Here is a nice one with the drummer in Slade, Mr. Don Powell. Hope you like it!
Slade: the final challenge
Yet another round of London hotel interviews for Slade. They must have stayed in (and subsequently been banned from – through no fault of their own) almost every hotel in town. It`s just as well they keep building new ones. This time Slade are here to finish off their “Flame” movie and to see the rough version of the finished film. Bill Henderson spoke to drummer Don Powell.
Slade interviews rarely produce much in the way of controversy – a bit of chat, a few laughs, reiterations of the Slade manifesto.
Basically, there`s never a lot new to speak about. Another hit single another hit album, another sell out tour of Britain, of Europe, of Australia and Japan. There isn`t a lot of contention there. The only sore point that ever arises is America, and the group`s relative lack of success there. And that is always dealt with the standard statement of intent (which I`ll return to later).
Now, at least there`s something different in the pipeline – a film. But even that could hardly be described as a variation from the norm of pop star progress from Bing Crosby/Frank Sinatra onwards. But at least it`s something new to talk about.
The film is about a group called Flame, as you probably know. The story of Flame is basically the story of Slade with a little scriptwriter`s licence.
“The writer, Andrew Birkin, and the director travelled with us during our last States tour, talked with us about our early days and wrote the story line basically around that,” explained Don. “They got to know us individually and wrote our characters to the parts.
“The worst part was wondering how the real actors were going to take to us but it was incredible. It was a bit strange at first but they helped us along.”
So basically it`s the story of Slade with the lads playing themselves. It`s not strictly a comedy but, as you might imagine, adlib Slade humour does surface throughout. We should be seeing it early in the New Year, perhaps even in time for Christmas.
And of course there`s an accompanying soundtrack album, recorded two weeks before the film:
“We knew the basic storyline of the film so Nod and Jim wrote the songs to fit. We didn`t have any free time so they had to write it on our last American tour and then we rehearsed them as we went along – getting to the halls earlier and in hotel rooms and things. Then we spent like two weeks solid in the studio putting it together.”
The diversification of the Slade sound that has been apparent over the last album and recent singles will continue. This time they use brass.
“It`s the first time we ever used anything outside the group before, it was really strange having other guys in the studio and then listening back to it afterwards. We sound like a real group! We used the brass – Georgie Fame`s horn section – to augment a few things. And Nod and Jim`s writing is getting a lot better, trying to be a bit more experimental now.”
Chas Chandler is mixing the album in New York at the moment, then when the “odds and sods” are completed for the film, Slade begin yet another tour. This time of Europe, starting in…. Iceland. To be followed by a tour of America in the New Year. (Nothing planned for Britain at this stage).
But America, the cloud on the Slade horizon, the only blot on their success escutcheon, Through steady touring they`ve got to the stage where they sell out wherever they play but their records still don`t mean a light. Discouraged, Don?
“No, not at all. I mean, we`re actually getting to like working there now. When we first went we didn`t like the country – we liked working there but we didn`t like being there, until lately.”
America is the challenge, perhaps the only challenge they`ve got left. Their records still seem to fall between the AM and FM radio stools, in spite of the change in the Slade sound. The Slade answer to the dilemma as ever seems to keep on plugging away until America capitulates.
“We really need to work there a long time, we haven`t worked there very much really. It`s a weird place, it`s so big. We`ll be spending quite a lot of time over there in the New Year.”
But after all, touring is the only way Slade know. It`s their prime motivation.
“We`re the kind of group that it`s hard for us not to work, to actually tour `cause we get bored if we don`t. I mean, it`s great to have some time off when we`ve finished but it`s great to get back. That`s the big kick we get, doing one-nighters.
“Making records is OK but you can`t beat being on stage. I like working in the studio but it gets kind of mechanical. Studio work has gotta be done obviously but I don`t like going in for one or two days as we usually have to do. I like to work up and do what we gotta do and get back to the stage again.
“Even travelling I like, although we never get time to see anywhere. We spent some time in New Orleans last time – an amazing place, so unlike America. I couldn`t believe it: the hotel we were staying in, the Platters were playing downstairs in the bar, Clarence Frogman Henry was next door and somebody else next door again. And they`re the originals – not like what you get here at the Top Ranks!”
But in spite of Slade`s uncompromising attitude to America, playing there has changed them.
“We play longer and different numbers in America than in England. They want to hear the hits here, obviously you don`t get that in America.
“We went over there completely unknown – and we still are basically – so we tried new things and also got back to how we used to be in the early days, trying out new things and playing longer.”
Ah yes, the old days. Nostalgia.
“Last time in the States we managed to drive between some cities which was better. I think back to the old days of travelling in the van, stopping off at a tranny caff in the middle of the night for greasy bacon sandwiches and a big mug of tea – with no saucers!” (A reference to the genteel hotel crockery.)
“Back in Wolverhampton we still knock around with the old gang, always bringing up about the old days when we used to play the pubs and were always told to turn down. We still use those pubs and Wolverhampton`s still basically the same, the same groups playing.”
Roots is what you call it, I suppose. Slade still live in Wolverhampton, still aren`t quite used to the big city. And it`s the awareness of these roots that makes Slade a genuine “people`s band”, that chatting to them doesn`t bring out much in the way of profundities but is more like speaking to the guy next door and what keeps them touring with no urge to do anything else. Playing live like they always have, like they always will.
Speaking of the current scene, Don spoke of his liking for the Sparks and Bad Company records but that he would prefer to see them on stage. He likes 10cc and having worked with them in America has seen them live – the only time Slade ever get to see anybody: “Personally I`ve got that thing of seeing people live before making comments about them.”
The only way he knows how. When I asked him what innovations he might like to introduce to the band`s sound, the reply was entirely fitting: “Personally I like to use an old kit with pigskin heads to get back to that old, earthy sound.”
Which sums it up pretty well.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Humble Pie, Stephen Stills, Robin Trower, Big John Vary, Aj Webber, Rolling Stones, Syreeta Wright, Wishbone Ash, Mike McGear, Bert Jansch, Rufus, Minnie Riperton, John Coghlan, Bob Henrit.
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