Sunday, 11 December 2011

Meg Baird of Espers hits the road solo: by James Nuttall

Espers singer and guitar-player, Meg Baird, embarked on a tour of  the UK this month to promote her third solo album Seasons on Earth.

Arriving a little after seven o'clock at the Hebden Bridge Trades Club, I was swiftly invited into the upstairs bar by the lady herself for a prearranged interview.  

This was the sixth night of Meg's nine date UK tour, which spanned from Edinburgh to Brighton. 

Very softly-spoken, humble and polite, she invited me to sit at the back of a small room, which was to play host to the nights gig. As the opening act completed their soundcheck, I was worried that her soft, Philadelphia accent wasn't even going to get picked up on the microphone... thankfully I was mistaken.

How have you enjoyed playing in the UK? 

"It's been good... definitely different; and also because I'm doing it all by myself somewhere that's all kind of unfamiliar, even (getting the) trains... It's kind of a funny dynamic that I don't usually have even though I sing by myself at home all the time." 

Do you get more nervous playing on your own as opposed to with a band?

Not exactly nervous, it's just that you're responsible for every single detail, (so) you never really relax because it's your fault if everything goes wrong haha! But you have to worry about playing and then all the other stuff, but it has its up-sides for sure." 

Have you got a favourite track from your new solo album, Seasons on Earth?

"I probably like Stars Climb up the Vine the most."

What kind of music do you listen to when you're not on the road? 

"Pretty much the same as what I play but I listen to a lot of other stuff, too."

Do you listen to your own albums?

"I listen to them for work, and then it starts to get weird. Sometimes it's good to check in on them, but I don't just hang out and listen to them." 

What's happening with Espers? Will there be another album?

"We don't have any plans to do anything right now, but we never said that we were stopping, so I guess somewhere down the line we will work together again."
Asked if she has a favourite album by Espers, "No" was the immediate reply.

Espers have released four albums- Baird's haunting and powerful vocals leading each one of them to high critical acclaim. Her new solo album is similar to a stripped down version of the last Espers album from 2009, simply entitled 'III'.

Meg's second solo venture, the 2007 album Dear Companion, gained as much critical acclaim as her efforts with Espers. All Music commented that the new album is " poetic as it is authoritative." Often being compared to Sandy Denney, Baird's solo show consists of her and a guitar; travelling by train to get to her gigs with next-to-no entourage she is the definition of a travelling folkie. 

After being given a free copy of the new CD and a spot on the guest list for that night's show, I made sure I got a front row seat.

With a pint of beer in one hand and a capo in the other, Baird walked onto the stage, unzipping a simple-looking acoustic guitar from a brown suede gig-bag from the back of the stage. The audience shuffled in their seats and the rustling of crisp packets  was rife, but once Baird plucked her first note there was silence throughout her 80 minute set.

Playing songs from her solo albums, her voice reverberated around the small but packed room to an in-awe crowd. The highlight of the show was the penultimate song, Friends from the new album, which led onto the final song of the night, the encore song which was a cover of another Philadelphia musician to combat Bairds homesickness.

Before heading to the merchandise stand to sell copies of her album, Meg walked over to me to answer a question she was unable to answer previously...

Who would you like to work with?

"If I could I would really like to work with Neil Michael Hagerty." This is the American singer-songwriter of Pussy Galore and Weird War fame.

Final question of the night: Are you coming back?
"I hope so... If I can manage it, yeah!"

Meg's new album, Seasons on Earth, is available to buy at:

Follow Meg Baird at:

Many thanks to Meg's press officer Lucy Hurst, and Ben Wileman from the label for setting up this interview. 
Also, many thanks to the Hebden Bridge Trades Club:

All photographs © James Nuttall, 2011

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Power of the Q! Interview with Patti Quatro by James Nuttall ©

What comes to your mind when you hear the word 'Quatro'? The drink? The car? Or maybe the group of sisters who were some of the trailblazers for women in rock and roll... introducing Patti Quatro.

Patti has had an extraordinary career from sharing the bill with the likes of Chuck Berry, Bob Seger and Pink Floyd, to being a member of the iconic '70s band Fanny. Not to mention being the older sister to the queen of rock, Suzi Quatro, who has sold over 50 million records in her solo career. 

Patti and youngest Quatro sister, Nancy, have recently released two mind blowing CD's: the first of the Quatro sisters's second band, Cradle's electrifying performance on New Years Eve, 1970 opening for the MC5; the second being their original band, The Pleasure Seeker's back catalogue of recorded songs. 

Patti recently consented to an online interview with me via Facebook... and what an interview it turned out to be...

James: What was the first record you ever bought? 
Patti Q: That is realllllllly stretching my memory. It would have to have been one of the groups from Motown, which was kickin' ass in Detroit at that time, as I was just a VERY young teen, going to dance halls to dance, (I was) not in (any) bands yet.

JAMES: What was the first band you saw in concert?
PATTI Q: Peter Paul and Mary (folk era), and right after I moved into rock from influence of the home town musicians we were hanging with.

JAMES: Who first inspired you to become a musician?
PATTI Q: Actually my hometown musician friends....bands were springing up and I went to a concert and watched everyone crying, going crazy around me and I had my moment there and went home, called my girlfriends, and we started a three piece with no direction whatsoever (all of us taking lessons). A couple months later we brought in Suzi and our drummer's sister to round it out and formally started.

JAMES: What was it like being in a band with your sisters?
PATTI Q: Was there a lot of competition? I do not recall any bad infighting in our bands. Us sisters all got along musically very very well. Any fighting was usually about me as leader, trying to rein in Suzi and Arlene (who held up a plane a couple times saying goodbye to boyfriends and got me ballistic). They loved pulling my chain because I was so serious about the bands and business. It kept things interesting. But we got along wonderfully musically, and (we were) never competitive. We all had our roles and things flowed nicely.

Patti (second right) with her first band, The Pleasure Seekers, with sisters Suzi (center) and Arlene (far left)
JAMES: You opened for several big names, and played everywhere in America there is to play; does one particular gig stand out?
PATTI Q: Yes, for me playing with Mountain was just spectacular. They had this wall of sound that just hit you in the gut. Loved them. There were scads of cool gigs and festivals with great talent of era, those were always a blast to do. And (the) New Years Eve gig where we recorded live our Cradle album was a great gig with the MC5. 

JAMES: You were in two bands with your sisters, did you prefer one band to the other, as Cradle was a lot heavier than the Pleasure Seekers?
PATTI Q: Pleasure Seekers was that first swell of excitement doing something you love, and so young...first road experiences...we always had a blast. Starting at 14 and 16 with a record out was just mind blowing to us young girls.
When you evolve to a new sound (Cradle), it is hard, very hard to pick a favorite, because you love both for different reasons.
PS (Pleasure Seekers) was a show band with a light show, we did covers of everything from Motown to the heavy stuff to acid rock to English bands. We performed an entire Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery set, along with also originals we started writing.
We went with the changing times, evolving into the very heavy Cradle in 1969 when that kind of music hit. I loved PS for the showmanship and variety of what we did, changing instruments, etc....full costuming....Nancy was left behind till the last year, and so badly wanted to be in it, and finally was. If PS was my heart then Cradle was my soul. Cradle was the type of music I really prefer (along with Nancy). It was terribly experimental, musically, very satisfying to play with intricate harmonies, even 7th harmonies, relevant lyrics, time changes, and raw gritty heavy musical moods as well as just good rock. 

Cradle was more where I live musically. Also it was the group where I started to explode on lead guitar. I had played rhythm and lead both in PS (sharing with Pami Benford). Cradle was musically far more advanced and that was a real turn on for me... absolutely loved it. it was like breathing oxygen in a renaissance era. The creativity in Detroit was like an explosion with all the urban home bands coming together and jamming, playing gigs, hanging...the energy was sublime; the music raw and gritty; and the new sound of Detroit Rock City infused in all of us. Think Seger, Iggy, MC5, Alice, GFF, so many!!!

JAMES: How did you end up joining Fanny?
PATTI Q: I was playing (with) my MQ Jam Band, and we did a gig together.
Then not too much later, they called me to have a jam in New York I believe, as June was having a bit of a nervous breakdown and wanted to leave. They had tried for four albums to break through and still the gender prejudice was prevalent in the musical community. Jean and Nickey expressed wanting to rock much harder, leaving their more folk oriented tunes behind (which was part of June's influence). I think they felt some of (the) funky Detroit Rock City energy was needed. It went well, and the rest is history. The first gig was on New Years Eve at Whiskey at end of 1973. My brother was quite upset at me leaving, and frankly, I had so enjoyed doing classical rock as a stretch, and he was amazing on keys with a wall of sound. It was a very tough decision for me, wrenching me from my brother but toward my dream of breaking an all girl band finally.

JAMES: Do you have a particular favourite Fanny album?
PATTI Q: Actually I like the first couple....liked the young rawness of it and they were well produced by Richard Perry. I actually hated the last one by Todd Rundgren. Just left me cold, don't know why. (I) didn't care for the tune selection or anything. These were all before I joined. I also loved the one we did, Rock and Roll Survivors, because it took them in a different direction and the remaining members expressed such a high desire to do that. 

JAMES: What would be the highlight of your career?
PATTI Q: Wow that is tough too, as there are high moments you remember...
*Pleasure Seekers: Getting the first single out at such a young age was major
*Being held over 6 weeks to tour with The Animals 
in 1978. 
*Cradle: Jamming with Page and Plant backstage on their U.S. tour to Stairway to Heaven; same with Jeff Beck and jamming with him in Toronto.
There were many high moments as our home was a jam place for groups in town. Invariably we were lucky to jam with many top musicians of the era, both at our home and on the road; that was gold to me as we moved into such a heavy direction musically. It was for me a serious highlight to be able to trade licks and ideas with such a stellar group of top musicians of that classic rock era.
*Whenever your record gets on charts, that is always a high moment also. 
*For women in that era, it was a real highlight to get signed by the gender prejudiced executives...
*Trivia inserted here: many do not know this but Jerry Nolan, drummer of New York Dolls was (the) only male to play with the sister bands at the very end.
*Fanny: Having two of the highest charted Fanny singles while I played with them in 1974. I've Had It  and Butter Boy (banned in Boston as (it was) too racy for radio, and a tune written about David Bowie, whom we were close with and Jean was seeing.)
*Also doing the ELO album (studio vocals) and Keith Moon's final album....great fun. 
And as an odd footnote, I have to add that a huge highlight of my career was when Suzi hit the cover of Rolling Stone. For us sisters we had kicked down doors our whole careers in PS and Cradle.....that was carrying on the flame of kicking down the FINAL door for women who had a rough journey in a man's musical world. As I was touring and playing when that happened, it was an enormously proud moment for our family and all that came before to feed into that kind of success for Suzi. Loved it.

(The) last highlight was playing in a huge female orchestra for Frances Gall, and doing a live album and tour in Europe... very thrilling to play with the top female musicians of that time from every corner of world. Very very cool.

Patti and Suzi Quatro, 1974
JAMES: Your sister Suzi went on to have an extremely successful career. You also featured on her 1975 album, Your Mamma Won't Like Me. Which of her songs/albums would be your favourite?
PATTI Q: I love the hits of course, but my soul is more into for instance the funky Your Mama Won't Like Me (I sang on that one), and by far and away, my favorite albums are her last current two (In the Spotlight and Back to the Drive). I love: Strict Machine, Breaking Dishes, Rosie Rose, Rockin in the Free World, and Back to the Drive. 

JAMES: Who is the most influential person you've met in the music business? 
PATTI Q: John Lennon, who was at Fanny's Whiskey Debut in 1974. Jeff Beck, Page, Plant, Hendrix (who my brother brought in to Detroit as the first big rock concert promoter in Hendrix's beginning days), Roger Daltry and the Who, really a list of who's who from (the) classic rock era. It was a smaller community and everyone wanted a girl band (it was unusual), so out of the box we were touring the country and invariably met, played and jammed with the top names of the era. The list is quite endless really; different cities, different acts on bills.

JAMES: How did the release of the new Cradle: The History, and The Pleasure Seekers CD's come about? 
PATTI Q: We have been asked for years to document the family history of the earliest of the rockin' female musician groups. When I moved to a new home I came upon a box of two track reel to reels, amazingly that had survived time. Jim Frye, our amazing engineer, worked hard to preserve the raw grit live sound of the era, removing only ambient noise as (best as) he could. We were lucky enough to have much of our material represented on the tapes, and extremely excited to have that classic rock era we lived and played in finally documented and available.
The two albums are available at major outlets, as well as our distributor CD Baby. 
Footnote: Cradle, released in 2010, has been consistently on their "top albums", "top 70's", "top songs", and "editor's pick" and still is.
Pleasure Seekers has had the same good fortune since it's release last May. 
We owe a heartfelt thanks to the fans and friends who enjoyed who and what we did, playing and pioneering in those early days. Many tell us it is amazing this music is finally documented for historical context of female musicians/bands. It's been quite a ride, and a very fulfilling past two years on these projects.

JAMES: Given the opportunity would you like to ever work with Fanny or your sisters again?
PATTI Q: There is talk afoot of PS doing a reunion gig....can't say more because it is not setup yet. We sisters love getting together when we can and it is appropriate to perform. Nancy and I toured Germany with Suzi back a few years, having a blast singing backup for her. Also performed at her 60'th birthday in rocking' Detroit. I love performing with my sisters and would do so in a heartbeat.
Fanny also would be a blast to play again with. Who knows what will happen in future.
I would kill to have all these amazing women who helped forge history for females to rock... have a huge event and all play and jam together. THAT would be some damn gig.

'Nuf said.

Many thanks to Patti for giving such an in-depth interview.

The Pleasure Seekers and Cradle albums can be purchased at:

Follow Patti and the Quatro sisters at: 

Patti's sister Suzi can be followed at: 
The Cradle CD (From left to right: Suzi, Nancy, Patti and Nancy Rogers)

Monday, 21 November 2011

Online Interview with Jackie Chambers and Denise Dufort of Girlschool, by James Nuttall

This week I managed to secure an interview with two members of the longest-running female rock band of all time.

Denise Dufort, the original drummer of pioneering rock band Girlschool, and Jackie (Jax) Chambers, who took over as lead guitarist from the late great Kelly Johnson in 1998 give us an insight into what it is like to still be head-banging 34 years later...

Q: How does it feel to be a member of the longest-running female band?
Jackie Chambers
JAX : "It still makes me smile when people call me the new girl, I've now been in the band for 13 years now and have known the girls for a lot longer but it's been a great experience and one I'm very much enjoying and as long as we all continue to enjoy doing what we're doing, we'll continue to record and play live. 34 years and counting bring it on!"

DENISE: "(It) Feels AMAZING, who would have thought that I would still be in this band
After all these years..PHEW!"

Q:Have you got a particular favourite GS song/album?

JAX : "Before I joined the band I was good friends with Kim (McAuliffe) and she gave me the albums to listen to and on first listen my favourite tracks were Play Dirty and Don't Call it Love, I thought they were well written songs, neither of which we do live..shame! I also loved Race With The Devil which is still one of my favs. Whilst in the band one of my fav albums has to be Believe as that was the first full album I appeared on and had a hand in writing all the songs on there."

DENISE: "Play Dirty used to be my favourite album but now its'Legacy',
My favourite song on that album is I SPY."

Q: Who inspired you to become a musician?

JAX: "I think music is in the blood, to be a musician you have to love and be passionate about it. Whilst I was at school it was the 'punk rock' era, I was about 13 and hating all the prog rock in the charts I heard this new exciting energetic music and I loved it, something to get my teeth into and express myself and because it seemed like anyone could do it, I wanted to too. I didn't actually pick up the guitar until I was about 17 almost 18 and even then I only got the guitar as I wanted to write songs and needed one to get the songs across... Ironic."

DENISE: "My brother inspired me to be a drummer, I grew up watching him play in bands and loved it so much that I always knew that that's what I wanted to do."

Denise Dufort 
Q: What prompted you to re-record your 1981 hit album 'Hit & Run'? 

JAX: "(It was) the record companies idea, it was the albums 30th anniversary and we didnt want to just put the old one out we wanted to mark the occassion like we did the bands actual 30th anniversary. We re-recorded it basically as we wanted to own our own songs again, didn't quite work out but it was fun to go back in the studio with the old songs and re-do them. We do about eight of them live anyway so it was an easy and quick album to do."

Q: Are there any plans to go on tour to promote it?

JAX: "Well we've been out and about promoting it all this year really. It was supposed to come out in April, we recorded it last Xmas..record co's tut! We have a couple more gigs this year in the UK and then the gigs start again in Europe in January 2012, so we will keep on going through the summer and do the festivals again too; well that's the plan."
Original bassist, Enid Williams, live in Brixton
Q: How did you end up joining the band?

JAX: "My band had just split up in 1995 and I'd put an advert in the Melody Maker to look for a new band. Kim answered my ad as she was also doing a side project in a covers band, we chatted on the phone, got on well, met up for drinks that night and kept in touch. I didnt join her covers band as at that time I didnt play lead guitar. Kelly (Johnson) at that point wanted to do something different and kept trying to persuade me to join so she could leave, so she offered to help me with the lead guitar parts by teaching me them all. I ended up joining a covers band to practise lead guitar and practiced Girlschool songs until my fingers bled, then finally in 1999 I was ready. I was supposed to do Wacken as my first gig but thought that would be a bit much so Kelly did it as her last...the rest is history!"
Kim McAuliffe
DENISE: "Its a Long long!"

Q: Are you still in touch with past members of the band?
JAX: "Yes we pretty much keep in touch with everyone, it's like a little family. I lived two streets from Cris Bonacci and a half mile from Kelly and Denise when I first joined so we were always hanging out together .Then I shared a flat with Kelly, Now I share with Kim and live on the same street as Enid, can't get We don't see Jackie Carrera or Gil Weston that often as they don't live in London but we do keep in touch and Tracey, now lives in Spain but were in touch via skype etc."
DENISE: "Yeah, we're still in touch with Tracey Lamb, Jackie Carrera and Gil Weston."

Q: What has been the highlight of your career?

JAX: "That would have to be supporting Alice Cooper, he was always my musical hero whilst I was growing up so to sit and chat with him was amazing! And of course I got to see him play straight after us, result!"
DENISE: "Touring with my heroes...bands like Deep Purple, Rainbow, Sabbath, and of course Motorhead."

Q: What music do you listen when you're not on tour?
JAX: "I like to play Rammstein very loud to get me in the mood, always brings a smile to my face too... Love it!"
DENISE: "I love Rammstein and Muse but I'll listen to anything that's good..."

Q: The last album of new material, Legacy, was released in 2008- do you plan to make another album of completely new material? 
JAX: "LOL, give us a chance we're still promoting this one. I guess by the summer of next year we will be at least talking about it, so hopefully so."
DENISE: "We are still promoting the Hit and Run Revisited album..that's only just come out..give us a chance ha ha."

Q:Do you have a favourite song to perform live?

JAX: "I like to do Never say Never and still get a buzz from doing Race with the Devil even after doing it every gig for 13 years, LOL."

Jax & Kim rockin' out

DENISE: "Yeah I love playing I SPY live."

Q: Girlschool has toured with a lot of different big names- is there anyone you would like to tour with?
JAX: "Yes we've been very fortunate over the years, there's probably a few bands that I'd love to play with but to nail it down I'd say Rammstein or Foo Fighters for me."

DENISE: "I would love to tour with AC/DC, they have always been my favourite band."

Many thanks to Denise and Jax for agreeing to the interview; to find out more about Girlschool and see their latest tour dates, see their official website:

Me, backstage with Girlschool after their opening night with Anvil in 2010

Friday, 11 November 2011

Sonja Kristina: "There will be a new live Curved Air album." By James Nuttall ©

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Space is curved, as is time and air- Sonja Kristina reveals plans for the first live Curved Air album in 37 years.

Sonja Kristina, the siren of prog in the early 1970s is still captivating audiences with her latest line-up of Curved Air. Before their final show on the UK tour she spoke of their plans to release a new live album, and even do a new album after that.

Chris Harris & Kit Morgan, the current Curved Air
“We’re going to be doing another live Curved Air album, which Marvin (Ayres) will be producing and once that’s underway we need to slot in some time to tour. Ayres is Kristina’s partner in her side-project duo ‘MASK’ formed in the 90s. He has also worked along side members of Simply Red, Culture Club and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. “The recordings were done last year at gigs but Marvin’s busy with lots of other things and he’s been making the best out of what we’ve got recorded."
Robert Norton & Paul Sax, the current Curved Air
She went onto say “We’re working on new stuff, also. They all have strong ideas so a new Curved Air album will be coming, which hopefully Marvin will be producing as well.”

So when can we expect to see an album of new material? “It’s mainly down for me to write some words that I believe in, and I’m not that prolific a writer so it tends to
come in batches. With Curved Air in the early days they had ideas for songs and I carried on writing (lyrics for) them.”

  The new band is comprised of: Sonja, the only constant throughout the bands 41 year history; Florian Pilkington Miksa, the original drummer who rejoined the band in 2008 after playing in Kiki Dee's band; and newer members: Chris Harris on bass; Paul Sax on violin; Robert Norton on keyboards and Kit Morgan on guitar. They have all played with Kristina for some project or another, including her Acid Folk band. "The live album will represent the talents of these players." comments Sonja. 

Curved Air is not the only outlet for Kristina’s talents. MASK is also planning to release another album. “We’ve got plans to go to Marrakech to record the next album; you know, there are a lot of wicked musicians out there… it will be good to draw some other colours into Jack and Virginias journey” (The project is based on two characters with a very fiery relationship.)

Florian Pilkington-Miska, Curved Air's original drummer 
With such a long and diverse career, and a marriage to Police drummer Stewart Copeland (who was a member of the band in 1975), more recently performing at the Isle of Wight festival in 2008 and High Voltage this summer, there must be many highlights so far. “The Roundhouse has always been great to play. I used to go there when I was a student and I remember seeing the Doors and Jefferson Airplane, and then it became a very important venue for early Curved Air as the audience grew. Also, meeting with Stewart, when Curved Air disintegrated- it was really stunning being in thick of the rise and rise of the Police.”

70's Prog Siren, Sonja Kristina 
There will be little rest following the end of the recent tour. “There’s a possibility I’ll be doing a benefit in December with my Acid Folk band for one of the leaders of the White Panthers. But otherwise we’re releasing the live album, and then we’re going to Europe and writing the next album.”

Curved Air will soon be announcing European tour dates, and there are plans to come back to the UK next year.

Dates and news can be found at:
Thanks to Curved Air and the Hebden Bridge Trades Club, where I did the interview for their hospitality and help.

All photographs copyright James Nuttall 2011 ©