Loudhailer Electric Company Q&A

We are delighted to be featured in the excellent Across the Universal Soundscape online magazine showcasing under the radar music in the North or England.  Big thanks to the editor for asking us these interesting questions. The answers to music, the universe and everything Loudhailer Electric Company style are to be found. Here’s the original article on the Universal Soundscape website. Have a click around for loads more great stuff.

Photo by Paul Newbon

Loudhailer Electric Company Q & A April 2017

Recently featured in our Introducing series, we find out a little bit more about the band, their influences, debut album ‘Cursus’, the City of Culture 2017 and much, much more.

How and when did the band originally form?

Rich and I wrote the first Loudhailer set and played acoustic gigs as a two piece about fifteen years ago. We used to have a theme whenever we played a special gig, so we had a set of Sci Fi songs, a set of Road Movie inspired songs, and more recently wrote The Auricula Suite, and album of songs telling a re-imagined story of a historical journey to a new land, inspired by folk tales of the alpine flower – the Primula auricula – and its 16th century journey to England with the Huguenot refugees. We always wanted to get a full psychedelic electric band together, but couldn’t find the right people to work with. When we met up again with old friend and amazing guitarist Jeff Parsons, and drummer Rich Walker – a student of Jeff’s – it all clicked to place. With the addition of violinist Chris Heron a music student at Hull Uni at the time, it turned out that they were right on our doorstep!

What’s the story behind the band’s name?

Well, although he probably doesn’t realise it Paul Jackson at the New Adelphi Club thought up the name, Loudhailer Electric Company. Rich and I originally thought of the name Loudhailer based on how I shorted my name – Lou DH. We run an acoustic night Loudhailer Acoustic and Jeff started coming along to play. About three years ago we decided to start an electric version and had a pilot night at The Adelphi Club, called Loudhailer Electric. We put together a jamming band to close the show and invited Jeff to join us. He invited his mate, drummer Rich W and we played Space Dub Jam, a groovy jam in E minor. Paul Jackson at the Adelphi accidentally billed the night as Loudhailer Electric Company and the jam band had such a good time we stayed together. My friend from Celtarabia Amanda Lowe joined us on violin for the first few gigs but she was too busy so we asked Chris to join and that was that.

Who are your favourite bands and musicians? Influences?

We have a lot of different influences because we are all different ages. We have been likened to Patti Smith, Siouxsie and the Banshees, early Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane and The Doors – that’s all fine by us.  Between us we listen to all sorts of music, much of it new and local but as a band we would probably cite American psychedelic bands, post punk UK bands, late 70s CBGBs, Gypsy jazz and North Mississippi hill country blues. Rich and I listen to the radio more than anything. I like stuff like Morphine and JAMC Psychocandy and my number one favourite musician by a mile is the amazing maestro of the viola da gamba, Catalonian musician and musical archaeologist, Jordi Savall. He has made over 230 albums, some wonderful collaborations and music for world peace projects. We all love his music in our family, and have been lucky enough to see him play a number of times.

How would you describe your music and sound?

It’s tricky to find a strapline to cover everything but on our website it says Loudhailer Electric Company, original psychedelic sounds featuring members of seminal cult bands Red Guitars, Dead Fingers Talk and The Planet Wilson.

What is your usual songwriting process?

I usually have something going round in my head while I’m cycling along. I wrote some of my favourite songs on my bike – On the Run and My Ancestors were French for example were both written in my head between town and home. Rich and I often write the lyrics together, one of us will start something and the other will add something or shape it up. We wrote Silver – which will be on the next album – by text message. Jeff has a wealth of guitar licks and sounds up his sleeve which never fail to take the songs into orbit.  I love it when Rich’s rhythms and Chris’s violin bring it all together to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

First live performance?

That would be the Space Dub Jam at the pilot Loudhailer Electric night at the Adelphi.

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Most memorable gig(s)?

Lou – Rich and I and our son were lucky enough to get tickets to see Jordi Savall in St Thomas’s Church in Salisbury when he came over to play Wigmore Hall. It was a lovely intimate venue and we sat in the front row, about two yards away from him on the stage. The Godfathers Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre at The London Dungeon is up there too.

Rich – Nick Cave and the Bad seeds, Manchester Apollo, Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus tour. North Mississippi Allstars, Manchester Students Union. Husker Du, Glastonbury, on a Saturday afternoon in the sunshine.

Jeff – That is a tough one! The Church at the Marquee in and Chameleons at Manchester Ritz 2001

Rich W – The most memorable gig I attended was possibly a U2 gig at Roundhay Park when they did their pop tour, but that’s actually a really hard question to answer and my most memorable gig was probably the LECO album launch

Chris – My most memorable gig was my first proper festival at Glastonbury 2016 to see Caravan Palace.

Favourite venue(s)?

Lou – The European and Scandinavian clubs that the Red Guitars played mostly all merge into one, but our gigs at Berlin’s Loft im Metropole hosted by the legendary Monika Döhring stand out. We played there three times before the wall came down. Everything about the trip was fascinating – the drive through East Germany, the wall, the vibe of the city and the decadence of the club.

Rich – Glastonbury, then – not now

Jeff – The Marquee on Wardour Street.

Hull has many extremely talented musicians creating a very strong and diverse music scene. Do you think this is typical of what is going on throughout the country or is there something very special happening in Hull?

I think that historically in Hull people are much more internally motivated than in other cities. Less influenced by what’s going on in the conurbations. So instead of following what’s on trend – manipulated by the media – people in Hull just do their own thing. It can sometimes be perceived by people in other towns that in Hull we are behind the times, but in fact, we are leading the way, our own way, less affected by the way the media and music biz moguls are trying to push. I’m not sure that this will continue now, but I hope it does, it’s what makes Hull special.

What impact do you think UK City of Culture 2017 status is having on the music scene in Hull? What about the legacy?

There is a good creative vibe, lots going on and Hull is getting a relatively huge amount of national and international press for the first time. The other side of the coin is that we’re finding some things more difficult. For example we haven’t been able to book venues for our usual events as they are booked up with City of Culture activities. I hoped that because we are City of Culture local artists might have a better chance of getting features or reviews in the national music press, but that’s not happened. A lot of creative people who are setting up various fringe events. So, there is lots going on, some really ace stuff, and big audiences to the City of Culture events. The Ferens Art Gallery was packed when we went in the weekend. But it’s not made an impact on getting audiences to events which aren’t branded City of Culture.

As musicians how important is it to have an online presence? How do you use social media tools like Facebook and Twitter?

We had a website early on, but resisted social media at first. We realised we were missing a trick though, and we have the works now, all centred round our website https://loudhailer.net/  We don’t use social media for anything personal. I usually schedule a bunch of posts when I have time at the computer. I don’t have any social media apps on my phone and Rich doesn’t have a smartphone or anything like that. We’re not technophobes at all, but after trying it out choose to duck out on the whole and keep private and public life apart. We have never had an answerphone or a TV so we’re really clued up on some things but not others. I have never knowingly heard anything by Coldplay or Ed Sheeran for instance and I suspect Rich hasn’t either.

The internet has changed the landscape of the music industry and made it easier for musicians to record and make their music available. Do you see this as a positive thing?

The Internet is brilliant and has had a huge impact on our access to information, networking, and all things creative. You can hear and see so much fantastic music at the touch of a button. You can find out about just about anything, and there are lots of platforms you can use to create and showcase your work, so I think it’s awesome.

What do you think about online music sharing services such as Spotify?

Rich and I don’t listen to music on Spotify and the artists get paid virtually nothing. But we decided to have our releases available on Spotify for now. A fair few people asked if we’re on it, and we hope that people will hear about us there and go on to buy or download the music elsewhere. At the album release gig two guys told us they heard about us through Spotify and then came to the album launch, loved the gig and bought CDs each. We have our own record label – DHM – have a distribution deal so our releases are available to download worldwide on all the usual digital outlets such as iTunes, Amazon etc. Rich and I don’t actually have iTunes, I deleted it because as a music creator I don’t like the way it messes with your system and hides your suffices. My favourite platform is Bandcamp and we sell CDs and merchandise there. The ‘behind the scenes’ database and support files part of Bandcamp are excellent.

Music format of choice – CD, digital or vinyl?

Rich and I tend to buy CDs, although we listen to most music on the radio, often independent shows or Radio 3 where we listen out for music which is often new alternative or early music hundreds of years old. If I want to explore it more I tend to look on YouTube first. We both still like to have something to hold rather than a download. Rich used to run Sheridan’s music and book shop and had a massive collection of vinyl, but we haven’t even got all the Red Guitars and Planet Wilson vinyl or CDs anymore.

What was the first and most recent music you bought?

Lou – Ride a White Swan and Alex McCartney’s ‘Elizabeth’s Lutes’

Rich – the first single I bought was Supertramp – The Logical Song, most recent I think was Neil Young, Storytone

Jeff – First record was I’m A Boy by The Who, from Syd Scarborough in Sept 66.  Most recent was Bob Dylan’s Street-Legal a couple of weeks ago.  But will be buying new Fleet Foxes album as soon as it’s released.

Rich W – I remember buying was a single when I was still a kid doing my paper round. It was Angel of Harlem by U2 on a 7″ vinyl and I remember buying it from a small record store in At Cost. The most recent album I got was a Sly and the Family Stone box set at Christmas.

Chris – most recent ‘Break It Yourself’ – Andrew Bird

What was the last gig you went to as a music fan?

Lou – We saw Michael Chapman and Ehud Banai last week. We went to the gig because Michael Chapman’s track on the Fairview Studio 50th anniversary CD/DVD is lovely. It’s a new version of his song about leaving Hull, Shuffleboat River Farewell. Loudhailer Electric Company were thrilled to be part of the album – we recorded our funky spoken word number Underneath the Underground with John Spence at Fairview, especially for it.  We’re most chuffed to be amongst such a top line up. Bill Nelson’s cool new track on the album showcases his distinctive guitar style, he was a big influence for both me and Jeff back in the early days.

Rich – Nick Harper at Filey last weekend – possibly the best Nick gig ever (so far). It was great to team up with Nick again this time with the Loudhailer Electric Company and we’ve got something else special with Nick coming up at the end of the year, so we’ll let you know! And coming up soon, we’ve got tickets for our favourite live band, the North Mississippi Allstars in Manchester in June. We saw them twice last time they came to the UK, they’re just brilliant.

Jeff – Andy White at Kardomah94

Your debut album ‘Cursus’ was released on 7th November 2016. What is the story, background and inspiration for this collection of songs?

The album title – Cursus – refers to stories of life along the Neolithic courses which lead to the tallest standing stone in the UK, at Rudston in East Yorkshire. It started when we went walking in the Yorkshire Wolds with my old Red Guitars band buddy John Rowley last spring. We followed the course of the winterbourne chalk stream – the Gypsey Race – which flows down through the Wolds and east out to sea at Bridlington. On the bend, just where the stream turns east is one of the most important prehistoric sites, the tallest standing stone in the UK – the Rudston monolith. It’s no accident that the stone is situated there as it was once one of the most important places in prehistoric England. Like at Stonehenge there are courses – or cursus – huge miles long structures which lead from all around the surrounding countryside in straight lines to the stones. Just like Avebury on the Kennett where the stream turns east there is a corner to meet. Unfortunately unlike Stonehenge and Avebury the land around Rudston has been ploughed intensively over the years and its importance cannot be so obviously seen on the ground anymore. Anyway, by the time we were heading home the song was pretty much written in my head. I joined up the prehistoric imagery of John’s stories to a much later tale – that of a Roman soldier marching down towards the monolith, along the Roman road  – which you can see on the map on the album sleeve. I had a particular soldier in mind – he features in WH Auden’s Roman Wall Blues, brought to life by the sensational Alex Harvey. That soldier, he’s absolutely sick to death of life on the wall. I’d heard from John Spence at Fairview Studio, where we recorded the album, that the Alex Harvey track was actually mixed at Fairview Studio by Roy Neave – who also recorded our Red Guitars album, Slow to Fade there, so that was a good twist in the tale.

Other song themes throughout the album come from further afield. Rich and I both love 1960s American literature and there are songs influenced by some of our favourite books and movies, Paris Texas, Thelma and Louise and The Night Porter.

In the final song, Night Heron, we take you on a trip a little further out west – to Lake Windermere. It’s a true story, about Welfare State International’s magical heron lantern installation on a boat there, and it happened just like the spoken word intro poem. It was part of the millennium Cityscape symposium which explored how art is good for the earth. It was wonderful, there was a huge paper heron, all lit up with fairy lights on a boat and a Gamelan instrument, a Saron, on the boat. Exactly as the lyric goes, a gamelan tune faded into the distance as the boat was rowed to the far shore.  At the time I was lucky enough to train as a Gamelan workshop facilitator with Manchester’s Halle Orchestra Gamelan and started to play with the Hull Honorific Sea Dragon Gamelan. The original demo was intended to accompany an art film. We used some gamelan instruments – the saron, slentem and gender – and explored different ways of playing them. When we recorded the song for the album Jeff imitated the Gamelan tune on his guitar, what a fantastic sound!

Highlight(s) in music so far?

Too many to choose from, we love being in a band and are very happy to be still having good times as musicians. Driving home after every Loudhailer Electric Company gig or rehearsal is always a great here and now moment.

Plans and ambitions for 2017 and beyond?

To keep on playing live, to record a second album and mostly to have lots of fun together as a band.

Loudhailer Electric Company by Paul Newbon

Big high five to Across the Universal Soundscape. Have a click round the website, it’s ace. Contact Across the Universal Soundscape Website


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