Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Mama's Gun: On your marks!

Mama's Gun
Mama's Gun Mama's Gun Mama's Gun Mama's Gun

It's been two long years since we last caught up with the then "up and coming" funk/soul/rock/pop (and a few other genre's mixed in for good luck) group, Mama's Gun. So it's with more than a hint of surprise that in these few keen words of introduction that I find the band, about to release their second offering 'The Life And Soul', still up …AND still coming.

An overnight sensation, no. But a group of talented and accomplished individuals with a finely tuned game plan, yes. After marked successes in, of all places, Japan - with the beautifully crafted ballad 'Pots Of Gold', from effervescent debut 'Routes To Riches'. Their stature in other such far flung territories has been nothing short of healthy, unequalled even, in said Japan. Thus resulting in regular trips by the score in that direction - bet there's some Air Miles being collected there!

But the question has to be… Why hasn't 'Pots Of Gold' and 'Routes To Riches' resulted in "just that" for this band in this part of the world? AND, I wish I could give you a decent answer, (scratching my head) but I haven't a clue!? Give me a slightly easier question like, why are Jedward still on our TV screens!? And I'll give you a semi-clever retort …So I will move briskly on and herald this fabulous five piece in the manor they should be introduced, as I, Lee Tyler - Editor of this mighty monolith of a magazine, am proud/pleased to call this band "up and coming"… "ONCE MORE!" …But, and it's a big but, sorry, BIG BUT - are THEY happy with that mantle? Oh, and one more thing before we start interview proceedings… don't mention "Steely Dan" in front of my interviewee, Mama's Gun lead singer Andy Platts, it could get a bit messy!? Why? You'll have to read on…

LEE: Nice to see you back again. We last spoke to you in 2009 when 'Routes To Riches' was out and I couldn't stop playing it. I remember saying to myself, "this should easily take off for them…" Then, surprisingly, I haven't seen or heard from you guys since - what happened?

ANDY: I guess, the way things have gone for us, success has been kinda weighted in different parts of the world. The most success we've had has been in the Far East - places like Japan, Hong Kong and stuff like that where we've actually got into the top of the charts and stuff. BECAUSE we're an independent label - we don't have that massive major label info-structure where someone presses a big red button and it's a synchronised release across 300 countries or whatever!?

LEE: Not yet! [Laughs]

ANDY: We're having to put out, we're having to make relationships with distributors and do local deals in territories and then go and spend a bit of time there. Then find another territory and do the same there. So it's a case of kind of second guessing where it might have been good for us to spend time, go there and spend time and hope that the gamble pays off. A lot of places in South East Asia, and places like Holland as well, things are really happening for us - we go back there and can happily sell out places, it's all good! But as far as the UK's concerned… Yeah unless you've come to see us live or are keeping the odd ear on Radio 2 now and then, you probably haven't heard too much from us. That's where we are really trying to concentrate our efforts this time around and make a bit more noise!

LEE: I sincerely do hope that this time is your time. Has it been a bit infuriating that it still seems that your, if you like, waiting for your turn here?

ANDY: Well, I think the most successful things come from work and come around in increments rather than going from zero to eleven! Whatever's happened with the process, it's been organic, it's been a natural evolution. Now we're steadily building fans etc. It's just a stumbling block, a few hurdles - the UK music industry hinges on a few things as far as getting into the public consciousness. And one of those things is stuff like the Jools Holland show, which can REALLY propel you places and people then know who you are. That's a really hard show to get onto, it's a mixture of politics, who you know, mixture of money - right place right time, all that kind of stuff. We're trying to manoeuvre ourselves into a place where the stars are looking good for us so we can get onto a programme like that. It's also stuff like getting onto a good support tour, because we're not singularly one thing - we're not straight pop, or straight rock, or straight soul, or straight funk, or whatever kind of act. You might think that plays to our advantage, but that can play against us sometimes as well - as far as being a group who can be compared with… We can try and pitch ourselves in a lot different places, it is just seeing what will work for us successfully.

LEE: Yeah I agree…

ANDY: For example, we're trying to get onto a tour with The Feeling (please don't Andy!). They're fairly eclectic, you know, poppy melodic rock (hmm, something like that!?). ...Last year we did a tour with Beverley knight…

LEE: Talking of which… The new album features Miss Beverley Knight, obviously you toured with her last year and it was said then that she was a fan of yours back then… Did you invite Beverley to contribute to the new album - did she invite herself? [Laughs]

ANDY: We just got talking at a sound check, on the tour one day, we're joking around and talking about a few ideas and she said; "you know, we should do something together when the tours over, lets talk and try to set something up…". That was the last that was said about it on the tour, I think it was a couple of months after, I kind of remembered (haha, right!) that she had mentioned it and told my manager to get in touch with her. Long story short; she agreed, I basically wrote something - I'd written music, four verses and choruses, and vague melody ideas - no lyrics or anything. We got together, we wrote the melody and the lyric's together very quickly and recorded the vocal's in a day, and that's how it went down! Very quickly really…

LEE: Bob's your Uncle! Pleased with the finished effort?

ANDY: Absolutely yeah, it was one of the most intimidating things, doing a live vocal take with Beverley Knight! [Laughs]

LEE: [Laughing] Rather you than me!

ANDY: Oh God, she can sing you into the ground. [Still laughing] She should be used as a weapon by this country! It was absolutely phenomenal you know, what she can do - just how instinctive and unaffected she is, she really is a true talent.

LEE: Can I ask you, what's the main difference between the first album and this one - apart from Beverley?

ANDY: In terms of album's being successful within themselves; whether the idea's have been realised and whether the vision has been realised and all that kind of stuff. I think the new record really is the consolidation of a sound of a live band who have been playing together a few years now. I'd like to think that the songs are better, they're more melodically driven, the lyric's have a bit more substance to them. I think the overall sound has been unified with the help of fresh blood in the production/mixing hot seat. The first record was written by a guy (himself, in case you hadn't guessed!?) Who was a bit wet behind the ears and recorded by a band that had only been together for five months - I think we've just moved on, got a bit older, got a bit wiser and matured and stuff.

LEE: Looking back, you said the last album was really genuine - is that a theme that runs through this release?

ANDY: Absolutely yeah, the whole band ethic is based on very hard work and discipline AND really making an idea the best version of the idea that it possibly can be. Sadly this time round, we wanted to write more as a band for this record, but after we had finished touring after a couple of years it was a very short window of time we had to make a record and start getting out again. You know, pressure from label's round the world and publisher's, so I ended up writing the majority of it again - which had to be done! So in terms of how the sound of the album came out, I think it was very much a collaborative process - when you come and see the live show I think you'll see the big distinction between what we do live and on record. Records are records, when we play live we really try to give it a twist! We don't want you to just come up and just listen to the songs as they are on the record, there should be a special live experience. I think we are really nailing that this time!

LEE: Saying that, I have really enjoyed the two times I've seen you play live before - so you feel your show has evolved?

ANDY: Absolutely! Just like a good wine matures with age, things have settled between us. We know each other more intimately in more ways than one! [laughs] (I'm not going to ask!?). Being on a tour bus will do that for ya…

LEE: [Laughs] I'm sure!?

ANDY: Yeah definitely, we really try to set a high water mark for the quality of the songs and how we play them. We hope that comes across live - but yeah, we want people to have fun, to follow and clap, but we want to impress people as well! We're a little older, we're all over 30 you know (NO, I don't believe you!) - between 30 and 38, we've been there and done the T-Shirt. We've taken all the drugs and the drink in the world we wanted to, and we're all about discipline and actually playing our instruments really well (OK, who shouted boring! lol) and executing stuff.

LEE: Time to get serious then? [laughs]

ANDY: Well yeah, as serious as you can without taking yourself too serious and disappearing up your own arse obviously.

LEE: Sure.

ANDY: Just a strong work ethic.

LEE: I wanted to ask you about the name of the group… Named after, I take it Erykah Badu's album, is that right?

ANDY: Yep.

LEE: Who's the Badu fan?

ANDY: Errr I don't know, we were kinda milling over names way back when… We kinda spotted how a few bands got their names - we actually found a few band's that had named their band's after albums. People like Radiohead, which was a Talking Heads' album (OK, I know it was a track ON a Talking Heads' 'True Stories' album, so please don't write in!?), Steely Dan (Er, not sure I agree with that either, since Steely Dan were named after a 'dildo' in William Burroughs' book Naked Lunch. On the plus side, it does open up other name's for the band - The Rampant Rabbits is quite catchy Andy!?)… Decon Blue (The Family Fortunes computer goes; A_ARRRR! Decon Blue was named after a track ON Steely Dan's 'Aja' album). So yeah, we just thought that would actually be a really good band name cos it's warm and expressive and it kinda sounds in the direction we want to go in - so we didn't really think too much about it really.

LEE: That leads me nicely onto my next question… how did the name of the new album come about 'The Life And Soul'?

ANDY: It's track two on the album, their's a song called "The Life And Soul" and the story is based on a very close friend of mine who… charting his rise and fall in his life, who really really could have been someone but unfortunately found himself at he bottom of the bottle and as a result he was no longer the life and soul of the party - and the person I once knew. But it eludes as well to the band and the live shows, we do like to be 'the life and soul' of the party and have a good time and bring the party to the people! It's totally got a meaning that cuts a few ways…

LEE: Sure… and not the drunks? [Laughs]

ANDY: Well, you know!? [laughs] We won't turn anyone away from our Inn as it were…

LEE: I'm glad you said that, I'll remember next time I bump into you! [laughs] ...Are there any track's that you're REALLY pleased with, more proud of than the rest - or another reason?

ANDY: Well, the chances of doing another album is obviously to expand your horizon's a bit and create some material which differs from the first - so in that respect I think songs like 'The Art', a very kind of Beach Boys' meet's Stevie (Wonder I presume - not Nicks), meets something else…

LEE: Can I ask, is that a cover?

ANDY: No it's not a cover no.

LEE: It sounds like a cover, that's a good sign, as often a great tune is one that people think they've heard before. Has a certain familiarity - I was sure it was a cover, I actually looked for that tune and couldn't find it!?

ANDY: Really? Brilliant!

LEE: Which IS brilliant - One of those songs you've heard before…

ANDY: Yeah, familiar but unfamiliar. Yeah, I totally ripped it off from someone and both of us don't know who I ripped it off. [laughing]

LEE: Well you fooled me, so I'm in with it with ya! [Still laughing] So don't worry about it!

ANDY: Yeah, that's one of the big processes when your song writing - especially if you've created something that you really like and you're convinced that you've heard it from somewhere - you can spend F@#king days looking for the song you think you've ripped off! If it's too close to call I just won't go with the idea, usually. This one, it just kinda came out and I went with it.

LEE: Well don't worry I'll find it! [Laughs]

ANDY: [Laughing] Brilliant, give me a call when you do!

LEE: Talking of covers, as I was loosely, "Bicycle Race" obviously at the end of the album - reason for that?

ANDY: Reason erm, partly a shrude management suggestion that we maybe cover "Bicycle Race," as I think there's a lot of Queen flying about at the moment and I think there's going to be a film coming out as well. Maybe it was a to try and get us involved with that as well, through our publisher and stuff. But also we are just HUGE Queen fans, we just loved what they were all about. They were vilified by the critic's but they did whatever they wanted, however they wanted. They weren't one thing, they were bombastic, they were over the top, but they were themselves! And I take comfort in that cos we… Obviously, it's never nice reading terrible reviews or conflicting reviews on what you do - we write, perform and create music for ourselves first and foremost to perform for people. Yeah, they're a great inspiration and we just decided to pick one of their most bonkers tracks and cover it! That's what you get!!

Mama's Gun new album "The Life And Soul" (featuring that corking Beverley Knight duet "Only One") is available through all good music retailers now.

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