Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Pete Williams...Dexy's, Love and Rock n' Roll

As we’ve already mentioned Bearwood’s been home to more than its fair share of celebrities, from Julie Walters to Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie…in fact the entire band can often be found arguing over the last pots of yoghurt – three for £1 – in Heron Foods to this very day. That’s why they keep falling out. Fact. Anyway, one name we’re all about to see (and hear) a lot more of over the coming year is Mr Pete Williams, original bassist with the…and for once we’re not exaggerating…legendary Dexys Midnight Runners, who’s not only been recording the band’s first new album in a quarter of a century or so but has also just released his debut solo long player (long player…hey how old school are we eh?). And it’s really rather special. We were quite frankly delighted beyond belief therefore when he agreed to give us an exclusive (well, pretty exclusive…exclusive to us) interview! So settle down, pour yourself a cup of something (tea, coffee, meths…the choice is yours):

Hi Pete,your new album comes out very soon. What’s it called and when’s the release date?

It’s called “SEE” and was officially released on the 8/1/12. (You can buy it here!)

How would you describe the album?

“A smorgasbord chaffinch of great bustard proportions, catering for those choughs of a particular arctic skua or cormorant frame of mind.” Chuck Paudermilch (Upper Gornal Pigeon fanciers and bantam breeders Gazette). So say the Press, and who’d argue with them eh?...It’s quite a personal record, my take on where I am now as a Black Country father, looking back and moving forwards, referencing places I’ve been and stuff that I’ve been through, accepting that I’m now in my fifties, learning to reach out and accept the things that bring me joy.

I love the track ‘Reconsider This’. What are your favourite songs from the album and why?

01 reconsider this by petewilliams
Thanks for saying so, it’s hard to say, some of these songs have been with me in one form or another for many years, I do like “Are You Listening?” There’s a very light feel on it, which underlies the subject matter of my sometimes turbulent relationship with my Dad. It features trombone, clarinet and banjo with the rhythm section swinging sweet and hard! Very happy with “Black” a quick look back at my time living and starving in Santa Monica and East L.A. Richard Hawley’s guitar on this is razor sharp. My long time mate and collaborator Fred Skidmore plays overdriven Hammond organ on “Until We Empty Off This Bottle” like Ben Hur controlling his chariot.

This is your debut solo release, why have you waited until now to record and release it?

Actually I released the 3 track ‘Black’ E.P. in 2005 after Mark Lamarr asked me to send him some of my music, the demo was played on Jonathan Ross’ Radio 2 show for 3 weeks running, his producer mailed me after show 2 and advised me to get a web presence quick (!) because “loads of people want to know how to get the track”. But as for SEE Dean Beresford, my drummer, suggested we visit Axis Studios in Sheffield, he had got to know Mike Timm (who produced and engineered this record ) during his work in Richard Hawley’s band.(Mike is the Live sound engineer for Richard). As soon as I met Mike I knew we would get on, he had an agile, open and experimental mind and shared our vision of the kind of record we wanted to make, he had the ideal studio space (a large oak paneled live room) and ultimately delivered it. Things then just started to fall into place, I grew to really like Sheffield and the people that I met ,they have a very understated honesty and warmth that the best Black Country people have, there’s a similar industrial past and like here, there’s no shortage of hills. I’ve been very lucky and feel extremely thankful and proud of all my friends that have helped me realise ‘SEE’.

Has the current state of the music industry made it easier or harder for you to make your album?

Once we started this CD, nothing was going to stand in our way. Obviously it’s had to have been paid for, and that (through sales) has to be squared. Thankfully we managed to source the initial finances “close to home”. The “major” labels are being eaten up or merged and sold and I haven’t approached any of them with ‘SEE’. It would be good to have had a team of radio and TV pluggers, people to manage my website and online presence 24/7, competent and accurate physical and digital distribution, Art dept and all the rest that a label is supposed to provide. But in all my years having been signed to E.M.I., Warners and Island, in my experience they usually royally balls things up. I’m not saying there aren’t good people with real vision who work in the music Industry just that I haven’t met many, I have met quite a few A&R (pronounced Um and Aah?) men and industry execs who have told me candidly that they don’t really care for music, but quite like the lifestyle. It’s a different process now and the Internet and Digital distribution have changed so much, for so many. There’s so much “out there” and available which can be both a blessing and a curse. Social networking and promotion using Tweets, Facebook, You Tube and Blogs like this can’t be overlooked and are powerful promotion tools, giving fans a chance to be close to artists and bands and vice-versa.

Your album launch is at the Glee Club on 21st February, what can we expect from the gig and do you prefer playing live or being in the recording studio?

I’m looking forward to our run of shows at the end of February, I’m confident these will be the best I’ve ever done. The rehearsals so far sound fantastic, it’s great to have the rocksteady Rhythm twins of Al Gare (Imelda May band) and Dean Beresford (Richard Hawley band) in the engine room driving the whole thing. I’ve played music with Fred Skidmore for close to 20 years and he just gets more exciting, expressive and surprising as a player. I’m also over the moon that Shez Sheridan (Hawley band) and Paul Taylor (Snowboy and Roberto Pla) are with us. I couldn’t wish for better personnel. I don’t want to give too much away or talk anything up but this is going to be a powerful, intimate show. I’ve always loved the recording process, witnessing a track grow. As bassist in Dexys and The Bureau, myself and Stoker (Andy Growcott, Drums) were first to record, before anything else was added the Bass and Drum rhythm track has to be ‘nailed’ if there’s a lacklustre feel there it’s not going to happen. The old adage “you can’t polish a turd” is still true, though in this age of autotune and sophisticated digital FX it’s becoming possible. Overall I prefer playing live.

What was your favourite album or artist from 2011?

I saw this bloke at a great little venue The Hideout at Wishaw this summer also a few months ago at a pretty empty Yardbird I saw this bloke (now being talked up) a really lovely bloke who I chatted with after his set, great songs, he shows real promise. I’m a big Tom Waits fan and his album ‘Bad As Me’ is very good, also ‘Under Branches High’ the debut by these comes highly recommended. My friend Imelda May very kindly asked us to open for her at Nottingham Rock City and She and her band turned in an outstanding performance, they just go from strength to strength.

Who or what are your musical influences?

Too many and varied to mention but here’s some in no particular order: Bowie, Jacques Brel, Lotte Lenya and Brecht/Weill, John Steinbeck, Knut Hamsun, Jacques Tati, Ludwig Van, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, Augustus Pablo,Wes Montgomery, Nina Simone, Federico Fellinni, Willem De Kooning, Holman Hunt, Millais, Arvo Part, Charles Mingus, Gyorgy Ligeti, Laurel and Hardy, Elvis…

Of course you began your career with Dexys Midnight Runners and I believe there’s a new album coming out soon. Is there anything you can tell us about it? What was it like recording with Kevin Rowland again?

Well we recorded together in 2003, Manhood and My Life in England (Mike Hedges produced). Prior to The ‘To Stop the Burning’ tour. But, yes, it’s true there is going to be a new Dexys album released this year. It features meself, Kevin Rowland and Mick Talbot along with some amazing players including Jim Paterson, Neil Hubbard and Lucy Morgan, meticulous in its planning and execution, recorded during 2011, these are very personal powerful songs. Kev’s in fine voice and form and its always a pleasure working with my old mate Mick, All I can say is that you won’t be disappointed, there isn’t a record remotely like this around today.

I love the way ‘This is What She’s Like’ mentions the now sadly closed Little Nibble on Bearwood High St. What’s Dexys’ connection with Bearwood?

We were (still are) the team that meets in caffs. Planning and talking was done in various ones, however we rehearsed a good cafe had to be nearby; The Appolonia, Tow Rope, the Nibble, there used to be a good one down the High St just past the old Ice Rink and another near the funeral parlour on Three Shires Oak Rd. Geoff our Tenor sax man had a little flat on Sandon Rd, I had a flat on the Hagley Rd, Kev lived not far away near West Smethwick Park.

What do you like about living in Bearwood and what would you like to see changed?

I like the varied Community, The Woods, Thimblemill Baths, the shops,The Haweli…it’s close to the City but not engulfed by it, it definitely has its own character. Sometimes there’s a bottleneck around the Abbey/Global Wines area but I wouldn’t change much.

What makes Lightwoods’ Chippy’s chips orange?

Soylent Green.

What do you hope 2012 will bring for you?

Fulfillingness’ first finale.

2011 saw the launch of live gigs in the Lightwoods Park bandstand (The Bearwood Shuffles). Who would you like to see perform in 2012?

I think it’s great that the bandstand is being used again, a good platform for bands and songwriters. I’d like to see as much as I can and a wide variety of performance…Louis Armstrong, Amy Winehouse, Nigel Kennedy, Ravi Shankar, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Pete Williams plays The Glee Club on the 21st February. Unmissable. Tickets here!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Bearwood’s own Mr Tom Naylor

One of the highlights of last summer’s Bearwood Shuffles was definitely Tom Naylor. I don’t think there was a dry eye in Lightwood Park when he sang the duet with his mum.

I have to admit I am a bit of a 80s girl! Eurythmics have always been one of my favourite bands so I just love Tom’s recent remix of Sweet Dreams.

Sweet Dreams 80's Remix by Mr Naylor

I didn’t realise how talented Tom is and only found out recently that he’s an expert BMX biker too.

PS: At the moment Bearwood Promoters are busy planning 2012’s Bearwood Shuffle events and one of the things that they are keen to have happen is a Skatejam in Lightwoods Park. I’m sure more details will be announced soon so keep watching this space!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Jak Collier’s ‘Life and Soul of Bearwood’

I just discovered these videos about Bearwood on good old You Tube. The videos are from 2010 when Jak Collier produced the documentary for his college work and they’re just brillant. Thanks Jak!

Jak tells us about old Bearwood and brings us right up to date (well 2010 anyway!). His conversation with local historian David Yates is just fascinating. I would love to know where he got all the black and white photos from.

Obviously when the documentary was made, the changes to Lightwoods Park were still in the pipeline and it just show how much the park has moved on in a really short amount of time.

Did you know that Bearwood had a Cinema King, trams used to go up and down Bearwood High Street and Bearwood had different licensing laws? I know I didn’t!

Jak had to put the videos on youtube as 4 different parts so please watch all of it –it’s definitely worth it.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Bearwood All-Star: Our Postman

Our postman Bob (I hope I’ve got his name right!) definitely deserves to be a Bearwood All-Star.

He’s always really friendly and helpful (he knocks really loudly on our door so he can make sure that we can hear him from our loft!) and best of all.......he’s lead singer in rock band, Izzy The Push.

If you want a good night out and want to let your hair down Izzy The Push are the band for you! Their musical repertoire’s huge (ooh err missus!) covering everything from 1960s to 2010s and including some of their own songs.

They’d be perfect for the next Bearwood Shuffle too!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Hot News Flash! Vote for Bearwood's Boogie Dave!

American Nu Metal band Korn is inviting artists to submit a remix of one of their songs for the chance to be the opening slot at one of their upcoming concerts and Bearwoodian DJ Boogie Dave needs your support!

Under the guise of Ill Mo Natty Boogie Dave & his mate Adamn Noise have remixed Narci...ssistic Cannibal and need YOU to vote for their remix. Please vote and get everyone you know to vote too - your Mum and Dad, all your mates, your boss, your teacher, your gran, your milkman.

It's easy as just clicking on this link but make sure you do it before 17th January 2012! You've got a week now Bearwood so please don't let Boogie Dave down. He's already got my vote!

Warley Woods' Nature Dates 2012

Viv Cole, Warley Woods Trust Manager, contacted welovebearwood and told us about the events that are going to be happening in Warley Woods over the next couple of months.

“At Warley Woods we are looking forward to our first walking-talking event on Saturday 28th January, starting at 10am. It is the fifth year of our Big Garden Bird Walk, led by Liz Coleman who is both an RSPB and a Warley Woods volunteer. Everyone meets up at 10am near the Pavilion and Liz gives guidance on what birds you are likely to see and then the groups goes off for a walk, noting down what they spot. Last year a whole range of birds were spotted and we imagine it will be similar this year. Liz then feeds all the results into the Big Garden Birdwatch figures which takes place the same weekend. After the healthy walk, it is back to the cafe for a cuppa. Adults £2, children free – this includes the drink in the cafe. Hope you can come and join Liz on 28th.

The event after that is Star Gazing on Sunday 12th February 6-9pm and is a new one for Warley Woods. Birmingham Astronomy Society will be setting up their equipment outside the Pavilion and guiding people to look at the stars and moon that night. Drinks will be in the Pavilion, to keep everyone warm throughout the session. If it clouds over, there will a slide show inside instead. Cost £3 adults and free for children.

Just hot off the press is an extra event for half term – Willow Weaving workshop for families on 15th February. Learn how to use Warley Woods willow to create things like wands, fish and spiders. 10 – 12 – just outside the Pavilion. Free. Led by Stephen Hodginson from Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust’s Living Landscape Project.”

I can't wait!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Pete and greet...

01 reconsider this by petewilliams

Former / current member of Dexys (Midnight Runners...I think they’ve dropped this bit now) and all round Bearwood legend Pete Williams has just announced that he’s releasing his debut solo album in February. Hurrah! Dexys were/are of course one of the best British bands of the last 30 years (no arguing...that’s a there) and Pete played a huge role in their early success. HUGE! The disintegration of the band and subsequent drug fuelled meltdown of its troubled leader Kevin Rowland have all been well documented, what’s not so well known perhaps is that Pete’s seemingly been busily crafting an album of his own. And, judging by the couple of tracks that he’s popped up on Soundcloud, it’s going to be pretty darn awesome.

The album’s being launched with a special gig at The Glee Club, Birmingham on 21st February. Tickets here, get in quick.

PS: In other related news I believe there’s a new Dexys album coming out this year (with Pete in the line up)...a mere 27 years after their last masterpiece, the criminally underrated Don’t Stand Me Down. This gives us yet another excuse to post the Bearwood referencing classic What's She if we need an excuse eh? Enjoy.

Warley Woods' 2012

You know what it’s like over the Christmas period you eat and drink far too much(endless rounds of turkey sarnies, homemade turkey soup, turkey pasta, Turkey Madras Curry etc) and the sofa and a good film always seems so welcoming!

Well what I say is thank goodness for Warley Woods! There’s nothing to blow the Christmas and New Year cobwebs away and burn a few (thousand – I wish!) calories than a good walk round the woods.

This year’s going to be another busy year for Warley Woods. There’s so much going on! Have a look at a calendar below – you won’t be disappointed!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Shire Intelligence

Happy New Year Bearwood!

Here’s a New Year teaser for you! I had no idea until recently. Do you know where the name Three Shires Oak Road comes from? No Googling...that’s cheating! No? Well it’s because this is the road on which the three counties of Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire meet.

The exact spot used to be marked by an ancient oak tree but it was uprooted in the early 1900s by a giant fire breathing dragon...oh alright then, maybe not. The blue plaque in the above photo shows us exactly where it used to be though. It’s just one of many fascinating facts about the ‘wood that seemingly lurk around every corner.

Here’s another one for you...The Smethwick Local History Society is almost 30 years old. The Society was founded to draw people's attention to their local history and to encourage research into and conservation of the history of the former County Borough of Smethwick. They have links with the Smethwick Heritage Centre Trust and the Warley Woods Community Trust too.

The Society’s a busy bunch and they regularly have speaker’s meeting and visits as well as holding an annual picnic and a guided walk. Here’s their programme for the next few months:

If you want to find out more, the meetings take place on the second Wednesday of the month at Bearwood Baptist Church on Rawlings Road. Doors open at 2.00 pm for a 2.30 pm start and the cover charge is only £1.

In the words of local historian and the society’s Chair, Mary Bodfish, “All are welcome to enjoy exploring with our friendly and informal group the remarkably rich and varied history of Smethwick and its surrounding area.”