Not only was I lucky enough to get to see The International Swingers exclusive invite only gig at The Lexington last month but I was also honoured to be introduced to frontman Gary Twinn. Not only has Gary agreed to an interview for In The Poppy Fields, which is presented here, but he has also given me extracts from his diary which charts the formation of the International Swingers and a piece he has written about the Twenty Flight Rockers called "Bernie Rhodes And Me". These articles are great and I will be posting them for you all very soon - so watch this space! First though lets ask Gary about his immediate plans with The International Swingers.
How was the Swingers UK debut for you?
For me the Lexington was a blast.
I haven't played in London since around 1990 so I was excited and even a bit nervous. It was particularly cool knowing that most people there had won tickets through our Facebook and Twitter contests so they obviously wanted to see the band. Then we had loads of friends and family too. Some of my cousins, and my mates from Twenty Flight Rockers.
Why did you decide to play just one very low key date this time around?
We were looking at doing some more shows but James is committed to playing with The Cult until October.
Lots of folks are eager to know when they will get to see the band live, are there any plans for a more comprehensive UK tour?
We are talking about more UK shows late this year. I hope it works out.
What was your reception like on the American dates of the tour?
All the US dates have rocked. We do our best to play a great show and the audiences seem to appreciate that. My personal goal is to give the kind of performance I'd like to see and hear if I went to see a band. We're all entertainers and show offs so we go that extra step!
You stated that the Swingers were formed as a way of "getting a free holiday to Australia", what's the story?
I kept a diary at the time. (NOTE: this will be published separately so keep checking back! Rob)
You previously reformed Supernaut who are obviously well known in Australia so why did you decide against another reformation in favour of the International Swingers for this tour?
Supernaut reformed for a tour in 2007. It was a kind of package with a lot of other acts who had been popular at the same time. There was a TV pop show called Countdown and we were regulars on it. I hosted it loads of times. It went well and it was great to hang out with old mates. Our final show was in Perth, where we had played our first gigs as school boys. Also Hank Marvin was there and the first rock act I'd ever seen was Cliff and the Shadows, with my mum at The London Palladium. So it seemed to wrap the Australian thing up nicely. Then late 2011 it was suggested we do another tour but most of us decided against it and that's when the promoter asked if I had another band. James was at my house at the time and there The International Swingers begins.
When and how did you first meet Glen Matlock?
I met Glen in the late 80's through Bernard Rhodes, who was managing me and my band Twenty Flight Rockers. Bernard wanted us to start a project for his label, Sacred. We recorded a few songs and "Bike Boy" was released as a single. I like Bernie but didn't work out quite how I wanted.
Dead Horse were similar to The Swingers in being a punk "supergroup" featuring The Damned's Rat Acabies and Generation X's Derwood Andrews with yourself and Glen - was this idea the genesis for The International Swingers?
Glen and I got together with Derwood and Rat with the idea of starting a new band. Bernie wanted to be involved in that too. We wrote and recorded some songs and even had some US dates in the works, then the Sex Pistols reformed, and that was that. There's one song from the time called "Fools Holiday" I wouldn't mind doing with The Swingers.
When did you first meet James, was it during his Generation X days?
You seem to have a long history with Generation X having played with James, Derwood Andrews and in Twenty Flight Rockers with Mark Laff. Were they friends of yours before or did it just happen that way?
I'd had enough of Australia and moved back home to London. The final year or more of Supernaut had been pretty traumatic for me, lots of back biting and jealousy so I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do next other than to get away. I was in a club on Wardour Street one night and bumped into INXS who asked what I was up to. One of the guys introduced me to Mark Laff. We hit it off and before long we were checking out guitarists and bass players all over town with the aim of forming the best rock and roll band ever.
We used to go to Tony James' place to rehearse and often it'd be me, Mark, Tony and Neil X playing together while they were working on Sigue Sigue Sputnik. I met Derwood around the same time too. He was looking for a hot girl singer and I introduced him to my friend Elizabeth Westwood and hey presto they became Westworld.
Twenty Flight Rockers split before their time in my opinion, what happened and why do you think you never seem to get the recognition you deserve?
Thanks. TFR, it was a brilliant band to be in. We were all really tight as friends and players. The fans loved us because we gave them some great balls to the wall rock and roll, which was severely lacking in those Goth days. We just never had much luck with record companies or management. Then Bernie got involved and more or less tore the whole thing down.
We were a really strong live, visual group and it's a shame there was no MTV in the UK at that time. Could have been a different story.
(NOTE: I will be posting Gary's "Bernie Rhodes and me" piece in the near future - keep checking back! Rob)
Why is it so hard to get hold of the Twenty Flight Rockers back catalogue at the moment?
There isn't much to get I'm afraid. We released "Tower Block"/"Weekend Revolution" on John Curds' ABC, then WEA did a shit job of putting out our next single. I made a record called "Ride" with Bernie and a bunch of hired guns for CBS that was billed as TFR but that didn't come out either because of some political bullshit that I can't really expand on.
Someone put out a version of the LP and some demos without my knowledge or permission. I've got a great copy of our unreleased live album, "Nine Yards Of Dead Cow". If anyone reading this wants that I'll send them a download link.
What is the latest on The International Swingers album?
We want to record a proper album of original songs. I guess funding is one issue, plus fitting it in with everyone's schedules. We are looking into the idea of doing a kick-starter kind of thing. That way we can pay for recording costs etc and know that folks on-board really want to hear the music. The Lexington show really opened my eyes to the fact that direct contact with your fans is the way to go.
How many tracks are potentially written for the album?
We are currently playing about eight new songs in the live set but we've got a bunch more. Easily enough for an album. I write all the time, as does Glen, so I'm hoping we end up with loads of extra tracks that we can pass them on to the fans as bonus songs, or whatever. Also I've still got songs hanging around from TFR that a re perfect for The Swingers. James and I worked up a song called "Subway Train" that I'm looking forward to playing with Clem and Glen.
When can we expect to see the album released?
With a bit of luck we will record the album late this year and release it soon after. I'm pushing to record it at The Foo Fighters studio 606 in Los Angeles.
Will you include any of the re-workings or cover versions from your live sets on the albums?
Anything is possible, although I think we all agree we want to record new material. Personally if we have enough new songs recorded and there's time I'd be up for putting some cool covers in the bad. I know for a fact that Clem would be up for it. He and I are both big fans of roots and rockabilly and love to play some Elvis or Little Richard whenever possible. I'd like to record our version of "All The Young Dudes" too. I think we give it a fresh approach and James' guitar is simply phenomenal on that song. He really is a proper guitar hero and the sooner Gibson come out with a James Stevenson signature Les Paul the better!
And where's the Glen Matlock P Bass too?
Has there been any discussion of making the album a live recording rather than a studio one?
I was tempted to put out the "Live in Sydney" recording but I'm glad we didn't because the group is so much better now.
How did you break into the film industry and how much of your time is spent working with placing music in upcoming movies?
I've had songs in film and TV before. It's all about who you know and I live near Hollywood so I guess I'm close to the scene.
"F.B.I." will feature in "Homecoming" starring Jason Statham next year, for a band without a record out yet this must be a major coup?
A good mate of mine is a pretty big Hollywood producer, though I've never bugged him to use my songs. His name is John and he loves rock and roll and The International Swingers and kindly passed along our recordings to a music supervisor and bam, there's "F.B.I." in next summers action blockbuster!
Has Clem booked his stand up tour yet?
Clem is very quick witted and smart, which I guess are both key to doing stand up. We have a few routines and banter at live shows. He often offers to translate what ever Glen, James and I say on stage for the American audiences. We pulled the same one on him at the London show translating his Americanisms into British English. It's all in fun.
There seems to be a brilliant camaraderie between the four of you on stage, has this resulted in any practical jokes?
There are a lot of laughs sure but we take what we do seriously and, believe me, we work hard to get the musical performance tight before anything else comes into play.
What are your plans for the rest of the year?
As I said earlier, James is with the Cult util late October, although he and I will get together to write mid September before he goes to Australia. Clem is with Blondie through early November and Glen had solo stuff going on to promote his new best of album. Right now we are making plans for November and December and, I hope, much of next year.
We want to tour the UK and there's talk of Australia and Japan too.
In my time I've been lucky enough to work with some great players but nothing has ever felt so good and right to me as The International Swingers. It's like being in your first band, when you just get together with your best mates from school and play for fun. As Clem said, no one answered an advert or auditioned for this group. It could only ever be the four of us.
Gary Twinn, thank you very much!