WITH about a billion years* of professional musicianship on their collective CVs, The Blue Bishops are feted internationally for their work at the rockier end of the R&B and Blues spectrum - and they’re playing at ACE Space next Friday. “Everyone’s going to have a good time, and that’s not being big headed - that’s the truth”, band founder and guitarist SIMON BURRETT tells CATRIONA REEVES.
CATRIONA REEVES: The Blue Bishops have got an impressive musical pedigree - tell me
SIMON BURRETT: Our lead vocalist is Geoff Grange, who has played the harmonica for Bill Wyman and all sorts of other people. Drummer Justin Hildreth has toured all over the world with the likes of Joan Armatrading. And our usual bass player is Jim Rodford, who used to be in Argent and the Kinks, and now plays with The Zombies - he’s currently touring with them so won’t be joining us in Newbury.
And then there’s me! I’ve been kicking around the London band scene for more years than I care to admit, but the Bishops has been my longest commitment, and the most enjoyable of the lot. I still do other things, but my main squeeze will always be the Blue Bishops!
CR: Your last album Into The Red, which featured both Rod Argent and The Who’s keyboard wizard Rabbit, was very well received on the rock and blues scenes. Can we expect another album soon?
SB: There’s been a bit of a hiccup on that: I had the beginnings of about 40 different tracks recorded on my phone; unfortunately they got lost when it got smashed after I drove off with it on the roof of my car. I’m recreating them, slowly!
CR: So, is a lot of The Blue Bishops’ work original?
SB: We enjoy fiddling around with stuff from the Blues idiom, but it’s not a big part of our set. But although we cover the spectrum of rock & roll with our own songs, the Blues are always in there somewhere. It’s a simple basis,but when you get into it, it’s not that simple at all. It’s not just about giving a song a three-chord structure!
The producer Paul Long is attributed as saying that the Blues never stands still, and if it has the right feel, music can still be the Blues. And however rocky our set gets, there’s always a Blues heart to it.
CR: I understand that the band has a local link to Newbury...
SB: When Jim is away with The Zombies, our other bassist is Chris Hook from Newbury, who was in Voyager in the 70s. Seeing as this is his local gig, it’s only fair that he plays with us at ACE Space!
It’ll be “hello again” to Newbury from me as well - my mum and dad used to live in Inkpen Common. I used to go to the pub in Faccombe and make my way back to theirs - I can tell you, Combe Gibbet at 1am is a spooky place! I’m not sure I’ll make a return visit there after the gig, but I’ve got strong ties to Newbury, and it’s going to be great to play at ACE Space.
CR: So you’re looking particularly looking forward to this gig, then?
SB: Very much so. We get off on our audience, and they get off on us I can guarantee that everyone will have a good time; and that’s not being big headed - that’s the truth. If you come and see us, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
* The Blue Bishops play at ACE Space on Friday, October 25, supported by The Poachers. Music starts at 8pm. Tickets cost £10 on the door or £8 in advance from Hogan Music. They can also be reserved by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 07974534452 or 07905590214.
* Figure may not be completely accurate. But it’s an awful lot.
- First published in the Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, October 17, 2013