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Snakecharmer

De bluesy hardrock die de nieuwe Britse supergroep Snakecharmer op hun gelijknamige debuut liet horen was in mijn beleving van grote klasse en bewijst eens te meer dat de gevestigde namen binnen de scene nog steeds de juiste drive en motivatie hebben om erg mooie muziek te maken. Natuurlijk was ondergetekende erg geinteresseerd om meer te weten te komen van deze band en een telefonisch onderhoud met keyboard-speler van dienst Adam Wakeman bracht uitkomst hierin.

Door: Sjak | Archiveer onder hardrock / aor

Let's start at the very beginning: who was responsible for establishing the band Snakecharmer and when and how did the other members get involved?
Well, in fact it started already quite a while ago. Micky (Moody) and Neil (Murray) got together first and at first they had an incarnation of the band with a different keyboard player in it. Laurie (Wisefield), Harry (James) and Chris (Ousey) joined earlier already and it started out as a band who was just out to have some fun playing Wishbone Ash and Whitesnake songs. I got involved about a year and a half ago when their management company got in touch with me and asked me if I was interested to join. I was interested when it became clear that the band was not only going to play cover songs but was certainly also planning to write original material.

Is the name Snakecharmer chosen to highlight the link towards Micky and Neil's former band Whitesnake or is this merely a coincidence?
It's certainly not a coincidence. Originally when the name was chosen the intention was to play festivals and shows and do predominantly Whitesnake songs, so there had to be a connection to the name so the people knew what the band was about. Now the name being associated with Whitesnake is not so important anymore I think as we have proven with this album that the band is strong enough by itself to kind of not warrant being a Whitesnake tribute band.

For your debut album you got signed by the Italian record label Frontiers. How did this connection get established and how does the record deal look like?
That business side of things was all down to the management really. They pushed us to start writing original song material and did send some stuff to a few labels. Frontiers is the best label for this sort of band because the guys in the band are all established artists with proven track records. Frontiers is well-known for taking care of bands that have an established career, so it seemed to make sense that they were the right label for us.

The band consists of very experienced musicians who are all very well-known in the music scene. Didn't this create any pressure on you for the release of your debut album as the band is labeled as a so-called supergroup?
I think the term supergroup is a bit exaggerated as we are just a bunch of musicians who had very varied and successful careers making the music they love to make. So there wasn't really any pressure on it because we didn't have anything to prove, it was just writing and playing the music we like and hopefully people will pick up on it.

Is Snakecharmer really a band or is it one of the many Frontiers-projects?
No, it really is a band. The difficulty nowadays is that people all have many different things going on at the same time. It's not like in the old days when you just had one band and purely focused on that only. The industry has changed so much and you have to spread yourself fairly thin to do all the things that you want to do in your musical life. For me it's kind of a juggling act between Snakecharmer, Headspace and Ozzy and Black Sabbath, of which the two latter take priority over everything really.

You yourself are most of the times referred to as the son of your famous father Rick Wakeman. Does this bother you as you obviously want to be recognized for you musical contribution instead of your family bonds?
Not really, I spent a lot of time as a younger touring and writing with my dad and we produced and wrote eight albums together. It was the best apprentinceship that you can get and it really formed me as a musician. Besides that I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. After a collaboration of about ten years we started we work with each other a lot less, I started doing my own things in the session scene in London. As I got older there was less expectations from me because of who my father was, but more because of my musical capabilities.

Let's get to the material on the album now: when did the preparations for this album start and how did the song writing process look like?
It started about a year and a half ago when we went into the studio to work on some tracks. Micky had started with writing down some ideas and we developed the first songs from those. As a result of that we more or less came together in the studio every few weeks to work on material that was written by Micky, Laurie and Chris and it was just the case of getting everybody involved in finetuning the material.

What was the game plan that you had in mind for this debut album?
It's probably slightly different for everybody, but for me personally I was a big fan of the early Whitesnake as well as the later, more American-style Whitesnake. But I wanted the album to turn out more like the early stuff with the big Hammond organ sound and when you got Micky and Neil involved as well, which were part of that era, it's gonna link more or less automatically to the seventies Whitesnake sound.

The album consists of bluesy hard rock which has a strong connection to the late seventies and early eighties, but with a more modern sound. Aren't you afraid that the more modern music fan will not take notice of the album because of that?
That really doesn't concern me at all to be honest. As long as I can finish recording an album and know that we've done the best we can, it's entirely up to people whether they like it or not.

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The album was produced by Snakecharmer as a band. Why did you decide to do this as six opinions are hard to align in some cases
The problem that often comes from six people producing a record is that everybody has their own opinion. However because everybody in this band is so experienced, you know what works and what doesn't work and you know exactly what kind of sound you want.

The album consists of eleven tracks + bonus track 'White Boy Blues'. Was there any more material written and/or recorded and if so, which songs are these and what's going to happen with them?
Very good question, there was one acoustic track which I think is included in the Japanese version of the album. There was one other track that we were working on but we didn't think that it was good enough to end up on the album.

I really like all of the songs on the album, but if you had to pick one track that represents the band best on this debut album, which one would that be and why?
For me I would say 'A Little Rock And Roll' really represents the band best as it kind of goes back to the rock roots of this band. A personal favorite of mine however is 'Falling Leaves', to me that has the 'Ain't No Love In The Heart Of The City' vibe and it's just a great ballad with a fantastic performance of Chris.

Talking about Chris, in my opinion singer he has really outdone himself and has delivered one of his strongest performances on record ever! How do you feel about his vocal delivery on this record?
I think he's done a great job, I've always liked his voice and when I started working with him a year and a half ago I already knew that he could deliver live and it was just seeing how things worked out in the studio. He's a very confident vocalist, so you don't ever have to question what he's doing.

You've made a video clip for the song 'Accident Prone'. How important is a video clip for you?
A video clip is still hugely important in the “youtube-era” that we're in, you got to have something that people can watch. As none of us are sixteen- or seventeen-year olds anymore, we neglected all the silly ideas that the video directors came up with and just thought to shoot us playing the song really, it's a true representation of what we are.

The video clip was done by Dean Twaites. How did you get connected to this person?
It was a bit last-minute because the original director was coming from America and he became ill right before we planned to shoot the video. We had everything booked to shoot the video and we had all the equipment already there, so we had to find a solution fast and we got Dean in who managed to do things in a very short period of time.

Gareth Roberts was involved for some extra percussion work. Why did you feel that this was needed and how did you get him involved?
I know Gareth already a little while from the London session scene and he's a friend of Neil. It was purely down to Harry being taken to the hospital to have an operation. It was quite unexpected and he was out of the picture for about two months. So that period when he had to get the album finished and Harry not being available we had to get somebody in to do some percussion work, which why Gareth offered his services and he came in and did a great job. We're very grateful to him that he stepped in last minute and was able to do that.

The album artwork was done by James Nolan. Why did you pick him and what was the assignment that he got?
Originally we all had ideas of people that we would use for doing the artwork, but it's very difficult to get six people to agree on which guy to use for it. So what we did is that we got six or seven artists to submit ideas. All of them showed the artwork and we picked what we thought looked best rather than choosing the artist himself. We like the idea of the amplifier with the snake skin and the guitar chord, which was further worked out and it has turned out really nicely I think.

What are your expectations of the debut album? When will it be a success for you?
I never try and have expectations of anything, because if you start to expect things you become disappointed. I've managed to get through my career so far without expecting anything and was pleasantly surprised with how things went. People seem to like the album and hopefully that will cross over to people coming to see us live and that's the exciting bit for me.

Do you have any concrete plans to do some touring to promote the album as well and if so, any dates/countries yet?
We've had quite a lot of offers for festivals already, but those are not confirmed yet. We are doing an album launch show on February 23rd in London and we got some shows in June confirmed as well, but there's more coming for sure. Just keep your eye on our website www.snakecharmer.org as new dates will be announced soon.

As said you're all very experienced musicians with other responsibilities outside Snakecharmer as well? How are you going to combine these?
We just have to cross that bridge when we come to it, you know. If the album does phenomenally well, we'll just have to make more time for Snakecharmer, that's the way how we look at it. Let's first see how things will progress in the near future.

To what level do you think that you can bring this band? Do you still have the drive and passion to go somewhere in the music industry?
Everything that I do I don't do half-hearted. I want to give everything I do all the time that I can and Snakecharmer is no exception to that. I don't try to fill up my diary with as many things possible just to keep myself busy. I truly hope that we can have a successful career with this band as well, but you can never tell too far in the future.

Okay Adam, thanks for your willingness to answer my questions. Is there anything that we didn't cover that you would still like to mention to our readers?
Hopefully we'll be able to play some Snakecharmer shows in Holland and we hope that a lot of your readers will be there when that happens!

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