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Saskia to sing for music final place


A STUDENT songstress is one gig away from performing at one of the country’s biggest music venues.

Singer-songwriter Saskia Parks, of Canterbury Road, Whitstable, is in the area final of Live and Unsigned – and if she impresses the judges at the event in May she will go through to the national final at the O2 arena in London.

  1. UNSIGNED:  Saskia Parks is one gig away from a place in the final of a national competition  GIIS20120327D-006

    UNSIGNED: Saskia Parks is one gig away from a place in the final of a national competition GIIS20120327D-006

  2. Whitstable, singer Saskia Parks, who has made it through to the semi finals of the national live and unsigned competition.

The 18-year-old, who is a pupil at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Faversham, has already beaten thousands of hopefuls in the competition for unsigned acts. She will perform in front of a professional judging panel, including judges from Radio 1, Kerrang and Choice FM.

The winning act in the national final will receive £10,000 in cash, a £10,000 publicity boost and slots at 15 festivals across the UK and abroad.

Saskia said: “I’m going to university this year so I will have a long summer and I thought I might as well go for it and see where I get.

“It’s really exciting. If it goes well I’ll put university on hold.

“This is the first competition I’ve done and it’s been quite intense at times. When you are doing a gig, people are chatting and getting on with their evening, but at the auditions all eyes are on you and it can be quite daunting.”

Saskia, who hopes to study English literature and creative writing at university, started singing in public in 2010 at gigs around the area, performing covers and her own songs. She is also studying for A levels in English literature, English language, geography and AS-level music.

She said: “People always ask me to describe my style and I find it quite hard. I suppose it’s quite acoustic, and I’ve been told I sound like a female Ed Sheeran.”

Of the contest, she added: “I’m really enjoying it and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next. It would be great if I could get to the final.”

The winner will play alongside Rihanna at a music festival in Sweden, but there are other festival slots for runners-up.

The competition will also feature in a fly-on-the-wall documentary on Sky. This year more than 40,000 people entered and the winner will be announced during an indoor festival at the O2 in front of a panel of celebrity judges.

Saskia added: “I’m really hoping to be able to play at Lounge on the Farm this summer. That would be fantastic.”

The area final takes place on May 13 in Bedford. For more information on Saskia, visit www.saskiaparks.co.uk and for details of the competition, or tickets for the finals, visit www.liveandunsigned.uk.com


Toronto.com Music Juno Awards 2012: Feist, Sheepdogs get two wins at pre …


The big Juno Awards finale might go down Sunday night from Scotiabank Place in Ottawa, but the bulk of the hardware was doled out over a typically boozy and long-winded gala dinner in the capital’s swanky new convention centre on Saturday evening.

The winners in 34 of this year’s 41 Juno categories were revealed by the time bleary-eyed revelers staggered out into the streets to take in a jam-packed night of JunoFest offerings about town, including endlessly buzzed performances by such nominees as Deadmau5, Azari III and Austra.

By the end of the night, boogie-rock party band the Sheepdogs – who had an exciting 2011 that climaxed with fans voting them onto the cover of Rolling Stone magazine – were emerging as a dominant force, with two wins: one for New Group of the Year and one for Rock Album of the Year for their popular Learn Burn disc.

Toronto’s Leslie Feist was another two-time winner, taking Adult Alternative Album of the Year for Metals and sharing Music DVD of the Year with the Anthony Seck, Jannie McInnes and Chip Sutherland for Feist: Look at What the Light Did Now.

The only other multiple-ish winner was Vancouver’s Hedley, who picked up Pop Album of the Year for Storms and saw their producer, Brian Howes, take the Jack Richardson Producer of the Year award for his work on “Heaven’s Gonna Wait.”

At this point, however, it’s really anyone’s game. Four of the Juno nominees in the running for four trophies apiece – Feist, Drake, Dan Mangan and Hedley – had each pocketed one apiece by last call. The gloves come off on Sunday.

Here’s the complete list of pre-broadcast winners:

INTERNATIONAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Adele, 21.

NEW GROUP OF THE YEAR: The Sheepdogs.

GROUP OF THE YEAR: Arkells

COUNTRY ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Terri Clark, Roots and Wings.

ADULT ALTERNATIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Feist, Metals.

ALTERNATIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Dan Mangan, Oh Fortune.

POP ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Hedley, Storms.

ROCK ALBUM OF THE YEAR: The Sheepdogs, Learn Burn.

VOCAL JAZZ ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Sonia Johnson, Le carré de nos amours.

CONTEMPORARY JAZZ ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Phil Dwyer Orchestra featuring Mark Fewer, Changing Seasons.

TRADITIONAL JAZZ ALBUM OF THE YEAR: David Braid, Verge.

INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Stretch Orchetstra, Stretch Orchestra.

FRANCOPHONE ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Malajube, La caverne.

CHILDREN’S ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Charlie Hope, Songs Stories and Friends: Let’s Go Play!

CLASSICAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR, SOLO OR CHAMBER ENSEMBLE: Marc André Hamelin, Liszt Piano Sonata.

CLASSICAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR, LARGE ENSEMBLE OR SOLOIST(S) WITH LARGE ENSEMBLE ACCOMPANIMENT: Alexandre Da Costa/Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Daugherty: Fire and Blood.

CLASSICAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: VOCAL OR CHORAL PERFORMANCE: Jan Archibald/Orchestre Symphonique Bienne/Thomas Rosner, Haydn Arias.

CLASSICAL COMPOSITION OF THE YEAR: Derek Charke, “Sepia Fragments,” Sea to Sea.

RAP RECORDING OF THE YEAR: Drake, Take Care.

RB/SOUL RECORDING OF THE YEAR: Melanie Fiona, Gone and Never Coming Back.

REGGAE RECORDING OF THE YEAR: Exco Levi, Bleaching Shop.

ABORIGINAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Murray Porter, Songs Lived Life Played.

ROOTS AND TRADITIONAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR, SOLO: Bruce Cockburn, Small Source of Comfort.

ROOTS AND TRADITIONAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR, GROUP: The Wailin’ Jennys, Bright Morning Stars.

BLUES ALBUM OF THE YEAR: MonkeyJunk, To Behold.

CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN/GOSPEL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Downhere, On the Altar of Love.

WORLD MUSIC ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Kiran Ahluwalia, Aam Zameen: common ground.

JACK RICHARDSON PRODUCER OF THE YEAR: Brian Howes for Hedley, “Heavens Gonna Wait” (from Storms) and Nickelback, “Trying Not to Love You” (from Here and Now).

RECORDING ENGINEER OF THE YEAR: George Seara for Michael Kaeshammer, “A Little Bit of Love” (from Kaeshammer) and Laila Biali, “Let Go” (from Tracing Light).

VIDEO OF THE YEAR: The Sadies, “Rumbleseat,” directed by Mike Roberts.

MUSIC DVD OF THE YEAR:Feist:Look What the Light Did Now.

ELECTRONIC ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Tim Hecker, Ravedeath, 1972.

METAL/HARD MUSIC ALBUM OF THE YEAR: KEN mode, Venerable.

WALT GREALIS LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Gary Slaight

ALLAN WATERS HUMANITARIAN AWARD: Simple Plan


Sunderland singer composes track about unemployment



Published on Saturday 31 March 2012 11:16

SONGBIRD Amy Tuddenham is hoping her self-penned track about unemployment will hit the right note with judges.

The 20-year-old, from Herrington, is through to the next round of the Live and Unsigned singing contest in which she will perform Get a Job.

She said: “The song’s about today’s economic position and being stuck in a rut.”

Amy, an advertising monitor, will join scores of other hopefuls tomorrow in Newcastle for the next round of the contest which aims to unearth Britain’s unsigned talent.

If Amy makes it through the next two rounds she will compete at the O2 Arena, in London.

She made it through to this stage after impressing judges with her strong vocal tone.

“I was absolutely chuffed to make it through to the next round,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in music but this takes it to the next big step.”

Over the years, Amy has sung at charity events, weddings and functions across the region and in 2009 won a Sunderland Young Achievers’ Award for Music and Performing Arts.

If she is successful in Live and Unsigned, it would propel her to a new level.

The overall winner will scoop a slot at a music festival, studio recording time and £10,000 to spend on developing their act and music equipment.

The acts which receive the highest scores at the national final will perform at The Live Fest, an event showcasing the cream of the UK’s unsigned talent.

Chris Grayston, events director of Live and Unsigned, said: “Live and Unsigned is about originality, live ability and credibility.”


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Ottawa’s changing music scene


There is more music being recorded in Ottawa now than ever before.

There’s no ready proof of that statement, but the number of locally produced CDs that cross my desk has increased dramatically in the past decade, or since the Junos last came to Ottawa in 2003. “There are lot of great original acts in Ottawa, more than nine years ago, way more than 20 years ago,� says Rob Bennett, of the Bushpilots.

There are now so many made-in-Ottawa CDs — in so many genres and by musicians from so many hubs of creativity — that it’s difficult to keep up. “There’s a lot of diversity,� says Slim Reaper, of Big Jeezus Truck. “For a city this size, there’s something here for everybody.�

Technology has made recording less expensive and more accessible, and that, in turn, has encouraged the creation of more bands. Technology has also changed how bands promote themselves and interact with fans. “The garage band is now a cyber-band,� says concert promoter Dennis Ruffo.

Those changes are not peculiar to Ottawa, but the city may stand out for its healthy clutch of creative hubs that encourage music-making and cross-fertilization. In these hubs — the rap circle of Devin Atherton and others, Paul “Yogi� Granger’s Meatlocker Studio, or the constellations that spin around Dave Draves’ Little Bullhorn studio, or Jon Bartlett’s Kelp Records, to name only a few — the players rotate like game pieces, changing into new lineups and finding new blends of music.

“This spirit of collaboration among such a vast variety of artists has become a driving force behind the current Ottawa indie music scene,� says musician Danniel Oickle, who moves in a circle of theatrical, genre-busting musicians spinning around the Peptides, one of the city’s most unique and promising acts. As rapper Peter Joynt puts it, “You get some cool things coming out of an environment like that.�

Collaboration was one of two themes cited many times by several dozen people in the Ottawa music business when I asked, how has the city’s music scene changed, for better or worse, since 2003?

“Nine or 10 years ago, there was much less collaboration …â€� says musician John Allaire. “Today, if you look on the dust sleeves of CDs and records that are put out now, you see a number of recurring names showing up on diverse recordings … This has led, in my opinion, to the development of a more solid ‘Ottawa sound.’â€�

An Ottawa sound? “Ottawa has become a haven for roots music based in folk and blues,� Allaire says, “solid songwriting and playing, not straying too far from the safe and traditional, probably reflecting the conservative nature of a government town. I don’t mean that in a bad, non-creative way.�

At the same time, there’s a thirst for something more, says Claude Marquis, the leader of the Peptides.

“I think Ottawa is also hungry for new and interesting music, which has brought what previously would have been obscure bands into the forefront. Our performances are quite unusual, yet ever since we started performing live in Ottawa almost every month, all of our shows have sold out, which confirms this city’s enthusiasm for something different and local.�

That’s right, says, Mehdi Hamdad, whose 2011 CD Luminata was an idiosyncratic delight. “More and more people are fed-up with cookie-cutter music, and are attracted to more creative events, that really rock the audiences’ intelligence. For example, I see bilingualism being appreciated more and more as a rich culture in itself, rather than a government requirement.�

It’s a musical free market, says CBC Radio producer Caitlin Crockard. “You can be a marching band that plays standing still (Mike Essoudry’s Mashed Potato Mashers). You can be a melodic dance band who played one of their first gigs at a small coffee shop (Silken Laumann). You can straddle a wavering line between quirky pop and jazz sensibilities (Megan Jerome). You can spend most of your time scoring and accompanying silent films (Hilotrons). You can launch ambitious sound art exhibits and inspire your students to make an H2Orchestra (Jesse Stewart). You can mix pow wow music with dubstep and make it one of the hottest parties in town (Tribe Called Red),� Crockard says. “It’s exciting to watch musicians try things out and Ottawa audiences embrace things that they may not have almost a decade ago.�

So if there’s more music, there must be more places to play live. Not necessarily — which is the second dominant theme I received.

“We don’t really have an A-level venue,� says Ian Boyd, owner of CD shops Compact Music and manager of his son’s band, the Riot Police.

There’s a gap in venues for live music, especially since the Capital Music Hall closed and the once-grand Barrymore’s Music Hall has become a collective groan among Ottawa musicians.

“There’s something about having permanent spaces for people to gather around that can really galvanize a scene, and that’s not happening in Ottawa right now,� Crockard says. “Barrymore’s isn’t doing live shows, Babylon rarely does, and the Capital Music Hall quietly closed. There’s still, of course, standbys like Zaphod’s and Irene’s and the Rainbow and so on, but Ottawa is really lacking for a good-sized space that can bring in bands from out of town and in turn invigorate the local scene.�

Some venues are reluctant to take a chance on new and unknown acts, says Maureen Hogen, lead singer of Good2Go. “Bars may not want to risk having bands which can’t guarantee a strong turn-out. We hope that this trend does not take a firm hold as it is short sighted on two counts. First, new/young artists need a place to hone their skills and secondly, it does not foster a new generation’s love of live local music. Music is a living thing and we need to care for it.�

All this has fostered a change in where musicians perform, says veteran music writer Allan Wigney, who sees “a shift from conventional ‘live music’ clubs to cafés, pubs, restaurants and galleries.� Allaire adds: “The basis of many music careers in this town now, unlike 2003, is the ability to pare down and play small places, house concerts, songwriter circles, quiet-show venues like the Black Sheep.�

Or to play outdoors. Many musicians spoke of the growth of festivals in the city, both in size and influence. Most dramatic has been Bluesfest’s embrace of local music, says Rob Bennett. More than 60 local acts played Bluesfest last year alone.

“This lets a huge chunk of local musicians have a taste of what it’s like to play on the big stage, work with a professional crew and to be treated like royalty,� Bennett says. “So many locals vie for these opportunities, it’s raised the quality of musical output across the board.�

The Ottawa Jazz Festival also books local acts, as does the Folk Festival. “In my genre, the arrival of hip-hop festival House of Paint has grown every year from a handful in attendance in 2003 to thousands in recent years,� says Devin Atherton. “This festival has always made the local music scene a priority.�

Dave Martindale, of rock bands Double Pumpers and Ukrania, says, “the whole Ottawa Explosion scene headed by Ian Manhire and the White Wires is fantastic and has given our city some good new energy and a name for itself among fun punk, or whatever you call it, across North America.�

There are also key promoters bringing in touring acts and providing slots on stage for local performers, such as Kapacity on the hip hop scene, or Spectrasonic’s Shawn Scallen, who surely books more acts in Ottawa than any other promoter.

“His role has consistently grown over the past 20 years and it has escalated dramatically since the last Juno show in Ottawa,� says Joe Reilly, who works for Bluesfest and hosts a music show on CKCU. “What’s great about Shawn is that he is an honourable player in a game that is known for less than honourable antics from players on all sides.�

psimpson@ottawacitizen.com

facebook, Google +: Peter Simpson

Twitter: bigbeatottawa


Music final the next stage for Tileasha


A YOUNG singer from The Meadows is through to the regional final of an original music competition.

Tileasha Goffe, 22, will hit the stage at the Live and Unsigned event at Pride Park, Derby, on April 14.

Live and Unsigned is the biggest original music competition for unsigned bands and artists in the UK.

Prizes for the winner this year include a UK tour of up to 100 shows and a £20,000 prize to be spent on development and publicity.

Solo artist Tileasha will perform her song Too Little, Too Late at the regional final.

Th grand final will be at The O2 Academy in London.

Chris Grayston, events director of Live Unsigned, said: “Live and Unsigned is all about originality, live ability and credibility. We’ve got some fantastic prizes up for grabs this year in a £100,000 prize pool, including a new main cash prize of £10,000.”


Iggy Pop: ‘Music today is like cheap drinks in a bad supermarket’


March 30, 2012 10:35

Stooges man says that rockers today lacks authenticity

Iggy Pop: 'Music today is like cheap drinks in a bad supermarket'

Photo: Andy Willsher/NME

Iggy Pop has said that music today is like “cheap drinks you get in a bad supermarket”.

The Stooges man, who is the ambassador for Record Store Day 2012, posted a video on the official Record Store Day site suggesting that modern rockers lack authenticity.

He said:

I think there are some ages, like the one we’re living in, when the game is kind of rigged towards products that contain music – sort of like those cheap drinks you get in a bad supermarket where it says, ‘Contains 10% juice.’

He went on to add: “There’s a lot of stuff out there with a bit of music to it, and I think that’s OK, but it reminds me of how bad it was to turn on American Bandstand in the ’50s and see all the endless, gutless, dickless imitations of Elvis that the American industry decided to push on the kids.”

Last year, Iggy Pop revealed that he was working on new material with the Stooges, specifically with James Williamson, the guitarist in the band. The punk legend said that he and Williamson penned 10 tracks together at his house in Miami earlier this year and would continue to “keep writing” new songs, although he refused to confirm whether they would be released as a studio album.

This year’s Record Store Day takes place on April 21 and will see exclusive releases and special shows to celebrate independent record shops.

Speaking about his role as ambassador, Iggy said: “I got my name, my musical education and my personality all from working at a record store during my tender years. Small indie shops have always been a mix of theatre and laboratory. In the ’50s and ’60s the teen kids used to gather after school at these places to listen free to the latest singles and see if they liked the beat.”

The likes of Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, The Clash, Laura Marling and Miles Kane will all issue new releases for this year’s Record store Day. For more information, visit recordstoreday.com.

Visit NME Video for the latest music videos and artist interviews

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Live and Unsigned Comes To Scotland


Live and Unsigned regional finals head for Glasgow this Saturday where acts will battle it out in the UK’s biggest music competition for original performers. Only the most talented have been selected for the Regional Final Showcase having made it past the judges at audition. They’ll now perform in front of a huge crowd at The Royal Concert Hall.

It will be a great day of music, keenly contested by some fine musicians. I will be one of the panel of judges with the difficult job of deciding which acts progress further in the competition.

More than 10,000 acts entered nationally and the few selected for the live stages are now in with a chance of making their way to the Grand Final at London’s O2 and winning the £10,000 main cash prize on offer for the overall winner. There’ll also be a £10,000 publicity investment in the winners. The winning act will then embark on a remarkable festival tour this summer spanning 15 top festival events.

The winner of Live and Unsigned 2012 is scheduled to play; Relentless Energy Drink Boardmasters, Norfolk Spectacular, Strawberry Fields Festival, Cloud 9 Festival, Glass Butter Beach, Brownstock, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and seven other summer festivals.

That number is hopefully set to expand over the next couple of weeks, and it will also include an additional international festival with a partner in Sweden, Italy or Latvia. The lucky winner of the Peace Love slot in Sweden will play alongside Rihanna, Bloc Party, Skrillex, Enter Shikari and many more! Aside from the winners tour there are more than 75 festival slots being given away throughout as the competition. In Glasgow the festival partners are B Fest and The Big Stooshie, so several acts will be selected from the region to play at this summer’s events.

Also set to give prizes in Glasgow are Riverside Studios who’ll be selecting acts to give studio time too, and vocal coach Tom Bathgate who will be offering music development classes to selected acts. On top of that there are BlackStar and TC Electronic amps, Natal drum kits and Fret King and Vintage Guitars to be won.

Chris Grayston, Events Director of Live Unsigned said: “Things are really hotting up now the Regional Finals are underway and with such exciting prizes this year there’s a real buzz about the competition. The festival slots and other prizes available on the road to The O2 make this year’s competition our biggest ever. Let’s see what Glasgow has to offer!”

This year’s competition also offers acts an extra chance for exposure as it’s being filmed for Sky TV in an exclusive fly-on-the-wall documentary. All the acts in the competition are battling it out for the chance to play at Live Fest at The O2 in London. The Grand Final is incorporated into London’s biggest indoor festival in July.

Celebrity judges involved in previous years include former Slade front man Noddy Holder, R’n’B star Shola Ama, Radio 1’s Annie Nightingale, Ras Kwame, Tom Deacon and Daniel P Carter, as well as members of top bands such as The Libertines, The Bloodhound Gang, Funeral for a Friend and Kids in Glass Houses. More top names are set to be announced soon.

For more information and to enter online go to the website [link]


Sleeve notes: new bands and old hands


In the news


Major Lazer

Snoop Dogg records reggae album with Major Lazer

Roger Daltrey and Paul Weller consider collaboration

Earl Scruggs, bluegrass banjo legend, dies aged 88

Sonisphere 2012 festival is cancelled

New George Harrison guitar solo uncovered

Deadmau5 accuses Madonna of ecstasy reference at Ultra music festival

On the blog


Grimes - Claire Boucher

Reader’s playlist: Grimes, Wild Beast, Zola Jesus

Behind the music: Turning a studio performance into recorded magic

Why Earl Scruggs was the Beethoven of the banjo

Readers recommend: songs about speed

After Ziggy Stardust, what other fictional stars deserve a blue plaque?

Things to watch and listen to


Chemical Brothers: Don't Think - video

The Chemical Brothers – Don’t Think: exclusive soundtrack stream

Music Weekly podcast, with Alexis Petridis and Kieran Yates

Lightships – Electric Cables: exclusive album stream

New music: Damon Albarn – The Marvelous Dream

Old music: Toto – Africa

Further reading


Drake
Drake. Photograph: C Flanigan

Drake interview: ‘Why do you hate me so much?’

QA: Jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding

Alexis Petridis reviews Labrinth: Electronic Earth

Blog jam: The best independent music writing from the blogosphere

New Band of the Day live


Extra BigKids
BigKids Photograph: Barfly

Up-and-coming acts Angel, BIGKids, Josh Kumra, Michele Stodart and Violet will be performing at New band of the day live, taking place at Barfly in Camden, London, on 11 April. Tickets are priced at £8, or £7 for Guardian Extra members. See here for details of how to attend.

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Mission for Music & Spies guys



Published on Thursday 29 March 2012 10:11

TWO musicians hope to make it to the final of a prestigious talent competition.

Nathan Jackson and Dan Bond, who perform together as Music Spies are taking part in the national Live and Unsigned contest.

Live and Unsigned is the largest competition in the country for unsigned musicians.

The contest sees tens of thousands of acts auditioning in front of experts from the media and major record labels.

Nathan, 20, from Gamlingay and Dan, 21, of Sandy have been performing together for six months and have also made material available to download from their Facebook page.

The two – who work as chefs at the staff canteen at ASDA in Biggleswade – both play acoustic guitars.

Former Sandy Upper School student Dan also sings, while Nathan, who went to Stratton Upper School in Biggleswade will also rap in some songs.

The two impressed judges at auditions held at Bedford Corn Exchange and they will now return to the venue for the regional finals on Easter Sunday, April 8.

Nathan, of Green Acres said: “We will have three minutes and 30 seconds to perform one of our own tracks and a cover song as well.

“We’re very serious about this competition and we would love to be able to make it to the final.

“Our sound is quite hard to define but it is fairly funky and our main influence is Jason Mraz.”

The two, who will play their own song ‘Good Things Happen in the Rain’ and a version of Jessie J’s ‘Price Tag’ want as many music fans from Chronicle Country to attend as possible.

Nathan added: “Members of the audience can vote and will do so for two bands. You can buy tickets from Live and Unsigned or by sending a message to us on Facebook.”

To order search for ‘musicandspies’ on Facebook.


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‘Once you’ve been touched by music then age doesn’t matter’


“DO you fancy a cup of tea?” asks Paul Weller. “I’m just about to make one.”

In his dressing room before the final show of a five-night run at London’s
Roundhouse, the Modfather is getting the drinks in.

A few years ago, celebrating a No1 album or backstage at one of his gigs would
mean a full-on party. But today, a teetotal Weller doesn’t touch anything
stronger than a cup of Tetley’s.

“I haven’t had a hangover in 18 months and I feel great,” says Weller, who
admits that he was an alcoholic
.

“Life is good and I’ve even been driving home after these shows. That would
never have happened before.”

Sonik Kicks, Weller’s 11th solo album, is not only a winner in sales, topping
the album charts on the first week of release
, it’s also one of the
most critically acclaimed of his 35-year career.

And it is remarkable that in the past few years the ex-Jam and Style Council
singer, now 53, has given us his three most experimental albums with Sonik
Kicks, 2010′s Wake Up The Nation and 2008 double 22 Dreams.

Weller ... now aged 53 but still got it

He says: “It’s been a great creative time for me and I’ve lived and worked
long enough to know you have times in life where you’re very, very on it and
others when you’re not. This is something I want to keep going with.”

And it’s not only his music that is experiencing change but his personal
life too.

His
new wife Hannah, 25, gave birth to twin boys, Bowie and John Paul, in January
.

Dressed in a stripy shirt, Paul looks as dapper as always but since quitting
booze, he looks fresher-faced than in the past and his new lifestyle clearly
suits him.

Sipping his tea, he says: “My lovely mother-in-law has been up to help us out
so we’ve slept more this week than we normally do.”

Proudly showing me pictures of his sons on his phone, he says: “Look at them.
They sleep facing each other but they don’t acknowledge each other yet.

“They’re doing well. Both of them have doubled their bodyweight already, which
is not normal apparently. Twins only do that at six months. Here’s another
photo. One of my other sons has been taking millions of pictures of his
skateboard, I see,” he laughs.

The birth of Bowie and John Paul takes the Weller brood up to seven, ranging
from 23 to two months and Dad is intensely proud of all of them.

His eldest, Nat, 23, and Leah, 21, are from his marriage to Style Council
singer Dee C Lee.

Then there’s Dylan, 16, who was born out of a short relationship with her
make-up artist mother Lucy, then Jesamine, 12, and Stevie Mac, six, from his
long relationship with ex-partner Samantha Stock, who Paul left when he met
Hannah Andrews who sang on his album 22 Dreams.

They married in September 2010 on the Italian island of Capri.

“Life throws things at you and you never know what’s going to happen next,” he
says.

“You might have all the plans in the world but that doesn’t mean anything.
Life holds its own secrets and you have to go with them. Sometimes change is
painful but ultimately it’s good.”

Sonik
Kicks is also a family affair
. The psychedelic Dragonfly is adapted
from a poem by Jesamine.

Hannah duets with Weller on the jazzy Study In Blue and Leah and Mac sing on
the album’s closer piano ballad Be Happy Children, a tribute to Weller’s
beloved dad and manager John who died in 2009 after a long illness.

Sonik Kicks ... tops the album charts

Weller says: “Not all my kids are musical. My two eldest ones are and Mac’s
going to follow in my footsteps, I think. He’s just started to play guitar.
He just asked me to show him one day and he’s only six.

“And I hope I have the same relationship with my kids as I did with my dad. He
was a brilliant dad and we were great mates. And we got to spend so much
time together which is pretty unheard of in life.

I still miss him at times but I’ve got more of a philosophical view as I think
he’s with me in whatever form you want to think of it. I can see that
carried through to me and to my kids and hopefully to their kids too.

We don’t entirely die as part of us is carried on and continued in the next
generation.

“As for singing with Hannah, Study In Blue is a great song. I really love it.
We wanted the right song to do a duet, without it being too slushy.

“Hannah sings with me but she’s not a professional singer and she hasn’t got
any aspirations to be that.

“She was brilliant when the twins were born. A proper little trooper. And they
were big for twins. One was 5lb 10oz and the other one was 6lb 3oz.”

Latest single That Dangerous Age is based around a riff similar to The Kinks’
All Day And All Of The Night and David Bowie-style vocals. He says: “Yes,
there is some Bowie in there. I like a lot of his stuff and Hannah is a
massive fan.

First band ... The Jam

“I suppose the song’s theme is born out of when me and Hannah first got
together. Because of our age difference, people really took an interest in
it, saying I must be having a mid-life crisis. But we just fell in love and
that’s it.

“I’m of the opinion, once you’ve been touched by music then age doesn’t
matter. What are you supposed to do, put away your records and clothes when
you get to a certain age?

“My mum is 71 and she still listens to the records she’s always listened to.

“That Dangerous Age is a character study about a guy who’s in mid-life, who’s
got a good job and is dissatisfied and regrets all the things he’s never
done.

“But it’s certainly not about me. I had my mid-life crisis when I was in my
thirties.”

Dragonfly and The Attic feature Blur’s Graham Coxon. He’s not the only mate
Weller’s got in on the album either.

Noel Gallagher plays on three tracks The Attic, Around The Lake and When
Your Garden Is Overgrown and long-term friend and Ocean Colour Scene
guitarist Steve Cradock appears on a number of songs.

“Yep the extended family features on the record as well as the family,” he
smiles. “It was a fun album to make.”

One relationship that has suffered, though, in recent times is that of
co-songwriter and producer Simon Dine, who has been credited as helping with
Weller’s rebirth. The pair fell out over money, and went their separate
ways.

Paul says: “Yes, we both worked on this record together but we fell out
towards the end. I don’t really want to go into it but it was over money.

“I know there’s been mention of him being the reason behind my rebirth,” he
smirks. “But for the past 35 years I’ve put out pretty good records without
him too.”

Listening to electronic music, Weller thinks, has really shaped his new sound
on Kling I Klang and album opener Green, a psychedelic mindbender that might
even surprise some of his die-hard fans.

“It’s certainly one to make people sit up straight away and realise we’re in
for a different ride,” he says. “It’s bold, with a Kraftwerk thing going on.
There are about two or three tracks on the album that they have influenced.

“Electronic music is something I’d never heard before but I checked some out a
couple of years ago.”

One-off shows ... Weller on stage

On Paul’s five nights at London’s Roundhouse last week, he played Sonik Kicks
in its entirety. And he says this year will all be about selective shows so
he can spend time with his family.

He explains: “We’re just going to do some one-off shows and make them as
special as we can.

“A few dates in Europe and we’ve got a couple of gigs in New York then other
stuff later in the year, like the Latitude festival. It’s all about picking
and choosing really.

“You just get to a certain age and you can’t really do it anymore.

“It’s the same with smoking. I quit for nine months then started again in the
last month it must be stress but after tonight I’m stopping again.

“The changes have been good for me, so has my new family.

“It’s all about looking ahead and there’s plenty of that to come.”

Sonik Kicks is out now.




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