Last year came the Resurrection Man.
This year, The World Is A Mirror.
But who are Boardwalk Isabella and what makes them tick?
The answer, I found out, lies with the eloquently brilliant musical Colossus that is James C Hughes...
So to kick off - What's in the pipeline for Boardwalk Isabella? I see interview links and radio play mentions popping up on my Twitter feed regularly. Is there an imminent new single/album/tour announcement?
Yes, there will be some announcements very soon. We have primed the launch pad with an incredible amount of radio plays in 179 countries in the world, and it is currently hitting a peak right now at 50 a day, which is extraordinary really for an unsigned band with no Promo people or Hypers working the angles. As you are aware also, lots of interview requests both in print and on radio, most notably from the US, have come in, which gives oxygen to our faith in the music and the reception it is receiving, knowing that we must be doing something right.
We have already recorded our debut album, Headed For The Promised Land, mastered by Pete Maher of Rolling Stones, U2, Beady Eye, Depeche Mode fame, which is slated for release later in the year, with the proviso that we are in a position to make the release really count. And we have also just finished a fairly lengthy set of auditions to find the right people to make up the personnel to take Boardwalk Isabella out on the road. Our latest recruits, Sarah Devonshire, who sung gospel backing vocals on the forthcoming album, will also play piano, and Danilo Mazzone, our second Italian recruit who joins fellow countryman and bassist Gigi Casanova, is joining us on Keys.
Our intention is to unleash this 9 piece rock funk monster on the road as soon as effectively possible and if we manage to pull off all the different aspects of the stage show that we have planned, and I don't see why not, it is going to be amazing. To this end we would welcome approaches from venues and live booking agents to make this intention reality. However, if we don't find the right working arrangements, and or people hungry and positive enough to work with, we will do what we have done thus far, subvert the conventional and take on the challenge of promoting it ourselves, finding interesting venues and situations to put on our shows, and where we will gradually build the field of dreams, and create the atmosphere and desire strong enough that the people will come to see what we have built, feel the vibe and embrace the band.
Let's say you have the chance to play the show of a lifetime - any venue, any country. You've got a private plane and limitless funds. Where are you going, who's on your guest list and what's on your rider?
VENUE Red Rocks, Morrison, Colorado - quite simply, the coolest, most atmospheric amphitheatre on Earth.
GUEST LIST David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, John Fogerty, Little Richard, Paul Rodgers, Andy Fraser, Keith Richards, Nile Rogers, Brian Wilson, David Lynch, Guy Ritchie, Beatrice Dalle, George Clinton, Fanny Ardant, Honor Blackman, Andrew Roachford, William Shatner, Burt Reynolds, Will Self, Holland Dozier and Holland, Bryan Cranston, Larry Blackmon, Marvin Hagler, Chris Eubank, Neil Young, Brian May, Eric Cantona, Paul Whitehouse, Barry Gibb, Ian Hunter, Judge Judith Sheinlin, Petri- Byrd-Hawkins, Robert Downey Jnr, Christopher Walken, Lemmy, Nancy Sinatra, Bootsy Collins, Daphne Guinness, Kevin Spacey, Krister Henriksson and his good lady wife, Billy Bob Thornton, Patty Smith, Malcom McDowell, Chrissie Hynde, John Lydon, Barbara Streisand, Samuel L Jackson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Helen Mirren and Holograms of Patrick McGoohan, Johnny Cash, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, Elvis and Jimi Hendrix.
There would also be V.I.P passes for a special section of our Twitter follower/fans/friends - they know who they are, but include Jerome at Radio KC, JL Hensley and Sully McFly at the 365 Radio Network, and Sherry Sabine at New Driven, in recognition of their incredible support, generosity of spirit and faith.
RIDER: Noel Gallagher and Fenners to be hired to do stand up routines for the guests (It would have been Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Hicks, but like so many of the guests who would have been invited to the Backstage festivities, they had the temerity to leave the scene of the time too early. Pause. Selfish Bastards) Anton Corbijn to be given a roving license to get snap happy.
Open plan games area with 'Go Large' size vintage edition of Twister - can you imagine? Two-lane Bowling Alley, Simon Cowell Dart Board ™ Crib-Shove Ha'ppeny-Pub Skittles Multi Centre, Poker Tables and 12 sets of marked cards (info withheld from guests). Rock Ola Juke Box filled to the brim with Motown, early Rock and Roll, T Rex and The Clash. Retro Pinball machines with Tilt disabled. 1st Edition Space Invaders Arcade Game. Two American size Pool Tables.
Late 1950s/ 60s arthouse and 'head' movies such as Jazz on A Summer's Day and Barbarella, intercut with a video montage of Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer saying ‘dammit’ on a loop, to be played silently on plasma screens dotted throughout.
A separate area backstage to be given over to a mood-lit luxury Berber Tent complete with chandeliers, velvet chaise longues, club armchairs, silk banquettes and Oak dining tables
A vegetarian extravaganza to be provided with no apology whatsoever to those who normally prefer a bit of sentient being with their roast tatties. A Ben and Jerry's Concession. Bollinger and Puligny Monrachet for those that don't attend meetings on the quiet, Purified Water for those that do (It's the new Jack Daniels). Ice troughs with a selection of mysterious Belgian beers. A party Barrel of chocolate buttons with pictures of Marshall Mathers on, just for the craic of it. A Cornucopia of chopped Mango and Papaya. Overly generously proportioned silver salver of Turkish delight, Industrial size tray of Lilac and Orange Creams.
Fresh Jasmine, Stargazer Lilies, and desert blooms draped everywhere.
Do you have a life mantra, or a few words of wisdom you have been given that you live by and will always remember?
From all the songwriter notebooks, exercise books and scraps of paper I have lying around the place, I could probably put together a self-help mega-tome of life mantras, collected, like many of my ideas and lyrical snippets, from every conceivable media, human encounter, and pantheon of lessons learned and unlearned out in the big wide yonder. But some of the most meaningful to me, that I would like to share, sound simple in the reading, but gain greater currency, poignancy and momentum in the doing and being, because they are, at least for me, the most difficult...
With Grace and Gratitude
Embrace The Uncertainty.
“What so fragrant, what so intoxicating as possibility”(Kierkegaard)
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way” ― William H. Murray
“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it” (Goethe)
“The World Is A Mirror” (Hughes, and others)
“There is only ever Now” (Eckhart Tolle/Ram Daas)
You have such a rich, deeply textured sound. Tell me more about your songwriting process, where you find your inspiration for the lyrics, how all the elements come together layer by layer and how they are all meshed together.
The song writing creative process is where it's at for me. I just love surrendering to the flow state necessary to receive and work with inspiration. Time and date means nothing, and it is in that moment where I am happiest, totally in the now. And it starts with the dedication and discipline to do the work. As Somerset Maugham said when asked when does he feel inspired, “Every morning at 9am when I sit down at my writing desk to work."
When I began the writing of our album, Headed For The Promised Land, I was living in France, and had invested in a little home recording set up and some guitars. I sat down and thought about my time, apprenticeship if you like, being a sideman in many bands, and asked myself, what can you do yourself? Even though I had been in a lot of 'cool'/ 'underground'/'cultish' bands, I didn't want to make music on those margins or set my compass to garner acceptance among that community specifically. Instead, I made a really firm commitment to write and play the type of music that was and is always the closest to my heart, and which has influenced the young mini me, forming powerful lasting impressions. At the precise moment of this affirmation, the birth of this two-bit manifesto, I felt a weight lift from me, almost in magical way, picked up my acoustic guitar and immediately wrote our first single, Resurrection Man. From that day forth, with a big smile and more twinkle in my eye, than bloodshot, I 'allowed' this homespun credo to hold sway, set about mining the twin seams of rock and funk that had always informed my personal musical preferences, and thus, the sound of Boardwalk Isabella was born.
As you say, it is rich and deeply textured. When I came to record the album I moved back to the UK and set up again this time to turn these 'unplugged' compositions into a cohesive body of of recorded work, electrified. The recording process was initially a solo affair with me playing all the instruments, programming drums, playing percussion, bass, rhythm guitars, piano, synths and laying down one track at a time with a very real vibey performance, which many who have heard our first two singles comment on. They have a very distinct energy. I built each song from the ground up, and what was most interesting at the time, began responding to and embracing the organic changes, mistakes, and serendipitous errors that occurred during the recording, and so each track became it's own little magical mystery tour, taking me where it needed to be, which was very exciting! Later Nathan Porter (lead guitar) came on board to deliver the searing solos, and Sarah Devonshire, Marie Thorpe and Susie Jean Hughes came in to lay down the
Gospel-style backing vocals - an element that is core to me and my songs, being some of the favourite things on some of my most favourite records.
I won't go song by song, but in general my lyrics flow naturally, thankfully. and bear witness to my love of the attitude and quality of the written word set against music, which was passed to me by my mother who showed me the power of the '3 minute story' in the very best of country and western songs - a vital grounding. They reflect my passion, playfulness and mischief-making with words and meaning and beyond to my love affair with Americana, particularly the Deep South, retro culture and vintage existence, fascination with the New Frontier in whatever form, Supernatural power, mysticism, love, religion, a yearning for something just out of reach, connecting with the personal and the everyman - detached and engaged emotions - imagined states of mind as seen through the lens of a London guy, with the bit between his teeth, grit in the shell and ache in the heart, channelling experience as nostalgia.
My background is key to them, I guess; raised a lo-fi son of God (lapsed and transmuted, so I'm not getting measured for a halo anytime soon) by immigrant arrivistes, and who found himself influenced by the exploration of space, curiosity writ large, awe and wonder and wounding, and finally ‘home’ in music, later to become an ersatz Bowie/Bolan child, stranger than fiction. I escaped with the leash still tethered, bred in the bone dark spots, unidentified unresolved soul fissures, staring naked and blinded by the sun in the garden of good and evil. All super rich grist to a songwriter’s mill. But don't let me hear you say life is taking you nowhere... I’m not running from the shadows, just grateful that my life palette, and therefore my ability to describe it, is made up from and informed by these many colours tattooed on by life's events.
If you had to sum up Boardwalk Isabella in 140 characters, Twitter - style, what would you say?
We are Boardwalk Isabella, the grooviest rocknroll band on the planet - in the sweet spot between Chic & Led Zeppelin #AllinWithaNutHand ☆