Slyder - Last Great Dreamers - Uber Rock Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Gaz E   
Sunday, 31 August 2014 03:30


The return of Last Great Dreamers has to be one of the coolest rock 'n' roll stories of 2014. Splitting up in the late '90s after releasing just one glorious album, 1994's 'Retrosexual', the rock 'n' roll dandies seemed consigned to history, another lost great tossed into the file marked "Coulda Shoulda Beens".....


But wait, with Slyder and Marc Valentine back in the proverbial saddle, and joined by bass player Ian Scruffykid and drummer Ginge (originally from pre-LGD outfit Silver Hearts), the band is about to release its "long lost" second album, 'Crash Landing In Teenage Heaven', and play its first show in forever!


I caught up with guitarist Slyder on the eve of the album's release to find out just how this reunion came to be...and where it goes from here.....




Firstly, welcome back! Secondly, why now?


Thank you Gaz, it's good to be back! Why now? Not sure, I guess in my mind it's been a long time coming: when I found Marc [Valentine] was back in the UK a few years back that sowed the seed for me but, although we had a chat on the phone, we didn't discuss Last Great Dreamers. It was at least over a year later I suggested it to Marc and then almost a year until we got it together. I think subconsciously the timing was right.


I guess like most people who have been in bands there remains, no matter how long it's been since they've treaded the boards, a desire to do it again, or at least relive it all again for a limited time. Is the Last Great Dreamers comeback, for you at least, a chance to scratch that itch?


Definitely, although I played in a band post-Dreamers (Toy Eye, later Plan 9) between 1998 & 2012 and we had some success and got on okay, it was never quite the same vibe as LGD. We were like a family or a marriage there was a lot more to it than the music, the humour we shared, our love of the 1970s, the TV, dressing up, '70s motors: Marc had a '77 Toyota Celica and I had a '76 Cortina. Anyway, I left London in 2003 and although I tried to get a band together down in Somerset it never got as far as going on stage and then kind of fizzled out and got forgotten so for me it's been 12 years since playing live, and for Marc a bit longer. We both feel the same excitement about it, a few times when we have anyone come in to rehearsal it feels like a performance and there is a definite buzz of adrenalin and nerves.


Before we get too deep into the here and now we should go back to the nineties: what exactly happened to cause the end of the Last Great Dreamers?


We were all simply tired emotionally of the struggle; we'd had a lot of success, with the recognition from Kerrang!, a record deal, a couple of support tours, but we had worked hard to get that and there was lots of rejection on the way. So getting out of our deal with a new manager and into a new deal was the peak of our journey as the deal then went sour at the 11th hour and that was where the cracks started to show. Although we pushed on for a while longer with no manager or label I think we all thought it was over then but Marc was the only one brave enough to step down.




You reimagined yourselves, much like you did when you shifted from Silver Hearts to Last Great Dreamers, as first Jet, and then Jet City - was it just a case of being too little, too late?


Looking back I regret this move but it was a desperate attempt to start afresh with a new identity. The switch to LGD I was 100% into but Jet didn't really feel right, we were the same band ultimately but trying to be recognised in the pop scene without being what we then thought was tarnished by the metal tag which didn't really fit us.


In my album review I suggested that some of the LGD songs could easily have fitted into the retro-fuelled Brit Pop scene of the nineties - was there any of that thinking in the Jet/Jet City eras, with the shedding of the tartan, thrift store skin and lots of hair?


For sure and we thought that Last Great Dreamers couldn't be in NME if they had been in Kerrang! It was a natural progression with our image though, we had moved from '73 to '78 and new wave.




So, what was the initial aim of regrouping Last Great Dreamers in 2014?


For me at first I thought we would just get a band together, do a couple of low key gigs and then maybe a reunion gig proper in London. By the time we met up we had listed some songs to go through and Marc was talking about remixing 'Retrosexual' and maybe a new album. We are both very ambitious and driven people so it wasn't long before we were planning our journey back.


The new line-up of the band features someone old, someone new - how did they come to join? Did you approach past band members?


I joined Facebook and eventually discovered the LGD/Silver Hearts page that had been set up by fans: I assumed we were long forgotten by this time but found that that were a few people out there talking about us and a potential reunion. Through this page I got in touch with Ian [Scruffykid], Ginge and Steve [Grainger], I think. Ian was threatening to start a Hearts/Dreamers tribute band if we didn't get back together and Ginge had expressed an interest in playing. When I eventually got together with Marc to make plans we both felt the last version of the band was the most relevant, meaning that we would kind of pick up where we left off, but not saying that any member was favoured over another we felt it would be fairest to approach the most recent members, Steve and Paul [Harrison] to tell them that we were reforming and to see if they were interested in being part of it. Steve declined because of commitments with other bands and when we finally tracked Paul down back in Hull he was pretty tied up too with work and personal commitments. Having already met a few times socially with Ginge it seemed natural to ask him to do it and I had joked with Ian when discussing his tribute band idea that he may have to take up bass duties if we reformed as I was struggling to locate any of the previous bass players. So that's how it came together.




The return of Last Great Dreamers in 2014 is, I think, a great story - twenty years between albums is a bit Def Leppard though!


The twenty years makes it a nice round figure but not planned, but it is a nice story and it has been a great year so far and I'm glad to be part of it!


The initial news of the comeback hinted at a possible release towards the latter part of the year, yet the new album (or "long lost" album), 'Crash Landing In Teenage Heaven', seems to have appeared in superfast time: was the fact that you had all this unreleased material a major factor in coming back?


No, not for me. I just imagined playing the songs live again, getting on stage, hopefully in front of a crowd that loved the songs and the band like I did. When I knew Marc was in the UK and that there might be some fans still out there I would listen to the stuff that we had recorded and felt I had to do something to get LGD back on stage again to play them. Listening to 'Retrosexual' was always difficult because of the poor production and I knew the stuff we did after that was so superior and listening to it still excited me as it always did. When Marc was on board with doing something he talked about a 'Retrosexual' remix and when that seemed impossible because of lost master tapes it seemed obvious at that point to release what has become 'Crash Landing...'


I have to say that I fell hook, line and sinker for the new album....for a number of reasons. One that stands out is just how valid it sounds in 2014 - it could be a new record by a nu-breed of wannabe rock dandies! Was that the aim of the remastering job - to make it sound more contemporary - or was it simply a case of you guys being unhappy at how it sounded?


We felt it all stood up well still in 2014 but the remastering was really to stitch it all together as an album. It was recorded over different sessions in different studios with two different engineer/producers over 2-3 years. 'Ashtray Eyes' and 'Wonderboy' were very dynamic having had a lot of time spent recording them for single release and maybe some of the other tracks needed a bit of a tweak to bring them up to this quality. A lot of people say that the concept of the "album" is dead, what with downloading individual songs, but we like albums still and spent a lot of deliberation on how to put the track order together. We're very happy with how it sounds and proud of the final product.




Has there been any real fear in returning or has the desire to get this (slightly-delayed) second album out there, finally, overridden any doubts?


It was very exciting initially, and with so much happening and so much work to do there was no time to worry about how our return would be received. The support we've had from fans has been our biggest inspiration so we have leapt headlong into this without any fear, but the nearer we get to the album release and our comeback show the more the nerves have kicked in.


What is the ultimate aim of the album's release now? Are you just happy to have it out there, or do you have bigger ambitions for it?


Obviously we want it out there for our fans to buy, but we want to make new fans, and some recognition in the press would be welcome too. We'd love to do more gigs to promote it or off the back of it but the business is as hard as it ever was so although we are ambitious we are realistic too. We hope with the release three weeks before the London gig fans will hear the album and want see us live.




That comeback gig in London - you've gotta be excited, right?!


Yes, very! This is probably the most important thing for me. It took a long time to find the right venue and sort the timing for the album release and live date. As soon as that was sorted we have been working on the material for the show, re-learning and rehearsing it. As we get nearer the rehearsals are getting more exciting with the prospect of finally doing it for real again on stage. The new line-up has really gelled, and I'm excited for many reasons: for myself and the other band members, and for the fans that've been waiting for this for a long time we'll also be playing some old songs too from the Silver Hearts days which have been great fun working on.


One thing that the album's release has brought crashing home to me, and made me feel awfully old, is the realisation that listening to '90s music in 2014 is just like us listening to the Stones, Faces, T. Rex, Slade, whoever, twenty years ago - where did the time go?!


Tell me about it! I'm just glad I have finally got back to playing. It seems to me that bands from our era have lasted longer than ever though; kids are still listening to '70s & '80s rock and metal, I got into Deep Purple in the '80s because I liked Gillan then you learned about Led Zep, Hendrix, Bolan, the Stones, but that stuff wasn't that old then but it's still relevant and being listened to now by kids that are the same age we were then!


So, what does the future hold for Last Great Dreamers? Is there even a future?


Ultimately we would like to sell some albums, make some new fans that would allow us to reach a bigger audience, go out on tour, perhaps a support tour. Marc and I have already talked about writing and recording our third album: we've pencilled in a release date for 2034 but hopefully it'll be ready before that!


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[Photos kudos to Trudi Knight]


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