Interviewing Pete Williams, previously of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, is undeniably cool. His knowledge and talent coupled with his longevity in the music industry make such occurrences rare and cherished. He, as a solo artist, along with his band, have enjoyed great successes such as being the special guests of The Proclaimers during their recent 32-date sold out UK tour, having Richard Hawley of Pulp on guitar for the first solo album and singer Imelda May including one of his songs in her set and declaring lovingly her support for Pete. I chatted with him about finding his place in music, his recent solo album and what is coming up next for him.
How did you come to start playing the music?
I was given a Clarinet when I was 10 and took lessons at school, it meant I got out of Maths for half an hour…double whammy!
After reading the book ‘That’ll be the day’ by Ray Connolly (and later a film starring David Essex) aged 14, I bought a bass guitar for £15 off an older kid at school. It was a Kay Sunburst and it was lovely.
I was soon being asked by older Chaps to play in bands that serviced the many Labour and working men’s clubs that thrived in the Black Country around that time, playing mostly chart hits. Working most weekends.
A few years later I bought a second hand 6 string guitar, a David Bowie songbook to learn chords and started writing my own songs.
Saw the Sex Pistols in Wolverhampton when I was 17 and started my own band after that.
How would you describe your musical sound/voice?
A bit Hoarse at the mo… I can only sing if I’m in the song and feeling what it’s about, I hope I’m mostly in tune and people can feel an authenticity. I wish I could fit my music into a neat little genre but each song that I write comes from somewhere that keeps moving, and I like so many different styles of music, and that’s apparent in the songs that it’s hard to say.
A reviewer in Manchester called it ‘Oak soaked pre rock’ which I quite liked….
How about ‘ postbopglamfolkphunk’ ?
Whatever people call it, it doesn’t matter.
What would you like people to take away after listening to your most recent album, ‘Roughnecks and Roustabouts’?
Whatever reflections they find in the lyrics and music, I know that many people find a lot that they can relate to in my songs, Love, loss, joy…universal feelings ‘Roughnecks’ addresses some personal things that have happened to me, and there are songs about entering the world of work as a 15 yr old, some recollections of time spent in bands and subsequent ‘success” and how that’s perceived, but it’s also a very forward looking album too, and it’s beautifully played and produced by people that I’m very fortunate to be working with.
How do you find the music scene has changed since you started in it?
I don’t think the music scene has changed a great deal in essence since I started.
There were TV talent shows then and there are now, there was pure pop and also powerful social commentary in music then and now. There was a sea of purposely vacuous easily digested and discarded stuff then, there’s an ocean of it now. There is a massive amount of talented artists and producers ‘out there’ expressing themselves, you just have a much larger pond to fish in now.
The Industry has changed however, as has the way that music is consumed, I have also seen the whole PR and plugging industry grow massively over the last 15 years as the value of music and artists has dropped generally.
The Internet shook everything up, but it’s there and along with social media and blogs etc is a powerful tool. To quote The Venerable Bede…”you can’t put the Genie back in the bottle”!
Have you any plans to record another solo album?
I have just finished my third, up in Sheffield, it’s the best thing I’ve done.
What’s up next for DEXYS?
I really haven’t a clue, I left two years ago.
Any more plans to perform? What’s up next?
I’m planning the release of my album in the early part of next year, and putting everything into making sure that it’s noticed in the vast stratosphere of new music that’s released every month. I’m going to approach this one differently, I’m speaking to promoters and venues about a subsequent tour as well as some visual artists and film makers ,so watch this space for news of that and other stuff…
You can catch Pete at The Music Port Festival on the 21st October in Whitby! Get tickets here.
Or, you can catch him here.
Listen to him here.