Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Steve "Smiley" Barnard Interview

We catch up with Smiley to chat about his debut solo album "Friends In High Places", life in The Alarm and what it was like to tour with Joe Strummer...and Robbie Williams!
Smiley living up to his name! All photos from The Gathering 20 by Joff

-At what age did you take up the drums and what was it that attracted you to them?

My Mum says I used to play along to the radio in my high chair in time with the music so I guess you could say 1 year old! I carried on playing as a child with a little kit and spent hours packing it on my bunk bed and pretending to drive to a gig, I was only 4 or 5, who would have thought 40 years later I would be doing the same!

-Which drummers had the biggest impact on you and your style?

The main 3 were Keith Moon, John Bonham and Ringo Starr...with a bit of Stewart Copeland, Mitch Mitchell, Jim Keltner and Mark Brezecki thrown in.

-What is your typical day?

Typical day when not touring would be up at half run...tea...and Daily Mirror, park with dog and baby then switch with Kerry and go to the studio and work on whatever project I am on at the time. I have been producing quite a bit recently, so that's been interesting.

-How is your debut solo album "Smiley's Friends In High Places" doing?

I have had some great reviews. To be honest I don't really know what to do with it. If you or your readers have any ideas then answers on a postcard to the grateful drummer!

-Are you happy with how it has been received?

It's a strange thing a solo album, you really are baring your soul so you have to be quite thick skinned. For every great review or kind word there may be a silence which is hard cos you just don't know what people think, but I have been really pleased with the reaction.

-Will you be doing any more collaborations with Kerry and is it hard working with someone you are so close to?

She is a nightmare to work with! A real diva!! I have to beg her to do some vocals for me and when she finally gives in will say hurry up as the dinner is nearly ready and then do this stunning vocal! Really annoying but the best voice I have ever heard..Bless her.

-In our review of "Friends In High Places" we stated ....."is very radio friendly and would do well if programmers actually took a chance on 'independent' releases" and "Hearing Is Deceiving" would be heralded as a classic if it had Noel Gallagher's name attached to it." Is it hard to gain that recognition in today's music market or has the internet made things easier?

As I say I am a bit stumped as to what to do with the album. I don't know how to get it to the relevant radio or if anyone has any good ideas throw them in!

-How much of your time does Sunshine Corner Studios take up?

I love being in my studio, it's my happy place! I have just had some more work done so it's looking mega. It's such a buzz getting different artists in and creating stuff from nothing. If anyone wants to book it...

-How much session work have you done and for what artists?

See no.....Hear no....Speak no?
Well off the top of my head I have played for Joe Strummer, Robbie Williams, Archive, The Alarm, From The Jam, The Mock Turtles, Spear Of Destiny, Lily Allen, Bad Company, Terry Hall, Roy Harper, Republica, Billy Bragg and Noel Redding to name 14! The list goes steadily downhill from there I can assure you!

-Have you ever appeared uncredited on anything?

A couple of things, usually when I have been asked to drum over someone elses cos they are a bit rubbish...they still don't know!

-Are there any plans for a follow up to "Friends In High Places"?

I will at some point...awaiting diving inspiration!

-Which artist would you most like to work with?

Paul McCartney

-What was the last album you bought?

Paul Weller - Sonik Kicks

-What is your favourite album of all time?

Revolver by The Beatles

-How did you come to play on the Robbie Williams debut solo album "Life Thru A Lens"?

I got the job drumming for him when he first went solo. The album was already done but I got to sing on it. I did 3 tours and played on b sides and demoed the 2nd album. Then he went into mega stardom and I lost iit to the drummer that did the album...happy days!

-What are your memories of recording that album and the following tour?

It was bonkers! I got to see all the things I had only read about...hysterical fans, TV shows...crazy! But I also became really close friends with him which was pretty surreal.

-You played on the "Rock Art And The X-Ray Style" album by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros taking over from Ged Lynch. With much of the album already recorded was that a hard project to come into at a late stage?

It was and it wasn't. Ged is one of my favourite players and he is such a beautiful man that it was a pleasure to play his parts, plus playing Topper's Clash parts.

-You toured with Joe Strummer in the Mescaleros for many years, what are your memories of him?

He was the smartest man I ever met, and the coolest, I had no idea just how much he was idolised until I went to the States with him. That man was a living legend!

-How was it supporting the legendary The Who in 2000? I saw the Wembley gig and it still counts as one of the best I have ever seen! (Rob)

Oh I was in heaven, got my own seat on the stage to watch them every night! favourite live band. I would get to play, have a glass of wine and then take my seat behind Townshend every night! Ha ha's a hard life sometimes!

-What's the latest on the new Archive album and what can you tell us about it?

It's done and out in September. It's very good, quite electronic but with big drums and orchestras so I think people will love it.

-Will there be a tour to support the album and if so can we expect any UK dates?

I think we start in Berlin in September with an orchestra then there is a 7 week European tour starting in October. I heard a rumour of UK shows so lets wait and see. The album is coming out here on anew label with new management so it may all change.

-Why do you think mainland Europe have embraced Archive much more than the UK seems to?

No idea. It's Mad! They are superstars in France but couldn't get arrested here. The new album may change that. I have always thought they would do an Elbow and get known for a new track without people knowing the back catalogue. I still think they will crack it here.

-The track "Fuck U" from the "Noise" album has one of the most venomous lyrics ever, was it written about a specific person and if so would you care to throw any light on who?

Ha ha, I don't know, Danny won't tell me! There is another one in the same vein on the new album about killing someone with a hatchet!

-Have you ever thought about doing a side project with Archive guitarist Steve Harris?

Ah young Stevie Harris! He is an astonishing player and the most adorable person but a bloody nightmare to  pin down and get in the no.

-What do you remember about the Los Mondo Bongo dates?

Oh that was so much fun! It was my supergroup! When I was a teenager me and a mate played a game called supergroup where you had to pick your favourite players and I had Mike and Derek Forbes in mine. How mad is that?

-Had you met Mike Peters before Los Mondo Bongo?

I met him once to talk about possibly doing some Alarm shows Grantley couldn't. I couldn't do them in the end but when the Los Mondo thing came up I asked him if he fancied it.

-What were your first impressions of him?

Let's be honest, and I'm sure everyone will agree, he is the nicest man on earth! He is adorable, we have become such good friends...and I'm not saying that on the off chance he will read this...and that I am due a pay rise!!

-Will we ever see Los Mondo Bongo return? (The Gathering perhaps?)

I reckon it will pop up Bobby Ewing in the shower in Dallas!

-Was it difficult taking over from Steve Grantley?

I really like Steve but he couldn't do it so I did!

-What are your favourite tracks to play live with The Alarm?

There were a few I hadn't done at the last Gathering which were great, The Whoier the better!

-What can we expect from The Alarm this year?

Well Mike and I are in the studio at the end of this month, then he goes off with Big Country and I go off with Archive, then at the end of the year there are some plans. Can't tell you what exactly as it's top secret!

-Were you involved at all in the upcoming film "Vinyl"?

Yes, I drummed on all the tracks.

-With everyone being involved in various projects is it hard to make things fit or can you make certain times for certain projects?

It's always tricky but hey, where there's a will there's a way!

-What's next for you this year?

I am producing 3 albums at the mo then I have some From The Jam gigs which I am learning for at thye moment. Archive start in September. Getting married in October then back on tour til December and hopefully some Alarm shows. Plus obviously school runs and trips to the park, all in all it's a wonderful life x
Big love to you and everyone and see you all soon!

Thank you Smiley! All the best to you and Kerry for the wedding! 
If you have yet to get your copy of Smiley's "Friends In High Places" CD you can get it here for only £10!!! If you want to know if it's worth it (it is!) you can find our review here

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