NIGE: This is the second tour now in six months? How happy are you to be back performing constantly?
JONNY: It’s good because the first tour we did was playing songs off the new album, ‘Do It Again’, so it was good to see the crowd’s reaction to the new songs and see how many people had learnt the lyrics. I have to admit it’d be nice to be doing bigger venues but it’s great that we still have a fan base all over the country five years down the line. It’s a good feeling, but I need to do something different and get the buzz going again because I want to be doing Academy 1 not Academy 2.
NIGE: How easy has it been to slip back into the routine of touring?
JONNY: It does hit you after a few days because you lose your appetite during the day, like you won’t eat at lunch time, you’ll eat three hours after lunch time and have your tea after the gig. You’re drinking quite a bit, not every night! It does shock your system but I’ve been touring for five years so I’m more used to it.
NIGE: Are things different to when you first started? Is there a more mature approach or do things still get a little crazy?
JONNY: I can’t say it doesn’t get crazy, it does get a bit crazy, especially with the two new lads. I used to think that the band drunk a lot in the old line-up but it’s nothing compared to now, but we all seem to hack it, no one’s ill or spewing up or can’t play the gig. There’s definitely a more mature approach with the music, we all know where we’re at and I’ve got a clear vision of where I want to go on the third album. The second album was more of an experiment to see where we want to go next. We just wanted to get a few songs together and say “right we’ll stick to doing this”, that’s why there’s quite a variety of songs on the second album, whereas the first album is a bit more rocky from beginning to end. But yeah, musically we’re definitely wising up.
NIGE: New album, ‘Do It Again’ was released last year. How’s it been received?
JONNY: Really well considering how much advertising we had on it. The first album had a big push from Columbia which helped with more press and radio play. This one’s hardly had any airplay or advertisement, but it’s done really well as the fans know it and we’ve sold quite a few copies at gigs and HMV sold out when it came out, so it’s done alright but it could be better.
NIGE: How have you grown in terms of song writing and lyrics compared to the first record?
JONNY: I think when you grow up you just change anyway, you become more accepting to things, you’ve seen more through your life and had more experiences, and they change you and the way you think. The music industry is very hectic and can be very disheartening at times and that changes you. You try and adapt to it because if you don’t you get left behind. I think listening to different music can change you too, so all these things mould into one and you just change naturally, but you have to, you can’t just do the same stuff. You get fans of some of the greatest bands in the world who like the first record but maybe not the third, but if they carried on doing the same thing they’d just be shit anyway. There’s always going to be people who like your later stuff more than your early stuff. The plan for us is to craft this third album and get a load of new fans who get into us and then might go back to the early stuff. That’d be my ideal scenario!
NIGE: I understand you’ve played some random places like Japan, but what was the gig that stood out in those years?
JONNY: Probably doing Heaton Park with ‘Oasis’ because it was so big and a great gig to be playing. Supporting Paul Weller for fourteen dates a few years ago was good, he invited me onstage to play ‘That’s Entertainment’ with him which was great. Some of the gigs we’ve done have been mad where venues have been smashed to bits, fire extinguishers getting thrown, lights being pulled off the roof, but that happened nearly every night so I can’t just say one. I don’t think I’ve been to any gig as mad as some of the ones I’ve played, we’ve had some of the maddest in history.
NIGE: How does it feel when the likes of Liam Gallagher are singing your praises and Paul Weller asks you to support him? I bet you must be in awe and shocked?
JONNY: Well exactly that really. You don’t want to seem shocked though because you’ve got to keep your head on your shoulders. I’m not the sort of person to say, “Oh I can’t believe it!!!” and start licking arses. I got on with them really well because their pretty down to earth. When I was a kid I never thought I’d be meeting the likes of Paul Weller, Liam and Noel and they’d be saying good things about me, I’d dreamt about things similar but then to happen a few years later is mind blowing.
NIGE: Now the band’s settled and a new record is out, where do you hope to take ‘Twisted Wheel’ in the summer and beyond?
JONNY: We’ve got a few festivals sorted out. What I’d definitely like, but it’s not going to happen this year, is to be playing the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury when the sun’s going down, so half the sets in sunlight and the other’s dark, that’s my ideal gig setting.
The main thing is that I’m going to completely put everything into a third album, spend ages in the studio, get the right people working on it, and the right people to deliver it to the public. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’m not going to say I’m not going to make anymore but I’ve learnt from them. I’m just going to dedicate my life to this third album because I think it’s an important one for the band.
NIGE: Finally, can you push on even further, even more so than the hype of a few years ago?
JONNY: I think we definitely can. It’s hard when you’ve had a bit of momentum and it goes because the press and radio stations want to be the first to write about or play the new bands, or the bands that have sold millions of records that everyone wants to hear. When you’ve been in the middle it’s hard to get that. I think that we’re capable of writing better songs than most bands so we need to get them done, get the sound bang on and while we’re doing that we need to find the right people to get it out. It’s going to take a bit of time but I think we can get back there, bigger and better than we ever were!
After the interview we were thrust back into the crowd, who’s numbers were growing with every second, making me think that that it won’t be that long before Jonny gets his wish and Academy 1 will beckon. The token chants of “Wheel, Wheel, Wheel” hail from every quarter, sometimes broken by the odd football chant or the great Mancunian anthem of “Manchester La La La, Manchester La La La,” but it soon turns into an onslaught of cheers and applause as the band are welcomed home. They open with ‘Poppi Love’ off the latest album and the craziness down the front begins as heads rapidly bob up and down in a sea of mayhem. ‘She’s a Weapon’ follows and the alternating anthems off both albums swiftly makes up the show. Four or five songs in and sing along classic, ‘Strife’ is played which gears the crowd up even more as the participation becomes louder, the plastic beer cups missile and the usual crowd surfing creeps into the set. Much like my last encounter in October, the band are giving their all as if it’s the last show on Earth, with Jonny growling in that distinctive northern manner that gives every song such a gritty edge.
A brief lull ensues as Jonny announces he’ll be playing one on his own. He stands alone, shrouded in smoke as the lights dim and opening riff from the eerie ‘Double Yellow Lines’ is played, a track almost like a northern take of an old western style song with its lyrics of guns and shootings. The vigorous ‘Lucy the Castle’ is played when the band regroup, and the crowd again set the venue on fire after a rare less animated number. You can certainly tell the difference between the songs off the first and second album, in particular that maturing change in style Jonny spoke about. The songs off the first album are so raw and punk like, but capture an energy and anger of a mindset of youth culture. The second album sees a little more structure, and although they do possess the ability to really let loose and wail much like the first, there seems to be less anger and a mature composition to song writing involved. Either way, both styles still incarcerate the hearts of the fans, and can still wield the compulsory energy needed to make their gigs explosive.
A couple of new tracks are played to test the water, and even though the crowd won’t know these yet, it still doesn’t stop them keeping the atmosphere alive. They end on the single, ‘Ride’ from the second album before briefly exiting and returning for an encore that lasts about six or seven songs. Sadly, ‘Bouncing Bomb’ didn’t feature, disappointing from a personal point of view as I’ve encountered who it’s sang about in my local pub several times, “Jimmy Leigh chip pan grease, set fire to the school canteen.” But that just emphasised the quality of each song, the fact that they could leave out this beautifully crafted northern ballad. The highlight of the encore was ‘You Stole the Sun’, an extremely witty song that takes you on an adrenaline rollercoaster with the way it explodes into the chorus and rolls quickly off the tongue in the verses.
All in all, the atmosphere was electric, and when it comes to ‘Twisted Wheel’ it goes without saying that a large proportion of the crowd are going to be screaming along, and be like the fourth member of the band so to speak. The sound in Academy 2 wasn’t particularly clear and Jonny’s lyrics sometimes became lost for those at the back who’s crowd surfing days are behind them. However, they are a blood pumping, adrenaline infused band who suit a larger arena, and if they get back to where they deserve to be then these larger venues will surely be packed to capacity, where the madness of the crowd and the energy of the band will certainly take a further step into a twisted dimension.
Interview/review by Nigel Cartner
Photos by Matt Johnston