By STEVE MASCORD
IT’S not often you’ll hear a musician of any vintage boast “we’re one of the bands that has probably benefited from the death of the record industry”.
Quireboys guitarist Guy Griffin is sitting with bandmates Keith Weir (keyboards) and Paul Guerin (guitars) in a ragged old room above a rock pub in Evesham, Worcestershire called the Iron Road, when he says exactly that.
And he makes a solid argument.
“We had to go out and play live because we were never the most hip band in the world, you know what I mean? We never had the media behind us or anything like that so … all the other bands are going to find that’s what they have to do now. We’ve been doing it all along.”
There’s a tinge of self-satisfaction there – but no arrogance. The Quireboys, lumped in the the hair metal movement but sounding unmistakably like The Faces, did very little for a decade after announcing their arrival loudly (and with not a little swing) at the end of the eighties. Yet now they’re almost omnipresent – in pubs like the Iron Road, on festival stages and even aboard cruise ships.
There were times on their last album, Twisted Love, when they sounded like the Stones. Not a cheap Stones rip-off. The Stones.
In September they released an EP called Leaving Trunk. In October it will be followed by White Trash Blues. Benjamin Button-like, they are growing more rootsy, less derivative with each passing year.
“Yeah, a bit of both,” says Griffin, when I ask if the hair metal thing – magazine spreads and spectacular MTV perms – was a help or hindrance.
“There’s good things about it, like we get asked to go on those cruises to the Caribbean. That’s pretty positive. But, you know, there’s a lot more to our music. Nothing against those type of bands but we do the acoustic thing, we do country, blues, all sorts of stuff. It’s just something we were lumped in with because we came out at that point in time. The same time as that was the big thing. You tend to get thrown in with it.
“We definitely enjoyed it. It was better than being in the middle of the folk scene. It’s 1990 and and you’re in the middle of all that stuff with the way the girls dressed back then. Being young lads … of course the music was fun as well.
“The thing is, at that point there was a lot of music that was fluff, if you know what I mean. There were a lot of good songs that came out of that era as well. A lot of the songs were essentially pop song, really. A lot of the big hits … Poison, Cinderella, those types of bands, the hits that they had that were massive hits, they were basically pop songs, pretty good pop songs, pop songs with hair basically.”
Husky warbler Spike is the public face of the Quireboys. The band is rounded out by Nick Mailing on bass and Dave McClusky on drums.
“We’re all believers in giving the fans what they want but at the same time you’ve got to keep yourself interested and keep moving forward,” the cheery Griffin continues.
“We play the hits from (1990 debut) A Bit Of What You Fancy and then we play a little bit from more or less every album we’ve done since. I think the fans appreciate that anyway, you know? I don’t think they want to see us come and play only A Bit Of What You Fancy and not play anything else. I think we’ve moved beyond that. I think we’ve picked up a lot of new fans since we got back together. It’s almost a completely different fan base that we have now.”
While the smoky reminiscence of Spike’s lyrics suggest lessons learned by misadventure and sin, these middle aged men are surprisingly optimistic and well-adjusted.
“We’re putting one (album) out about every year,” Guerin offers. “Our management is very influential in that. They work us hard. They book the studio, book the flights and it’s ‘off you pop, lads. New album’.”
When I ask for the wisdom of a lifetime in smoky bars and stuffy rooms like this, I get mainly gags about transport.
Griffin: “You see a lot of sides of human nature going through the music industry, nothing’s quite what it seems a lot of the time. You do have your guard up a lot of the time.
“As far as lead singers are concerned, if you’re leaving at 9am tell them 7.30.”
Geurin offers advice about travelling from Harrogate to Worcestershire.
No disillusionment or regret here, then.
“I’ve been let down at times but who hasn’t?” sais Guerin. “With show business you do attract a few charlatans. Some people just talk the talk for too long. But I’ve not been disappointed that often.”
And with that, there’s a show to play. No disappointment to be had there, either.