Monday, 28 July 2014

Smiley Interview....Friends In Far Out Places.

As Smiley prepares to release his second solo album "Smiley's Friends In Far Out Places" it seemed a good time to ask the man himself about what we can expect and also to ask him about his year so far and what lays ahead for The Alarm, From The Jam and more!


“Axiom” is another departure for Archive, how early in the development was the film project conceived?
Well lets put it this way, when I recorded it it was a new Archive album, the next thing I knew was when we were at the screening of the film at the O2.. I’m not sure at which point the film was conceived but I know its been very well received.. Theres another Archive album ready and coming out in January.

Why the decision to crowd fund via Pledge Music?
I dont really know what the deal is with Pledge.. A lot of acts do it these days as its a means to getting product out but for Archive I’m not really involved in that side of things.

Were you surprised at how quickly the fans supported the venture?
Its a great way of fans getting involved.. Its about supply and demand isnt it.. If the fans want more product and can esculate that process but helping financially everyones a winner.

Have you had any discussions with James about this success as The International Swingers prepare for their own campaign?
Not really.. The only contact Ive had with James was when he played some guitar on my album.. Hes a Friend in Far Out Places now

How were the various packages decided when creating the rewards for the Pledge campaign?
As I say I dont have any real say in that side of the Archive coin

Were there any outlandish suggestions that were voted down?
I heard some rumours of people trying to buy us for a night to go for dinner etc.. There are some strange people out there.

The recent Roundhouse gig was recorded, can we expect a live release or maybe the Montreux performance which was also filmed?
Well I havent heard of anything planned but as I say the new studio album is out in January.. To give you an idea of how things operate I played all the drums early on on the new record.. but I still havent heard the finished article.. Its tough being a drummer ha ha

How was it performing under the banner of the film images and projections, did it change the vibe for you?
At first it was a little strange.. I kept looking up and got told off.. I didnt get the film at first but I do now.. Its very powerful

One eye on the World Cup - about to take to the stage at Montreux
The imagery extended to band “uniforms” – were these chosen to convey the whole sense of theatre and to make the live experience more immersive with the story?
That and the fact that we were looking too scruffy and got a boot up the arse from management!

It was great seeing Maria Q after she was absent for the last tour but Steve Harris is still absent, is this the nature of the “collective” or just another clash with Steve’s commitments with Gary Numan?
Its great having Maria back.. Steve I believe is away with Numan at the mo.. The whole collective thing means the door is never permanantly shut for anyone.

There have been some European dates but the website still advises live dates to be announced, will this be festival dates again or can we expect a more standard tour?
We have one more Axiom show in Paris this year.. Then we are out from February 2015 on and off for 2 years


Backstage selfies!
It’s been a couple of years since the release of “Friends In High Places” what can we expect with “Far Out Places”?
Well the major difference is I used a co writer.. a lyricist called Graham Turner.. We worked really well together and I think the songs have an awful lot more depth and are far more interesting.

What instruments do you play on the album…any mandolin?
I've played drums, guitars, bass, piano, percussion, keyboards... sung a few and produced it.. I dont think there is any mandolin on it but I did play some on an EP I produced recently so its not getting too dusty.. I let all the Friends do the clever stuff!

Over what period was the album written and recorded?
Probably on and off over the last year.. I did exactly the same with the last one.. Suddenly realise I have 5 or 6 new songs and then develop them into an album.. I think I have an awful lot more know how in the studio now having produced quite a few acts over the last few years so the production is something I’m very proud of.

What guests can we expect to hear and will Kerry play a larger part than she did on the first album?
Ok well here is the list.. First time Ive announced this............... Mike Peters, Bruce Foxton, Richard Archer, John James Newman, Kerry Schultz, Robin Foster, James Stevenson, Mark Taylor, Dale Davis, David D’Andrade, Pablo Cook and a few more I cant remember off the top of my head.

Kerry Rocking The Onesie!

Was there a guest wish list and if so who were the ones that got away?
There was a wish list.. I couldnt  track Adams down so didn't get the full set of The Alarm, Mike took some nailing as did Bruce Foxton and I was made up to get Hard Fi Richard singing.. Weve been working together recently on new Hard Fi stuff so I grabbed him while I could.

Why the title?
Well The songs are a little more out there.. More expansive.. Both lyrically and musically.. and it was a nice next step up from Friends in High Places.

Karl Parsons again did the artwork, did you give him a brief to make it look in the same style as its predecessor?
That boy is an absolute genius.. We had a coffee when I was in Wales working with Mike, I told him the concept and by the time I got home he had done the most amazing artwork.. Genius.. It really inspired me to finish it too as it wasnt at that time.. Hes a genius

What are your hopes for the album?
Well I would like everyone who enjoyed Friends In High Places to hear it.. I was blown away with the positivity around that album and I really believe this one, especially working with Graham, is a step up.. and then who knows.. Sell one of the songs to One Direction and move to a bigger house ha ha.

Will this be similar to “High Places” and be available mail order and at gigs or will there also be a digital release?
Yeah it will be easier to get.. .All of the above..What with social media this time around and surrounding myself with clever people it will be far more accessable

Are there plans for any live dates?
Nope.. although one day you never know.. Would be a mega band wouldnt it


You seem to be having a busy year at Sunshine Corner Studios, have you ever thought about creating a label for some of the artists that record there and maybe an online store?
Not really.. I just love producing artists and getting the best out of them.. I love the creative side of music.. Not the other side

How personally invested do you get with the acts that you produce? 
It depends on the act... Ive been asked advice alot about various record business stuff and I always like to offer an opinion if I think its valid.. but I wouldnt do management. Not my cup of tea at all.

What have been your favourite sessions to produce this year at Sunshine?
Well Ive done a Ska band (The Skasouls) which was really interesting(with The Alarm sound man Dave White which was interesting .. getting a live sound mans take on the recording process.., also a young country singer (KT Hurt) who has immense potential, and a brilliant album with Billy Reeves who used to be in The Audience

How was it working again with your former Mescaleros bandmate Pablo Cook?
Ah that was so cool. The guy we were recording, Jonzip Mcneil was so similar to Strummer that it brought back loads of memories.. Great to play with Pabs again.


Tell us a bit more about Smiley’s Heroes, is it a just for fun occasional thing ?
It used to be something I did all the time but I’m so busy now I just do it occasionally...which makes it an awful lot more enjoyable

How do you find it being out from behind the drums?
Its alot of fun.. I can pretend to be other people .. Ive sat behind some of the greatest front men in music history so I know a few tricks

Any plans on becoming the next guitar hero?
Ha ha I am a guitar hero... but only in Smileys Heroes!


“Horizons Sing” seems to have come out of nowhere and has instantly become one of the benchmark events in the bands history, how was it for you?
It was great.. As you say it kind of came out of nothing.. I was actually surprised they asked for me too.. but I was flattered and I had a lovely time.

Is that the first time you’ve worked in that environment playing live with an orchestra and choir?
No I've done it with Archive on quite a few occasions.. It's an amazing feeling.. An orchestra and a choir really does take your breath away.

How much time did you have to prepare?
Ha ha this is Mike we are talking about.. Rehearsed with the orchestra on the Thursday afternoon, the choir on the Friday afternoon and did the show live at 7.30 that night.. Welcome to the wonderful world of Mike Peters!

Was this a natural extension of taking the new arrangements of the “Declaration” tracks and adapting them further?
It certainly made it easier having worked on the new Declaration record.. but I think even Mike was bowled over at how amazing the songs sounded that night.

Were you surprised at how well they worked in this environment?
Not at all. Mikes songs are brilliant so putting an orchestra and a choir behind it can only make them even better in my eyes.

What were the stand out tracks of the evening for you?
The Deceiver was the one that blew me away.

How was the recording  experience with the BBC?
A Total pleasure.

The presenter made an poorly thought out comment about your time with Robbie Williams which Mike jumped to your defence. Did you hear it at the time and what are your thoughts now?
First Ive heard.. ( I've stayed in touch with him so I’m sure he didn't mean any harm) I've got big shoulders.

There was some talk about the possible licensing of the recordings for an MPO release but there was some question on how expensive this would be to do. Is there any word on this yet?
I've not heard anything.

Mike has been very busy on the solo “Declaration” dates but was there any discussion to try and recreate this event in other locations or would that have been logistically unfeasible?
I think he would do it again .. when and where I don't know.


You continue to tour extensively with Russell and Bruce and look like you’re having a real blast. How have the “Setting Sons” dates differed from last years “All Mod Cons” dates?
We haven't started them yet.. They kick off in September so I’m learning them at the moment.

What would be your choice for the next From The Jam tour if it was themed around one album?
Well I know they are gonna do Sound Effects next year and The Gift the year after so I will go with those!

What are your favourite Jam tracks to play live?
I talked them into doing Funeral Pyre  recently which sounds amazing.. Man in the Corner Shop is my favourite.. Then probably Eton Rifles, Beat Surrender, Malice etc.. Every ones a winner!

Has there been any discussions regarding a possible studio album, either as FTJ or maybe under Bruce’s name?
That's already pencilled in for the autumn I believe at Wellers studio.

How easy is it to balance your commitments with the different bands you are in (Archive, The Alarm, From The Jam) and those artists such as Hero Fisher that you support when you can?
It can be hard.. I had to turn down dates in Australia with FTJ and Japan with Mike and Glastonbury with Hero as they clashed with Archive.. It can be tricky.


You are credited as associate producer on the  “Declaration 2014” album as well as playing on it, how much input did you have and did Mike have most of the arrangements already in mind or did they develop during the recording process?
I had quite a big say in it.. My point was.. “If you are going to do Declaration again, do it completely different.. No one wants a rehash.. So we tried some different things.. like Mike buying a mandolin and handing it to me and saying.. “learn to play this .. It’ll sound great.” So I did.. It took an afternoon and really shaped the sound of the album.

“Declaration” was fantastic and the success of the subsequent solo tour has been great to see but when will we hear new material from the band?
Mike has his fingers in so many pies.. There are some really exciting things ahead but I dont think I am allowed to spill the beans yet.

You were at the Islington gig alongside James Stevenson in the audience and Eddie MacDonald for that matter….and Steve Allan Jones! One thing I asked James at that show is when you are watching Mike perform like that do you find it hard not being up there too?
Nope.. Had a great night off... watching the chief at his best! (Funnily enough this was pretty similar to what James said too! -Rob)

What plans are there to mark the anniversary next year of “Strength”?
I do know but I dont think I’m allowed to say.

You’ve been back in the studio recently with Mike, can you shed any light on these sessions, were they related to the upcoming stage show being written with Steve Allan Jones?
We were working on 3 seperate projects.. I really don't think I’m allowed to say any more.. When I am you’ll be the first to know I promise!

How much can you share with us about the plans for next years Gathering?
Haven't got that far down the line yet.. We only got the mammoth 4 hour set list a week before last year so it's any ones guess what he will pull out of his hat next time!

Every year it seems to be just how can you top the previous year….4 hours on the Saturday, Mandolin interludes, the future guitarists on “One Guitar” and the amazing “Without A Fight” with Dave Spragg….so the question is….how do you top that?
I don't know... But I bet he does!!!!


The promotion around Fable is growing centred around her Facebook presence, who is she and how did Archive get to be involved in recording her album?
She is a female singer from Brighton.. Archive got asked to produce her album and I played drums on it.. She's brilliant.

What can you tell us about the album? 
It's very original and very cool'

Will you be involved with any live dates if they happen?
No, she has a live band.. I will just do the studio tracks.


How have you been spending what little time off you have this year?
Bit of golf, dog walks, hanging with my kids and when our schedules allow it spending time with my talented wife.. Shes busier than me bless her.

What plans have you got for the rest of the year?
A well earned family hoilday, the release of SMILEYS FRIENDS IN FAR OUT PLACES, 42 dates with From The Jam, recording with Hard Fi, Fable, Mike Peters, From The Jam & Archive.. and producing some acts at 

Have you been putting your Kindle to good use while on the road, if so have you got any titles you’d recommend?
I just read Mike Scotts book ..Tales of a Waterboy and now I’m on Keith Richards autobiography.. Thats the best thing about touring, you get lots of time to read which you don't at home!

Thank you Smiley!
Always a pleasure.

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