18/05/15

A comprehensive approach to music: interview with ANDY CURRAN


There’s a platonic as well as lasting artistic love story between Canada and me. When I was a kid it didn’t take long to understand that it was (and still is) a great home of rock. Among the huge number of bands that I adored, with Rush in the lead, Coney Hatch have a special place, a group with three albums under their belt, released between 1981 and 1985 (I’d like to point out that the first two records have been remastered by the same worthy label Rock Candy. I strongly advise everybody to get them).

They have been a hard band even a melodic one, being able to play powerful riffs as well as remarkable interludes. Coney Hatch had as bassist Andy Curran, whose style shown by the instrument was estremely valuable. Later, thanks to the hard'n'heavy encyclopedia written by Hans van den Heuvel and edited in Italy by Beppe Riva, I knew with a great interest about an issue of Andy’s eponymous solo album.

This record has been released by the label Alert in 1990, and it’s performed perfectly well, it has been very significant for me; since then I’ve been following Andy with great pleasure, by chasing him along different projects as Caramel, Soho 69, Drug Plan and to find it again with Coney Hatch’s album “Four”, launched by the very active italian label Frontiers. But Andy Curran lives on rock, so he isn’t only a musician in a narrow sense but he’s also a producer, a records management consultant and much more. A while back I was very happy to know about his important collaboration with Anthem which is also, not by chance, the same label of Rush.

I therefore have told with Andy about canadian rock, Coney Hatch, electric bass and record production markets in this interview that he has accepted with a great availability and spirit of cooperation.

Let me say that it’s always a pleasure entering in contact with artists who keep humility, humour as well as the will to tell and share, even though they have lived rock at the highest levels.



Good reading.










LDP: Andy, would you like to tell us about the beginning of your career, the choice of bass and the adventure called Coney Hatch?


AC: It seems I was always growing up around music. My dad played the guitar and piano and we had lots of great pre bed time singing along with him. My grandfather was a trumpet player in the BBC orchestra that use to go live to air from Alexander Palace in the UK. My sisters listened to AM radio 24/7 and had a great collection of 45s. Thats where I first heard The Beatles, The Monkees, Herman’s Hermits and a lot of bubble gum pop like The Ohio Express (first record I ever bough was Yummy Yummy). Then along with my older brother, they started buying albums like Black Sabbath, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joe Walsh, Frank Zappa, Johnny winter, Devo, The Tubes, Led Zeppelin..even Cheech & Chong. Wow, they basically introduced me to some of the coolest music ever and it was game over. My sister’s boyfriend gave me a Hofner Beatle Bass for my 17th birthday which I still have today and I took a few lessons to get me up and running and then ear trained myself and spent the remainder of my teenage years and early 20s playing along to my vinyl collection. I really wanted to be a guitarist but hell, I had a free bass so I never looked back! My parents planned a family trip back to the UK where they were born and specifically a town called Muswell Hill. My mom was the one who showed me Coney Hatch which was an actual physiatric hospital and I wrote the name down in my lyric book as I’d started to try and write songs early one. When I returned home to Canada it was during the rise of the Sex Pistols and punk rock so that was a cool time to be in England. It was then that I really thought I wanted to be in a band and after seeing The Edgar Winter Group with Bad Company at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto I made a promise to myself that I would get on that stage one day! Coney Hatch played there twice !! Anyway, I met Dave Ketchum through a circle of musicians I started hanging out with and Dave and I formed Coney Hatch probably in the very early 80’s. We started playing covers by our favourite bands and two years later with a revolving line up that had Steve Shelski and Carl Dixon in it, we were 1/2 original material and 1/2 covers. Kim Mitchell from Max Webster caught wind of us as we had a good buzz happening in Toronto and when he swept in to produce a demo that was the beginning of my “real” music career. I still thank him to this day for that chance he gave us. It was a pretty quick ride for me going from my parents basement to church basements to crappy night clubs to awesome filled legit rock clubs to Arenas and open air festivals once our records were released.



LDP: Your personal path shall exude music... Could you talk about your evolution from being a bassist and singer, up to develop your present collaboration with Anthem?


AC: Well, the singer part of the puzzle was always because in the early days no one else wanted to sing, so I thought - what the hell - I’ll  give it a try. Then seeing guys like Geddy Lee and Phil Lynott play bass AND sing I was like wait a minute..this is cool and I really worked hard at doing both at the same time. I always felt that maybe for me I was a songwriter first before being a bassist and singer so I spent more time working on that  craft then I did trying  to  be a bass hero. I always tried to write parts that  were right for the song not what  would get me in Bass Player Magazine. The more records I had the opportunity to make, the more interested I became in production and the process and art of making records. When I left Coney Hatch and fronted the various bands that followed,  it really forced me to focus on the vocal department and I really worked hard to try and be a better singer and push myself. Eventually I started producing young bands, writing music for TV and chasing that end of the business. I kept in touch with Pegi Cecconi and Ray Danniels who were still at Anthem Records and I’d bring them in projects I’d been developing. After years of talking and back and forths with Pegi & Ray, he eventually asked me to come over and do A&R for his label and groom me as a manager. It seemed like a very natural step as I’d made my own records, I had worked with other artists so I could certainly lead the charge and oversee the making of records for Anthem. As far as the management part, I’ve seen so much and experienced so many highs and lows that I felt I could be a great sounding board to musicians and artists and talk their talk. That was ten years ago…its been quite a ride.


LDP: In some of your interviews I read (with satisfaction) about your musical tastes which are heterogeneous and in a spirit of eclecticism. What kind of music did you enjoy listening to as a kid, and what do you like today?


AC: Bottom line is I’m a music lover and fan first for sure…then a musician. I mentioned some of the bands and artists my brother and sisters turned me on to but in the early years it was ALL hard rock & metal for me. As a Canadian kid the airwaves were filled with Rush, BTO, April Wine, Streetheart, Goddo and Max Webster. I loved all of them. Then on to Deep Purple, Edgar winter, AC DC, Rose Tattoo, Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Peter Frampton, Saxon, Judas Priest, Krokus, Maiden, James Gang, Lynryd Skynrd, Cheap Trick .…Just a steady diet of RAWK! Then a bass teacher of mine Scott McLeod said «Andy you better start listening to some jazz rock and try and push your self to learn those baselines». That opened me up to Jeff Beck, Stanley Clarke, Jaco and Weather Report. He also told me the best bass lines in the world were in funk songs so I really started getting into WAR and then Bob Marley. As I mentioned that trip to England in 1979 was pivotal in shaping my music mind. I discovered Ultravox, 999, The Clash, the Ramones, Buzzcocks, The Police and the Sex Pistols. So if you mix up all those bands in a blender and try and write songs….. That was me! 
Today I think a big change for me was embracing some of the iconic bands that I really didn't listen to a lot when I was young like The Rolling Stones, The Doors, the Who, Steve Miller, Steely Dan to name a few. I have really grown to respect, enjoy and appreciate them. I fell in love with Tom Petty many years ago and adore his music. I think I have every album he’s ever released, same with Cheap Trick. Robin Zander is one of the greatest vocalists ever. I also really became a fan of ambient music too starting with Patrick O’Hearn who played with Frank Zappa and Missing Persons. I love Thievery Corporation, Massive Attack, Portishead, & The Gorillas for cool vibes. Some of the newer bands I’ve been listening to are Middle Class Rut and Royal Blood. Finally let’s not forget my guilty pleasure….Rammstein...
My daughters play me a steady diet of Rap and EDM so I’m working on adding those styles to the blender!

LDP: You recorded a solo album for Alert in 1990 which I liked so much. It was so variuos and innovative as well as so rock, obviously. You have touched on grunge, rock blues and much more together with Caramel, Drug Plan and Soho 69.

Have you ever considered your eventual comeback as soloist, sooner or later?
 
AC: I would love to do another record. I have so much music I’ve recorded at my home studio so there’s no shortage of ideas…it’s just a matter of cutting myself into many parts so I can be a dad, husband, A&R man, manager, hockey player, dog walker then get into a studio record that record and play some shows!
One day Luca

LDP: You should know that I've always been a Rush addicted, I basically started to love music by listening to them. I was very happy when I knew that you, one of my favourite artists, would have joined the band. Would you like to describe your relationship with them?

 
AC: It’s been a surreal adventure with Rush. As I mentioned I grew up as a big fan listening to them & learning Geddys baselines. I saw them so many times in my teenage years including one of the nights they recorded “All The Worlds a Stage “ at Massey Hall. They were and still are one of my favourite bands. When Coney Hatch was signed to the same label I was on cloud nine and was very proud to be within an arms length of them. When I first met Geddy he asked me to play tennis as he heard I was pretty good. The friendship started there and over the years he’s been great friend and sounding board. He helped with my band Caramel before I signed the deal with Geffen with some amazing guidance. When I was hired at Anthem it went to an entirely different level. It started slow with assisting putting together the sessions for Feedback. That went very smooth and before I knew it the guys were asking me to show up to the studio and listen and offer my opinion, etc. It wasn’t until meeting for the Snakes & Arrows record that I really felt like a part of “their” team. They had a list of producers they asked me to contact so I took notes and said “no problem” closed my book and got up to walk away at which point they said «the meetings not over..who do you think would be a good fit?»
Nick Raskulinecz was on my list and thank god I had prepared for that question to one day pop up. The rest is history. Nick earned that gig and made two amazing & successful records with the band (Snakes & Arrows and Clockwork Angels) Since then they’ve welcomed me with open arms. I’ve been around for the making and mixing of their records and DVDs, they've invited me to pre tour rehearsals and live shows and asked my opinion on so many matters, it’s a pinch me moment every time but I’m flattered and proud to be part of the team and inner workings with the band Ray & Pegi. I know they trust me and I have their backs. Alex and I spent a few weeks in Vancouver with Mike Fraser for the mixing of a DVD and quickly became pals. As a hockey fan ,helping Neil Peart with the making of his Hockey Night in Canada theme was a truly memorable project. Hockey, Rock N Roll & Rush…are you kidding me? I take care of their partnerships with Gibson, Fender, DW Drums, Tech 21, PRS, Sabian, Orange Amps, Moog etc so as a musician again I can quickly talk the talk with all of those companies and make sure the guys are happy.
Getting back to Rush they are by far three of the classiest, sweetest most generous guys I know. To work with them and be on the ride all the way to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame has truly been an honour.


LDP: I really must ask you something about Canada. It's absolutedly the home of rock, considering the precious artists who have come from there over the years. In fact, here in Europe there's a huge number of canadian rock enthusiasts, me in the first place. How do you look at the canadian music scene today?


AC: You’re right, some on the best bands in the world hail from my homeland. The first time I recognized that was when I first went to California to visit my relatives and The Guess Who were on the radio there. I remember thinking how cool that was! The Canadian scene is still producing some amazing artists and bands. From Deadmaus to Metric, Arcade Fire, Fiest who all have great international profiles to some of our household names like Big Wreck, Billy Talent, Sam Roberts and the Tea Party, its still such a great breeding ground of talent. Something in our drinking water I think?

LDP: On the occasion of Coney Hatch's comeback in 2013, you have recorded an album, Four, for italian Frontiers, which is based, by some chance, in my hometown, here in Naples. How was working with this record label and how was your comingback with Coney Hatch?


AC: Serafino who heads up the label is responsible for getting the original Coney Hatch back in the studio. Without his faith and interest in the band it would probably have never happened. We had other offers but Frontier were very fair and we have nothing but good things to say about their support they gave us. The record was voted in the top 50 albums of the year in 2013 by Classic Rock magazine which was a great pat of the back. most of the reviews were very positive and complimentary and we played a handful of shows with some of the new songs in the setlist.
It was a blast.

LDP: And speaking of record companies, what do you think about the state of the industry at the moment? It is said that records were dead, finished, today cds media are in trouble while vinyl seems to be back in fashion....

 
AC: This is a tough question.It’s very sad especially for rock how fans have stopped buying music and supporting their favourite bands and artists. It doesn’t help that most of the record stores are gone but between younger fans stealing music and grabbinganything they can for free it's a total disregard for the art form. It’s all single driven now and feels very shallow and empty to me. Everything feels like a flash in the pan and I can remember a band since the Foo Fighters that has come along with any staying power. I get very mad and emotional about this topic as I’ve watched the industry get decimated. So many friends have lost their jobs, bands have stopped touring, live venues and recording studios have closed and it was a domino effect that was far more damaging than the average fan will ever comprehend. The concert scene and live shows are the only part of the biz that are alive and kicking and it’s probably because people have no way of stealing that experience and nothing will replace being at an event like that. I do think the resurgence of vinyl is a positive sign but I honestly have no idea what shape the biz will in five years from now. My 2nd career choice was to be an NHL hockey player. It's a bit late for that now and I’m too skinny!



LDP: Let's go back to your ralationship with electric bass. What about your concept of the instrument? You have played in so different contexts and you have always been able to place a powerful sound. What kind of gear did you use at that time and what are you using now?


AC: I still love playing bass and feel that it's the glue that holds down most great songs. I listen to old 60s music and sometimes all I hear is bass and the vocal.Its amazing to hear how prevalent the bass lines were in the music I grew up on and how up front in the mix it sits. It’s so rewarding locking with a great drummer and keeping a song chugging. I think bass and drums really set the tone for so much modern music and the new EDM and Rap stuff is so bass driven its crazy cool. I have added to bass my collection now. It’s up around 11 at the moment. I have many short scale, long scale, 4 strings, 8 string and 12 string basses all with their own special tone and colour sound wise. My newest friend is a 1969 Dan Armstrong clear plexi glass bass, so awesome. Geddy Lee also gave me a killer Fender Custom Shop Jaco fretless reliced bass.
With the help of Billy Seigle at Fender I recently made a “frankenbass”. It's a P bass body with a Jazz bass neck. It has Steve Harris signature pick ups that he gave me last time we were together and a badass bridge. That has become my #1 bass for playing live with Coney Hatch. For the music I play live yes you are correct . I rely on and strive for a powerful sound. Nothing subtle there. I still play through a vintage 1980 black faced 300 watt Ampeg SVT head and an Ampeg 8X10 cabinet. I have three TECH 21 pedals. The Red Ripper, XXL and the VT Bass. I use a Boss Octaver, a TC Electronics Spark & PolyTune 2. Lastly a Digitech CR-7 stereo chorus and these are all on a pedal-train pedalboard.



LDP: Can we hope to see you here in Italy, sooner or later?


AC: I was in Milan once with Rush for a few days, but it’s on my bucket list to spend some time hitting some great small cities especially down at bottom of your country near Palermo. I want to see The leaning tower of Pisa and my mom and dad spent some time at Lake Como and said it was incredible. Serafino from Frontiers owes me some pizza and red wine for dinner so I’d like to take him up on that offer soon.




ANDY CURRAN MAIN WORKS:


Coney Hatch – Coney Hatch 1982

Coney Hatch – Outa Hand 1983

Coney Hatch – Friction 1985

Andy Curran – Andy Curran 1990

Lee Aaron – Some Girls Do 1991

Soho 69 – Scatterbrain 1993

Caramel – Caramel 1998

Kim Mitchell – Kimosabe 1999

The Kordz – Beauty&The East 2011

Coney Hatch – Four 2013



Rush – Snakes&Arrows 2007 production

Rush – Clockwork Angels 2012 production

Rush – 2112 Deluxe Edition 2012 production

Dearly Beloved – They Will Take Up Serpents 2010 management



Thank you to Andy, Sro-Anthem, Manuela.



©Luca De Pasquale 2015

in collaboration with Manuela Avino




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