We’ve all been there. The turkey and tinsel are done and dusted for another year and you tentatively look at the gig calendar for the week ahead…and are met with a yawning empty space. This year, however, offers something a little different as December 27th sees Birmingham’s O2 Institute host a Festive Gathering from Balaam and the Angel with special guests Dawn After Dark. A perfect chance to get out of the house and enjoy an evening of music performed by two of the best live bands around. Both bands are rounding off a successful 12 months with Balaam having been on the bill at Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival in Whitby and appearing at KK’s Steel Mill with The Mission. DAD have been busy promoting debut album New Dawn Rising; performing at a couple of festivals and playing gigs with Wolfsbane in Blackpool and Kidderminster.
We look ahead to the gig with Balaam drummer Des Morris and Dawn After Dark bassist Drew Gallon.
Des, this show should have taken place 12 months ago, you must be looking forward to finally playing to a festive audience here in Birmingham?
Absolutely – many moons ago it was something we did on a yearly basis so really fancied rekindling it. Unfortunately for us all bacteria put the spanners in the works again.
Two days after Christmas offers a great chance to blow away the cobwebs…for anyone still thinking of buying a ticket what can they expect?
A full on exciting show – slightly more songs than usual and an incredible atmosphere.
Balaam always attracted a loyal following from around the country, why do you think the fans have stuck with you all these years?
Because we are bloody good at what we do!!!
The songs have stood the test of time and are played with the same intensity and passion they have always been played in. For the simple reason we enjoy it and it is still the same band as it was when we first started.
Looking back at the albums you made there is still a lot of love for Greatest Story; do you consider this your best / favourite album…(being very much a rock fan at the time I always preferred Live Free Or Die)
Globally Live Free Or Die was a more successful album, but The Greatest Story Ever Told was very different in its day and the whole concept behind it had an air of mystery. The artwork supporting the music was also spot on – just perfect.
Depending on what mood I am in also depends on the answer I would give to my favourite album. They all get a shout at some point!
When Balaam stopped being full time in the early 90’s do you think it was the right time to step away for a while…the music scene was changing…had you taken the band as far as you think you could have ?
I think the recession at that time played a massive part in us going into hibernation, along with the fact Virgin Records at that time was in jeopardy because of the dirty tricks campaign by British airways against Virgin Airlines and the money from the record company was being pumped into the airline. In the end the Virgin Records band rosta was reduced to 20 / 30 or so bands and then subsequently sold to EMI.
You’ve got label mates DAD as special guests who you toured with back in the 80’s, it’s good to see them back after so long..
With Dawn After Dark they are personal friends as well as a bloody good band. We had a great time touring together and it is good to get the chance to play again together. Love the guys.
Balaam toured with some huge artists back in the day including Iggy Pop…what are your memories of sharing a stage with him, (and any chance you could get on the bill for his Crystal Palace show next summer! )…
I wish! Think the bill was sorted before it was announced. We originally got invited to play Iggy’s two comeback shows at Brixton Academy back in 1986 which was pretty special as I don’t think he had been here for many years. Then we got invited again to tour the US with him a few years later which again was a buzz. He had Andy McCoy from Hanoi Rocks playing guitar with him at that stage and Iggy always found him in our dressing room blagging alcohol as Iggy had banned it from his dressing room.
Also appearing at the Birmingham gig are a new signing to Chapter 22 ring O’ roses, tell us a little bit about them?
Extremely talented band with amazing songs. They all went to Walsall Music College together and with the right breaks will go all the way. Very exciting and a breath of fresh air.
Finally it’s been a long time since we had any new music from Balaam…what plans are in place for the band over the next 12 months?
We have plenty of material ready to go. Just not sure if people want to hear it or not. We were just about to record some 18 months ago and lock down just wouldn’t go away which stopped us recording it all. Some belting stuff ready though! We have been invited to play some festivals next year amongst other exciting things – so maybe!?
Drew, you’ve played a few gigs with Dawn After Dark over the past 12 months, how’s it all going so far?
Good, I think. The band seemed to gel quite well from our first rehearsal and we get on well with each other. I’d known H for many years before I joined, but he wasn’t at the first rehearsals so we could just work through the music, so it was all new people in a room for me. But we had all learned the songs, and we all contributed and listened to each other, so that made it an easy session. Obviously, me and Ollie didn’t play on the album, so we had some slight variations on interpretation that fitted with our playing styles. Nothing too drastic and still very much in keeping with the recording, but we tried each bit out and no-one was precious, and everyone shared opinions. If you can talk with each other openly it’s half the battle. Since then it just seems to have gotten better. We all live in different cities so don’t see each other outside of the band, but each time we meet up it’s very relaxed and everyone gets along. Stick that on a stage in front of the people who come to the gigs and it’s a winning combination. And the gigs have been well received. Not just from those who’ve been there from the start, but new audiences too.
The DAD audience are very animated, you must be impressed by their loyalty and dedication to following the band up and down the country?
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, I’d played in front of some of them before, and they were animated back then. The pieces in the jigsaw didn’t fall into place until I was talking to a few of them at a Mission gig with Salvation supporting, and old bands and gigs became a topic of conversation. But that first gig for the album launch, … wow. I didn’t know what to expect. I could see there was a full hall, but the reaction rocked me back. Everyone went for it from the first note of the first song, with people dancing, on shoulders and diving off the stage. And then to see familiar faces when you turn up in a different town is great. Like any football team will tell you, the travelling support are like an extra player. And the DAD audience who turn up at each gig are like an extra band member. We might provide the music and the beat the dance to, but they create the atmosphere, and it really does help to kickstart each gig. I can’t thank them enough.
We were at that album launch gig and I count it as one of the very best I’ve ever seen DAD play. The festive gig in Birmingham gives the chance for everyone to blow away the cobwebs, what can we expect from this one?
It’s a Balaam gig, and they always put on a good show. I’m sure they’ll pull something special out of the bag. From us, a longer set than the last few gigs, and a party atmosphere. I’m sure it will be a great night and I’m really looking forward to it.
In the Dawn After Dark biography What We Are you mention Geddy Lee as one of your influences…given your punk background this was something of a surprise to me. What is it about Geddy’s playing that inspires you and do you have a favourite Rush album ?
I got into punk at a very young age, and I was listening to that first lot of bands in early 1977. Although punk was proposed as ‘year zero’ there seemed to be a few bands who were accepted from other musical genres. Obviously, there was a lot of influence from reggae artists, but ska was also accepted. But also a small group of bands who were more ‘rock’: Motorhead, Thin Lizzy and Rush. Maybe it was just within my circle of mates? When I started playing bass I got into those who either looked the part (Paul Simonon from The Clash being #1) or could play something different that stood out. Initially it was JJ Burnel from the Stranglers, but then I widened my sphere and Geddy Lee caught my ear. He’d be top 5 for me alongside Stuart Morrow and Nelson, both from New Model Army, and Mick Karn from Japan. Geddy Lee played bass like a guitarist. He didn’t just play root notes to compliment a song and allow the other band members to shine, he contributed as an individual. I liked that everyone in Rush could play, and that they all appeared to respect each other’s abilities and made space for each other. As for a favourite album, I liked the early stuff up to Moving Pictures, which is the standout album for me. I’m not a massive fan of all of their music, but I like a few tracks from most albums, but Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta and Limelight are just wonderfully crafted songs with great musicianship. And how could you not be impressed by YYZ. Four minutes 23 of showing how good they each are. Brilliant stuff. I’ve never believed that the bass should just plod along mimicking the chords. There is certainly a place for that, but you can express yourself too. I don’t go over the top in DAD. The songs were already written so I largely play what is on the record, but I put the occasional bit in now and again. Hopefully to compliment rather than detract!
You seem to have developed a very good understanding on stage with Russ who I think is a tremendous rhythm guitarist…tell us a little about what its like to play alongside him?
I like what Russ plays. And what Ollie plays. Like I said, you need to give each other space, so they think about what each other are doing and add to the song rather than both playing the same thing. And at that first rehearsal we spent a bit of time working on sounds as well as songs. There needs to be separation in the instruments, so you don’t clutter each other, and I think it works. For me Russ adds a certain warmth. His guitar sound is great, and it creates a breadth to the spectrum that we can add to, but it’s also distinctive enough that he can solo and cut though. He doesn’t try to hog the limelight and we are conscious of each other on stage. It’s easy to get in the way or knock into each other, but we work on avoiding that. Sometimes it can be difficult is space is tight, but I think we’ve done ok so far. If we do knock into each other, we laugh it off and have a bit chat during the gig. Musically, his background is probably nearer to mine than others in the band. We’re the ‘punk’ side of the stage …
Finally can you reveal any plans for DAD in 2023…hopefully more gigs are in the works?
I’m the new boy so I’ll defer the question. You need to ask H and Tony. But there will certainly be more gigs. We’re all enjoying being up on a stage so that bit is a given.
Balaam & The Angel and Dawn After Dark play Birmingham’s O2 Institute on December 27th with support from ring O’ roses , head to ticketmaster.co.uk for tickets and check out:-