Our man, Woody, chats with new Midlands band, SKIN&BONE.
Interview by Woody
Hey Johnny, Richie! I know you guys well from your previous band Tara’s Secret. I know you are keen to start the next chapter of your musical careers with Skin & Bone, but is it just Tara’s Secret by another name or what should we expect from Skin & Bone?
Johnny – Hey Woody, You’re not pulling any punches here are you? If we were going to be doing TS we may has well have stayed where we were. SKIN&BONE may have some comparisons as 3 members of Tara’s Secret are still playing together and that Richie and myself are still writing together but as far as style and sound it’s a totally different band.
Richie- exactly, we would have carried on (maybe) Skin & Bone is different, there’s going to be points of reference, simply as Johnny and I wrote a lot of the TS music, however the whole thing takes on a whole different dynamic now.
The demise of Tara’s Secret seemed to come out the blue and followed the band’s third and most critically acclaimed album ‘Vertigo’. The album seemed to be pushing the band onto bigger things so what wrong for you guys to split when things were going so well?
Johnny – As a band we had been together for the best part of 9 years, writing, performing and recording, pretty much doing it all in house. Every time we produced a new album Richie would always comment that if we split up tomorrow he would be proud of what we had achieved. I have to agree with that. “Vertigo” was a great album to write and record, we had a fantastic time and yes I’m very proud of what we did. So we found ourselves trying to write album 4. I think we got 3 tracks demoed but the spark seemed to have gone. Nothing went terribly wrong but sometimes you know when to throw in the towel.
Richie- You know, we had come as far as we could. We were starting to write to a “formula” and that seemed so unnatural to me, particularly as the songs we had been working on after “Vertigo” were mainly from my musical ideas and if it’s a workable idea, its worth giving it a go, not throwing it out because it sounds akin to AC/DC or who ever. So ultimately it was time to move on .
I think I know the answer to this one as I know you very much view Tara’s Secret as the past, but will any of the Trowbridge/Beardsley compositions from those days appear in live sets or in re-recorded form in the future?
Johnny – We have spoken about this, it’s not a no go area but right now we are having so much fun writing and perfoming brand new songs we don’t see a reason to go back to those songs. Maybe if we were going to re-record they would have to have the SKIN&BONE style to them.
Richie- Well its planned that we’ll re-record “Spectrum Wheel”!!! (laughs), why not give it the Megadeath mix? . You know Woody we convene in a rehearsal studio and can walk out with three songs in the bag, so why play the old songs from a band that we have history with its not as if we had hits with them which would then make sense to play them, But who knows. I loved being a part of some of those songs, Beauty Queen and King of MeVille – though we’d maybe approach them differently .
Right, Skin & Bone, how did the band form and who is in the band?
Johnny – At last I thought you would never ask! (laughs) I think Richie, Simon and myself still wanted to play together, but do something totally different. As we have said before why do the same thing again. We all have so many influences from a very broad range of music, not all rock! We wanted to put something together that we enjoyed doing and that’s how SKIN&BONE was formed. so let’s introduce the band. On drums Simon Perkins, Simon came with us after the Tara’s Secret split he replaced JT just after we recorded “Vertigo”. I love Simons playing it’s a cross between Cozy Powell, John Bonham and Animal! One of the best things in S&B is everyone has a free reign, this allows Simon to really let loose on every song.
Richie -We looked for the right bass player for a long time. While we wrote songs we auditioned so many people. We even had a guy play with us and commit to the band but the temptation of a full time gig with a tribute band was far too great for him. We got a short list down of people we wanted to see, one of them was Scott Clarke. We met him over a beer and we got on straight away. Then we heard him play and knew that we had found the missing part of the puzzle. I often lose track when we play as I find myself spellbound with Scott’s musical abilities.
Johnny – We wanted the line up to be right, not only from a playing point but from a personal point. Everyone gets along, everyone supports the band and it’s a great atmosphere. We are all playing on the same page.
Is there a good story behind the name of the band? How did you come up with it and decide on it?
Johnny – NO! (Laughs) We sat down and each wrote down about 20 names each. Some were terrible and others worked. We knew what where the style was headed so we wanted a name that reflected that. I think after we cut the shortlist down to 10, SKIN&BONE kept coming back. I would ask people what they thought of my favourite 3 names and S&B was the winner. I think sometimes you hear a band name and know what you are going to get. SKIN&BONE says it all, it’s no nonsense rock n roll.
Richie – We had a cracking idea, to put all the names into a Teapot, Johnny to then (dressed as the Mad Hatter) to put the lucky persons name from the hat.
I’ve been fortunate to hear a few rough demo’s and whilst I recognise the Trowbridge/Beardsley ‘sound’ I feel the songs are a lot darker and heavier, will this be the overall feel of the band’s sound or can we expect a few upbeat fun tracks akin to stuff we heard on ‘Vertigo’?
Johnny – It’s all fun, just depends how you look at it! We have written so many tracks for the album, it’s not all dark. I think we have found a good balance of light and shade. I think from a writers point of view I have written songs that I like and the rest of the band like. Before we did our first show we sat down and said “Do you think they will get it?” Some didn’t!
Richie – Oooooooh ,we have a sound! A music journalist once suggested “I was in the wrong band (little did he know how right he was) as I was more of a Hard Rock guitar player … guess what, he was right. Its a very natural writing process where we’ll jam on something and hey presto !!! there’s never a “ Let’s write an Reo Speedwagon type of tune “.
I’m sure I remember Johnny saying the debut Skin & Bone album has the working title of ‘The Exceptional Child’. Is this still going to be the title and is there a meaning behind it?
Johnny – Yes you are right, good memory. It’s still going to be the title and the song is going to be there as well. A great friend of mine passed away suddenly 2 years ago, he lived in my spare bedroom up until he died. At night we would stay up and drink and he would tell me stories of his very colourful life. One of these was that as a child he was featured on a tv documentary about gifted children. At the age of 6 he could speak 5 different languages one of them being Latin, his episode was called “The Exceptional Child” Now I never believed him and used to joke calling him “Exceptional” but he could speak Latin and he would often use it to chat up women. Joking I told him that our next album would be named after him and when he passed away I knew I had to write a song about him. He was a great friend and this is how he lives on.
Can you tell me about some of the Skin & Bone songs that will feature on the album, song titles, how the songs were written and any stories and meanings behind them?
Johnny – So we wrote about 20 tracks for this album. Some of the early stuff was quickly discarded but as we found our sound Richie and I soon got into our stride writing some great songs. I’ll list the ones I enjoyed writing and I’m sure Richie has some as well. “Burn the Blue Sky” is a song all about the moment love dies. That last argument, all those things you never said that just come out in the heat of the moment. That point where the perfect blue sky is torn down. When I was a boy I was in love with a girl in my class. I would have done anything for her unfortunately she hated me. But when she was with her friends she told them all how much she liked me. I just thought this would be a great idea for a song. “She Loves Me” is all about that girl! Another great track is “High Society” this was one of the last songs we wrote along with another great song called “Mary” High Society is all about dreaming of being better, of getting out of the 9-5 and living the high life, “Mary” I suppose is the follow up to the Tara’s Secret song “Rock n Roll Beauty Queen” another girl on the road to self discovery.. I love singing this its really bluesy and Richie does an awesome solo. Some other great tracks include “Walking Shoes” and a song you may be familiar with Woody, “Revenge Mile” this was a track we played once with TS before we split, it kind of showed where we wanted to take the band and when we started writing we all wanted to carry on playing this. Its very different to the TS version but still rocking.
Richie – We usually all hold up in the studio and work through an idea which we’ll all contribute on the idea and we all have a free reign (shred or dead!!) with our own parts . For me “ Let It Rain” has special place as it was one of the first tunes we worked on and to me it’s a great rocker for all the right reasons – Johnny’s lyrics are superb (he never ceases to amaze me with his vocal abilities and song writing skills) Simon and Scott are an amazing rhythm section who gel so much …..that just leaves me to foul things up !!!
Another song I love very much is “Fallen From Grace “ wonderful vocals with a great bluesy feel and then goes into a super heavy tune . “ Healer” is a tune that was described as “Brutal “ when we first played it in Sheffield recently ….Thank you, mission accomplished.
Is there any news on when the album will be recorded and released?
Johnny – We are just about to book the studio time in and we cant wait to record. We looked at several studios this time and spoke to lots of people. We finally chose the Old Library in Mansfield, great guys to work with and they get what we are doing. There is no point trying to work with people that don’t get the band and where we are coming from. We hope to get the album out in October time ready for the Xmas rush.
I know you guys are keen to get the album released through a record label and management to help promote and push the band forward. Do you think the album will be released on a label or are you guys again looking at releasing the album independently?
Johnny – We are in deep talks with a label and management as we speak. When we started SKIN&BONE we wanted to have the support of a label and a good management team. We spoke to various people, some of them were expecting TS pt2 and they didn’t realise that we had moved on. Others really did get us but I think right now labels and management are looking at finances a lot closer than they did 10 years ago. But a few really do understand that we are not on the nostalgia ride and this is something that they can really work with.
Skin & Bone will be making their live debut in the West Midlands as part of a strong three band line-up which includes Brummies Daylight Robbery and Wolvo hair metal new boys Shyne. The gig takes place at a new venue Lucy’s in Hednesford on Friday the 24th of May. Are you guys looking forward to it, what can we expect from you and are you nervous about playing virgin territory?
Johnny – We are really looking forward to coming over and raising the roof. It’s going to be a great night. There are 3 very different bands playing so fans are going to have a great night out. I have been itching to get back over to the West Midlands, you guys rock hard. It’s also gonna be fun showing people there is life after TS!
Richie – I’ve been there before when we recorded Tara’s Secret’s “Spectrum Wheel” where the guy lost all the tracks we had painstakingly recorded !!! Ahhhhh!! He also suggested I use a different type of Pick! he came close to getting Chillied !! ( raw chill juice put on his car door handle ) .
I believe you’ll be getting a good set length even though you’re the main support to Daylight Robbery. What songs should we expect, will we hear most of the new album and should we expect any ‘unusual covers’ I remember you guys once talking about doing a rocked up Lady Ga Ga song ‘Edge of Glory’ or something like that?
Johnny – We are gonna try and get as many songs into the set as we can. Yes you will hear pretty much all of the album as well as some stuff that we just love playing. As for covers, We didn’t just talk about Lady Gaga we played it!!! But I think the days of filling the set with other peoples songs are behind us now, although on occasion we have been know to pull some Chickenfoot out of the bag. You will have to wait and see.
Richie – Yes we have a great version of Stayin‘ Alive where Scott plays the Bavarian cheese flute. There’s also a medley of Hectors House / Scooby Doo .
It’s not easy getting gigs and just as hard to get a gig with a decent number turning out to see original artists. So I know you’re keen to build up live followings in different areas, so I’m presuming if this goes well you’ll be back in the area in the future?
Johnny – You try and stop us. We are already planning our return. To be honest we have played more shows in our first year then we did in the last year of TS. I think due to the nature of the music we are doing now we seem to be welcomed by a lot more venues. We have built up a great fan base here in Sheffield and they follow us round so expect Yorkshires finest at the front in Hendsford.
Richie – Yes indeed, its great that Daylight Robbery asked us to do this, so I truly hope we will get back to play again soon .
Do you have any other live dates lined up this year?
Johnny – Yes they seem to drop out of the blue. We are playing the Sitwell Tavern, Derby on the 25th May and then my birthday show on 17th July at M.F.N, Ilkeston. That’s going to be fun! But more get added all the time. It’s great that we are getting so much support from venues and organisers.
Richie – we are working so hard a getting pre-production of all the songs done, next it will be recording the album so there will be more gigs it’s just a matter of juggling things.
Is there any Skin & Bone gossip or hush hush ‘you didn’t hear this from me’ secrets you can divulge?
Johnny – We have lined up an amazing producer and guitarist for this album. Jay Parmar has released his own stuff on Steve Vai’s label and he also works with some amazing people including George Lynch. He is as excited as we are about this album, and that’s what makes it even better. So we cant wait to work with him. There are so many other things going on but I don’t want to jynx them. I just cant wait to get the album out and let everyone see what all the fuss is about.
Richie – Yes Jay is a great friend of mine and an amazing inspiring influence on me so I’m looking forward to having him at the helm keeping us in check and saying “More Guitar!, More Guitar … this time louder haha. Seriously it will be excellent.
Is there anything else you would like to add or say to those reading?
Johnny – Come down to Lucy’s bar and rediscover Rock n Roll on 24th May. So far we have been blown away from the support of our fans both old and new. I’m so proud of this band and what we have achieved. Here’s to so much more.
Richie – Look forward to seeing all of you at Lucy’s Bar be part of a great night .