Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Six of the UK’s most highly-esteemed and experienced rock musicians have joined forces to create Snakecharmer. Original Whitesnake members Micky Moody and Neil Murray have teamed up with Laurie Wisefield (Wishbone Ash), Harry James (Thunder), Adam Wakeman (Ozzy Osbourne) and Chris Ousey (Heartland) to bring you classic twin-guitar based rock as it should be played.
Playing classic rock songs that …they helped create, such as Whitesnake’s Here I Go Again, Fool For Your Loving, Don’t Break My Heart Again, Ready An’ Willing and Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City, together with other hits from the band members’ back catalogue, Snakecharmer are the genuine article.
Laurie took up the guitar aged eight and by the time he was in his late teens he was a touring musician and had released three albums with his band Home.He joined Wishbone Ash in 1974 and over the following 12 years with the band he toured the world and recorded many albums, with sales totaling over one million copies.In 1987 Laurie joined Tina Turner’s band for her world tour lasting fourteen months, which included the opportunity to perform alongside Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Tony Joe White and Robert Cray. During the late ’80s through the ’90s, Laurie toured and recorded with Joe Cocker and Eros Ramazotti, and was part of the Night Of The Guitars tour. He also toured and recorded albums as a member of Roger Chapman’s Shortlist.
Working together with singer/songwriter/keyboardist John Miles in Tina Turner’s and Joe Cocker’s bands led in 1996 to Laurie becoming an integral part of the massively successful Night Of The Proms tours as part of the John Miles Electric Band, alongside Il Novocento Orchestra.
Since then, Laurie has appeared on stage and on recordings with a huge number of great artists in all styles of music as part of the Night Of The Proms, Including Andrea Bocelli, Joe Cocker, Meat Loaf, Jim Kerr (Simple Minds), Chrissie Hynde (Pretenders), Lisa Stansfield, En Vogue, INXS, Zucchero, Deborah Harry (Blondie), Mark King (Level 42), Roger Daltrey (The Who), Youssou N’Dour, Seal, Karl Jenkins, Patricia Kaas, Donna Summer, Shaggy, Coolio, Oleta Adams, Howard Jones, Rodger Hodgson (Supertramp), Michael McDonald (Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers), James Brown, Ike Turner, Pointer Sisters, Tears For Fears, Sharlene Spiteri (Texas), Ali Campbell (UB40) and many more.Since 2002 Laurie has been a permanent member of the band in the hugely successful Queen musical We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre in London, playing to audiences totaling over 2.5 million. He also performed with Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen, together with the cast of We Will Rock You and Phil Collins at Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace in 2002, and was part of the band for Jeff Wayne’s The War Of The Worlds live tour in 2005.
Following the recent release of their excellent self-titled debut album, I discussed life as a Snake charmer with guitarist Laurie Wisefield,and tackle that accusation of being a “covers-band”
Myglobalmind: How did the transition from “We will rock you”on stage in the West End of London to Snake charmer come about for you personally?
Laurie: “I’ve known Neil Murray for quite some time, and we were working together on “We will rock you”one day Basically he just came in , and said that he would be working on some other stuff. It was really quite flippant that I said that I will come and play with you. About a few weeks later, maybe a month later he said that he had been speaking to Micky Moody the other day and I told him that you would be up for playing some stuff. I then asked what we would be going to play. It was initially just a fun kind of idea. Initially we decided that we could play some Whitesnake, maybe some Wishbone Ash. Then we got Harry from Thunder in and we said maybe we could do that..It started off as a project like that. Once we actually did some shows under the name “Monsters of British Rock” and we got Chris Ousey and Adam Wakeman. Then we decided that we didn’t just want to go out and be a kind of a Whitesnake tribute band.”
Myglobalmind: I’m sure both Neil and Micky have faced that accusation a lot over the years?
Laurie: “Yes and i certainly didn’t want that either. We started writing some material, initially individually at home getting ideas together. Then the way it is done these days is to send files across the Internet. We sent some stuff to Chris and he would put a vocal idea here, or write some lyrics for that, and we got together. We then got QEDG Management company involved, and we decided to start recording some tracks. We went into a studio ,recorded a couple of tracks which turned out pretty well for a first attempt. That’s really where it started from, we got enthusiastic about the potential of the band and started writing more and more. We ended up then with an album.”
Myglobalmind: Regarding the song-writing process for that-how was that created? Did everybody have an equal input into creating the songs, lyrically?
Laurie: “Well yes, everyone had a free range to come up with ideas, some where probably more inspired and accepted than others. The main writers were Chris , Micky and myself. Harry has written a couple of tunes, or started a couple of tunes, and we have all got involved in it. Adam did write something but it didn’t get finished…There is a couple of tracks where we are all credited, and some with a couple of credits, with 3 of us-something like that.”
Myglobalmind: I’ve noticed on your website that there are a couple of musical snippets-these are Whitesnake songs-yet you indicated earlier a keen desire to avoid that “covers band” description??
Laurie: “That’s probably from the earlier period. We haven’t done any shows lately with too much new material in them. We are rehearsing now to get some new songs in there, so most of the time we are playing songs eg by Whitesnake-that’s what you will find out there on the Internet. That was the premise that we started writing from, basically that 70,s kind of blues-rock period. That was the heart of where we are at, it wasn’t particularly necessarily to go down the Whitesnake route. Most of our influences come from that period anyway so that was kind of a starting point and we have gone down that route to follow it through. There is already an audience for that with Micky and Neil that is the way that it was done. That’s probably where most of our hearts lie in that period of music”
Myglobalmind: What about for fans,any definite touring plans for Snake charmer,in the immediate future?
Laurie: “Yes we have got offers coming in nearly all the time.We had a rehearsal yesterday and an offer came in for a TV show tomorrow. We have a lot of promo stuff coming up then I think Way fest has been booked again for September.”
Myglobalmind: The guys in the band all have other musical projects-does the booking of shows mean that Snake charmer is now everybody’s main priority?
Laurie: “Well we are certainly going to try and make it for sure. Yes we have all got other bits and pieces but it will be a main priority to try and get this off the ground. So far the feedback that we have had has been pretty positive ,and regarding the album. It has got some great reviews.We will see how it goes . The idea is to get out there and do as many shows as possible.”
Myglobalmind: Just to finish with a couple of personal questions outside of Snake charmer. Whats the most difficult decision that you have ever had to make over your career, was it to leave Wishbone Ash for example? Or maybe something else?
Laurie: “That was certainly a difficult decision.I think that got to a point where I was exhausted and felt that I had given everything. When I did actually and I remember the exact time. It was New Years Eve ,I phoned them up and just said that I just couldn’t face going into another year at that time. Looking back on it it would have been good if we could have taken a break, but we were on an album,tour cycle”
Myglobalmind: Heavily driven by record companies i assume?
Laurie: “Yes they were different days back then . I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do,just that I didn’t want to do another year with that at that particular time. That was kind of a hard decision to make,but as one door closes,another one opens.”
Myglobalmind: On the flip side of that-What for you is the best feeling in the world?
Laurie: “Well(laughs)I’m feeling pretty good at the moment. Having a new product out is good, to me all I ever wanted to do to be creative and play guitar, and that is what I am still doing . I am very happy with where I am, and to have the opportunity again to still be creative, and still recording. A lot of the jobs that I have done-as much as I have enjoyed them, eg the Tina Turner tours and also the other stuff. They are great fun but, I don’t often get the chance too often be as creative as I would like. A lot of the time you are playing other peoples tunes. This is therefore a great time for me really”
Myglobalmind: Final question if you were able to sit down to interview somebody,who would it be and what would you ask them?
Laurie: “That’s a difficult question(laughs) I don’t think that there is any one. There are many people that have obviously been huge influences in all manner of fields really..both outside and inside music. People that come to mind at the moment are lately since doing “We will rock you”it has been a great experience to have worked with Brian May. He is such a generous and lovely man, that has been quite inspiring. Also working with people like Tina Turner. Sometimes you are sitting next to her, sometimes just a couple of inches away and listening to that voice..Its all very inspiring really and there’s also lots of people outside the music business. As far as asking people questions at this point I just try to take in as much as possible from other people.Find your own way somehow”
Myglobalmind: Thanks for chatting today,I look forward to catching Snake charmer out playing on the road.How much of that set list will be new songs-covers .Whats the balance going to be?
Laurie: “Well we were just talking about that yesterday. We would like to play as much as possible. Its really a question of how well it does because we are in that situation where some of the people will have obviously bought the new record, and they will expect to hear quite a lot of it. Also you are going to get old fans that are going to want to hear some of the old Whitesnake stuff etc. At this point we have got a case for a bit of both. The way we feel personally is that we would love to go and play as much of the new material as possible. In some ways we would like to get out of that shadow of being a….?
Myglobalmind: Covers band?
Laurie: “Well we are not a covers band because we have got original members that were part of that…that whole period. At the same time we would like to establish the new band and we are all enthusiastic about that really”
Myglobalmind: Thanks very much for chatting today Laurie-good luck with the tour, I personally am looking forward to it……