Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Nigel Twist Interview



One thing that never fails to surprise me is how nice some people are when we approach them to be interviewed. This was the case with "Twist", as well as James and the others who agreed to give up their time in order to answer our questions. For Twist we deliberately made the questions non linear with the intention of structuring them into a more chronological order when we posted the end result. However, I really like the way we originally did it and so have decided to leave it in that order. All photos used are from Nigel's Facebook page and I will gladly add any acknowledgements of the individual photographers if they contact us but for now I will assume the rights are Nigel's. Many thanks to Nigel (and all our interviewees past and future!) it means so much to us.

In 1996 you reunited with Dave and Eddie but nothing came of it. How serious was it and why didn't it happen?

I think it was just bad timing. We had all grown in different directions and the only base we had was the original Alarm platform. At the time, Dave didn't want to take the same path and in hindsight, it probably would have been a bad idea to pursue it any further.

What is your fondest Alarm memory?

This has to be when we were travelling in the USA and heard that '68 Guns had hit the charts. We flew back just to record TOTP and flew back the next day to continue the tour.

What is your favourite Alarm album? Do you still listen to them or is it hard to listen to yourself?

Good question : I don't really have a favourite, though I really enjoyed recording "Eye of the Hurricane" and "Change". I never really liked listening to the music after I'd recorded it, except when it was played on TV or Radio. I did put on a vinyl "Declaration" the other day and was shocked at how professional it sounded! It's great to hear tracks like "Shout to the Devil" after all this time. The sound of the spears against shields in the background are in fact me hitting drum cases!

Do you still drive like Twisted Nige?

I do, as my wife will attest.

You had some high profile support slots with artists such as U2, The Police and Queen, do you think this should have lead to bigger success for The Alarm in the UK?

You always hope for bigger success. The music industry is a fickle mistress and everything has to be just right. Unfortunately, we hit a few potholes along the way and lost momentum. There's no specific reason or blame to be apportioned, we held on to the balloon as long as we could, but lost our grip. I could sit here analysing the reasons why for days but I won't.

Why didn't you continue The Alarm without Mike?

We tried. After Mike left the band in Brixton, we took a hiatus. Eddie did a lot of hard work auditioning singers, we did find someone and it was our intention to continue without Mike, but I think at the end of the day we realised that it felt wrong. The Alarm was always the sum of its parts. Dave and I had known each other from the age of 5 and Eddie & Mike played soccer together on the streets of Rhyl. There was much more to the bond that held us together than we ever really understood. I think trying to continue without Mike and dilute the band would have been wrong for all sorts of reasons.

Have you ever listened to any of The Alarm albums since Mike re-activated using the name?

I have heard a few tracks. They are all exceptional players from exceptional bands and songs are good. It's hard to critique because I'm approaching it from a different perspective than most people would so I'll leave it at that.

When VH-1 approached you to participate in the Bands Reunited show you agreed immediately. Was there ever any doubt in your mind?

No doubt. It was the right time to do something and apart from that, I was really looking forward to seeing everyone again. I thought it was sad that a lot of the bands that were asked to do the show never came through. It's a disservice to all the fans who supported them over the years. It was an opportunity to put ego's and differences to one side and really enjoy the reasons you formed a band in the first place - the fans and the music.

After Bands Reunited was there any expectations to do more shows, did any promoters show an interest?

I think it was talked about but nothing ever came of it. Everyone had their own commitments and it would have been difficult to participate at that time.

Would the odd one off show interest you now such as reuniting for The Gathering?

We have talked about putting the band back together on several occasions but timing and commitments have always got in the way. I'm sure it will happen some day, though we'd have to discuss whether or not The Gathering would be the appropriate setting for an Alarm reunion show.


You have recently dusted off your gold discs, why did you not already have them on display?

I used to have them on display but after moving I never got around to putting them back up and they're silver, not gold.

Do you still get recognised in the street?

No, I'm kind of low key and like the anonymity, not to say I haven't had the occasional "Twist!" shouted from someone in the audience of a show I've attended.

You auditioned for various acts when you first settled in the States without much success, were these on a session basis and would you like to name names?

I auditioned with Andy Summers from The Police when he was putting together a band in L.A. I was also talking with Pearl Jam, The Cult and Sheryl Crow for "Tuesday Night Music Club" but nothing ever worked out. I think ultimately I wasn't 100% committed because after my marriage dissolved I wanted to be close to my daughter while she was growing up which was much more important to me. With Summers, The Cult and Sheryl Crow, it would have been a recording and touring commitment. I never got to find out what the Pearl Jam gig would have been because the slot was filled before I even auditioned.

Does it surprise you that only Dave and Mike continued to pursue a career in music?

Not at all, they're both very talented singer/songwriters with a lot of ambition and drive.

Do you think The Alarm had run it's course at the time of the split or in hindsight with a break and better communication would the four of you still be together now?

That's hard to answer, your view is always 20/20 in hindsight. Who's to know what would have happened, I can say this though. If we had been more open, generous, honest and humble we might have survived to this day.

Are you still working for the Public Defenders Office?

Yes, for the last 16 years!

What is your typical day?

I spend a lot of time drinking coffee and eating doughnuts (just kidding!) I mostly talk to witnesses and victims of crime, review crime scenes and evidence. It's not a desk job which I like a lot! It's also very satisfying when you know that the work you are doing has a lasting impact on people's lives and liberty. My work involves searching for the truth and helping indigent people in a time of great need. A lot like the music industry!

Do you still get to play much?

I play every Thursday with a group of guitar players. I wanted to get my guitar chops up and a guitar is a lot easier to haul round than a drum kit. We play 60's & 70's covers on acoustics, I have a 1953 Gibson LD1. I also put together an electric band for my office's Christmas party called "Guilty As Charged". We play full blown covers like Folsom Prison Blues, I Fought The Law and Evil Ways, we played at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. It's a venue we never played as The Alarm but it's beautiful and has great acoustics.

Would you ever think about forming a band now as a side project given the easier direct access to fans that the internet has given?

I've thought about it but I've also thought who the hell would be interested in anything I have to play or say! But seriously, I've been working with some very talented songwriters and we have a studio in SF where things have been happening. You'll be the first to know if something materializes!

What bands or artists are you currently listening to?

Karl Wallinger from World Party was in town recently, we met up and he gave me his new release "Arkeolgy", it's a 4 disc set so I'm ploughing through that right now. Buy it!

Do you ever regret leaving the music industry?

I think Hunter S. Thompson can answer that for me: "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." I think that's a misquote but there is some truth in there. I do miss a lot of things about the business, it's a great way to connect with people and make them feel good. When everything is working well, it's the best job in the world. I'm glad I left it healthy and young enough to appreciate the things I achieved. I know it's always going to be there and I can always step back in whenever I like so I don't really think of it as "leaving" the industry, rather a heck of a long hiatus!

If you could work with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?

I'd love to have played with the Traveling Wilbury's, and I wouldn't turn my nose up at playing with The Who. There are many artists I would have loved to work with. The thing that turns me on the most is a great songwriter. When you're playing a great song, nothing else matters, not the vocals, bass, drums or guitar because the song is the star.

How much contact do you have now with Eddie, Mike and Dave?

Eddie and his wife came over to stay a couple of years ago, I've seen and played with Mike a couple of times here in the city and I've Skyped with Dave, so I guess we still all have quite a bit of contact.

What was the first album you ever bought?

"Tommy" by The Who

What are your favourite albums of all time?

Who's Next, Tommy, Exile On Main Street, Dark Side Of The Moon, Back In Black, Burn, Queen, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Dylan etc. etc. etc. etc.

What drummers, if any, inspired you?

I was Keith Moon's biggest fan, I used to carry around a photo of him. Though now I love the style of drummers like Jim Keltner, Manu Katche and Omar Hakim.


What are your memories of recording the "Raw" album?

To be honest, not very pleasant ones. My stepfather had committed suicide that year, the band were in turmoil. Everyone was pushing each other to get the most out of the music. It was the most disconnected album we made and it shone through in the music. I think we were all trying so hard to make it sound good it suffered as a result. It has some of our finest and worst moments ever recorded.

What are your memories of recording the "Change" album?
 Was it important to release the Welsh "Newid" version given the lyrical content of the album?

It was a privilege to record with Tony Visconti, we recorded in an amazing studio in a warehouse on the banks of the Thames in London. I remember Tony having Mike sing "Sold Me" live on a mic on the roof of the building. It gave the track a really fresh feeling. Probably one of the most enjoyable sessions in the bands career. Mike's decision to release a Welsh version of the album was purely from a personal perspective and more important to him than the rest of the band.

What are your memories of recording the "Eye Of The Hurricane" album?

This was the first time we'd worked in a residential studio (Linford Manor), John Porter was a great producer to work with. It was nice to be able to work late and not worry about getting to the studio in the morning because it was downstairs! This was my second foray into computer based recording. I wrote the bass and drums for "Rain" on a Atari computer using one of the first sequencer software programs (Pro24), we added real-time drum overdubs later in the mix. The recording room was an old ballroom and had some amazing acoustics, you can hear them all over the tracks. This album had some of our finest songs on it and most of our biggest hits so we did something right!

Was there an expectation for it in the States after the success the band had with the "Spirit Of '86" broadcast?

I'd say yes.

What are your memories of recording the "Strength" album?

Wow, you're really making me think now, I never thought I'd have to dig this deep into the memory banks for an interview! Strength was another fun adventure and recorded smack bang in the middle of London. Well, I do remember there being a gym close to the studio where I went to workout every day before we started. The album produced tracks that defined the band and it's sound, One Step, Strength, Spirit, Walk Forever and Knife Edge were all classics that stood the test of time and translated from clubs to stadiums with ease. Of course I can't comment on this album without giving my respects RIP to Nigel Luby, a great engineer and friend who worked on this album with us. I thought Mike Howlett did a great job producing the album but I think we lost a lot of power in the mixes. This was the first time we'd used an SSL desk which was renowned for it's thin e.q.and that translated into the mixes.

What are your memories of recording the "Declaration" album?

First album, very excited, cool studio smack in the middle of Soho. It was a real learning curve and Alan Shacklock bought a lot to the table. I think it was ultimately over produced for who and what we were at the time; though it helped us tremendously in achieving radio recognition and ultimately 68 & Blaze, two standards of The Alarm. Good Earth was a great studio with great vibes, owned by Tony Visconti. I remember May Pang showing us 8mm movies Tony had made of his sessions with T-Rex.

Seventeen, The Toilets, Alarm Alarm...were these necessary steps for the band to find it's feet as The Alarm?

Of course they were, without those three bands there would be no Alarm.

Do you have a favourite Alarm song?

I have many faves and can't really pin down "A" favourite but if I have to, I'd say Rain, Blaze, One Step, are my top three.

Is there any track you wish you really hadn't recorded?

There are many songs I disliked and for many different reasons, but that's just how it works. You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs!

When did you first feel that The Alarm had really made it?

Getting on stage at LA Sports Arena for the beginning of the U2 War Tour.

How did you feel when you went out on your first headline tour?

Final acknowledgement of hard work. Probably the best time of my life.

How often are you contacted by Alarm fans now?

I have a Facebook page, so I'm in contact quite frequently.

What was your favourite Alarm tour?

Loved them all, to some degree!

What is the one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask you...and what would your answer be?

Question: What are edible tuber, fragmented and subsequently immersed in a seething emollient fluid and transmogrified into brittle morsels of an amber hue?

Answer: Chips.

What is the strangest request you have ever had from a fan?

To marry them.

Vinyl, CD or MP3?

Vinyl of course, but we all have to live with CD's & MP3's.

Are there any lost gems in The Alarm archives that you would like to see released?

Somewhere, I'm sure, better ask Mike on that one, he has everything we ever did on tape. Though I do have a box in storage full of cassettes with all sorts of demo's & out-takes on them.

What is the last album that you purchased?

"101 Strings, the sound of Henry Mancini" from a garage sale.

Any last words?

I'd like to thank every single fan of the band who has ever seen us or bought a record, we couldn't have done it without you!

10 comments:

  1. Fantastic interview, well done chaps! And Nigel, I hope you are right and we do see the four of you on a stage together again sometime. We live in hope!

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    1. Please Eddie, Mike, Dave and Nigel, make it 'Absolute Reality' for us. We've been without you for far too long.

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  2. Nice one lads. Great interview and some brilliant questions.

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  3. Really enjoyed reading that, thanks all.

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  4. Great job on the interview!
    I love this site.

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  5. TWI$T always was a cool big dude and after reading that it was good to discover that fact has not changed.

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  6. Wonderful to read this through tonight, I miss seing you on stage Nigel.

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  7. great interview ! what a meaningful read

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  8. Great interview. Met Twist a couple of times - last time at Change album signing at Cardiff HMV. Lovely guy

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  9. your welcome m8 and thanks for the music

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