After a successful comeback tour last year, the reformed original line-up of Red Guitars are about to embark on a second U.K. tour in September with support from Liverpool’s The Room, a pairing which toured the UK almost forty years ago.
Ahead of the tour, itm? caught up with the five original members to discuss the reunion so far, the 40th anniversary remix of debut single ‘Good Technology’, their future plans, and … what they’d say to one-time tour-mate Morrisey if they met him in the street now!
itm?: Steve Homer, CEO of AEG, is a long term RGs fan and made the tour offer that led to the original line-up reforming, but how easy was it to get everyone together again? Were there any reservations?
Jeremy Kidd (vocals): It wasn’t very difficult, and although I believe there were reservations in some quarters – or fifths! – I didn’t have any.
Lou Duffy-Howard (bass/vocals): I never thought we would reform. But when AEG stepped in it was just the right time, the ball started rolling and I had no reservations.
John Rowley (guitar): I was the one with reservations. I’d seen too many geriatric comeback acts pretending they were still 21. Luckily, I still am!
Hallam Lewis (guitar): Keen from the off, once practical obstacles were out of the way – ‘just the right time’ is right – I had just retired, so could easily find the time…
Matt Higgins (drums): It was the AEG thing, but also just the opportunity to play again. Besides, the drum machine needed some new batteries and nobody could be bothered to go to the shop to buy some.
itm?: When did the reformation become a definite thing? Did lockdown impact on that?
Jeremy: When we booked H’s return flight from South Africa.
H: Yes, the quarantined flights from South Africa were a right pain, and we didn’t know exactly when they’d get lifted, so the moment I was actually able to make a flight booking was a big thing.
Lou: For me, when I stepped into the rehearsal room for the first rehearsal. Matt, John and Jerry were already set up and playing. When I walked in I was greeted by the loudest noise I’d ever heard. It nearly blew me right back out of the door.
JR: After one rehearsal I was in.
Matt: I think it was in the 16th century, wasn’t it?
itm?: Your past and upcoming tour-mates, The Room, did a new album before starting playing live again but you’ve done things differently. What was your thinking behind touring the old material first?
Jeremy: Limited time to rehearse with H. We did take a look at Jamulus for rehearsing over the Internet but it was too complex for us.
Lou: We thought that was what people would want to hear – and indeed it was. But we started writing and arranging new songs pretty much straight away. It was important for us to play something new at the ‘Good Technology’ launch gig, and the three songs we chose all went down really well.
Matt: It’s great playing the old stuff but the new material is really exciting and the thought of making a new album soon is wonderful, especially as John can do magic on that digital software stuff and actually make the drums sound in time!
itm?: What have been your favourite shows since reforming?
Jeremy: I was going to say I don’t have a favourite but, to be honest, a full house at the 100 Club, given its history and the family and friends who were there, was hard to beat.
Lou: Every single one of them has been brilliant – not least because of the people who came to see us and the response we got from the crowd.
JR: By the Birmingham gig I realised that there were some people in the audience that had come to every show.
H: Would probably have to say the Adelphi and the 100 Club, in terms of the ‘up for it’-ness of the audience, but probably the 100 Cub for tightness and panache – we’d started to really settle in by then.
Matt: London was brilliant, a sold-out crowd, but also Glasgow and Birmingham where there might have been fewer people but where the enthusiasm and feedback was so positive.
itm?: How important was it to have new material before going out again this year?
Lou: It was essential – and the most exciting part of it for us.
JR: For some reason the band seem pretty unconvinced by my idea about a Harold Shipman Rock Opera.
H: Yep, what they said – not the Harold Shipman bit, although that was one of John’s better ideas – but the ‘crucial’ and ‘exciting’ stuff.
Matt: Really important to have new material. But like John says, reaction from the others can be lukewarm. My drum symphony in A flat major diminished has been dismissed by the others as self-indulgent and “misguided.” Hallam described it as “shit” and he’d only heard the first 3.5 hours.
itm?: When did you start writing songs together again? What’s the process? Has it changed from the 80s?
Jeremy: H and I have done odds and ends over the years. We demoed ‘Can’t Be Trusted with the Truth’ and ‘Sapphic Love Triangle’ back in 2004. But it was late 20 or early 21 when we exchanged ideas for the songs we plan to record in the next few months.
Lou: We started straightaway and kept the process the same.
H: The process does feel much the same – I had a lot of material gathering dust on my hard drive, so it was great to dig some pieces out and share it, but the writing, arrangement and production has always been a pretty interactive and evolving activity, involving the whole band – one of the great strengths of the band and its chemistry.
Matt: H and JK are musical and lyrical geniuses respectively. But we all play a part in the construction & development.
itm?: What plans do you have to record the new songs and release them?
Jeremy: New “album” on Self Drive Records, hopefully next spring. Possibly a single before then…
JR: We will have already started to record the new material by the time you get this. It is very good.
H: Yes, all going swimmingly so far.
itm?: How did the remix of Good Technology come about?
H: It was John’s idea to remix it as a ’40th anniversary’ celebration (OK, so maybe Harold Shipman was not his best one).
JR: We had the original 24 track multitrack tape from 1983 so I could relay all the original tracks into Logic and then put it all in tune and in time.
Matt: John still has a very impressive set of ears and can do wonders with something called a computer. To be honest, and it kills me to say this, John is a very clever man……..for his age.
Lou: John took the lead on it and did a great job. I recorded the bass and did a couple of other jobs at home and sent them over to John at his place.
JR: It took a long time to get it right. I wanted to keep all the original lyrics and guitar motives but add new parts and replace a lot of the drum sounds. Back in the day, if you were lucky, you had a day to record and a day to mix. Now I have a studio set up on my iMac that is as good as any of the best studios in the world and there is no pressure of time.
itm?: How many times have you played headline shows in Scotland? Have you got any particular memories of previous Scottish shows (the band supported The Smiths on their first headline tour in Scotland)?
Jeremy: Three times. Edinburgh once, Glasgow twice. Night Moves in Sauchiehall Street was a great venue and, because my dad was Glaswegian, it means a lot to me to play there.
JR: For me the gig in Dundee will always be a lasting memory. Morrissey told me off in the soundcheck for belching loudly after I’d necked a can of lager. What a twat he turned out to be…
Lou: It always feels good when we go up to Scotland. Our tour manager back in the early day, Les was from Glasgow and proudly showed us around when we played up there.
itm?: And in that context, how did Jeremy end up being the person to go on stage at Dundee Uni to try and pacify the crowd after Morrissey walked off?
Jeremy: Lost in the mists of time.
H: Indeed, I can barely remember that particular incident. I do remember one or two outstanding moments from the Scottish gigs, but I think it’s probably best to keep those private!
itm?: What would you say to Morrissey if you met him in the street now?
Lou: I’d just say hello. But if I saw Mike, Johnny or Andy (RIP) we’d have a catch-up chat.
H: Excellent answer from John! Never chatted to him much at the time, so probably not a lot to say – the others, especially Johnny Marr, were very friendly though.
Matt: I’d ask him if he could lend me a fiver. Times are tough, you know!
Red Guitars are on tour throughout the U.K. in September with support from the Room. The tour reaches the Attic at the Garage in Glasgow on Thursday 7th September.
The ‘Good Technology’ remix, with a remix of second single ‘Fact’ is available as a limited edition 12” single through Self Drive Records.