It all started ages ago really. Well, at least the seeds of that got sown back when I first came to London and learned English. It brought out the writer in me and I started to write lyrics about my most intense experiences in life. Just around 2000, when I started to get the urge again to rock'n'roll, (had a break of a few years after Vain, cuz I got very jaded and a bit disappointed of the whole music biz) I found myself without a frontman worth backing up. One day I passed a music store and a red acoustic guitar stood out and kinda begged me to purchase it. Like a sleepwalker I bought it and took it home to learn a few chords and I think that after the 4th chord I learned the songs just kept on pouring outta me. Like I've never done anything else. So I started to sing my lyrics on top of the melodies that came my way. Mind you, only in my bedroom at first but my friends said that they liked my voice and that I should keep going so after a few years of that I got confident enough and wanted to try it with a band. First I took the songs I had written by then and recorded the Wild at heart album with my old pal Dave Tregunna (on bass) and another old friend called Ralph Jones (on guitar).
I have kept a bit in touch with Dave over the years and since he's always been my favourite bass player, as well as having played with him in many bands, the choice was obvious. I knew Ralph Jones from playing together in the past too. The first (punk) band we had together goes back to the time before England even and he was in the first band I had here in London as well. (before Rogue Male). He came to live in my hometown again at that time and I ran into him and turned him on to the project. After that I formed a band with musicians I found in my home town and played that material live. It was around that time I needed a new bass player. Vera Wild, who was hanging out with us, offered to take on the job and though she never played bass before (although schooled on violin and guitar) she learned all of Tregunna's bass lines in a week or so. Obviously impressed I gave her the job and have never looked back since. She became the first permanent member of what is now Tango Pirates. but I'm jumping ahead now.
Did you record demos or immediately worked on the album ?
To get back to the Wild at Heart album... I recorded demos of most of the songs before the studio. I already had some musicians and did it with them, but the guitar player got nervous in the studio and could not repeat his demo performances. Ralph, who was recording the sessions and was in charge of production, took over and played and sang on the album instead. Then I called Dave in London to come in and record the bass. He arrived with a broken leg which he broke on a recent tour, getting in a fight with some Hell's Angels ! I lived in an apartment on the 4th floor and he had a hell of a time getting up the stairs on his crutches. But tough as he is, he never complained once and did a great job with the recordings. We did a photo shoot later on and I even got us a record deal with a german label. but since I could not produce the album line up for the live gigs, I lost the deal again and started to look around for a permanent band.... I did get a band together again and started to play gigs and that's when you came across me again in 2007, through our my space page.
15 songs ended up on it. Why so much material made the final cut ? Have you included all the recorded tracks or is there leftovers ?
oh...you take me back again with that question....lol. 15 songs ended up on the album 'cuz I had so many songs and liked them all. Besides, I did not know when I could record again as it turned out extremely expensive ! So I just threw it all on there. Don't think there were any leftovers from that session, but I constantly kept writing and soon had a whole new batch of material.
Among all those songs one is -in fact- from the Kill City Dragons era : Little bitch, written by Steve von Saint, Johnny Stevenson and you. Why did you pick this one ?
That is correct Matt. this song has been written by Johnny Stevenson and Steve von Saint originally, in the second KCD line up. I always liked it a lot and thought it was a shame to know it lost to the world. But I had no recording of it and made some of it up in my mind. I kinda recalled what we originally played. but it's been years since I last heard it and my version must have been quite different. Hence my own credits on that song. Maybe a bit cheeky of me, but Steve did not mind. I visited him in London right around this time and told him that I'm gonna do it. We actually wrote a song together as well during my stay and it might end up on my next solo album.
Did you take the time to promote the album making gigs and getting magazines reviews ?
Yes, after I had a permanent band I started to play gigs and promoted the material on that album. I had some reviews and some magazines coverage but it was not enough to really put the band on the map. The biggest success was the 24 000 hearings of the song
Yes that's right too. You can't really get the album anywhere, except from me. It sold a surprising amount but I got a couple of thousand copies left in my attic and I hope to add them to our Tango Pirates merchandise once the band has more recordings out there. As a sort of
At the time you were splitting your time between London and Switzerland, innit ?
I did go back and forth a lot between London and Basel (Switzerland) in those days. I felt the need to see my old friends again and restart my love affair with that city but did not have a way of moving back permanently just yet. But I always found a lot of inspiration in London and so it kept lurking me back. It was LONDON CALLING quite literally for me.....lol.
After a while new members were involved replacing Dave and Ralph. What were the circumstances ?
Yes, Dave was never meant to become a permanent member of Wild at Heart as he lived in London and I didn't at the time, and Ralph had his own thing on the go as well so it was clear from the start of the recordings that it was only a project and will not amount to a full time band. Hence the search for a permanent band of my own, right after the album release.
That's when Vera Wild, Tango Pirates's bassplayer -your current band-, joined...
I already explained how Vera found her way into my band. She was just there when I needed someone. She expressed a fascination for me and my work from the day we met and came along with too much enthusiasm for me to pass her up. It became clear very fast that she has an enormous amount of talents to bring into my band. Ever since then, she's been the most loyal partner I could ever hope for. She has always encouraged me in my efforts and kicked my ass when needed.
Who were the other musicians and how would you described this incarnation of Wild at Heart compared to the first one ?
The others where unknown players from my home town. We tried as best as we could to play the songs from the Chasing the Dragon album in a live situation but I can not compare it directly to Dave and Ralph's league of experience.
When did you stop the band ?
We never quite got it up to the level I hoped for and so Vera convinced me to move back to London with her in 2010 to find a band good enough to the standards we were aspiring to. That is how it stopped. Well, it actually did not stop there as we had another Wild at Heart line up when we first came back to London. We found Mickey Howard* (guitar) and Stevie Bray** (drums) but they ended up leaving again 6 month after.
Note by Is the music loud enough :
* former member of Chelsea and currently in Jelly with Vera Wild and Stevie Bray
** former member of Trapeze and currently in Jelly with Vera Wild and Mickey Howard
In 2011, Dave Tregunna, Timo Kaltio and you became members of The Dogs d'Amour. Can you tell us more about it ?
Well, after we started Tango Pirates, the scene woke up to our existence again and it seemed that everyone wanted us in their bands. Tyla from The Dogs D'amour asked us to join him for a tour and that's what we did. But he is known for constantly changing his line up and so our membership ended after that tour again. Many people told me on that tour that they thought it was the best line up since the original Dogs. A nice thing to hear of course and I also signed loads of Kill City Dragons and Lords albums that the fans brought to the gigs. This kinda reassured me that we were not quite as forgotten as I thought at the time. In fact, it made me aware of how much we were still on people's minds and how much those past bands meant to them. It further convinced me that we have our place in rock history and just gotta keep going.
You've also been involved in a reformation of Sham 69, Dave's original punk band with Jimmy Pursey...
Yes, right around the time of our engagement with Tyla, Jimmy Pursey and Dave Parsons, the singer and guitarist of Sham 69 were planning on reforming their old line up. They asked Dave if he's into it and since their original drummer has not played in 20 years, Dave asked me to join them as well. I ended up playing drums for them for about a year and a half. It was an honor for me to play with one of the great original punk bands and we had some great gigs and times. But i think Jimmy never got over me, looking more Lords than Sham and so I was never officially made a full member. I ended up parting with them after we could not agree on some work I did for their forthcoming album. Why exactly this happened, I'm still not sure of. Maybe Jimmy will tell you some day, but we are still on friendly terms. Dave Parsons actually just send me a track back he did for my forthcoming solo album with some fantastic guitar playing on it. A song of mine called Too close to the flame on which Dave plays bass and sings back up vocals. I practically got Sham 69 without Jimmy on this track. Another honor to me.
But nowadays you are playing with Healthy Junkies and Anita Chellamah (former singer of The Cherry Bombz) as a drummer ?
Yes, I played with Anita's band for about a year. It is an acoustic thing and so I only got to play percussion. For a while this was interesting but I found myself playing in too many bands and left her to concentrate more on my own band. Anita's band was a very pleasant experience though. She's a gracious Lady, a wonderful person and a great singer and songwriter. I wish her all the luck in the world.
The Healthy Junkies are close friends and I accidentally ended up playing for them after I told them that I would help out, should they be in need of a drummer. Little did I know at the time that they would call me up the very next day ! They called me at 4pm and said they were on the way to a gig and could not find their drummer and what would I do that night ? I answered, I guess I will be playing a gig with you then.....lol. They picked me up an hour later and I learned the set on the way to the gig. It ended up a fantastic gig with us mainly jamming on their songs. Phil started the riffs of the songs and I just picked it up from there. It was so much fun that I stayed on until now. Never really joined them full on though but I will keep playing with them until I am too busy again with my own band.
I also recorded and played gigs with my friends from The Derellas, a great local Glam Punk band with great songs. I might be playing with them some more in the future too. All these drum 'jobs'
But your main project is Tango Pirates, the band you got with Dave Tregunna, Timo Kaltio and Vera Wild in which you're the lead singer. When did it start ?
Yes absolutely !! This is the reason why I came back to London again, to do my own band with Vera. Tango Pirates are the thing my heart beats for and will always be given priority over anything else. It is the vehicle that transports my message and musical expression. It is what I live for at the moment and it is the closest I have to a family. After coming back to London I found Dave and Timo in a state of non-musical activities, in that they did not play in any band at the time. I convinced them that I could now sing and write and that we should start a band together. But since I already had Vera on bass I talked Dave into picking up rhythm guitar. There was no way that I would reward Vera's loyalty with a sacking and when I heard Dave playing on his acoustic guitar in his bedroom, I came up with the idea that he should change from bass to guitar. That was back in 2011, just after Stevie and Mickey split (from Wild at Heart) and it was the start of what is now known as Tango Pirates.
You already recorded a 5 songs E.P. Are you the main songwriter or each members has input in the process ?
Yes, Tango Pirates recorded a 5 track mini album called
A video has been shot for Monster in my DNA. Why have you choose this one and how was the shooting of the video ?
We went for Monster In My DNA because it is a very immediate song. It seemed also a good song to introduce ourselves with. We could have done Lament to the Moon as well but did not wanna give a first impression with a more pop kind of song. As beautiful as it is. It might have given the wrong impression as to what kind of band we are. We are not too shy to include all sorts of influences in our music but did not wanna give the first impression of being a pop group. We are definitely a rock act and wanted to make a point of this with Monster in my DNA.
The shooting took a whole day. It was a great experience but left us a bit jaded on the song. We had to play it over and over, all day long, so you can imagine that we did not put it on our stereos for a while after the shooting.
You played regularly in the London area and have also toured in Finland. Have you played elsewhere ?
The coming months are gonna be dedicated on the recording of Tango Pirates first album. How many songs are you planning to record ? Does some from the EP will be re-recorded or exclusively new songs ?
Yes that's right as well. We got a festival gig this coming weekend* and will start to work on our debut album afterwards. It's been a while coming! We gonna include the songs from the mini album because they never had a proper release. So you can expect 8 new songs or so, but I don't think we gonna re record the mini album songs cuz we're very happy with how they turned out. Besides, it is just too expensive to do them again. we practically operate without a budget at the moment and need to put our money into pressing onwards. We might remix them however to make the whole album sound more homogeneous.
note : * United by music, charity festival, United response 40th anniversary.
What are your goals with Tango Pirates ?
The goal of this band is to take it as far as we can. I am on a mission, so to speak, to show the new generations of music lovers what the real thing is all about. Rock'n'roll has gone counterfeit these days with most bands just going through the clichés of the genre without putting in substance or personality. We hope to keep and add the attitude and vision we shared with Stiv Bators in The Lords of the New Church and revive the genre to it's true and original meaning. This band is for real and our efforts are to produce great songs that can reach and touch.
Have you made any merchandising such as T-shirt, pins... and if so how fans can get the stuff ?
Yes, we got merchandise, we got t shirts and the mini album at the moment but will extend it to all sorts of things. Like I said, we're gonna have a proper website soon and sell it from there. At the moment it is available through our Tango Pirates FaceBook page.
And what about your solo album. When do you think it's gonna be completed and available ?
My solo album ? When all of my band members were busy with other projects last year, I had the idea of doing an album with all the great guitarists of my past bands on a song each. And they all agreed to do it ! I got enough songs for 3 albums and my band will never catch up as I keep writing new ones all the time. I therefore had to come up with another outlet and this was provided by doing a solo album. I am working on it, whenever my time and budget allows me to. It is hard to say when exactly it will be completed but I will not rest until it is out. The songs that come my way often seem like a present from the universe and I feel an obligation to pass them on. This might sound strange to you but I have no doubt over what I gotta do. There is a strange feeling inside of me that I'm being sent on a mission. And I took up the challenge.
Ha ha yes, that sounds about right Matt. You know, I always show respect to my fellow human beings and this in return might have earned me some respect as well. I got really lucky in life. I got sent out there, armed with great gifts in form of talents. Be that on a musical or on a human level. I had a rough childhood that brought a lot of lessons and I had to grow up fast. This made me become who I am and I always tried to learn from anything life throws at me. And trust me, it was not all good but it seems that we learn more from the though stuff and cuz there's been a lot of that, I learned a lot. And these things I have experienced or learned I put into my songs so that others can relate or learn from it. That is what I believe I'm here to do, to help raising the level of consciousness 'cuz we all should have compassion for all living things. Love is the answer, just like Lennon sung years ago and music is a vehicle to spread the word of love. It unites people from all sorts of walks of life, from all sorts of colour and all sorts of culture. it is the single language understood in all the world. That's what it all comes down to after all is said and done.
So I guess we're done now. I would like to thank you for your time and patience in making this ITW. It was a pleasure to talk with you about your life and career and I'm looking forward to continue this since you still got plenty of things coming.