22nd May 2017
Seconds out, round two: Dirty Thrills on their return to Ramblin’ Man
A year ago, Dirty Thrills enthralled everyone with a fine performance on the Rising Stage at Ramblin’ Man. Now, they’re preparing to return, this time playing on the new Grooverider stage. Malcolm Dome finds out what to expect…
The London-based blues rockers got together in late 2012, when frontman Louis James (son of late vocalist Nicky James, who was closely associated with members of the Moody Blues) teamed up with guitarist Jack Fawdry, bassist Aaron Plows and drummer Steve Corrigan. Since then the band have combined a dirty riff driven sensibility and thundering melodies on their self-titled, debut album (released in 2014) and the ‘Sweetheart Of The Slums’ EP (2015). They’ve also toured with Europe (at the personal invitation of Joey Tempest), the Scorpions and Crobot. This tells you the band are certainly highly regarded by those who know what dynamic rock ‘n’ roll is all about.
Dirty Thrills have also impressed at Planet Rock Stock and Camden Rocks. And are clearly growing as a live act, in the process proving they are an emerging force who take a diverse range of inspirations, and adapt them to the demands of the 21st Century hard rock sphere.
Now, James gives us all a glimpse of what powers this band, and what we can expect when they hit the Fair in July.
How did the band get together?
“Well, myself, Jack and Steve all went to the same university. This was Tech Music School in London. We did a diploma and then went on to a degree. Now, I dropped out, because the college wanted to turn me into a session musician, and that’s not what I wanted to be at all. But the others stayed on.
“My girlfriend suggested that I try to be get together a rock band, and it went from there. Oddly about the same time, Aaron actually called me up and said he was starting a later band and wanted me as the singer. But I told him I was interested in doing my own thing. And six months, I phoned him, asking if he wanted to join Dity Thrills! We began in late 2012, but had a different bassist originally. Then, when he left that’s the moment I contacted Aaron.”
Where do you draw your influences?
“Aaron and I are into Led Zeppelin and Free. Those types of classic rock bands. I am obviously influenced by Paul Rodgers and Robert Plant. But I also have to mention Rival Sons, because what they do played a big part in making me want to start a band. The ad I placed when looking for musicians to join what became Dirty Thrills mentioned Rival Sons, White Stripes, Black Keys and Zeppelin. Some people claim they can also hear a little Black Sabbath in what we do, but personally I don’t believe we have anything from them in our sound.
“Steve and Jack also bring in a more contemporary side. They love bands like Queens Of The Stone Age, and give us a darker, heavier edge. Overall, I would say we have a modern twist to what is essentially a classic approach.”
Your father, Nicky James, was a well known vocalist in the 1960s and ’70s. How much did he inspire and encourage you?
“When I was growing up, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to him. We had musicians in our house all the time, and I was always surrounded by music. But when you’re a kid, you tend to take these things for granted.
“I sued to sing a little when I was very young, but that was never serious. I would walk around the house doing mock opera, really taking the piss I suppose. Actually, I started out as a drummer when I was nine or ten, and was even in a few bands playing the drums. Then I got into playing the guitar.
“My dad was a very strong character, so I never felt comfortable singing when he was around. And I didn’t properly take up being a singer until I was 18 or 19, so I had a late start in that respect. But where my father’s made an impact on me is in the phrasing I use with songs, and also in the way I write lyrics.”
You opened for Europe on the European leg of their ‘War Of Kings’ tour. What did you learn from the experience?
“It showed us that anything is possible at any time. If you stick to what you believe in, then things can just open up for you. Joe Tempest handpicked us for the tour. He heard our song ‘No Resolve’ on a covermounted CD given away with Classic Rock magazine, then he checked us out on YouTube, and called up our management to offer us the tour. Just turning up to the first date was hugely exciting for us. And what we learnt was how to pace ourselves onstage, and also to work really hard. It was exciting to get such a big break, and I feel we did well.”
You played at Ramblin’ Man last year. What do you recall from that day?
“That was the best experience we have ever had from playing at a festival. We got such a great reaction from the crowd. We love to do a call and response with the fans, and that worked so well at Ramblin’ Man.
“The Answer were on the Main Stage at the same time, so we were worried that nobody would watch us. Instead, we got a very good turnout. We also did two acoustic sets that day in the VIP area at the festival; we were only booked to do one, but then another band pulled out, so we offered to take their slot. And it was great to be able to do that type of set as well.
“On top of that, as a result of our appearance on the Rising Stage, we got endorsements from Laney Amps, Ibanez and Hamer Guitars. That was the first time we’d ever been offered endorsements!”
Are you working on a new album right now?
“We have been, yes. We’ve recorded it at the famous Monnow Valley Studios in Rockfield, where so many great bands have worked before. The guy who has been producing us is James Lowrey, who has recorded people like Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and Skindred. He was as superb producer for us, because not only does he have some fine ideas, but listened to what we had to say. So many producers out there seem to put themselves first, and end up making albums that fit into what they want, regardless of what the bands say. But he’s certainly different, in the right kind of way.
“We don’t yet have a title for it; you know what it’s like, with each of us having own suggestions. But we have time to come to an agreement. As for the release date, well the best I can tell is that it’ll be soon. Certainly this year, any way.
“There’s obviously a lot of blues in there, plus some very ballsy stuff. And one track has an Aerosmith vibe. We’ll play a couple of the songs in our set at Ramblin’ Man, so everyone will get a feel for what we’re doing.”
How do you think the band’s style has changed since the debut album?
“We’ve always had a vision for what we should be doing, and where we want to go musically., That hasn’t altered. The sound we make comes from each of us as individuals. Even if we were to make a dramatic change in style, which we haven’t, then the Dirty Thrills sound would still come through.
“I think, to use a cliché, we have matured and grown as a band since the first album. That’s down to the way the writing chemistry has developed. It’s about us us as a four-piece unit, not as separate musicians.”
Do you think the current British rock scene is vibrant?
“Definitely. We have done many gigs with our peers. And there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the way the scene is improving. I think the Rising Stage last year was a fine representation of the way things are. There were a lot of strong bands, playing really well and exciting the fans about what’s going on. The same is true this year. The line-up on that stage is again excellent. I know some of the bands, and they are great choices.”
What’s the strangest thing to happen to the band so far?
“This was when we were in Italy on the Europe tour. Inevitably, as you might expect, our van broke down, and we were on the motorway. So, we contacted a garage, to send out a rescue truck. It turned up, but drove right past us, even though we were the only van stuck on the side of the road. You know what the guy behind the wheel did next? He reversed down the motorway, going against heavy traffic! Anyway, he pulled up and loaded our van onto the back of the truck. But then refused to let us sit in the truck cab with him. We had to stay in the van, which was perched precariously on top of the truck. And then the guy drove really fast; we went through one roundabout at between 30-40mph. All of us thought, ‘That’s it, we’re gonna die!’. And when we got to his yard, it was full of ravenous, stray dogs, who looked vicious. That was definitely an experience we do not want to repeat!”
You’re on the Grooverider Stage at Ramblin’ Man this year. Do you have an affinity with early ’70s bands?
“We certainly do. A lot of the bands from that time make a continuous impression on what we want to achieve. We are a classic rock style band, albeit with an edge that comes from the current era. For us, though, the best thing about being on this stage is we finally get to do a show with Rival Sons. As I said earlier, we have a huge respect for what they do, and always felt that one day we would share the bill with them. They are a massive reason that I wanted to start my own rock band. That alone will make the day worthwhile.”
Dirty Thrills play the Ramblin’ Man Fair’s Grooverider Stage on Saturday July 29. Buy your tickets to see them here