INTERVIEW: The Manfreds

A Golden celebration for the Sixties’ legends who are visiting Preston next month.

Preston’s most iconic building, the bus station, has left quite an impression on sixties’ music star Tom McGuinness.

The Manfreds guitarist was last in the city during the band’s heyday (when they were known as Manfred Mann) and is set to return on September 6 to the Charter Theatre.
But will a visit to the bus station be on the cards?

“I haven’t played in Preston for quite a while,” says Tom “but I certainly remember the bus station.
“I recall it becomes pretty windswept of a winter’s evening at 10.30 at night,” he laughs. “But I’m sure it has its fans.”

Tom started his music career alongside another 18-year-old guitarist, Eric Clapton, in The Roosters and joined Manfred Mann in 1964 – just as the band’s hit single ‘5-4-3-2-1’ began its meteoric rise up the charts and into pop folklore.

Just five years later Manfred Mann disbanded and Tom thought that was the end.
“If you had asked me when Manfred Mann split up back in 1969 did I think we would be getting back together and playing gigs 40 years later I’d have laughed at the idea,” says Tom.
“I just assumed it was like yesterday’s newspaper – to be forgotten.
“I can remember saying to the man running the show at a gig in 1965 – there were about 800 people in a ballroom to see us – that it wasn’t as crowded as it was six months earlier and he said ‘no you haven’t had a hit for three months’ and I thought, that’s it, it’s that short term.
“That put things into perspective for me so I’m astounded to find we’re still playing, still having fun, still have an audience – what’s not to enjoy?”

Tom continued to work as a songwriter, author, record and TV producer before he and his former Manfred bandmates joined together for a celebration. The Manfreds only got back together to do one gig for my 50th birthday,” he says. “We never intended to do many gigs after that.

“We hadn’t played together for 22 years before then and we really enjoyed it and then the phone started ringing with people asking us if we wanted to do anymore shows?”

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The band went on to tour Japan, Australia and Europe and have recently completed 20 dates earlier this year.
And they will continue their tour around the country right up until December 1 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Manfred Mann.

Tom says: “We’re going to be playing tracks from our very first album ‘The Five Faces of Manfred Mann’ which was in the charts for six months back in 1964.
“Lots of people out there liked that album so we thought we’d play some tracks from that as it has been re-issued, alongside the hits.”

Speaking to Tom, you get the impression that had he not been part of the 60’s music scene, he most certainly would have been a fan of his contemporaries as music knowledge simply pours out of him.

But despite his almost-encyclopedic ability to recall names and dates of some of music’s hits Tom is yet to move over to the digital age.
He says: “I haven’t downloaded anything yet, I still buy vinyl and CD’s, I’m afraid I’m very old fashioned.
“I like YouTube for seeing people I really admire, I go on there and have a look. I’m all in favour of all this new technology – anything that gets the music out there is alright by me.
“What it really comes down to is playing live.
“Obviously hit records are great and they’ve opened many doors for me over the years but it’s getting out there and playing live, communicating to the other musicians in the band and then communicating it out to the audience who feed it back to you.
“There’s nothing like it.
“But I do like to hold the product in my hand and read the sleeve notes – there’s something lovely and physical about it.
“That said, I’m constantly checking out YouTube and the iPlayer to see what I can discover.
“I started off just listening to rock and roll when I was younger and now I hear music from around the world that just knocks me out.
“You can hear music from Marley, or hear something recorded in Tennessee in 1937, or Gaelic music.
“I remain in love with music like when I was 16 years old but I think in 50 years time our children are going to be born with the hits of the last 100 years implanted in their brains.”

And Tom doesn’t even need to hear the music to appreciate it.
He recalls: “When I was younger I once caught a bus to someone’s house just because someone had given me the address of a man who had an album by blues musician Muddy Waters.
“I rang their doorbell and said ‘does someone own a Muddy Waters album here?’ and this man came to the door with it and I literally held it, looked at the front cover and said ‘thank you very much’ and left.
“I have no idea where he got it from because it was only available in America.
“Young people nowadays have all these incredible artists available to them in an instant, they have no idea,” he laughs.

And the now 71-year-old grandfather is a great advocate of enriching lives through the arts. It’s gradually beginning to dawn on my grandchildren that I was once very successful, so they’re a little intrigued by it.

He says, “arts, culture, music, all those things are as important as having a job and bread on the table.
“You would think I would make that claim because that’s how I make my living but it’s not about that it’s about opening people’s eyes and ears to the possibilities of life and entertaining and educating them.
“Without them you’re life is impoverished and local venues are so important.
“New local theatres are being opened but all too many are being closed and I would say to everyone in Preston and the are around to fight for your local entertainment venues.”

With many of the band of the 1960’s, 70’s and beyond still gigging today, clearly there is a nostalgia for audiences to
revisit their youth.
“Our longevity is down to the fact we haven’t died,” Tom laughs.
“It’s not just us,” he says, “there are so many other bands bigger and smaller than us who are still out there touring around the world like the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Ray Davies, The Searchers, everyone is out there playing because, like me, they like to play and there’s an audience there.
“That’s the astounding thing.

“My friend who lives in New York says New Yorkers describe our generation as living on ‘Sniper’s Alley’ we’re all getting picked off one by one!”
“Manfred don’t do that many gigs so grab the opportunity to see us when you can!
“See us before we die folks!!”

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INTERVIEW: Eddie Halliewell

Eddie Halliwell

“There’s nothing like experiencing a festival with your friends and family,” says Wigan DJ, Eddie Halliwell.

And with the Creamfields festival just 30 minutes away from his home in Upholland, the 32-year-old says it is one of his favourite festivals to play.

“When you’re playing in places like Brazil you can’t experience it with friends and family because it’s so far away so festivals like Creamfields and my residencies in Ibiza are great because you have friends there every week.

“For me to be able to do what I do and have your pals come over to the clubs you’re playing it’s amazing.”

Eddie, who lives with his girlfriend Helen, has played at the dance festival, held on August Bank Holiday, for the past seven years and says he enjoys trying to mix things up year on year

“I remember when I very first started at Creamfields and we played the main arena and another arena to express two different musical sides so from that point I’ve tried to vary my set times, playing later or playing earlier,” he says,  “there have been a couple of years we’ve done a couple of special projects such as Edit so we’re always mixing it up and making it different.”

Alongside his residency with Cream in Amensia, on the White Isle, Eddie’s Summer is looking busier than ever, doing up to ten or eleven gigs throughout the season and in playing fellow DJ’s Laidback Luke’s arena at Creamfields this year, the former Radio One DJ is hoping for a completely different experience at the festival that turned into somewhat of a mudbath last year.

“Hopefully the weather doesn’t spoil things like it did last year,” says Eddie, “we were very fortunate last year because we did the Saturday and the weather was bad but it was a shame it got cancelled on the Sunday so hopefully we’ll get a good year this year. DJ, Eddie Halliwell

“Last year we had our own area – again that was fortunate because we were on a hill so we didn’t get washed out the water was running off – so we had the fire it up arena and had a selection of DJs who we wanted to play in the arena so that was fantastic and a different experience because we’d never done that before.

“As for playing LBL’s arena this year that is another experience I’ve never had so I’m looking forward to that for a change again.”

As he plays different festivals around the world from Australia to Ibiza, Eddie says it is “important to be organized” because the crowds can be so different from place to place.

“Cream has got so big now it consistently has one of the best audiences to play to.

“Cream always does a great job in booking acts and DJs that people want to see as well as acts that are quality but people haven’t necessarily heard of, they always strike a good balance.

“You go to some events and people will think too outside the box and it goes over people’s heads and other time you get promoters who every time they do something it’s a known name which can get a bit boring.

“Cream have a good balance which represent not only in the festivals but in the clubs.

“I just think as a clubber I look back at old flyers that crop up and you look at the line ups  they always but the best acts on.

“They’re always on the money with finding new acts. ”

But then again, you would say that Eddie!

Eddie Halliwell Festival

Eddie Halliwell will be appearing at the Creamfields Festival on August 25.

For tickets and info visit http://www.creamfields.co

REVIEW: Rocky Horror’s 40th Anniversary, Manchester

Wednesday nights aren’t usually that special. Sure, Corrie’s on and it’s the hump of the week so the weekend seems a little bit closer, but Wednesdays, overall, aren’t that interesting.

Except last Wednesday…………which was spectacular.

40 years ago, a little show opened in front of a 63-seat theatre, upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre on London’s King’s Road.

The Rocky Horror Show would go on to become a cult classic and, last night, Manchester played host to the 40th Anniversary gala performance.

Prior to any action appearing on stage, paparazzi gathered outside the Palace Theatre to catch a glimpse of any celebrity taking the opportunity to dress up in the show’s trademark stockings and suspenders, and the growing mob of Frank’s, Columbia’s, Riff Raff’s etc were a sight to behold.

Not braving the ‘look’ myself, it was still “astounding” (scuse the pun) to see such a spectacle even before the curtain was raised. And who am I to complain about buff men parading around in rather small gold hotpants? #

Anyway, I digress…back to the show.

I’ve always been a fan of this weird and wonderful spectacular, even when I was younger – I just didn’t really ‘get’ all the innuendo.

Dani Harmer and Sam Attwater in Rocky Horror

Dani Harmer and Sam Attwater in Rocky Horror

The current tour sees CBBC’s Dani Harmer (known to some as Tracy Beaker, to others as the girl who ended up in the final of Strictly last year) in the role of Janet, opposite former Eastender and Dancing on Ice winner, Sam Attwater’s Brad.

While both can keep up with the footwork and there is no denying they’ve got good voices (who knew that about Dani?) the pair seemed a little lost in their respective parts. Dani Harmer made me feel slightly uncomfortable when she sang Janet’s ‘Toucha Touch Me’ , I think needs to shake the innocence of a child star if she’s going to sing about being so provocative. And as for Attwater, while he tried, there was just no spark. Shame.

Other principle cast members fared a little better. Oliver Thornton paraded effortlessly in Frank N Furter’s high heels and touched on much-loved Tim Curry elements just enough to make the character his own but recognisable. Having also been part of the original West End cast of Priscilla, Queen of The Desert Thornton appeared more at home in heels than most women I know on a Saturday night out.

Oliver Thornton as Frank N Furter

Oliver Thornton as Frank N Furter

Special mention must go to veteran actor and RSC member, Philip Franks in the role of the narrator who dealt with audience banter with aplomb; Mancunian references included, and had witty comebacks galore.

After the final Timewarp, a screen descended from on high, displaying well-wishes for the 40th Birthday from touring casts around the world and then, the man himself, creator of Rocky Horror and my favourite Crystal Maze presenter, Richard O’ Brien, sent a heartfelt message from his native New Zealand commenting on how he had created the show while he was a mere babe.

After a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ from the cast it was off to Brown’s on York Street, Manchester – incidentally who were also celebrating their 40th – for a luvvie, lavish after show celebration – more of which after the break!

INTERVIEW: Avicii : Q&A

Say the name Tim Bergling, and, more than likely, you will be met with ‘Who?’

But say ‘Avicii’ and you’d be hard pushed to find someone who hadn’t heard of the 23-year-old DJ.

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Ranked  No. 3 on the Top 100 DJs list by DJ Magazine, there’s no stopping the Swedish superstar and, before he makes the annual pilgrimage to Creamfields this August, we had a quick chat. 

What and who first got you excited about music?

I grew up listening to a lot of Ray Charles and 60s rock thanks to my father, and then my brothers got me into Kiss and whatnot, so I guess that’s where I got my first taste and excitement for music.

When was it you realised you could start making it yourself and at that time did you ever think it would go this far?

A friend of mine showed me FL Studio. I’ve been hooked from the minute I first got it. I would spend almost 12 hours a day producing. I worked really hard to get where am today but I truly had no idea I would make it this far. If I hadn’t met Ash, my manager, I probably wouldn’t be.

Was it a surprise being ranked number 3 in DJ Mags Top 100 DJs list last year?

It was a great honor to be ranked #3, especially amongst such great DJs. However, I never really check my rank. It’s always flattering if you get a good ranking but I don’t know how much it actually helps.

Who is the best DJ in the world right now in your opinion?

There is so much talent out there right now, it’s really incredible. I just can’t narrow it down to one DJ or producer.

Dance music is constantly evolving; we’ve had dub step, grime, moombathon, what’s the next big thing?

Only time will tell how dance music will evolve, it will be interesting to see where it goes.

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What do you think sets you apart from other DJs?

I’ve been working a lot on getting a signature sound, the big-room melodic sound which I think sets me apart from other producers and what they’re doing.

You’ve produced tracks with some world-renowned artists, who has been the most fun to work with?

That is a hard question. I loved working with all of them in some way to be honest.

 Who has so far escaped you collaboration wise and who are you looking to work with in the future

To my knowledge, no one has escaped yet! But then again I never reach out; it’s always my manager, Ash, who handles all of that. My dream collaboration would be Adele.

 The Avicii X You project invited anyone in the world to contribute to a song that you would produce, what was the response like and are you happy with the finished track?

This track was such a unique experience. I wanted my fans to be a part of the process that goes along with making a track and see what we could create together, and we did just that. I received about 13,000 submissions and put some final touches on it in the studio. I think the track turned out to be a great learning experience and success.

You’re playing at Creamfields in August, what’s it like playing a festival compared to a club?

It’s just two different types of vibes. A good club show can be as good as a good

festival but obviously in a different way. Festivals are way bigger, and seeing the reactions of twenty thousand people jumping can yield different results than playing to a club.

Is there anyone you’re looking forward to watching perform at Creamfields this year?

I’m not sure what I can and can’t say right now but I’m always trying to do something really special for such big festivals as Creamfields.

Where would you go for the perfect night out?

I’m not sure, I guess it really depends on where I am but I really like the food over at Berns in Stockholm, Sweden.

What’s on your mixtape?

I listen to a lot of music when I’m working so when I’m off I tend to not listen to anything at all.

INTERVIEW: Singing all the way to Nashville

Continuing the theme of inspirational teens, I interviewed a phenomenal singer/songwriter, Amy-Jo Clough last week.

Beautiful, talented and with a voice to die for, (I’m not at all jealous) Amy-Jo is destined for stardom. 

You saw her here first.

While most 15-year-olds will be spending their summer taking a well-earned break from their GCSE exams, one young lady from Bolton-le-Sands, Carnforth, will spend hers paving the way for her future.

Amy-Jo Clough will be jetting off to Nashville, Tennesse in America after being spotted as she sang as the guest singer at the Miss Galaxy beauty pageant at Park Hall Hotel, Charnock Richard.

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Amy-Jo says, “I was performing five songs a night for four nights, while the judges went off to deliberate the overall winners.
“On the third night I was offered the chance to go out to Nashville to work with some songwriters and to do some recording.”

For the Carnforth High School student, the opportunity to spend summer in America’s music capital, home to Dolly Parton, Keith Urban, Taylor Swift and Garth Brooks, to name but a few, is the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I’m really excited, it’s a place I’ve always wanted to go and my friends are really excited about me going too,” says Amy-Jo, who has been singing professionally since she was 11 years old. “They keep saying ‘that’s where Taylor Swift is from’ and all that sort of stuff, they’re really supportive.”
ImageAmy-Jo, who performed at Preston Christmas lights switch on in front of 10,000 people, will spend three weeks in Nashville, accompanied by her mum and dad, recording, writing and researching open mic nights to get her music known.
And it looks as though it won’t be long until her self-penned songs will be on radio playlists around the country after her song, ‘Sorry For’ was played on BBC Radio Lancashire; a moment Amy-Jo describes as “really weird but really cool at the same time.”
“I want to record a whole album of my own songs” she adds, “I’m halfway doing that, I have eight finished and a lot more half written.
“The songs I write are quite country but the songs I cover are soul like Amy Winehouse, Etta James and Adele, so a bit of mix really.”
At the moment Amy-Jo is busy revising for her exams but continues to write her own music on her guitar and piano, both of which she taught herself to play two years ago.
Something her brothers, aged 21 and 26, are both pleased about.
“My brothers get annoyed at me singing around the house all the time,” she laughs, “but I think they like it really.

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She is also looking forward to supporting Britain’s Got Talent finalists, Re-Connected in May, who are currently at number 32 in the UK charts and continues to be the guest singer for Miss England, rounds take place across the North West for the rest of the year.
For more about Amy-Jo, visit her YouTube video here to listen to some of her music.