I spoke to Guy Griffin, guitarist for The Quireboys, at Sheffield Corporation earlier this year, after he kindly agreed to an impromptu interview (here). I caught up with him before their gig at Manchester Academy, last weekend. Find out what The Quireboys have been up to this year, why he changes guitars during a Quireboys set, what’s coming next year and more: –
Since we last spoke you seem to have been touring fairly relentlessly, does that seem about right?
Yeah. We’ve only just got back from Germany three days ago and then we start straight into the UK thing, before that we were in Sweden and Norway, and then before that America for five weeks so yeah it’s been pretty full on.
Do you enjoy touring or does it take it’s toll now and again?
It takes it’s toll now and again (laughs). No, it’s alright. You know, it has it’s ups and downs but we enjoy playing the shows and some of the other stuff. It’s the travelling and hanging around, trying to find whatever opportunity you can to sleep. That’s about it really, that’s life on the road.
When you’re out do you all have to bunk up together?
No, that stopped a long time ago. Some people can deal with sharing with each other and some people can’t. Put it that way!
Any nasty habits that you dare mention?
Probably just when you’re sharing a room with someone snoring! (laughs).
So, go on then, which of The Quireboys snores?
Oh. I can’t give that away.
Oh well. I can but ask!
I definitely don’t snore. All men say that don’t they? (laughs)
You had the 30th Anniversary gig at The Half Moon at Putney and that was sold out within hours so you had to put on an extra night.
Oh yeah. Forgot about that one (laughs). That seems like ages ago now.
How did that go?
It was really fun actually. Really cool. I hadn’t actually ever played there before, that was before I joined. The whole anniversary thing makes me laugh. Technically it is thirty years since Spike first ever met Guy Bailey I guess. I didn’t join until a couple of years in. I didn’t join until 1989 so I guess I’m a relative newcomer. The Putney thing was really cool, specially to play two nights. The second night, especially, was really good. I don’t think we’d played for a while so the first night was a bit sort of ….. It was great but it was a little bit shaky in parts and the second night was really great for us.
Was the second night the actual anniversary of the first gig? I know it was an anniversary show but I don’t know if it was the exact day, because it sold out then they added another show.
Let’s just go with it (laughs)
It was? Right!
I don’t know. Probably not but it’s to the year.
I came to the second night, it was really good, really enjoyed it.
It’s a really cool venue, nice little venue.
Yeah it wasn’t particularly good for taking photos, but it was a good venue. Then you did Hard Rock Hell Ibiza. How was that?
That’s usually good fun. It’s a bit crazy but fun. Our manager, Jonni Davis, he does Hard Rock Hell, he does that. That’s his thing. We go out there, do a show then we hang around for a few days. He takes us out around the island and dines us and everything. It’s good fun. I think we’ve done it the last three years, the last two years in a row anyway.
I know they’re already selling tickets for next year. I actually won tickets to go this year but I couldn’t go.
It’s good fun.
Maybe next time. I’ll have to see.
It’s not a huge thing. It’s not like Hard Rock Hell, over here.
You’re doing Sweden Rocks (next year) that looks good.
That will be good, yeah. I can’t remember who’s headlining. We found out about that a while back. Sweden Rocks is always a good one to do. That’s my favourite festival, rock festival anyway.
I looked at going with some friends but it’s too expensive.
Yeah it’s Swedish prices but it’s good because you get the same bands who would be headlining, say Download or whatever, but it’s like half the amount of people. I think there’s about a forty thousand cap on it, so it’s a little more manageable and civilised than some of these bigger festivals.
You mentioned that you’ve just done a tour of America. What were the highlights?
It was good fun. We hooked up with Faster Pussycat. We go back a long way with Taime (Downe) and Danny. I knew Danny from when he was in a band called The Throbs, back when we were starting out, which was the band that Ginger joined briefly after The Quireboys. That was good fun. We saw Chip Z’Nuff who’s actually on a big syndicated radio show over there now. It has, like, eight million listeners every morning. He’s like the side-kick guy on it and we actually got to play live on it in Chicago, which was really cool. Chicago was great. Los Angeles was brilliant, we sold out the Whisky (a Go Go). It was nice to play there, especially since it’s closing down.
What a shame.
When you came back from Canada you played a random gig in Holmfirth. I can’t quite work out why you just did a random gig?
Well, it’s like when people take a look at our schedule none of it makes sense. What it was, was I think there was some kind of festival. A Biker festival that was up North somewhere.
Cumbria, well there you go you remember better than I.
Ah well. I have to research you see.
Usually you don’t want to do one show. It’s difficult for us to get together and do anything because everyone lives in different parts of the country. I’m in Bedford. Spike’s in Birmingham. Paul’s in Yorkshire. Dave, our drummer’s up in Glasgow. Keith’s moving back to Ireland in December. It’s like, just to get us all into one place, not only is it costly but you want to do at least two shows in a row, and that was booked way before the U.S. tour. We’d already taken the deposits and stuff. We don’t like to cancel shows. We were a bit worse for wear because we hadn’t had hardly any sleep in five weeks in America then we were in Holmfirth but it was actually a brilliant gig. It was a great audience and good fun.
Yeah it’s a good venue. I was at that gig.
We played there with Down ‘n’ Outz a couple of years ago.
I hadn’t been there before, but my parents don’t live that far from there. I noticed something, which you’ve probably done before, but before I started writing I didn’t take as much notice, you swap guitars and I wondered why you would swap guitars for certain songs?
Well, basically, I’m the one that got lumbered back in the day, from when we did the first album playing in this open G tuning. Certain songs like Hey You, There She Goes Again, This is Rock ‘n’ Roll, Tramps and Thieves and even 7 O’Clock was in this open G tuning, but I play it in normal tuning now but on the record it was in open tuning. It’s a real pain in the arse is the tuning because it’s really hard to keep it in tune because it’s all tuned for one chord so when you strum it, it’s one chord. Basically Keith Richards and The Faces they all use that tuning.
Do you use the slide much?
I can only really play slide in open tuning so any of the slide songs that’s in that tuning. Whereas Paul (Guerin) can play slide in any tuning. He’s a lot more adept at it than I am.
Right – well I won’t ask what it is! I’ll just note that.
Yeah we won’t get too technical.
When did you start playing the guitar?
I got a guitar when I was about twelve and learnt a few chords like Mull of Kintyre and that kind of stuff (laughs) then I think I sort of lost interest for a bit then when I was about fourteen, fifteen maybe I picked it up again and wanted to get an electric and just jumped straight in really. I got a band together with some friends at school, all that kind of thing. I’d say seriously from when I was about fourteen/fifteen.
An acoustic. Definitely learn on an acoustic, a steel string acoustic. You’ve got to do something that keeps your interest. Sometimes you can go for lessons and it gets a little bit too technical. That’s when I, kind of, lost interest when I was first having lessons. They tried to teach me all this jazz, awful stuff, and I wasn’t interested. I thinks it’s about where they can keep you interested. Nowadays it’s so easy to learn guitar because there’s so many ….. well you’ve got the internet. If I want to learn a song I just go in the internet and go on YouTube and somebody’s posted up how to play the song so it’s a lot easier for kids now to learn if they want to. Plus all the guitars are much better than they used to be. When I was a kid a cheap guitar could put you off playing because they were so hard to play. They weren’t very good but now all the guitars are pretty good. So yeah, start on acoustic, forget all that lead stuff until later.
Until you get a bit better
If you weren’t in The Quireboys, and all your other bands, what would you like to have done?
I dunno, I mean I like travelling so anything that would have involved seeing the world. The only thing I’ve had any focus on in life is music. I’ve been a bit tunnel visioned like that. I guess I was incredibly lucky even though I worked at it. Worked hard at it, to actually get into the situation where I joined The Quireboys at the time when it was a big thing and from when I was about twenty years old I was out in Los Angeles making a record with top producers and stuff. I never doubted it. When you’re younger you have a lot of confidence. I had a lot more confidence when I was younger probably than I do now. I never really thought of doing anything else really.
It’s good that you’ve made a career of it. In terms of bands what bands do you like listening to?
Well, I like listening to all sorts of stuff. You go through phases. I have all the stuff that I’ve always liked. I don’t really listen to Rock Music a lot. I love The Rolling Stones and I love AC/DC and maybe a bit of Aerosmith sometimes. I love Free but I couldn’t say I really listen to a lot of modern stuff. Obviously you take a listen to stuff because you see all these bands who are in the same magazines as us and that kind of thing. I like listening to all the old stuff. I like Bowie and Iggy Pop, Clash, Sex Pistols, blah blah blah. The Beatles but I like old soul stuff as well and country and blues and all kinds of things, anything that’s good.
You had Black Eyed Sons out and that was your thirtieth anniversary triple pack. We never got one to review so did you get a good reaction to that?
It seems to have had a good reaction. We did ‘Beautiful Curse‘ and that got all these great reviews and stuff and that was really cool because you could see things had turned a little bit for us. You know, some of the media and stuff were actually latching back on to us again. That was quite a milestone and then ‘Black Eyed Sons‘ was only a year later. We haven’t really dwelled on it that much. We’re doing a couple of songs in the set and they’re going down well. The record’s had great reviews and everything so we can’t really complain.
Very good. You’ve just re-released ‘This is Rock n Roll’ which I actually reviewed but I hadn’t heard it the first time round. It’s quite interesting to ask, as you’re in the band, I picked up similarities. I got The Rolling Stones, Black Crowes, a bit of The Beatles, The Kinks. Do you think that would that be a, kind of, fair assessment?
Yeah I could probably name you which songs you think sound like which. I mean The Kinks would have been Six Degrees. (Review here)
Yeah one of them I said Sunny Afternoon. The Black Crowes was Twice As Hard I’m trying to remember the songs now! Primal Scream I said for This is Rock ‘n’ Roll
Yeah, the same drum beat but I think they got that from the same source as we did.
They probably did.
We were always really proud of that album. I thought it was a really good album. I remember when it first ever came out. I remember it was Classic Rock, which is quite funny because now we get on really well with Classic Rock, but whoever reviewed it under a pseudonym. They took a full page review and it was the worst review I’ve ever read for any band, It was almost like an assassination attempt.
Yeah you must kind of wonder then if that’s something personal.
Well it was obviously. We kind of got to the bottom of it. Then it was re-released and it gets a good review in there (laughs). With hindsight I think it stood the test of time. All the people who worked on it are all top producers and the guy who mastered it was the guy who masters all The Rolling Stones’ albums. There was quite a lot of time and effort put into that album. There was a lot of money sunk into at the time by Sanctuary Records. That’s kind of why we got back together me and Spike.
You re-recorded four of the songs from ‘A Little Bit of What You Fancy’ but you didn’t write those did you?
No. Guy Bailey and I guess Spike to a degree.
My only complaint was in the song ‘7 O’Clock’ the words ‘Dirty Device’ are missing and that was my complaint! Other than that…
Yeah. Hidden by a laugh.
I know there’s been something said about a couple of these re-records but to be honest, I haven’t listened to them since we did them. Once we’ve recorded something I kind of move on but it was nice to play them in the studio with the band we’ve got now. The songs have all changed over the years. They’ve got their own personality now, from the people who are playing them now.
So you’re touring with The Quireboys over the next couple of weeks and then you’re out on tour with the Down ‘n’ Outz.
So Down ‘n’ Outz is Joe Elliott’s baby?
Yeah, It’s Joe’s thing. It’s his passion.
I haven’t really seen much of Def Leppard recently
They’ve been in America with Kiss on tour and they’ve almost finished their new album from what I’ve heard so they’ll be busy again next year.
Back to Down ‘n’ Outz. Would you say that they would appeal to Quireboy’s fans or is it something different?
I think it would appeal to most of The Quireboys fans. I mean we’re all massively influenced by Mott The Hoople so I would think that any of our fans who have got an open mind would like it. Some of it is a bit out there but Mott The Hoople was. We enjoy doing it. It’s a challenge doing that stuff because it’s a lot more complicated than what I have to play with The Quireboys. It’s a lot more nerve-racking for me. It’s fun though. (Info and tour dates here)
I’ve seen a bit (on video) but I don’t think there’s any gigs that I would be able to go to. Which is a shame but there you go. What can we expect from The Quireboys in the near future?
Apparently we’re supposed to be back in the studio again in January or so I’ve been told by our manager. Next year we’re probably going to re-release one of our other albums and also we’re going to do a new acoustic album so in January we’re going to start working on it and hopefully get the whole thing recorded. Basically ‘Halfpenny Dancer‘ It will be ‘Halfpenny Dancer II’ and we’re thinking of doing it as a triple or quadruple pack like we did on this last thing (Black Eyed Sons). We’ve got that and we’ll be doing another acoustic tour early next year. Going into Europe and the Festivals and stuff.
So busy, busy, busy.
Back on the treadmill, yeah.
Thank you very much for speaking to us.
Review of the gig: http://planetmosh.com/the-quireboys-manchester-academy-3-16th-november-2014/