Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
The Quireboys’ Spike is set to release a special album “100% Pure Frankie Miller” on 8th September.
Call it a labour of love. A life’s ambition. Or the chance to keep a precious legacy alive. Call it 100% Pure Frankie Miller. Spike’s sparkling celebration of long-time pal and inspiration Miller is a very special album indeed. Many years in the making – and finally brought to fruition by a famous band of rock n roll brothers – 100% Frankie Miller is the ultimate tribute to a Scottish legend featuring ‘lost’ treasures and previously hidden gems. Spike is forever on the road with the Quireboys, but I was fortunate to talk to him in between shows while he was on the road in Sweden recently. Despite security alerts which confined the band to their hotel and a bomb explosion we managed to go ahead with the interview as scheduled
Hi Spike I’m calling mainly to discuss your latest solo release. Firstly how did the music of Frankie Miller first come onto your radar?
Spike”Obviously like anybody else, I saw him on Top Of The Pops(UK music show that ran for many years)and he did “Darlin”,”Be good to yourself”and all that. What happened was that I had a solo album out “Its a treat to be alive”and I recorded two Frankie songs on that. I recorded”Be good to yourself”and “When I’m away from you”Then when I played that Annette(Frankie s wife)came down with Frankie. She brought him to a couple of Quireboys shows. We became friends and she was saying”look I have got all these songs that nobody has ever heard, and that arnt finished”They were just demos that Frankie had done in his home studio. She said”do you want to have a listen”?I had a listen and then she said”do you want to do an album?”So I said”yes it would be an honour to do it. Some of the songs I finished off and some of them were full songs written. There are so many great songs that nobody has ever heard it would be a crime if these weren’t put out there. That was about four years ago,it took quite a while to pull together you know.”
Well you have been busy the last few years, Quireboys have put out two studio albums and have toured endlessly.
Spike”With putting that together -hopefully if it goes well there is a few more albums in there. The thing is what I wanted to do was ..I didn’t want it to be like a tribute album. Everybody that plays on it is a friend of mine and Frankie’s. When I was doing it there was a lot of people that I didn’t really know that were asking us to be on it. I wanted to have friends of mine and Frankie s just in case we wanted to do it live. Hopefully I will in about January/February we will do a few shows.”
The songs lend themselves so well to your voice-indeed they could be Quireboys songs..
Spike(laughing)”well Frankie sings in the same key which helps. All the keys are the same as what he recorded them in-I haven’t changed any of the keys. The thing is with Frankie is something that I always try to achieve when I am writing songs-is to keep them very basic and simple. That is the hardest thing to do, is just a few chords. Its when people start putting a million chords in that is the easiest option. All the great songs have just two or three chords. Apart from being one of the greatest singers ever, he is-No way I could ever compare to Frankie-singing-wise but I have tried my best. The thing is nobody is going to hear his version anyway(laughs)”
You mentioned the guys that you have playing on the album-there is quite a stellar cast on there(Ronnie Wood, Andy Fraser, Simon Kirke, Ian Hunter among others). I just wondered how the songs were actually recorded. It must have been near impossible to align schedules for that to take place?
Spike”The good thing is modern technology. What I did was, I put about eighteen songs down-I recorded eighteen but only released twelve. I played the acoustic and sang the songs to a click , and then I sent that over to Simon Kirke in New York.. He played along to me with the acoustic and click. I then sent that over to Andy Fraser in Los Angeles, and he put the bass on and that’s how we did it. I went round to Ronnie Woods house with a computer and he played his guitar parts and that’s how we did it. I then put it all together and I went into Rockfield studios in Wales. I took all of the stuff off the computer and put it back onto the old tape,like the 24 track.-actual tape. I was in Rockfield because I wanted to make it sound like it was recorded back when. The funny thing was when I was in Rockfield, Kingsley who owns the studio he was there. He said”do you realise that I think it was in nineteen seventy three that Frankie Miller had recorded his first ever album there”It was funny how it had come full circle with me going in there to mix the album and Frankie had recorded his first album there. Kingsley had produced it and engineered on it .It was really weird how it had all come around.”
Who is the female vocal on the track “Fortune”? Your voices seem to work very well together?
Spike”That’s Bonnie Tyler,she’s great .I played that to my mam and she couldn’t tell the difference. She said”which bits you?”.You must have the promo copy do you?Because on the album it says who is on it.”
Moving on now Spike to some other questions.The Quireboys are on quite a creative role at the moment with two studio albums in a short space of time.”Beautiful Curse”(2013) and then recently “Black Eyed Sons”(2014)Why do you feel that this is a particularly productive time for the band.After years with no new album,suddenly we get two in a short space of time?
Spike”What happened was that before”Beautiful Curse”we had really just been touring and we hadn’t time to go into the studio to record. We had a new record deal and a new manager and we did”Beautiful Curse”Then I was speaking to him and explained that I had moved to London when I was sixteen from Newcastle. I had started the band when I was seventeen and he said “that means that you have been doing the Quireboys for thirty years.”What he said was”why don’t we do like a 30th Year celebration for the fans that have been behind you through the good and bad times”.and do a special package for everybody. I said that we have some time out and some extra songs that we have been writing. Why don’t we go in and do a new CD,and we have done this whole package thing. Just to give everybody value for money basically. That was it.”
Few general questions to finish on. I just wondered what advice would you have given your younger self?
Spike”Get a good accountant”(laughs)yeah exactly. Hey you know what, I have had a charmed life man. I have been all over the world, I just got back from America. We have just played six weeks starting off at the Whiskey a go go in Los Angeles. We ended up in Montreal. Just been right across America, and you don’t get to fucking see anything ..(laughs)We have been all over the place and its a life that I think just chooses you. Its a hard way to make a living but its got its benefits and its got its pitfalls. You have really got to have the heart to want to keep going through good times and bad.”
Just a couple then to end on. With the demise in recent years of larger record companies how much creative control do you have over the business side of the band?
Spike”Nowadays we do everything ourselves. Record companies in the past …there was so much greed in the past. You were going in to record with producers that charged outrageous amounts of money for basically tarting up a song which is already there. If you put a band in a studio and record them that was like how the Beatles were recorded or the Stones or anything you get it. I think that a lot of producers out there were making a hell of a lot of money off young bands and people for basically not really doing that much. I think that was lot of the downfall and plus people don’t like change. They didn’t want to move ahead . The other thing was as well at the big record companies, it wasn’t like the seventies were they would stick with bands. Our second album I think sold about four or five million copies and that was classed as a disaster. Its ridiculous just because everybody thinks that it was grunge that stopped the Quireboys but that’s bollocks. We were still selling out everywhere that we played. The thing is with the Quireboys was the only reason that we stopped was that we were just physically and mentally drained. People forget that before we got our record deal that since the age of seventeen that I had been on the road non-stop to get that record deal. Once we got that when I was like twenty one /twenty two we didn’t stop then. It was like basically eight or nine years of solid work on the road. Not having anywhere to live,hotels and stuff it does take its toll.after a while. Especially when you are that age. I know its having a good time and everything but you do come to an end at some point. You are only human.”
I just wondered as well do you have any spare time away from music to perhaps pursue other interests or hobbies?
Spike”People say that we are on tour constantly but I have just been home for two weeks, catching up on things. Seeing my family and what have you. This is our hobby. I love writing songs,and I love playing. You get paid to do your hobby basically. Its great. I do play golf. Actually I play nine holes, and then go into the clubhouse and drink(laughs)Getting away from the missus”
Do you have any personal heroes-even maybe outside music?
Spike”Well obviously it has been an honour to do this Frankie Miller album, he was a big hero of mine even before I had done this and met him. To get to play with Ronnie Wood, we played with The Stones back in ninety one I think it was..in my home town of Newcastle. We played St James Park,things like that are a dream come true. Over the past few years we have met so many interesting people and I am so lucky that I have met a lot of my heroes. Luckily all the ones ,the most famous people that I have met are the most down to earth and brilliant people. I have been really lucky like that.”
You have an upcoming UK tour which is again returning to Belfast, so I look forward to that…what’s next for the band?
Spike”We finish the tour in November,with the Quireboys. Then the rest of the guys are playing with Joe Elliott in a group called the Down n Outz. They are doing that for two weeks in December. I go in to start another solo record hopefully around that time. I am just getting songs together and everything. In January /February I am looking to play live and tour with the Frankie Miller album and getting everybody together. In January me and G riff are getting together, we did an album called “Halfpenny Dancer” a while ago which was..a few covers and we played acoustic on them. It was like a country/Americana album. It will be like a follow-up to that. Also in October-we did an album called”This is Rock n Roll”in 2000 and you couldn’t get that album anywhere and we got the rights back to it. We are going to re-release that. We have recorded some extra tracks. We have rerecorded “7oclock “and “Hey You”and a few other songs from back then. We have recorded them with the band that we have got now. That’s coming out in October. Yes there is a lot of stuff going on. Plus we have been booked for all the festivals next year.”
Hopefully the Frankie Miller dates will stop over in Belfast? Perhaps at the Diamond Rock Club?
Spike”I hope so-hope that we can get something together. It’s just difficult getting everyone together at once. Everybody is up to playing- that played on the album so that will be really cool.
Thanks Spike for chatting I will see you soon with the Quireboys in Belfast.
Spike”All right my friend, god bless you. We will have a pint, I’m buying.”
ALBUM: 100% Pure Frankie Miller
RELEASE DATE: 8th September 2014
Feat. Ronnie Wood, Andy Fraser (Free), Simon Kirke (Free and Bad Company), Ian Hunter and more
Call it a labour of love. A life’s ambition. Or the chance to keep a precious legacy alive. Call it 100% Pure Frankie Miller. Spike’s sparkling celebration of long-time pal and inspiration Miller is a very special album indeed.
Many years in the making – and finally brought to fruition by a famous band of rock n roll brothers – 100% Frankie Miller is the ultimate tribute to a Scottish legend featuring ‘lost’ treasures and previously hidden gems.
Bringing together the Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood, famed Free rhythm section Andy Fraser and Simon Kirke, Mott The Hoople’s Ian Hunter and the brilliant Bonnie Tyler, this heartfelt collection of classic songs has been lovingly compiled by The Quireboys’ lead singer Spike – a family friend of the Millers and self-styled custodian of an historic back catalogue.
Two decades after suffering the brain haemorrhage that cut short a colourful career, Miller has emerged as one of rock’s great survivors and his music lives on.
“Frankie doesn’t want sympathy,” said Spike. “He just wants his music to be heard. These songs have never been heard before and they’ve been recorded with Frankie’s blessing. They are songs that would have been lost if it wasn’t for the desire of a group of his closest friends and biggest fans to do them justice. Frankie Miller was – and still is – a massive influence on so many musicians, myself included. He has a special talent as a songwriter and that talent deserves to be celebrated.”
Miller enjoyed chart success in the late 70s with Be Good To Yourself, Darlin and and When I’m Away From You and counts fellow countryman Rod Stewart amongst his biggest fans.
In 1999 the BBC filmed the documentary Stubborn Kinda Fella – charting Miller’s long road to recovery in the wake of his brain haemorrhage – and now 100% Frankie Miller brings a remarkable story bang up to date.
100% Frankie Miller features Ronnie Wood, Andy Fraser, Bonnie Tyler, Simon Kirke, Ian Hunter, Luke Morley, Guy Griffin, Keith Weir, Paul Guerin, Tyla, Chris Corney, Mark Stanway, Mick Roobotham, Matt Goom, Pat Mcmanus, Lorraine Crosby, Stuart Emerson, Cherry Lee Mewis, Simon Hanson and Jimi The Piper.
1 -THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE
2 – COCAINE
3 – I’M LOSING YOU
4 – INTENSIVE CARE
5 – FORTUNE
6 – AMSTERDAM WOMAN
7 – OTHER SIDE OF TOWN
8 – CHEAP HOTEL
9 – COLD, COLD NIGHTS
10 – DID YOU EVER WANNA GO HOME
11 – KEEPIN’ IT ALL FOR YOU
12 – BOTTLE OF WHISKY
100% Pure Frankie Miller will be released on 8th September 2014 through Cargo Records.