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Spike, The Quireboys: Interview about his Album 100% Pure Frankie Miller – August 2014

Louise and Spike at Moho Manchester: 29th November 2011
Louise and Spike at Moho Manchester: 29th November 2011

I spoke to Spike, frontman from The Quireboys the day before he set off for America/Canada where he is currently on tour with The Quireboys. Spike is releasing an album of songs written by singer-songwriter Frankie Miller, before he suffered a brain haemorrhage which left him in a coma for five weeks. Find out why Spike wanted to release the album 100% Pure Frankie Miller, which will be released through Cargo records on the 8th September 2014. Plus there’s a few questions about The Quireboys. A transcript of our conversation is below. My questions/comments in bold. There’s also a link to my review of the album for PlanetMosh.

Hello. How are you? Whereabouts in the world are you today?

Hello. How are you doing? It’s a hectic day. I leave for Los Angeles at 10.30 tomorrow morning.

Wow. That’s amazing! Better get your packing done and get everything ready!

I know. I haven’t even booked my train yet. Ha Ha (laughs). We start The Quireboys American Tour. America and Canada for four weeks.

Are you looking forward to it?

Yeah. It should be good. I haven’t been to America for ten years. I’m looking forward to it. We start off at The Whisky (Whisky a Go Go, Los Angeles). Should be good.

Should be fantastic! Today I wanted to ask mainly about your new album. 100% Pure Frankie Miller. Coming out in September. What made you want to sing the songs of Frankie Miller?

What happened was, I’d recorded another couple of his songs on an album. It’s a Treat to Be Alive (2005) and Annette Miller his wife, would bring Frankie to Quireboys gigs. We got to become really good friends and one day she (Annette) said to us ‘Look, I’ve got about 300 songs of Frankie’s that nobody’s ever heard. Some of them are unfinished. Some of them are just demos. They were all just demo’s which he’d done in his home studio. I went through these basically to keep Frankie’s music alive. He’s such a prolific and great songwriter and probably the greatest Rock Singer ever. Originally I was going to do a Country album but once Simon Kirke and Andy Fraser got involved, I thought I’ve got to put a couple of rockers on there, a bit more up-tempo and everything. That’s how it came about really. I didn’t want to do a tribute album to Frankie; what I wanted to do was, hopefully, keep his songs out there, if it was viable. I wanted to keep his music alive and do a few more albums of his stuff. Everybody who plays on the album knows Frankie, knows me. I didn’t want to have people on there that we didn’t know, so it wasn’t a tribute as such. Ronnie Wood is a very good friend of Frankie’s. I’ve played with the Stones before. I was at the Classic Rock Awards and his (Ronnie’s) son Jesse, who I’ve known for years, since he was about 15 was there. He (Ronnie) was there with his son, and we were talking about the Frankie album. This has been ongoing for four to five years on and off. He (Ronnie) said he’d love to play on this, as he was such good friends with him back in the day, and that’s how it came about. Bonnie Tyler is one of Frankie’s best friends as well and she was straight in on it. It all worked out really good in the end.

How is Frankie? I know he had a brain haemorrhage but other than that I don’t really much about him. Did he write all these songs before or has he done any writing since?

He can’t write any more. He can’t really speak any more. These songs range from the seventies up until his brain haemorrhage in the early nineties. I don’t know which years were which of his songs (written), but I could probably find out. There were so many songs. Annette knows when everything was written. They do range from the 1970s up until the 1990s.

Does Frankie still come to gigs?

He can walk a bit and still gets around. He comes to concerts and everything like that. He mainly communicates best through Annette.

What does he think of the album?

The good thing about the album is that every step of the way I would be sending it to Frankie. I’d send it to him and if he didn’t like the violin here or something, or if he didn’t like the guitar bit here, he’d say can we change this? He was involved all the way through.

Brilliant. So it’s turned out as he envisaged in the first place?

Yes and the funniest thing is, what I’d done was, obviously with modern technology, everything had to be sent away. Billy did his drums in New York. Andy Fraser did his bit in Los Angeles so in the end I got everything together and took it into the Rockfield Studios in Wales, put it back onto the old tape and ran every track single through the old tape to try and get that old, lovely sound. It was very strange because when I was in Rockfield I met the guy who owns it, Kingsley (Ward), he was the engineer on Frankie’s first album which was recorded at Rockfield, so that was a bit of a twist as well. I didn’t know that. He was telling me lots of stories about him (Frankie). It was really good.

Have you got all The Quireboys playing the music with you? I saw their names down as collaborating with you.

They’ve done a few songs, Paul, Griff and Keith. They play on a couple of songs.

I got it sent yesterday so I’ve had a quick listen. Obviously I could tell Bonnie Tyler but who else is on which track? Which one is Ronnie Wood on?

Ronnie Wood is on Cocaine, Keepin’ It All for You and I’m Losing You

You’re a big fan of The Rolling Stones so what’s it like to collaborate with Ronnie? Do you get star struck?

Ha Ha (laughs). He’s such an easy going bloke it’s hard to be star struck about him. Obviously it’s like ‘Here’s Ronnie Wood’ but it was really cool you know.

You couldn’t get Mick Jagger in to do one (song)?

I didn’t ask actually (laughs). I’ll ask him for the next album.

What was it like singing with Bonnie Tyler on Fortune? I thought her voice was like the female equivalent of your voice.

That’s really funny because I played it to me Mam ages ago and she said ‘Which bit’s you?’ (Laughs) My Mam was getting a bit confused when she heard it. I think we complement each other really good on it. It’s such a beautiful song. She’s such a wonderful woman, she’s grand.

Spike: 100% Frankie Miller: Album Cover, Artwork by Tyla
Spike: 100% Frankie Miller: Album Cover, Artwork by Tyla

Then you’ve got Tyla on there. I know you’ve collaborated with him quite a lot in the past. Which songs is he on?

He’s on Bottle of Whisky

I’m surprised that he’s on that one! ;)

Ha Ha! I think he’s on Bottle of Whisky and Cocaine. Tyla did the album cover for us. They’re also releasing it on coloured vinyl as well.

Vinyl seems to be making a come-back. You get a better sound from vinyl. The crackling.

That’s right – yeah.

You’ve got a tour coming up with The Quireboys. Are you going to incorporate any of the songs into a Quireboys set at all?

No. What we’ll do is keep it all separate. I’ve got two weeks when I get back from America to sort out, maybe, a tour for next year and I’ll do Frankie’s stuff. It’s obviously pulling everybody together. Everybody I’ve spoken to seems up for doing it so, hopefully, we’ll do it early next year.

That should be good. I was at an acoustic gig earlier this year. I’ve been to loads of full band gigs and I was at the second ‘sold out’ gig at The Half Moon. That was fabulous. How did it feel for The Quireboys to be back where it started?

It was very strange. Everybody says that they were there (the first gig) but I think there were 10 people. Everybody who was there says they were at our first gig and if you go by that there were about 250 people at our first gig but there was actually only around 10! (Laughs)

Well I definitely wasn’t at the first gig but I was at the anniversary gig.

It was really good fun. It was really nice to be back. It was really just to thank the fans. The band started 30 years ago. It’s not when the first album was but that’s when I started the band. I actually started the band when I was 17.

Early Quireboys
Early Quireboys

Back then, 30 years ago, did you think that you would still be going now? Did you think that far ahead?

Do you know what? I was having the time of my life. I just wanted to keep going and see how far we could get it. It took a lot of hard work. People forget it took us 7 years to get a record deal. We were selling out The Dominion Theatre and we still hadn’t got a record deal, but everything came together in the end.

Recently you seem to have sold out a lot of gigs you seem to be coming back into being really popular.

We had a break for a while then came back in 2000 and have just been trying to build it up and up, as best we can. Luckily we played a lot in Europe when the band was big. We’ve still got a great following in Europe and everywhere else. Hence we’re going back to America and stuff like that. We seem to be picking up again, which is great. Can’t complain.

Who’s coming with you to America, as in the drummer and bass player? Have you got the same people who played with you in England this year, or have you got different people?

Unfortunately Nick couldn’t make America because he’s got commitments. He’s a record producer so we’re having a guy called Gaz on bass, who was actually in Glimmer which was Guy Griffin’s band, which he was signed to on Atlantic when The Quireboys stopped for a while. He’s an old friend of ours so it will be good. We’re going straight into The Whisky, no rehearsals so I hope he’s learnt his songs!

Ha Ha – yes I hope he remembers them all. Before you go what have you got planned for the future, the long term. Do you think you’ll still be going in another 10 years?

Do you know what? I’ve been doing this since I was 17 so it’s the only thing that I know. As long as my voice holds out I’ll keep on singing. Keep on playing. Trying to keep English Rock ‘n’ Roll alive.

Thank you very much for speaking to us.

Thank you very much. God Bless.

Links:

PlanetMosh Review of the Albumhttps://planetmosh.com/spike-100-pure-frankie-miller/

The Quireboys Tour Dates: http://www.quireboys.com/on-the-road.html

Spike’s Website: http://www.thequireboysspike.com/

About Louise Swift

I first went to a gig in 1981, Gillan at Leeds University. I've been a regular gig goer ever since. I haven't kept count of how many gigs I've been to over the intervening years, but it's a lot! My favourite bands are AC/DC then, in no particular order, Anti-Nowhere League, Slaughter and the Dogs, Towers of London and Dirt Box Disco. I tend to like Glam/Punk and rude offensive lyrics, not sure what that says about me but as Animal would say 'So What!' The question was recently put to me - did I write for any online publications? My reply - No, but I'd like to! Planetmosh was suggested and I found myself offering to review Aces High Festival. Easy peasy I thought! Well not quite, if a jobs worth doing it's worth doing well! I had sixteen bands to research. I found I actually enjoyed that and it kept me too busy to be making lunatic comments on Facebook! ;) Then I felt a bit inadequately qualified. I mean, who am I to comment on others, when my musical expertise extends to being able to play a mean Greensleeves on the recorder and a passable Annie's song on the flute! Haven't picked up either instrument for years! What I do have, however, is over 30 years of experience as a gig goer, so I can comment on what I like and what I don't! It's only my opinion and, if I don't like a band it doesn't mean they are bad, just not to my own liking. I admire anyone who has the guts to get up on that stage and have a go!