The initial print run of "Clang!" sold out pretty quickly, that must have been a nice feeling! Did you anticipate that sort of demand?
To be honest I had no idea. I sat with James Walsh, my publisher, and we just stared at each other when trying to guess the reaction and order the right amount of books. I didn't think in a million years it would get the reaction it did and to actually need a reprint was quite a touching moment. What surprised me also was how it was quite a slow burner and the orders were coming from further and further a field. Immensely humbling and truly surprising.
For those that are yet to get a copy from the second run, how are the numbers looking for those maybe asking Santa for a copy?
Well I've just ordered a 3rd run to cover myself for Black Friday ha ha! I was down to one so I've backed myself up just in case. The audiobook version is now available from the same place gatecrashthepartybooks.com That's quite funny. I start off sounding like Alan Partridge and end up like Danny Dyer!
"Clang!" was written in a very conversational style so was an audiobook version always in your plans?
Funnily enough it wasn't. It was the fact that so many people said it was written in the style of sitting in the pub telling stories. The audiobook idea was an after thought...but it makes sense.
How have you approached the audio version, have you gone for a straight reading of the book or were you tempted to elaborate and add in further details?
It took a while to get into my stride. It's actually a lot harder than you think. Every word, every phrase has to be spot on. It was nice to be able to read it the way it was written....I did elaborate a little though.
I've listened to many autobiographies read by the author so can appreciate the importance of getting it right!
Were there any moments that caught you by surprise and caused you to stop the take?
Yes, the spelling mistakes!
Since the publication of the book have many of those name checked been in touch to comment?
Some have, some haven't. I haven't annoyed anyone yet, except for my 2 brothers who took huge offence to me calling them twins, even though they are! That's saved me on Christmas pressies this year!
Before we move on can I ask what the running time of the audiobook is and how long did it take you to record?
It's about 375 mins which in my world is just over 6 hours, or London to Scotland or 3 Big Night In's! It took me about 2 weeks to record. I used my positive Covid test to fill my days...so it's officially a Corona audiobook.
This year's been a tough one for a lot of families but having both you and your wife Kerry earning a living in music must have hit hard?
It's been pretty tough on many levels. We both lost a years worth of shows, theatres, festivals, tours etc all in a matter of days. It's been especially hard on her as I have the studio to keep me busy. I was away with Gene loves Jezebel on The Mission tour in Portugal when I first heard a whisper of what might be happening. It moved so fast and the next day we were all flying home. We got to Heathrow and there were musicians I knew from all over Europe. It was surreal. Nobody knew that was it for the foreseeable.
You've managed a few things around the restrictions in place such as the new Coloursound sessions and did I see some more work with Hard Fi?
I had a really good run initially. I was working with Richard Archer from hard Fi on his Offworld project. That album is finished and amazing by the way. Then both Ian McNabb and Mark Butcher asked if I'd be up for doing their albums from my studio while we were in lockdown so that filled my days. Then the Coloursound album came up so we all went to Lincolnshire for a week. That was really special. Playing with Mike & Billy. It's a superb album. Had to pinch myself a few times. Rock royalty either side of me. I did odd things too. A track for Owen Paul, some film tracks for Chesney Hawkes and a track with Ryan Hamilton. Variety is the spice of life!
That sounds like a lot for us to be looking forward to. I'm guessing you're sworn to secrecy about the Coloursound album but is there anything you can share about it?
I am a bit. It's been quite hard keeping so quiet. All I can say is it's a belter. Billy and Mike on top form and it's BIG!!! in every way. I do hope we get to play it live. We would "blow the bloody doors off!"
Live shows seem a million years ago at the moment but there does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. There's been some smaller socially distanced gigs but I think in Alarm world we all have everything crossed for the Gathering next year. Before that of course we have the virtual Xmas Gathering next month, can you tell us anything more about that?
The Christmas Gathering. I'm afraid I am sworn to secrecy. My contract says I must not tell a living soul, especially if he is a 7ft Geordie!
LOL! So we can expect some surprises on the night?
Well, it's very Christmassy!
So we can expect an appearance from Santa and maybe a festive cover version or two?
Everyone will be grabbed by the baubles! How are feeling after your Covid infection? Any lingering effects or are you fighting fit again?
I really swerved the bullet on that. I tested positive and all I did was lose taste and smell. Good as new now.
That's great to hear! Part of your lockdown also saw you revisit your Smiley's Friends releases. Had you already planned on a new album this year before everything changed or was it a result of having more time afforded to you?
I was tinkering with the idea and then decided to revisit some of them. Then I kind of pulled them apart and started rebuilding them. It became quite cathartic. Before I knew it I had my 12 ready and Karl had the idea of including friends on the cover. It was quite a nice way of connecting during a pretty dark time. It's also quite a nice way of drawing a line under the friends and moving off into a different direction.
For those that haven't taken the plunge yet how would you describe the new versions?
And all sounding great! Having the fans photos on the cover was a nice touch too!
It was a great idea. Karl Parsons is so clever. We did accidentally leave a couple off...I've apologised, offered Curly Wurly's as compensation.
An Internationally recognised currency!
Are you ready to give any hints to where your next solo project is heading?
I've co-written albums with KirbyWalsh and Memphis Stone & The Elevators this year so that's opened my eyes a bit and broadened my thinking.
That sounds interesting as both artists sound fairly different to each other.
I've really enjoyed both projects. Producing them as well I've kind of seen it from a different perspective. That's the joy of working with so many artists. I learn something new every session. You never stop learning.
When are we likely to hear something from the new project?
The KirbyWalsh album is available from gatecrashthepartybooks.com same website as my book and album are. The Memphis album will be coming out some time next year.
I know The Alarm have pushed most live plans into 2022 but are we likely to see a new album next year?
An Alarm album? It's planned. Not sure when yet but I know it's written.
That sounds promising, anything you can share about it at this time or is Mike keeping it close to his chest?
I know George has heard it and said it's amazing. Mike never shares stuff with me until we are in the studio about to press record.
Archive have repurposed this year with the remix project "Versions" but again they are a band that thrive in a concert setting. Are there current plans for a new studio album and is it too early to start talking about live dates again?
Again, they are due in the studio next year and again I haven't heard any of the new songs, There's a pattern forming here isn't there!
I'm sure the end results will still be spectacular! I think that covers most of what I had in mind is there anything else you'd like to cover?
I think that's pretty much it!
Smiley, as always thank you very much for your time!
Click HERE to order the "Clang!" book or audiobook, Smiley's "Best of Friends" and KirbyWalsh's "You Can't Go Back".