Noise Annoys: Nick Lowe on special Belfast gig in east Belfast
HI NICK, are you looking forward to coming back to Belfast?
I am looking forward to it, very much. I played there with Ry Cooder quite a long time ago (2009 at The Waterfront Hall)
I'm pretty sure I've been there since with my band, when we played somewhere much more humble which was a lot more fun. It was a glorified pub (The Empire), but it was a really good night.
You're playing in a church this time around – and there's no bar. Does that present an extra challenge?
It can be good or difficult to play those sort of venues. If you're in a loud band it's generally really hideous because the sound just bounces around.
But you can get quite an atmospheric thing going on if you're a solo artist like me.
I'm quite used to doing solo shows now, these acoustic shows are what I do most of the time now – in fact, I hardly ever play with a band nowadays. Just occasionally, when I do a little Christmas tour.
There's no bar?! Oh my god, hopefully there's a pub nearby!
It's billed as An Evening With Nick Lowe. Have you got your best anecdotes polished up in preparation – and how do you structure your set for the solo shows?
I suppose I've got a couple of hoary old chestnuts I could wheel out (laughs).
There are certain songs I really do have to play – people would be disappointed if I didn't – so there are a few that will definitely always be in there, like Cruel to Be Kind, which was a pretty big hit back in the day (number 12 in August 1979, pop-pickers)
Because all my songs are really short, so I tend to try and be like a jukebox and just keep them coming. I don't stop and tell interminable stories between each one – that really would be incredibly tiresome.
Do you ever get bored of having to play 'the hits' at every show?
I have to say, I really enjoy playing Cruel To Be Kind. It's not exactly my finest hour – I've definitely written better songs – but it cheers people up so much that you'd really have to be very hard hearted indeed not to get a kick out of that.
Also, it's changed quite a lot since I first recorded it. Whenever I hear some of these songs come on the radio, which is fairly rare, I'm astonished by how different they are from how I play them now.
I haven't done it on purpose, but often the tempo is different, I've knocked bits out and stuck other bits and pieces in. I'm amazed at how that happens.
It means they still seem fairly fresh – you don't really feel that you're just 'going through the motions or 'oh god, here it comes again'.
You've now got 14 solo studio albums to choose from, not to mention the early Rockpile and Brinsley Schwartz stuff and the songs you've written for other people. Do you manage to touch on all eras?
What I think of as my 'late stuff' – which is now probably stuff I've done in the last 25 years – really comes from when I started doing mainly acoustic shows.
When I was writing those songs, I always had one eye on how I was going to make them come across acoustically, whereas when you're a kid you just say 'oh, this'll be good' and put loads of drums and bass on it – and actually, they're very often not very good songs because you're relying on the band to carry you through.
So, with the more 'mature' stuff, if you like (such as 2011's excellent The Old Magic) I've worked a bit harder on the craft of it, so they sound much better with just an acoustic guitar.
I've also been playing a version of Alison (Elvis Costello's early single, produced by Lowe who recorded his first five records) recently, which people seem to enjoy.
You produced The Damned's first single and LP and recorded loads of the other early Stiff acts, who christened you 'Basher' for your 'just bash it out' approach. Was that a fun period?
Sometimes! The studio we used was a tiny little place called Pathway, which was really a garage. It was once the lock-up for Oswald Moseley's Blackshirts, where they'd keep all their placards and pamphlets.
It was freezing cold in the winter and unbearably hot in the summer, so you really didn't want to spend too much time in there anyway – which rather helped with getting in and out without worrying too much about the squeak on the bass drum pedal or whatever.
I never really liked punk music, but The Damned were a great group – they were sort of garage rock and roll and they could really play. They made a fantastic sound and I don't really remember doing anything except opening the mics up and not getting in the way of their brilliant noise.
I suppose that's a skill in itself, but I can't really take too much credit. I remember they called me 'grandad' all the time – I was 26!
Nick Lowe, Saturday August 20, ***NOTE VENUE CHANGE***, Willowfield Parish Church, My Lady's Road, Belfast. Tickets £28 via Eastsidearts.net, doors 7.30pm.
Meat, music, merry-making
IF YOU'RE feeling peckish prior to Nick Lowe tomorrow, be advised that Co Armagh-bred rockers Gascan Ruckus are hosting an all-day, barbecue-enhanced and wisely indoor located mini-festival at The Speakeasy in Queen's Student's Union.
The descriptively named Gascan Ruckus Summer BBQ will feature a whole mess of local bands, including Noise Annoys faves such as Empty Lungs, Brand New Friend, Hot Cops, The Wood Burning Savages and, of course, Gascan Ruckus themselves.
Doors open at a very civilised 2pm, so there's ample time to stuff your face with a burger or six before chasing that meaty buzz with as much top quality homegrown music as you can stomach.
Tickets are £10 and you can get hold of them and the full line-up info by visiting FB.com/gascanruckus.