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.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Don Powell biography

 Don and I have signed with Omnibus Press. You can already pre-order the hardcover edition of Don's biography on

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Don Powell biography blog

Hi all,
You're now able to follow the progress of Don Powell's biography here:


In May 2005 I started a blog on Slade. Here you can find all sorts of Slade-related stuff such as biographies, concert reviews, reviews of books, videos and music etc. and also some interviews with Slade-drummer Don Powell. It can however be difficult manoeuvring on a blog and I found that despite links and indexes many readers were at a loss when trying to find those Don Powell-interviews. I've therefore decided to gather them all here on this blog. Dive into the archives (left) for old interviews (2005 and on).
I'll still publish short, edited interviews on my Slade-blog, but on this Don Powell-blog you'll find the long, unedited versions. Well, not totally unedited, come to think of it. I've left out most of the fits of laughter (many of them mine), the private/confidential remarks and then the comments from various family members.
Anyway, notice that it can be tedious work reading unedited stuff as I often have to ask the same questions and Don has to give more or less the same answers. We do it anyway, as I need different "takes" for different papers and magazines. Consider yourself warned!
As a "bonus" for those of you who read Danish I've uploaded images of the actual articles on Don that I've had published in various Danish papers and magazines. All articles are based on the interviews. Enjoy!

Don reading a diary

Fan forum questions, April 2011

I did a new Q & A with Don for the fan forum in April, 2011. All questions were asked by forum members and as usual I brought the questions to Don and the answers to the forum, but I’ve deleted the names of the forum members here order to protect the innocent. Have fun!

Q: I would like to ask Don about 'The Far East' 1973.... what does he remember? Before or after Oz? How many gigs can he recall? Does he remember where they were? Did they play Tokyo?
Were they considered successful? Any pictures from any of the Exotic Gigs? Any pics of the girls down at the 'wash house'
Don: We didn’t go to Japan until 1974 and that was after Australia. We did four gigs; two in Tokyo, one in Osaka and one in Kyoto. The gigs were okay, but we were a bit too late going there. The kettle had gone off the boil at that time, so we should have gone earlier. As for the photos, no nothing like that.

Q: What does Don remember of the Agencies... Astra Agency, Astra Allen Associates, Nita Anderson Agency... and who did The 'N Betweens leave when they joined Astra Allen?
Don: Astra Agency was where we were at the start, with the old bands The Vendors and The ‘N Betweens as well. What happened was that Roger Allen also had an agency in Wolverhampton and he and Astra came together and became the Astra Allen agency. While we were on the Bahamas we never had any help from Astra so when we came back we decided to leave and we went with Nita Anderson.

Q: I.R.A., Face 1 and 2, Aileen and Brin, Skaboo. Who are they Don and what did they do for the band in 1968?
Don: Face 1 and 2 were a couple who used to come and see us. We only played in Wolverhampton, then, and they were always in the crowd. We never spoke to them, so we just called them Face 1 and 2. Brin could be one we used to knock around with in Wolverhampton if that’s the same guy, but Aileen…I have no idea. I don’t know who Skaboo is either. I.R.A. - I got no idea.

Q: Does Don remember this Slade "Abbey Road enactment" photo. It seems to be around '73/4 and apes the Beatles album cover. The 'New Beatles' publicity stunt I guess but when and why. No specific related reason, I doubt it?
Don: I don’t remember doing it at all. We did record at Abbey Road, but that was in 1967. I don’t remember doing the photo.

Q: Back in '67-68 when you were playing the Love classic, She Comes In Colours....
Can you remember who played the woodwind solo. I was wondering if you covered the song straight or did it get the treatment. I imagine Jim could have used the violin for the solo but I can also imagine Dave playing it on lead guitar with Jim and Nod following in unison.
Don: It must have been Dave playing it on lead guitar, as we didn’t feature the violin in such things back then.

Q: Don, when you did the Hamilton concert in New Zealand, what was the schedual of arrival and departure? Did you fly into Auckland Airport then drive down to Hamilton? I'm not certain, but I think Hamilton was not an internation airport at the time. How did you and the equipment get from the Hamilton concert to Sydney concert within 24 hours?..... NZ concert 27 January, Sydney concert 28 January. It would take about 2 hours to drive from Hamilton to Auckland Airport, get through customs, fly 2.5 hours to Sydney, customs, drive to venue and set up. Did you arrive 1 or 2 days before the Auckland concert? Did you do any sight seeing?
Don: Ha-ha, I have no idea of the arrival and departure schedule or how and when we got there! And we didn’t do any sightseeing.

Q: I was wondering if this rings any bells? Quote: "....we used to support JJ Foote at the Three Rabbits in Manor Park, a guest drummer was Don Powell no less...." Do you remember what year this was cos I used to go and watch JJ Foote sometimes. I would have noticed, I'm sure.
Don: I’ve never heard the name JJ Foote before.

Q: There been an e-mail going around saying Slade are not playing Russia again and your all retiring....whats the truth in that or is it just gossip.
Don: That’s not true, ha-ha.

Don: Not as far as I know. I’ve never heard of any extra verses.

Q: When will the "There will be drums" CD be released?
Don: I think the tapes have to be taken out and listen to again before that happens.

Q: What was 'Radio City' in Wolverhampton 1966, it sounds like a pirate station? The 'N Betweens played the first Radio City rave (Blues Ensemble too) in August at the Civic & Wulfrun.
Don: We played at the Civic and Wulfrun all the time, but I don’t remember playing the first Radio City Rave. In fact I’ve never heard of Radio City before.

Q: I saw the band back in Warren, Ohio in the early 70's. Glass Harp opened for you. The concert isn't listed on the tour dates online, but I was there so I know it happened. Is there any way you could: confirm the date? I think that it was 1972. It was a kick a## show in a small town. Perhaps it was a last minute addition to the tour schedule.
Don: I can’t confirm the date, as I don’t remember doing the concert and I didn’t keep diaries back then.

Q: I really like the Something Else Medley and always enjoyed it live. Listened to it on CD again today and wondered why it was included in the live set at the time when there was already a huge catalogue of original single and album material to choose from.
Don: A lot of people have asked us that. In fact it was Freddie Mercury who first said that to us. He couldn’t understand why we did these old rock’n’roll songs when we had such an amazing catalogue of songs. There was no particular reason, it was just a good stage thing to do.

Q: Nylon or wood tips? What was your first drum set (make, colour)? (C'mon, it's like the first girl you kissed, you NEVER forget.) Cymbals? Zildjian, Paiste, Sabian? What kind of gum do you chew? Anything available or do/did you have a preference for something?
Don: I use wood. My first drum set was white Pearl and I use Sabian cymbals. I don’t chew gum anymore, but when I did it was Wrigley.

Q: Original, Spearmint or Juicy Fruit?
Don: Ha-ha-ha! Original!

Q: Hi Don, I've two questions I'm curious about regarding the latter days of Slade. Firstly when the band played the six or so shows on the aborted American tour in early 1984, other than possibly My Oh My did they play live any songs from the then current new album ie Run Runaway, Slam The Hammer Down etc ? Secondly I have seen it mentioned that if the 1985 tour had went ahead that the band had considered using a keyboard player hidden at the side of the stage. Had any keyboard players been thought about or possibly lined up to play with the band on that tour?
Don: We played Run Run Away, but that was all we did really. We wouldn’t have needed a keyboard player. Jim always played the keyboard.

Q: Is it too late to ask Don if he remembers Jet from the Glasgow Apollo? Quote: "I remember Jet Mayfair from the Apollo gigs in the 70's ......Nod would introduce him near the end , and this odd wee man would woddle on , the last time wearing a gold lame jacket , I think........The band seemed to know him really well..."
Don: Yes. He had a plastic guitar and he used to come up and sing with us. He was just some guy who used to come to our gigs in Glasgow.

Q: What has been the highpoint of the last 15 years of Slade? What does Don think of the CD / DVD reissue programme on the whole? Is there any prospect at all of a new Slade album?
Don: That’s a difficult one…but I remember playing the Olympic Stadium in Moscow in 2002 and we met a lot of politicians and dignitaries. That was quite something. I find the CD/DVD reissue fantastic. They did a fantastic job. And I liked that they used photographs that hadn’t been used before. As for a new Slade album we have recorded a few tracks and we are talking about recording more stuff soon.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Don and his dog Rocky

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Fan forum questions, September 2009

In September 2009 Don did a new Q & A for the fan forum As usual I brought the questions to Don and the answers to the forum. All questions were asked by forum members, but here I’ve deleted their names in order to protect the innocent. Enjoy!

Q: Walsall Observer: Friday 27th June 1969 wrote: "We're Heavy/Hard Rock - but we also include quieter numbers like Martha My Dear." interjected Don Powell looking up from his cider." This article refers to Ambrose Slade's first tour with Dave Dee & Amen Corner beginning at Newcastle where they played to 2,500 people. Does Don recall anything about this "tour" and their time with Amen Corner?
Don: It wasn’t a tour. It was just one show. It was when we first met Chas and John Gunnell and they got this show in Newcastle City Hall. Amen Corner was THE teeny bop band and they were doing two concerts in one night. Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich were on the bill as well. We got booked up for the two shows on that particular night, but driving up to Newcastle from Wolverhampton the car broke down and we missed the first show. We got there for the second show but we didn’t have time to get our own drums out so I used Mick’s from Dave Dee and we only played about four songs, I think.

Q: Does Don have any memories of Ambrose Slade (famous as The 'N Betweens) playing Alton Towers on July 13th 1969 with Marmalade (straight from the Hit Parade). ATV Today's Lionel Hampton was the compere.
Don: It was before Alton Towers was a theme park. This gig came up in the grounds of Alton Towers. I remember there was this big, stately home where we could change and Dave was seeing the oldest daughter for quite a while and I had a brief affair with her younger sister. I remember when Dave went to Alton Towers for afternoon tea with the father one time, this small plane comes down and lands on the lawn in front of them. This guy gets out and says, “Hi! I just thought I’d pop in for a cup of tea!” We were a bit out of our league!

Q: Knowing how much Don loves America, I wonder if he has any memories of two particular tours that were advertised? The 'N Betweens American Tour 1966. This tour was due to begin after The 'N Betweens appearance at Walsall Town Hall 24th September 1966? Ambrose Slade US Summer Tour 1969. This one was due to start shortly after their 'Sunday Scene' appearance at Aldridge Community Centre on 18th June 1969.
Don: Those tours never happened. When we played the Bahamas in 1968 there was a possibility of going to Miami, but we didn’t want to as we were ripped off on the Bahamas. So we didn’t get to the US until 1972.

Q: Does Don have any memories of their agent (briefly) John Gunnell? Did they meet Rik Gunnell when playing his clubs and does he have any 'Slade related' memories about those various clubs. Play It Loud is a Montgrove Productions product whereas subsequent recordings (i.e. 7" B-sides) are Barn Productions. Montgrove is Chandler & Robert Stigwood and I assume that Play It Loud was recorded late '69 alongside the skinhead bad press. Would I be correct in assuming that when Wild Winds Are Blowing flopped, Stigwood dropped them and John Gunnell lost interest. Does Don remember how and when Gunnell pulled out on Slade and does he have any tales regarding the band and Robert Stigwood?
Don: When Chas came to see us, he and John Gunnell had the management company together. We used to go to the office in Brook Street where Robert Stigwood’s office was. John was always making fun of us coming from Wolverhampton. He’d say, “Do they have telephones in Wolverhampton?” He was always taking the mickey out of us. And then Chas decided to go on his own. I don’t think we ever met Rik Gunnell. John and Rik were the club-land bosses of London and we played quite a few of their clubs. Tales about Robert Stigwood: there was a charity football match once at a big mansion near Ascot. I don’t know how we got involved in that, because we weren’t part of the football game. I remember Ginger Baker in goal, though, but we just went around in awe of all the opulence. Robert Stigwood, a few of his associates and the Bee Gees were in the mansion and they sort of popped out to wave at us menial at the football. It was like Royalty coming out! Then they went back to the house again. And then there was always something about Robert Stigwood fancying Nod, but I don’t know where that came from!!

Q: What does Don remember about Robert Stigwood and in particular, does he recall why Stigwood dropped out of the Montgrove partnership with Chas. 'The Slade' were included in The Robert Stigwood Organisations Seasons Greetings on the back page of the Record Mirror: 27-12-1969 and Stigwood swiftly washed his hands of them. It's fairly obvious that the skinhead controversy played a part but I would like something kind of 'official-ish' if possible rather than my assumption?
Don: I remember the Montgrove company, but I didn’t know that Stigwood dropped out of it. When Chas decided to be on his own, that was when he moved out of the Robert Stigwood premises and got his own offices. I don’t know if Stigwood didn’t want to have anything to do with Slade. It could have been that way, but we wouldn’t know, as Chas was very good at covering things up. He never told us anything.

Q: It's a long shot, but does Don have any contact at all with Steffan Chandler?
Don: The last time I saw Steffan was at one of Keith Altham’s lunches, but that was some time ago. So no, we don’t keep in contact so to speak.

Q: Can you ask Don if he remembers back in The 'N Betweens days, which arrangement of You Keep Me Hanging On the group used to do. I know the group had different sets for different venues and they performed Motown songs as well as a psychedelic selection. So did they do The Supremes version or the BoxTops/Vanilla Fudge arrangement?
Don: The Supremes version

Q: It would be nice to know if the current band are planning any sort of album.
Don: There is talk about doing one in the new year and it’s a bit more positive this time. Ask Dave!

Q: Would Don like to pick a few songs that he wishes Slade had covered and say why? Thanks.
Don: What I would like would be the Lenny Kravitz song “Are You Gonna Go My Way”. It’s the kind of thing that the old band would have played on stage at the time before Nod and Jim writing. That would have been the kind of song we would have learned. And I’d have loved to play that as a drummer. I can’t think of any other at the moment.

Q: Were there any particular record producers that you would have liked Slade to work with at some stage of their career?
Don: Tony Visconti I would maybe have liked in the 1970s as he used to do all the T. Rex and I loved the sound, but I’m not sure it would have worked for Slade. And I would like actually as a challenge for this guy to have worked with Jimmy Page. I’d like to see what he would have made, working with us.

Q: If you were asked to recommend a definitive Slade studio album to someone discovering the band for the first time, which one would you pick and why?
Don: “Whatever Happened To Slade” because at that particular time we had nothing to lose. And also the “Nobody’s Fools” album which is my favourite. We did that in New York and it was so much fun doing that.

Q: Have you had any contribution to the new BBC sessions album due out soon, with regards to picking tracks and promotion of the album?
Don: Not really. I think the BBC album are the tracks that are there of the ones we did. That’s the tracks that are available.

Q: Who is the most famous person you have ever met? Following on from this, have you ever asked for any celebrities or musician's autograph?
Don: I suppose Paul McCartney. I asked him for his autograph and had his photograph taken with me. It was at Abbey Road Studios at a No. 1 party where everyone who had ever had a No. 1 record was invited. Cameras were forbidden, but the girl I was dating had brought one along and I spoke to Linda McCartney. I remember saying, “Would your husband mind if we had our photo taken together?” And she said, “No. Where’s the camera? I’ll take it.”

Q: Have you ever tried giving up smoking, if so how long did this last for?
Don: I don’t smoke anymore. I haven’t smoked since January 1st 2009. Before that I tried giving up smoking in the 1980s, but back then it only lasted for a few months. Now it is different, because I don’t miss it at all.

Q: Are you doing or have plans to do some acting?
Don: I’d like to do something, but there have been no offers. My name is not around in England any more, but if anything comes up here in Denmark I’d be happy to do it.

Q: Was there an inspiration to writing the lyrics for the songs on Play It Loud, such as Dapple Rose?
Don: Regarding Dapple Rose: I’ve always had a fondness for horses and where I lived with my parents there were some fields over the back and there were always gypsies camping there. They used to have these horses and donkeys and they always looked dead to me. They were not looked after which was sad. As for other songs, for instance I Remember…I don’t remember!!

Q: How pleased are you with the Live at the BBC set? Can you tell us of any memories you have of recording at the BBC in that period? Thanks.
Don: I’m amazed that the BBC still had these tapes and I remember we always had a lot of fun recording there. We would have a three hours session to record and mix five songs. It was so good. I liked the spontaneity of the tracks. But as I said to Jim – I saw Jim a couple of weeks ago – the song “Coloured Rain” means nothing to me! I don’t remember learning it or playing it. It’s so strange!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Don in front of his new house in Denmark, March 2009

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Don biography update

Whoa! It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog! Sorry for that, but things have been quite complicated here with health, life, the universe and everything. But anyway….
A lot of people ask what is happening to Don’s biography and the answer is: it’s well on its way! It’s taken a lot longer to do than first expected as it has been very hard to get the different interviews within the original time-frame. But now things should ease up a bit. While you’re waiting here’s a list of the people who have contributed to Don’s bio so far:
- Don’s sister Carol
- Johnny Howells and Mick Marson (former ’N Betweens members)
- Carole Williams (The ’N Betweens very first fan club secretary)
- Vicky Pearson (her cousin who also acted as The ’N Betweens’ hair dresser)
- Tim Ramage and Robin Lavender (present Slade crew)
And then some guys (and gal) who shouldn’t need any further introduction:
- Keith Altham
- Andrew Birkin
- Craig Fenney
- Dave Hill
- Jim Lea
- Jona Lewis
- Suzi Quatro
- Francis Rossi
- Andy Scott
- Graham “Swinn” Swinnerton
- Len Tuckey
- Henry Weck
- Bob Young
The book WILL be finished this year, but for now I don’t know exactly WHEN it will be published. I’ll keep you posted! Until then I’ll try to keep in touch when my health, life, the universe and everything allow it!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Another Q & A session

Once again Don had agreed on doing a question/answer interview for Ian Edmundson’s Slade fan forum, so when Don visited me on February 13th, we had a go at it.

Don and me at my place, February 13, 2008

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February 13, 2008: interview conducted at my place, Odense, Denmark

The first question is from Birmingham and it goes: Would there be any chance you could make it to this years Sladefest?
I would do it if I was around, if it fitted into my schedule

Then Bloxwich Baths asks: What was the biggest thrill…recording the Vendors tracks or having your 1st No1 record?
That would be the same for both, really. With The Vendors that was the very first time we were in a recording studio so we were in awe of that, doing those four tracks in one afternoon. I’d say they are probably pretty equal.

From Holland comes the question: Who were the ladies in the Take Me Bak 'Ome video clip as on The very best of Slade DVD?
I don’t know. They were probably just some dancers. The clothes were made for them and that was made without us knowing. We didn’t know about them until we were there.

Then a lady from Devon asks: If you had to give one good piece of advice about drumming/being a drummer, to another drummer just starting out in a band, what would that be (Apart from a set of drums!)? Also, out of interest do your arms ever ache after a gig, like is there any difference at your age now say compared to doing a gig twenty years ago, as looking at you and Dave on stage today, it looks like you still have the same energy as in gigs all them years ago.
Ha-ha! [Don can’t stop laughing] Yeah, get some drums and keep at it! As for aching arms, the only time they do ache is when we haven’t been working for a number of weeks. The first night back they always ache a little bit.

Bolton asks: If you were to put one new Slade song of your choice (that hasn't ever been played by yourselves) into the group's set, what would it be and why?
“Okay Yesterday Was Yesterday”. I heard a live recording of that recently and I don’t remember playing it live, but there was a really nice groove to it, especially the slide guitars. I’ve actually mentioned it to Dave.

From Leeds it says: When the Band/Manager sat down to discuss the single release Gypsy Roadhog did you consider the Drug references might kill/restrict airplay, even if you did manage to sneak it on to Blue Peter before the BBC cottoned on.
No, we didn’t. The drug references were obviously there, but we didn’t really think about it at that time. So many things were going by that were probably a lot worse, but we weren’t considered that kind of band, so when that was heard it was probably more apparent to the powers that be.

Bournemouth then asks: If you could have a hit record again, what style would you prefer to record ballad or Rock and why?
Rock. Because that’s really where we come from. I enjoy the ballads, especially My Oh My, Still The Same and a few of those, but I would prefer a rock song.

The same person goes on asking: Are there any plans to play in Bournemouth or other south coast areas in the future?
I’ll have to wait until the date sheet comes in to see if we’re going there.

Someone from Kilmarnock has the following question: Which gig would you say was the highlight of your career in Slade? Was it Earls Court, or do you not have many memories of that coming as it did just days before the crash? Reading comeback 1980? Or something else?
I think Reading and the Lincoln festival were the highlights. Reading was in a way the biggest highlight, because we had more or less broken up the band. We had two days rehearsal and went on and did it. We had everything to lose and nothing to prove and it went fantastic for us. But also the Lincoln festival when we were finally accepted by the more serious press, because at that time we were just considered a Top of The Pops band. I rate both gigs higher than Earl’s Court.

From Chicago comes the question: in which American city (or cities) did Slade enjoy live success similar to what you experienced in England?
Chicago, Detroit, New York. I’d say the East Coast and the Mid West in general. The Mid West was always good for Slade, even on the first tours. It was the same as in the Mid West back in England and it probably had a lot to do with that. It felt the same way.

My favourite photo from February 2008

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The interview in use

Don’s answers were uploaded to the fan forum in February 2008. This Q&A session is probably going to be the last one for quite a while as Don and I are busy working on his biography. Stay tuned!

Don with his diaries

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New question & answer session for the fan forum members of

Once again Don accepted to do a question & answer session for the fan forum Like in May I got the questions from the fans and passed them on to Don. This time we did the interview at Don’s place in Silkeborg on November 6th, 2007 and we managed to do some pics also. Some of them showsDon shooting pool in his living room. At the age of 8 I used to be a pool shark but this time I stayed safely behind the camera!
In the version of the interview that you can read here, I have not included all the personal comments and greetings from the fans to Don as that’s something private between Don and the fans. Also I have left out the names of the fans in order to “protect the innocent”, only their locations are kept in order to show the geographic spread.

Don and me in his home, November 6th, 2007

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November 6, 2007: interview conducted at Don’s place, Silkeborg, Denmark

The first question comes from a fan in Hull. He says: You co-wrote some of my favourite Slade songs including Dapple Rose and Man Who Speaks Evil. As the Holder/Lea partnership took over, did you continue to write for your own creative pleasure - and if so did you ever offer anything to the band?
Not so much, because a lot of the stuff that I had written with Jim at the time was still there, on file so to speak. The things that I’d already written some things with Jim which were used as B-sides, things like Candidate and Wonderin’ Y, things like that. I think we had already recorded them, actually, but after Nod and Jim wrote ‘Coz I Luv You, that was it basically, I didn’t write anymore.

From Holland you have this question: In your first answer you told us that the master-tapes of the B-sides are still around. Do you know who owns them and why they weren't used for the great series of re-releases?
I was let to believe originally that the master tapes were going to be used for the USM re-releases, and that one of the albums were going to be called A-sides of Back-sides, but they weren’t for some reason. As far as owning all the stuff we as a band all own that.

Birmingham wants to know if you remember why the track Coming Home was left off the Slade Alive! album?
Coming Home? I don’t think we actually played it, did we? I don’t think we played it at the time. I remember when we recorded Slade Alive!, but I’m not quite sure that we actually played it.

A fan in London asks, after John Punter got involved with producing the band in 1983, did you make demo's for all of your new songs, or just the ones that you (the band) thought would be good singles?
I think we made demos of everything that Nod and Jim had written and then we made a short list of what to record, really. The demo tapes must be in the office somewhere. A lot of times like when I heard My Oh My for the first time it was just Jim playing and Nod singing and we listened to it while having a coffee or something.

Bournemouth asks, have you anything privately owned by yourself by Slade that has never been released or is it true that everything ever recorded was put out?
I think more or less everything that has been recorded has been released. There may be something there but it couldn’t have been that strong because then it would have been used. No, it would have been used, either as a B-side or on an album. I don’t think there is anything that hasn’t been released and is just lying around.

He continues, you have become the most approachable one of the band. Is there anything that fans do or have done that annoys you? I only asked this as I have seen Dave, Nod and Jim take off at certain people who forget to be polite!
Polite? I don’t know…. No, it only takes a few minutes to talk to people and it really doesn’t bother me. The funniest one was once before we had any success and we were playing at a university in England. I was in the bar having a drink and this guy came up to me and started to talk about guitars. And I said, you talk to the wrong person, I no nothing about guitars, go talk to Dave and Nod. He said, will that be all right? No problem. He went away and I forgot all about it. Then later we got on stage – it was the days before many roadies and security – and we started the set and I was playing along and then suddenly I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up and it was this guy! He said, is it okay if I talk to them now? [Don starts laughing] And that’s the truth! That actually happened! [Don is still laughing, while shaking his head] I mean, it was so far out!
I’ll try that the next time!
It was so… Oh my god! Don’t people think? It was obviously before the days of the roadies. They would have thrown him off stage!

A fan in Chorley asks plain and simple, was it a sad day when you called it a day? I guess he means with the original band.
We didn’t really split up, it sort of more fizzled out. We stopped working basically. Nod wanted to do other things. We were recording at the time but nothing was happening success-wise with the records and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Nod wanted to do other things and he gave us his blessing to carry on. But we had done everything that we could, we had released a few albums and they did nothing. Nothing was happening, really.

Then we are back to Bournemouth and the question is, when Slade effectively disbanded before Slade 2 was formed did you ever consider joining or forming another band?
No. [Don looks as if he has never ever considered that] No…. [long pause]….no! At the time I worked in the antiques with my ex- wife and then Dave called me up. He had talked to Lenny - Len Tuckey - and they wanted to see if they could get Donald back in and Dave came down and saw me and I said, yeah, let’s give it a shot.

The next question you get all the time. It’s from California: Will Slade ever consider coming to the states to do a few shows maybe do some festivals our play a few club dates like the Whisky or the Roxy. I’m sure they could easily sell out a club tour. We would love to see Slade in the States.
Oh….I would like to. If the right thing came up, if we got the right offer I would love to. To do a 2 week tour there with somebody. A big name, you know. We couldn’t tour on our own there.

A fan in Sweden wants to know if you ever did a promo video for Ohh La-La in L.A., because he seems to remember Nod mentions something about it in the Get Fresh appearance?
There wasn’t a promo-video as far as I remember. We only did the My Oh My video for America, you know the one on the truck, with the girl on the motorbike, that was shot FOR America by the MTV in England, but we didn’t shoot any videos in America at that time.

From Essex it says, on the subject of Ooh La La In L.A. do you remember an extended version?
Not what I can remember, but what happened a lot was when we recorded with John Punter we always did the songs a bit longer, then he said, I can edit that to a single and make it a bit shorter. Or edit it to a 12” single and make it a bit longer. It was like that. So there are extended versions of quite a few of the tracks because that was the way that he worked.

A London-fan refers to when you dated Bob Dylan’s daughter by asking, did you ever get to meet Miss Zimmerman's old man ?
No! No, but I remember somebody making a joke; wouldn’t it be funny if Dylan recorded Cum On Feel The Noize? And they started singing like Bob Dylan. It was quite funny, [Don starts singing “Cum On Feel The Noize” in a Bob Dylan voice, then breaks down laughing] I couldn’t stop laughing! [he can’t stop this time either, and neither can I!]

Manchester asks, given the chance, (or even just on your all time wish list), who would you like to work alongside and play live with? I seem to remember you were (or perhaps still are) a big fan of The Eagles, so would they be on your wish list?
I would love to play with the Eagles! Somebody has asked me that question before, and I said I’d love to play with the Eagles. I probably know their songs better than they do! [Don laughs] But I don’t think I could play so loud, I would be allowed to play like I play with Slade!

From Wales comes the question, as you get older - as we all are ! - do you find it harder hitting those drums as hard as you do ? He says he can't believe the power in your playing, and it doesn't seem to wane as the years pass.
No, it doesn’t get harder. What happened was that when we started, Lise, in the 1960’s, everybody got bigger and bigger equipment, and it was the days before monitors so I had to play louder to try to keep over them and I though that was the way to do it. I had to keep up with the rest of the band and it just carried on. I’ve always played like that basically, there’s no formula, no hidden thing, it’s just the way I play. Once in the seventies we stayed in the same hotel as I think the Manchester United, the football team, and we were talking to their trainer an were asking about the same thing, about stamina and he just said, honey. Before the Manchester United players played a match they had half a dozen spoonfuls of honey. The trainer said, then it’s in your system and when your adrenaline starts to go down the honey builds you up again. So I decided to do that, but I think I OD’ed on honey [Don starts laughing] because I needed to throw up on stage so it only lasted for a while. The way I play, there’s no formula there, it’s not conscious, it’s just the way I do it

Then we have Bournemouth again. He asks, have you ever been asked to endorse a particular drum maker and have you a particular favourite?
I was endorsing Ludwig and that was fantastic, like Christmas Day. Because if I needed anything, no matter where I were in the world I could call them in Chicago and they would find out where I was and they would say, okay, there’s a Ludwig drum distributor or whatever in, say if I was in Tokyo, go to this and that address. I could go to any show in the world, take whatever I wanted, sign for it and then they would sort it out by fax. It was by fax in those days. So I could just go along and take whatever I needed. That has sort of stopped now, I’ve got an incredible deal, but it’s only the Paul McCartney’s or Eric Clapton’s and people like that who get stuff given to them for free nowadays. But I have an incredible deal, it’s almost like paying nothing, anyway now. Ludwig was always my favourite, but nowadays I like Pearl, they are probably better than Ludwig now, and I also like DW. They make fantastic drums.

A fan from Birmingham asks, have you ever considered having a signature pair of drum sticks in production?
I actually have some now. On the old ones my name was just printed, but on the new ones it’s made like a signature

And then we are back to London again with this question, How much input did you have for laying down the drum track, when Nod and Jim first presented their songs to you? Was it a case of Jim saying this is how it is gonna be, and sound or did they just leave you to get on with it?
I was left to do it myself. I especially remember My Oh My, because as I said earlier it was only Jim playing and Nod singing. There was this song by Billy Preston called “That’s The Way God Planned It” and I think George Harrison produced it and he got Ginger Baker to play drums on it. It was like a ballad, but he really lets go on the drums and I said to Jim, I’d love to play that on My Oh My. And Jim said, fantastic! And I used it for the intro and at the very end. I played it on rotodrums. It’s like sort of narrow drums, highly tuned, you have more control over the different sounds on them. Those were the drums I used on the drumrolls on the intro and in the end. When we did that John Punter had a great way of working because if I wasn’t doing anything I didn’t have to go in the studio. He said, there’s no point in you coming in, sitting around. Just come in whenever you have a day and then we did the drums for My Oh My just myself and John Punter and it was good.

A fan in Spain wants to know who wrote the drum notes for the intro to Lay It Down?
I don’t even remember what happens there! It’s me anyway, but I don’t remember what it was, what I played there?
How’s it going…something like, “A beat on the drum, a drum on the beat…”
Oh, yeah! Yeah, that was me just playing.
Because you never did make use of drum notes, did you?
No, no, no!

A fan in Sweden says, when reading Slade biographies on different websites I found out that many of them mention you doing session work for other artists in the late 70's. My question is, Did you end up on any albums or singles (A's or B's) by other artist (credited or uncreditted)? One name that is often mentioned is Sue Wilkinson.
I did do session work for Sue Wilkinson, but it was only cabassa and those click-click-click, whatever they call those things. And I played on the record, because Sue Wilkinson was on Chas’s label and he told her, Don’s the guy to do that for you and it only took 2 seconds to do it!

Bournemouth again. He says, You appeared in Lorna Doone in 2002 I believe it was. Have you had anymore offers to act or is it something you would like to do more of?
Lorna Doone was something that I did in England and now I’m not in England anymore. I haven’t done any acting since then, but I would like to. I meant to talk to Mikael Helmuth, the director of Oliver T., if he knows of anyone or if he can use me. I would definitely bear that in mind.

Then a question from Devon. It’s actually the only question from a lady this time.
Oh, yeah?
She asks, was there ever talk of a sequel to Flame? And if you were approached today do you think you or any of the original Slade would consider it?
No. But John Steele wrote a script, what was it now?
That’s the one with the trifids.
Yeah, The Quitamess Experience, yeah, but it never amounted to anything. We were all a bit scarred from making Flame, because of how long it took. I mean, it didn’t take any time really, but it did to us. It took a long time out of our touring career at that time, anyway, so it never happened. It got shelved. And I think Dave was written out in the first scene anyway, so he wouldn’t have that! [Don laughs].
But there was never talk about an actual sequel to Flame with the same characters?
No. There never were talks about a sequel, but it would be funny to do one today.
The Monkees did something like that at their 30 years anniversary. They made a one hour episode of their old TV-series, the same characters and all.
Oh, did they? I’d really love to see that, Lise! It could be funny to do something like that with Flame. It could work out really good and I would definitely do it!

And a question from the Bolton: What were the highlights of the recent musical for you?
That’s a difficult one! Highlights? I don’t know. I think I used more time watching the play from sitting behind the drums than actually playing drums in Oliver T.! But highlights… that was just being involved. I saw the production when Michael Helmuth first did it 2½ years ago and that was when I showed interest in playing with the band. It was all great fun. Everybody there involved with the production, the actors, they were all great. It was like one big family, but there were no particular highlights as such because it was all great fun.

London wants to know if you use the internet and if so, have you looked at You Tube or any of the other Slade related websites?
No. I sometimes look up a few things, especially old rare records like the foreign releases because their track formats differ, but I’m not really into computers. But back in the old days in certain countries they used different track formats, especially for singles. For instance sometimes they would put two singles on, like say Cum On Feel The Noize on the A-side and Squeeze Me Pleeze Me on the B-side. Some of the countries used to do that, but if they still do it, I don’t know. I haven’t looked for ages.

Bournemouth says, I remember seeing Slade at Bournemouth Winter Gardens on 15th December 1983. Towards the end you appeared to be constantly holding your head and you left the venue straight after the show. Do you have any long term difficulties as a result of you accident besides the memory loss, and the loss of sense of taste and smell?
Oh, I don’t know. When I first went on stage just after the accident my rib cage was really hurting whenever I stretched because I broke five ribs in the accident. And I thought there was still something wrong with the bones. I went to the hospital in Wolverhampton and they did X-rays and they said, there’s nothing wrong with the bones, it’s just the tissue in between that is still stretching. And they said, there’s nothing to worry about. And later it stopped and that’s about it, really.
You don’t have problems with scars? I once had my appendix removed and my scar hurts whenever the weather changes.
That’s quite common, isn’t it? But no, I’ve never had that as far as I can remember. I used to have head aches a lot, but that was because of the fractured scull, but I guess that’s a normal thing and that was just for a few months after the accident. I don’t really feel that now. I still find it hard to brush my hair because I have to be careful because of the scar on my head, but I seldom brush my hair, anyway! [Don laughs]

The final question is from Lancashire. It says, You spend quite some time in Denmark I believe, have you managed to learn much of the language?
Yes and no. Everybody speaks English here in Denmark and it’s not good for me! I understand more Danish than I speak. When somebody speaks Danish I know what they are saying but as both my family and everyone else speak English here so I don’t practice my Danish that much.

Well, that’s it.
Really good questions this time.
I’ll tell the forum!

My favourite photo from November 2007

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The interview in use

Don’s answers were all uploaded to the fan forum on November 7th. As usual it was a lot of fun doing it, so Don will probably be up for something like that again in the future.

Don shooting pool

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Question & answer session for the fan forum members of

This interview was very different from what we’d done before, because this time it was the fans asking the questions with me as the middleman. I got the questions from fan forum members of and I then passed them on to Don. He came over to my place in Odense, Denmark on May 7th, 2007, and we went through the questions together with me taping his answers on my Dictaphone. The day also had us running in and out of the house in order to do new pics of Don between rain showers. Of the ones you can see below, 2 were shot by Odense River and one at a playground behind my house.
In the version of the interview that you can read here, I have not included all the personal comments and greetings from the fans to Don as that’s something private between Don and the fans. Also I have left out the names of the fans in order to “protect the innocent”, only their locations are kept in order to show the geographic spread.

Don and me by Odense River

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May 7, 2007: interview conducted at my place, Odense, Denmark

The first question comes from Bloxwich Baths and it says: what music did your parents play to you when you were small?
Saturday and Sunday my mother and my sister did the housework so that was when the records went on and it was always the albums from “Oklahoma”, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and “South Pacific”. It was always those albums from the shows. It was not until I met Johnny Howells that I heard anything like what we ended up playing.

Bournemouth asks: Did you ever consider learning to play any instrument other than drums and are you mainly self taught or did you have lessons?
Jim was teaching me to play guitar in the middle or late sixties. I bought an acoustic guitar off Nod for £ 40. That was typical Nod. I think I was paying what he paid! [laughs]. And Jim taught me to play a 12 bar in e and c, a minor, f and g. I wish I had kept at it. Because I can’t sing or anything, I would have problems to tune the guitar for starters, [laughs] but I wish I had kept at it now. Then I’d had that now that I can’t sing. But I tell you what, Lise, I CAN tell if something is out of tune. One time in the studio we listened to playback and I heard something and I said: “Is something out of tune? I’m sure I can hears something out of tune.” Jim sat by me and we played it and then I couldn’t hear it. Then we took some things out and then we heard it. And he said, “None of us heard it!” With things like that I have a certain ear. Like harmonies. When we first started I used to sit at the front when the others were doing harmonies and I was saying this needs to be done or that needs to be done or something like that. I don’t know the terms musically, but I have a certain ear, I suppose.
I am self-taught as a drummer but I went to lessons. It was a guy in Wolverhampton, I was still in the boy scouts actually, and I went to him, but I only went twice, because he couldn’t teach me anything that I didn’t already know. What it was really was to learn to read drum music. What do I have to know drum music for? [Don sounds baffled].
I read drum music…
Yeah, I know, Lise! And he was trying to teach me that, but what do I need to learn drum music for? They don’t have drum music in all the different scores.
It’s more for classical orchestras.
That’s it. It’s probably more like the discipline it’s needed for.

Sussex says, “your drumming style was so much different on Play It Loud, than any other album, tighter etc., so different that you must have had a change of influence.
I probably played a lot more in those days and one time we were doing something, rehearsing, and it was such a tiny room so if I had played we couldn’t hear anything, so I just went on the snare drum. And Jim said, “Remember that”, because he got an ear for that type of thing, and I used that particular style on all of our early records. Only snare drum and bass drum on the records and occasionally a cymbal crash, but basically it was only snare drum and bass drum. That’s what the thing came from for “’Coz I Luv You”, by the way. Then I realised afterwards, that was not until later, that Ringo used the same thing on “Get Back”!
Leeds asks: what happened to the lovely silver Ludwig kit(s)?
That went in the rock’n’roll sale from Sotherby’s. I was let to believe that the guy from the Hard Rock Café chain bought them. I have never heard anything about them since. I have never been to the Hard Rock Café in London, so I don’t know if they’ve got any of it shown. There’s a Hard Rock Café in Copenhagen, maybe I should have a look there! [laughs] Maybe I should start looking! Walk in, try to be all nonchalant! [laughs] Oh, I’m only looking! [laughs] Someone did mention once that some of the things are in the Hard Rock Café in Tokyo, but if it is true, I don’t know.

Lancashire says, “I was wondering if you know of a store that you would recommend as selling pro standard cymbals at decent prices?”
Cymbals are very expensive, so he should try junk shops and things like that. Cymbals are often up to £ 400. I would go around junk shops and try to look for some there.
I didn’t realise that cymbals were so expensive.
Oh, it’s horrible! You can buy the whole kit and then if you have to add cymbals, that’s where the expenses grow.

Here’s a question from Melbourne, Australia: Do you have any particular recollections of the tours “down under” that you would share?
At the first tour in 1973 when the plane landed in Sidney we saw all these TV-cameras and we thought, “Who’s on the plane?” [laughs] “Who are they waiting for?” and obviously they were waiting for us! Because at that time “Slade Alive!” was triple gold. “Slade Alive!” was number one and had been so for a while and “Slayed!” was no. 2. And we had 3 singles on the charts as well. That was a great tour with Status Quo, Lindisfarne and Caravan. That was great. All the open air sports stadiums. But back then in the seventies every second song on the radio was one of ours and Lindisfarne always said, “Oh, shit! Not you lot again!” We got played all the time, Lise. The second time we went we did many indoor venues and when we went 10 years ago, that was when we were there for 8½ weeks, we played everywhere and anywhere, mainly based on the West Coast. We went to Adelaide for just one concert, but we were based in Perth for about the first 3 weeks and we went out from Perth. And then we moved to the Northern Territories. And we were just travelling out to all sorts of places, some were not even on the map. It was a wonderful experience.

Here’s another question from Australia, this time from Bendigo, Victoria: how different did you find Australia and the fans each time you were there and what regrets have you got over the last 40 odd years of your career. Would you have done anything differently?
The first two times we were there everybody knew all the records, because the records were on the charts, so the audience were no different than others, although the land was, obviously. I don’t think there was a change over time, except obviously when we went there the last time, people who had seen us in the seventies now brought their children with them. And they were still talking about “Slade Alive!” That was THE album.
The only regret I have was the approach to America. The first tour was great for us in America. What we should have done was we should have carried on in the same track, just supporting. We were supporting on the first tour and on the second tour we went top of the bill and we should never have done that. The first tour we were third on the bill. There was Humble Pie, mainly J. Geils and some other bands and on the second tour The Eagles were supporting us! We shouldn’t have done that. We should have carried on supporting on the second and the third tour as well instead of going top of the bill. That’s the only regret I can think of. In all other territories we were having massive success, anyway.

Manchester wants to know if after many tours with the band there was a particular happening that stays foremost in your mind. Sorta Spinal Tap perhaps?
There is quite a few, I think! [laughs]. Well, one sticks out. At our second America tour we had just signed to Warner Brothers. We were with Polydor on the first tour, but Chas wasn’t happy with that so we signed with Warner Brothers after the second tour when we went over. We went to San Francisco to a guy who Chas knew from the Animals days and this guy was still an old hippie, you know. And he lived in this small chapel in San Francisco. And we stayed for two nights, so we were there for the weekend, and he had a party in his home, so to speak, one night in this chapel. And it had a pulpit and all. And I just went to have a look around and there was this rope fixed to the roof and it came to like the balcony. And I had this girl with me and I said, “Are you up for a laugh? Get on my shoulders!” We could look down at the party, there was a few hundred people there and we would just swing down between the people. But what Chas told me later was that because we had just signed to Warner Brothers there were 2 or 3 of their executives there. They were standing talking to Chas and they were asking him what the characters were like, what we were like in the band. And when it came to me he said, “Don never really says anything, he’s pretty quiet,” just as I swung by! [laughs] Oh god! With this girl! And the executives said, “Who’s that?” “That’s Don.” “But he’s the quiet one!” [laughs] The quiet one of the band swinging by like Tarzan with a girl on his shoulders!

A lady in Belgium wants to know if there are any differences in the audiences in the different countries?
No. It is more or less the same all around the world. Even in Russia. It takes a little time to get them going in Russia, but it’s not because of the show, but they have restrictions. They have the police there and they are not allowed to stand up. But after a few songs, the police give up. It takes a few songs before the audience starts to stand up and go mad. They really want to, but it takes a bit, because the police is there. That’s a bit of a deterrent.

Now we go to San Francisco in California where the question is: Will Slade ever play in the United States again?
It would be great to go, if we could get the right tour offered to us. Where we could obviously support a big name of the same kind of act in a way. Like on the first tour with Humble Pie, because it was a rock audience. And that is great with us. But I think it needs to be something like that, supporting.
And then it says: give Lise a big hug from me for all her outstanding work!
[Don laughs – I usually get my fair share of hugs, when we see each other.]

Then we’re off to Finland with pretty much the same type of question: are you gonna do any gigs in Finland this year and if not, why?
I can’t remember the last time we played in Finland, but we’ll always go if the offers are there. We’ll always play there, but I don’t remember the last time, who we worked for, which one of the agents. At the moment nothing is scheduled, but anything can come up. If an agent contacts us. Finland has always been good for us, even with the new line-ups over the last few years, I’m sure.

We’re back to Leeds where it says, what songs did you play live or maybe rehears with the intention of playing live off Nobody’s Fools?
The songs from Nobody’s Fools were a bit too light for stage, for how our stage show was at the time. It would have been like sort of chalk and cheese to include any of the Nobody’s Fools material. It was a shame, though.
The same person also says that he remembers you all sound checking with Nuts Bolts And Screw and Sign of Times but you never actually played them during any gigs?
As for sound checking with Nuts Bolts and Screws and so, I don’t remember doing that.

From the East Midlands and from Hardley near Norwich comes the same question, namely don’t you get bored with playing the same playlist night after night and is there a possibility for a gig with songs from Slade’s catalogue away from the chart music and same weekly routine?
That’s what we are going to do this year, Lise. We start to rehears as soon as possible, the first thing on the agenda is to put in new songs in the show. Our plan is to add fresh things.

Another member who is also from Leeds asks how many more years you and Dave can go on touring?
I never even think of it. People have asked me that same question since 1973! [laughs]

Now we go to New York City and the question is: where did you come up with the idea for the heavy breathing in the chorus for Look Wot You Dun?
I think that was Chas’s idea. Don’t ask me why! It just came. I just did that, the heavy breathing, and I also used a matchbox well. Making the sound on like the “sandpaper”. So it’s me doing it with my voice and a matchbox [laughs].
Nowadays they laugh instead, Dave, John and Mal. I’ve been wondering why they have changed that.
I think they did that for people to be able to hear it. When they did the h-h-h, people weren’t able to hear it!
But that gives the song a different twist.
Yes, I know what you mean! [laughs]

Back to Bournemouth and the question: you wrote some credible songs in the beginning of Slade, have you written anything since?
I wrote some for Slade II, which we recorded. Then Dave and myself started to improvise a few things, obviously it has not been recently, but that’s all in the pipeline. Hopefully it can be put together.

From Lancashire comes this: there was some material written in the early days of Slade II, partly by yourself which exists on a rehearsal cassette. Was this material ever submitted for consideration for recording by the group?
Ahh, I forgot all about that! I probably have it, actually! [laughs] I have to look for that, I forgot all about that!

A member in Leicester asks: have you ever thought of asking Jim or Jim or Nod if they have any songs that Slade could use for a new album?
Dave did once ask Jim if he had any songs, that we could use, but I can’t remember what the outcome was. I think at that time Jim wasn’t particularly doing anything.

Back to Lancashire where it says that an acetate exists of a studio version of “Hear Me Calling” Is there any reason that this wasn’t released?
As far as I know we only ever did “Hear Me Calling” for the “Slade Alive!” album obviously and I think we did it a few times for BBC live recordings. I remember we tried to record it once or maybe a few times, but it never came together. It was like a live thing and we couldn’t get it together. I think the acetate was actually from a BBC recording. I can’t remember that we did it otherwise, or if we did, it must have been very early on.
The same person also asks if there is any prospect of a release of “Respect” from the last sessions at Rich Bitch and finally is there ever going to be a version of “Love Is” that fans can hear?
As for “Respect” I don’t know anything about that and regarding “Love Is”, it IS down on tape but where it is, I don’t know.

A guy from Essex says that he’s aware that “Hear Me Calling” was recorded in the studio for intended single release and he asks who decided to pull it and why? Also he would like to know if there ever was an unreleased studio recording of “In Like A Shot From My Gun” or “Comin’ Home” other than the BBC recordings?
I don’t remember us recording “Hear Me Calling” for single release, but I think that “In Like A Shot” was recorded. I’m sure, the master reel must be somewhere. I’m positive that we did that. But “Comin’ Home” we only recorded for the BBC sessions. We never made a studio recording of it.

Then we go to Norway where the question is: what was your favourite studio to work in and why?
Oh, a difficult one….I liked the Record Plant in New York where we did Nobody’s Fools, and I always liked the Angle at Islington in London when we worked with Roy Thomas Baker, when he produced a few things. It was great for the band, it was a really live sound. The Record Plant that was more a studio album than anything and that was a new experience for us, to record like that.
The same person seems to think that both Nobody’s Fools and We’ll Bring The House Down were recorded in the United States, so he is wondering why there’s such a big difference in those recordings?
Only Nobody’s Fools was recorded in the United States. The Nobody’s Fools was very produced with the girl singers as well. It was very different.
Finally he asks, what was Chas’s actual role in the studio as a producer?
As for Chas he was in the studio basically for discipline, really. With Chas it was like we used to record from twelve non-stop until six o’clock and that was it. Six hours and that was it. And it made sense. We wanted to carry on, but he said, “No, leave it. Stop now and you’ll be fresh tomorrow. You’ll have the evening free now to do whatever, go to the pictures or whatever,” you know. And he really proved it, because when we finished with Chas we did some recordings throughout the night and we got back the next day to listen to them and we said, “Oh, it’s a pile of shit!” [Don sounds surprised]. Because we had been half asleep and we had let things go. There is no discipline there. So Chas proved himself wise on that, it was so true. Only work from twelve to six.

From Holland the question is: what happened to the master-tapes from all of the B-sides. Are they still around or are they gone forever?
They are still around, they are still there. Why they weren’t used for the B-side album I don’t know, because they are still around, they are still there.

A member from Shropshire asks: do you think the current line-up will ever record anything new?
We’re going to have a talk this year about going in the studio

From Northern Ireland is this: what are your thoughts on the mid 80’s Slade sound?
The sound was a bit clinical some of it when we worked with John Punter, because he was very much a recording man.
He also says that both the Rogues Gallery and the You Boyz albums employed a heavy use of drum machines, what was your thoughts on this?
What we used to do was, we used the drum machine just for the click track and I put the live drums on afterwards. Because it takes away the live-thing when you use a computer, basically. And we didn’t bother with that. It was just a phase we went through, that came from John Punter, really. But on You Boyz we didn’t use drum machines.
He goes on asking, with the band stopping touring in the Mid-eighties could you foresee the demise of Slade or did you just think it was another cycle that you would come out of?
Being in it, it was the demise in a way, when we stopped touring, because our forte was touring. The recordings came in between, sort of. So yes, I could sort of see the demise back then.
Finally he asks what was the biggest managerial/business mistake that the band ever made?
I don’t know about managerial or business mistakes, but our biggest mistake was how we tried to crack America, going in as top of the bill instead of sort of like creep into the back door, so to speak, like we did in England, basically.

Then we have a lady from Essex asking how old were you when you started writing Bibble Brick and what inspired you to write it?
I was 22 when I wrote it, it was in 1968-1969. I always had the idea, even when I was a teenager. Because when I was a young child I used to sit with my father, watching cartoons and I couldn’t understand why he was laughing at different things than the ones that I was laughing at. I was laughing at the obvious things, but Dad was laughing at different things and I couldn’t understand that until I started to get older. Then I could see the humour things that he was laughing at and that was really what inspired me to write it. To try to do something that appealed to both audiences, both ages.
She would also like to know if you have made any changes in it now that you are a lot older and bringing it out, or if it is still how you first wrote it?
The basic story of Bibble is the same now as back then. We’ve done a bit of editing, but the basic story is still the same.

We stay in Essex but we’re back to the bloke from earlier on. He asks: are there any plans to release your “Let There Be Drums” solo work?
That’s all in the pipeline. I’ve got the tapes and I just need to really get the musicians together and really sort of sit down with it. It probably needs a bit work, it probably needs to be emptied out a bit and sort of start again.

A member in Birmingham says, due to the superb Slade footage lying gathering dust in TV archives all over the world, would you like to see them again, and which one out of all of the missing footage would you like to see most and why?
Oh god, I would like to see all of that! [laughs] Anything really, I want to see anything!

From Chester comes the plea: could you relay the things that fans ask and hope for to the people who have the relevant stuff i. e. master tapes, video footage etc. and tell them that there’s an audience out here eager to purchase it?
Ha-ha! Well, it’s a matter of the market. I’m sure there’s some great stuff out that doesn’t have been exploited, really. It’s strange. Some say that the quality of what is out there is not good enough, but with today’s technology you could enhance it in certain ways.

Finally we end up in Leeds with the question: did you really have a stall at Portobello Road?
My ex-wife, she had a stall there and I used to help out there. It was in one of the arcades.
He says that he and his wife tried to find the stall a couple of times but the best they got was somebody right at the top end saying that he thought you were around!
There was quite a few arcades, so you had to take a long time if you didn’t know where to go. It would take a long time to find.

My favourite photo from the fan forum session

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The interview in use

Don’s answers were all uploaded to the fan forum on May 8. It was a lot of fun doing it, so Don will probably be up for something like that again in the future. While doing the interview we also taped a greeting from Don to the fans. You can see it here.

Don by Odense River, Denmark

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Flame interview

When doing interviews with Don we have often talked about Slade’s film Flame from 1975. In April Union Square Music re-released it as ”Slade in Flame Special Collector’s Edition” and I was to do a bit of promotion for that. But when I looked through my notes from former interviews I felt that something was missing. As Don was to visit me anyway on May 7th 2007, we used the occasion to tie up the loose ends and the day after we finished the interview over the phone, because there was still ”something” missing. Below you can see our efforts from May 7th and May 8th. The pics were shot in my home in Danish town Odense on May 7th.

Don and me, May 7, 2007

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May 7 and 8, 2007: interview conducted at my place, Odense, Denmark and over the phone.

What do you think of the film Flame?
It’s amazing to think that after all this time how it suddenly comes back again. Because if I remember right, Lise, it only had a short span in the cinemas. It wasn’t around for very long. And not everywhere showed it, either, only certain towns showed it. The actual general release wasn’t everywhere like you’d see with a major film, that gets a nation-wide distribution. But that didn’t happen with “Flame”. And then in the late seventies it was shown in a few special cinemas, like a tiny cinema in Wardour Street in London, there was a month when they showed things like “Performance”, and “Flame” was shown there. And I think in Cardiff as well. But I think the film is good. Because of the story, I think it still stands up.
And the cast is very well chosen.
It is. The casting director was fantastic, really. All the actors were perfect.
Johnny Shannon as the agent, that was pretty much the same part he played in “Performance” wasn’t it?
That’s the part that he always played! [laughs] He was on television quite a bit and he always played exactly the same type. He did a lot of sitcoms in England and it was always the same kind of character. He looks the part and he carries it really well.
People always talk about him, Alan Lake and Tom Conti, but people seldom mention Kenneth Colley who played Tony Devlin. He was good.
Yes, he really fitted the part.
He went on to do Star Wars, didn’t he?
Yes, he was in a few episodes of that and he did some other work, I suppose.
And what about the women? I know that Nina Thomas who played Jim’s wife was has only done two films, one with Judi Dench and one with Michael Kitchen and then she was in an episode of Dr. Who as well, but what about Sara Clee, who played Dave’s girlfriend?
I don’t know what happened to her. She was in a few things of the time, although I don’t remember the names of any of the films, I think she was in “That Will Be The Day”. She also always played the same part as well! We had that joke that whoever worked on Flame never got any work afterwards. [laughs]. One shot himself and the rest didn’t work! [laughs]. But…at least Tom Conti came out well.
And the screenwriter Andrew Birkin had quite a good career with “ The Name Of The Rose”, “Joan of Arc”, “Perfume” and all the Peter Pan-work.
Oh gosh, yeah! At the time I thought he had it with his career. I would like to see him again. He was a type…he was always in the background, wasn’t he, he never stepped forward. He never sort of pushed himself.
No. But he cameos in almost all the films he has been screenwriting. In “Joan of Arc” he plays the part of Talbot and in “The Name Of The Rose” he is Cuthbert of Winchester.
I have to have a look!
And he has had a few parts in other films as well.
A kind of Hitchcock type of thing?
No, it is a bit more than that.
I would like to see him now. What he looks like now. It was strange seeing Richard again. He hadn’t changed at all. Andrew probably looks just the same as well. He was almost a wee gentleman when he came with us to America. He never pushed himself. When we asked him about his sister, Jane Birkin, and that record she made “Je t’aime”, he never rose to the bait. He was probably bored about that question. He was probably fed up, because all that people did was talk about that record. I really would like to see him again.
Well, I’ve passed on your e-mail address to him, so now it is up to him!
Yeah. I wish I had kept the script, by the way, for Flame. But I haven’t.

Who played the part of Noddy’s grandmother? You never see the face.
Oh, that was one of the technical crew! And then the voice was overdubbed later on.
Did you do overdubbing?
Yes! When there was background noises or if the diction didn’t come off right, we would sorta overdub in the studio. And it is strange, actually, you have the screen in front of you and you stand with some headsets and when it is your turn to say something, the line goes across and when it comes to the end, then you say it and then it fits in sync with the lips.
I was wondering about that because in the film, when people turn their backs to the camera you can’t hear what they are saying. Why wasn’t that overdubbed?
I know! That is strange! There’s quite a few things like that, actually.
But at least the picture is so much clearer on the new version. You can actually see what is happening!
It was terrible when the original video came! It was so dark, almost all of the film. Even in the outdoors scenes, they were sort of dark as to what they should to have been. Now it looks like it did in the cinema, which is so much better. They should have done that before, because it was a big criticism that it was so dark.

My only option is that in the film the illusion of time is not very good. In the book the story expands over like four years, but in the film it seems to all happen within a few months. You can only tell that years are passing because the hair-styles and clothes are changing.
Yes, I know! Especially with Sara Clee with the headband and everything.
I guess it is difficult to create that illusion of time.
It must be difficult, but it is so important!

How come the film only runs like 86 minutes?
Yes, it ought to last 10 more minutes, doesn’t it? Probably the rest was cut away. We had to cut something out obviously for the audience. We couldn’t have anything disdained in it, that would restrict the age group. I remember there was so many things that had to be cut out for that reason. Like in the party scene at the hotel where Nod’s drunk and that girl picks him up, there was something more there, that was cut. There were quite a few things where we were told, “You can’t do that.” With the censorship and everything we had to be so careful.
And also the scene with Alan Lake, with his toes.
That could not be shown because of the censorship. It would have been totally different if that had been shown.
It would be interesting to see what has been cut out.
Yeah. I’d love to get the outtakes. But I don’t know where they are! If they are there. At least back then if you had done a take or two they just wiped them because of the cost of tapes. And that was amazing when you think of the Beatles material. The foresight to do that and to keep it, obviously. To just record when they were playing along in the studio. That would never have happened when we started recording. It is so ridiculous. It’s the same with the early BBC recordings, the sessions we used to do for radio. They were some great ones! The guy who was the engineer, he actually became a presenter at Top of The Pops, and he really liked us and he was really great working with in the studio. Because he wasn’t afraid of trying things as opposed to the rest of the BBC, or the image of BBC with the producers wearing collars and ties, but the tapes from that were wiped anyway.

How was the budget for the film?
I think it was half a million pounds. It’s difficult to see where the money goes, but of course it’s a matter of the crew and all of the equipment and expenses like that. It probably was a pretty low budget.
And it was done in six weeks or something like that?
Yeah. And then we spent so much time afterwards with the promotion. We didn’t think it’ll take that long, but the promotion it would take forever.
The press was good to you, wasn’t it?
They were fantastic! All the TV-reviews, all the sort of film programmes on TV, they had fantastic reviews for us.
That must have meant a lot.
It did. If they had dumped it in some papers we would have been really down about it.

When you made Flame, some of the band members were more pleased with it than others. What was your opinion?
Oh, I loved it! I loved every minute of it! When we decided to take that story line, when we decided to take that plot, that sort of thing, I thought, “Great!” At the time it probably wasn’t the right thing to do, because at the time it wasn’t what Slade were, but in hindsight I’m so glad we did that.
It really was the right move.
Definitely! I remember we talked to Robin Nash who produced Top of The Pops, he said, “I really admire what you have done. You’ve done the right thing, but do you really think that the kids want to see that? That side of the business?” I know what he meant, because when it was released it got very mixed reviews from the general public. We weren’t really down, we were more contemplating, have we done the right thing? We were proud of the finished product, but was that the right direction? People hadn’t expected that kind of film from us.
I was 13 when it came out and I liked it because it was not just the usual, like “A Hard Days Night” and it was nice to see something with a little depth. But I think most people had expected something else.
Definitely. Because people couldn’t separate the band Slade from Flame. They didn’t understand that we played characters. So every time we did TV-interviews or whatever we had to say, “we’re not Slade in the movie!”
It was probably difficult to separate Slade from Flame, because the characters you played in the movie were more or less based on you and some of the elements, you working in a steel factory and Jim carrying his bass in a plastic bag, that came from real life.
Yes. That was some of the things that Andrew got off us when he went with us to America. I remember Chas saying, it was so easy doing “A Hard Days Night”. It was so easy, that was no problem, but!
If you’d done that it would have sunk without a trace.
Exactly. It would have been like the Dave Clark Five-film, they made “Catch Us If You Can” and it sunk as soon as it had been released.
It would have made fans happy for a short while and then…
Yes. There would have been no way that it would have been released again. As I said before, I’m proud of it. I’m glad we did it. And at that time it was possibly the first one to show the backside of the industry. David Essex did some, but they were a bit more glossy, I think. Because he was that kind of character, you know. With Flame, it has kind of set a standard. Also for “The Commitments”. That was a great film, that was, and it’s sort of a parallel to Flame, isn’t it?
Yes, it would be interesting to talk to the writer of the book or the screenwriter about their influences. I would like to do that. They must have been influenced by Flame.
I have the film at home. I’ll have a look at the credits to see who did that.

How did you take to that in the band, that you suddenly had to act?
We didn’t think of it like that. It was just a bit of fun for us. [laughs] None of us took it THAT serious. It was great and another string to the bow, so to speak, doing that sort of thing. Everybody wants to be in a movie. And when it came out it was fantastic. But of course it was a different routine to work like that. But after a couple of weeks you get into the flow of things. Like up at 5, get ready and be on set around seven-ish and work and then eventually Andrew or Richard would say, break for lunch. Break for lunch? I though it was the end of the day! [laughs] We did around 6 hours, that was a full day for us or it would have been in the studio, and then you had all afternoon to go! Plus you must remember that most of the time we spent hanging around, just sitting around while they set lights, set the cameras just for 2 seconds on the screen basically.

The scenes of the movie are all based on events that happened to Slade or other bands, like the coffin scene was from Screaming Lord Sutch and the shooting at the radio station was also true.
Yes, that did actually happen, but not to us. Back then people used to pay money to have their records played. Emperor Rosko, he used to be on one of those pirate radios. Probably Tony Vance as well, because a lot of them came from the pirate radio. That was so exciting back then! [laughs] An illegal station!
We had a bit of the same in Denmark, but I don’t think it lasted very long, then everybody tuned in to Radio Luxemburg!
Exactly! That was what they did in England with Radio 1, to try to get about the waves so to speak.
But which events in Flame actually happened to Slade?
There was the drums at my parents’ where I paid the money in instalments, and what else happened to Slade? There was the agency, when we used to go to the agency to try to get our money and like that. All the bands around Wolverhampton used the same agency, and we were all there Friday to try to get our money. And then with the Screaming Lord Sutch, there was a band around Wolverhampton that used to back him, you know. And Barry has his 21st birthday again.
Yes, you were also lied younger in real life.
Yes, we were. And then the steelwork and Jim with the bass in the plastic bag as we talked about. And then Johnny, our original singer Johnny Howells, you met him in Wolverhampton last year, in those days he looked a bit like Alan Lake. He was not happy with it, he said about Alan Lake, “That’s supposed to be me, isn’t it?” [laughs].
But Alan Lake more or less played himself, didn’t he?
Exactly. When he came to do, like things in the studio, he was dressed in the same way as in the film. And we thought, “What!” [laughs] He looked like in the film and we thought, “God!” And then there was this girl in the concert scene. The one who throws herself at me on stage. In real life she proposed to me! In a letter! She was one of them girls who used to hang around no matter where we went. Later on she sent me another letter saying, “You’ve had your chance. Now I’m marrying someone else.” [laughs] That was wonderful, that was! You’ve had your chance!

I was wondering about Nod’s character, because that didn’t have very much to do with him, I mean with the sales and living with his grandmother and the pigeons and all.
About those pigeons, they had never really anything to do with anything. It’s a bit a northern thing, that is. A shed in the garden with the pigeons.
Maybe it’s an acknowledgement to John Pidgeon who wrote the book!
Yes, that could be it! [laughs].
I found out who he is, by the way. He was a BBC1 producer. You know we once talked about how well he seemed to know you, although you’d never met. Well, maybe you did meet, after all!
Maybe we have done interviews with him. We’ve possibly worked with him, then, done programmes or something without realising. There was a lot of that in England at the time, we were always going in to do interviews for different programmes, that kind of thing.
He based his book mostly around you and Jim and why would he do that, if he didn’t know you, because it would be more obvious to base it around Noddy, who was the front man, anyway.
That’s interesting, that. Because I said in advance that I’d have trouble learning lines because of my amnesia, and Jim…
He was probably too shy to front a film.
Yes, and Noddy was really great in that film.
He was. I noticed that when Nod is in the coffin singing, there’s a third hand in there with him as well.
Yes. The one that’s doing the [Don waves his hand]. I don’t know where that came from! It’s like…he gets locked in the coffin with a glass of beer, doesn’t he? Where does that go?
He probably gives it to the third hand!
That’s it! [laughs]

We’ve talked about the book before.
Yes, we have and as I said then, we should have filmed the book instead of the screenplay. That was so much better.
Yes. It got more into things. And to the backgrounds of the characters as well. What about Dave’s character? You never get to know him that well in the film.
That was a criticism of the time. In the film I was living with my parents, Jim had his wife and Nod was living with his grandmother but Dave? I just sort of fell from the moon! You never hear anything about his background. That was criticised.
It’s the same in the book. I think it has to do with him being “Barry”. You know you were called Charlie like in
Charlie Watts, yes, and Jim was Paul like Paul McCartney.
And Nod was Stoker like Bram Stoker who wrote “Dracula” and then Dave is Barry. I think it derives from J. M. Barrie, the writer of Peter Pan. Andrew is the official biographer of J.M. Barrie who wrote Peter Pan, and well, neither Barrie nor Pan were able to commit to women, just like Dave’s character!
That’s true. Dave’s character is like that. And he was just there. He comes from nowhere! But of course they couldn’t use his real situation in the film.
No, Dave was already married at the time, wasn’t he?
Yes, he got married in Mexico in 1973, but that was kept away from the fans.

Was Flame ever shown on British TV?
Yes, it was shown on TV, but that’s some time ago.
It never was in Denmark.
What would they do here? Overdub or put on subtitles?
Subtitles! We always do subtitles in Denmark!
That’s interesting. I don’t know why they haven’t shown it, then. Maybe it’s a commercial thing?
One of the things I’m working at is…they have like this music programme on Danish TV called “Musikprogrammet” and they often have theme-nights about a single band, and it would be good if we could get Slade on there. Show “Flame” or some of the documentaries like “It’s Slade” or “Perseverance”. I’ve actually had fans from all over the country writing in, asking for a Slade-night!
Does that still work? [laughs] They used to do that in England, they used to write, all the fan club members.
But the problem nowadays is, that the fans are 40 and up and the people who are doing the programme are in their twenties, so they don’t know who Slade is! But they have started making programmes about people like The Doors and David Bowie, so maybe we’ll get there one day!
That would be interesting.
They also use to have musicians in to talk about how they’d been influenced by the band in question.
That’s the same in England. So many people have been influenced by us, that we didn’t even thought of. I think Richie Blackmore was one of them. I think he has a quote on the back of “Slade Alive!” A lot of people have been influenced, but you don’t realise until they come out. And Gene Simmons, he always acknowledges our influence on Kiss. A lot of people have been influenced, but some won’t admit it! [laughs]

You never though about making a second movie? A lot of people have done, you know, films following a band on tour or something.
We never talked about it, that’s strange, that is! That SHOULD have been done. Like the BBC Radio documentary. But that was only like half an hour, like a short thing, we never really went into it, it was just the surface things. We SHOULD have done a real full time film with us on the road. That would have been great, I think. And that would have been what people would have liked to see as well. What is going on in the background. The lead up to the concerts and so on. I like to watch those kinds of films myself. I always buy those and watch those.

What do you think about the package, the Slade In Flame Special Collectors Edition?
I’m impressed with this. I’m glad that the CD is with it. That’s good. And the interviews. You know, we did them last year. Tom Conti, Dave, Jim and myself did ours on the same day. I did mine just after Tom Conti and he said to me, “Who would have imagined that after 30 years?” Thirty years! It’s hard to believe that it is really thirty years! It was great seeing him again, though. Richard Loncraine wasn’t able to make his on the same day, so they did that later and Nod’s, that was the old one from 2002. I think they should have done a new one with him, though.
Yes, the fans would have liked that. I think that featurette as they call it, is what fans have been looking forward to the most, because it was something new.
And many were curious about how you look today and what you were going to say, so it would have been nice with a new interview with Nod. I mean, most people know what you and Dave look like now, but that’s not so much the case with Nod. Or Jim.
No…Jim’s new album is really good, by the way.
It is.
Do you know how it is selling?
No. But I think it’s doing okay. At least it’s been received very well everywhere.
That’s good.
And it was nice seeing him participate in the featurette. But apart from the featurette there’s not much extra material with the Flame DVD.
No, there ought to have been some more. There should be quite a bit of footage somewhere, outtakes and things that went wrong. There should be quite a bit of that, but I don’t know what happened to that.
Fans were led to expect the alternate lyrics version of “This Girl” to be on the CD as well.
I don’t know what happened to that.
Maybe they couldn’t lift it from the film?
They didn’t have to, because we actually recorded that. There’s a studio version of it, but I don’t know what happened to it.
And then there’s the booklet with the photos from Andrew.
I’m glad that they’re still around. That Andrew kept them. Nice to see the photographs of Chas as well. There he is reading. Even in the studio when he went to the toilet he would bring a book with him. That’s him gone! [laughs] And look at those Flame-suits! I actually got a rash of them! [laughs] It was almost like a paper-type stuff. You could hardly bend in them, that’s why we pose like that!
Well, you’re not that bad off with only a vest!
No, thank god!
How come it is Jim who has commented on the photos?
I don’t know.
He’s very direct at times and you seldom see that with Slade.
I know. We were always known as the clean boys. That was the only thing that got through, actually, you know.
I was wondering why Union Square released the movie as “Slade In Flame”?
I know. It’s only called “Flame”.
It’s a bit confusing that they use the name of the CD for the DVD.
It is.
It also got me to think how much the CD is going to sell as the CD is now also included in this collection as well.
It was probably a wise move to release the CD prior to the DVD package! It would have made it more sellable if there had been bonus tracks, though. Now the two CDs are identical!