We’re (reluctantly) counting down the days to Thunder’s retirement but before they head for the hills we grabbed forntman Danny Bowes for a typically candid chat.
And in this second part of a cracking interview he recalls blowing away Van Halen, playing fast and furious to avoid stagefright and why fans will always come first for Thunder – for the next few months at least!
rushonrock: Looking back on the last 20 years what were the highlights?
Danny Bowes: There have been so many important moments in Thunder’s history. But the first time we did Donington was undoubtedly one of them. That was a very big turning point in the band’s career. I’d lost my voice a few days beforehand and got pumped full of steroids before the gig. I had no idea if I’d be able to sing or not until I hit that first note. It was so serious that there were rumours going around that we were going to pull out and it was real squeaky bum time. But on film you can see my face changing as soon as I realise I can hit that first big note!
rushonrock: Sounds like real make or break stuff.
DB: It was. But the collective release of adrenaline on stage, when all the guys realised we’d be OK, played a large part in how well we went down that day and how we’d be received in the future. When you’ve got a gig in front of 80,000 people and they all go bonkers you realise you’re onto something.
rushonrock: And did it prove to be the springboard you hoped for?
DB: Well we played Hammersmith Odeon after that and sold out three nights. We just couldn’t believe it. And we did Wembley Stadium after that – five years later when we opened for Bon Jovi. That was a pretty interesting time. We got the footballs out and kicked them off the stage – it was like living out every boyhood dream.
rushonrock: That must have been some job – opening for Bon Jovi?
DB: Yeah at one point we got summoned into Van Halen’s dressing room – who’d been on the bill too – and they just told us there and then that they were really glad to be leaving the tour. We all looked a bit confused but they said they were sick to death of these guys from Thunder kicking their butts every night! To be told by a band of Van Halen’s stature that you’re doing a better job than them every night was something very special indeed. It doesn’t get better than that in this business. And then there was the time we met Spinal Tap. We hung out with the guys and they kept putting on their fake accents. In the end we just laughed at them and told them to talk properly. They did. I still love the photos we got taken with them.
rushonrock: You’ve always been a band that looks after its fans and there are more Meet And Greet competitions available for the final tour. Aren’t you too busty for all of that?
DB: It’s just been something that’s developed and developed over the years. Thunder gigs have become so much more about participation than the music and that’s down to the people who come to the concerts. If people don’t want to jump around and sing their hearts out then they shouldn’t go to a Thunder gig. They should give their ticket to someone who does. There’s plenty of bands you can go and see and just take a seat and watch them play an album. And as for the Meet And Greets I suppose we’re as approachable as we are because we’ve worked hard to get where we are. We’re very regular people and we’ve known each other for years. Luke and I formed our first band together when we were kids and we’ve been through it all together.
rushonrock: Thunder shows are what they are because of the on-stage interaction – are you just naturally confident in front of a big crowd?
DB: I wasn’t very confident at all in the early days. I used to spend a lot of time with my back to the audience looking at the drummer. I found the whole performance thing very, very hard. It was only as time went by and I started getting some good reactions that it started to occur to me that some people did actually like me and like what I did.
rushonrock: So how long did it take to build up that confidence?
DB: It took a long time. A long, long time. But the music scenes we played in went from one extreme to the other and I suppose it was all great experience. By the time we started playing gigs punk was still two years off and by the time we could drink punk was in its prime. We played punk clubs and had a tendency to play very fast and I used to find myself in a bit of a trance because of that. After gigs I couldn’t remember anything of the shows at all but with age and experience I calmed down a bit.
rushonrock: Nowadays crowd participation is a key part of every Thunder show and is it almost expected of you?
DB: We build it into certain songs on the night even if we don’t always know it. We tend to fly along by the seats of our pants and just go with the flow. But thankfully there are only two Thunder gigs out of the hundreds we’ve played which I can remember going wrong. The rest have been absolutely stonking! We go out there with that confidence and sense that we know what we’re doing and we know how to do it well. From a fans’ point of view resistance is useless…