THE IDLE HANDS
Feeding The Machine
(TIH Records)

 

Over 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 it’s 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 group’s 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



mwe3
: 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?

Phil 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 live scenario.

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. Scary sometimes!

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!

The album 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 as possible!

Dave, Jamie & 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 been!

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 show!

mwe3: Is there a period of blues and blues rock that you and the band favor over the next? For instance there’s 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 band’s 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 there’s 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: What’s 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?

Phil 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?

Phil Allen: 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!

We've 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 too.
Physical CD Direct from our website using secure Paypal:
http://www.theidlehands.co.uk
USA Amazon mp3 $ @
http://www.amazon.com/Feeding-Machine-The-Idle-Hands/dp/B00L34ADOU
UK Amazon MP3 £ @
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Feeding-Machine-The-Idle-Hands/dp/B00L2XO8IE
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/feeding-the-machine/id890510792
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 times!

If there is a plan, then it’s 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 blues!

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!

Thanks to Phil Allen and The Idle Hands

 

 
   
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