Events conspired against me with this interview: my laptop died the night before the interview was scheduled and I forgot my phone the day it was supposed to happen. Thankfully, a change of time was suggested which let me get better and organised (or so I thought). So, a couple of days later than originally planned, my phone rang and I was relieved to hear Mr Bloater introduce himself. The recorder was started and off we went… except about ten minutes into the interview, the recorder decided the batteries I had only just inserted weren’t new after all and switched itself off. Of course, I did not notice this and so a chunk of the interview was lost. Technology: don’t you just love it!
What follows is a transcript of what I managed to record with some sketching in of the bits I missed. Or, as much as I remember about the missing material.
Thank you for taking the time to speak to The Moshville Times.
It’s an absolute pleasure to have a chat with you. I really appreciate your time, so thank you very much.
You’ve announced some new tour dates, starting in January 2017 but it seems to me you are permanently on tour; you’re always doing something. Is that what it feels like to you?
[Laughs] You know what, I could do more! It’s always the way. You kinda feel busy when you are busy and then you feel like you’re sitting around for weeks on end doing nothing. I think I’ve probably got quite a good presence out there. Obviously Mascot [His record label – David] are doing what they can, so I guess I’m always popping up here and there… but I’d like to be doing a lot more work. Definitely.
Is playing live what you like best? Or in the studio? Or a bit of both? Where would you put your heart?
I think they’re both very different beasts. I guess I get something different out of each of them. Playing live is kind of like, being out with your mates for a night out. The band on stage are all my mates. We love playing and it’s great when you get an audience you can click with. I’m probably a live artist… mostly… but I do love being in the studio as well and having the chance to tinker with things. You know, “Let’s try it in this key”, or, “Put the electric guitar through the gas main and let’s see what happens”. [Don’t try that at home, kids! – David] I’m kind of happy in both places.
It’s good to hear a man happy at his work, and it comes across! Does it feel good touring as the headline act? I’m guessing you’ve done your fair share as “support act”.
Yeah. I’ve done a fair few supports from medium to quite large ones, both with the band and solo, and I’ve also done session work backing up people. So, I’ve seen all sides of it. It’s very different. When you are doing support you have to know your place; get on and get off on time. It’s the old thing: always be nice to people on the way up because you’ll meet them again when you come down… when they’ll give you a good kicking! [Laughs]
You say, “Get off on time” – I understand that was one of the inspirations for the “Not Cool Man” track from the Luxury Hobo album because you got a row from a roadie for going a minute over.
I think we were about thirty seconds over actually. It was a very odd support. It was for George Thorogood and it was kind of an odd show anyway. We had to take all our own sound gear. It was a big show and normally that would be supplied. So, we had the added problem of getting our gear on and off stage and we just went thirty seconds over. As we were coming off, the sound guy was going, “That’s not cool, man!”. So, that became a catch-phrase in the band for a few weeks.
It all fed in and came out creatively in that track. I particularly liked your rhyme of “mankini” with “martini”! That’s just gorgeous.
[Laughs] I think I might have set myself a challenge with that one; to use some ridiculous words. I managed to get “mankini” in a song, so I’m quite pleased with that.
Well, I can’t think of another song with “mankini” in the lyrics, never mind rhyming it.
I’m sure there are some!
Is there anything we should be looking forward to with these new dates? Are you trying out new material?
The first show of the year, I’m going to be doing solo. It’s just a one-off show at the end of January in Basingstoke. I’m going to be playing some of my songs and talking about how they came about. I’ll be talking about some of the people I’ve worked with as well, so I’ll probably do some of their songs. Then, in February, it’s back in full blast with The LiMiTs [Big Boy Bloater’s band – David], so we’ll be playing some songs from Luxury Hobo. I’ve had quite an eventful year, this year, and it’s been quite inspirational song-wise. So, I’m sort of itching to get some new songs out. There might be a few creeping in… maybe.
That will be something your fans will enjoy, I’m sure. When you say, “eventful”, you’ve talked a bit about the problems you’ve had with depression and so on; I’m hoping that the “eventful” was a good “eventful” this year.
Nothing as bad as three or four years ago when I had a real bout of bad depression. But it’s been a very trying year. I had some wrong people in the organisation, shall we say. I’ve just about managed to sort that out now but it had repercussions throughout the year. It’s made me think a lot about the business: the way it works and the way it doesn’t work sometimes.
Have you taken more control yourself then, or are you just finding people you can trust?
I wouldn’t say I didn’t trust these people but sometimes you hit it off with people and sometimes you don’t. The guys in the band are all fantastic; we all hit it off together both musically and personality-wise. On the business side this year, with Luxury Hobo coming out, it’s the first time I’ve been working with a record label. Everybody at Mascot has been great but it’s been middle management really, so I’ve had to cut that back a bit. I’ve been doing a bit of it myself but I’ve still got some really great people I can rely on. And now, we’re all on the same page… I hope.
I want to come back to The LiMiTs in a wee second but before we leave this, it seems to me, there must be many more artists who suffer from the same issues as yourself but don’t talk about it. How did you feel about taking the step to talk about your breakdown?
Umm… do you know what? I think, actually, most of my problem, with my depression, was that I didn’t acknowledge it for so long. I thought, “There’s nothing wrong with me. It’s everybody else.” The first big step in sorting it out was admitting it and starting to talk about it. So, actually, it seemed like a logical thing to carry on talking about it because I’d been writing about it in the album. As Bob Hoskins said, “It’s good to talk.”… [Reference to a BT advert from the 1990s – David]
Showing your age there with that reference!
[Laughs] I know! But it is good to talk. There may not be the stigma around depression today that there used to be, and rightly so, but obviously we are still working on that as a society. I think one of the best therapies is talking about it and getting it out there in the open.
I agree. I have close family members who have had depression and I know how difficult it can be. I think that the more people talk about it, the more… normalised isn’t the right word… the more that people realise that it’s not a “Pull yourself together” thing, the better. Thank you for talking about it and raising the issue.
The more you talk about it, the more people go, “Yeah, I’ve had that…”, or “My mum had depression…”. It seems like everybody is touched by it, so we should be talking about it.
Thank you for doing so. But I said I wanted to talk about The LiMiTs. The band are great and one of the things I like is the amount of space you give them. You don’t hog all the solos.
Not all of them! [Laughs]
There are some cracking keyboard solos in particular. I can’t remember which track it was, “The Devils Tail” I think, had a particularly nice keyboard solo. Is there a lot of come and go? Does it feel like a collaborative process?
Uhmm… I don’t know, you probably have to ask the band. It’s probably…
[And that point, my recorder died! Curses! – David]
This next section is therefore, obviously, paraphrased…
Big Boy Bloater explained that he usually goes into the studio with very clear ideas of how he wants a track to sound but that sometimes one of the band would add something that would take a track beyond his expectations. He also talked about the keyboard solo on “The Devils Tail” and how he encouraged Dan to run with it.
I asked him to tell me a bit more about the LiMiTs (Matt Cowley – Drums, Dan Edwards – Keyboards, Steven Oates – Bass). How long had they been together? He said about two and a half years. Steven was the new boy and Matt is the longest-serving. Apparently, he initially turned up as a replacement drummer as a one-off but Mr Bloater liked him so much, he fired the existing drummer and hired Matt instead. I remarked that there was an autobiography waiting to be written there.
I also asked him who is the hardest to tour with? Who had the worst bad habits? Mr Bloater, however, refused to be drawn; claiming the “worst habits” title for himself.
Then I noticed the recorder had stopped. I restarted it and got another two minutes before it died again. The recording picks up again with me asking…
There is quite a diversity of musical influences in your music. Why do you think that is?
I was very influenced by what my parents used to play while I was growing up: blues and rock n’ roll and stuff. But then you move on and start picking out stuff for yourself and hearing new things. You just end up chucking it all in the pot and see what comes out… Yeah, chuck it in the pot… that’s my motto these days. I don’t set out to make a blues album or a rock album. It’s just whatever comes out.
I’m thinking about my own parents’ music; it wouldn’t have inspired the same things. Clearly you had parents with better musical taste.
Just a couple of questions to finish with. The Lego video for “It Came Out Of The Swamp”. That was your creation?
Yes. The stop-motion video, that was all my own work.
So, is that something you had been tinkering with anyway? Or was it inspired by the music?
I started doing it just after my breakdown as sort of therapy. I could just lock myself away in a room and tinker away doing stop motion. It was great to have something to focus on. Building something. Something positive. So, I found it very therapeutic. Keep myself to myself and keep busy for a few weeks. I wrote the “It Came Out Of The Swamp” song and realised Lego had a swamp monster set…
[And the recorder dies for a second time, Bah! – David]
I remarked that that convergence of song and swamp Lego set must have seemed too good to be true and asked if he had done any more. He pointed me to the brickboybloater YouTube channel!
Mr Bloater has worked with loads of people, so I asked if there was anybody left he would really like to work with? Interestingly, he said he had tried to get Nick Lowe to produce Luxury Hobo but Nick had declined. Mr Bloater indicated that he’d keep trying!
I wanted to get one final, somewhat cheeky, comment in. While doing some background reading, in preparation for the interview, I came across a picture of Mr Bloater’s dogs dressed in Christmas outfits. Dogs in Santa suits!? I suggested that, all things considered – Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Mr Bloater though seemed unrepentant!
What a pleasure it was to interview Big Boy Bloater. He was easy to talk to; open and honest with his answers and he gave thoughtful and considered responses to even the daftest of my questions. I hope that, one day, I get the opportunity meet him face to face. I think he would be an interesting person to spend time with.
Top musician and top bloke!
- 28th January – The Anvil, Basingstoke: BBB’s Lonely Blues Show
- 23rd February – Fat Lil’s, Oxford
- 17th March – The Railway, Winchester w/ Jack J Hutchinson
- 18th March – The Freebird, Newcastle-Under-Lyme
- 19th March – THE 100 CLUB, LONDON w/Jack J Hutchinson & DJ Jim Jones
- 16th April – HRH Blues Fest, O2 Academy Sheffield
- 28th April – VHRA Vintage Nationals, Santa Pod Raceway, Northamptonshire