Don Powell interviews

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Location: Odense, Denmark

Published author, Ph.D. I write mostly fiction and books on music, movies, art and literature.

Friday, April 07, 2006

New year - new interview

Slade did a 6-gig tour of Denmark in January/February 2006 and (of course) I was to come up with a new interview. So on Tuesday the 11th of January 2006 I went over to Don's place once again. Apart from me only getting 4 hours sleep the night before and the train being late so we were all starving when I arrived, it all went great. After a superb lunch (thanks to Don's lovely lady Hanne), Don and I retreated and did a 2 hours interview as well as a really hilarious photo session. I almost wet myself from laughing! Or maybe it had something to do with the huge amount of camomile tea, that I'd been drinking?
Anyway, after the interview we actually had a little time for just chatting and I borrowed some videos before Don and Hanne drove me through the snow-clad streets to the station.
Below you'll find the unedited interview.

Don and I, Silkeborg, January 11, 2006 Posted by Picasa

January 11, 2006: interview conducted at Don's place, Silkeborg, Denmark

We have to cater a bit to the Danish audience as this is going into a Danish paper.
I would like to talk about the 40th anniversary, that would be interesting. Your first official concert this year will be in Birkerød, but you can't really say that it's your 40th anniversary tour that starts there, can you, because it isn't.
Well, this year is our 40th anniversary and although it isn't the exact date it is the 40th year and this is our first tour of that particular year so in a way this is the start of our 40th anniversary tour. The real 40th anniversary tour in England at the end of the year, that'll be the Christmas tour, November/December, where there'll be at least 40 shows.
Are there any particular plans for that?
At the moment what we are talking about is maybe we could try to get different guests from different groups who'd said that they're big fans of Slade. That would be nice with a few people maybe at certain shows. That has to go into motion, obviously, because they have their own schedules as well, so we'll try to work it so we can get guests on stage with us. That would be good.
Where are you going to play this year? You're going to Russia and all over Europe?
Yeah, you can mention Russia and Europe in general, Germany obviously and all over the Scandinavia and the European countries. That's where we'll be going. And we'll be coming back to Denmark later this year to do some more shows. I think we're going to do some of the Danish festivals as well this summer. That'll be nice.

Are there any plans for new releases?
Yeah! There are talks about it. Because, okay, we have the CD that was released in November/December last year and there are talks about doing some more of the obscurer tracks. The B-sides and some of the tracks that we have never really used and then some more new clips for DVD that haven't really been used but that WERE filmed in the seventies. And then maybe more stuff from live concerts, some live concert footage, and some of the other TV shows that have never really been featured, that have never really been used before. That could be good. With the CD they are talking about a lot more of the tracks that have never really been featured, you know, especially some of the ones that we DO have film of as well, you know. So some of the B-sides like I said and some of the things that were filmed, that has never really been shown because either there weren't A-sides or there weren't singles, so that's why they have never really been used. We did some live concerts on English TV and some of the material from that could be good.
What about the present Slade? Are you going to have a new CD out?
That's what we are talking about now. We want to do a new album now. We are talking about doing it this year, definitely this year. Len, our manager, is in talk with different companies and apparently there is quite a bit of interest. I think because of the old Slade, the last CD and also the new stuff coming out so there is sort of a profile on the name at the moment. So that's a good time for us to do a new CD.
Would that be a studio CD?
Yeah. With all new songs.
That would be interesting.
Yeah, especially now that we have the line-up sorted out with the band it would be nice to do a CD with all new material.
You'll be writing again as well, then?
Yeah, we'll do it together. What we'd like to do, Lise, is lock ourselves away somewhere in one of the residential studios where we live and record, so we can record when we get inspirational, when we get ideas, so we are not like stuck to a time thing like say, from 12 lunchtime to 6 o'clock we can record. At a residential studio when we get ideas, we can go record THEN, when we have an idea: let's go put it down NOW. That would be great. We did that once before with the old band in Tittenhurst Park, the one John Lennon used to own and then Ringo took it over, and we did some recordings there once, so when we got ideas; QUICK! Let's go record it! And that's so good. We could walk from the TV-room or whatever and just go record something. It happens SO many times that if you don't put it down on a small tape, you lose it. You forget it. At least in this situation it's; quick! While we have it at present. Let's go, let's go! Even if we just record you know half a minute, 30 seconds or something, at least we have it down on tape, so we can finish off on a later date. So that's what we think we might do with the new line-up.
If you're gonna have the time for it!
Yeah, that's also the trouble! We have to take maybe 2 or 3 weeks, otherwise you know, you don't achieve anything. You need to be there and get inspiration.
Yeah, also if you just have normal studio time it's difficult to be creative on demand.
Yeah, like watching the clock, I think you have to finish now, WHAT!! Oh no!! [laughs].
The CD that got out last year, it got into the charts, didn't it?
It went into the charts, yeah. Initially when it first came out, it went into the charts. I don't know if it's on in the moment, but I've been let to believe that there's a lot more promotion work to go on now. It was fun to see that in the charts, actually.
Is the any hope for a reunion of the original Slade?
Well, they say, never say never, but to be honest I can't see it, Lise. From the bottom of my heart, I can't see it happen.

It is now publicly known that you live in Denmark.
Yes, it has been quoted in a lot of media things and a lot of people sort of know it. And when they know I live here they always ask how did you meet? How did you and Hanne meet, and we always tell them the story.
Right, tell the story once again.
Well, what it was is we were playing in Silkeborg probably about 5 years ago. I met Hanne later after the show and she said that she had a drumstick of me back in 1973 when we played in Aarhus. Her mother took Hanne and some of her school friends of the time and I don't know how it happened but Hanne got a drumstick that night. And she still has it! It's a different colour tape banding now [Hanne's is red, whereas the present is black, ed.]. And I thought she was joking when she explained it to me, that she still had it after all those years. And that was how we met. I DID remember that we played Aarhus twice I think in the seventies, 1973 and 1974, and she said that all her friends got together to go to the show, but they had to buy Hanne's mother a ticket for the concert as she was to drive them, obviously. And then the story is this, that Hanne's Mom was a speech therapist at the time and she forced the girls to put gum in their ears to protect them from the noise of the concert! [laughs hard] And the gum sort of melted, so later they got into trouble with the school nurse, because they still had bits of chewing gum in their ears! [laughs].
How do you like it here in Denmark?
Oh, it's wonderful! It's a beautiful place, and I'm not just saying that. I find it so peaceful, it's so peaceful living here and still there's so much going on. What I like is, that apparently in Denmark, the authorities whoever they may be, they really care for the young people, of their interests. Like I was asked to go to this music school and talk about Slade's career, and when I got there, they had all this equipment there, amplifiers and drums and guitars. And there were quite a few of the kids there, and they had lots there for them, and they swap ideas and go on play, taking turns and just jam, really. And I think it is wonderful. And I did a question/answer thing from the stage, so they could ask about Slade's career and certain things relevant to having a record deal. And I was explaining about certain aspects about recording, which they were interested in, obviously. Then I jammed with the young guys, and then one of them said to me, "You're a fantastic drummer for an old man!" [Don laughs hard] That was just wonderful!!! [Don can't stop laughing] It was SO good!! [still laughing for a while, then getting back to the conversation] But I think it is great that they are sort of given opportunities. They may get that in England now, but obviously when I was that age we didn't have anything like that, maybe they do in certain places now, but not as I know of. I think it is wonderful opportunities that are given to the younger generation of Denmark. And the young kids at the music school were so friendly. All together it was just so good, to see that kind of thing, that they respect everything. I think it's wonderful. And also there are so many concerts around in Denmark anyway, not just the old bands but everything, lots of sort of all across the borders of the music business, different things. The opportunities are THERE to go and see or listen or whatever to anything in the music business and I think it is great. The opportunities that the young people are given in Denmark are wonderful.
Slade has always had a big following in Denmark. You must get recognised when you walk the streets?
It's happened since there's been a few features in the local newspapers and things like that. I did a few interviews with reporters here in Silkeborg. I've been living here full time for 1½ years now. Nowadays since the features have been published, when I'm going certain places like the record shops or the cafés people say, we thought we recognised you, but we never imagined that it was you. And somebody once said, didn't you used to be Don Powell? And I said, I still am! [laughs].

Many of the old fans still go to you concerts. Isn't that a bit weird that the same people are still there?
Well, Lise, the thing is that they bring their children now! And many of them still remember certain things from when we toured here a lot in the seventies, they still remember so many things about it, the records and so on which is wonderful.
Maybe the fans sometimes remember more than the band?
Oh, yeah! They can pick you up and tell you things that no way I would ever remember, things about quotes and even articles from that period; you said this and you said that, do you still stand by that? And I don't even remember saying it! [laughs hard] But they remember these things. A funny thing was that at a concert, it must have been a few years ago, and there was this fan from the seventies and he was with his daughter and we met them in the street and he said, do you know who this is? And she says, no. And he says, that's the drummer with Slade. Do you remember them? You know Slade. She goes, Oh, didn't they sing about Christmas? [laughs] Of all the hit records we've had people remembers that. But that's the one, I mean, the Christmas record obviously appeals to every age group, so there's no way you can like ignore that particular record. You can forget all the hit records but people always remember Merry Xmas. Especially when we tour at Christmas time, when the contracts are made for the shows, there's always a clause that says they must finish the show with Merry Xmas. We would do that anyway, 'coz once you play that song you can't play anything else. You can't follow it with anything else. So we have to finish with that one. Which is wonderful.
And I think it's fun at a Slade concert when you look out at the audience these days you see all these 45 and up.
I know, I know! And it's great because a lot of these people said to me, I've just totally relived my youth! And like I said, they have their children with them and the children are embarrassed by their parents! [laughs]

About the anniversary should we say some more?
Well, there are also talks about us doing on-off things coming up, big shows in England that we may be asked to appear on because of the 40es anniversary.
It's a bit amazing that you're still here after 40 years, because not many bands are.
It IS amazing. I always quote that I said, when we first started having hit records, and people asked, how long do you think you'll go on for now?, I said, well, I'll give it five years [laughs] and here we are, we are still carrying on. But I've always said that as soon as I stop enjoying it, I WILL finish. I'm not gonna go on stage just for the money or for whatever, I'd rather stop myself personally as soon as I stop enjoying it. I've met so many bands over the years that don't want to go on stage! [Don sounds baffled] When they are doing a concert; oh, I wish I was at home watching TV and they MEAN it!! It's not just a silly quote! And I said, well, how can you DO it then? You know, you can't just go on stage as a robot and go through the motions of doing something.
I think that one of the reasons why people keep hoping for a reunion is that you are one of the only bands that actually COULD do a reunion, because you're all still alive!
Yeah, and I also think we all still have the ability to do it. It WOULD be nice, it WOULD be nice and it may only take a couple of mails or phone calls, to get it in gear, to put it back together again, but I think we have to wait and see. I'm not ultimately ruling it out.
When you think about the other bands of that time…they are not there anymore.
No, I know. It's amazing how many of them are dead. You don't realise it. Be it just natural causes or brought on by themselves, it is really the same. You sort of forget, you know. I think it IS wonderful that we can still go out and tour, especially now the world is such a small place these days and the borders have broken down a lot so we can go to Russia and places like in the seventies there were NO way we were ever getting there. It is SO good. I just hope the younger bands of today realise what an opportunity they have to really open their eyes to see the different cultures and different things around the world. As I've always said, it has been my education.
You're rather big in Russia and the former Eastern bloc, aren't you?
Yeah, in those countries and Russia as well they know so much more about the band than what you'd ever think, you know. And they say, why didn't you come here in the seventies? [laughs] It's obvious why we couldn't be there in the seventies. In the early seventies when we had all the big hit records we went to East Berlin to do a TV-show and I was kicked out of the TV-studio for chewing gum. That was Western decadence. I didn't know! They were shouting at me in German and pushed me out of the studio and I couldn't think what I had done wrong! And then I saw the guy who was looking after us from Polydor which we were signed to in those days, and I said; please, talk to them, I obviously did something wrong. And he said, take the chewing gum out of your mouth! It's Western decadence!

To get back to the CDs and the DVD, because as far as I know they're not going to be released in Denmark until Friday.
Oh, really? I didn't realise that!
I thought it a bit weird to release it AFTER the Christmas sales.
Yeah, I was under the impression that it was released in all the territories, Lise, but come to think of it I haven't seen it in the shops. I wondered why I hadn't seen it in the shops or seen any advertising or something like that.
I have to write a bit about the releases…well, what can we say about that? That's mainly the big hits, but on the double CD there's also some stuff, which is not just hits, some live things as well.
From the Reading Festival, or…
Yeah, I think so.
It was the Reading Festival that brought us back to focus, really, because we hadn't worked together for quite some time and Ozzy Osbourne pulled out of that particular festival, he didn't feel his band was ready and we were offered his slot of the show. Our manager at that time, Chas, said, you must take it. We said, but we haven't toured for a long time. He said, it doesn't matter. And we had like maybe 2 or 3 days rehearsal and went there and did the show and that was recorded for the BBC in England and we bought the masters of them and released like an EP as it was at the time with four tracks.
Yes, it's one of those tracks that is on the CD. I think it is Born To Be Wild.
Is it? Okay. There's one song from Reading, When I'm Dancin' I Ain't Fightin' that had a lot of radio play in England at the time when it came out.
And the DVD…that's pretty much Wall of Hits and Set of Six and some more. But there are some changes…Merry Xmas…
Yeah, it's a different version. Not the one where I'm drunk! [laughs] I think it was much more fun and I don't know why they decided to use another one there!!

There's just one thing, I have to ask you about that, that's not going to go into the Danish paper, but, when you did the Play It Loud-album you wrote a song with Jim Lea called I Remember. I've always wondered about the lyrics, because it's about a man who loses his memory.
Oh, yeah. I actually never thought of that.
And that was 3 years prior to your accident.
I never realised that! Well, that's strange…that's strange, isn't it!! I wrote the lyrics! That's spooky! I never thought of that! That's strange, that! I don't know why I wrote that. I don't remember what the inspiration was at the time when I wrote the lyrics to that one, but that is VERY weird! It IS strange. I never even THOUGHT of that. That is weird. I'd never even realised that, I'd never even given it another thought. [laughs] That IS weird.
As most writers will say, you have to be careful what you write, because sometimes those things then happen in real life.
Yeah, I must be more careful in the future about what I write! [laughs]

And then there's another thing…we just talked about that you always do Merry Xmas as the last one. But wasn't there a time when…when you went off stage it was to Singing In The Rain. Why?
I think it was Noddy Holder's choice. He's a big fan of that particular era. It's like nowadays we go on stage to the Thunderbird-theme. There's not particular reason for that. It's just a good one to go on stage to.

Right. Well...I don't know if we need some more on the B-sides…
We've always wanted to do a CD with some of the early B-sides. It WAS planned a few years ago to be called "A-sides of backsides", but it never happened. But I think the next CD will feature quite a few of the B-sides. It should get out this year, at least that's what the plan was. I like the title "A-sides of backsides" [laughs]

What else do we need…Sweet…I don't know if we need to go into that Sweet-thing again.
We can do that, Lise.
Because all the January/February concerts in Denmark are with Sweet…
Sweet will be finishing those shows. With Mal in our band and Andy in the other, it's like a marriage! We've done quite a few shows together since Mal has been in Slade and it's quite nice.
Mal could just stay on stage all evening, couldn't he?
Yes! [laughs] I never thought of that!
With Mal and then John on the violin you're approaching the original sound?
Yeah, we try to do that. What started that, Lise, was because of Mal's voice, he's leaning more towards the Noddy Holder sound. We had to change some of the keys back to the original keys, so that was when John decided to use the violin.
Yes, I wondered why he did that, because in Bilston he told me that he didn't particularly like to play the violin.
No, but it works good, though.
During the sound check in Bilston I heard him have a go at Run Runaway on the violin.
Yeah, maybe we will do that as well, try that. But even with the old band, Jim never played violin on stage during Run Runaway.
That's also why I wondered if a new CD was going to be new stuff or the old things with Mal.
It'll be all new things. There's no point in…with all that is being released… how are we going to top that? Why compete with ourselves?

My favourite photo from January 11, 2006 Posted by Picasa

The January-interview in use

The January interview surfaced in the Danish "Birkerød Avis" on January 24, 2006. Although the editor had asked for several pics of Don and Slade, both new and old, she decided to go with the present Slade promo-photo as well as a pic of Sweet! Anyway, below you can check it all out.

"Birkerød Avis", January 24, 2006 Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A September interview

On a cloudy Tuesday in September I went over to Don's place in Danish town Silkeborg to do another interview. Don and Hanne picked me up at the station and took me to their home. We had an excellent lunch and afterwards Don and I retreated to do the interview.
This one was to be used for some on-line bios, both Danish and international, and we really got deep into the early years of Don's career up until the heydays of Slade. I have absolutely no idea how long we talked, but after several pots of camomile tea and a heavy dose of sweets, time caught up with us. Don and Hanne had invited me to the dress rehearsal of the play "Oliver T." at the Team Theatre in the town of Herning that evening, so eventually we had to stop. I was running out of tape for my Dictaphone, anyway!
We didn't do a photo-session this time, as Don provided me with some old photos of him from his childhood and early years in Slade. But Hanne swooped in from the kitchen to do some pics of Don and me talking. Thanks, Hanne!
Below you'll see the September 2005 interview in full.

Don and me, Silkeborg, September 20, 2005 Posted by Picasa

September 20, 2005: interview conducted at Don's place, Silkeborg, Denmark

I'll need the names of your parents and the occupation of your father.
Yeah. My father's name was Walter and my mother's name was Dora. And Dad was a steelworker. He worked in a steel factory. When I was starting work, I worked about 6 months I think, I also worked in a steel work, in the laboratory of the steelwork, testing metal. You know, [Don puts on a parental voice] that's a good job for you. In "Flame" that's why I'm in the factory.

How many brothers and sisters do you have?
I have an older sister, Carol, then there's me, then I have a younger brother, Derek, and a younger sister Marilyn.

I have to mention your accident.
That's okay! That's okay, yeah.
You lost your sense of smell and taste?
Smell and taste. Yeah, that will never come back. And then there's the amnesia. That is sort of like unpredictable. It's never the same. It comes and goes. I remember one time in England I had parked my car. I had some errands, but when I got back I forgot where the car was. [laughs] And I went, Oh, no! I went around looking for it, but I couldn't find it, so there was only one thing to do. Get a cab, and then I explained the situation, and we drove around to find the car. And the strange thing was, the cab driver told me that I was only his second customer today, but the one before me, had been the same. He couldn't find his car, either! [laughs] And about the accident…the girl who died in the accident was a girl whom I had only known for a few months. She was the girlfriend of Dave Hill's sister. She was not my fiancée. It always says so, but she wasn't.

I also have to mention the Flame-movie and that bit about Lorna Doone.
Yeah, yeah. Chas Chandler financed the Flame-movie and hired Andrew Birkin and Richard Longcraine. The characters in Flame were based on us. We took the screen writer, Andrew Birkin, with us on a tour in America, so he got to know us. He was a weird fellow, used to write in church yards. [laughs]. He was always into like the supernatural. Fantastic things. But he based the characters on us. As I had once worked in a steelwork, and in "Flame" that's why I'm in the factory. We never got any money from it. Chas said, that once the original investment had been covered we would split the profits. But we never saw any of it! [laughs hard].
Wasn't it difficult for you making Flame with your amnesia and all?
No. Because they had stops all the time. Do one line and then stop. Also in the long scene where I talk to the boss from the factory. Just did a few lines, then they stopped to change the camera angles and then a few lines more. There was also a book out, "Slade in Flame" by John Pidgeon.
That is really good.
Yeah. It was made after the film, but if it had been made before, we would have used it. The story line is better and there are more depths to the characters. It was closer to us as we had been in the early years. In the book I'm teamed up with Jim. In the early years Jim and I spent a lot of time together.
When Flame came out in America…we were actually quite big in the Midwestern States of America, concert-wise. But when Flame came out they couldn't understand what we were saying. [Don laughs hard] They talked about subtitling it! [Don can't stop laughing] And I remember…it was before we were anything, we were booked to play at the Eastnor Castle in Heresford. It was at a film-wrap party of a film with Sammy Davis Jr. and Jerry Lewis. And we got there and played and afterwards some of the silverware was missing. I think it was both silverware and expensive artworks that were missing. And of course we got the blame. But we said, "No, we haven't got it." We were innocent. Years later when we were doing the Flame-film we met some of the film crew again, and they admitted that they were the ones who had taken it! But back then it was like, blame it on the band! [Don laughs]

Some story! Well, I have to mention that you have written some of the lyrics for Slade.
Yeah, on some of the old things. I did the lyrics to Look Wot You Dun and lots of the B-sides.

Then we have to have a description of your style of playing.
Basically I am a rock drummer. With lots of influence from Ringo Starr. And John Bonham from Led Zeppelin.

You have any hobbies?
Not really. Just music basically. In the sense I buy records. CDs and things. Although the Eagles are my favourite band my taste in music is very wide. I buy a lot of CDs. And I also have them given to me when I am lucky. One time when we did an American tour and Tower Records in Los Angeles, this enormous like warehouse, they said, you can help yourself to records. [laughs] And we said, are you sure? It was like a big factory full of records. It was pre-CD days, so it was records. I think I probably got 75 or 100 albums. It felt a bit strange just walking in there, but apparently Led Zeppelin, they took a big lorry down there and took EVERY record, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of albums. And after that it stopped. But at Tower Records they'd said, go help yourself and they did. [laughs]

Well, we've been through that with the boy scouts
But then somehow you got from the boy scouts to playing in a band.
I finished playing with the boy scouts and I didn't own any drums but I still wanted to play drums. And I was just a member of this youth club and I was playing table tennis when these two guys came into the youth club, and it was Johnny Howells and Mick Marson. Johnny was a singer and he played guitar and Mick was a guitarist as well. They'd heard that I played drums and I wanted to get into a band, so they came down just to introduce themselves and ask me if I would like, you know, to play drums with them. And I said that I would love to but I don't have any drums of my own. I knew a school friend, Dave Boadley was his name, and he had a set of drums. I just went to ask him one day if I could borrow them and he said, yeah, just take them, I'm not using them. I used those drums about 18 months, I think, 1½ years I used those drums, because he never asked for them back [laughs]. We were playing like weddings, youth club dances, the occasional sort of small pub. We didn't get paid, it was just a hobby to us.
I remember one time they asked us to…this be a local cinema and Saturday mornings was like the kids' programme and before then they used to have either a singer or a duo or someone like play on the stage of the cinema before they started the cartoons and all the films for the young kids, and they asked us to play one Saturday morning. I remember when we met Johnny that day, he'd seen the people at the cinema, and they said they were gonna pay us. I said, PAY us?? [Don sounds surprised, then laughs] We get PAID for doing this??? Oh, yeah, we're getting, I think it was £ 5. The cinema was only just around the corner so we could carry our equipment from Johnny's house to the cinema. [laughs] We got paid £ 5, that was like…I think we had £1 each and put £ 2 into…because we used to rehears at Johnny's house because his father had like a small bed & breakfast-place. There used to be an old repertoire theatre near there and the actors who were doing plays or whatever they would stay there, like a bed & breakfast. And we used to sort of rehears there and we used the extra £ 2 to pay Johnny's father for the teas and the milk and the sugar and the biscuits. So we had £ 1 each and that was amazing that we got paid to doing it.

How old were you then?
Sixteen. And we had stage-names. Johnny Travelle and The Travellers was a stage name. The first band was The Vendors. That was Johnny, Mick and myself and we became the 'N Betweens after that. We were still The Vendors when we were playing a pub room somewhere once when this guy came up. His name was Chalkie White, his name was. He really liked us and he said, maybe you need a lead guitarist. He knew Dave Hill and that's how the introduction came. We were rehearsing in Johnny's father's house in the front room. It wasn't THAT big, but the toilet joined the main lounge. So we put the drums in the toilet and then Mick would be off the corner somewhere and Johnny would be off the other corner so we used to shout to each other [laughs] what we'd gonna play and that was when we first met Dave Hill. This Chalkie White bought Dave Hill down and he was looking for a band as well. We just played together and it was the first time I'd seen anyone actually play like Chuck Berry chords. And he played that. At that particular time we were only playing other peoples songs, the pop tunes of the time, really, the Top 20 of the time, things like that. When Dave joined us we started to play a few more like Chuck Berry-song. He knew that kind of thing. That was his style. From then on we played like pubs, that was all there was at the time, and working men's clubs and youth clubs and things like that.

Dave Hill joined in what? 1963?
Yeah, 1963.
And…then what?
We just carried on playing…and, that's right; we were after a bass player then. We had a guy named Bill Diffy, he was with us for a short time. We also had jobs at the time, and he didn't think that the group was making any money. He was going to get married also so he wanted to settle down. He left. Then we got recommended this guy named Dave Jones. We used to call him "Cass". I don't know why [laughs]. You never know with these things. It just happened. And he was a really good bass player. We were just playing like youth clubs and working men's clubs and ballrooms at the time and strangely enough Noddy Holder's band… The youth club we used to play on Thursday evenings and they always talked about this other band called The Rocking Phantoms and that was Noddy Holder's band. They used to play there as well and we used to go and see them. They used to come watch us play. We started playing all the pubs and clubs together, and then they started backing a cabaret singer, Steve Brett. In those days we were to spend a month in Germany. We were booked to do this club in Dortmund for a month and for that we were getting 140 kroner [£ 14] a week each. That was in 1965. So 140 kroner a week each and somewhere to stay. And that was in Dortmund and Noddy Holder's band, Steve Brett & The Mavericks, they were going to Frankfurt for a month. And we went in those old vans we used to travel in and we drove down to Dover and Noddy Holder and Steve Brett & The Mavericks were on the same ferry. And we just talked. We used to seeing Nod all the time and all the rest of the members as well. So they went to Frankfurt.
Those particular gigs or bookings would either make or break a band, you know. That was in 1965 and we all stayed in one room in Dortmund and basically we started to fall apart after that. Dave Jones, like "Cass", he'd met a girl and her father got a successful fruit and vegetable business so he could see that was where he was gonna go. And he is still there actually. [laughs] He is still there doing that. Well, he was leaving. And it was like…Dave and myself were getting a bit disillusioned anyway. And I remember saying to Dave, do you remember that guy, you know, Noddy Holder? I wonder what he's doing now? He wasn't the lead singer at the time in his band. Steve Brett was the main singer and Nod used to do maybe one or two songs before the start of their show, sort of like warm-up things. In the meantime when Cass Jones left we were starting to audition for a bass player, Dave and myself, in view of forming a band with Nod, you know. And that's how it happened that we found Jim Lea. Then we told him what we were going to do and he was a bit disappointed at first because he really liked Johnny Howells, the blues, we were playing blues-things then. And he really liked the old band, so he was a bit disappointed at first. We were still the 'N Betweens, the 'N Betweens were still together and then we approached Nod. His band was breaking up as well. He was disillusioned, so we said do you fancy to try it, we'd like just a four-piece band. And he said yes. It was almost like in secret. Johnny and Mick didn't know. Dave and myself got our equipment together in the van. Dave Hill was the only driver at that time, he used to drive the van. So we picked Jimmy Lea up and went down for Noddy Holder. There was a pub about 100 m from Nod's house where we always used to play as a band. We knew the guy there and he said we could rehears there that afternoon. So it was like a secret rehearsal we had to do. [laughs] Just to see if it would work. The first song…we had to try to think of a song that Nod's band played and that our band played so we didn't have to go around trying to learn new songs…and the first song we ever played together was "Mr. Pityful" by Otis Redding because both bands used to play that song. And it worked! [Don sounds surprised, then laughs] Straight away it worked! Then we were all like young kids, like laughing and giggling because it was working, and then we just leapt into other things, you know, sort of like soul-things and some Tamla-Motown things and it worked!
Then Nod joined the band but the bookings we already had at the time, our agent said, well, you can only do this bookings with Johnny Howells, they like Johnny Howells as a singer, so you need to do those bookings with him. In those days in England in the holiday resorts we used to play there at a ballroom or a club for the week, every night for a week. And we had to play this club in Torquay called the 400 Club. And we used to stay in a tiny caravan because it was cheap for the week. It used to cost 150 kroner [£15] for the week this caravan, perfect. And we were playing in this club and one night Johnny didn't want to play. He asked us if we could do it on our own because he had met this girl and he wanted to take her out that night on a date. And we said, yeah, we'll try it. That was the FIRST time that we could play together just the four of us. And it went FAN-TASTIC! We were in such high spirits. [laughs] Such high. As we drove back to the caravan we said, but we'd better be careful when we get back with Johnny because of the high spirits. He is not going to be very happy. It got even worse when we got to the caravan because the girl he was seeing that night didn't turn up. [laughs] So he'd spent that night in the caravan on his own. And we were all in jubilation because it went so good. [laughs] It was only a few months after that, that Johnny decided to leave. We were going into more Tamla-Motown things then and he wasn't particularly happy with the material, the way we wanted to go with the material, so he left. He was getting heavy into the soul-scene then, so he left and joined a soul band. But that meant that we could sort of carry on the four of us. That was what we wanted, just a four-piece group. And we rehearsed just like CRAZY, you know, for months and months. Because in those days Nod and Dave used to play guitars - Nod was a lead guitarist in his band - and they used to play lead guitar together, play like twin lead guitar, things like that. And then we started learning a lot of Tamla-Motown stuff and arranging them just for us, really. The three guys, like Noddy Holder, Dave Hill and Jim Lea, they all sang, you know. Noddy Holder was the lead singer, but they all sang, and we said, we just got to have a few weeks to work it out on our own.
Then this other offer came up for us to go to Germany again, just the four of us. That would be GREAT, then we can get our ACT together, so to speak, you know. So we got booked to go to Kiel in Germany. A big old cinema called Star Palast. The manager there, I always remember his name, he was a guy named Manfred Woitalla, his name was. I remember him. He was a real GANG-ster! In those days we got 170 kroner [£ 17] a week each and accommodation found. This club we were playing, or ballroom, it wasn't a club really, was a big old cinema that had been converted and our accommodation was, like…the old cinemas in those days had the big stairways round the side of the cinema and there was a landing. We had a camp bed on four landings, that was our accommodation for the month! And then we could get cleaned up in the club's sort of toilets and things like that. But he HATED us! Manfred Woitalla he HATED us! What are you doing, he said, you're playing too loud, he didn't like the material we were playing. Because in those days if you did that kind of booking you had to play the Top 20 material, but we weren't playing that. We were playing old Tamla-Motown stuff and certain soul-thing of the time. He HATED us. He used to stand down the front, shouting at us [laughs] and throwing his keys on the floor and things like that. We didn't have any money at the time and nowhere to crash as we had to wait and every night he made us finish after the first 45 minutes because he didn't like us. But the top of the bill at that particular club was a group called Paul Raven and The Boston Showband - Gary Glitter! [laughs]. And he used to take us out for a coffee and they had proper living quarters. And he used to buy us coffee and cake and things like that because we had no money. The manager of this club he wouldn't pay us, he wouldn't give us any money, so we said, well, what do we do? We're not gonna stay. And he was a real GANGSTER apparently. It wasn't our equipment we were using, it was borrowed equipment. We used the equipment from the club other than guitars, so we just left one night. Manfred Woitalla's children used to play in the club during the day with toy bows and arrows so Noddy Holder got an arrow off one of the children and pushed it through the speaker cabinets of all the speakers before we left. We got in our van and were going back to England. We were really worried, you know, in case they'd sent someone after us. We had it all TIMED just right to get to the ferry at Ostende, I think it was, and when we got there the ferry was just leaving. [laughs] And we were going, No-no-no-no! And then they brought the ferry back! The ferry came back! It was only a few meters out and they brought it back. And we all went, thank GOD! [laughs] And we were like terrified in case anybody came after us. And that was it. Then we just started to rehears back in England again, playing bars and pubs and clubs and things like that. That was what we did all around the country until 1968.
The agency we were with in Wolverhampton was called the Astra Agency. All the bands used to get there Friday morning for their money. It was always like this: we would play a pub but the pub would send the money to the agency, so the bands would have to go to the agency every Friday morning to get the money, sort of thing. If it was THERE, you know! We used to queue up and then one time one day they called us to the office and said, we've had this letter from this guy in the Bahamas who used to come and watch you at the St. Charles Youth Club where we used to rehears and play. He used to be a member there and he used to come and watch you there, but now he is on the Bahamas. Now the Bahamas might have been the moon as far as we were concerned, you know. The Bahamas?? It was something you saw in a film or something like that in those days. They said, he's got contacts there and you can play in a club over there for 8 weeks. And they will fly you out there - we sat with open mouths - they'll fly you there and they'll pay you $ 100 a week each and your accommodation and food is included. [Don whispers:] What!! This is like, you know, this is it! We struck it, we made it, you know. [laughs] I mean, none of us had ever been on a plane before, nothing like that, and we flew out on a Sunday. I remember it was May the 18th 1968. My sister's birthday is May the 23rd so I was a bit disappointed because I would miss her birthday.
May the 18th we flew out there and it was a Sunday. And we played a pub called The Ship and Rainbow on Sunday night in Wolverhampton and then…because we only had our old van there and we can't leave that at Heathrow for about 8 weeks so we got a friend to drive us down. We were all excited. We were all dressed up, like shirt, tie, jacket, trousers on and then we just had the small box amplifiers and the drums. And he drove us down to Heathrow, we left far too early so we drove over night and everything was checked in and we had our tickets. And we didn't have to pay any access because of the small equipment we had then was within the allowance sort of thing, anyway, so it was okay. And of course it was just like, to us it was like something you only saw on TV. And we flew, you know, it was an 8 or 9 hours long flight, I think, to the Bahamas, stopping off on Bermuda. And it was like, [whispers:] what!! Bermuda! [laughs] I remember getting off the plane in Bermuda, I remember the door, walking out, and I jumped back in, I thought the engines were still on of the jet with the heat. I didn't realise it. Of course we had all those coats and ties on, so… [Don laughs and pretends to strip off his clothes]. We took the jackets off and we thought, we haven't even got there, yet! And this is like Paradise in the airport in Bermuda!
And then we flew another 3 or 4 hours, or maybe not that long, but something like that on to the Bahamas, it was just like…. I remember flying, we flew to Nassau, the capitol and then flying there was just like…we were just looking out the window and seeing all these THINGS down below us. And we landed in Nassau, and the guy who had arranged it, Ken, he was there to meet us. And then we got on one of these planes, all inter-island planes every hour. It's like a bus route, really. We got on this plane and on to the island, the Grand Bahama Island, where WE were staying. And we had never seen anything like it. You know, sort of like the heat and just like…it was just like Paradise. And go to a hotel - we had never been to a hotel before, we couldn't understand it. We had 2 twin rooms, adjoining rooms, and we just got a bed each. We never had that before, we never had a bed each before. [laughs]. And the window, there was like a big, French double window looking out over this big lagoon like, it was part of the ocean, that kind of thing. It was like, it was just these four blokes, like scumbags from Wolverhampton, here we are sitting on the Bahamas! [laughs] On this luxurious island in a hotel!
Then Ken said, you don't have to start for the next couple of days and he took us out to dinner that night, and it was like…I couldn't understand it, it was even warm at night! [laughs] In England it was always cold at night. And I remember seeing the electrical storms and the lightning. [Don's voice gets baffled] and I had never seen that. I kept on waiting for the thunder to bang. And I said, [Don's voice sounds uncomprehending] how come there is no thunder? He said, these are just electrical storms. We didn't know anything about that. And he took us all round and showed us the different places. It was incredible. Then he said, tomorrow we'll take the equipment down and I'll show you the club.
We got in his car and we sort of drove out of there and as it happened we went into the jungle. [laughs] And we got to this club and it was like sort of cockroaches all over the walls and everything like that, but we still had a great time. We thought it was fantastic. There were only black people in the club and we set up and everything and met everyone at the club. Then we started. There were only a few black people in and a few American school kids, but they had to leave at 10 o'clock because of the curfew. It was strange at first, I mean, sort of…it was okay playing to the kids, but when the kids left at 10 o'clock we just played to the black Bahamans. They liked us because we were playing soul music and they had never heard like white kids play soul music before. I don't know what it was like, but it was their kind of music. And they could make fun of us and things like that, but it was just a top experience.
First night we went back to the hotel and then we had room service and we never even knew what room service was. [Don starts a conversation of his own:] Room service? What's that? Just call up to the caterer and get some food send. You mean they bring it TO you? You don't have to go and get it? No, no, they'll bring it TO you. [laughs] And then Ken just signed the bill for it. I said, aren't you gonna PAY for it? I already have. But, you…[Don's sighs uncomprehendingly]. Just sign on the bill, you don't give them any money. We couldn't get that together!
We played for the first week and then Ken said, well, not so many people are going to the club so they haven't made that much money so can only give you a few dollars each. It doesn't matter. We've got the hotel and we can eat there, we're being looked after, so we didn't mind. A couple of weeks went on and it got to be the same like that. They weren't making any money. We still didn't care, we had a FANTASTIC time, by the swimming pool, on the beach every day and just having a great time playing at night. It went on like that week after week. They'd give us a few dollars some weeks when they could make a bit of money. But the club was in the black part of the island, so the white kids had to leave at 10 o'clock so it was just he black Bahamans there, ten or twelve in this club every night.
And after 6 weeks…we had 2 weeks left before we went back to England…the hotel manager sent for us. We were all asleep in the bed when the phone rang. Who's that? Hotel manager. I need to see you in my office straight away. His name was Dan Darrow. I put the phone down and Nod said, who was that? The hotel manager. He wants to see us straight away. Aarh…we're still asleep. We'll pop down later. Yeah, back to sleep. Half an hour later the phone rang again, I NEED TO SEE YOU STRAIGHT AWAY! Well, [Don sighs resignedly] we'd better go and see what he wants. So we just put our swimming shorts on and T-shirts and go down there and sit in his office. And he was all like very smart with a suit and everything and we said, what's wrong? And he said, you've been here for 6 weeks now, living like kings, when am I going to get some money? And we just said, well, it's all been paid for by the club we play. Ken said that they are paying the bill. He listened to that and made a phone call and this guy came in with all his paper work and looking through it he says, that wasn't the deal. As far as I knew you were here for 2 weeks, which they were paying for and then it is all down to you. I go, what!! You know, explain that again [laughs] And he explained and said, I know you can play guitars. We explained the situation. We were going to get $ 100 a week each and they would pay for the hotel and food. I'm sorry, he said, that's not what I got down here. And he said, you've been here for 6 weeks now, living like kings, room service and things like that, everything had been signed to the rooms. And we said, well…we got a bit worried…well, what's the bill? What do we owe? Because we had nothing. All we had was the return tickets back home. What do we owe? And he checked up and it was $ 35,000 [laughs hard] It was 1968! [laughs] And we just went into hysterics. We just couldn't believe it. [Don can't stop laughing] We just went into hysterics. He said, it's not funny! You can't stay here anymore, either. [Don's voice gets timid] Where are we gonna go? He said, I'm moving you out to one of our staff apartments and you'll live there. And we said [timid voice] What's…what's happening with us? What's going on? He said, I'll tell you now. I've been over at the club. It has just been bought by some Americans, two American guys from Miami. Yeah? We didn't knew nothing about it. And he said, they are willing to pay you $ 100 a week between you which I will take 75 of to help pay this bill off. You'll have 25. You'll move into the staff apartment and you will not leave until this bill has been paid off. I thought, we are never going to get home.
There was nothing we could do. We moved into this apartment, it was probably about…it was not as big as this living room and we had like four camp beds and it had a separate bath and toilet and a small kitchen in the corner and that was it. And like every Friday night when the hotel guys used to come down they'd take $ 75 of our $ 100, leaving $ 25 and that was it. But the American kids used to help us out with food and pay for things and drive us everywhere and things like that. We had been booked for 8 weeks and when we had been there for nearly 8 weeks we thought, the thing is our tickets were charted things. These tickets were only valid until the end of August. The last flight was like in the last week in August, something like that. We got to go back. [Don whispers] What are we going to do? And we got no money, either. At least we had our return tickets, but we had to save money to pay for over access baggage and our equipment, so we just played there.
It was like every day like 8 hours a night, and every weekend the owner would bring American acts over from Miami, which we used to back and things like that. Fire dancers, female impersonators, soul singers and things like that. [laughs] So we had to rehears with them and play with them like Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The fire dancer only wanted drums so I used to play just jungle music for him on the drums. And the soul singers, when they came over they used to have a bass player and a guitarist, but they never had a drummer. So I was engaged with them. I used to go down every Friday afternoon to rehears with them. I never got any money for it apart from the deal. And it was strange in those days, everyone went, do you know my hit record? And they all had the same hit record. It was a song called Hitch It To The Horse. I'll just sit there and wait for them like totally despondent and they'd come and get introduced to me, do you know my hit record? I said, Hitch It To The Horse? How do you know that? [laughs] And I was to play with them, but the thing was with the fire dancer… He had this big pole of fire and it was only a tiny stage and he used to dance around sort of limbo dancing with this thing and I learned to duck [Don ducks for the imaginary pole of fire]. You can't work with these kinds of things. [laughs]. And I used to be on stage from 8 o'clock until 4 o'clock in the morning without a break and then I'll be asleep on my drums [Don leans forward, pretending to be asleep over the drums] and I'd hear the guys: Come out, come on, that's it now! [Don sighs] Okay!
We had a GREAT time. We were 4 young kids on the Bahamas. You can imagine. We didn't care that there wasn't any money because all the drinks were being paid for by people in the club who sent us drinks, things like that. The kids used to get us food, things like that. That was okay.
Near the end when we realised we had 2 weeks left before our tickets finished - we'd just about saved enough money to get our equipment back, but [Don whispers] how were we to get it out of the club? They'll kill us. They'll murder us. They'll shoot us. You know, what I mean. What are we gonna do? [Don's voice returns to normal] And it was just a PURE stroke of luck that the managing guy who had taken over said, this weekend after you have finished playing on Sunday I want ALL your equipment OUT of the club. We are closing the club for a week and we are gonna redecorate. I said, I don't believe it! We got our equipment out and we took that straight down to the airport, paid, on the plane, back to England. That went a week before we did. We had a week left because the club was closed.
The following weekend was our last flight that we could get back. That was all checked in, all done and we had a week. We just had a party for a week with the kids. What a party. And we flew out on a Sunday and on the Friday and Saturday we said to them, now listen, we've got to skip the island on Sunday so we are gonna say all our goodbyes this weekend. We can't see you on Sunday. We have to go to the airport. They all came to the airport Sunday morning to see us off and we said, No! No-no! [laughs] No one knew we are leaving! We had to time it. Our flight from Freeport to Nassau where the flight for England was, we had to time it. The plane we got to Nassau it gave us just the minimum time to check us on the plane to England and then go on. So we timed it just right, and we saw all those kids and said, No! Go away! Go away! And we said goodbye and got on the plane and we got to Nassau to find that the plane for England had been delayed for about 6 hours. And we said, They're gonna know. They're gonna come after us. What are we gonna do? We were scared. We were really scared. So what we did was that for 6 hours we went to 4 different parts of the airport and hid like on settees and lay down [Don ducks down sideways in his armchair] so no one could see us. And that was the LONGEST 6 hours I have ever spent! We couldn't find each other, we just hid and we had strange looks from people going by us and that kind of thing. And I remember looking out and seeing our plane, it was night time then, coming in from England and we RAN! We had already checked in. We RAN and got on that plane. And that was it. We got off the island. But it was strange flying over it. We had been there for almost 3½ months and looking down and think…god, we'll never see this place again. This is a place…it is like, to us, like Paradise…like the other side of the world, and we will never see it again. It had been the most amazing experience that 4 kids have ever had.
We got back and we had letters for about 2 months from the hotel after the money. We obviously…when we checked in the hotel we put our addresses in the registration, we didn't think, we were truthful, we put our own addresses, and we had LETTERS for MONTHS. We still had $ 22,000 or 23,000 that we owed them and that was it.
On the plane on the way back we were all still positive when we thought, well this is it now. We've had our hardship. We're gonna make it now. We're gonna work our DAMNEDEST to make it. The agency at the time - there were no phones, well, there were phones, but we couldn't afford phones, to telephone to England from the Bahamas, and we used to write to our agency saying we're stuck here we can't get back, you know, we're helpless. We NEVER got a reply. And when we got back we went to see them and they had the NERVE, the cheek, to ask us for their commission from the months in the Bahamas and we said, WHAT!! You left us there, you never even offered to help, you know, and we said, we're leaving you. We're not staying with you anymore, we're leaving. And they said, you can't, you're under contract. And we said, we're not. Because we weren't. Because when they originally formed they didn't particularly like us anyway but they signed all the other bands. They never even signed us. They used to get us, it was pure a mistake on their part, but we never said anything. Keep that one quiet. They still used to get us work which we paid them the commission for obviously, but they never had a contract with us. And then when we said, we're leaving and they said, you can't, we have a contract, we said, no you don't. Yes, we do. So will you find it? They said, no, we can't just find it like that. We said, we'll come back next week. And we walked in, where's the contract? And they hadn't got one. Everything went PERFECT, and we walked away from them. And then we worked with this other agency in Wolverhampton as well which a policeman and his wife used to run. It was in his wife's name, because he, Andy, Andy Anderson, was a policeman so he couldn't have his name to things like that so it was all in his wife's name and we used to work for them. We basically did the same gigs in Wolverhampton, you know the pubs and clubs and things. It was just a different agency. Then they got this recording audition for us at Fontana records. Oh no, I missed the Kim Fowley bit out, haven't I?
That was back in '66, that was when we first… You want me to go back to that?
Yeah, you can do that.

Yes, because they got us this club in London called Tiles. That was in '66. And because we were still a youth club band then, all the youth club members they'd rented a coach to come down see us play. And we didn't know. We played this club in Oxford Street, I think it was. It's not there anymore, but it was like an old club in Oxford Street. And we didn't know there was this guy in the audience called Kim Fowley who was like part of the Hollywood Argyles, The Alley Youth, those things, even Napoleon XIV. He did "They're coming to take me away", you know. That was him. And he's like [Don opens his arms wide] that much taller than me and like so skinny and he came in, You guys are gonna be famous. And we go, who's this freak? He introduces himself as Kim Fowley. Stick with me. You're gonna be stars. [Don sighs disillusioned] Okay, Kim. I'll make a record with you. It could be a massive record. Okay, Kim. We'd heard all this before. Okay, Kim. And he actually, he was with this agency that contacted Andy Anderson and we went down to make this record. We were still at Astra at the time. We went down to make this record with him in this tiny studio, it was a real dump. We didn't really write our own things then and he said, well, what are some of your favourite things that you play on stage and we really liked a song called You Better Run by The Young Rascals. So we recorded that with him. He was MAD. Because he said, We'll do it as a fade-out. So when you finish the song, just keep on playing and then you'll give me time to pull it back. He never did that! If you listen to the record it just falls apart in the end. He never faded it down. You never thought that was the ending. And it would just fall apart. And he said, now we'll write a B-side together. We'd never written before. He said, what's one of the songs that you like playing on stage? There was a song called "I Take What I Want" by The Artwoods. He said, okay then, we'll just put new lyrics to it. And we did that and we called it "Evil Witchman". And we just did that and we went, can we call it that? Yes, as long as it is the B-side it is normal. And we just did it! And it was released on December the 2nd 1966, that was, and that was the end of it.
Then we were with Andy Anderson and Nita and they got us this recording audition at Philips studios in London and we went down and the head of the company was a guy named Jack Baverstock. He said, let me hear some of the things that you play, you know. We said, well, like what? He said, would you want your old things? We said, no. He said, let me hear some of the things you play on stage. We played him some of the things and he really liked it. We'll make an album. What? Making an album? And there was only us in the studio with an engineer called Roger Wake, and we did just this album. And it was all the stuff that we did on stage. If you listen to that album there's Born To Be Wild, and like Martha My Dear by the Beatles, you know the tracks, that was all of our stage show of the time. And there was the one song that Jim and Nod wrote called Pity The Mother with Jim on the violin. That was the first attempt to write. And all the rest of the songs we just used to mess around with in the studio.
Then Jack Baverstock he said - he really liked us - he said, you need London management. We said, but we don't know anyone. He said, oh, I'll put the feelers out, I'll see if I can find out who's around. And we were recording one day and Chas Chandler came in. I saw him through the control window and I was like mouthing to the others: [Don forms the words CHAS CHANDLER! with his mouth] That's the guy who FOUND Jimi Hendrix and he was with The Animals! He was like, you know, a real hero and he liked us. He sat for us in his office one time and we said, well, we're signed to this agency up in Wolverhampton, Nita and Andy Anderson, their agency. He took details and he invited them down. That was it. Then they came back and we had this meeting with Nita and Andy and they said, well, we met Chas Chandler and John Gunnel, his partner of the time, and then we have decided that it is best if you go with them. We said, WHAT? They said, No, but they got more to offer, you know, that kind of thing. We didn't know that Chas and John had paid them £ 500 for our contract! [Don laughs hard] We didn't know, because they said to us, did you ever get a share of that money we paid? What money? £ 500! By today's standards that means nothing, but in those days that was a lot of money. And then what Chas did, he said, because he was like a record producer, he says, well, I've done my credits to Fontana, the record company you are with, so I'll make you a deal with them. I want to move you to Polydor. I know the people of Polydor. So the record, "Beginnings", came out on Fontana, but that was the only thing. I think he bought the contract from them, bought us out of the Fontana contract, and then he took us to Polydor.
We did a few things with Chas but nothing was happening, you know, really nothing was happening. Then him and John sent for us once and we went down. They said, we want you to become skinheads. Because that was just starting in England. We said, no way! It took me SO long to grow my hair, NO WAY! We were all dressed all trendy and things like that. But he said, well, why don't you go and have a cup of coffee and a think about it because I think that is what you need. And we did think, and we thought, well, we were a bit scared, we thought, if we say no he probably don't want to manage us anymore. And now we had finally FOUND someone who is a proper manager. So we agreed. We agreed to do it. [Don whispers] Oh, god! We had all our hair cut off and that kind of thing, and wore these things. From hair down to here one day [Don point to his waist] to like nothing. And it was like…people couldn't believe what we had done around Wolverhampton. We were dressed in like the jeans and the boots and all that kind of thing and we got NO work whatsoever. Everyone was scared to book us. They thought they were going to have problems at their bars or clubs. The skinhead-thing had just taken off in England. I remember one time there was a chap that appeared at the Top of The Pops, but that was finished because the producer's son had been beaten up by skinheads. So that was gone, you know. We tried and we got LOADS of publicity from it and that was what Chas wanted to do. And after that we started to…there is some old footage of us, we haven't got hair any of us, playing on some TV-shows without any hair and Jim on violin, it seemed so…ABSTRACT! [laughs].
Then we started to grow our hair a little bit then, it was still short, and then we had Get Down And Get With It, no…it was… Wild Winds Are Blowing, Know Who You Are…and Get Down And Get With. It was just a stage-song of ours. We used to finish with it and then Chas said, that is going to be your next single. It goes down SO well on stage, that's gonna be your next single. [Don's voice sounds surprised] That's a GREAT idea! We never even thought of that. We recorded it. In those days you only got on Top of The Pops if your record was in the Top 30. They had the occasional guest spot on, a new release or something like that, but you had to be quite successful to get that thing. We couldn't get Top of The Pops unless it was a Top 30 and it went to the charts in the 40es, I think, and it crept up to 32. We thought [Don whisper] NEXT week! We're gonna get it on the Top of The Pops. Next week it was 32 again [laughs]. I thought, no, it is never gonna do it now. And Chas said, well, you'll get in the Top 30 next week. The following week it was 28. So we were on Top of The Pops and we went up to No. 16, I think, eventually. And that was the start.
Chas always kept on about writing our own things and then Nod and Jim came up with 'Coz I Luv You. With 'Coz I Luv You, I think it only took them a few minutes to write it. Nod was always a big Stephane Grappelli-fan and because of Jim playing violin as well. Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. They used to play around in the dressing room. And that was it. Then the roads were closed for going back. It's just incredible.
Yeah, I guess the rest is history.
It is! I remember when we made the Slade Alive! album. It was actually made in a studio in Picadilly, but it was built as a theatre. We gave three concerts there and the audience was from the fanclub. I think there was 300 per night, but all the material that went to the album was recorded on the second night. All of it.
You had quite a following…
We had this football following. It was strange because none of us were into football. I remember once I was invited to a match and I sat there reading a drum magazine among all those football fans. Then I realised I'd better put the magazine down before they got angry with me!

As the only member of Slade you moved away from Wolverhampton, didn't you?
I moved to London and I lived there for like 10 years. I never thought I would move away from there.
And you came to travel the world…
Yeah, Europe, America, Asia, Australia…In Australia everything was so vast. I remember playing arenas in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing around for hundreds of miles, nothing, and then out there, there would be an arena! [Don sounds surprised]. People travelled from all over the place to get there and see us and there was just not anything around, no towns or anything.
I remember a place in Australia, it was a like a café where truck drivers used to stop. It was situated in the middle of nowhere with hundreds of kilometres to the nearest neighbour. It was run by two sisters, two elderly women, and I remember thinking what if anything happens? What would they do with no one around within reach? When we stopped there we were the first people they had seen for three weeks! And they were so happy to see us.[laughs]. They'd do anything for us. We just had to ask and we'd get it.

I don't think we have the time to go into your hits, but…MXE was the biggest…
Yeah, I remember we did a performance of Merry Xmas on a TV-show in the 1980's. We got there early and they had a bar in the studio. And we had to wait and wait to get on, so we had a drink and one more. We were there for maybe 2 hours or more and when we were finally on, we were just so drunk! Have you seen that video?
Oh, yes! It's hilarious!
We went totally mad, especially me on the drums. It was great! That was in my drinking days. Those were the days! [Don laughs hard].

Well, you had a lot of hits and was very successful, you did Flame and went to the States and then what?
We couldn't get airplay in the States. We were big in St. Louis, Philadelphia and to a lesser degree New York. Generally the East Cost and the Midwestern States liked us, but we couldn't get any airplay. When the Warner Brothers contract expired we went back to UK to record Whatever Happened, but, you know, punk had emerged and we were regarded…you know, old. We went back to playing like small venues. We kept on touring but we were not that big anymore. At one point we had almost stopped playing together. I think we hadn't seen each other for about six weeks or so. Then we were suddenly asked to play the Reading Festival in 1980. Ozzy Osbourne was to play there, but he pulled out so we were asked to play instead of him. And we arrived with our instruments, we weren't even billed, and we went on stage and did it. Shortly after Reading we parted with Chas and started producing our own records.
But I WILL say that Chas had so much faith in us although a lot of people, you know, were sort of saying… I remember that one publicist, Keith Altham, he was our publicist once, he did actually say to Chas, they are never going to become successful. I feel I'm taking your money off you. Forget the publicity. It's not working. I think you should take the account to somewhere else. He actually said, it is the WORST mistake I ever made. [Don laughs hard].

Then you finally made it in America?
Yeah, we did "My Oh My" and "Run Runaway", but in America they released "Run Runaway" first. They had it in a reverse order. The promotion film for "Run Runaway" we actually did at Eastnor Castle in Heresford, the place where we'd been blamed to nick the silverware many years before! And in America they thought that the castle was where we lived. [laughs] They thought it was our house!
Sharon Osborne managed us in America by then and she got us on a tour with Ozzy Osborne. But Jim became ill. We stayed on a little longer to do some interviews and promo work, but he was really, really ill with hepatitis and we had to stop. In 1987 we did You Boyz and that was it. Well, in 1991 we did Wall of Sound, but after that Nod didn't want to go on anymore. He had offers to do other things, and he would rather do that. And Jim wouldn't go on without him. And that was basically it.

My favourite among the borrowed pics Posted by Picasa

Young Don Posted by Picasa

The powerhouse drummer Posted by Picasa

September interview in use

So far only the Danish bio based on the September-interview has been uploaded. You can read it at Trommeslageren or see below. The English version is not available yet, so therefore I can only give you a draft of what is (hopefully!) soon going to be out there along with some of the pics that Don let me use.

Danish bio, page 1 Posted by Picasa

Danish bio, page 2 Posted by Picasa

Bio draft, page 1 Posted by Picasa

Bio draft, page 2 Posted by Picasa

Bio draft page 3 Posted by Picasa

Behind drums Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The first interview

The very first interview I did with Don was on July 15, 2005, which happened to be a Friday. I'd asked for an interview already in May, but it had to be postponed all the time, because Slade's singer had just left the band and they had to rehears a lot with the new singer, Mal McNulty.
When Don finally had the time to do the interview he surprised me with wanting to do it at my home. I've interviewed several national and international celebrities over the years, but Don was the first one to ever come to my house to do an interview. Well, for several reasons we agreed that it would be the most convenient, so around noon on July 15, Don and his Danish lady Hanne came to my house.
In the 1970's I had been a huge Slade-fan, so at first it was very strange indeed to have Don sitting in my living room. It didn't take many minutes, though, then it seemed quite normal and a warm, pleasant atmosphere emerged - it is still there.
When Don and Hanne showed up, we immediately went outside to do some shots as we were supposed to get thunder and rain during the afternoon. Outside I took about 15 photos of Don after which he politely volunteered to carry my tripod with the camera upstairs to my living room. We sat down and had a few sandwiches and chatted a bit, before the interview started synchronously with the thunder and rain.
After the interview I took another 40 photos of Don in my house, and Hanne kindly acted the photographer on some photos of Don and me outside, when the rain had stopped. We then chatted some more, and Don left me 2 pairs of drumsticks, before he and Hanne were off again.
Below you can read the unedited interview.

Me and Don, Odense, July 15, 2005 Posted by Picasa

July 15, 2005: interview conducted in my home in Odense, Denmark

I would like to start with the beginning and I would like to start with you. So my first question is, when did you originally get interested in playing the drums?
In the boy scouts. That was when I was 13, I think, but in those days in the boy scouts I was with, you had to play bugle first, and I couldn't do that. I'd just stand at the back doing [Don puffs his cheeks], and they found me out and said, okay, you can play the drums. That was how it started.
I also played the drums in the girl scouts!
Oh, dear! [laughs] It was always SO embarrassing, because we had the parades around my hometown, the Sunday morning parades. My parents used to come to watch and they were waving to me and I was trying to keep a straight face! [laughs].

You are self-taught?

When did you turn professional?
That was in 1965. Because the band I was in with Dave Hill, we'd been together since 1963, and we played the local pubs and clubs and things like that around Wolverhampton, and then we were going to Germany for a month to play one club. Our wages for that…we used to get 140 kroner [£12-13] a week each. [laughs] But that was enough. Values have sort of changed since then. But that was fine, because we lived on chicken and chips anyway that we could buy from the caravan near the station. That was what we lived on. That was enough. During the same month Noddy Holder with his band, they were called "The Rockin' Phantoms" then, they got to Germany also. We knew them anyway because we always played the same bars and things in Wolverhampton and they were going to Frankfurt for a month and we went to Dortmund. That was November 1965 and in 1966 the band started to fall apart basically. There was nothing around and one of the guitarists was a butcher by trade and wanted to go back into that. So the band basically fell apart. We didn't know at the time, but it was the same with Nod's band. So we decided to try it out and it worked from day one, and then we were looking for a bass player and on came Jimmy Lea.

How big a kit do you prefer, what brand of kit, heads and sticks and so?
At the moment I'm using Pearl drums. You want the sizes of the drums?
I use a 22 x 18 inch bass drum and my rack tom is 16 x 16. My floor tom is 18 x 18 and I use the Pearl Piccolo snare drums. I use a 22 inch rides cymbal and an 18 inch crash cymbal and I use 14 inch hi-hat cymbals. That's all, so I only play a very basic kit.

What about heads and sticks?
I use Evans heads. I use the Evans pinstriped on the tom-toms and I use a special kind of Evans head on the snare drum. The sticks are just normal C-sized, they are made by a company in England called William Shaw. I first met them in the seventies and they are based in the North of England, near Bradford. They said they could make sticks in any design, any weight, any size that I wanted and I was using Premier sticks at the time and I said, if you can copy these that would be perfect and they did. And I've been using them ever since. It is so strange…I'd never been to their factory until maybe…15-20 years ago, and I was in the area and I was driving around trying to find it [Don gets a bewildered tone in his voice] this is so strange! It was were normal houses were, oh my god, this must be wrong! But I asked someone and they said, yeah, it's just 100 meters down there. And it was just a house, a normal house where a family lived. And in the kitchen were all the computers and all the office works. Then there were 2 sheds at the bottom of the garden. And everything was made there. The daughter looked after the office and the accounts and the father and son they'd do all the sticks. Apparently they do things world wide now, but they are still at the same place! [laughs] They don't have a factory! [laughs] It's crazy, it is so strange! I've used them since the early seventies and then we went to America and I went on to the normal sort that Ludwig used to make. I was assigned to Ludwig drums. When I came back to England I didn't know if Shaw was still operational, but they were still there and we made contact with them and then they make my sticks all the time now.

I was reading somewhere about the 75 years anniversary of Ludwig drums and 75 drummers invited to that?
That was amazing. Can you imagine 75 drummers at the same hotel? Can you imagine? [laughs] It was mad! That was in my drinking days, so that weekend is lost! [laughs] And they made dinner-suits for everyone. Before we went to Chicago they had all our sizes so they could order the suits. We got air flights and the drummers came from all over the world. They made this big poster with Bill Ludwig the II and III and a drummer called Joe Morello, a very famous jazz drummer from the fifties, I think, or maybe even before that. They where sitting down the front at a round table with a bottle of champagne and 75 drummers in the background. That was amazing. But they stopped Ludwig as we knew it. I remember Bill Ludwig the III came to lunch. He was doing some PR-work and we met for lunch and we were talking and I said, "How come Ludwig is so expensive?" I was lucky; I was an endorsee so I didn't have to pay for my drums. But I said, [Don shakes his head in wonder] "They were so EXPENSIVE! Kids who start these days can't afford them." And he said, "It is just the way that the materials work." I got him to talk and he said, "We cannot compete with the Japanese. They are doing things better than we are and at a fraction of the price." And now Ludwig is no longer. I think it is amazing. It was all based in Chicago in the sixties and seventies and it's all gone. There are still Ludwig drums but not as they were and it is a shame because they were fantastic. Now there's Pearl and DW and such and they are SO good. There's so much choice these days. In the sixties and seventies drums were never really cared about so much as the guitars. There were Pearl and Ludwig drums but not really what you'd call, "Yes! These are fantastic!" except Ludwig at the time and then all of a sudden there's Yamaha, Tama and now DW and it's SO different for a drummer now. You CAN get good quality equipment and that's really nice. Most music shops now if you want to get some drum things they're a lot less than when I first started. You had to order and it cost SO much money, but now it's there in the shop and it is good equipment. It makes such a difference.

To me the sound of your drums is very recognisable. Is this just because you hit so hard or is there some other secret behind this sound?
What we started doing…it's so strange…about the drums: I hit them hard, but…it was just purely by accident at the recording studio that we used in London I went to the toilet one day and there was this echo. And I said, "Oh, let's try the drums in the toilet," and it was like the tiles all the way around made like a live sound and we just put the drums in the toilet. And we put microphones down and that's how it all started. The first time I tried it, and I was halfway through a take, I'd forgotten the toilets. And the toilets flushed! [laughs] They started flushing and I thought, "Oh, no!" [laughs again] and we had to turn all the toilets off! That's when we started using the drums in the toilet. It worked like that. Another time we did some part of an album where John Lennon used to work called the Tittenhurst Park. I think Ringo now owns it. It's a big recording studio there and you could live there. You booked it say for a month and you live there, eat there and record there. There's what we did…it's an enormously big mansion as you can imagine… and we had the drums in the hallway, like the entrance of the house. We didn't put so many mikes on the drums but up the corner, out of the way to get the big room-sound like the sound of stage, really. Like a large sound. That's what we did.

Many bands now use drum machines. What do you think about that?
It's frightening. I tell you, it's frightening! But the thing is, they're so good. It's not like it's rubbish. It's good equipment. I remember one time we got in the studio and I used to go the day before so I could get my drums all sorted out before the other guys came in the day afterwards. I went to the engineer's assistant when I arrived to take my drums in. He was going [Don opens his eyes wide] and I said, "What's the problem? What's wrong?" He said, "You got to use real drums?" "Yes." He said, "I've never worked with real drums. I've only worked with computers." But that's the way it is these days. A lot of records you listen to now have the same drum pattern. They have the same drum computer! [laughs] They use that. Switch it on! [laughs] But I did it once. We were in the studio and there were some modern bands, new bands coming in and they had a drum computer there and I was just playing with it, trying it, you know, for about 10-15 minutes and it was fantastic! And then I thought, "WHAT AM I DOING! WHAT AM I DOING!" [laughs hard] Then you can see how you can get sucked into these kinds of things. Especially nowadays. It's easy to use in the studio, it's so cheap and you can take it in a taxi instead of taking the drums in. But one thing it does lack is the human feel. That's the only thing. It's a machine and that's it. There's no sort of human element there. But it's just the way things go. It's like computers, the same thing, how advanced they go all the time. One time we were in the studio and we'd done a take and it was a really good take and there was a little squeak on the foot pedal and I thought [Don's voice gets matter-of-fact], "Gosh, just oil it and do that bit again." But the engineer said, "No, it's okay, I'll just take that tape and erase that." Three hours later he was still there with his tape, listening and just trying to find it. I said, "I could have recorded an album by now!" All I wanted to do was oil the pedal and do it again! But he had to take the tape and try to find it on the computer and it took him forever. [laughs] When you think, The Beatles' first album was cut in one day. They left "Twist and Shout" to the end, obviously because of the voice, you know.

You have any favourite drummers yourself?
My all time favourite is John Bonham of The Led Zeppelin. We met in the 1960es. He played in a cabaret-band! It's hard to imagine. [laughs] And I couldn't believe it; he didn't need microphones. [laughs] He was SO loud. But basically he is a natural drummer. He owes no tuition, he didn't go for lessons; it just came from his heart. Amazing.

When you're on stage you always use gloves and a gum shield. Why?
Before I started using the gloves the sweat always made the sticks fly out of my hands. [Don lets an imaginary stick fly through the room] I started putting like sticky tape on my fingers and at one time in America I started using plaster, like for cuts. I bought some while we were over there but I was allergic to the adhesive. All my fingers went really sort of poisonous. And I went to a doctor over there and I was explaining everything to him and he said, "Why don't you try wearing gloves?" And I said, "I need very tight gloves so I can actually feel the sticks." He said, "Simple. Ladies' gloves." So now I go to ladies' shops! [laughs] I get some strange looks! I say, "It's okay. It's for my wife. We're the same size!" [laughs] I also go to charity shops to find them. They have to be very tight, you know. Sometimes I have to take the lining out of the inside. But I find them much better than the sticky tape I used. Especially with the sweat. When you're soaked you always seem to lose a stick at the most important point or you're breaking a stick and you go, "Oh no!" [laughs] and you don't have the time to change it! With the gum shield: What I was doing…I'd never realised myself at the time, but when I play the drums I [Don bites his teeth together hard] and I kept on breaking my teeth. My dentist said [Don puts on a resigning voice], "I can't keep on rebuilding your teeth," [laughs] so he suggested it, "Why don't you have a gum shield like boxers?" And I thought it was a great idea, so I said, "Let's try one," so he made one for me and it is perfect, absolutely perfect. But I get strange looks from people down the front [laughs hard] with these gleaming, white teeth. They're shining! It is very strange with the gum shield and the gloves on; when I go on stage to play the drums it's like I'm going to the ring to do a boxing fight! [laughs long]

There are many rumours out there on the Internet. Some say that you are contemplating to do a solo album, others that you are going to write your autobiography. Is there any truth to that?
I'm not doing a solo album. I did a drumming record a few years ago. I started it in the studio with some friends. I never got around to finishing it because we started touring again and I never have time. But I still have the tapes and I'm going to finish it. [Don laughs and tries to look resolute] I WILL do it! About the autobiography: since I had my car accident I always had to keep diaries and I've had many offers to publish them, but I [Don sighs and tries to look despondent, then laughs] I can't do that! You know that guy, Salman Rushdie? I'd have to do one of those; I'd have to go for hiding for about 5 years if I do that! So the diaries are just locked away. I HAVE written a children's book, though. At the moment the illustrations are being done for it and there are songs. It's called "Bibble Brick". Do you know what that bibble is?
It is like a stone from a beach. It's an old sort of slang-word from many years ago in England. The book, it's like a children's cartoon thing, really, and there ARE songs with it which I have written, so what I'd like to do is like a little children's book with a CD with it, like that, you know.

Back in the early 1970es you co-wrote some of Slade's songs with Jim Lea, "Dapple Rose" and "I Remember" being among my favourites. How did that writing situation work? Did you both write on the music and the lyrics, or…?
I don't play any instruments except the drums and I can't sing [laughs] so I was the one writing the lyrics and if I had any ideas for a melody I said like… "I'll sing it to you what I think it is," I said to Jim, "And you sing it back," so it took a lot of time! [laughs] I can WRITE lyrics and I wrote quite a few songs. But then Noddy Holder and Jim Lea started writing and it was so much quicker, so the idea of us writing sort of dropped out basically. But I've written a few things with Dave Hill over the last few years, lyrics-wise.

Do you have any favourite Slade-tunes or albums?
I like "Far Far Away" and album…I think, the one we made in America, "Nobody's Fools", because that was a bit different for us. It was a whole new different recording technique in New York. In England we worked a lot differently and it was also the first time we used girl backing singers on it, you know, and that was nice. So that's one of my personal favourite Slade-albums after all. I like the sound on that. That album didn't do particularly well for us in England at the time, it made it to the charts, but not like the others did, but to me that's my favourite recording.

Could you tell me some differences and maybe resemblance in working with the original Slade and the present Slade?
At the start with the present Slade it was a bit strange because with the old band we'd been together for SO long. We knew exactly EVERYTHING about each other so when we started play everything just fell into place automatically because we'd worked together for so many years. All it was, really, was just…Lenny [Len Tuckey, manager of the present Slade] had these other people and I'd never played with anyone else except Slade, and it was just learning how other people worked. It was like an education for me to learn how different people work. It is nice, it's good. And also equipment is so much ADVANCED these days. You know, we used to go on stage and play really loud because the PA-systems weren't like they are now and we don't need to do that now although I still play loud and these engineers keep saying, "You don't have to play so loud!" [Don gets a very firm tone in his voice], "That's the way I play! You have to do it! [laughs] That's the way I play! You have to capture it." I can't alter my style. That's the way it was with the new band. We were just learning different styles of playing, really, and singing. Because like we were SO used to the old line-up, we'd been together for SO long that we were just like; just going on stage and do it, you know, it used to be the normal thing.

You and Dave Hill go way back. Don't you ever tire of each other?
No. We've been together since 1963 when we played in The Vendors together. That was great. It's a strange thing that we had in those days. We very rarely saw each other socially. With Slade. We DID go out sometimes but it wasn't normal practice. When we'd finished touring, we'd go, "Okay, see you!" See you next month or see you in two months time. And that always kept up a freshness, together, you know. And also when we first started I remember Chas Chandler said to us how CLOSE we were as a band and as people and he said, "Even I can't get into you little circle," and we couldn't really think what he meant. But when we first started as well, we got a booking in the Bahamas in 1968. The Bahamas, wow! They were going to use us for 3 months. And hotels, flights, bars and they were going to pay us $ 100 a week each to play this club like 7 nights a week. And when we got there, I mean, it was like Paradise to us, the Bahamas. But we didn't know, I mean, it was just the way it worked; the club where we were to gig was in the black part of the island and not many white people went, so the club wasn't really making any money. They couldn't really pay us what originally was the deal. But we didn't mind, we had the hotel and we were eating in the hotel and we were just having a great time at this club. But I tell you, after 6 weeks the hotel people sent for us and wanted to know when they were going to get some money. And we said [Don's voice gets startled,] "It's been paid for!" [Don alters his voice to imitate the hotel people,]"We don't know anything about this." And we'd been living there like KINGS in this hotel. We weren't being paid by the club, but at least we could eat in the hotel and the hotel bill at the time was at about $ 35,000. [laughs] We started laughing! We couldn't stop laughing! And they said, "You're not staying here anymore and you're not leaving the island, either. Besides, this week the club has been bought by some American people and they said they will pay you $ 100 a week between you for the 4 of you and we're gonna move you out of the hotel to one of our staff apartments." It was probably as big as this [Don point around my living room: 25 square meters] with 4 tiny beds in the room. We had a small bathroom, a toilet and a little kitchen-thing and we were there for 3½ months [laughs] trying to pay off this hotel-bill which we never did obviously. But back to your original question: that made us SO tight as people because we only had each other. We had no-one, no house, pub anywhere and that made us SO tight as people and our manager Chas Chandler who saw that said, "You four are so CLOSE because of the experiences you've been through." And he said he had never seen that in a band before except maybe The Beatles. He said, "But the tightness of the four of you is like unique." And that was the way it was.

Do you keep in touch with all the other members of the original Slade?
Yeah! Yeah, yeah! We went to Noddy Holder's wedding last year. Yeah, we keep in touch. We speak to each other. But Noddy doesn't actually play anymore. He does radio-work in England, he's a disc jockey. He lives in the North of England and it is in Manchester, he's a disc jockey on local radio in Manchester and he does lots of TV-work. And he has been married and has a little boy, son, there and he has 2 daughters from his first marriage. They're from the town where he lives now, so he sees all his family. He's happy now. He has settled down. With Jim Lea it's the same. He has children, he's a grandfather! [Don laughs heartily] We were 4 schoolboys when we started out and now the youngest member of the band is a grandfather! [laughs long]

You have a new singer now, Mal McNulty, formerly of The Sweet. Could you tell me a bit about him? How does he work out with the band?
Steve Whalley had been the singer with us in the new line-up for more than 10 years. He wanted to go on do other things. Even before he joined this line-up he did make solo-albums and things like that and he is more into a bit more like softer rock. That's what he got back into. I think he's made a new album and that's what he wants to concentrate on. And then Mal McNulty is with us now. Apparently he sang with Sweet and I didn't know about it! It was Andy Scott who recommended him to us. We talked to Andy and we didn't know Mal. I didn't know that Sweet had another singer apart from Brian Connolly. I think he was a friend of our bass player John Berry's. He said, "I know Mal," and he approached him and that's what we've been doing over the last few weeks, we did the rehearsals and its fantastic. When he started singing, the first song we rehearsed was "Cum On Feel The Noize" and the singer started and I felt sparkles on my face and I looked up on Dave and he was sparkling the same. It was like Noddy Holder singing! It is SO strange! He can actually sing in the same keys as Noddy Holder did, you know. And he's a lovely person as well. Lovely guy. Do you know Mal?
Mal is fantastic. We're going to hopefully start to make a new album soon as well. Get some songs together. Especially with his voice. People we've worked for of the past couple of weeks since Mal has been with us, promoters we've worked for of the last few years, they [Don opens up his eyes wide], "It's Noddy Holder! It's Noddy Holder singing!"

I guess that the Danish rivalry between Slade- and Sweet-fans now has to come to an end, then?
It's funny, because people say that, but in the bands it was never anything like that. We only ever saw Sweet when we did "Top Of The Pops" in England, when we were on the show together. We never did any concerts together in the seventies. So they were talking about the state of us on TV shows, "Oh God, the competition between us both!" Well, it used to keep the records rolling at the time.
Yeah, the competition was more between the fans.
Yes, it was. Exactly. It was the same with T. Rex as well. In those days you were only a fan of one band. T. Rex, Sweet, Slade, Mud or someone like that, you couldn't have more than one. It was like that in the rest of Europe, but not with the bands being aware. We weren't aware of it. It was Hanne who told me that it was the way it was among fans basically. In the bands we were just friends.

One of my friends said that having a Sweet-singer with Slade must be the ultimate merger?
It is in a way! [laughs] That would be a new thing. Having Sweet and Slade merging and then it was actually Andy Scott who recommended it! [laughs] It could work! By the way, going back, when we were in the Bahamas, Andy Scott was also in the Bahamas with a band, but they were being paid and they were being looked after properly. What was that band called now? The Elastic Band! But they were in the nice clubs and they were being paid! That's what it says of Andy!

At the moment Slade seems to get more and more popular. You have any idea why?
That's a difficult question to answer. I don't know really…what it really is; it's because of the media with adverts on TV. They did things with "Far Far Away" and "'Coz I Luv You". Ford was using "'Coz I Luv You." You get like a resurgent kind of thing because of the media basically. I think that's helped a lot. Plus the facts like…of the last 10 years we've been together, we've been to territories like Russia and Czechoslovakia and places like that which we couldn't go in the seventies for obvious reasons. But now those markets have opened up and it's great. It's like Dave being reborn! People go there to see him now. And it is great for him, it's great. And we've played like the Olympic Stadium in Moscow and things like that. And what's nice over there is obviously because of the money situation the government half finance the concerts. So they can keep the ticket prices really very low so they can afford to pay for them. It is fantastic that they do that, the government subsidise or finance concerts. It's not a propaganda thing. It works.

How do you like the Danish audience these days?
I'd better be careful, mustn't I! [Don laughs and looks from me to Hanne, both Danish. Hanne is reading about Slade in a book I have on pop music from the 1970es.] No, I think it's the same all over really, because the early records of ours were such big hits all over Europe and everybody knows the songs so a lot of the time we don't have to sing the songs, we just let the crowds do it for us! [laughs] But I find it strange, I mean, the concerts now in most of the European territories, like people who used to come and see us in the seventies, now they come with their children. I think that is really nice. And of course there's "Merry Xmas Everybody" which like…will NEVER go away, you know. It is 30 odd years old now and we recorded that at New York in the summer of 1973 and there was a heath wave with like over 100 degrees outside and we sat there recording "Merry Xmas"! And the engineers go, "[Don sighs] Very strange!" [laughs] And we weren't sure about the record at the time, either. We were not really sure how that record would work, our manager Chas Chandler as well. He said, "Okay. What we say is this is be released." [laughs] Be released. And 30 years later it is still there!

In August you're going to play 3 times here in Denmark, a straight Slade concert and some festivals.
Oh, yeah. I think it is great. Especially all over Europe, not so much in England, but there are always a lot of festivals in Europe. They don't do that so much in England. I think it's great. It's great.
Do you look forward to different things at these different types of concerts?
No, to me each concert is the same. I like playing small clubs because of the atmosphere is more there, but the same with festivals now. The atmosphere is SO great but on a bigger scale. You have a bigger stage and you know, you can see more. But to me personally it doesn't matter where I play, but sometimes I do like it is a bigger stage and you can see, you know, a lot more.

What kind of music do you listen to yourself?
Me personally? The Eagles are my favourite band. The strange thing about The Eagles is that in 1973 back in America again we were top of the bill of this concert in Philadelphia. Steely Dan also did that show, The Eagles were second and we were top of the bill! [laughs] I had never heard of The Eagles then and I was on side of the stage and watched. [Don puts on a baffled voice] "Who are these? These are fantastic, these guys!" [laughs] They've been my favourite band since then. Imagine The Eagles supporting Slade!

Do you listen to any Danish music, your girlfriend being Danish?
I'm forced to, aren't I? [laughs]
Poor guy! Do you like any of it?
Well, Big Fat Snake, I like them and then there's Tim Christensen and some of Thomas Helmig, but it is mainly Big Fat Snake. I still have to see a concert. I want to go. There's one song, when I came to Hanne's house and she played that! But I don't know if they do that on stage. It's called "Be Alone With Me". That's a beautiful song. Absolutely beautiful. When Hanne first put the album on and this song came up I said, "Stop! Stop talking! [Don whispers] Listen to this!" It was brilliant. And I like, what's his name, Johnny Madsen! [Don laughs hard, as Johnny Madsen is kind of like a hard-drinking, scruffy guy who does a very Danish kind of country blues with quirky, ironic and very local down-to-earth lyrics] I love his attitude, his outlook, you know, and he loves "Fawlty Towers". I met him in the hotel when we played the Nibe Festival and we were up all night doing the dialog from "Fawlty Towers"!

How long have you been with Hanne?
We've known each other for 4½ years so I go back and forth between England and Denmark. A long time ago this actor said, "The world is such a small place these days." It is so true. When I talk to my school friends, "I'm just going to Denmark for the weekend," they go, "What!" as if I was going to the moon. [laughs] They don't realise that it probably takes me longer to drive from my house at the south coast of England to London than it takes to fly to Denmark. That's how small the world is. It's so terrific these days. The world is such a small place and it's incredible really. I've been around the world like 4 times and I've been so lucky with the travel and seen all these different countries that I only ever saw on TV or read about, you know, and it's fantastic. I always say; that has been my education, to travel the world and study different countries, different cultures and see things. And it is amazing how music is one common denominator wherever you go. No matter what nationality the music is one common denominator all the time.

Slade has its 40 years anniversary next year. Anything special lined up for that?
Supposedly there are lots of DVDs. Apparently they'll do a special thing with the "Wall of Hits"-DVD next year and maybe a packet-thing with the albums, I think. And who knows? I'd love to do a concert with the original four members! That would be fantastic."
We'd love to see that. Just one.
One. That's it, exactly. [laughs] One. Just one special event.
It would have to be at a very large stadium, because people would come from all over to see that.
That would be something special. For me as well. You know, not just for the audience but just for me as well.

I've been a Slade fan for almost 35 years now. Are you ever going to stop?
People always talk about that. They say, haven't you had enough or when are you going to retire. [Don sounds surprised] I've never even thought about it! My policy is that as soon as I stop enjoying it then I'll finish, but I enjoy everything about it. I've been so lucky with the travelling and the experiences I've had, travelling the world and seeing different things as I said earlier, but as soon as I stop to enjoy it, the playing I mean, I'll get out. I've seen so many people, musicians who say they don't want to play, really. How can they do it? How can they put their heart and soul into anything when they don't even wanna be there? I love playing drums and as soon as I stop enjoying it I WILL finish. I couldn't do that, just go on like a robot, I just couldn't. But I have the best job in the world, travel the world, doing something that I love and get paid for it! I've been so lucky, SO lucky, and I always appreciate it. I think it is wonderful.