Sounds - April 28 1973

The Sharks - In The Talk In

by Martin Hayman (photos by Mike Putland)

The prospect of a band featuring bassman Andy Fraser from Free and the commanding session guitarist Chris Spedding really excited us when we heard the first whispers about it at the end of last summer. Last we heard that the line-up was completed by Marty Simon, the Canadian drummer who worked with Mylon's group in the South, and an unknown singer called Snips from Hull.
It was a curious but promising line-up, a second-generation rock band if you like, one that assembled people from several totally disparate areas of music to play together. They had all experienced music from different angles but came together with the same intention of playing music with a boogie band - a good boogie band, and long lived. All of them had paid enough dues before to aquander their resources on something that was not going to be durable.
They called themselves the Sharks, and though they had at the outset a gimmick, it was a gimmick that at least had a function of transportation as well as that of attracting attention. The Sharksmobile was cosy, got the band around the place and crystallised the name.
But the Sharks have been showing a low profile over the last six months. They have worked hard, on their own club gigs and on tour with Roxy Music, playing to audience which came to them entirely cold. The more they work, the better they play. They are more a band, in terms of matiness and music, than when I first saw them.
Island Records are backing them to the hilt, convinced of their potential and needing to break a new British band.
At present they are going through a brief pause for re-assessment after the Roxy tour and the release of their first album. Two talk sessionstook place, one at Chris Spedding's Wimbledon home and one the following morning at the interviewer's flat.
With Chris Spedding : [CS] and Snips : [S].

Can you tell us about the tour you've just done?
S : The great rock and roll tour of 1973, Roxy and the Sharks? Did I tell you all about it being like one of those poptours of ten years ago? A much younger audience than I've seen in a while, basically. No calling cards out on the market, none of our material available, as a completely new band doing pretty much new stuff in front of a Roxy audience. We enjoy it because it was such hard work. We really had to go right out and get our music out to the people. We had to throw everything to the back and really try and communicate. The music in a lot of ways really gets thrown to the back in that situation. What you must do is strike that chord ...
CS : Project.
S : Yeh, project, and once you can get that then you can play the music, you can have a lot of fun. You really have to project - lurching off the front of the stage some nights.

Do the different stages affect the way you play?
S : Sure. The biggest stages are more physically demanding.
CS : You've got to palce yourselves so you look like you're filling the whole of the stage. we found our presentation was quite difficult because there was so much of Roxy's gear spread about all over the stage, and we had to have ours in front of it.
S : Some nights we didn't have very much room, like at Sheffield. That's one of the places where we felt really cramped.
CS : So you're a bit restricted that way.
S : You have to go through all that.
CS : That's one of the things you have to do when you put yourself out as a second band.

You had no single, no album and nobody knew you. So you were forced to really work on the audience?
S : We got reactions though. Most of them were dinkies, they didn't even know who Andy was. Many of the places you go you know, they shout out 'Andy!' or something, but you could tell they didn't know who the hell we were. We could have been, you know, Jimmy and the Other Kids. You can sense it.

But you were saying that you were already getting some feedback from college audiences?
S : Colleges are great. we did some just great gigs at colleges, really wiped them out, and ourselves. We had a lot of fun.

Which numbers have they been picking up on?
S : "Snakes And Swallowtails" they pick up, "Junkies" because we did it on the TV. we did a "Whistle Test". Terrible. A heart-rending experience.

Was that the night you bad-vibed Bob Harris?
S : No, that was Roxy's night down at the Speakeasy (this refers to an evening when Bob Harris announced Roxy less than charitably and was made to suffer for it at the aforesaid club - M.H.). That was the night we downed Bob - mentally of course, not physically.

Specifically, which places did you dig the best?
S : Hard to say. We dig 'em all. Newcastle was good. Liverpool.
CS : Colston Halls, Bristol.
S : Nearly every gig was a good gig in one way or another, we learned a lot and the audience dug it, even on a bad night.
CS : Even on a bad night you learn something, you get something positive from every situation.
S : We didn't go out relying on a large repertoire of stage sets, like Roxy Music. wedidn't do the same act from night to night, in fact we changed the approach and the numbers every night. We got into that thing of not relying on a set pattern.
CS : There was Newcastle, where Snips was playing one of his new number in the dressing-room that night, and we just went up and did it on stage with no rehearsal, a new number. "Colours", it's called. We'll probably do it as a single.
S : "You've Got The Colours".

When are you going to record?
S : In about a month's time, as soon as things are together.

What is the work report so far?
S : We got ourselves together in Europe, did some little club, went in and recorded the album, and then went out in Britain. we hadn't done any gigs in Englad when we did the album. It was January when we did that, we're ready for another. Then we went out on the road here and we had that car crash, which was a drag (after a gig in Cleethorpes - M.H.).

Was that tour more fun, as you were the main act in small clubs?
S : There isn't anything which hasn't been fun yet. Once it stops getting fun then we'll start worrying. Once we stop having a laugh out on the road and really getting it on with people, we'll start worrying, re-thinking musical policy or something!

Pity you have to drive around in hired cars now, though.
S : Come on, we don't want to talk about that (laughs). we loved that car, we really did.
CS : When we've got a few days free we'll have to go and see about that. We've been so long without it.
S : Yeah, we really need the Shark car.

What sort of reaction did you get driving into towns in it?
S : Just absolutely amazed, people were just dumbstruck.
CS : Yeah, driving into these little towns.
S : People just couldn't believe it, they thought you must be selling toothpaste or something. just open-mouthed. you looked out the window and there were all these open mouths.
CS : The first time we had the Cortina we were sort of asking ourselves 'Well, what's happening, why aren't people looking round?' We used to be in our own little world, with the quadrophonic sound going on all the time.

You had to listen to Radio One all day?
CS : That's what made us want to do a single.
S : We just heard all this filler material on the airwaves. We want to put some good material for those people out there driving in cars and working in offices. They really need some good singles. I can't remember hearing a good single, not one that turned us on. (to CS) Can you?

CS : Well there was "Love Train" by the O'Jays, and that one by the Detroit Spinners that sounds like Al Green. There are so many thingscoming out sounding like Al Green now. That voice up-front.
S : Those smooth soul records are good but we could never hope to get in there. But English records - there aren't really any that do it for me.
CS : We liked Gary Glitter a lot.
S : The Reverend Gary Glitter.

Did you feel it was at all a distraction, working to an audience whose demands were different to what you wanted to supply?
S : The thing about making music is that it might as well be heard by as many people as possible. That's the first thing you think about when you start making a record, whether you make it for people in flats or whether this is going to be for Radio One, or whatever. You real problem is that it must go to everyone. Remember you've got to follow that music through when you go out to play. Youhave to do what is required. If we go out on a big stage, nobody says that we've got to do it, we just go out and do it.
CS : Some guy came up to me one night and said I looked just like Duane Eddy, and sounded like him.
S : I just said, 'Yeah, he loves Duane, he really works at that sound!'
CS : The first record I bought was "Oh Boy" by the Crickets.
S : I think the first record I bought was "What Do You Want" by Adam Faith.

Yesterday you used the expression 'All strings on one guitar' for the sound the Sharks are trying to achieve.
CS : That's right, we all feel like we're part of one instrument. We don't want to double up any one particular instrument, but space it out so it's all part of one big picture. The bass wouldn't necessarily perform the function of the bass all the time, neither would the drums or guitar or voice. We just use it as a colour to paint a rhythmic picture.
S : Quite often in parts even I will take a rhythm apart with my voice, it's something which is essentially rhythmic and not going for melody or anything, because that was what's needed.

Is this a sound which can best be achieved with the minimum of overdubbing?
CS : That's what we do mostly, but we can just put on extra colours over the top.

Do you do that much?
CS : Some of the tracks we did, others like "World Park Junkies", we just kept as they wre. "Steal Away" we overdubbed.
S : We weren't boxed of in the studio, we wouldn't have that because we work on signals.
CS : There's no set number of bars we boogie on or anything. we wind each other up. we never put down a track without him singing on it.
S : I sang on all the tracks and then if I wasn't happy I'd go over and re-double them. we never did a backing track or anything like that. Everything we did was just like an event.

You're very used to fitting your guitar part in, getting the right texture for the voice?
CS : Yeah, that's how I see the instrument ... it bores me listening to long solos.

You really seem to hold down your guitar.
CS : I don't think I hold it down at all. I mean I don't stop myself playing it!
S : You just play really spacey. I dig it.

The four-piece rock group has been around a long time. Are you at all conscious of it's being difficult to say something new?
CS : No ... I think we're original anyway. We don't try to do things we haven't done before, we just play the number we want to play and it just sounds very fresh and original and just like us.
S : We work from the songs, see. Not like, we need a song, let's throw some music together and do some words for it. Andy writes, Chris writes, Marty's writing now, and we tend to teat that song however it needs to be treated, rather than give it a standard Sharks treatment, whatever that is. We don't have a standard sharks treatment - there is one - but we don't use it.

As far as I can see, the advantage you have over Roxy is that you don't have an external presentation, a definite concept of what the group should be.
CS : It's a musical one, more than anything like, unlike Roxy's image thing.
S : One thing that does worry me about all these new groups coming out is that if it's gonna make it on any level, musically or socially, they seem to be already finished. I mean, we're not finished any way, we've left ourselves a lot of room to grow. I mean this group that's out is by no means all it could be. It could take two years, three years, four years, before it's the group that we all see. We expect to grow, and hope that our public grows with us.

That's why it's been a real advantage going on the Roxy tour, I think.
CS : The thing we're aiming for, in our heads, is so good that if we get there easy we just wouldn't have felt right about it.
S : It's gonna take a long time.

Spedding In The Papers