Twisted Wheel have just come off stage after playing a blinding set to an adoring flock, who sing all their songs, bouncing around to the fresh, raw and yet to be ripened sound that the band thrashed out at Liverpool Sound City.
I was told by the tour manager that the band had darted off, as Johnny Brown the singer/songwriter and guitarist was coming down with something and the drummer had girl problems, but he has managed to get Rick, the bass player in a room up stairs, so we went up there and started the interview.
Rick had ice on his hand, he told us it was repetitive strain injury (wanker’s cramp). Bass players get this from time to time after spending months on the road playing with it, night in, night out. Rick gave us the last two beers from the band’s rider and I began asking him how he felt, as I knew he was diagnosed with Swine Flu a few weeks ago. We had a little chat and my phone rang. It was Johnny, who was waiting for us in the back of the van to do the interview. So we took our drinks and an injured Rick and made our way down to the van. We climbed in and began the interview…
Virtual Festivals: I have just seen you play live for the first time. The raw energy takes me back to the live performances of my teenage years on the Manchester scene of the late 80's. These Scousers loved it.
Johnny Brown: “Yeah it was a good gig man. It’s always good in Liverpool, the fan base is full on. The last time we played in this venue, I think it was called The Barfly, in a little room, it was pretty small and there was about four people there. We’ve played a few places in Liverpool it’s a good crowd down here.”
VF: How do you feel?
JB: “I feel pretty knackered today, but it’s great. The main thing for us is playing live and it’s always a great feeling to be touring the world as this is what we have always wanted to do, you know, the music is taking us round. There’s nothing better than being out on the road, meeting new people, playing our music and connecting with people.”
VF: And it gets you out of Oldham?
JB: “Yeah it keeps us out of mischief.”
VF: You’re from Oldham near Manchester. Is that where you grew up?
JB: “Yeah a place called Saddleworth. I grew up in Greenfield, then lived in a place called Dobcross and I’ve got a flat in Uppermill now.”
VF: I got my bass nicked from a music college near where you grew up and it turned up in the window in a second hand shop in Oldham, I loved that bass, I got it from The Chameleons.
JB: “John Lever the drummer used to be the caretaker in the rehearsal rooms where our old band used to practice. We used to see him every week; he’s a top bloke. I’ve never met the rest of the band.”
VF: They had a sound that you can hear in many bands today. Do you think that you have a unique sound and does your music encapsulate that Manchester static that has sparked off many an explosion on the music scenes of the past?
JB: “I think we’ve got a unique sound, yeah. We are different to a lot of bands especially now there is not a lot of rock and roll bands about. I think we have combined a bit of country, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, that was like our early stuff, the punk and blues I think we’ve got a bit of The Kinks in our song writing, Chuck Berry and Hank Marvin.”
VF: Two and a half years ago when you first got together, did you imagine yourselves playing in front of thousands of people at Glastonbury or supporting Oasis and Weller?
[The photographer in the room shouts “He was still at school!”]
JB: "You what? No I wasn’t actually I am deceivingly older than I look; I still get ID-ed for Rizlas. I didn’t expect to be supporting so many great artists that we were influenced by and we look up to. When we started this band I always had a good feeling that we were going do some good stuff but not as much as we’ve done. We’ve supported Ian Brown, The Happy Mondays, Oasis, Kasabian and The Buzzcocks - there’s loads of great people. Any band would be over the moon with anything like that.”
VF: What was Ian Brown like?
JB: “Great, he was a really nice bloke, really chilled out. Sometimes you go on tour with bands and they don’t care about the support bands but all the bands that we supported have been genuine and have given us the time of day, which is great.”
VF: You have played loads of places all over the UK, what's your favourite city? And why?
JB: “I like Brighton and I like Glasgow and - a mad sort of like wild card - was Margate which I’d never really heard of until I played there. I think it’s like Blackpool for Londoners. We did a gig there supporting The Enemy and I don’t know how they got them in but there were hub caps being thrown around off cars. That was pretty mental. I like playing in Manchester as well, obviously.”
VF: Are you what the world is waiting for?
JB: “I think there is a percentage of the world that is still searching for us but yet to find us. We’ve noticed with the fans is that some people get into us straight away while others don’t like it when they first hear it, then suddenly convert to it. The good thing with our fan base is they stick with us, it’s not like we are a five minute band, people feel part of something.”
VF: What do you think of the emerging social change? Do you think you could be the band of the revolution or would you be happy just riding a wave of mediocrity?
JB: “I think if you’re going to be the band of the revolution that just happens naturally. The main thing for us is to just keep writing songs and being truthful and what ever happens, happens. We just put our hearts into it and do our best. If we were the band of the revolution I’d be very happy about it.”
VF: Do you think that your electropositive success will burn out as fast as it ignited or will the fire in your music blaze on when the hype dies down?
JB: “I will always be writing songs man. If I’m not doing this sort of music I will be doing a load of the stuff that I do that no one knows I do. We are making the music we are making now, but there is loads to come. I don’t think I will ever burn out.”
VF: Your songs are mainly based on character sets. Are these characters in your head or are they based on real people?
JB: “A lot of them are real people. I think that is where I was at the time when we was writing the songs for that album, we just liked to sit around watching the world go by and meeting a lot of people. And where we live there are a lot of characters. There are people who mean a lot to me, they are great people and by writing about them we are noting them down in history and I think not enough people do that and when them people are gone they are going to be there in a song.”
VF: Like the bouncing bomb?
JB: “Like the bouncing bomb, yeah.”
VF: Your hometown is situated on a big hill overlooking the orange glow of Manchester. On the subject of elevation, how high are you right now? Could you get any higher?
JB: “These are mad questions. You know what, I’ve always been a big fan of walking and hiking, I don’t have all the gear and that but I like going up hills and look at great views. There is a place near where we live called Pots and Pans and if you go up there you can look down over Manchester and I do that a lot, it’s one of my favourite things to do when I get a bit of time. If anyone comes to see us who has never been I always take them up there if we’ve got a day off. So yeah, that is one of my favourite things to do and it’s right on my front door.”
VF: You released your self-titled debut album in April this year. How do you think it compares to the debut albums of the bands that have influenced you?
JB: “The production’s different because obviously the bands that influenced me are pretty old so the recording techniques are different. When you get the first albums of The Jam and The Clash every song’s a nugget, it’s bam bam bam bam bam and it’s over and you want to play it again, I hope we got that. I played it a million times before it came out. I don’t listen to it now.”
VF: Are you bored of it now?
JB: “Well, no I’m working on new stuff. That’s been done. I think we have captured that raw energy that we make live. Some bands that can be energetic live go in the studio and they lose it all. We have kept that which is important.”
VF: In 20 years time will the kids be influenced by your music as you were by say The Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses, The Jam, The Clash or The Smiths?
JB: “I think they will because they are now, especially the young kids. All our mates that have got kids themselves, all their kids are into it which is great to know because when everyone else gets bored of it there is always another generation of people.”
VF: What are Kasabian like on tour? I saw them at Manchester University five years ago, their energy on stage was dynamic.
JB: “I’ve not actually toured with them but we did one gig in Milan with them and we did the Heaton Park gig and that was the first time I’d met them. I haven’t actually met Serge but I had a few chats with Tom and he’s a dead sound bloke man.”
VF: Do you think they have lost that spark after years on the road with each other?
JB: “I never got that impression. I think I prefer their latest album to their other stuff to be honest. When Kasabian came out I was so busy doing my own music I never really watched them but I quite enjoyed their set at Heaton Park.”
VF: Will that ever happen to you? Do you think you will ever get sick of the site of each other and lose the will to play live?
JB: “I don’t think it will in the long term. I think if you are on tour all the time together you would just have those days where you might have that feeling towards each other but it never lasts. I wouldn’t want to be in a band where you’re constantly not getting on. I think I’d just leave and do something else but we all get on pretty well. It’s nice to get home and have a break from each other but we are one band who have never had an argument.”
VF: Like Girls Aloud?
JB: "Why do they not argue? I bet they have right fucking rows.”
VF: 50 years ago on these very streets, in venues like this one, four lads were about to shake the world with their own brand of rock and roll and this would change the world forever. The world is in need of another shake don't you think? Are you the boys to do it?
JB: “You know what? I proper believe that the world does need another shake and I think that there has not been a band that has done it for quite a long time for a few reasons. I don’t think the radio stations that the kids listen to are playing the right music, they are limiting what they could play to people and I think that makes it hard for some great bands to get through to people.
“I think we have come to a point in time that things are going to change and there is going to be a band that everyone wants. Not an X Factor band and not a little indie pop band and not bullshit. I believe that we’re the band to do it. We have done one album that we are all happy with but at the same time we have been going two and a half years so it’s really early days for us. Some people can easily make the decision that they don’t like ‘The Wheel’ but we haven’t done nothing yet, there is a lot more to come. I believe as a songwriter and an artist that we are definitely the band to do it.”
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