|Yours Truly KJS with Electric Live Orchestra ...|
#228: Hello ... Hello ... my old friends ... It's great to see you once again! ELO Beatles Forever [ELOBF] is very pleased to bring you an interview with local ELO tribute band: The Electric Live Orchestra. Yours Truly KJS caught up with the talented quintet recently at a certain public house in Wolverhampton and put these questions to them:
KJS: Firstly; please tell me about the personalities in the band?
John: Dave is the creator of the band; Mel is the backbone and “hummer” [Ha Ha!]; Bernie is the “newbie” with lots of experience and he’s the joker; Gary [‘Gaz’] is “the main man” and I am the “puppy” who has obtained 40 years of musical experience in 14 years [at 27!] and the good looking one!
Gaz: Well, firstly we have Dave a.k.a. “the Gaffer” - and we let him think he is! Dave is a perfectionist; he makes us work hard, but that’s why the band is so good. He also plays, sings and looks a lot like Kelly - which is good! Mel is great; you don’t have to worry about me with Mel around! He is solid, reliable and loud! Mel doesn’t try to be flash, he just plays what should be played; perfect for ELO! As long as he gets his pint at the end of a gig; he’s happy! John is the comedian in the band. He’s great at impressions and stuff; he should be in a comedy band! John is a super guitarist and we work well together. There’s a kind of healthy competition between us plus he’s not a bad singer either! Bernie has made a great difference to us. He was a hero of mine when I was a kid; although back then he played guitar - a very talented guy!
Bernie: Dave is the driving musical force of the band. Mel is ‘solid as a rock’ percussion; Johnny is guitarist extraordinaire and ‘puppy’! Gary is also guitarist extraordinaire and twin ‘puppy’ to Johnny! I am the ‘midfielder’ who came out of retirement to add some pretty chords and vocals to the band.
KJS: What are the bands musical influences other than ELO?
Dave: The Beatles; Tamla Motown
Gaz: Believe it or not; Glam rock influenced me a lot! Rock ‘n’ Roll should be fun; that is why we all got into it in the first place. I don’t take things too seriously! When it stops being fun; I’ll stop doing it!
Bernie: Trapeze; Glenn Hughes; Mel Galley; Black Eyed Peas; Jethro Tull; Yes; Snow Patrol. Bernie has no musical boundaries!
Mel: My personal influences in the music scene are Journey; Foreigner; Toto; Boston and generally the American rock genre.
KJS: Are any of you guys presently involved in other musical adventures and [if so] what are they?
Gaz: At the moment; I am writing a few songs for my nephew who is just starting his musical adventure. I am hoping to include him in our show at “The Range”. Feel free to check him out on YouTube: Adam Dean.
Bernie: I’ve been the resident DJ at Gilberts in Willenhall for many years. Dave and Johnny have been gigging as a duo for some time too.
KJS: Your set list includes a wide range of well-known ELO songs. But what other ELO songs would you like to attempt live on stage and what tracks do you plan to perform in future?
Dave: “Poker”, “Don’t Walk Away” [unplugged], “Poor Boy [The Greenwood]”, “Big Wheels”
John: “Poker”, “Big Wheels”, “Eldorado”, “Here Is The News”
Gaz: There are so many ELO songs that we could do. I would love to do “Midnight Blue”, “Shangri-La”, “So Fine” and “Here Is The News”
Bernie: “Alright” from “Zoom”, “Secret Messages” and “Don’t Walk Away” would be mine.
KJS: What work goes into your interpretation of the ELO ‘sound’ on stage?
Gaz: Anyone who has seen us will know that “we rock them up a bit!” We try to get a live feel instead of sounding like the record - and it seems to work! Really it’s just us playing ELO songs the way we like to play them. We have two rock guitarists and this gives us that ‘edge’ - especially on the earlier stuff. We also sneak some extra harmony lead guitars in - just because we can! We always have great nights.
Bernie: Dave and I arrange the songs; Mel deals with the best ‘live’ interpretation of the drumming; Gaz and Johnny [‘the puppies’] try to add their unique guitar work.
KJS: How did the band come into being?
Dave: I worked with the band “Finders Keepers”; discovered Gary “Puppy” Mitchell and introduced John “Puppy” Will. And the rest - they say - is history!
KJS: Please tell me about your musical journeys?
Dave: I’ve worked with local bands: “Fable”; “Tears” and “Soul Machine” besides - of course - “Finders Keepers”!
John: I started to play the guitar at the age of 8 years; I was taught by my father. I was brought up with “The Shadows” then I progressed into rock guitar covering the likes of Steve Vai; Joe Satriani; John Petrucci and Steve Lukather. At 14 years of age; I joined the “Tears” show group as a lighting engineer and became a massive fan of ELO; Queen; John Parr and Phil Collins. It was then that I started to get up on stage with the band and do a couple of ELO songs. At the age of 17; I joined up with Dave Bates to form a club duo that has been going now for 11 years.
Gaz: My journey started one day in 1977 when I was 14. I heard a record on the radio that really changed my life. That record was “My Baby Left Me” by “Slade” - not the Elvis version! - a three chord stomper with that fantastic voice of Noddy Holder. I immediately dragged my satellite ‘Les Paul’ copy from under the bed and I’ve pretty much had a guitar in my hand ever since! I had already formed a band before I left school. We were not that good but we were good enough to convince my uncle Brian; who was a great singer; to be our manager. Brian had been is some good bands in the sixties and seventies: “Finders Keepers” and “Lady Jane and the Royalty” to name but two. He soon had us playing and singing at a very good standard. We had several successful years that included record company interest. We met Kelly [Groucutt] a few times during this period [more later] when we were called: “Ashley”. Since then I have played in many different bands: “Shy With The Girls” [cabaret]; “Ballzy” [3-piece rock]; “Fat Chance” [blues band] and most recently a new line-up of “Finders Keepers”. Last year; “Ashley” reunited to do a few gigs; kind of a 30 year anniversary! It was great fun.
Bernie: I was born in Walsall; West Midlands and I played piano from age 8 as well as trumpet from age 12 and guitar from age 16! I’d planned to be a professional trumpet player but picked up the guitar which was much more ‘hip’! I played in local bands around the Midlands up to 1980 before going pro with “Sight ‘n’ Sound”; travelling the UK and Europe with them. At that time I also did some session work for ‘BRMB Radio’ and ‘Central TV’. I left “Sight ‘n’ Sound” in 1985 and joined local band “Tears” whilst doing a lot of promo work for M&B brewery. Sometime later; both I and Dave Bates began rehearsing with Kelly Groucutt to form his version of ELO. However, I think legal matters got in the way and the rest is history! By saying this; I do not want to be seen as jumping on the ELO ‘bandwagon’ - I would sooner run a London marathon on my knuckles!
Mel: I started playing the guitar at the age of 14. I was inspired by my dad; who had been a fantastic drummer playing in swing bands since his early twenties. I followed in his footsteps and started playing together with some school friends at the age of 17. Drumming has been a hobby of mine for many years and it has given me the opportunity to do what I love with some great people; who have also become great long term friends!
KJS: Have any of you come across ELO members; past or present?
Dave: Kelly Groucutt!
John: I’ve met Kelly Groucutt – a long time family friend - loads of times at various clubs and pubs.
Gaz: During the early “Ashley” days; we would have get-togethers at a pub in Tividale [near Dudley] called “The Plough”. Our manager Brian was a good friend of Kelly [Groucutt], although he always called him Mick. Occasionally; Mick would join us for a drink. I remember that it was quite exciting for us when he walked in with his big ELO necklace and his acoustic guitar with ‘ELO’ stamped all over the case! He even let us play it! I’ve never thought about it before but I have probably played a guitar that featured on a lot of ELO records – cool!
Bernie: Kelly Groucutt. A really nice man. God bless him.
Mel: I have had the great pleasure of meeting Kelly Groucutt through a musician and very dear friend of mine: Terry Garvey.
KJS: I have stated before that in between tours by “The Orchestra” and other ELO related acts; there is nothing better than attending a gig by a reputable ELO tribute act and that there is plenty of room for more than one such group. Indeed; whilst “The ELO Experience” bring forth the ELO album ‘sound’ live; my personal opinion is that the “Electric Live Orchestra” truly recreate ELO’s raw; rock-edged live Seventies ‘sound’ and are also a credit to the song writing of Jeff Lynne. What is the crowd reaction to and feedback like at your gigs?
John: The reaction and feedback is always good wherever we go. Whether they are ELO fans or not; they still enjoy our approach to performing ELO songs.
Bernie: I never cease to be amazed at the enthusiasm of audiences. The expectation seems to build with every gig we do.
Mel: Reactions to our performances are very positive and lively. On numerous occasions they have resulted in future gigs being booked at the same venue in advance and tickets being sold out.
KJS: A question I always ask next ... What are your personal favourite ELO tracks individually and as a band?
Dave: Too many to mention!
John: “Nightrider”, “Poker”, “10538 Overture”, “Ma Ma Ma Belle”, “Wild West Hero” and “Turn To Stone”
Gaz: My personal favourites are the earlier ones. My fave albums are “Face The Music”, “A New World Record”, “Out Of The Blue” and “Discovery” although there is also some superb guitar work on “Zoom”
Bernie: My personal favourite is “Poker”!
Mel: I don’t have any particular favourite tracks. I enjoy playing the set as a whole and the atmosphere created at our performances.
KJS: Your gigs are predominantly in ELO’s Midlands heartland. But are you planning to develop and take your show out across the UK nationally?
John: We travel all over the UK and would love to do Europe and the USA.
Bernie: I feel we need a promoter with a good track record to push the band on. On a personal note; I would really like us to record some original music so as to give us our own identity but without compromising the tribute side of the band.
KJS: How can prospective venues; agents and/or promoters contact you – and - how can folks find out where and when the “Electric Live Orchestra” are playing?
John: They can visit our Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/pages/Electric-Live-Orchestra-tribute-band/106997872654268
One common thread I think that you will notice throughout this interview is the influence - both musically and personally - of the late, great Kelly Groucutt. This interview is dedicated to the memory of Mick 'Kelly' Groucutt. Once again, my wholehearted thanx are extended to the band for sparing their time and agreeing to participate in this interview.