in the U.K. The Idle Hands are keeping the blues-rock sound
front and center on the 2014 CD release of Feeding The Machine.
When you first spin the 12 track Feeding The Machine you
may wonder if its really the summer of 2014 and not the summer
of 1969! Fans of vintage blues rock legends like Free, Taste, Savoy
Brown and even Ten Years After will get a charge from the high powered
retro rock sound of The Idle Hands. The groups front man, vocalist
Phil Allen sounds positively supercharged throughout the CD,
almost like a younger Paul Rogers. The group keeps the beat strong
with the excellent guitar work of Dave Robinson, who cuts loose
with some fine electric guitar leads on a number of tracks here along
with the tight rhythm section of Paul Heydon (drums) and
Jamie Burns (bass). Commenting on the tight-knit relationship
the band has, Phil Allen told mwe3.com, "We ve been together
so long and seen each other grow and develop. We're a proper band,
mates, brothers, a team and we've been together almost forever! There
are no hired hands or prima donnas, we're all equal and we do this
as one for the same reason and end goal - the love of music, belief
in The Idle Hands music and to share it with as many people as possible!"
Feeding The Machine is well recorded and the colorful album packaging
is first rate. Boogie beats, rockin blues and hard hitting rock
n roll combines for an electrifying sonic blast on Feeding
The Machine by The Idle Hands. www.TheIdleHands.co.uk
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Phil Allen of The Idle Hands
Where are you from originally and where do you live now and what do
you like best about it?
Phil Allen: Myself (vocals), Dave (guitar) and Jamie (bass)
are all from Chesterfiled UK, Paul (drums) is from Ashby de la Zouch
about 40 miles away. The band are based in Chesterfield, a medium
sized town centrally located in the UK and most famed for it's wildly
twisted church spire (The Crooked Spire). It's a decent little market
town close to the beautiful Derbyshire Peak District and it always
had a really great live music scene when we were growing up and learning
our trades as musicians.
mwe3: How did you first get exposed to music and rock n
roll and who were your biggest musical influences early on in your
life? How about music studies and do you play an instrument or mainly
concentrate on your singing and vocal skills?
Phil Allen: Yeah again for me it was the live music scene really,
as teenagers we would go out and see live bands sometimes almost every
night, playing covers of tracks which we sometimes knew, or perhaps
ones we didn't, so that prompted an investigation into who it was
by and some digging into back catalogs of other musicians influencers.
There were also some great music shows on TV such as The Old Grey
Whistle Test which brought lots of rock music into our lives. My biggest
vocal influencers from my early rock band years would have to be the
likes of Deep Purple: Ian Gillan, David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes,
Led Zeppelin: Robert Plant, Free: Paul Rogers, Uriah Heep: David Byron,
Pete Goalby, but there are some amazing singers out there and I've
loved the sound and style of loads of others along the way.
None of the
band have studied music to any great degree except for the obligatory
music lessons at school... I failed my exam cos I was late arriving...
ironic eh! Music is just something we've grown up loving and we've
each nurtured our own styles. I don't profess to play any instrument
very well, I focus on the vocals, melodies and lyrics and leave the
clever stuff to those who know how! Playing the blues harp on the
last two albums has been purely something that I've thought would
fit a particular song and have given it a go because nobody else fancied
it... Seems to work!
mwe3: The Idle Hands have been playing and recording since
1989. How has the band evolved sound wise over the years and what
were some of the more recent events that led to the 2014 CD release
of Feeding The Machine and how did you come up with the title
of the album?
Allen: Yeah we've known each other a long time and we're like
brothers. We've literally played thousands of gigs together over the
years and worked so damned hard on the pub circuit before we decided
to go back to writing our own songs... yes we'd done it before(!)
and step away from pubs and onto the 'venue' circuit. Our songs have
become more concise and the gigging and recording process have helped
us to understand what works and what doesn't in both a recorded and
We love the song writing process and how seeds of ideas develop lives
of their own. We have to write for ourselves primarily but keep our
minds on what is going to work and be a progression from the last
set of songs. We're pretty ruthless these days when it comes down
to weeding out the ideas and tracks that don't seem to fly. We always
try to avoid repetition from album to album and between tracks on
each individual album. We like to give the listeners and fans a broad
spectrum of listening experience and shades of emotion and style,
rather than them knowing exactly what's coming next! It's exciting
for us too as each idea leads us down a new path that we never really
know how it's gonna sound until really very close to the final mix.
The Feeding The Machine title is very much what it says...
we go into the studio and we start feeding the machine with sounds.
If we stop feeding it, then we stop being creative... Simple as!
itself has frustratingly taken us longer than we anticipated to complete,
because right from the early stages of developing ideas we were beset
by various deeply emotional events which slowed down and sometimes
stopped the process. I guess subliminally this influenced and affected
our thought patterns and emotions and has moulded songs in different
ways, whether that be lyrically or musically. I think when you listen
to the album you can hear that in the individual performances and
styles. However, having said that, I think Feeding The Machine
has turned out superbly well and maybe having to stop - feeding the
machine - and take-stock has paid off!
mwe3: How would you describe the musical chemistry between
you, Dave and Jamie and Paul? How do you and the band share the song
writing in The Idle Hands and what does each member bring to the table
to help round out the group sound?
Phil Allen: Like I said earlier, we're a family! We ve been
together so long and seen each other grow and develop. We're a proper
band, mates, brothers, a team and we've been together almost forever!
There are no hired hands or prima donnas, we're all equal and we do
this as one for the same reason and end goal - the love of music,
belief in The Idle Hands music and to share it with as many people
& I have known each other since we were teenagers, so when Paul
came on board 6 years ago as our new drummer we knew it would be a
test for our close bond...but hey! He walked in, played the songs
and slotted in like he'd been in our team and 'a brother' forever
and it was meant to be...he's one of us and feels like he always has
Song writing is a 4-way joint effort, initially an idea might come
from a guitar chord structure/riff or a bass line and then I'll work
with that to formulate a rough verse, chorus arrangement. Rarely much
lyric at this point, just some ad-lib scat singing to a get the feel
and possible melody of the song. We'll rehearse this with drums once
we think it's a decent idea and as this progresses I develop a lyric
as we get a feel for the dynamics and feel of the song.
It's amazing how songs evolve once we add live drums and start rehearsing/jamming
them. Some things change beyond recognition, whereas other ideas which
we thought were good fall by the wayside. We generally start with
a vast range of ideas... I think about 28 for this album, but hone
them down to the final cut of 12. It's painful to let great 'ideas'
go sometimes, but ideas aren't songs!
mwe3: England, like the U.S. has such a rich history of the
blues and the innovative mix of blues and rock. How do you feel The
Idle Hands carries the modern blues sound into the 21st century?
Phil Allen: Yeah, there's a vast history of blues and rock
in the UK and we were so lucky to have grown up through what was one
of the most dynamic and productive periods in the transition of blues
through rock. We stay true to blues and we know our place and our
strengths and weaknesses, but we also know how to rock out with passion!
We sit squarely on that dangerously fine line between blues and rock,
but we also truly believe in what we write and that our music and
our live show has a place and we're proving that both blues and rock
fans can enjoy us together!
As for the 21st Century, well we are what we are, but we're certainly
trying to ensure that our style of 'blues' is dynamic and engaging
enough to make people realize that the genre still has some new angles
and passion enough to get them out of the chair and rocking at a live
Is there a period of blues and blues rock that you and the band favor
over the next? For instance theres a big difference between
the blues of the early Stones and Yardbirds and early Fleetwood Mac
compared to the stadium size blues rock of the mid 1970s Led Zeppelin,
Free and Bad Company. Would it be safe to say that those artists are
also yours and the bands big influences?
Phil Allen: Yes of course, we were all brought up with the
stadium bands in our ears and sight lines and what an amazing era,
but that has also enticed us to look back at those bands influencers
and then dig right back into the traditional blues as we learned our
trade and so to incorporate them into our own style.
mwe3: Guitarist Dave Robinson sounds greatly inspired by Peter
Green and Mick Ralphs and Jimmy Page for that matter and theres
even an instrumental track on Feeding The Machine, called Sad
Again. What music legends would you say influenced Dave the
most as far as has guitar playing and writing goes?
Phil Allen: Well I guess Dave would really need to answer this,
but certainly Jimmy Page has been massive in his influence, as has
Jimi Hendrix amongst many many others such as Jeff Beck, Johnny Winter,
Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan to name but a few!
Like the rest of the band, Dave could cite some key influences, but
we all listen to a whole range of players and bands and the resulting
mix of styles and influences hopefully gives us an original if not
unique sound but with some familiar signatures!
mwe3: Whats the current blues rock scene like in the
UK these days and what are you finding out about the current popularity
of the blues as far as other countries, outside of the UK? Also how
would you say that Classic Rock magazine and now their offshoot, The
Blues magazine has increased the interest in blues-rock among long
time fans and newcomers? Are you surprised to see the blues and blues
rock so popular in 2014?
Allen: To be honest it's tough out there in the UK! So many venues
have closed over recent years, but there's still a massive number
of bands all looking for work. So no matter what level of show your
pitching at, there's a vast number of bands trying to get the same
gigs! Blues-Rock in the UK is still alive and well and has a very
dedicated audience, but is very much a specialized genre by comparison
to pure heavy rock. Europe seems much more open to blues-rock and
the scene is thriving as far as we are aware.
Classic Rock 'Blues' mag has made an impressive contribution toward
bringing blues and blues rock back to the forefront of new and old
music fans minds, by presenting a big classy looking and well presented
glossy mag in front of them on the shelves of major news stands. I
think there's still a way to go yet before blues rock can make a full
resurgence as the leading genre once again, but I reckon much of that
will be down to whether new acts can break through by offering music
which is inventive, dynamic and passionately exciting and engaging
enough for the major media players to wish to latch onto and champion
as a whole.
Standing around playing endless guitar solos and the same tired riffs
just isn't enough to entertain an audience these days. They expect
to be visually entertained and communicated with. There are some great
players out there and technology has helped musicians create amazing
sounds, but the audience still need entertaining - er...once you've
managed to get them out of the house and away from the TV of course!
mwe3: Where was the music on the 2014 Idle Hands CD Feeding
The Machine written and recorded and what was the recording process
like? Does the band use a lot of overdubbing on the recording or is
it mostly cut live in the studio? Is there a preferred method of recording
when it comes to recording a new Idle Hands track?
Individual song concepts are brought to the table by each band member
and initially captured on PC at my small home studio with a drum machine,
just so that we have a basic record of the idea before it disappears
out of our heads as they often do if not recorded! After the period
of arranging and rehearsing our final song selection we book into
Foundry Studios, Chesterfield where our long time friend, sound engineer,
co-producer, musician and drinking partner Paul Hopkinson puts us
to the test! Paul is truly brilliant at pulling the best out of the
band and telling us to "do it again" when he knows there's
another brilliant take waiting to break through! Our secret 5th member!
We try to keep overdubs to a minimum and retain as much of the original
live track for our master as possible. We always make sure that drums
and bass are captured as a unit and those guys are brilliant at the
'one take' strategy! Dave and I go in and redo the guitar solos and
vocals, but will keep the originals if we've captured the moment on
the guide track! So basically we all go into the studio, play live
and capture the best take so that it sounds like a real band playing
together, then replace anything which sounds a bit weird!
mwe3: What are the Idle Hands live concerts like? Is there
a track the band usually opens with to get the crowd warmed up? Also
where has the band performed live outside of the UK and what concert
venues in England are among your favorites?
Phil Allen: Our shows are powerful, raw and passionately dynamic.
We're quite in your face, charismatic and engaging performers across
the front of stage, whilst Paul calmly holds it together at the back!
We know how to rock, but we can bring it right down to a soulful whisper,
it's such a great feeling on stage, we truly love it! Our opening
live track at the moment is The Fever, track 1 from the
new album, a straight blues rocker with a punchy rhythm, a great riff,
big vocal, screaming harmonica and nowhere to hide!
yet to play outside the UK, but hey bring it on world! There are some
superb venues in the UK, with fantastically dedicated promoters and
audiences who treat us so incredibly well. We just love to play!
mwe3: How about blues festivals in England and elsewhere? Are
there other artists your enjoy playing alongside or on the same bill?
Phil Allen: There are loads of festivals in the UK, big and
small and they all have their own particular merits. As far as other
artists go, we tend just to get on with our own business and if we
get chance to watch a band or two that's great!
mwe3: How can fans in the U.S. buy the new Idle Hands CD?
Phil Allen: Take your pick... Various other sites such as Spotify
Physical CD Direct from our website using secure Paypal:
USA Amazon mp3 $ @
UK Amazon MP3 £ @
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/music/album/The_Idle_Hands_Feeding_the_Machine?id=Bzzqumuhkmatnjua34fpbllw5ga
mwe3: What does the future hold for The Idle Hands and what
musical directions are you and the band planning to go in next?
Phil Allen: Who knows! All we can do is just keep on doing
more of the same to try to build up our name and reputation across
the UK, Europe and anywhere else that promoters and fans might love
what we do! We receive amazing receptions at live shows, so as a dedicated
'live' band all we really want to do is replicate that by many more
there is a plan, then its to continue to grow, develop and remain
original whilst sharing our music further afield. We don't plan our
musical direction, we just follow our hearts but it has to have some
It would be fantastic if we could get our music out there to the bigger
international audience of rock blues through a major distributor and
maybe pick up a management deal, because that would allow us to focus
more closely on the actual music and live shows! But like I've said
before, we are what we are and we just have to keep on doing what
we do until all the planets line u!p and we get a lucky break! Who
knows, maybe Feeding The Machine will do it for us!
to Phil Allen
and The Idle Hands