By BRUCE DENNILL
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
I am an Eighties boy. I was influenced by bands like Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, A-ha, Simple Minds and more – I lived their songs and music videos! I would act them out in my bedroom for hours and hours. I would do live concerts in my room to thousands of imaginary fans. I could feel it! This went on until a quirky, naughty, rebellious boy left Take That in the early Nineties and embarked on a solo career. I loved Robbie Williams even when he was awful! He could do no wrong in my eyes. He performed on a stage in exactly the same manner that I imagined I would do it. I loved his songs. I identified with the things he sang about and talked about. I was and am a true fan. He’s naughty but nice; edgy, and a bit of a loose canon. Not the best singer in the world, but I used to wait for the next song, the next release, the next album. Who would he piss off next? What would he sing about? What would the single be called? I was like a kid on Christmas Eve!
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
I am still a huge Robbie fan, although with age it has calmed down to a reasonable appreciation and anticipation of what he’ll do next. But I love pop! Always have. From the early Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Soft Cell albums I developed a love for funky synth pop songs. These songs contained sounds that made me feel emotions. I would wait for that one stab – Owner Of A Lonely Heart by Yes; that chord hit – anything by Alphaville; or that deep bass sound – Oh Yeah by Yello – that would cause me to adopt some bizarre dance move that felt much cooler than it looked. I really feel music! I appreciate any song that has a catchy hook, a good melody, good production, a vibe and an energy – anything that makes me want to act out in some way because of the feeling that it evokes. This ranges from Don’t Give Up by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, which makes me want to weep and wail in similar manner to how both artists are singing, to Rock DJ by Robbie, which just makes me want to groove and thrust and strut!
Name one song you wish you’d written or which you’d like to be known as the definitive interpreter of. What makes that song so important?
Angels by Robbie Willians. It’s the perfect love anthem. A song that people play at an intimate wedding because it’s so romantic and a song that I would give anything to perform to a stadium of thousands because it has such anthemic power. What a chorus!
In production and arrangement terms, what are facets of your music and the music you love most by others that you feel are crucially important in terms of creating the mood you’re after or supporting the message of your song?
The production and the melody or structure must have tension and mood. It must have those moments of push and pull. Moments of suspense that build and then explode and release. The song must make the listener want to add sounds and notes and harmonies of their own. It must make them want to contribute to it.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the are the most memorable parts of your songs?
If a song has a good hook and melody the lyrics become secondary for me. I’m not so concerned with what the song means or what the singer or writer is trying to say, but rather how it makes me feel and what it makes me want to say. This isn’t always the case, of course. Sometimes the lyrical content is what makes a song. I just prioritise hook, melody and groove.
What’s your favourite piece of gear?
Microphone. When I hold one I’m fully alive and good to go!
What is the story behind I Might Like It – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
Mark firmly believes in authenticity. This song taps into my energy, my sense of fun and mischief, and my ability to not take myself too seriously and to find humour and silliness in most things. He had the idea and he had me in mind. All he needed to do was write a groovy, catchy hit song to capture all of that. And that’s exactly what he did.