Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 60 - Interview with Reuben Archer

REUBEN ARCHER CONFESSES HIS PERSONAL SIN

Words Steven Reid


With tales of right band wrong time, right time wrong line-up, right line-up wrong record label and right record label wrong management, it is no wonder that Reuben Archer, one-time frontman of Lautrec, Lionheart and Wild Horses, as well as the reformed Stampede and The Paul Raymond Project, has finally decided to go it alone with a solo album. The excellent, eclectic ‘Personal Sin’ is the result, with an all-star cast and a stunning set of scintillating songs. No wonder Reuben is bursting to tell us about it...

When young Rob Wolverson joined Stampede he’d just gained his university degree in sound engineering and I had a book full of lyrics that I wanted to do something with. I had also just had a milestone Birthday [Reuben recently turned 70!] and I kinda thought “Well if I don’t do a solo record now I never will”. So we got together and it was just so enjoyable to do we kept on going. It took about eleven months, and Stampede took a bit of a back seat. The guys were hanging around with nothing happening while we did it and I am really grateful to them all for putting up with us while it was in the making...

All the guys who play on the record I have known over the past thirty years from touring and hanging around on the scene. Paul Quinn of Saxon goes back to the first tours I ever did when Lautrec supported Saxon. We’ve kept in touch and he was the first guy I approached. Neil Murray I knew from touring when I was in Lionheart supporting Whitesnake and knowing the bass player that he is I had to ask him to contribute. Paul Raymond goes back probably thirty years, when UFO had a bit of a hiatus back in the mid-eighties I spent quite a bit of time writing with him. He called me up about recording a song on his latest album, which I did and consequently returned the favour by doing some stuff on ‘Personal Sin’. Luke Morley I have known since the eighties and I really had to get him on the record as I love his style, while Harry James was recording in M2 studios in Wolves with Magnum, a studio we also use, so I took the opportunity to ask him while he was doing drum tracks for Magnum. John “Rhino” Edwards I have known even longer as we both lived in Teddington. In fact I was with him when he got the Quo gig. So “Rhino” had to be on some tracks. Kevin Riddles goes way back to when we all toured and played together at the Marquee, and Rocky Newton of course was in Lionheart with me, and later MSG. When Stampede came back in 2008 with ‘A Sudden Impulse’, we toured with Y&T and had a great time with them. They played the same Reading bill we did back in ‘82, and I love Dave Meniketti’s work, so he was another must have too. Of course there are many other friends more local to me who I asked to play. They are all consummate musicians and I am honoured that they took time to do the job.

As for Rob, well when he was about twelve he went to school with my son Frankie. I used to lend them my P.A. and do the sound and kind of roadie for them. When Laurence decided he couldn’t sustain work with Stampede when we reformed I was left with half an album recorded and no guitarist. I sat around for three months wondering what the hell to do, and then suddenly thought of Rob. Frankie told me he was pretty good now so I bowled over to his family house only to find he was at Uni studying Sound Engineering. However his dad got him on the phone. Within two days he was in the studio laying down guitar parts.

I had a whole stack of un-worked lyrics which I didn’t see fitting Stampede. When Rob and I decided to go ahead with ‘PS’ I knew I wanted a bluesy element cos that’s how I started way back in the early 70s. Blues has been my love from the start. It’s also the only chance I get to play guitar, although I never dared to stand alongside the likes of Rob or Laurence, but I did with my blues band. So some of the songs on ‘PS’ came from my original licks, although interpreted I think somewhat better by Rob and the other players on the album. The Rockers come pretty naturally as that’s what we all do anyway, and the ballads I found really cool to write. Again something I couldn’t necessarily do with Stampede, although we have been known to record a few in the past.  I think I just wanted the opportunity to use more instrumentation…keys, sax, a lot more focus on vocal harmonies - just a big rounded sound really. What does it say about me?  Simply that we all have a Personal Sin of some sort. I guess mine has always been Rock N Roll.

The first song we attacked was ‘Ace Cafe’…I had a storey line for it but no arrangement. Stampede’s guitarist Chris Clowsley came up with the riff and it developed from there. ‘Reuben’s Blues’ has an opening riff that I had written and actually used in a different format in my blues band. Again it just kept growing and morphs into a full out rocker when Quinny’s guitar solo kicks in. Rob and I kicked ideas around and I would take tracks home and work out verses and choruses and so on and then we would kick ‘em around until we got them into shape. I think there was only one idea which we had that we couldn’t get our heads around. All the time we would change stuff as things progressed until finally you say, “That’s it, happy with that - on to the next”. I find I can write very easily with Rob and also Chris. It’s the same in Stampede, it’s never a chore…just enjoyable. In fact we are more than half way through the next Stampede album and we have stacks of ideas to consider...

Being at Art School with the likes of Eric Clapton, Keith Relf and Dave Brock certainly influenced me…to the point where I built a homemade guitar which Relfy pestered me to sell. So I sold it to him and a week later the neck snapped in two. I didn’t know about things like truss rods so there wasn’t one, so it snapped. He wasn’t pleased but he didn’t get his dosh back!  My Father was head of Fine Art at Kingston College of Art. Eric also attended, and was politely asked to leave I think because he just played guitar and didn’t really work. With me my father simply said “No son of mine is gonna be in a band - you are here to work”. And that was that. So I never gave it a thought. However I ran away to join the Merchant Navy as home life got so oppressive and it was then on ship that I learned some guitar and had a small group playing stuff. It wasn’t until the early seventies when I bought an SG copy for myself and a Strat copy for Laurence [Reuben’s step son and fellow member of Stampede], he was fourteen, that I had any idea about taking music seriously. We mucked about and he got real good very quickly and so I put the guitar down and concentrated on songs. We went through about five years of getting different players in until finally we wound up with our first serious band Lautrec.

Lautrec supported Saxon, did God knows how many demos, had singles out, which I understand now are worth good money and very rare. We had several management changes but we just couldn’t make it stick. I finally had it with trying to run a band and quit to join Lionheart.

I have recently met up with Dave Poxon who managed both Saxon and Lionheart. He is a close neighbour. He is also a damn good successful fine artist these days, but we have in fact today been having a retrospective about those days. I never felt right in Lionheart. It was Dennis Stratton’s [ex-Iron Maiden] band and the management wanted me to write songs. I was also the frontman and I never felt that sat too well with Dennis.  The band was billed as the NWOBHM super-group..? A disastrous thing to happen. It never had that all too important time to gel. Too many line up changes and I felt no real direction. However they were all great players. Rocky had this Glenn Hughes type vocal range and was great on the bass. Steve Mann was a consummate musician and Dennis had the experience having come from Maiden, and was a mean player too. I just couldn’t see where we were heading musically. It was the right time, however I guess the material just didn’t click and that luck thing didn’t either. Could’ve been bloody good though because it was kind of right on the verge so to speak.

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So then I was reunited with Laurence in Wild Horses with Jimmy Bain. Again it was something that could’ve been good but just didn’t work out. We did a couple of Marquee residencies and Philo always got up to do a bit too. Why every time I played that venue it had to be the height of summer I’ll never know. I must have lost pounds in weight sweating it out on that stage. Good times though. I think Jimmy was not in a good place at the time and although we were writing ok something wasn’t gelling. The management didn’t help either. If you suss that out the all-important band confidence just isn’t there. It’s all gotta be in place otherwise it just ain’t gonna happen.

So myself Laurence and Frank Noon formed Stampede. When we signed to Polydor we didn’t have an A&R man. We had a guy called Robbi Dennis who was a label manager but a great guy who did what he could. Then Polydor got an A&R guy and he had a band he wanted to push. I could see big problems with things like tour support. It just wasn’t there. Polydor liked us because we wrote songs that were radio friendly and commercial. “Just keep writing those”, they said. “You don’t need to tour all the time”. We continued with the next album and started on a third but we could see our budget going elsewhere.  Then the specialist decided to take all the metalwork out of my hip and thigh I had had a nasty running accident with Bruce Dickinson and had to do Reading festival on crutches they operated and I caught a virus in the theatre and if they hadn’t acted as quickly as they did I might not be here today.  When that happens to a performer he can lose all confidence and that’s exactly what happened. I just didn’t wanna do it anymore. I walked or rather hobbled away from Rock n’ Roll.

So I fell back on my training in Art and started a design business which kept me going for the next 25 years and it still runs today. I’ve been lucky in that respect. If it’s a creative thing I am doing then I guess I am happy.

However Universal re-released most of our back catalogue along with Rock Candy Records and Japanese licensing deals and such so when I heard I called Colin (Boggy) Bond, and Laurence and said “How do you feel about doing some gigs?”. They seemed pretty keen so we got together, rehearsed the live set and wrote some new stuff all over one weekend. Then we did our first gig in Mayfair and that was cool and we just carried on. We started recording ‘A Sudden Impulse’ and now I guess it has come full circle...

The next album is half complete and we should finish it for a release at the end of this year or definitely early in 2014. It would have been earlier except my solo thing got in the way somewhat. It has been gratifying to talk to stalwart fans at gigs, especially on that last Y&T tour. I didn’t think or realise people would even remember us, but they have and I am extremely grateful to all those who supported us back in way-back-when and still do now. Plus we seem to have a whole new generation of young fans who really dig what we do so you can’t ask much more than that. Stampede now is really quite special to all of us. We love playing live and writing and recording.  We are all really quite close as friends, and even though Colin lives the furthest away we are constantly in touch and running ideas back and forwards to each other. As we speak this coming weekend we will be rehearsing for a batch of live gigs, and everyone will be over I guess to my place for the customary local pub dinner and several (or more) sherberts. It’s a good vibe and we are really enjoying being back and working at it.

So right now we are rehearsing for some shows to support ‘Personal Sin’. It’s coming together and we want to do some starting end of October, then some festivals for next summer. I will also definitely be recording ‘Personal Sin 2’ so it is definitely an ongoing project. Plus there is a second single release off ‘Personal Sin’ with a brand new video which if you like the ‘Play My Rock ‘n’ Roll’ video you will definitely like this one.

As if I didn’t have enough to contend with I then took on the Paul Raymond Project as well!?  That was just a pleasure to do. Paul couldn’t get the original line-up together for different reasons. Then he had to go to the States with UFO and so I put the line-up together. The obvious choice was Rob on guitar, and I asked Neil Ablard of The Dreaming Tree to play drums. I knew he was real good as he had depped for StevieG in Stampede. We did have Mark Coles from the original PRP and he really is an awesome bass player and what a mover on stage. So it all came together quite quickly. We did have to get this keyboard guy in called Paul Raymond but he turned out to be not too bad at all!!

Half the time musicians sit around waiting. Someone in The Stones said ‘I’ve been in the Stones for 50 years. 30 years waiting and 20 years playing’, or something to that effect. So you need stuff to do so you don’t get bored. I just like to do as much as I can, when I can. I live in Spain quite a bit of the year and my neighbour is PP. Arnold who had that massive hit, ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’. She’s been on tour with Roger Waters but has asked me to do some joint concerts in Spain with her. Kinda bluesy, soul stuff. I am really looking forward to getting that together for next May/June.

On behalf of Stampede and of course ‘Personal Sin’ I have to thank your readers and all those who listen to rock shows and follow bands at live venues, especially all of you guys who have supported us over the last three years. We really do appreciate your interest. There wouldn’t be any point to what we do if you weren’t there to support us. We thank you all! And likewise the media with guys like yourself Steven, how else would anybody know what the hell we are up to. Cheers all!!

So it is all go for Reuben both in terms of solo work and Stampede, with albums, tours, singles and goodness knows what else in the pipeline. For details on how to get your hands on ‘Personal Sin’ head to toxicarrowrecords.com.

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