The Story So Far…

After launching this very website last month, I’ve had a lot of questions from the mailing list members ask me about my back story, “Where are you from?” “What’s your history?” that kind of thing. So here it is...

Where It All Started...

If I think back far enough, I think the seed of wanting to become a musician/songwriter/in a band was sewn whilst watching Back to the Future for the first time. So many musicians tell you it was the first time they saw (insert band/artist here) play on TV, or when they saw their first live show. For me it was watching Marty McFly busting out Johnny B Goode at the Enchantment Under The Sea dance.

After a few years of plugging away on my guitar and putting together “bands” in school with friends, (most of whom didn’t play an instrument), I finally managed to find myself in an actual proper serious band back in the wild old days of 2005.

We were called The Wonderfuls and we worked our balls off for 4 straight years before the strain that comes with being penniless musicians finally broke our will and we went our separate ways.

The Wonderfuls (L-R: Sam Funnell, Me, Jason King)

A Glimpse of the Big Time...

For a while, we were on a really exciting hot streak where some pretty amazing stuff happened for us. We had the likes of Dermot O’Leary and Mark Lamarr play our tunes on BBC Radio 2. We were mentioned as “Ones to watch” in the NME and we had a run of festival appearances in the south west, playing with bands like John Butler Trio, Athlete and even Goldie Lookin’ Chain.

Then the big one happened and somehow (we were never quite sure how), we found ourselves nominated for the BT Digital Music Awards: Best Unsigned Artist award through Channel 4. As luck and a lot of hard graft would have it, we ended up getting a call one day to say we’d won. Once the news broke, everyone we knew in the music industry told us this was our big break.

I can still remember the feeling the 3 of us had when we rolled up to the Roundhouse in Camden on the night of the show. As soon as we passed through security, a swarm of roadies grabbed all our gear from the back of the van and hauled it off to the huuuuuge stage inside, without us having to lift a finger. Considering we’d spent the last 18 months lugging huge amps up and down stairs, this was probably one of our favourite moments.

Just then our “man” whose only job for the day was to look after us appeared out of nowhere and shook us all by the hand. Sadly, his name escapes me, but I remember us all asking him. “So…really, your whole job today is to look after us?” He’d say “Yes.” and we’d go “Come on, seriously you must have some other stuff to do?” and he’d say “Nope” and we’d all look at each other and giggle, before asking again just to make sure.

Later, we sat down to a slap up dinner and champagne, before the show itself started and our category was announced. With butterflies buzzing in our bellies, we were called up to the stage and handed our award by that bloke off the TV, Alex Zane. After we gave our nervous but steady speech, we then headed over to our instruments to play our one song of the night.

(Skip to 4:49)

I remember having a little “moment” while we were performing. I looked out to see Peter Gabriel sitting in the front row looking right at me. If you watch the video, you’ll notice I spent most of the performance with my eyes closed trying my best not to freak out and get through the song without falling over.

After we finished we were ushered backstage to find the press were waiting for us. After the best part of an hour being swept from one interview to the next, we were finally allowed back to our table to enjoy the rest of the night.

Looking at the table plan that night, we literally performed in front of every major music company you could name. I remember saying “Boys…if we don’t get somewhere after this, then we never will...” and sadly, that’s exactly what happened.

Where We Went Wrong...

Despite our successes, I think we ultimately came along a little too late. By the time we got around to working on tracks for our album, the landscape had shifted. Radio 1’s playlist committee had declared they were no longer going to play any new guitar bands. It was a time when synth based pop was coming back and our brand of quirky, blues pop fell by the wayside. As a result we were under pressure to move with the times and update our sound.

It was at this point where we all started to lose our enthusiasm. We were happy when we were making the music we loved, but the new changes meant we were churning out material none of us were really that inspired by. After more than a year of recording our hearts just weren’t in it anymore.

We ended up calling it a day in spring of 2009. We all went off to do our own thing and I pretty much stepped away from music for several years. I did some travelling and focused on other things and barely even touched an instrument until around 2012 when I started playing again.

The Beginnings of “Howl..."

I started out with no serious intentions, no "trying to write a hit single” or anything along those lines, I would just pick up my guitar and play for fun. Naturally over the course of a year I found myself with about 30 or 40 demos which I thought had a little magic to them. Just me with an acoustic guitar and a drum machine.

I had most of the songs that ended up on the album, but as you might imagine, they sounded waaaay different acoustically. It wasn’t until one night, I had a random dream where the sound of the album, (or what the album would become) and it's name came to me out of nowhere. As absolutely crazy as that sounds, I woke with the word ‘Howl’ echoing in my ears and a vague memory of the sound of one of the songs as if it had been fully recorded, complete with dirty distorted vocals and filthy guitars.

A while later, with this fresh vision in mind, I headed out to Nice, in France and booked up some time at The Cave, an awesome little recording studio run by my mate Scott.

With 10 songs in the bag, I headed back to the UK and called up an old buddy of mine, Ace, who you might know as the guitarist in Skunk Anansie. He's one of those guys who owns a million guitar pedals and can squeeze pretty much any sound imaginable out of a guitar. We spent a few days together at Headline Music Studios in Cambridge putting the finishing touches on what would eventually become my debut album "Howl.”

The First Solo Gig…

After I got the final mixes back, I sent a copy down to my old mate Nick, in Cornwall. He’d managed The Wonderfuls for a while back in ’06 and put us on at some great festival shows. I remember Nick had been a big fan of Reef (one of my all-time favourite bands), so I thought he might like the new big riffy sound on the album.

A few days later, Nick called me up bubbling over with enthusiasm for the album. When the topic of Reef came up, he said…

"You know they’re playing down here in August? I know the guy putting on the gig, wanna open up for them?”

Now…to say, I adore that band is an understatement. Anybody who’s been on a long car journey with me will have been subject to me hijacking the stereo and insisting we all listen to ‘Naked’ from their first album Replenish (also incidentally, my favourite guitar riff of all time). Usually what follows is a long rambling speech about how Reef were Britain’s last great guitar band and deserve equal levels of praise alongside Led Zep and The Rolling Stones (trust me, they do) 😉

So, after breaking out in a sweat and responding with a…

“Erm…yes please!”

I realised having not played any gigs by this point, I had to get my live show together. The only stipulation that came with the gig? I had to play a solo, one man set. With Howl being full of big riffs and distorted guitars, it’s not like I could really play an acoustic set. I needed to find a way of getting a big sound on my own, so I turned to an old friend: Bernie Goodfellow.

Playing Guitar & Bass At The Same Time!

Bernie is a master guitar maker from Brighton. Having built a guitar for me years ago from scratch, I knew he’d be able to come up with something to help.

Now, without revealing the secrets of what Bernie built for me, I ended up with an instrument that gave me the sound of both a guitar and a bass at the same time. Plugging it in for the first time, I was blown away. Not only did the guitar sound fat and dirty, it also had the depth and range of a bass.

Combining my new Über Guitar™, with some floor based triggers to give me big, fat kick drum sound, I finally got the big sound I needed.

That night, not only did I get to play for a huge, warm crowd, I also got to watch one of my all-time favourite bands do their thing. A great night, memorable night all round!

The Goal, The Future & How You Can Help...

As you might have noticed, everywhere you look people are saying that the music industry is dead or at the very least dying a slow and steady death. With mp3s and the internet, record sales are way down, which makes funding new music, bands and artists extremely difficult.

So with this album I decided to try something new. Instead of putting the album up on iTunes and having them take a huge cut, or putting the album on Spotify and barely getting a 10th of a penny per play, I’ve decided to try doing this my own way.

So, I hear you ask, “Tom, how can I help?”

It’s very easy. I set myself the goal of selling 1,000 copies of Howl, right here through this website. If I can do that, then I’ll have achieved two things…

1. I’ll know that there’s enough people out there that want to listen to my music
2. I’ll take that as my cue to record album #2.

It really is as simple as clicking THIS LINK and grabbing a copy of the album.

If times are tough and you can’t stretch to picking up a copy, then I’d love it if you could take THIS LINK and spread it around Facebook and Twitter, maybe even email your friends who you think might like the album. There’s a bunch of free music and videos you can get access to, and I answer each and every comment on the website.

So remember, you won’t find Howl on iTunes, Spotify, Beats or anywhere else for that matter. You can only get the album on this very website.

In what has ended up as a mammoth post, I’m truly honoured and impressed you made it this far. I never dreamed this would end up being so long but thanks for sticking with me. Hopefully, there’ll be another blog post someday saying how I sold my 1000 copies of the album and am now hard at work on the sequel 🙂

Please do feel free to leave any comments below, I’d love to hear from you.

Tom x

Listen To The Album Below...

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  • Mick Napier

    Ah! I wasn’t making it up! I’ve been raving on about the Uber Guitar to everybody that will listen…. I was hooked on that sound from the first note during your sound check 🙂 It sort of went like this: Strum….. “WHOAAA!”

    • Haha, cool, who needs a bass player when you have an Uber Guitar? 🙂

  • Aynsley Cooper

    Tom, all the best with this – you have my support, looking forward to listening.

  • bondisdead

    What? No song title with a subtle Bond reference?!

    • Haha, you might find a hidden lyric or two in there somewhere 😉