Steve Jenner grabbed an enlighenting backstage chinwag with Alabama 3 leader Larry Love (aka Rob Spragg), ahead of the band's roof-raising set at RockNess festival in Scotland.
Larry Love: Hey Steve man, how's your band going? [Last time Larry and Steve met, at a Virtual Festivals-hosted warm-up party for Glastonbury back in 2003, Larry joined Steve's band Mars on-stage for a rendition of Alabama 3 classic 'Too Sick To Pray'].
Steve Jenner: Er, it's not really going any more.
LL: Got a proper job now then have you?
SJ: Yes, VF's kept me a bit busy these last few years!
LL: Good on you.
SJ: Thanks. So how's life in the Alabama 3 camp in 2009?
LL: It's not really a camp, more of an enclosure where we've been shepherded into this rock n' roll thing. No it's alright, we're good, we're not camping. We've got our own studio now, setting up our own record label up, got an album coming out in October, we've been doing this thing since last year where we give three songs away to our fan base each month and they choose which one goes on the album, so we've made about 30,000 people our executive producers. Basically we're giving our songs away for nothing. What's interesting about this day and age is that you don't make any money out of selling records, so you need to have a different relationship with your fan base and I really welcome file sharing; I mean, young people listening to a John Lee Hooker song, it's a great time for kids to listen to different types of music on the internet. Unfortunately the likes of Metallica and Coldplay might lose a bit of money on their EMI record sale marketing department situation, but as I say, bring it on.
SJ: Yes I suppose this is all good for bands like you who have a strong live following.
LL: Yeah, I think the whole concept of record deals and all that and you know, it's just a tin pan alley concept to try and make money, how do you make money out of a musician, unless people go on for 60 or 70 years? It's a good time now, we've returned to the elementals of what we're about, it's about getting out of your studio and getting on the road, you know what I mean? And I'm proud to say we've got a long-term live reputation and these down times suit Alabama 3, I mean everyone wants to be the country and western acid house blues band don't they, or maybe not (laughs); I mean Coldplay don't sound so good when you've just had your house repossessed do they?
SJ: Alabama 3, Jazzworld Stage, Glastonbury 2005, was one of the most amazing outdoor live performances we've seen.
LL: Was that it when it just stopped raining and we came out? Yeah that was a good set.
SJ: You did something with the bass that no-one else did where it just went through your body and stayed there for a few minutes - can we expect a thumping set today?
LL: No, we're going to do a real timid one, do a load of Coldplay covers [laughs]. No, we'll have it. There's a good Scottish crowd here, a bunch of fucking lunatics and we'll love it. I mean, I'm Welsh, D Wayne's from Glasgow so we'll lock into the mainframe and just have it you know.
SJ: What's your schedule looking like this summer?
LL: It's not massive, we're cherry picking really, we did so many festivals, I mean we played at Glastonbury last year four times, two of them acoustic, so we're cherry picking. We're doing Eastern Europe for a week and we're just getting this album down, but this one, RockNess, it's a good lineup you know, so that's why we're doing it.
SJ: What do you think of the setting for RockNess?
LL: It's beautiful, we've been here before. Last time we were here a couple of the band, no, two of the crew got thrown out - one of the band's girlfriends got arrested and had to spend the night in the cells, so we were a bit...
SJ: That's a regular Alabama 3 gig isn't it?
LL: [Nods] Something like that, a low-key one yeah... but no it's cool, I only woke up about an hour ago [it's now 7pm, band are on stage in 30 minutes] and I'm in the press tent with you motherfuckers, but if you tell me it's cool it's cool.
SJ: Are you going to stay to see any of the other performances tonight?
LL: Yeah, we'll check out Dizzee and then Orbital I think, I feel I have a bit of techno in my soul tonight.
SJ: You hanging about tomorrow?
LL: No, we have a gig in Holmefirth, god knows, we're going from this to Holmefirth where they filmed Last of the Summer Wine, a quaint little mining village in Yorkshire and we're descending on it.
SJ: How do you think that will go down?
LL: It'll be alright you know, bring us down gently before the ghetto of Brixton.
SJ: We've been doing this 10 years now and we've been asking bands about their thoughts and experiences over that time and how the festival scene has exploded. What are your thoughts as a band who have played so many festivals over the last decade?
LL: I think, and God bless RockNess, but what I think is interesting is that the Manchester Chief of Police has said that this will be the summer of rage, and what I read from that is that with the air of descent and economic gloom people are going to get rioting. He's directly relating to the Summer of Love theme, and what I think is going to be interesting, and as I say God bless RockNess and God bless V.D.2009 or whatever it's called, but what's going to be very important is a group of 20 kids in the middle of nowhere in the South of Wales getting a sound system out and having their own festival in a forest and going back to that, cos young kids need to be doing something other than watching their parents' houses get repossessed, and that means that they get a sound system out and have parties then all the better for it, and if the police want to say this is the summer of rage and clamp down on these young people having independent festivals then they will have a problem. From the summer of love to the summer of rage old bill, bring it on. That's what's going to be interesting, cos I know from now there will be a lot of illegal raves going on over the next couple of years, and it's cool, that's where you get good music from, acid-house music started from that. I think you need, in these times of economic depression, a bit of rebellion, as nobody trusts the banker, and our corporate branded stuff, God bless you sponsored lager [raises can of Carling].
SJ: So you think we're due a period of decent music again now then?
LL: I think so, if you look anthropologically or socialogically, Jazz came out of the 30's, you got Punk Rock to Acid House you know, I believe if you remain on the top of your game and you're good, people just want to go out and have a good time, and as writers and musicians you can provide a balm for hurt minds, as Shakespeare said.
SJ: What's been your best festival experience in the last 10 years?
LL: I've got to say it's called Mad Pride, it was in Finsbury Park and basically it was like Gay Pride but Mad Pride and was for mental health service users, on the fact that quite a lot of the population are diagnosed with mental health issues right. So you can imagine, I was on the board of directors with two skitzophrenics, a bi-polar disorder, agrophobics and all that and it was the most twisted festival, only about 2,000 people, but they got it all wrong. Because of their mental health status the council only let them have the tent 'til 7pm, and we were due on at 7pm, so as we're staring the council, by regulation, are taking the tent down around us, next thing, 20 minutes in the council say we've got to turn the music off, so we're stuck there, with 2,000 loonies on Special Brew and Tamanzipan, and I said 'fuck this!', got two acoustic guitars, got the band out as they took the tent down around us and led them like the pied piper and sat on a fence playing accapella to all these nutters, it was just brilliant, it was just chaos, and I used to go to Stonehenge, so there's a bit of chaos in me.
SJ: Wow. And I'm almost afraid to ask about your worst festival experience.
LL: Errm, it was a festival in Holland, where for some reason the whole band were escorted off-site at gun-point. We'd had two members of the band arrested and held upside down in cages, it was really heavy. They'd hired a load of Hooligans off a council estate or something and got it all wrong. After the gig we were thrown off site. Next day in the equivalent to The Sunday Times over there - "Best Band of the Festival: Alabama 3"! But it's pretty heavy getting taken off-site at gun point.
SJ: Are you still doing the Larry Love Showband? [Acoustic mutation of Alabama 3]
LL: Yeah, very much, it's a para-military wing of the main band.
SJ: Do you have a 10th birthday message for Virtual Festivals and our readers?
LL: [Starts impromptu rap complete with gangsta hand movements] Stop being so virtual and get into reality. It's your tenth anniversary brothers and sisters move it on and may you keep singing those rock n' roll songs all night long. Peace bro and out from the Alabama 3. From the Virtual to the reality and back again, lay off the DMT.
For more info on Alabama 3 click on the link to the right and check out www.alabama3.co.uk.