Congratulations on the release of “Out Of The Way”, how does it feel?
It feels great, this project has been all consuming in a good way as the focus on mastering helped me get through lockdown so it’s really special to finally get the music out there.
It is part of an upcoming live album what was it like recording that?
The show itself was a fantastic experience in the end despite the dawning reality that Covid was only going to snowball. But the week leading up to 13th March 2020 started strange and ended in a surreal atmosphere as events unfolded. On one hand it was obvious to everyone in Europe the situation in Italy was deadly serious, on the other we had national disgrace Johnson telling the world he “shook hands with everyone” on a Covid ward and keeping everything in the UK open. Some ticket holders couldn’t travel from Europe, others had already come to London, and the 100 Club bombarded with calls and emails asking if the gig would be pulled. In the end we knew we would have an almost full venue and no official guidance, and the show went ahead so we didn’t let anyone down. We came off stage just after 11pm, the last live music in the West End for the next 14 months, so we were lucky to get the album in the can.
What are your favourite moments from that gig?
When we came onstage and fist bumped the front row, I was genuinely humbled by the commitment of support. I think for the crowd and the band it was two hours of escape from the grim reality to come, and that contributed something to the atmosphere on the recording.
Tell us the story of how Vardis came together who’s in the line up?
I’m very lucky to work with Joe Clancy (Drums) and Roly Bailey (Bass). After the Vardis reunion shows in 2014 we parted with our original drummer as he had no desire to make new music, and were fortunate to poach Joe Clancy from the Adrian Smith Blues Band. Adrian had so many live commitments with Iron Maiden that the blues band was only ever a studio project, and Joe was itching to try something new, get on the road and play live. After one rehearsal with me and Terry Horbury (who joined on bass in 1985) the chemistry was instant and we were delighted to offer him the job without auditioning anyone else. We recorded “Red Eye” with this lineup for Steamhammer in 2015. Terry became increasingly ill in the studio and was diagnosed as stomach cancer, which tragically took his life while we were mixing the album. The finished record came out in tribute to him. We completed a European tour to promote “Red Eye” with former Sabbath and Scarlett bass-man Martin Connolly filling in at short notice, before auditioning Roly Bailey, a multitalented musician and accomplished songwriter in his own right (his solo albums are excellent). Playing a few festivals with him it was clear he bought a new dimension to the chemistry of the band. The energy of this lineup creates feels truly magic, and I’m so pleased to have captured it on ‘100MPH@100Club’.
What were your influences starting out?
Growing up in the 1960’s my parents always played lots of Rock & Roll, Country, and Blues so I couldn’t escape the influence of American Music from the 50’s and 60’s, especially Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. I still write songs on an acoustic guitar and feel out the shape and progressions in a Country Blues style, before cranking up the speed and the amplifiers with the band to turn on the Vardis sound. In 1970, when I was about 13, we bunked off school to see the Woodstock movie at the Cinema and Jimi Hendrix’ performance inspired me to learn guitar. T Rex and the Faces were also a very big bands for me in those days, Marc Bolan had this ability to elevate simple songs through sheer feel in his voice and guitar playing, a true inspiration.
Your sound is heavily rooted in rock and heavy metal, how does a jam session for you all usually begin?
As a trio we have the innate understanding to explore the songs new every time we play, so we tend to begin with Rock or Blues freeform jam to warm up before trying any new songs, then allowing the set to fall into place through feel and improvisation.
Pre covid you have played gigs what’s been your favourite moment in stage?
I’ll never forget the lad who climbed onstage at Very ‘Eavy Festival in Holland to boogie with us then dived head first off stage only for the crowd to part and let him hit the floor! It looked really bad, but he wasn’t hurt. It was very funny and I had the best view in the house.
COVID impacted the creative industry as a whole, what kept you motivated?
We were so fortunate to get the recordings in the can for the new album just 1 day before lockdown, we needed no extra motivation to spend isolation focusing on perfecting 100MPH@100club. It’s a double album so we had 2 hours of recordings to mix edit and master, and with all the online tools myself and Joe could collaborate back and forth between Newcastle in England and Zervos, my studio here in Greece
2020 was a time to reflect what did you learn about yourselves?
Speaking for myself, it occurred to me life is too short even if you live a long time.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I have been looking back at my old record collection and enjoying the 70s stuff again, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band is what we are playing most at the moment.
What’s next for you?
I can’t say too much yet but during lockdown I’ve been digging through the archives and putting together some rarities, singles and B-sides for a retrospective project. I’ve also been working on new songs, but so fingers crossed myself, Joe and Roly will be able to get together soon and bring the Vardis live show back in 2022.