In the mid 1980's, the Rock N Roll giants, Status Quo
had broken up, yet had been driven back together by seemingly unforseen forces - with a change in rhythm section. John
was the man who would carry the torch established by Alan Lancaster
. He's now been with Status Quo for the best part of 25 years (a good half of Quo's overall career).
The day's dismal in Blackburn when the phone rings and a Londoner's voice speaks to me - "Hello?
". I'm sure the weather in the south of England was much better, Imagining Rhino to be sat in his cozy household, bags packed for his journey to Denmark (for the Danish leg of Quo's world tour). He is kind to give his time for an interview in the middle of Quo's busy plans. But, when are they not busy? We exchange "Hello's
" and the like before setting to the business at hand...
UG: Right, I'll start with... Before Quo, breaking through and everything, what would you say was your big break as a musician?
My big break as a museu.. As a musician! As a museum... haha! Umm.. There's been a few, but you know.. Cor blimey! I think one of the most memorable ones was when I joined Judie Tzuke's band. Have you heard of her?
Yeah, I've heard of her. I can't say I'm familiar with her work though.
Well, she was quite big for a while in the late 70's and early 80's. It's very musical. And I was at a party and I knew her guitar player vaguely. They'd just got the money from Rocket Records that day to get a deal, and he'd seen me playing loads. We were both really sh*tfaced. And he said "If you can remember my phone number and call me tomorrow, you've got the gig". I've actually got a really brilliant memory for phone numbers; In fact it was 94***65, I can remember it to this day - from 1979! So I rang him up the next morning and said "This is your new bass player".
I suppose actually, I was going up to do a really mickey-mouse session in Oxfordshire and my car broke down really bad on the motorway. It died, in fact, you know. This was in 1980-something, early 80's. And I thought 'Oh, bugger it, shall I just..' you know.
A cab arrived while my car was being towed away and I was thinking; 10 cab ride from my house, 40 cab ride from the studio. So I thought 'What shall I do...', then I thought 'No, bugger off, you're going to do this session'. Anyway, from that session I got asked back to do another one, and then another one, and then one of them was the producer of Rick Parfitt's solo album. He said 'Do you wanna do a couple of tracks on that?', I said 'Yeah, fine', you know - It's just how it is. I must say, you make your own luck. You've gotta really work at being lucky, if you like.
And you've also got to be prepared to be told to f*ck off! And also be prepared for the fact that people will say 'yes' to your face, but they really mean 'no'. They'll totally bullsh*t you, I mean it's a horrible business. Don't get me wrong it's brilliant as well, but I watched an interview with Lady Gaga recently and it was when she was just breaking through - it was just an interview on the 'net - and she said "You just gotta look in the mirror and ask yourself how much you really want to be successful". Because she got dropped twice in a year from record companies. And she said "You just gotta pick yourself up". Again, if you can't look in the mirror and say 'I want this really, really badly' then don't bother.
The trouble nowadays is too many people go to these guitar colleges and stuff, you know. Doing Music Tech courses. And they come out thinking there's a career waiting for them in the music business.. "Morning!", you know? Haha.
It's not so easy.
Oh, it's not at all! I mean, maybe it comes easy to some people. You can write about 5 magazines worth with me, I'm a bit of a motor-mouth. But anyway, through Judie Tzuke I got friendly with the people at Rocket Records and I recorded a single off my own steam which I thought was really good. And I arranged a meeting to go and play it to the girl there. Then I realised, I was about 5 minutes away from the house, that I'd forgotten the tape (the cassette), so I ran back to get it. As I came through the door, the phone was ringing. It was a bloke I knew who I'd been doing sessions for and he said "Oh, hello John. Kevin Rowland has just asked if I'd like to play with Dexy's Midnight Runners".
"Oh, that's nice!", I said.
"I said well, I'm not good enough, but I know someone who is..."
Which was me! So I went down to the studio; I didn't take a guitar down or anything, I just thought it would be for a chat. They said "Well, where's your guitar?". So, I borrowed a guitar and found out later that I tuned up using harmonics, they were so impressed that I'd already got the gig before I played a note! Because they'd never seen anyone do it before.
It's all luck in a lot of ways. Kim Wilde! First day I got my answering machine. First message I got on my first ever answering machine was from a person I didn't know who'd been given my number because Kim Wilde was looking for a bass player, and they were auditioning the next day. So I went out and did that. I've never not got a thing that I've gone out for, I've always been very lucky there. Every audition, I've always 'Got the Gig!'.
Well one of the more 'interesting' things you've done work for was 'Space', that I heard of.
Haha! This is a synth band. This isn't that other band, you know that, don't you?
Yeah, well, one of the songs... Was it Magic Fly?
That's right! If you ever look at any promo for it, I don't like to mention it, but I look like a cosmic ice-cream salesman. You know, like they used to be in the cinema? With the thing 'round their neck, walking around selling ice-creams. I got a synthesiser like that and a space-suit on. I suppose I should have been selling Mars bars. That came about from my first ever professional gig in France. Again, somebody had seen me playing, got in touch with me and said "Do you want to do an album with this French mega-star?" And I said 'fine' - I think it was about my 26th job, I sat down and worked them out the other day!
And I went to meet him at lunch-time, and I phoned in work and told them I'd been taken to hospital, so they phoned all the hospitals in London because they were really worried about me. All I'd actually done was gone home and got my passport because I had to go to France the next day. So I got the sack from that job. In the morning I left for France to live in this chateau outside of Paris for two months, it was quite bizarre. But it was good fun, going round, miming on TV shows, miming on radio shows. But all ended up in some really exotic locations; and for a young lad, it was very good fun, I must say.
Haha, you weren't complaining. You did used to play the violin in your younger years, do you still play?
I went to London College of Music mate, playing violin. I was eleven - I was quite a prodigy funnily enough, I got a scholarship there and everything... But, umm, no, I don't still play. I mean, I've got hands like feet, and if you've ever seen me play, you'd see I'm not the most supple of players. But I have been thinking about playing viola actually. I've been toying with the idea of buying a viola and getting a few chocks back. It'd only be for a laugh.
Well, would you not decide to play it with Quo maybe? (Laughs) It'd be interesting.
"Be prepared for the fact that people will say 'yes' to your face, but they really mean 'no'. They'll totally bullsh-t you, I mean it's a horrible business."
Well Francis does a lot of country influenced stuff, if you like. But that's not my scene really anymore. I thought the best violin player was Jimmy Lee out of Slade. Oh, he's just brilliant. He's a brilliant musician, that guy. He's a serious bass player. That band are so under-rated as players. So original.
People don't realise that all this three-chord bullsh*t.. They're the hardest songs to write! I mean, having said that you've got Steely Dan, now those songs are hard to write! Because they sound so simple in their melodies but are incredibly complex, as I'm sure you know. I really like them, I really like their song-writing. I think it's very considerate, if that's the right word. They're coming at it from a completely different angle. I like what they do. I mean, The Night Fly, that's one of my favourite records ever. Along with Never Mind The Bollocks, by the way. I do have quite a wide taste.
Nothing wrong with that.
Moving onto Status Quo. Did you listen to any Quo before you joined?
I saw Status Quo in 1971 at my local club. Around that time, I saw loads. I live in Twickenham and there was a venue there called Eel Pie Island. I didn't see Quo there, I saw Quo at a place called the Winning Post. And one week I saw Mott The Hoople.. And Quo was just the band that was on that week. I saw them twice and I thought the second time 'It's pretty good, but it doesn't look very difficult. I could do that!'. Of course, when you actually do do it, it's a completely different animal, you know. You've got to really perform with Status Quo. You got to pile it in or else it doesn't work.
Yeah. And obviously you had to follow up Alan Lancaster, how did that feel? It must have been pretty daunting.
Well at first I felt like such a tw*t, it's no surprise people were gobbing at me. I mean, I look like a sort of... 12 inch mix of a Duran Duran song, you know. The first record I played was In The Army Now, and the whole thing was 'we're changing the band - we're gonna change the style of the band'. For that side of it, I fitted in quite well. I had the what you might call the 'Pop Image' of the time.
I think I... Well, I think we all got it wrong for a while. I think the band lost it's way for a while, after the success of Army and Burning Bridges. It was going well, and then I think it went up its own arse a bit. It took me a good 15 years to slot in properly, I think.
Well yeah, I was going to say, it must have been quite awkward at first.
Umm... Yeah. It was really weird at first, you know.
You'd spent so long as a session musician, hadn't you? So you probably felt like you were still a session musician at that point in time.
Funnily enough, I've never felt like that with any band, no. What you do learn by being in other peoples' bands is you know when to shut up. That's the one thing I learnt which is really difficult for me (laughs). But you do learn when to shut up, and that's all I've ever done. That's the only concession I've ever made really. Also, when I'm doing something with music, I'm very full-on, you know. I can't stand cynicism in any way, shape or form. And I think, apart from the image thing, I've been a very positive part of Status Quo. Because the glass is always definitely half full, as far as I'm concerned. So... No. I've never felt a session musician. Except on sessions, if you like, where it's always much better if someone says 'This is what I want you to play'. Because if they ask me to play something in the way that I play, in which case I'd say 'This is what I do half of the time'. They say 'No, no, no, no... Its really good but -' then you know that as soon as you're out of the door they're gonna press the f*cking erase button.
I tell you, I did a thing like that once with Dexy's Midnight Runners. They had a really nice, fantastic bass player called Randy Hope Taylor. D'you know Randy? I think he's playing with Jeff Beck at the moment, he's a serious player, lovely bloke. Anyway, I knew Randy and they (Dexy's) phoned me up and said;
"John, can meet us up at the studio in about an hour. But DON'T come in. Wait in your car, we'll come and get you. If you see anybody you know, hide!"
So I was sat in my car outside Westside Studios and Randy comes out, so I had to duck down behind the bloody drivers seat, it was bizarre. Anyway, so I went in there, he wasn't out the door two minutes and they'd erased it. Then I spent a day and a half doing this one song - it was an album called Don't Stand Me Down, some parts of it were really good - I spent a day and a half doing the bass that track, and spent an hour and a half doing that one lick. I kept doing it and they said 'No, it's not got the passion. That one's not quite got the feeling, John.' ...And then 'Oh yeah, what do you think, Billy?' 'Yeah, that's it Kevin, yeah!' - Billy was his sidekick. Then, when they went out of the room the producer (Alan Winstanley) said to me 'I actually kept the second take!' (laughs).
Anyway, with Quo. I was a bit of a nob in some respects, I suppose. But I figured what I was doing was what everybody wanted. And then we started to get more back-to-basics, we did an album called Under The Influence. Which funnily enough coincided with Mike Paxman, who I mentioned earlier (guitarist for Judie Tzuke). I asked him if he'd like to produce the band. Everyone got on well and we all started working with him, and that's when we started picking up again. I think Status Quo in the 90's should be called the 'Wilderness Years'.
Well Under the Influence and Heavy Traffic especially, they're regarded as two of the better albums of later years among fans.
Well, yeah. My personal opinion is that we recorded too many songs under the name of 'Status Quo', and those songs weren't Status Quo songs. I'm not saying they weren't good or bad songs, I just think that some of them were very wrong. You know, just because Francis or Rick is singing it, it doesn't mean that that's what the Quo fan wants, you know.
You mean they didn't sound like what they were used to in the 70's?
If you like, yeah, absolutely. I mean, it was never going to be the same when Nuff (Alan Lancaster) went. Because that was the end of the heavy period, if you like. Which again, as you say, we started to get back in 2000 and... Was it 03? I can't remember now. Man, I blame the drugs! But those two albums were fun to make. I don't look back on The Party Ain't Over Yet with particularly fond memories, in making it. There was a bit of friction there.
Was that friction within the band or musically?
Oh, I would say musically. There were a lot of songs that... It was just a bit wishy-washy, I think. It's a shame really, because as you say, half of Heavy Traffic was pretty good. Having said that, of course, I've never played it. I never play records that I'm on, ain't that funny? I think I only played it once or twice because, as far as I'm concerned when it's done, it's done. Anything you don't like about it you're still not gonna like about it. And I know every note on it.
In the 80's, when you joined Quo, you joined with Jeff Rich, didn't you? Was it the Climax Blues Band you met him in?
Judie Tzuke! Jeff Rich... I was playing with Screaming Lord Sutch. You heard of him? I'll tell you what Screaming Lord Sutch formed, he formed The Monster Raving Looney Party! He was mad as a hatter. I was doing this gig with him at The Circus Tavern in Purfleet and the band was Screaming Lord Sutch and The Savages, with the completely alcoholic guitar player - He spent the whole evening propped up against his stack. The drummer was Charlie Morgan - he's a tip-top session drummer. And Judie Tzuke, funnily enough!
Anyway, I'll always remember the rehearsal because I said "Dave (Sutch), what's our rehearsal?". So he came in an hour before and said "There's a bit in this song - it was called Rocket From The Crypt or something - and it's a bit tricky". And that was it. "And?!" I said. "No, it's a bit tricky". I spent the whole evening p*ssing myself laughing, it's the funniest thing I've ever done. But the drummer in the house band was Jeff Rich, and I saw him and thought 'he's pretty good'.
Then, when we put the band together with Judie Tzuke, we put an ad out in Melody Maker and Jeff answered it. So I said, you got to give him an audition, he's really good. And he got the job! It was a toss-up between him and Mark Brzezicki. Then eventually, we parted company again with Judie Tzuke and I get Charlie Morgan in - because he's just so easy. Then, when I was in the Climx Blues Band, the drummer left the Climax Blues Band and I got Jeff in there. Then I left to join Dexy's and Climax got a different bass player, and Jeff made sure he got the sack and I got back in after Dexy's (laughs). It's quite a close-knit thing, I think; that era of musicians.
Do you still see much of Jeff Rich?
Well, we didn't part on the best of terms.I didn't speak to him for a couple of years, and then I went to see a little girl; I went to the band - were not pictures of virtue but we do a lot of stuff for charity that we just get on with, you know. Not all charity is done for promotional purposes, let's say. And I went to see this little girl at her house, and she was dying of cancer. She was 10, you know. And I had a daughter of ten - well, I still have, except she's 18 now. It was just so upsetting, it really was. She was such a lovely little girl.
And as soon as I walked out of there, I suppose her legacy to me was that I phoned up Jeff straight away and said that life's too short for us not to be friends. And I went and saw him a couple of months later, and we're pretty good friends now. Again, which is nice. Because like I said to you before, the music business can be really sh*tty. People can say foul things to each other, you know. Or bad-mouthing each other. We're all bitches really! (laughs) Because between two people there's always got to be a politic. In any group of individuals.
Do you still do session work?
Well the weird thing is, as soon as people see you doing a gig they don't put the call in. Ok, someone might be a first call, and you'll be the second because half of the time you're saying sorry, I can't do it. So they know not to do it. I have this thing with sessions - was it cynical? No, it wasn't cynical at all - whenever I couldn't do a session I used to recommend someone. And he was good, but he wasn't quite as good as me (laughs). So the job would always be done. And I'd say "So how'd you get on with him?" and they'd say, "Oh yeah, he was really good thanks. But we'd rather use you"
So as Uncle Frank said, Uncle Frank being Frank Zappa, "But then again this system works exactly as a dream". Which it did. Frank Zappa, love Frank Zappa!
He's the man for me; The main man! Frank and Free, they're my favourite two bands. That's my favourite bass player, by the way. Andy Fraser. He's amazing. He still is. That's why I'm doing what I'm doing; I was playing guitar and violin in a band. Whilst now, I'm a really good rhythm player. I mean, when you sit and jam with Rick Parfitt all the time, it's difficult playing rhythm, while we're writing... It's difficult not to be good, because he's so awesome. He's just the most amazing player.
But anyway, I went to see Free at Richmond Athletic Ground, and it cost me 7 and 6 to get in. I knew a couple of their songs. Andy Fraser, just wow. Blew me away. Completely and utterly. After three songs, it was quite an epiphony really. It really was. I just said "That's what I wanna do, I wanna be a bass player". And he's still my all-time favourite, I still think he's the most original rock bass player there's ever been. There you go - that's a statement! That's what I firmly believe. I think Free was an amazing band. The only reason it was never massive is because they were too young and some of the material wasn't that good. Have you listened to much of them?
Not really. I've only heard the obvious ones; Alright Now and stuff.
Check out Fire and Water, the album. I mean, I just love it all. It's so different.
Is that one of your favourite albums of all time, then?
Umm... Yeah, I suppose so. It's one I listen to a hell of a lot! That's why I like Status Quo, Paper Plane, when that came out, I thought "This is awesome". I just like hearing chemistry between people. People playing right on the edge of their game, you know. I couldn't play any better than they play. They weren't very good as players. But it's got that total punk toughness! "Let's Go!"
Well you can hear it on the records, can't you? If you've got a band and they just click...
Yeah! I mean, I find Muse a very exciting band. I'm a very big fan of them. They're one of the few bands for me that keep giving a lot of enery. I mean, I hated all that Oasis sh*t. I don't know if it's really good; I don't like backward-looking music particularly. I love people like Muddy Waters, and I love to see the blues done well. But I can't stand to see people that are all "Oh, Yeah man."... It's just like Beatles C-side. Not even bloody B-sides, not good enough to be C-sides.
Not good enough to be recorded?
"The trouble nowadays is too many people go to these guitar colleges and stuff."
Well, somebody said once "I'm sick of hearing songs when you know the words were written down on the back of a napkin in a nightclub". It's just a thought. But then Lemmy says he never spends more than half an hour writing a song, and I love Motorhead. But yeah... I like to hear people playing exciting music.
Is there a going to be a new Quo album anytime soon? Because I heard somewhere that there's one being recorded soon.
There is, absolutely.
What's happening with that, are you writing on it, or gonna sing on it?
Yeah, there's a lot of different writing going on. Will I sing on it? No.
Have you decided to take a back-burner with that one then or...?
No, not at all. I mean, if I came up with something that I wanna sing that much... Well, there was not a plethora of material on the last album. And I think there may be more material available on this one. Don't get me wrong, it (Bad News) wasn't put in as a filler, it was just that I wrote this song, I want to sing it. I haven't written one that I feel... Actually, I tell a lie, I'm writing one at the moment that it might work out that me and Francis sing it, funnily enough. It's a possibility. I mean, it's not finished by a long way, but what he's done on it is great. Mind you, I would say that, wouldn't I?
Well, obviously on the Fourth Chord tour you sang a song - on this tour, will you be singing any more? The noteable two you have sung in the past have been Centrefold and Bad News. I was wondering, is there going to be any set changes that involve you singing?
None that involve me singing. I did used to sing for a little while in 1992, I think, I did Dizzy Miss Lizzy. And I said to Rick the next year "Do you want me to do singing next year?" and he said "Nah, we don't need a gimmick". (Laughs)
You know, there's certain songs that, whatever people say, we've got to play. Francis went out and did his solo tour and, of course, everybody thought it was fantastic. Because it's an entirely new set and people went on not knowing what they were gonna get. Great! What did you think of Francis doing a solo thing?
I thought the album was great. I didn't see him live, although a friend of mine did, and said he was very good.
Well, it was always going to be good because Francis, he's no mug. He's been going long enough to make sure it's good. He's got my son playing guitar for him, Freddie. Freddie's awesome. He is truely amazing. Funnily enough, my other son's a drummer, but they grew up listening to Free. I mean, when we were in a band, we used to jam on Free songs for hours. And it's great because less is more. If you get technical, everyone who's listened to Freddie says he's got the most amazing vibrato when he plays. Because he loves Paul Kossoff.
It's really weird when your son is your favourite guitar player. You know, we got a little band together - Woodedz. And we go off and do gigs and I'm looking over at him and getting blown away. One of the Quo crew guys, Lloyd, works with us when we do the gigs. And he said "I love watching Freddie play. I just wish he'd make it look a bit more difficult". And he doesn't shred either, that's the good thing, he's not a shredder.
Well there's Woodedz and then there's Me & The Moon which is Freddie's other band. Is there any plans for their albums coming out soon?
His band. they' not really going anymore. They got quite a long way on Britain's Got Talent and it didn't happen for them and they just got the hump. But him and the singer are still together, I think they've got a new name for themselves. Hold on a minute, I can find out...
(Shouting) Kath! Kath!! What's the name of the thing that Freddie's doing with Pickard?
(a distant reply)
Out Of The Blue.
Out of The Blue? Well, what about Woodedz? Is there going to be a Woodedz album?
I'd like to think so. I mean, I dunno if you know, but it's really hard to write songs sometimes and then other times they just spew out. I mean the last song I wrote, I think, was a song called Busy Doin' Nothin'. Which is what I've been! But, you know, I'd rather write one good song than three average ones. Funnily enough, in the last few weeks, I've come up with three new songs. You know, when it's happening for you, it's really fantastic. I'm going to be doing a lot of writing with Rick very shortly.
Rick's an excelent writer.
Yeah! It's whatever works, you know. Rick will come up with a title and that'll send me off. Or he'll come up with a riff and it'll send me off. Most of the song just needs a few lyrics.
On one of the albums, I think it was The Party Ain't Over Yet, I heard that Rick got quite emotional because not a lot of his snogs were used. I think I heard it the Quo Message Board or something.
Oh, I don't know about that. No, bollocks. I would pay little or no attention to anything you see on the message board. I really would. I read it from time to time and... 'Wow' (laughs). It's really just bizarre, some of the stuff you read on it. But no, that's just rubbish, that. Rick didn't get the hump about anything like that.
I've seen interviews with him on TV and stuff before, and he doesn't seem like the sort of person to be like that. I heard somewhere that he was really angry with Francis for doing the solo thing.
Well, I dunno whether he's angry about it, but Rick did the thing with Rolf Harris last year. I don't think anyone was best pleased about that. Although, I must say I think Rick was a bit railroaded into it. He's got a real cheesy side to him, having done all the cabaret. I know exactly where he's coming from, I've done a load of working men's clubs and all that before. In fact, I've been everywhere really. But he did it with Rolf just for a laugh really and Rolf sort of railroaded him into doing all the promo for it. I mean, we did the one the year before, It's Christmas Time, which I don't think Francis had a lot of time for. As a song, I thought it was really good. I thought it should have been a bigger hit than it was, but you know, such is life.
Well, I bought the single!
Oh, well, good on you! It's really weird, we recorded it on a day like today as well, of course as you do. It was a boiling hot day, and we're sat in the studio singing "It's Christmas time! It's Christmas time!". It was a really light-hearted recording, that was. It was good fun.
Oh yeah, and as I was saying before, are there going to be any more major set changes for this new tour? Obviously with the pictures tour you had re-introductions of old songs like Mean Girl and Pictures of Matchstickmen. Can old song be expected?
I would have thought so. I'd be surprised if there's not. Time is of the essence, that's the problem. I think I can safely say there will be some changes. I can catagorically say that.
Are you gonna have any big say in what gets put in the set?
We work at it between us. Yeah. And I think we're going to be rehearsing in September so... Watch this space!
I heard about talks of Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan getting back with Quo for a one-off gig...
Have you been reading the message board? Nah. Nuff's not a well man. Alan Lancaster's not a well man at all. He's a very, very nice man.
So you've met him?
Twice, earlier this year, in Australia. Him and his lovely wife. He came to a gig, it was really wierd! But it was great, he's a legend. You know, I'll always only be Alan Lancaster's replacement. But that's cool, I can deal with that. It's not a big problem for me at all.
Well, like you yourself said, you've brought a different energy to Quo.
Yeah, I just want Nuff to understand that I'm trying to keep his legacy in a safe pair of hands. You know, I don't wanna f*ck it up, they made some amazing records - they made some sh*t ones as well, let's be honest.
Well, who hasn't?
Well, The Beatles (Laughs). They never made a sh*t album. They maybe made one album that wasn't quite as amazing as the others! Man, I love The Beatles. They're still, for me, the best band ever. And so under-rated as musicians, apart from McCartney - the great bass player. But f*cking hell! George... And John Lennon! What a rhythm player. And Ringo, one of the best drummers ever! He plays the song; that's the thing about a great drummer. A great drummer plays the song, they don't play their ego.
You can tell a drummer that does that, trying to get up in the spotlight.
Yeah! It was a magical time though. Love Me Do, when I heard Love Me Do, which was their first proper single, that's when I knew I wanted to be in a pop band. That was, again, another epiphony for me. I remember hearing Love Me Do thinking 'That's it! That's what I want to do, that's it! Nothing else will ever do.' And here I am! So I've got f*ck all to be fed up about. Apart from being a potty mouth!
A few more things, why have you switched to MarkBass bass amps, and why do you turn off the L.E.D's on your bass?
"I've never not got a thing that I've gone out for, I've always been very lucky there."
Why do I turn them off? I only have them on for a laugh. I like the rhino horn in the middle. But yeah, it's not very 'Status Quo' to have massive, blue neon lights down the neck of your guitar on stage. I mean, the fact that I play a Status (Graphite) is odd enough really. Not because of the name, but because of the look.
Why've I switched to MarkBass? Because it's in a different league to everything I've ever played before. It's a class above. It's absolutely incredible, have you played it? It's the dog's bollocks! When I came to try it, I got my Marshall rig, I got an SVT and I got the MarkBass, and it was just no comparison at all. Everytime I started playing, it was just 'Aww, wasn't as good as the MarkBass. Now I've gotta f*ck around with this for half an hour'.
You've used Status Graphite for many years now, have you ever considered using a different bass? Has it ever crossed your mind?
Yeah, I mean, I've got loads of basses, I've got... I've got some incredible basses. I've got a '63 blue ice-metallic, which was a custom colour, like it's just come out of a case. I've got a custom-shop Jazz, I've got a Rickenbacher, I've got some other Status's, I've got... What's that one that they make, that does all the different sounds?
Oh, I'm not sure.
Yeah, you are. They do the acoustic guitar and the six string guitar. X-Attack... It's the people who make the POD's. It's like a simulater guitar...
Is it like a synth guitar?
No, you know what I mean! Jesus Christ.
(laughing) I have no idea what you mean!
These are really, really popular! What's the people who do the amp modelling? You know, POD, what's the name of that company? Anyway, I've got one of them! (laughs - in hind-sight, he meant Line 6). And I've got an acoustic bass. But I don't like basses that don't sound as good, or that you can't hear them on the top notes. That's why I'm not a big Precision fan. Unless you got a really good one, with a precision you got;
E - DUM, DUM, DUM, DUM (mimicking a bass)
A - Fah Fah Fah
D - Neh, Hello?
G - Can you hear me, mother?
And I hate that. I mean, I do like to play on the 7th fret, and on all four strings, occasionally! And I can't stand it when you have to either overcompensate, or just can't hear it. Having said that, whilst recording, I might use a Fender sometimes and I'll just play the whole thing on one string! To make sure that it sounds big, you know. But my Status, I'm using on all the recordings I'm doing with Quo and it sounds like a f*cking canon. I tell you, the bass on this new album is going to be humongous.
Have you got a new bass?
No, I've still got my signature, my Charger. That's what I use on recording. Funilly enough I actually use Francis' one, it's better than mine! He's got one, Rick's got one and Andrew's got one. It's a mega bass, it really is!
What bassists are you really listening to at the minute?
Andy Fraser! Haha. I'm really into Jaco, of course, which I'm not supposed to be because he's very musical and I'm not supposed to be very musical. I'm really into a band called Everything Everything at the moment. Check it out, it's awesome. ts stikingly original, like Muse on acid. I like Billy Sheehan as a player, I love the David Lee Ross album that he did. I've seen him playing with Steve Vai - it's not particularly my cup of tea, but he's awesome.
I don't really admire that many bass players, actually. Because we just do what we do. People like Andy Fraser are kind of deep bass players, and I suppose they're the kind of bass players I like. I quite like Flea, I think he's not bad. Oh, and the guy from Muse, he's awesome! He's a hot player. What's his name? Wolstenholme? Chris Wolstenholme, I think. He's serious. What I love about that guy is he can really play and he can really rock. And as for old guys, another great bassplayer is Norman Watt-Roy; Ian Dury & The Blockheads. Serious lines, great player.
I like to make analogies between bands and football teams, I mean I quite like the football. Our drummer, Matt, I always call him Mr Adams, like Tony Adams, who was this big defender for Arsenal. And me and Andrew are the mid-field. And we're playing 1-2-2, we got 2 strikers at the front! Real analogies! You know, and whatever bickering might be going on at some time, when puch comes to shove, we pull together as a team and that's the main thing. We've been together a long time, and we always try. Whatever anyone says, we always try. We never don't go for it on stage. And that's what the whole thing's about, it's primarily a live band, and that's why it's still going, because it's so good live. Have you ever seen us?
I saw you in Blackburn in 2005, and in Blackpool, 2009.
Blackburn? King Georges Hall?
Yeah, you're going there again this year, aren't you?
I know, yeah. I remember being there because I saw a chiropractor there. And he's also a horse chiropractor! "I've never been to one of them before!" - he was amazing, he was absolutely fantastic. No, Blackburn's nice, what's the brewery there? Is it Thwaites? Yeah. Blackburn's alright. I mean, I like pound shops and there's f*cking hundreds of them there.
There is, yeah. Round every corner!
Yeah. Have you ever been to Warrington before? We're playing the Parr Hall. You know, I've nothing to complain about, it's all good. Except I asked one of my kids what his memories were as a child. And he said 'Not being there'. And that gut me like a knife, that was horrible. That really made me sad, because you can't get it back!
No. Once its gone, it's gone.
Yeah, exactly. I'll use that line to a song, 'Once it's gone, it's gone'.
Yeah, credit me!
Yeah... Bollocks! (laughs)
I'll leave you on one more question, because I know you've got a plane to catch; Will there be a Rhino's Revenge Volume II, as such?
I will definately do another record, I dunno when. Like I said, it would appear that I've just started writing again. And it was like draggin a Morris Minor up a hill by my bollocks, but it's sort of getting better now. So, I'm really hoping to; I said I'd write at least one every year and I've got 5 songs that I could do. And I just wanna do 10. I mean, it seems to be all the rage, Andrew, our keyboard player, is doing one at the moment.
Yeah, I heard about that.
Yeah. I hear - I haven't heard it, but - I hear it's amazing. I'm really, really looking forward to hearing it. Because Andrew's a very, very tallented musician.
He's a great composer.
Yeah! Especially when he gets on the more... None-conservative side, he can be a bit conservative at times, if that's the right word, I'm not sure. I mean it with a 'small c', I don't mean he's a Tory. But yeah, I hear that it's really good. And the people who tell me that it's really good are the people who I respect the opinions of and I know I agree with.
Interview by Anthony Bentley