Wrapping up at London’s O2 Arena on Monday, Ian Hunter and co. were in top form at last night’s Classic Rock Magazine Awards.
And RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth managed to grab an exclusive chat with top tinkler Verden Allen as the old dudes prepare to hit Newcastle, Manchester and the capital.
rushonrock: The reaction to the five UK dates has been incredibly positive – how does that make you feel?
Verden Allen: You never really know what the reaction will be when you announce new shows. But I’m really excited to be doing them. It’s good knowing that there are still people out there who want to watch a Mott show. There’s been a bit of a gap since the shows in 2009 and I think the demand’s there. Hopefully people will see an improved show with a few different numbers. We’re in no mood to do the same thing all over again. I’m going to do a song off my latest solo album somewhere in the set and I think we’ve got more of a feel for what people want. When we got back together in 2009 nobody was really sure how things would pan out. In a way we needed the first of those shows to get back into it. I was just starting to loosen up when we stopped again! So the plan is to pick up where we left off at Hammersmith Apollo four years ago. But it’s not going to be easy. Some serious rehearsals have been required!
rushonrock: Newcastle is one of just five stops on the tour – were you keen to play a date in the North East?
VA: We’ve played the City Hall before and love the venue. I remember we played there on November 5 in 1971 and let some fireworks off inside the venue! We couldn’t do that these days…even if we wanted to. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that! We went back to do it again in 1972 but I remember Buffin was ill. Casting my mind back those were great days – playing Newcastle in the early 70s.
rushonrock: Did you ever imagine you’d still be playing Mott The Hoople gigs 45 years after the band first got together?
VA: You just don’t think that far ahead when you’re starting out. I remember my uncle saying to me ‘how long will this music thing last?’ and I didn’t have an answer then. I don’t have an answer now! But they’ve been beating drums in Africa for a long time now. And they’re still doing it. For me its started off as a hobby and I kept doing it. It’s just great that I can still do it now. There’s no getting away from the fact that we’re all getting older even if we feel a lot younger. We’re going to be playing these shows with the same enthusiasm and feeling that we had in the old days. It’s still there. The chemistry is still there and that’s so important. That’s what people like to see. It’s not easy for people to get together these days and we wouldn’t be doing it if it’s not something we all really wanted to do. Ian was well up for it and we all knew that the old chemistry would be there.
rushonrock: What’s special about live music in an age when it’s so easily produced and purchased?
VA: Nothing beats a live gig. It’s good that people can use computers to make and source music but I think it’s more difficult for people to make themselves and their music heard. Back in the day things were different. When we recorded music it wasn’t re-recorded over and over and there were no Pro-tools. It was all done on 24-track or eight-track and when you started the song that was it – warts and all. We didn’t do any demos – the demos became the albums. So it wasn’t just the shows that were live. The albums were ‘as-live’ too. My latest album with Soft Ground – Love You And Leave You – was the same. We didn’t have the control over it that you would normally have these days and we couldn’t take things out. It’s a live studio album in the same way as Brain Capers was a live studio album. But that’s a natural process for me.
rushonrock: You’re playing these shows without Buffin (drummer Dale Griffin) due to his long term illness – will the five dates be a bittersweet experience as a result?
VA: It will seem strange without him. For him not to be there will be very sad. But he has Alzheimer’s and it’s just not possible for him to do what we do. He’s as well as he can be and that’s what we have to recognise. We have Martin Chambers in his place and Martin’s a great guy and a great drummer. He played the Apollo shows four years ago and he’s very much part of the band.
rushonrock: It’s the 40th anniversary of 1973’s Mott album – did you discuss the idea of playing that in its entirety this time?
VA: I think this will be more of a Greatest Hits and more show. The Essential Mott The Hoople album came out earlier this year and that’s a good starting point. We’ll be starting off in the early days, go through the hits and a few different numbers to change things.