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INTERVIEW: DANNY BOWES of Thunder – June 2015

Why can some bands hit it big across the world and other never seem to get that chance?  In 1990, the band Thunder was poised to take America by storm and then grunge broke, keeping Danny Bowes (lead vocals), Luke Morley (guitar), Gary ‘Harry’ James (drums), Mark ‘Snake’ Luckhurst (bass) and Ben Matthews (guitar) from traveling across the pond and demonstrating the power of great rock and roll here in the United States.  Twenty-five years later, the band, with bassist Chris Childs in tow, has released their first new music in 9 years and is ready to strike again and allow the world to experience the coming storm of great rock tracks…


Toddstar: Hello Danny. How are you?

Danny: Good, yourself?

Toddstar: Very good, thank you. Thank you so much for taking the time out for us today.

Danny: It’s no problem at all. It’s my pleasure.

Toddstar: Let’s talk about the biggest news in rock these days and that’s the Wonder Days released from Thunder.

Danny: Thank you very much. You’ve definitely talked that up there, haven’t you? I love that.

Toddstar: I don’t know that I’m talking it up, Danny. I love this thing from the first time I heard it, from first lick to last. This is just a great disc. [Check our review HERE]

Danny: Yeah, I think having not made a record for six years I think we probably pushed a lot into the new one. I mean certainly when it came to the choosing of the material even down to the way that we recorded and it just felt like a very exciting record to make all the way through.

Toddstar: You mentioned six years. I’ve been listening to you a lot longer than that obviously. When you’re that long between projects, how much stuff that you guys really come up with? This has so many songs out but how much stuff did you guys play with and tweaked and used that is just sitting on a shelf somewhere that we may or may not hear someday?

Danny: Well, I can tell you categorically that the stuff that is on the shelf you will not hear and that’s purely and simply because we made a very conscious decision having grappled with whether or not it was right to make another record. You have to remember that in 2009 the band basically decided to disband and we decided at that point that we wouldn’t make another record. Not because we didn’t enjoy making records anymore, it’s just that there was such a lot of commitment needed in the process of recording, releasing, promoting, and touring and everybody was just busy doing other things. It was just becoming harder and harder and harder to get everybody to commit to a schedule that would work. In the end, I had an offer to do something else. I thought you know something I’m just going to go do that. It wasn’t like we were all unhappy in any way, shape or form. It just seemed the practical thing to do. I’ve been told the others are going to go. The others basically said well, we don’t want to carry on without you so maybe we’ll just stop. That was where you left it but six years later having told the world that we wouldn’t make another record we found ourselves in a situation where we were offered some shows to go play and one show became two and two became five and ended up doing 20 shows that year. For a band that wasn’t active anymore 20 shows seemed like quite a lot and having probably got about 10 shows in, it was very apparent to us that there was still a lot of love for the band, a lot of people showing up wearing the shirts and singing all the words to the songs and really, really very, very interested in what we were doing and it just felt like probably we should make another record. Then we wrestled with it for about three months to make our minds up as to whether or not we really wanted to commit and if we were going to commit we had to make sure we did it properly and all of those sort of ridiculous, stupid things that you go through. Then Luke [Morley] started writing and at that point, I think it probably took him about three months to start sending music that we were all sufficiently excited about to want to go back into the studio. Up until then, you got to remember if you’ve been in a band for as long as we have and you rely on one man to write the tunes and Luke does. I mean he is ultimately… he’s the guy who’s given us a career. You’re used to listening to his style and there are some times when you listen to a song and you think yeah, I heard this one. Yup, we found this one. It doesn’t move you, it doesn’t make you excited but then he hits upon the formula and then he starts delivering demos and then you think now, we have to record this one. Oh and I’m very excited about this one too and that just turns into almost… It just makes you the mission. Then you’re rushing into the studio to make a record and at that point is when I applied the brakes and said, “Okay, here’s the thing. If we’re going to go into the studio let’s not just do what we’ve done in the past and just record the best 15 and come out six weeks later with a record. Why don’t we do something different and just record the best four. Almost like take a baby step so that we can convince ourselves that it is the right thing to do.” We were all… none of us was completely convinced that we wanted to make another record and I think that was the big decider. Having decided to only commit to four songs we were only in the studio for 10 days, we recorded the four songs; we came away feeling very good. Then he wrote some more and then we picked the best of the next bunch of materials and then recorded another four and so on and so on. What we did was we gave ourselves a lot of perspective in between each session and it almost changed the shopping list. It was almost a case of well, if we have these songs in the bag, now what do we need? I think we ended up with a much stronger record as a result. I think we retained that sense of perspective in between discussions and I think there’s an argument that says we would record that way again in the future. We did it because we needed to the first time but I think we would probably do it because we want to the second time.


Toddstar: Okay, fair enough. Like you said, you did it blocks. You guys released, at least stateside, eleven great tracks. Looking back at the tunes you guys did release, what’s the one track that you remember being the hardest to put together from beginning to end that wound up on the record?

Danny: Oh, there’s a few actually. What was really interesting about this process was that some songs just wrote themselves and just recorded themselves and it was a no-brainer from the beginning. Those ones you just listen to them and think yup, I know exactly what we’re going to do here and we’re going to go in and it will come out sounding like us dong this version. There was one song which was written at least three times and changed each time. I think it’s a song called “Resurrection Day.” It had three titles and it was a completely different song. There were elements that were retained throughout but it was almost as if it was three different songs. That one, by the time we’d finished recording it, “Resurrection Day,” Luke didn’t know whether or not he was coming or going. He genuinely didn’t know anymore. I said to him, “So are you pleased with this now?” He said “I don’t know anymore, I genuinely don’t know.” It was just… yeah, it was… there’s another one called “Chasing Shadows” which we recorded the first time and once we’d finished it we all looked around to each and said you know, not sure it’s going to get on the album. I thought it was one of the best tunes of the bunch but I’m not sure. Then right at the last minute he rewrote it, changed it and then when we heard that one it was obvious it was going to get on the record. There were a few songs like that. The last song on the album “I Love the Weekend” which is like this kind of… it’s just like us taking on the Status Quo and taking on Led Zeppelin and Little Richard all in one drunken jam. That one, the first time he wrote it, it was completely rejected. We didn’t even record it. It was a rejected demo. Then the second time he said I’ve changed my mind on this one. I’ve just rewritten it completely. I’ve got a funny feeling we’re going to like it and when the band heard it we said yeah, that’s going to go in next week’s session. It was very interesting the way that some of them turned around.

Toddstar: You mentioned two tracks that I really dig.  “Chasing Shadows” I really like because to me it had more of a funky almost sexy groove to it that a lot of your standard rockers don’t have. Your vocals have what I called a smoky vibe.

Danny: I think it’s the kind of song that’s quite unusual for us. I think it’s quite usual song for us and it’s kind of song that we don’t usually get right. If I’m going to be honest, whenever we’ve attempted, we really love that kind of a vibe of a tune, that kind of pace, that kind of tempo. We really, really enjoy that really kind of groove latent thing where you just want to rock backwards and forwards while you’re listening. We don’t always get it right. We’ve not always managed to do that. There’s another song on an earlier album, on our album called The Magnificent Seventh which is called “The Pride” which is a very similar sort of feel. It’s a song that when we recorded it we loved it but when we played it live, we hated it. It’s just very strange, some things work and they just work and other times, they work one way but not the other. It’s very interesting conundrum and I suppose that’s what’s brilliant about the mystery of making music.

Toddstar: Sure. You have a different flavor every day of what may or may not be the new taste.

Danny: Yeah, absolutely.

Toddstar: Looking back, the bands debut release still stands up as one of the great… I grew up in the ‘80s and I still go back and listen to Backstreet Symphony 25 years later. I mean could you guys ever imagine that that would hold up as good as it have?


Danny: No, absolutely not, under no circumstances. I mean to be honest with you, when we made that album we were like kids in the playground. We felt like school had ended early and we’d got off, got out early and we were just running, running riot, really. Ben [Matthews], our guitar player, he made the famous quote about it. He said it was like a party where an album broke out. We just had such a great time when we were making it, completely under managed and over stimulated by Andy Taylor, the guitar player and the producer who basically just said, “No, no, no. Don’t turn it down, turn it up, and just do more.” Whatever you think is not enough just do a bit more than that. It’s just kept pushing, pushing the attitude the whole time and what we ended up with was a completely overdriven experience and we had a great time. We had a thoroughly, thoroughly good time making the record and I think that that… it’s there. I think it’s there in the grooves. Just the celebratory nature of the whole thing is very much there in between the lines. As for the material, I think Luke had probably written a lot of it out of frustration. We were in another band prior to that and we’ve signed a major deal and made two albums in three years or four years or whatever it was and basically made every mistake a band could make. It took a year out and by the time we got to make the first Thunder album, there was a lot of frustration vented in the album. I think that made a big difference as well. We were very determined that we weren’t going to be schooled, we weren’t going to be controlled, and luckily because we had all that kind of anger and all that stuff going on, it just happened to coincide with the point that Guns N’ Roses were out, they’re doing their thing and record companies were looking for almost like a UK version. We’re nothing like Guns N’ Roses but we had a certain amount of angst which came to the fore whenever anybody challenged us. I think they probably misinterpreted it as Guns N’ Roses like maybe, I don’t know.

Toddstar: I tend to think of it more as the sound almost has a piss and vinegar kick to it and I think you guys brought that to wonder days. I think that one of the things that’s able to link your catalog is you guys still have the same rock attitude regardless of what’s going on in the music industry or the musical trends all around you.

Danny: Yeah, well we’ve always had a propensity to ignore what’s going on around us. We make a noise and it’s a noise that comes of the five of us being in a room. We’ve never really thought about it any… well, we have, we thought about it a lot but we’ve always come back to the conclusion that we are what we are. This is the noise we make and it’s a noise that makes us feel good when we’re making it. We never really felt the desire to fiddle with it or change it. It’s that whole kind of if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. A lot of bands I think get a little bit cerebral, maybe they over think it a little bit; they’re trying very hard to maybe write a hit or write something that… or second guess things that people might want. We’ve always been, I would say probably, conceited enough to think that if it makes us feel good then hopefully somebody else will like it. I think that that’s basically there in what we do. It kind of runs right through pretty much everything we do and we haven’t really feel the need to change it so it maybe is arrogant, maybe it’s conceited or maybe we’re just very, very simple souls. I don’t know what the answer is. It just feels right when we play like it is, if you know what I mean. We don’t try to think about it too much. As long it feels like it’s us in the room then that’s probably a good record. Then it’s the case of recording the best material and getting the best performances. Luckily everybody can play and everybody can sing, so when we get in the room, it does feel good. As a man said, if it feels good, it is.

Toddstar: Sure. You guys have some big dates coming up especially you got Download coming up soon, you got some tour dates.

Danny: Yup.

Toddstar: What’s it going to take to get you guys stateside?

Danny: I know. It’s like a $64,000 question. That’s one. If I had that key and that lock, I would unpick it immediately. It’s a bone of contention with us. When you consider that our first album was released and then it was re-released on Geffen a year later and everything was very, very promising and we were going to go out on the road with David Lee Roth and Cinderella and it was going to be fantastic. We even shipped all our equipment. We shipped our bicycles. We shipped everything ready to go to America, for three months. We were going to take it on and it was going to be the most amazing experience and then with a week to go, our American manager rang and said, “You need to unpack.” Grunge has happened, everybody wants Nirvana, and nobody is playing this kind of music anymore. This tour is going to fold in a week. You’re going to get known as the house band on the Titanic.” We’ve basically just sat there and put our heads in our hands and cried. It was the most horrendous blow but since then we’ve never really recovered from that. We’ve never had a release. Probably it’s our first release in America for 20 years with this new album Wonder Days so we’ve very grateful for that. We are under no illusions about how difficult it would be to get to play in America. We know we don’t sell any tickets, nobody knows who we are really so we’re trying to talk to as many people as like you as possible to try to change that in some small way and if we can do that and we can create some kind of a noise, enough of a noise to give anybody a sense of excitement about the idea of putting us onto play we would be there in a heartbeat because we’ve got something to prove, we really do.


Toddstar: With the music you guys have you nothing to prove Danny, nothing at all. The music stands up on its own.

Danny: Well, we feel like we want to get over there and show people what it’s like. We want to basically ram it down your throats, we really do.

Toddstar: I mentioned Download. What’s it like for you guys to be able to plan such a big stage? I mean Castle Donington, that’s huge in the rock world.

Danny: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. We’ve been very fortunate over the years. I mean we did it in 1990 when it was the old Monsters of Rock festival. We did it in ‘92 with Iron Maiden two years later, and that was like a triumphant homecoming because by then the band… we’re about as successful as we’ve ever been in the UK. Then we did it again in, when was it? I think it stopped for a while and then it went away and then it became Download and obviously we weren’t functioning as a band then but we did it in 2009 before we split up the second time and then we did it again in 2013. Each time we’ve played it, we’ve played slightly higher up the bill and then we’re going to get to play it next Friday, Friday week and we’ll be the highest position on the bill we’ve ever been but for us, it’s almost like coming home. It feels very, very natural to play in that venue in front of that crowd. It’s a very special crowd and we love it. It’s the same as any big even to be honest with you. Thunder’s very fortunate in as much as our music suits those big outdoor events and as a front man, it’s like meet and drink for me. Oh look, there’s a lot of people there looking, quick, show off. It’s what I do.

Toddstar: Speaking of touring, what is the couple of songs in the catalog that not necessarily you think were the most popular but are the ones that you always want to be part of a Thunder show?

Danny: Well, there’s some we just cannot do otherwise, the audience will kill us. I think that’s one of the things that happens when you’ve been in the band for 25 years and you’ve released a load of albums. There are some songs that literally you have to play live. It’s what your audience had paid their ticket for. We’ve very mindful of that. One of those would be “Love Walked In,” it’s not my favorite song but I know we have to do it and we know the effect it has on the audience. It’s awe-inspiring the way the audience reacts to that song. That’s of the first album obviously. Interestingly, the new album there’s a song on it, the title track “Wonder Days” is the one we opened with in the new set, and it’s very, very direct and it’s very immediate in terms of the audience reaction. It’s one of those… it’s almost like a statement of intent. That one’s worked very well since we’ve been playing it. We started playing it last October. We’ve tried it for the first time in that position, its number one on the set and it’s been there ever since. The audience literally, you can see them with their mouths open, it’s very good.

Toddstar: Very cool. How different is it to sing “Dirty Love” at 55 than it was at 30, Danny?

Danny: You know something? It doesn’t feel any different to me. I don’t feel any different when I’m singing it. I genuinely don’t. It’s the immediate 10 minutes after it ends when I notice the difference because I can’t stop wiggling my stupid hips around. Around 55 you feel a little bit different after you’ve done that that you did at 25 or 35, yeah, but it’s a great crowd-pleasing tune. It’s almost like you could do it asleep and have a great time. It’s one of those songs.

Toddstar: I know you’re busy so I got one more for you. Looking back through your professional history as musician, not necessarily just Thunder but everything you’ve done, what are the couple of things that you’re most proud of and want to be remembered for musically?


Danny: That’s a very hard one. That’s a very hard one. I think we did some shows where we raised a lot of money where we raise a lot of money for charity. There’s a homeless charity here called Crises and it helps people especially at Christmas time when there’s far too many people living on the streets especially in the cold weather because it does get very cold. I mean not as cold as it gets there in America, in some places but, you know, it’s cold enough for me, I wouldn’t want to be sleeping on the street. When you’re in a situation where you could do a show and you can ask your audience to bring things, not money but blankets and clothes and cans of food and things like that, and when they show up, you get 5000 people bringing stuff and the people from the charity they look at you in wonder and they say, “This is amazing. How did you manage to get these people to do this?” We said, “We just asked them. We told them what the problem was and we asked them and they’re good people.” That’s a good thing. For me that gives me the best feeling. You make records, yes, of course you take it all very seriously and you want to sell records and you’re very fortunate to have a career where you get paid to do the thing you love, that is brilliant. It’s not life changing. It’s not worthy in the same way as so many people who do very worthy jobs that go unrecognized. If you can find a way to do something every now and then using your kind of… and celebrity is the wrong word, but your power and your popularity over fans, if you can do that and make money for a worthy cause then that’s a very good feeling. We’ve been very fortunate over the years. We do charitable things every now and again. We don’t make a big deal of it but our friends have always been very helpful and they do give and we give our time and that for me is probably, which should just sound too cheesy, I think if you can have a nice time and do a good thing at the same time then everybody wins.

Toddstar: I’d agree. I wouldn’t expect any less humble an answer from you, Danny.

Danny: You’re very kind, sir, you’re very kind.

Toddstar: We wish you well at Download. We wish you will with the continued success of Wonder Days and we hope that everybody out there wakes up, picks up a copy and does something about getting you guys over here, especially here in Detroit.

Danny: We would love to come. Listen, if somebody offers me just the beginnings of the essence of the sentence. All he has to say is we were wondering if you fancied coming over, we’d say yes. Literally, are we there? When? What’s the date?

Toddstar: Excellent. Again, thank you so much for your time, Danny and hopefully, we’ll talk to you soon.

Danny: You sir, are a gentleman. Thank you very much indeed.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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