Big Boy Bloater And The LiMiTs new album, “Pills” is our Andy’s favourite of the year so far. So it was only right that the two of them sat down to discuss that – as well as Mott The Hoople, the end of the world….. and someone doing a poo right in the middle of the room while they played.
First of all, just wanted to say congratulations on the new record. Genuinely it is my favourite of the year so far. Just to start, are you pleased with it, or are you someone that is never satisfied with their stuff? Well thank you! Yeah I’m really pleased with it! I think with anything creative it’s hard to let go of and say ‘OK it’s finished’ but there comes a point where you have to hand it over. I like to think of my albums as a snap shot of my life at that time and certainly with this album there are several songs on there that were written about stuff going on around me and to me. So with each album I do I can look back and say ‘yeah that’s where I was at that point in my life’. Having said that, once an album is done I tend not to look back on it too much. I’m pretty forward thinking so I’ll be looking to the next album now.
Also during the record, I was struck – and have been with listens after I reviewed it – that there are so many different styles there. Was that a plan, as such, or natural? Well yes and no to be honest. The original idea of The LiMiTs was to be able to do anything that took our fancy, in essence there would be no limits musically. I’d spent about 20 years playing Jump Blues and it got to the point where I was feeling very constrained by the genre. For my sanity I took a break then that’s when I got the LiMiTs together. With forming a new band the last thing I wanted to do was back myself down another style cul-de-sac. So there wasn’t a specific plan to make such a varied album, it’s just what came out in my song writing at that time. If we had recorded it 6 months earlier or 6 months later it would have been a very different album.
Now a couple on some specific tracks that I picked out: Pills. I know you have had some problems with health and so on, and I just wondered if having a song about the over prescription of tablets was from personal experience? I suffer from depression and a few years back I had a real bad time of it so now I’m on medication (and probably will be the rest of my life). I don’t have a problem with that at all. I know there’s a lot of stigma around anti-depressants but to me it’s just a chemical imbalance in the brain which is controlled medically much like a diabetic person would use insulin. So Pills is not really a personal experience song, it’s more about how people expect drugs to solve any problem they have and how the big pharmaceuticals are happy to facilitate that as they are making big money. If you speak to any American friends, even relatively young ones, they all seem to be on medication for one thing or another, because the big pharmas are convincing them they need it – create a market and then sell them the cure! We will follow soon – it’s a scary big-business messing with our health! One important point of the song is if we keep taking antibiotics for every sniff & snivel they’ll eventually stop working then we’ll all get wiped out by a super flu. There’s a lot of end of the world stuff on this album!
Digital Number Of The Beast seems to indicate that rather like me, you aren’t sure about the way technology is taking over. Is that how you see things? Again another end of the world song! Super artificial intelligence is being worked on right now by scientists. Have these people not seen Terminator? I read an article all about it and how computers will (relatively soon) have a far superior intelligence to us. The question is will they see as a harmless, lower life form such as we see ants or will it see us as a threat and wipe us out. I wrote the song hoping that when the robot overlords do take over they might look favourably on me!
She Didn’t Even Buy A Ticket. For those that don’t know, is about the story of a woman who gate-crashed a gig to find her cheating husband. Is that the weirdest thing to happen at one of your shows? Yeah that actually happened at one of our shows. After the gig the promoter told us that a woman had gate crashed the show looking for her husband who she suspected was on a date with another woman. I, rather flippantly, said, “What? And she didn’t even buy a ticket?” and that struck me straight away as a great title for a song! Strangely it’s not the weirdest thing that’s happened at a gig. I think that prize goes to the gig where someone did a shit in the middle of the dance floor while we were playing! It wasn’t a comment on the band or the music I must hasten to add. Apparently the perpetrator (or defecator if you will) had been thrown out for fighting earlier in the evening and had then snuck back in to air his dirty protest. I’ve never seen a dance floor clear so fast!
The first time I saw you, you supported JJ Grey five or so years ago. I was wondering how you feel things have changed since then? It was great fun touring with JJ. He has such a fantastic sound and is a great guy. We don’t get to do so many supports now which is a shame as it’s a great way of getting to a new audience and building the fan base. These days I get loads of requests from band who want to support the LiMiTs on tour which is very flattering. We like to help up and coming band as much as possible and always try and source really good, local supports for our gigs but it’s not always easy, we’re still playing fairly small venues and sometime it’s just physically impossible to fit us all the stage! I think the LiMiTs have changed quite a bit in those 5 years. We’ve slimmed down to a 3-piece line-up now of guitar, bass and drums which challenges me more a bit on the guitar and we like to embrace new technology too. I always try and keep the LiMiTs moving and not doing the same thing always so the band is always constantly developing.
I saw a tweet from you the other day about looking forward to seeing Mott The Hoople at Ramblin’ Man. Two things, first how were they? And second, how easy is it to “be a fan” as it were, or do you just switch off from music when you’re not on tour? We had a great time at Ramblin’ Man. The organizers put our Airstream (caravan) right in the centre of the arena so we were camping with an amazing view of the main stage. Saturday morning I was sat outside having my breakfast when Mott The Hoople started up their sound check and launched into The Golden Age Of Rock & Roll. It sounded awesome and I sat there in the sunshine, eating my breakfast and listening to the music thinking ‘how lucky am I?’. They played a blinder of the set, all the hits and Ian Hunter at 79 was in fine form. In between tours I certainly don’t switch off from music. I might play a little less but I’ve always got the radio on or have a playlist going and if it’s one of my playlists Mott is bound to be on there!
Following on from that, do you enjoy touring, or is it just a necessary part of the job? Yeah I love being on tour and out on the road with the band. I know a lot of musicians find it tough but for me being on stage is a very comfortable place to be as is the studio. I think I enjoy live and studio equally but for different reasons. It certainly beats being sat in the office doing the tax return!
And lastly on playing live, in some fantasy world, who would you most like to have been on stage with? Ooh that’s a tough one! There’s a massive, crazy mixed up list of people I’d like to work with from all sorts of different genres from Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe to Howlin’ Wolf and Ike Turner and loads in between! I have actually been very lucky and had the opportunity to play with a lot of blues and doo-wop legends in the past. It can be a double edged sword, when they’re good they’re great, but when they’re bad you can never hear their records in quite the same way ever again. I’m pleased to say most have been good but a few…
And finally, with the album just out, what next for you over the next year, say?Touring, touring, touring! We hit the road in September to take PILLS to the masses (that sounds bad eh?) and we’ll be taking it as far and as wide as possible! We’re definitely a live band. We recorded the album back in December and we’ve played some of the songs live but I’m chomping at the bit to get out there and play the whole album live! We have just taken on a new booking agent and we have tasked them with getting us out to Europe and Ireland next year and do plenty on the festival circuit too! So I think that’ll keep us busy for quite a while!