|Guy Bailey - The BIG FUCK OFF Uber Rock Interview|
|Written by Dom Daley|
|Saturday, 29 October 2016 03:20|
With a brand new album set for imminent release (see our review running concurrent with this interview) it was time for Uber Rock to speak to Guy Bailey about his second offering from current project Thirsty. Maybe not what some might expect but if you've followed Guy's career to date this will not disappoint at all.
The opportunity arose for a quick chat about what he's up to and ask him a few questions about his music (not something I was about to turn down): you get culture and poetry - “Water, Water everywhere" - and you also have mentions of clubs long since bulldozed and nothing more than hazy memories in the mists of strong lager-fuelled times. Ladies and Gentlemen Guy Bailey.
If we start right in the present and work our way back that seems like a good idea. The name of the new album is 'Albatross': what’s that all about and why ‘Albatross’?
Well I think that all came about because of Irina [D – a Russian poet and Bailey’s collaborator on this project] and her lyrics. I don't know how familiar you are with the 'Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner', the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but that's where 'Albatross' came from. Irina would come up with all these lyrics and we'd see what works and so on and that was one that stood out so - ye - that's it really.
Is that how you normally like to write? Lyrics first, then piece the music around them, or is it more organic than that?
[Irina] splits her time between Chicago and Moscow and we have a very good “push me pull me” relationship: if something sounds a bit clunky then we leave it and go onto something else - but it seems to work really well and ideas tend to come quickly. I very rarely want to change anything to be honest and that's the way I've always worked. To be honest/ it just seems to work you know? I'm not there for ages trying to fit things in its not like that I'm not pulling my hair out trying to come up with something usually I have an idea of where it should go when I read the lyrics.
It's not the tried and tested Rock n Roll route to writing a song it's quite a fresh idea wouldn't you agree. Not many people I can think of have their lyrics written by a Russian poet and then put those words to music?
I've kinda done that Rock ‘n’ Roll thing, you know… I've been there. This opportunity came up and it was interesting and seemed to work so it’s taken off. After about three or four songs into the first album, I thought this is coming really easily; so, before we knew it’ we had an album’s worth of material done which was fantastic. I ‘phoned up Chris Kimsey, who's a mate of mine, and asked him if he'd produce it for us - and he's also done this second one as well, so there we are.
There was no master plan: it was just a case of being sent the stuff and I worked on it and the music flowed. I've got a nice studio set up here at home in Peckham and I worked on it and before you know it there was an album done. It's a really relaxed way of working there's no pressure and it works for me.
I was going to ask if you felt there was less pressure writing and recording the Thirsty records in the way you have? It sounds like an organic record.
That's exactly it – organic. Perfectly true that… and there was no pressure whatsoever - I don't think there is a single song yet that I had to rewrite.
Some of the best writers say that their finest work came quickly and they didn't have to rewrite much like Springsteen or Dylan...
I've always said if it doesn't happen within say three goes it’s not happening: then it'll go on the back burner probably never to be worked on again. What I tend to do is record as I write and if it's not working straight away then fine: but, in contrast, if something is really working within five minutes and its gaining momentum then stick with it. With Thirsty it’s never been difficult and the songs have sort of written themselves as we've gone along: its been weird and hard to explain you know.
What about taking on the lead vocals? Was that always the plan?
Well it all came from the demos. I was thinking I used to do backing vocals in The Quireboys, and that was it. So, I thought on the first album I'd give it a go – and, actually, yeah, you know... there are a lot of people out there with shall we say not the best voices in the world, but it works and some of them are very famous people with amazing songs. The way I was treating it as well is completely different to what I was doing before, so it feels like I had a lot of freedom to experiment.
If you don't mind me saying, there is a warmth to your voice that really sets the mood of the songs and suits them.
Well if it didn't suit the songs I think I'd have known and as I've always been a bit of a backing vocal merchant… I agree it does work - and thanks for saying that: it’s appreciated.
I love bands like Green On Red, and there will also be obvious comparisons and references to rock and rollers like Tom Waits...
Ha ha: that's really flattering! Thanks for that ha ha
Do you have a favourite song on the new album that you particularly like or stood out when recording?
Yeah, I think it would be 'Albatross', as it was the first song we wrote after the first album, and I'm really comfortable with it being not what was expected, and not your loud rock n roll. There was no big plan you know: it was just going ‘round and writing songs with Chris [Johnstone - former Quireboy] and we had Kem and then someone brought up the thorny issue of a record company.
I know you've seen some of the reviews for the album already, and you must be delighted with the feedback you've had: it’s sort of justified how you've made the record and that people get it.
Oh, yes its really, really pleasing. The big worry I guess was are people going to really get it and take it for what it is. "Oh I don't” like this it doesn't sound like what he used to do", you know? It would have been easy to compare to what I'm known for by the press but it hasn't so far which is really great. To tell the truth, I haven't really listened to it now for a few months as its done, and I'm sure others who write will agree you have to finish something then let it breathe for a few months before you can really put it into perspective.
You were making posts on social media back at the turn of the year that this record was happening, which is quite some time ago now.
The thing is, everybody is so busy and we have to fit in with that… and as Chris (Kimsey) was so busy we had to wait you know… so that all takes time as well.
You shot four videos for the first album which really fitted in with the record and captured the mood of the songs.
We did, yes. We shot some in Spain when we were over there and Simon [Hanson] loves doing all that: he does videos for Squeeze, his other band, and he’s a bundle of energy. He'd be like, “right, Guy, let’s do a video”, so we'd just go out and he'd come up with these great ideas and we'd do it.
The video for ‘God Bless America’ was great.
That was just one take in front of a green screen and we'd been redecorating and he had one of those decorator’s lamps so he thought it would be a good idea. We intended to do a projection onto the green screen and I was sitting on the floor and we did it in one take and took literally the length of the song and that's it.
What was in the bag in the 'Flawless' video?
That was shot in Spain and as the story unfolds you think we might have shown you what was in the bag, don't you? I guess it’s whatever you want it to be really I can't say any more than that.
A label would have charged you a fortune to shoot that: it would have been a few hundred grand and a crew of about forty people all on location for at least a week.
When we were with EMI they had an inhouse production team: I think it was freelance rates for people who were on the pay role anyway. It's only when you come out the other end of the sausage machine that you realise what you're paying for and how much it all costs.
The other thing I wanted to ask you was about playing live? Is that something you'd like to do with Thirsty?
We’re talking about it, but the thing is getting the diaries to meet up where there is a window where we are all free to do it. We've already had a couple of offers, but it’s the cost as well of needing to have a couple of weeks’ rehearsals. Maybe it would be better to do a support at this stage. We might have a global support, but taking this to south America or Europe or The States at our age is a bit more difficult than when you’re 18 or 20!
So it will happen at some point, with maybe a few supports around the UK first?
Yeah, yeah, yeah! It's something I'm really looking forward to as well.
I know the second album is about to be released and after what you said earlier about the songs being recorded in the early part of the year have you already started working on a third Thirsty record?
Funnily enough I had a ‘phone call earlier about that, so we're talking about it at least - and Chris (Johnstone) is in town today, so we’re meeting up later and we'll no doubt have a chat about it: so, yeah, it’s all really positive at the moment.
It's almost liberating. It's like nobody seems to have a record company these days - I can remember sitting down previously and having conversations that were like “OK we have to come up with something that sounds like this and then play here” and this and that: you know, you'd think about what was expected of you - and that was it. Now, we don't have to do that or think like that at all, which is great.
Looking back in time when you formed The Quireboys, you played a hell of a lot of gigs before the first single was released, and I guess when they were released we could see you all over the place: yet after the first album came out, it seemed like it was stop start from my point of view. There seemed like a huge gap between albums, and the touring was obviously bigger places, but there were a lot less shows, but it always seemed like it was out of the band’s hands and decisions were being made elsewhere. Is that fair?
Yeah well, the thing is we did absolutely hundreds of gigs early on. Record companies didn't know how to take us or where to pitch us. We'd go and meet record companies and the amount of times we'd play ‘7 O’Clock’ was unreal.. and then we got that Malmsteen tour - and at the end of that we had sold out the Dominion theatre without us even knowing we were playing it and it seemed like everyone was on our case then.
I was at St David’s Hall on the Malmsteen tour, and the Dominion show… but I first caught you live playing a small yet unsavoury nightspot in Swansea when you were still The Queer Boys.
Oh yeah, yeah! I particularly remember a club in south Wales that will stay with me forever called 'The Three 7s’ in Maesteg!
Another long gone shit hole!
It was great time you know. We were making a bit of money, and it was mates all in a van together - and probably eating better on the road as well ha ha! Petrol money and a pasty - and if we were lucky Spike hadn't gambled all our money playing pool before we could eat. I can remember him playing a club owner at pool without telling us, and when we asked him where's the money he said he'd lost it! The Swine! We’re still good friends and we can laugh [about it] now.
I recently saw you guys play together at the Hot Knives gig at the Borderline and it was brilliant to see…
Yes we did the Hot Knives and then the Borderline...
Where you seemed to be the only one on stage who knew how to play 'Honky Tonk Woman'....
Yes ha ha! That was really really good fun! Obviously we didn't have too many rehearsals - but if the audience can see you’re enjoying yourselves and you still turn in a great set, then it can be magic and a real pleasure. If we were screwing up on stage and scowling at each other, I think people would pick up on that… but there was no pressure and it was all about having a good time and doing it for the right reasons - and we did have a really good time.
It's going back to what you said earlier about good friends doing something they love because they want to do it and not because they had to or were forced to, and the talent of the band really shone through that night, and it was a pleasure to see.
Yes, I think Simon and Nick really play well together and the rest fit in and that was a good night.
After you left The Quireboys, you did Dog Kennel Hill briefly and then there was quite a gap before you did the Peckham Cowboys with Marc. What were you doing in that period musically?
I got up and jammed with a few people here and there… but, that's the thing: probably from about 85/86 I hadn't had a break a really long break. I still got up with people and I felt I really needed a break. Coming back this time I feel really energized about things and I feel totally liberated and it’s great. I've not got record company people expecting a certain sound, and having my own studio it's not costing me a fortune to record either. There little or no expense recording in Peckham at Bailey Towers (ha ha): I think the only expense is getting Chris to produce it.
Chris has really got the best out of you on the record because the sound and production is excellent.
Oh yes, Chris has worked with and on some of my favourite artists and records, and he's really old school, which is great. I've known him since he did 'Bitter Sweet And Twisted'. He occasionally sends people my way, which is great: I get on so well with him. He's great a real pro.
So, there you have it: a little bit of what you fancy from a real thirsty musician. The album, ‘Albatross’ is released on 7 November and is well worth checking out. And if Guy and his band should head to your town, I highly recommend you go check out what they are doing. I wish Guy all the best in whatever he does next: it's always a pleasure and never a chore to catch up with him.