First and foremost, welcome back, Eric!Hi Roy. It's wonderful to at long last have a new album from one of Britain's finest, but why has it taken 21 years to come up with a second solo album? 21 years, is it really that long? Yes, we've been counting the years, and it's definitely 21. Well, I have been doing a lot of other stuff in the meantime, most of it not related to music. I decided about 5 years back that the time felt right again to record the type of music I knew I could write and produce comfortably without cow-towing to fashionable trends. Such as? Earlier on I didn't feel good about competing with the 'Rap', Drum and Bass, Garage stuff etc. that was around. I think there is a record buying public around at the moment who want some real lyrics, melodies, guitar solos etc. and who will hopefully enjoy what I have done this time around. I'm sure there is, Eric.
Hi EricHi Dave What was the inspiration behind writing songs about your friends? The inspiration about writing songs regarding my friends came about because I wanted to give some old friends a very special 30th wedding anniversary gift. I had a brainwave that I could write a song about them and their life, and after knowing them for 25 years or more, the lyric is already written story wise, so it was very easy for me to knock it into shape as a song. This one was 'Norman Conquest ll'. After completing that song, and having great fun doing it, I thought it could be a good idea to develop stories on lots of other friends, again because their respective stories are already there, and all very different, and, in most cases, very interesting.
You said a couple of years back you were working on about 18 new songs. Did it ever cross your mind to issue DNB as a 2CD set in it's own right (i.e. without the bonus CD)?Yes, with 18 songs it did occur to me to release a double CD, but I didn't feel that I had 2 albums worth of tracks of the quality I wanted. I hate buying albums myself that are packed out with mediocre stuff just to fill the space. A great double album is a very rare thing in music history and, to be honest, I haven't got one myself that I can listen to straight, through both CDs.
What do your family and friends think of your new album?My family love the idea that I'm working well again, it keeps me out of their way. My friends have not heard any tracks yet, they will all receive a copy of DNB this week. Do they subconsciously give you ideas for a song in something they say or do? These are not subconscious influences, some of them give me very strong ideas in the way they speak, behave, joke, react, handle situations Etc.
I was shocked when I was told by Harvey the Dealer that your album would never see the light of day. How much of a spur was this for you to actually get it released?Harvey really pissed me off with that "He'll never finish it" comment, and I took him to task about it quite strongly. He said at the end of our 'heated' conversation, "Well, I wish you lots of luck with it Eric, it will be just my luck that you will sell a million and I won't be involved at all". Too true Harvey, too true, we all reap what we sow, don't we. So did it spur you on? His comment didn't push me quicker, I already had most of the music recorded and all the lyrics written, it was just a case of getting it all together carefully, no rushing, and no deadlines to make me compromise.
Gilly has recently told us that you have donated one of your songs to a charity CD project. That was a nice gesture. Were you surprised to be asked? I was very pleasantly surprised to be asked to donate a song for the charity album, although I have done quite a few 'quiet' charity gig nights in the past, and an album track that will generate income for the charity is always a great idea. It was also very fortuitous that I had another song ready for DNB, but hadn't used it because I felt it was out of place on the album, even though I really love the idea and the song.
You can certainly tell by your singing / playing / writing etc. that by not having any record company commitments against you it has allowed you to express yourself in a much more positive way. Would you agree with this?Yes, I agree that having no outside influence, ie, Record companies, partners, etc. gave me a very clear-headed and positive approach to what I wanted to do on DNB. I'm very chuffed with it, and I feel that it's a good showcase of me and my musical abilities in 2003, and shown in a way I haven't tried before. Well, you certainly haven't lost any of your abilities. I'm not trying to impress anybody, I'm having a great time for the first time in a long time. And it shows.
For the bigger part of your career in songwriting, you've normally co-written with a partner, be it Messrs Gouldman, McCartney et al (who's Al?) Is the song-writing process harder when you only have yourself to bounce ideas off?I've found that there are 4 ways to write a song regarding the personnel and politics involved. Would you care to elaborate on these for us? Writing on my own is very much the quickest way for me to work because I don't have to ask anybody if what I am writing is OK. There are many writers who do this superbly like Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Paul Mc, etc. etc. And now we can add your name to that list. DNB is after all my 'solo' project and I enjoy this freedom of expressing my own feelings in songs and music without the approval or disapproval of a writing partner who may not feel the same way.
What kind of advice would you give to a "Just starting out" musician?Now this is a serious question, I could write a book about it, but a simple statement to a budding muso would be... Go for it ! Give it everything you've got, don't be put off by the 'doubters' if you still feel strongly about music, good will out, I've had many musical partners in my career who gave up and got a 'Proper Job' etc.!!! and sadly, they all wish they'd have stayed the course, one guy even said to me in the early '60's, " After 'Cliff and the Shadows', what chance do we have ? " Ouch, how wrong he was. You're obviously glad you persevered. It's a very hard nut to crack, but if you do, the rewards are beyond belief, you will have a ball, and you get paid as well !!
There are some nice touches in the lyrics for DNB. Rhyming 'Betterer' with 'Etcetera' is a lovely example. One thing I can say is that some of your lyrics read beautifully as poetry. Were your songs easy to write or is it a hard slog?I don't have a problem writing lyrics, but the words are easier for me to write if I have a strong idea about the subject of the song. Such as Norman Conquest II Timing silabubbles (sic) lyrically is great fun, meandering through them so that words fit in rhythmically like betterer. I fortunately do have a very vivid imagination as you'll gather from my songs, and English Lang/Lit was my best subject at school. I really liked my teacher who was actually called Joseph Rocka (an Italian). What a great name for an English teacher eh! I would like to write words down in a book as poetry, but that's another game entirely, one day maybe!!
If you were "Just starting out" in the music business today which direction do you think you would take?The Music Business today, is far tougher than when I started. It is so diverse, and there are so many different avenues to go down.
I cannot honestly say which direction I would take if I were starting now because my own influences are so ingrained in me. I would still wish to write a simple 'Rock' song like Chuck Berry, or a ballad like 'Yesterday', or a mystery song like 'Strawberry Fields' Etc. Etc., ideas like these are still the benchmarks of gifted musicians that we all strive for, so, I would go on 'Striving'.
What does come first? The music or the words?I do write in many different ways, but on DNB, for the first time, I wrote a lot of the backing track music first, mostly in the feel of other people's songs that really turned me on for whatever reason, but mostly for their rhythmic feel. Sort of 'that sounds nice' what if I do it this way'? In the meantime I had also been writing lyrics every day, or night, that did read back just as simple poetic stories, with no idea of a melody at that point in time. I then sat down with the rough backing tracks and sang the various sets of lyrics with them until I found pairs that married together nicely. Mix and Match? But this is just one way I use, there are so many ways to do it, and, as I have said in the past, a strong title like I'm not in Love, Life is a Minestrone, or Dreadlock Holiday, can make the song write itself.
I have already had some people in a Rochdale Town Centre car park (your CD playing loudly in the car) come up to me and say "WOW, who is that?.......what is that song called?" When I gave them your name they instantly recalled INIL. Is that how you would like to be remembered?INIL is still 'the top of the top of the' for me and 10cc and I don't mind if that's what I will be remembered for, but hold on !! I ain't finished yet, so who knows.
The album cover this time has moved away from Gil Elvgren's ladies as used on Frooty Rooties. I understand the main photo was taken by your son Jody. Any reason why you chose that particular image?The cover image I chose came from a photo session my son Jody was doing for an interiors project for one of the House Interior mags. He said he had a few shots left in the camera, and just grabbed the shot that I have used. Interior? When we were looking at the interiors shots he had taken, I stopped him flying them through the projector and said. "What the hell is that?!!" He asked me to figure out what the picture was and I honestly couldn't, but the colour was so grabbing visually, I told him that I had to use it. He flogged it to me!.............. bloody capitalists!! And the title? The title also came from Jody! He was mocking up a Do Not Bend label in Photoshop on his computer screen to send some of his prints to the publishers and again, when I saw it, it leapt out at me. When we placed the rich red lettering on the brilliant electric blue of the cover pic' it was just what I was after, so in your face and immediate. I'll go along with that, Eric. The 'Bend' word was also a little historic backwards glance to 'Deceptive Bends' and also No Compromise, British Bulldog Spirit etc..
Speaking of Frooty, will there any chance of a re-release in the near future, perhaps, on CD for the fans who missed it first time round, 21 years ago?I know that Gilly is working on the Frooty Rooties idea at the moment, so...................... watch this space.
If you could change anything you have written or recorded in the past, what would it be and why?I wouldn't change anything I have written, sung, engineered, or produced in the past, the songs were just right when they were written, recorded, and released, and I feel that musical history shouldn't be messed around with. I'm even loath to re-mix anything for 5.1 surround sound etc.
Blancmange?Well, do you know that this word in not in the French language, it was invented by an Englishman as a name for the dessert we all loved at school!! Um, no, can't say I did. The song is the story of a soapbox race that I help with once a year in France. It all started with the McLaren designer, Gordon Murray being a little bored on holiday one year and getting some of his mates to build soapboxes with a budget of £60 maximum to compete in a series of downhill races. All very relaxed, and all very amateur............ not. Do please go on. It's possible, you see, to use as much junk as you can find on your own buggy, but when your junk-pile is the McLaren pits, well the sky's your limit, isn't it, bit naughty if you ask me!! Yes I see what you mean. I thought it would be a nice idea to write a song about the race, and get all the competitors, some 25 guys and girls plus wives, hubbies and families etc. to sing the end choruses for me. We did it one night after the race in 2002, in a very inebriated fashion, and the result is Set In Blancmange. It certainly gives it a very anthemic sound.
You have composed many classic songs in your career, is there any one song that was composed by another artist that you wish you had written?Oh Yes, there are only about 200, that's all ! Loving Feeling, Imagine, Bridge over Troubled Water, Yesterday, Sweet Little Sixteen, C'mon Everybody, That'll Be the Day, Tootie Frootie, Stand by Me, and lots of songs that I love just because of the Guitar solos like the early Presley, and Ricky Nelson, Gene Vincent stuff, the list is endless.
Your work in answering your fans' questions and supplying photo's from your own personal collection for all to see is greatly appreciated. Are you surprised at the amount of world-wide interest that you and 10cc still generate?I am, I must say, very pleasantly surprised with the continuing world-wide interest in 10cc and the new stuff I've been involved with after such a long layoff. From 10cc, perhaps but you have done songs for Alan Parsons. I like to think my work as 10cc etc. has withstood the ravages of time when comparing it to the present day music industry output, but after being in the business for some 40 years now, I think I can safely say that some of our good songs will always live on. There's a lot of fans out there agreeing with you at this very moment.
If Hollywood ever decided on making a Movie about the Life of Eric Stewart who would you like to see playing the lead role and why?A Hollywood Movie of 'Life with ES' !!! Well, Daniel Day Lewis is one of my favourite actors, and Gilly suggested Michael Douglas, but seriously, I think 'Disaster Movies' have had their day after 'The Osbournes', Don't you ?
Have you ever given any consideration to making an accompanying video/dvd for DNB, or indeed any future projects?I have given this one some serious thought. I wouldn't do a number by number performance of the DNB tracks on a DVD, but it may be possible to link visuals with the tracks that would be more interesting. Maybe visuals that are historic, or have something to do with the people involved and the stories in each song for instance. 'Set in Blancmange' would visually make a very exciting background to the song because I have miles of video from the race. Miles... ooh that's bad! So Yes ! These things could be done in the future, and with people like Lol and Jody involved we could come up with something very tasty and original. Watch this space.
We recently sent you a video of USA TV Show called "Hullabaloo" from circa 1965 with yourself and Wayne Fontana, do shows like this bring back good or bad memories for you?These videos bring back wonderful memories for me thank you. When I'm watching them, I can think myself right back there and feel the thrill I had when meeting and playing with all those great stars, The Impressions, Brenda Lee, etc. etc. I am a very lucky man, who lived and worked in, for me, the most exciting period of the 'British Rock' invasion of the USA.
What's the difference between a guitar break and a guitar solo? In my book, a guitar 'break' is a part of the song that has been arranged musically and will always be the same. A guitar 'solo' is something I just play off the top of my head and drop into afterwards to correct if I've dropped a few 'Goolies' while flying blind!
Do you ever hear from or see Pete Tattersall?, reading Liam Newton's book recently, you all seemed to enjoy playing tricks on him.I hear from Pete occasionally, but he isn't in the recording business these days I believe. We did have a ball playing tricks on him, which I must say he always took in good humour.
What happened to make you change Tek Dis A Woman from the excellent demo version to the song Take This Woman that appears on MirrorMirror? Tek Dis-A Woman is the original song, written and recorded by me in the 1980's. I tried to re-work it with GG for the 'Meanwhile' album, but it never made it. To put it lightly, I was furious when it suddenly appeared from nowhere on the 'Mirror Mirror' album in the form that had been scrapped, and put in there without GG asking my permission as I was the original writer of the song. I could have gone up a legal avenue on it but thought at the time, What the Hell.
I love the electric guitar 'powered' bagpipes on A Human, Being. That was a nice touch...I'm glad you spotted it, and liked it ! The Stewart clan's favourite, 'Scotland the Brave' is wailing away behind the wailing guitar, I thought it rather poignant at the time.
What is in your CD player at the moment? I'm playing a couple of Boz Scaggs albums at the moment, 'Some Change', and 'Dig' which I adore. Keb Mo is always with me, I really love playing him in my car. Lots of classics, mostly Mozart, and Italian opera, Puccini, and Verdi. Good luck and all the very best for a successful project. Thanks for your good wishes David.
No room for "Make The Pieces Fit" on Do Not Bend then?Make the Pieces Fit is one of my personal favourites, and I would like to do it again, in another style or rhythm maybe, which brings me to the next question, What does the future hold for Eric Stewart? I will continue writing in a similar way to the style of DNB, that is 'any style', and there are ideas that I haven't yet completed from this project. I'm also keen to do a "Blues" project, I love playing 'Yer Blues ', and maybe a reggae based album too, it's another musical casserole that I don't think I've explored properly yet. Well, I for one am certainly looking forward to those. I would just like to congratulate you on your album, it certainly has been well worth the wait. Many thanks for your congratulations Roy, I too am very pleased with the DNB project, and the people who have helped me, especially Gilly.
We were able to interrupt Gilly "firstname.lastname@example.org" Hewer's hectic schedule long enough to ask her a few pertinent questions...
What's it like being Eric's 'right-hand man'? And left hand too! As Eric is the most fun person in the world it's very easy. I particularly appreciate the fact that he listens to my thoughts. I badly wanted this album released and I'm proud that he's done such a good job.
Which track from Do Not Bend would have made the best single?I have to say "A Friend In Need". It shouts 'single' at me. We have already had plenty of feedback on the album and that one is emerging as the favourite so far.
Strawberry Soundtracks * The 10cc Fan Club * The Eric Stewart Site