuevamente unas dos semanas más tarde. Me aseguro hacerlo más temprano y que en esta segunda oportunidad la luz del día me favorezca lo adecuado como para (por qué no?) una nueva inspección del hospital. También vuelvo a pasar por la escuela, en esta ocasión con el agregado de un paseo por el Mick Jagger Centre (anexo al colegio), complejo artístico que su más célebre alumno decidió inaugurar en el año 2000. De ahí, colinas y caminos en subida mediantes, es más de una hora de marcha hasta las casas de las calles Denver y Chastilian Road, en las afueras del suburbio, y donde, respectivamente, Jagger y Richards transitaron sus días de infancia. La morada original de Keith yace ahora sobre una florería, y la de Mick, no menos modesta, luce ahora un cartel que reza “en venta”. Me queda otra hora de caminata y dos piernas entumecidas para volver a la estación de Dartford. Se me ocurre no leer el cartel de destino del tren de retorno a Londres y, en lugar de dirigirme a Victoria, termino por error en la estación de Charing Cross. Mientras tanto, cruzo el Támesis que, desde mi ventanilla del tren, resplandece bañado en las luces del Parlamento británico. Son menos de las 6 de la tarde, pero estoy cerca de Piccadilly Circus, de las calles Oxford y Carnaby, o del Soho. El día aún es joven y es hora de una nueva travesía por la ciudad.

ImageNoche de cumpleaños
Veinte minutos. Tengo una manía con las fracciones de tiempo. Eso ni siquiera es media hora. Prefiero pensar en que son 1200 segundos; así parece ser más. A veces resulta ser un buen truco para engañar a la mente. Según la mujer de los altavoces del estadio, que acaba de anunciarlo, esa es la cantidad de tiempo que, nunca antes tan tirano, resta para el comienzo del show. Que es nada más y nada menos que el primero de una totalidad de cinco conciertos (los dos inaugurales en Londres, más otros tres en Estados Unidos) que los Rolling Stones, y después de un lustro sin salir a la ruta, decidieron llevar a cabo bajo el lema de 50 and Counting (50 y contando…) para conmemorar su quincuagésimo aniversario. Por lo que queda muy poco, en rigor prácticamente nada, para que asista al evento tan soñado, más allá del medio centenar de conciertos de la banda con los que cuento en mi haber. Esto es, entiéndase, en la ciudad natal de la banda. Un espectáculo de ensueño, estoy en absolutas condiciones de asegurar. Éste es el lugar, entonces, y el momento correcto. Porque, además, esta noche, la del 25 de noviembre, la primera de las dos veladas en el O2, el show contará con agregados estelares. Y no los de invitados de turno como Jeff Beck o Mary J. Blige (una nueva pequeña muestra de show business), pero las de Bill Wyman (el bajo original de los Stones que, por primera vez, retornará al escenario junto al grupo tras alejarse de la banda dos décadas atrás) y la de Mick Taylor, que también desertó de las filas de la Banda de Rock’n’roll más grande de todos los tiempos, pero a mediados de los 70… Ocasiones como éstas eran hasta ahora inimaginables. No estaban en la lista de sorpresas, pero finalmente me convenzo de que Superman no mentía cuando decía poder invertir la rotación de la Tierra. Insisto: éste es el lugar. El único y pequeño problema es que… bueno, todavía estoy sin entrada. Todas las posibilidades barajadas hasta el momento finalmente brillaron por su ausencia. Esta vez no hay tickets de favor ni nada de eso. Contra todos los pronósticos que aseguraban que la demanda de localidades iba a ser escasa por sus altos precios, la taquilla está prácticamente agotada. No es difícil comprobarlo. El O2 está atestado de gente; han llegado desde los destinos más remotos imaginables y todo indica que se me están acabando las fichas. Lo tengo muy presente. Mi ritmo cardíaco se encuentra fuera de lo normal, tengo la boca empastada y nada logra que evite pensar que cada vez falta menos. Y menos todavía. Y ahora un poco menos. Y que la idea de retornar a la casa de mi familia amiga convertido en un maldito zombi, suena algo alarmante. Los Stones están a punto de salir a escena. No soy lo que se dice un convencido de la telepatía y, por ende, no piensan apiadarse de mí. Ya he rezado en todas las lenguas posibles y soy un perrito fiel buscando compasión y empatía. Transtornado, recurro a la ventanilla de venta de entradas (¿cómo no se me ocurrió?) y, mientras tanto, me dedico a tejer las mil y una maneras de pasar a mejor vida o a meditar si el hospital más cercano cuenta con sala de guardia. Tengo una tarjeta de cobertura médica en la billetera, llegado el caso. Hay cuatro personas en la fila. A todas se las ve en condición de desperación. Son parte de mi equipo, pero la idea no resulta de ayuda alguna. Pasan, pagan, se retiran felices. Se los ve jubilosos. Hay cambios significativos en sus rostros y han modificado el rictus. Es una buena señal, creo suponer. “Necesito un ticket, ¿queda algo?”. Solidaria, la empleada de turno teclea algo en la computadora. Y acto seguido me sonríe. Claro, yo también me pondría feliz de evitar un suicidio. Por las dudas, me pellizco. Entrada en mano, exultante como un niño corriendo a través de una pradera, me materializo frente a puertas de ingreso, que son las finales de todo el enorme complejo del O2, la auténtica pista de despegue. Faltan menos de diez minutos, recupero el pulso y el tono original de mi piel, que incluso había logrado superar al “bronceado londinense” del que todo visitante a Inglaterra en el mes de otoño jamás podría jactarse. Sonrío más que Laura en La familia Ingalls. Tengo una muy buena ubicación, voy a estar en la fila 16, en el sector del piso y a no más de 20 metros del escenario. Y hacia allí vamos, entonces. Vuelvo a respirar, exhalo, inhalo. Bajo las escaleras a ritmo olímpico. Las luces del O2 se apagan. Es hora de otro pellizco, por si las moscas. Y me dispongo a disfrutar del que sería un show emblemático, y del mejor cumpleaños al que alguna vez, casi con seguridad, podré asistir. Misión cumplida, entonces. Aún me resta el show del 29; son sólo 4 días más, pero esta vez cuento con una entrada anticipada en mi haber, que me asegura dormir plácidamente la noche anterior. Y haberle evitado una sesión de primeros auxilios a los paramédicos de mi servicio de cobertura al viajero.

ImageBrian (revisitado)
Son poco más de las 3 de la tarde. Falta algo menos de una hora para que el cielo de Inglaterra se tiña de oscuro y que todo se cubra de estrellas, aunque los eternos cielos nublados ingleses las obstruyan. Me encuentro en el cementerio de Prestbury para visitar la tumba de Brian. Sus restos descansan aquí desde julio de 1969. Llegar no fue cosa de todos los días. Es que, por algún motivo, siempre pensé que sus restos descansaban en Cheltenham, pero deduzco que todo este tiempo estuve mal informado. Me lo certifica el primer ciudadano que encuentro ni bien bajo del busque tomé en Londres. Muy por el contrario, para llegar a la villa aledaña de Prestbury, desde Cheltenham, debo realizar una muy prolongada caminata atravesando campo abierto. En rigor, salir de los límites de la ciudad, llegar al pueblo siguiente.
Es un momento de clara conmoción, de emociones mezcladas y de profunda ansiedad. La necrópolis de Prestbury es bella y antigua, de campos verdes y piedras de color tan plomizo como el cielo que la cobija; las típicas de un viejo cementerio inglés, de tierra adentro, enclavado en la campiña. Cruzo la puerta de ingreso al cementerio. Siento la tierra firme y húmeda bajo mis pies, pero de algún modo es como estar caminando en el aire. La sensación se incrementa cuando me dirijo a la oficina de información, situada apenas unos metros después de la entrada del camposanto. Reina un frío intenso y sopla un viento hostil. El cementerio de Prestbury no es muy extenso, de todos modos. Ahora estoy hablando con la empleada de la Secretaría, le indico que vengo a visitar una tumba pero que desconozco su paradero. Claramente le señalo que se trata de Brian Jones. “Oh, Brian?”, me responde. Me alcanza un mapa del lugar, en el que traza el camino hasta la tumba de Brian con resaltador. “No está lejos, simplemente siga derecho unos 60 metros, doble a la izquierda en el primer camino y allí está, cerca de la zona donde estacionan los autos”.
Segundos más tarde, la lápida de Brian, la misma que he visto millones de veces en diversos libros y revistas, está a escasos 2 metros míos. Miro alrededor y no hay nadie. Nadie, absolutamente nadie. Tan sólo logro escuchar unas voces a la distancia, seguramente de asistentes a algún servicio de sepelio que se está realizando. O, al menos, éso me parece. Leo la leyenda grabada sobre la lápida, “En afectuoso recuerdo de Brian Jones”. Desbordado por la emoción, caigo de rodillas y, naturalmente, me descubro aferrado a la lápida. De algún modo, es la actitud equivalente, consciente o inconscientemente, de abrazar a Brian. Como si fuera él quien está frente a mis ojos. Y, desde ya, mi único posible encuento. Descarto toda posibilidad de morbidez y comienzo a hablar. Mis palabras son de agradecimiento, claro. Le cuento de lo importante que me resulta semejante momento y sobre la gran distancia que tuve que recorrer para llegar allí. No encuentro mejores palabras para dejar fluir mis ideas. De los años que estuve esperando la oportunidad de hacerlo. Y de mi querida madre, a quien perdí hace apenas cinco meses. Y del camino a la paz interior, de la cual pretendo inundarme en el día a día. Me quiebro y lloro (¿es de hombres hacerlo?). Distendido (podrían haber transcurrido diez, veinte, cuarenta minutos, en rigor no lo sé), decido sentarme en el banco que está frente a la tumba. Me pasa toda mi vida por la cabeza en apenas unos segundos. Sigue habiendo nada ni nadie alrededor, tan sólo Brian y yo. Y las demás tumbas, claro. Algunas datan de siglos. Acomodo las flores y ornamentos que otros admiradores han dejado. Hay fotos de Brian, dibujos, textos escritos en diversas lenguas. Prometo volver a visitarlo en cada oportunidad que me sea posible. Es toda una experiencia religiosa para alguien muy poco religioso. Me retiro feliz. Hay un estado de plenitud inexplicable, una deuda saldada que lo garantiza.
Libre de adrenalina, decido tomar el bus de línea local para regresar al centro de Cheltenham. Está helando y aún me restan más de dos horas de ruta para retornar a Londres, tiempo suficiente para agradecer a un tal Brian Jones por estos últimos 50 años, los mismos que forjaron la banda de sonido de mi vida. Y todavía contando…

Corre, Macleod, corre!

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Publicado en Evaristo Cultural en enero de 2013.

Parece un relato extraido de un certamen olímpico, de aquellos que suceden cada tantos años y desde tiempos inmemorables, pero estrictamente pertenece a un ciudadano británico común y corriente llamado Hector Macleod, el mismo que el pasado mes de noviembre culminó oficialmente su travesía de 1 año de caminar diariamente 13,6 kilómetros (unas 219 cuadras) desde su hogar hasta su trabajo (y de regreso de éste). Inevitablemente, los medios ingleses no dudaron en bautizarlo “nuestro propio Forrest Gump”, moción también secundada por sus seguidores. Pero Macleod no es tan famoso como Tom Hanks, ni se ha puesto a la orden de ningún director de películas. Tampoco ha ganado tanto dinero –todo lo obtenido, por cierto, ha sido donado–. Mucho menos ha llegado a la gran pantalla. Pero sí acaparó la atención de una buena parte de los medios gráficos, radiales y televisivos del Reino Unido. Los mismos que lo compararon con Hanks y que ahora lo galardonaron más exclusivamente. Es que Macleod, de 48 años, dueño de una compañía de post-producción fílmica en Londres, se estuvo levantando a las 5.45 am para, minutos después, salir religiosamente de su hogar (situado en en el área de Putney) cada mañana a las 6, y arribar a su oficina del barrio de Soho dos horas más tarde, a las 8 am o’clock. Puntualmente. Cinco días a la semana, con sol o lluvia, frío o calor. Y a veces, si la tarea lo demandaba, algún que otro sábado.
Todo comenzó en octubre de 2011, cuando una inesperada nevada poderosa en la capital británica (las menos habituales, pero de las que paralizan aeropuertos cuando suceden) obligó a Macleod, ante la falta reinante de buses, a dirigirse a su oficina a pie. Su equilibrada salud y buena predisposición le vinieron de perillas. Ya para entonces Macleod incluso venía realizando un arduo entrenamiento con miras a un viaje a al Polo Sur que debió suspender por causa de la creciente recesión económica generada a partir de fines de 2008, y que esta vez, entonces, le resultó ser un adecuado modo de precalentamiento.
Cuenta la historia que disfrutó tanto de aquella primera caminata que no dudó en continuar, un día tras otro, contra toda inclemencia climática. Pero lo que Macleod desconocía era que lo iba a terminar haciendo durante el lapso de 1 año completo. De hecho, antes de emprender su apoteósico periplo pedestre, Macleod se volcó a la bicicleta pero, inesperadamente, durante la marcha sufrió, si bien leves, accidentes automovilísticos en dos ocasiones, lo que le causó una declarada animosidad a todo tipo de transporte público. “Se los ve a todos grises, y además tienen aspecto miserable. Y aún cuando salís de casa con tiempo de sobra y con las mejores intenciones, lo más probable es que nunca llegues a tiempo. Al caminar, en cambio, sos el maestro de tu propio destino. Hacer ejecicios en la mañana me ayuda a concentrarme y a relajarme cuando regreso a casa”. Hector se vio iluminado y, en pleno arranque de inspiración, no tuvo mejor idea que combinar su nueva actividad con los esfuerzos para recaudar fondos para el hospital Great Ormond Street, donde su propia hija había sido tratada dos años antes por un cuadro de tuberculosis. Una idea fantásticamente solidaria, por cierto.
Macleod sintió la necesidad de retribuir favores al personal del hospital y, sin titubeos, aportó cada una de las libras esterlinas ahorradas en transporte (una buena cantidad, teniendo en cuenta el alto precio del transporte público en Londres, si bien fiel a su servicio) y, más aún, el de las firmas que lo patrocinaron tras deslumbrarse por su nuevo rol social, monto que fue destinado al reamoblamiento de varios sectores del hospital, al financiamiento de investigaciones médicas y a la compra de algunos equipos de salud que debían ser renovados.
“Fue un año increíble”, confiesa Hector. “En mis recorridos, a medida que pasaban los meses, pude disfrutar de los preparativos para el Jubileo, los Juegos Olímpicos y también los Paraolímpicos. Cada día que pasa veo a Londres despertar y vuelvo a disfrutarlo cada vez que repito el viaje. Es el mismo recorrido de todos los días, siempre a lo largo del río, pero los cambios de estación y de clima hacen que cada vez sea diferente”.
Tampoco faltaron los inconvenientes de rutina. “Hubo perros que me corrieron y una vez estuve a punto de ser atacado por un grupo de adolescentes”.
Al principio, los pies de Macleod se llenaron de ampollas, mientras que sus piernas sufrían calambres históricos, por lo que una firma de calzado deportivo británica le diseñó un modelo de suelas especiales. Y adiós a las ampollas. En cuanto al clima, cualquiera fuera éste, todo lo que Hector llevaba puesto eran unos shorts y una remera, con el agregado de un buzo térmico en aquellos días realmente gélidos tan característicos del otoño o invierno londinenses en que el viento erosiona los huesos. Todo cabía en su mochila. Mientras que sus signos vitales (debemos recordar que fueron casi doscientas veinte cuadras por día!) estuvieron monitoreados por un GPS de última generación y permanentemente actualizados en su página web.
Macleod sólo planificó la aventura por un plazo no mayor de 1 año, marcando el 18 de noviembre de 2012 como meta de llegada. Entre tanto, ha recorido un total de 4.821 kilómetros, distribuídos en 5.428.107 pasos, a razón de 6,3 km./hora, aproximadamente, más exactamente unos 13,6 km. diarios, realizados en 2 horas y 6 minutos. O sea, casi unos 97 km. semanales, para los que ha utilizado tan sólo 1 par de zapatillas. Para entonces se ahorró cerca de 2.000 libras (unos 16.000 pesos) prescindiendo de todo tipo de transporte público y donando 20.103 libras (más de 160.000 pesos locales) al hospital de Great Ormond Street, aquel que tiempo atrás puso a resguardo la salud de su hija.
Hector cumplió con lo prometido, y ahora sí se dispone a cumplir su ansiado (y cierta vez pospuesto) viaje al cono Sur. ¿Su nuevo desafío? “En realidad no quiero volver a subirme a ningún bus”.