VINTAGE INTERVIEW: Danny Bowes of Thunder

THUNDER the UK Hard Rock band is just about to make their first visit to Australia after 30 years! We will of course be catching up with the band shortly but in the meantime check out our vintage 2013 interview with singer Danny Bowes – Thunder had ‘retired’ a few years previously in 2009 but were just about to play their biggest dates on a triple bill of the UK with WHITESNAKE and JOURNEY, a couple of years later THUNDER would be headlining those same arenas on their own. If you haven’t heard of Thunder in our humble opinion they could well be the last great UK Hard Rock band..

THUNDER is a band that needs few introductions to UK Rock fans, storming out of the blocks in 1989, over the years they have produced many a memorable album. Now ‘semi-retired’ it’s great to see the boys together again for a spot on the big stages with prime package of the Summer for Rock Fans – WHITESNAKE, JOURNEY and THUNDER! Could a bill get any better? Who better to ask than THUNDER’s  man with the pipes – Danny Bowes…

 

Mark: Hi, Danny, its Mark from The Rockpit, how are you?

Danny: Not bad, Sir, how are you?

Mark: Good, thanks, we wanted to talk to you about the upcoming tour in the UK. We haven’t spoken to you before, but we did an e mail interview a couple of years ago, when Thunder had just called it a day. Can we officially refer to you as semi-retired now?

Danny: I think that’s probably quite fair, yes! I think semi-retired, certainly for the time being. It certainly was our intention to go our separate ways, in 2009, and then we were tempted back for one show in 2011, for the High Voltage thing, which we really enjoyed. Out of that came a Christmas show, which became two, as the first one sold out. So, we decided then, that we were quite happy to do the Christmas shows. Whilst there is no new album on the horizon, there has certainly been a commitment to doing Christmas shows, and then last year we decided we might fancy doing something this year and of course it’s turned in to quite a lot of shows now! But there is no talk of a new album, so semi-retired is probably accurate!

Mark: Excellent! It is such a fabulous line up, Whitesnake, Journey and Thunder, it pretty much has everything, and to be out there in the arenas, must be quite interesting for you?

Danny: I think it’s a fantastic way, if you’re going to get lured back on to the stage again; it’s a pretty hard one to turn down! When they asked me about it, I said, I can’t see any reason not to do it, the only reason would be if not everyone was available. To be honest, when I sent the e mails to the band, I expected, “I’d really love to…. but!” “I can’t do it”, or “I’m washing my hair” or something really tenuous. But, honestly, I couldn’t have been more surprised, when they all came back, pretty much as one, and said yeah, I can do that, sounds great! I was just shocked! It was hard enough to get them to have a curry!!

Mark: You guys, and Mr Coverdale, are veterans of the whole Monsters of Rock, you actually played on the same bill in 1990, and do you have any memories from that day?

Danny: I don’t think we bumped in to Whitesnake, that particular day; we had our own particular demons to deal with that day! That was a pretty scary day for me, I had lost my voice three days before, and I had to go and see a Harley Street guy, and I had all kinds of injections, and all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff! I was banned from speaking for three days, and anybody who knows me will tell you, that is very hard, because I do like to rabbit!! So, when we arrived on the site, we really had no idea whether I was going to be able to sing, which was quite scary, but also I think there was a bit of back stage dynamics going on with the other bands, so, I don’t think it was the most relaxed atmosphere back then. The year before, it had been cancelled, because the year before, somebody had got crushed to death. So, a lot of people were really twitchy, a nervous atmosphere. But, I‘ve run in to David Coverdale, a few times over the years, he’s always been very nice to us, and we played with them and Def Leppard in2008. We did a whole arena tour and that was great fun. He talks to me like Sir Laurence Olivier!!

Mark: He is a great guy, and unfortunately I made the mistake of referring to him as Dave!

Danny: Yeah, I did that once as well!

Mark: You only do it once though!

Danny: I did it twice just to piss him off!

Mark: The Monsters of Rock certainly introduced you to more people. The first time I saw you was on tour with Aerosmith, the year before, 1989, that was a great show!

Danny: They were great to work with as well, they were very nice.

Mark: They are still out there touring as well. The latest Thunder live outing, The Mancunian  Candidate, I was shocked when I found out it wasn’t recorded at the venue I grew up at, Rock City, in Nottingham, why the change?

Danny: We out grew it, I think. It became pretty apparent that the Christmas shows in 2011 were so packed; our audience is so middle aged now! It’s not like having 1900 young fans, when you’ve got 1900 middle aged Thunder fans at Rock City; it’s a bit of a crush! We got a lot of complaints from fans, saying it was uncomfortable, they couldn’t move, they couldn’t go to the toilet, and if they did they couldn’t get back in to their place, and so a lot of people were expressing dissatisfaction with the show. The show itself was amazing, obviously from where I am standing on the stage, it looks brilliant! They looked great and looked like they were enjoying themselves, but there was a lot of misery and discontent afterwards, so we thought well maybe there’s a case for, instead of doing the same thing in the same place every time, and we had done it there for a few years, we felt it was probably time for everybody else to have the gig on their door step for a change. So, we made the decision to move it around the country, last year we did it in Manchester, at the Academy, two shows and they both sold out, this year we are going to do it again, we don’t know where yet, but as soon as we do we’ll announce it, it won’t be in Nottingham or Manchester, that’s one thing I can tell you! It just gives everyone an opportunity to see the gig without having to travel all the time.

Mark: Yes, it’s become a bit of a tradition. I remember going to a gig on Boxing Day, at Rock City, many years ago, and I think it pre-dated the live releases that you did. With the reputation, as one of the country’s live acts, for you personally, does not playing regularly with Thunder (I know you are out there, with people like Kenney Jones), does absence make the heart grow fonder?

Danny: To be honest, I’m not getting any younger!! Whilst I don’t find it any more difficult to move around the stage, or sing, my body is definitely telling me, that I could not go on tour, and do the same thing night after night for three months! I’ve done a couple of shows with Kenney, and I’ve enjoyed them enormously, it was just for fun. I do a two man show with Ben from Thunder, which is like a music and comedy type thing, where we sit down, and I have to say that is thoroughly enjoyable! So, the idea of going back to touring the way it was twenty years ago, I just could not physically do it! I would rather die, than not do it properly!! So, the answer for me is to do it less, but do it well.

Mark: That’s probably a good idea; none of us are getting any younger! Do you have any surprises for the dates? Anything you are going to dig up from the past, or anything you haven’t done for a while?

Danny: We haven’t had any discussion about that, we won’t start rehearsals, until the start of May, and then we go straight off to America; I’m going to do a charity motor bike ride, it’s for the Child line charity.

Mark; Yes, I was going to ask you about that, you did that a couple of years ago? Are you a passionate biker?

Danny: I wouldn’t say I was passionate, I certainly enjoy riding motorbikes, and doing it on a Harley, in America, with that kind of scenery, it’s amazing, that every time you go around a corner it’s like you’re in a different country.

Mark: Are you doing the same sort of route, you did last time, with the stop offs?

Danny; No, it’s a different one, the route changes every year, I think that’s part of the appeal, certainly from my point of view. It’s such a vast country with different worlds within a world, you want to try and see as much of it as you can. We do it for a great cause and luckily we have a sponsor, who takes care of all the costs for us to be there, and so every bit of money that we raise, goes straight to the charity. It’s brilliant, and it’s a pleasure to do something good, I always say you don’t know if you’re going to go to heaven, as a result of doing it, but someone like me, I might just edge a couple of feet further back from hell!!

Mark: So, you have the itinerary sorted for that?

Danny: Yeah, that’s all done, we do that, and then we come back and the next day we go to Belfast and start the tour.
Mark: The best way to catch up with all that, is on the web site?

Danny: Absolutely. We are going to be announcing the Child Line ride next week and we’ll be asking our beloved fans if they would like to help and donate, for the cause, once again, they are brilliant and long may it continue! I think we are fortunate that the fans are as proactive as they are, it’s a very honest relationship, we are not rubbing stuff in their faces, and we always make sure that what we release is as good as possible. We make sure the live shows are as good as possible, and make the ticket prices competitive, we also do an after show and take pictures, sign stuff, and just generally chat to fans. We are very approachable and very normal, and I think people appreciate the fact we are as normal as we are.

Mark: Yes, I think that’s one of the great appeals of Thunder over the years, in that you do take so much time to spend with your fans, but you also put out a lot of material for the fans as well.

Danny: I think we are fortunate that the entire band like what they do, and that just makes it easy for us. There are no over dubs on our albums, we just take it away and Chris mixes it, and that’s it, it couldn’t be simpler! You show up, sing, go home and listen to the mixes when he’s done them, and then put it out! It’s a fantastic arrangement, it just amazes me how long he takes to mix them, but he’s very anal that they are done as well as they can!

Mark: As a singer, who would you say have been your biggest influences? And, have they changed, do you find yourself getting mellower with age?

Danny: Yeah, definitely! As a kid I was obsessed with The Beatles and David Bowie, and then I became completely obsessed with Free, and through Free and Bad Company, I got in to the more traditional R&B, blues artists and stuff like that, I could see where Paul Rodgers got it from. I then became disenchanted with the Bad Company albums, and I thought they got weaker as they went on, with each album, they got a little bit more watered down, it seemed like the band were having too nice a time enjoying themselves, instead of writing songs! Then I got into Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, I started listening to those guys, and then through them, strangely enough, there was a band called “Stone the Crows” and there was a band with Robin Trower, the guitar player, and he played with James Dewar, who was the bass player in Stone the Crows, a Scotsman, and I just loved his voice. I bought all the Robin Trower albums, and had to put up with those endless guitar solos, just so I could hear the singer!! Sadly, he’s a terrible front man, I went to see him so many times as a kid, and he never did anything, he just stood there, played the bass and sang!! He was great, but there was never any attempt to put any kind of show on!! I found that quite disappointing, and then I saw David Lee Roth with Van Halen, and my life changed! I thought, I want to sing like that guy, but I want to entertain like that guy!! That was really how I found my niche, sing like him and muck about like him!! And I became the monster I am today!

Mark: I think you’ve pretty much nailed it over the years! I have been to many Thunder shows back in the UK, and it is the engagement with the crowd, that sets you apart, as well as the antics of Harry!!

Danny: Yeah, we are lucky that we have a very nice, reliable drummer, who also happens to be a nutter!! He is very, very funny, and that’s one of the benefits of being in that band, that’s a hard act to walk away from, because we all get on very well, and we laugh a lot. We laugh at ourselves, we laugh at other people, and I think that has stood us in really good stead, and has helped us to ignore the low points in our lives.

Mark: You have mentioned the fact that you are getting older, and there wouldn’t be any chance of a larger tour, but, are there some things you miss about touring?

Danny: Yeah, there’s an amazing spirit that takes place when you tour. We are very lucky, we have a good crew, an extended crew, it’s a very happy bunch, and everybody enjoys getting up, getting on and getting it done, and that’s the thing I probably miss most about touring. Everybody has a good giggle in the bar on the night off, we take everyone out for dinner, the shows themselves are always pretty, I take that as a given. Obviously that’s why we’re all there, but the stuff people don’t see, like behind the scenes, the dinners and the fun of going to the bar, the travelling, and these things can be really miserable, if you’re not enjoying it. That’s all positive for us, and these guys always want to come back, they don’t even ask about the money!! They know they’ll enjoy it.

Mark: I think you have the best of both worlds. Most bands when they split up and call it a day, just don’t want to see each other again! It’s great you all have the time to do things like the Whitesnake tour, and the Christmas gigs and things; I suppose it’s like having a mini reunion every year!

Danny: It’s weird; it doesn’t feel like that, it’s strange, and I know this may sound odd, but, every time we spend any time apart, and we get together, it’s like we never had that time apart! It doesn’t feel like we’re getting back together, we just carry on, from where we left off the last time. There was a time we hadn’t seen each other for two years and we all got together, we had seen each other individually, but the five of us hadn’t been together in the same room for two years, and I remember being in the rehearsal with them, and we did all the songs on the first day. I was driving home, and my wife said, “How was that then?”, and I said, it was fine, why? So, she said it’s the first time you’ve all been together in two years, isn’t it? I said, yeah, it is, it’s weird that!! I mentioned it to the guys the next day, and you could see it suddenly dawn on them, and they said no, we didn’t think of that!!

Mark: Looking back over Thunder’s history, and you have put out a lot of fantastic albums, was there an album, that you most enjoyed making?

Danny: I think the first album was very special to me, because it was all new, first time in that studio, with that producer, and first time with a booze bill!! My God, I have never seen a booze bill like with that album!! We spent so much money on beer!!

Mark: Those were the days!!

Danny: It was like a party where an album broke out! It was just great fun, making that first album, there were lots of things we recorded, but never got to listen to until years later! EMI sent me some recordings, saying they wanted to put out some digital versions, they sent me some music, and I had absolutely no idea who it was!! It was me singing, but I had absolutely no idea who it was!! He asked if I remembered doing it, and I said, no, no memory at all!! I said that’s weird, and he said, you know what’s even more disturbing, he said, I wrote some of these songs!! When you have a long career, some of the memories, do get pushed out the back when you have new ones in the front, but it’s a weird, weird thing! When you make the albums you forget stuff, and some days you get a moment of clarity and you remember things from way back when. That’s one of the reasons the Danny and Ben tour is so much fun for us, because we tell road stories, and of course we have to think of them, before we tell them! Sometimes these stories just pop in to your mind and you just tell them on the night, and it’s quite funny! I went in to a meeting the other day, and this guy walked past me, who was a fan, and he said, my God, it’s you, I saw you on the Danny and Ben tour and that story you told about Take That, ( it’s a long story, but basically I impersonated all members of Take That, on the phone to their fans), anyway this bloke said I laughed so much, I thought I was going to wet myself!!

Mark: I’ll have to find out about that one!!

Danny: Yeah, we’ll leave that for another day!!

Mark: If you could have been a fly on the wall for the recording of any classic album, at any point in time, what would it have been for you and why?

Danny: “Physical Graffiti”, purely and simply  because there is such weird and wonderful material going on, on that album, I would have just liked to have been there to watch John Bonham on the drums.

Mark: I don’t think there are many of us, who wouldn’t have wanted to see Zeppelin at work on any album. The easy question to finish off with, what is the meaning of life?

Danny: I think fun, we were put on this earth to laugh, laugh and enjoy, work half way hard and laugh a lot!

Mark: Thank you so much for your time, my wife and I are looking forward so much to seeing you on the tour in May, we are taking in two or three dates, so give us a wave!!

Danny: Cheers, mate, thank you.

Danny spoke to Mark Diggins March 2013

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