What happens when you mix what is - arguably - the world's most interesting record company, with an anarchist manic-depressive rock music historian polymath, and a method of dissemination which means that a daily rock-music magazine can be almost instantaneous?

Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

EXCLUSIVE: Roy Webber (Jackson Webber, Wally) interview (Part One)

Wally were the first Gonzo Multimedia artistes that I heard back in March when Sir Robin of Aylingshire first asked me whether I would do the blog which metamorphosed into the Gonzo Daily.

I was captivated both by the band and their music; the subtle blending of prog with what Gram Parsons called 'Cosmic American music' was irresistible.

I started trying to set up an interview with the band in late March, but every time that I was just about to speak to their head honcho Roy Webber, something would happen (either to him or to me) and it actually took three months before I (with a mug of tea by my side, and the orange cat on my lap) sat down to talk to him:

JON: What a palaver we have had trying to contact each other

ROY: Not your fault mine. We are launching our new business in Brazil on 3rd July and it’s just absolute chaos here.

JON: What is it you do?

ROY: We are a creative agency. We brand major sporting events – we’ve branded the whole of the World Cup in Brazil for 2014 and I’ve travelled over there about 15 times in the last 15 months. We’ve identified masses of business so I’ve got Brazilian investment and we open Works Brazil on July 3rd so obviously we are creating everything here and it has to go over there and get translated to Portuguese then come back here to be ...it’s a nightmare. We are running behind so I am actually all over the place at the moment, but I’m here now.

JON: It sounds absolutely horrific.

ROY: Well this is why I need my music It’s a great leveller. It is, it’s one of those things that keeps your sane I think.

JON: I have to admit that until I had started working for Gonzo a few months ago I had only vaguely heard of Wally and then you guys made such an amazing comeback – I think that’s really good.

ROY: To be honest, we came from nowhere because we hadn’t done our apprenticeship. Wally was formed by myself and one other guy in the basement of my house in Harrogate and over a period of six months we ... the way it all came together was like it was always meant to be.

We met the pedal steel player, we met the fiddler player, and when we gelled all the sounds of the instruments, I mean going back to those days when everything was experimental and very hippie like, and everything lasted half an hour, we created the most fantastic sound – then totally unique – and even now is fairly unique.

And so when it actually happened we didn’t actually travel up and down the country playing gigs to earn our stars as it were, we just went from doing one gig in London, being seen by Rick Wakeman, supporting him at Crystal Palace Open Air Bowl, being signed to Atlantic Records and going on tour. So we didn’t really have the grounding that most bands have so we didn’t actually appreciate what was happening to us.

Without sounding really blasé, that is what happened. So when we signed with Atlantic Records, we signed a two album deal and we made the first album, which was catastrophic because we’d never been in recording studios before, Bob Harris had never produced an album before. Rick Wakeman was the only guy who knew what he was doing, but he had a heart attack half way through it so we released the first album, and then went off on tour, which was very successful. Then we had a meeting with Atlantic Records and they said, well how is the second album coming along? And we didn’t realise until then that we should have been half way through the second album.

That’s how naive we were. Really, to be honest.

JON: Then you had a break of 30-odd years before the third album...

ROY: Well yes. The breakdown came quite naturally because we actually signed to Atlantic Records with the Average White Band, and the Average White Band had done everything properly. They had earned their stripes by touring up and down for years and becoming known, and had a good following, so we when we signed to Atlantic they signed three bands. There was Wally, a band called the Heavy Metal Kids – I don’t know if you remember them, a guy called Gary Holton...

JON: Yes...he was the guy who was in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet..

ROY: They signed his band, Wally and the Average White Band, and we all had a choice. We could wait three months and then sign to Atlantic America or we could sign immediately to Atlantic UK, and the deal with Atlantic UK was they would pick us up in a limousine, they’d drive us to the same office in London where The Beatles signed their contract – they made it glamorous. So, of course, being very naive, we went for the quick easy option and signed to Atlantic UK, whereas the Average White Band were much shrewder and they waited and signed to Atlantic America.

So, of course, when things went wrong for Atlantic Records, they closed down their UK operation. That meant that the Heavy Metal Kids and Wally were dropped by Atlantic Records, and of course the Average White Band who were signed to Atlantic America continued. So we continued for a while after we dropped by Atlantic, and we were supported actually by the Average White Band and the money that was invested in them. In the end it all faded away, and it was hard work. So we ended up calling it a day.

And then a very strange thing happened. Nick Glennie-Smith, who is the keyboard player in the band – he’s become a very successful writer for movie scores – was taken under the wing of Hans Zimmer – he’s the most prolific writer of music scores - and Nick was taken under his wing, and then within a couple of years was writing movie scores for the most amazing movies. You would have heard of them all. So Nick became very, very successful and he was over in London about three or four years ago and he just called on us. I hadn’t seen him for years. We went out for dinner and he said why don’t we get together again. And I said well that’s easy Nick, you live in Los Angeles so if you give me three days, I’ll put it all together but if you commit to it. And he said no I will, I would just love to do it.

And this seems like an appropriate place to break off for today. We will be back tomorrow with part two. However in the meantime check out their Gonzo artist page:


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