~ Snakes & Ladders ~
Dirty rock ‘n’ rollers Twisted Wheel have recently announced their return with a new line up, a new tour and news that they are working on a new album. We caught up with frontman and driver of ‘The Wheel’ Jonny Brown.
First of all, I would like to say welcome back to you and the Twisted Wheel lads on your return.
“It’s an honour, thank you very much.”
With ‘laddish’ band splitting lately you are very much needed at the minute as there is a void there to fill.
“Yeah it’s all a bit wet at the minute innit, I’m not getting into slagging bands off but there needs to be some rock and roll attraction.”
There is always a riot at your gigs and it’s very much needed now isn’t it?
“Yeah it definitely is and I can’t wait to get back. This tour is selling because of the old stuff, there will be new stuff released before we go on tour which I’m looking forward to because, obviously I have played them old songs for years. I mean it’s great how people have stuck by us, do you know what I mean? The hardcore fans from years ago, they still love it and that means more than anything to be honest.”
It’s been amazing seeing your tour dates getting bigger and bigger, longer and longer every day. Is there anywhere you’re not playing at the minute? You seem to be in everybody’s Town.
”Yeah, there are still a few people complaining. Norwich for instance, Wales and parts of Scotland. It’s hard to get around in Scotland init, we’ve got quite a few friends up there but we are only doing Glasgow and Dunfermline on this run but you can’t please everyone can you? Especially at this point starting again and on a budget so it has to be worthwhile but we’re definitely going to be playing everywhere and there are more places to play. There are a load of good ones on the tour that we’ve played before but haven’t played for years. The tickets are selling well all round.”
I’m from Grimsby and I’ve seen you play here twice already so I will definitely be at the Cleethorpes gig.
“It will be a good gig that, The Darlies on with us there. I’ve been speaking to their frontman Richard and know Chris from Orphan Boy. I played Cleethorpes recently on my acoustic tour, it was a good crowd so I’m looking forward to getting back there.”
During that acoustic tour at what point did you think I’m going to get the ‘Wheel’ rolling again?
“I couldn’t put a date on it but we sort of started this band last year, we were going to go under a different name, it was all new songs and we started throwing a few ‘Wheel’ songs in and then we went away for a bit. I started these acoustic gigs and thought, ‘you know what… I need a band, I’m not going folk right yet i’ll wait till I’m about 45 for that. I need to rock out.”
Can you tell us a bit about the other band members, have they been in any other bands we might have heard of?
“The guitarist and the drummer have been in pub cover bands but they have never toured and done the sort of stuff that the ‘Wheel’ have done. The bass player was the frontman and guitarist in a band called Shadow Palace, he is a really talented musician and he is smashing it. It’s good because they’re really hungry for it, there is nothing else they want more in the world than doing this, the recording and the touring, you know what I mean?”
You have been working on some new tracks are you working towards a new album?
“Well yeah, there is enough songs there for an album but I wouldn’t mind doubling that so you can take your pick. The creativity between us is thriving and I’ve got loads of songs from the old days that I want to reincarnate so we’re definitely not short of songs. I recorded some vocals on one of my friends songs last night and my voice is great! Well, I’ve always struggled singing and favoring a punky/shouty style but there are some sweet melodies going on and I don’t think people will expect that. I really can’t wait for people to hear them.”
I know it’s been an up and down few years for you so ‘Snakes & Ladders’ tour is a brilliant name, is this also being considered for the album title?
“Not sure on the album title yet, it will probably have a different name and tour under that name too. ‘Snakes & Ladders’ is a really old song that I wrote before I even started the band but the concept of the song is up the ladders down the snakes, you win some you lose some which is sort of the story of my life. It is a great name for the tour we’re definitely back on the ladder now and the serpents are dead so hopefully all the way up.”
I like the whole statement that went with the announcement. it felt like, ‘yeah, they’re back!
“We are back and it’s needed like you said earlier, I think people are going to realise what we are, we are true and it’s from the heart. I give 110% unless I’m ill you know what I mean? You go watch some of these new indie bands and it’s almost half hearted, not all of them but most of them. I think us oldies need to show them how to do it. The music speaks for itself with us, if the music’s good the fans will get stuck in. There’s no better buzz than seeing the fans go off and singing all your words, our fans are mental… A little too mental sometimes but when you see the passion in their faces it’s a nice warmth.”
I see you were asking about people’s memories of a Riot after one of your gigs at The Ritz, what happened there?
“Oh yeah, it was all accidental really. We had just signed to Columbia and we had a film crew with us, for some reason after the gig I decided to go outside with an acoustic guitar and it just went off. There is a little video of it but you don’t really see all of what happened. A coach full of pensioners got caught in the riot on whitworth Street, these pensioners were looking out the windows in disgust as people were pulling hubcaps off cars, frisbeeing them and shouting wheel. The police got involved in the end and said I have to get out of Manchester for 24 hours so I missed the after party at Night & Day.”
Do you think there are any new bands on the scene at the minute that could insight a Riot?
“I know Cabbage have had some mental gigs, other than putting them on a little stage at Party In The Pines I’ve not really seen them though. The Blinders are great and I’ve started to notice a few bands popping up like Sheafs.”
Your second album Do It Again was a little bit more mature but also a little bit all over the place. What direction should we expect from your new album?
“It is a new Direction, a transition with one or two songs slightly Twisted Wheel. The second album as far I’m concerned was a disaster, it was all low budget, we were all off our heads, we didn’t know what was doing and it was a complete mess. No disrespect to anybody who helped us out producers and stuff. The song choice wasn’t right, my voice was bad and I’d like to forget about that album.”
I like Double Yellow Lines off that album, it takes you all over the place and you can never pin it down.
“We’ve got a full on band version of that now, it is one of the old ones we sort of brought back. It was always sort of an acoustic track and now it is this immense classic rock kind of track. It is quite a meaningful song to me. There was this kid called Jesse James from Manchester, he got shot in a crossfire between gangs shooting at each other and he was on his bike. Jesse James what’s the name of an outlaw cowboy wasn’t it, so I decided to create western, sort of duel shoot ’em up just after the first chorus. Yeah, it means a lot to me that song, Double yellow lines… Great song.”
“On this new album I’m going to have a lot more say in it, what songs are going on, the sound and the production. Musically I’m a lot more switched on than I was back in the day. To be honest we started a band, 6 months later we signed to Sony and we didn’t have a clue what we were doing.”
Then you where everywhere weren’t you and playing with everybody.
“Well yeah, within two years I had supported 90% of my musical inspirations and heroes. Paul Weller, Happy Mondays, Ian Brown and Oasis. There are a lot of bands that would give anything to do that, know what I mean? We were lucky but at the same time we deserved it, all them bands really liked us and chose us to play we didn’t pay to go on tour with any of them. I’ll never not appreciate those days.”
I remember Liam Gallagher at that time saying, “You are a breath of fresh air.”
“Yeah he did, we got on very well and I remember him dedicating ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’ to me at Wembley Arena which made my day.”
He’s another one who’s giving the scene a boot with his Comeback isn’t he.
He seems to have the kids on side too, the ones who never saw Oasis and that has been a big boost for him.
“Exactly, exactly yeah and on a smaller scale that is what’s happening to us. I’ve been looking at the online tickets and there seems to be a lot of youngsters buying. The thing with our fans is it’s very diverse, you get the old punks who watched the likes of Stiff Little Fingers, you also get the britpop 90s lot who love the ‘Wheel’ and you have the new generation.”
Do you know what the first single is going to be yet and when we will hear it?
“It should be out in April and it’s between two songs. I’ll only name one of them which is a transition from the classic ‘Wheel’ sound to the new sound and it’s called ‘Jonny Guitar’.”
Nice one for talking to us today Jonny. Best of luck with the tour, singles and the album.
“No worries at all, thank you very much.”
(Interview By – Marc Whiffen)