In my humble opinion THUNDER is the UK’s greatest Rock band of the 80’s and I’ve been a paid up member of the ‘Thunder Channel’ ever since I saw them supporting AEROSMITH back on the PUMP tour. Over the years they’ve produced some huge albums, created some great songs and as a ‘Live’ band it’s hard to think of another that sounds better or delivers more.
Forming in 1989 out of the ashes of TERRAPLANE the band made a huge initial splash, getting some great support slots and even stealing the show for many at Donington Monsters of Rock in 1990. The band went on to pepper the singles and album charts in the UK at regular intervals. Sadly after 5 studio albums they split in 2000.
Thankfully the split was brief, and the band was initially tempted back with a slot at the Download Festival in 2002 (the successor to Monsters of Rock). They managed to last until 2009 producing a further 4 studio albums before calling it a day for a second time.
In 2011 ‘semi-retirement’ beckoned with a one off show at the High Voltage Festival that year, that was swiftly followed in January the next year by a series of ‘Danny & Ben from Thunder’ shows, that led to another fabled Christmas show (Thunder always played great Christmas shows and made the recordings available to fans). In 2013 they shared an arena bill with Whitesnake and Journey (Thunder were on first and at the three shows we witnessed the crowd actually thinned after they played). Since then there have been other Festivals, headlining tours but until now just the one new album 2015’s WONDER DAYS.
February 10 2017 sees a second new album in RIP IT UP and after 28 years they finally make it to Australia, not only that Australia gets to hear RIP IT UP live before anyone else! We caught up with vocalist DANNY BOWES to talk about the new album and venturing to Australia for the very first time.
THE ROCKPIT: Hi Danny thank you so much for talking to The Rockpit today, how are you?
DANNY: I’m very good thanks how are you?
THE ROCKPIT: Fantastic news for all Australians, we’re dancing in the streets at the moment in anticipation of the THUNDER tour! It’s not long now.
DANNY: (laughing) That is a great thought I must say! I’m conjuring with that in my head right now.
THE ROCKPIT: Well it has only taken 28 years to get here.
DANNY: (laughs) Yeah we’ve never been there, and I’ve never been myself. I’ve got to tell you this is a lifelong ambition of mine, I’m absolutely pumped right up at the idea of coming over there and playing. I just wish we could stay longer.
THE ROCKPIT: It will be great and let’s hope the shows are packed and we can make you feel at home. It gets even better though you’ve also got a new album out on February 10th, the follow up to the excellent WONDER DAYS and it looks like we’ll be the first in the world to hear it live?
DANNY: I suspect so yeah because although we have played some of the songs acoustically at a launch for our book in November of last year, apart from that we’ve just played a set in Hamburg for our record label and apart from German media it was a very closed affair. So these shows in March in Australia will be the first time these new songs have been played ‘in anger’ shall we say, and in front of a paying audience.
THE ROCKPIT: The last album WONDER DAYS from 2015 was fantastic and did great for the band, getting into the UK Top 10 and spawning a great tour. The lyrics were great too tales of days gone by. We’ve not heard RIP IT UP down here yet, what’s it like as an album? What are we going to hear?
DANNY: I think if WONDER DAYS was the comeback album then this is the album that says well now we’ve come back it’s time to move on. It’s very much quintessentially THUNDER in many ways, but there’s definitely some new ground explored. We definitely decided we wanted to raise the bar from a song-writing, a performance and an individual point of view and I think we have achieved that. I must say that I personally am very, very happy with the record and I’m confident THUNDER fans will love it.
THE ROCKPIT: There are a great array of packages available too on the website everything from good old vinyl, signed copies and something I’ve never seen before – the golden cassette tape! I must admit I plumped for the super deluxe package with the works in there.
DANNY: (laughs) You are clearly insane but I love you for it!
THE ROCKPIT: (laughs) I was taken by the enticing web store and the vast array of goodies. I hope you’re also bringing some of that merch out on tour for us?
DANNY: Yes I think we are looking to get a few things made in Australia rather than bringing it with us, we’re very limited in what we can bring but we’ll get it made and make sure it’s all the latest stuff
THE ROCKPIT: You mentioned that you played a few songs from RIP IT UP already acoustically and for media, have you actually started rehearsals yet? Are you well and truly match fit and correct weight?
DANNY: (laughing) No, no, no,no, no, no, no! If you know anything about THUNDER you know that rehearsals always take place at the very last minute for the least amount of time possible! (laughing) We absolutely loathe rehearsing because it’s just not the same as doing it in front of an audience. We’re primarily lazy buggers I would say when it comes to the rehearsal process! We might rehearse for a week and for the first two or three days we’ll stand around talking about what we’ve been up to, then we’ll have a cup of tea and on the fourth day we’ll probably plug in, and that’s kind of how it works! It’s fairly relaxed.
THE ROCKPIT: So I guess there’s no idea at this stage how many songs we might get to hear off the new record?
DANNY: No not at all, we’ve got no idea at the moment. We know how many we’d like to play, which is pretty much all of them, but that obviously is very hard to do, you know the more albums you do the harder it is because you always want to try and feature the new record because that’s the one you’re most excited about, but you still have to recognise the fact that people are paying their money and they want to see the songs they love. You have to try to get it right and walk that tightrope and get the balance between the old and the new. We’ll just throw things around in rehearsal till we find something that feels like a really exciting set that ticks all the boxes for us and the audience and then we’ll hope for the best when we get out there. If it doesn’t work, you know, we’ll change it around.
THE ROCKPIT: It must be interesting playing a new territory after so long and with such a large catalogue, do you think the fact that this is the first visit will affect your song selection. I mean some fans out here haven’t even heard BACKSTREET SYMPHONY live?
DANNY: I think it’s gonna be really hard but I think the most important thing for us is gonna be to ensure that we get a set that we think is very representative and which we think will basically just blow the roof off! That’s what we look to do, we’re much less concerned in the detail and much more concerned with the net effect! We want to make sure that everyone goes away completely exhausted. I always say the same thing – if the audience doesn’t leave as tired as I am then I’ve failed!
THE ROCKPIT: (laughs) has the feeling of being on stage changed over the years?
DANNY: I don’t think so, though we’re a bit more creaky than we used to be, but I think essentially we do what we’ve always done – go in and make as much noise as possible and hope that everyone else does the same. we always work on the assumption that we can always achieve a level of excitement on our own but we can never get to the point where the volcano goes off unless the audience brings it as well. So there’s a kind of building block thing that goes on: we start off they get excited, then we push a bit harder and they get more excited, then we get more excited ’cause we know it’s working and by the end, like I say, the lava’s flowing out the top of the volcano and we’re all going mad. And hopefully everyone’s running for the hills! It’s very much an organic process and we’re very much looking forwards to getting to Australia to see if it works there! I’m very hopeful.
THE ROCKPIT: I’ll rally the troops, we’ll see what we can do! Over the years you’ve played with many great bands, and shared stages with virtually all the big names. Has there been a band that sticks out, one that has been particularly inspirational?
DANNY: One of the bands we always enjoyed touring with was Deep Purple, we were all big fans of the band when we were kids and the great thing about Deep Purple is that they’re such brilliant players. They’ve got such a depth of great tunes that when we watched them we felt like fans every night, you know, there’s not many bands that I would tour with and sit and watch the whole show every night. Some band’s I’d nip out and see the first few songs, next night I might watch the next few, so I’d get to see the whole show but I’d do it over the course of the tour, but with Deep Purple I’d kind of want to watch them every night.
THE ROCKPIT: What’s the secret to the voice, you’ve always had a great voice but it’s holding up remarkably well, is there a secret formula you’ll be selling in your retirement to budding young singers?
DANNY: I honestly don’t know, I’ve never really taken too much notice. Obviously I’m painfully aware of how it works when it’s not working but I tend not to think too much about it and over-analyse it. I think most of how it works for singing is it’s kinda how you feel, if you feel good you can sing anything but if you get carried away and that thinking about every little thing, or overdo it that’s when things start to go wrong. Next thing you know you can’t sing anymore and you’ve got all kinds of trouble. I just open my chops up and it comes out and when it does I’m a happy bunny.
THE ROCKPIT: So no secrets formulas, no nice cup of tea, slice of lemon, honey that kind of stuff?
DANNY: Well I do take as much kind of steam as I can when I’m on the road I spend most of my day in the shower to be honest with you. I like to get as much steam in me as possible but deep down I think that’s a way of preserving myself and trying to stop the wrinkles coming on! I don’t know what it is, I’ll probably turn myself into a grape or something!
THE ROCKPIT: (laughs)
DANNY: I like the way the steam makes my voice feel. Apart from that I don’t drink much anymore, I don’t smoke, never have and I try to stay reasonably active. So I think as long as you look after yourself… I think singing’s about how you feel – if you feel OK you can sing OK.
THE ROCKPIT: Getting back to the album, has the way you write changed over the years or is it still pretty much the same template from day one?
DANNY: It’s really stayed pretty much constant, Luke writes the tunes, always has, he’s a pretty solitary character in that regard. Once he knows he’s going into writing mode it’s like he just goes to work, you know he gets up in the morning, he gets himself ready to go and he sits in his studio and he writes. And he does that every day until he feels like he has the tunes, he’s very, very self sufficient, incredibly disciplined and how he continues to surprise me after all these years I do not know. But I think he’s very much an unsung hero in that regard. I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves as a writer, as a producer, or even as a guitar player. I think he really should get a lot more credit.
THE ROCKPIT: I couldn’t agree more, one of my favourite Rock writers for sure and not too bad on the six string either! 28 years down the track, how would you sum up a life in Rock and Roll?
DANNY: …I’ve got no complaints.
THE ROCKPIT: (laughs)
DANNY: (laughing) None at all. It’s been very good to us, we’ve had a lovely life, I can’t complain. People tend to focus on the things they haven’t achieved, “Do you think you could have done this” or “Do you think you should have done that”. I’ll be absolutely honest with you, you can always look at stuff and say you want more but I’ve always worked on the assumption that you should be grateful for what you’ve got. You now we’ve been very, very lucky, we’ve got loads and loads and loads of fans all around the world who have been incredibly loyal to us, they love the music, they love the band and when we ask them to get excited about something or buy a ticket or buy a record or even just vote for us in a poll or something they comes out in their droves. We call them the THUNDER MASSIVE because they are, you know, they’re massive in every way and we’re very grateful to them. You know without them we’d all be digging the road . For us it’s a very simple thing you know, fair exchange is no robbery, we like to give the good records and great live performances and the great thing is they seem to appreciate it and they show up! And for me that’s great because without them as I said we’d be digging the road.
THE ROCKPIT: So it’s new album out February 10th, then you visit us ‘Down Under’ and after you finish with us you’ve got the UK Tour which looks like it’s selling out nicely? It’s a little bigger than the last few tours?
DANNY: Yeah it’s selling well. There’s still some from the biggest show, the London show, Glasgow I think there’s some tickets, Leicester is nearly sold out and pretty much all the others are as well. It’s a great tour. It was hard for us, you know, when we first came back because we couldn’t play everywhere because Ben had been ill, he had cancer, he had a really bad year, he had cancer of the throat when we were making the WONDER DAYS album and we couldn’t plan for too many shows as he didn’t know if he was going to be able to do it. We only did three big shows and he was exhausted at the end of it, he could barely hold his guitar up. But he got through it, the trooper that he is, and then last year we put together five shows just to see if we could build him back up again. And he’s still living with the side effects, but gradually coming back to his old ways, you know, he’s almost as irritating as he used to be, almost! So this year we’ve put together 11 shows in the UK and then some shows in Europe after, Australia before that, and we’re hoping that he’ll be OK.
THE ROCKPIT: Let’s all hope so. As well as the new album there’s also a BROKEN MIRROR EP for sale online as a companion to RIP IT UP, tell us about that?
DANNY: The EP is basically other songs from the album sessions – we had to boil it down and boil it down. We started off with about 25 tunes, and we recorded 3 sessions over six months. Each time we went in we only recorded the best tunes that we had and then each time we selected the ones that we thought should go on the record, and in the end we had about 15, 16 tunes. I think one we threw away, some we decided to abandon and rewrite later on, we ended up with 11 which we chose for the album, it was going to be 10, then 11 – we couldn’t make up our minds. And that left us with 4 leftover and rather than just kind of abandon them we decided that the EP would…. we did it before we had the KILLER EP for the WONDER DAYS album and fans seemed to really like to get those glimpses of songs that could have made the album but didn’t. We think of it almost like the first and second. division
THE ROCKPIT: It’s a great way of doing it and I always find it so cool to hear what else the band was up to. I’ll be enjoying both in my deluxe package! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to The Rockpit today Danny, good luck with the album release and have a safe trip over. Any final word for Australian fans?
DANNY: Bring your dancing shoes!
THE ROCKPIT: We certainly shall! People are getting pretty excited down here mate! They’ve been on the boil since the tour was announced!
DANNY: I can guarantee they’re not as excited as I am! See you soon.
2017 AUSTRALIAN TOUR
TUESDAY 7TH MARCH – SYDNEY – FACTORY
WEDNESDAY 8TH MARCH – MELBOURNE – CORNER
FRIDAY 10TH MARCH – BRISBANE – TRIFFID
SATURDAY 11TH MARCH – PERTH – CAPITOL
For more information and to grab your tickets, head to www.mjrpresents.com
Danny Bowes spoke to Mark Diggins February 2017