We love music, we love the people who love music and naturally we love the people that make music.
So what about those people that make music? What sort of people are they? They like music as well, right? What were they into as kids? Was it the same sort of music we were into? What are they listening to now? What songs did they wish they had written?
We wanted to discover the “music fan” inside these artists, so we decided to find out using a similar format to our Meet The Community feature. By firing a series of short questions at a selected indie artist we wanted to get a bit of an insight into what makes them tick musically.
In this edition – Simon “Sice” Rowbottom
A mate of mine had a girlfiend called Carolyn and whenever I saw her or she was mentioned in conversation what popped in my head immediately was The Boo Radleys song “Does This Hurt?” Now whilst this may be lighthearted way of illustrating the The Boo Radleys impact from my own personal perspective it in no way diminishes their influence as one of the most progressive and experimential bands of the 1990s
I discovered fairly quickly how this impact was felt across the wider world after settting up Everything Indie Over 40. We now have a treasure trove of photos of Boo Radleys records and CD collections, gig tickets and memories. They are also guaranteed to make some sort of appearance in whatever feature we happen to be running at the time. And unlike certain other bands where there is generally a concentration on a specific album or era, we are just as likely to witness people referencing songs on Kingsize as on Giant Steps.
Let’s put this in some sort of context…
The Boo Radleys were very much a 90s band to the extent they released nothing outside of that decade, a remarkable 6 albums and 19 singles and EPs throughout. They were definitely stuck on green, not amber. In fact the only year they didn’t release original songs was 1999 but by then it was all over. And let’s not forget, excluding the much sought after debut album Ichabod & I and the early Rough Trade EPs, all of The Boo Radleys output was on the same label, Creation Records.
The Boo Radleys may have been consistent but they were never predictable. Always experimenting always adapting. They could mimic trends of the time and attract a new class of punter whilst keeping the partisans on board. They ensured there really was something for everyone.
They were never defined as a singles band despite releasing 14 of them. The 3 early EPs on Rough Trade were bundled together (plus a couple of cover versions) onto a compilation album in 1993 “Learning To Walk” and if you weren’t a Boos purist at the time you could be forgiven for assuming it was a brand new album, so strong were the 12 tracks. They certainly weren’t defined by a single song either despite best efforts to do so.
It is within the albums that The Boo Radleys strength could shine through and showcase their complex and varied creativity. Each album could deliver something magical even when you least expected it (Martin Doom! on Wake Up, Bullfrog Green on C’mon Kids and Comb Your Hair on Kingsize).
If you were a fan of the The Boo Radleys you learnt to approach each new album unable to really anticipate the contents. What IS in the box? Each album managing to stand up on its own two feet. Even without the benefit of hindsight Giant Steps is not a bridge between Everything’s Alright Forever and Wake Up.
You couldn’t even get a handle on the general ambience of an album’s sound. Each song was likely to send you off in a completely different direction. I remember when I first listened to Everything’s Alright Forever (and I do remember as it’s one of those JFK moments) and as I tried to recover from the gentle and emotional pull of the strings and brass laden Spaniard you get hit with the, not even 2 minute long, sonic onslaught of Towards The Light. And then it’s time to deal with “Abigail”. A truly remarkable album that has the power to make my hairs stand on end almost 30 years later
The Boo Radleys were a band for those who wanted to be challenged musically at a time when experimentation seemed in short supply at times.
At the heart of all of this was vocalist and guitarist Simon “Sice” Rowbottom. And what a voice!
I’m no expert on the technicalities of vocal styles. I don’t know my falsettos from my baritones. But do I know what I can hear and what I feel when i listen to music and Sice has a voice that could be so delicate as to get those butterflies fluttering (Memory Babe) or strained and broken enough to rip the heart out of your throat (Leaves and Sand). He even had a gravelly mode for when The Boo Radleys simply wanted to rock out (C’Mon Kids).
Just have a listen to Aldous on the Kaleidoscope EP where, despite the overpowering distortion of the music trying to drive the vocals into the backgound, Sice’s voice manages to pierce though the layers of noise wrestling for control.
Outside of The Boo Radleys, Sice released an album in 1996 under the name of Eggman and as Paperlung in 2007 (listen to “A Cautionary Vision of the Future” on Balance please. It’s wonderful).
What about since then? Things certainly things seemed very quiet. “Whatever happened to Sice” cropped up on occasion during Twitter features almost as frequently as it was about Loz from Kingmaker. No one seemed to find the answer. But then a couple of years ago the website for Sice’s current career surfaced and the mystery was solved. No spoilers yet though as Sice reveals all in the Q&A
As someone who had such an impact on my life I was delighted to see Sice emerge and announce a return to performing and even more delighted when Sice answered our call to be the subject of our View From The Stage Q&A. His responses to the questions are fascinating and insightful and we’ve pretty much kept the text as it was transcribed
So over to Sice….
Q1 – Where did you grow up?
A – I grew in Wallasey on the Wirral, Merseyside, which is also close to New Brighton which is a very old run down seaside town which I haven’t visited for many a year but apparently it’s had quite a rejuvenation, but when we were there it was quite run down and quite deprived, and actually New Brighton features in a book, Martin Parr the photographer did a really good book on the town (“The Last Resort” – ed) which really does sum up my childhood.
Q2 – What posters did you have on your bedroom wall as a teenager?
A – I had a Beatles poster, it was in the Cavern with the Beatles in leather, but I also had three Bruce Lee posters. I was a massive Bruce Lee fan in my teenage years and I can’t remember where I got those, it was pre-internet days so they weren’t easy to get hold of, but I had these three Bruce Lee posters. Also what I had which was amazing was a big Stray Cats mural which my brother painted on the wall ‘cos I was a huge Stray Cats fan for a while and he painted this fabulous mural on the wall with this big cat head logo, it was fantastic.
Q3 – What was the first record you bought?
A – The first record I bought – I think – was Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall”. I’d been bought records before that, the Wombles and stuff like that but I was born in ’69 so I was like six or seven when punk came out so it always amazes me that there were those people who seem to remember buying these punk records who are my age, and I’m thinking I was seven in 1977, I don’t think I was buying that kind of record then. But the one I remember was seeing Pink Floyd on Top Of The Pops and really wanting to own that record and going out and buying it. I think my Mum might have been with me then.
Q4 – What moment made you want to become a singer, artist and musician?
A – I think it might have been The Beatles. I was always a fan of pop music and always a fan of Top Of The Pops, but I remember there was a Beatles Museum in Mathew Street where the Cavern used to be, it’s nothing like it is now, it was just a little room – you should remember this was 1981, I was ten or eleven, and video players weren’t a thing particularly back then, they might have been coming out into public use, but basically the museum had one tape of continual Beatles stuff which they would show, so it was the only place to see Beatles stuff really. I remember me and Martin paying our fee to get into the museum and just sitting there watching this video from start to end and it had all sorts of stuff on it. I think it was then, that just seemed to be it, that’s what I wanted.
Q5 – How much did you get paid for your first gig?
A – I have no idea… I know we didn’t get paid for our very first gig. Our very first gig was a school gig, where me and Martin and a drummer Colin did this school hall gig so we wouldn’t have got paid for that. But then we didn’t do anything for a couple of years after that because we were *so* terrible, and I have no idea after that. We played a pub called The Bell, I think, in New Brighton, and we might have got twenty quid between us.
Q6 – Do you have a particularly memorable gig which you performed at?
A – Yes I do, the one that I really remember a lot was in Dublin in 1995 or maybe earlier in 1994, but basically it was a cancelled gig. We were flying back from America and we were due to do a gig in Dublin and we came in during Winter and the flights were cancelled over to Dublin and we ended up landing in Heathrow or Manchester so we couldn’t do the gig in Dublin. And so it was postponed but people still had their tickets, and if I remember correctly we recorded and released “Giant Steps” before we went back and did this gig in Dublin, so it was just this massive sold out celebration, and what was good was all this people bought tickets for us when we weren’t particularly big and turned up when we were riding high with “Giant Steps”. It was just a fabulous fabulous celebration, I remember absolutely loving that one.
Q7 – Who would you most like to perform with onstage?
A – Stevie Wonder. I have absolute incredible admiration for Stevie Wonder and what he is capable of, and it would be a privilege to be able to share that space with him.
Q8 – What’s the best venue you have played at?
A – There is a place called Washington Gorge which is where we played Lollapalooza in America in 1994 I think, and this place is just a natural ampitheatre, it’s a huge gorge in Washington State and it’s an absolutely astonishing place to see a band, absolutely incredible. I remember we descended – it’s like a mini Grand Canyon – in the afternoon, having drunk quite a bit of tequila I think we went off on a hike down the hill and down the side of this canyon and stood in the stream at the bottom listening to the Beastie Boys who were playing. Astonishing stuff – loved it.
Q9 – What song would you have liked to written? (Not your own)
A – I like very simple songs, and there’s a song by Kate Rusby called “Falling” which I think is beautiful, and I wish I could write something as delicate and poetic as that – beautiful.
Q10 – If you weren’t a singer / artist / musician, what would you have been?
A – Honestly don’t know, honestly don’t know. I think about second careers and things – I have got another career now as well as carrying on as a musician but if I was going to do it all over again, the one thing that I would love to do is work with animals somehow. There’s nothing that gives me greater pleasure than being with or seeing or spending time with an animal out in the wild. It’s just an incredible sensation.
Q11 – What are you listening to at the moment? Any recommendations?
A – What am I listening to? I don’t actually know to be honest. I listen to a lot of 6 Music, I pick up stuff that I like, I like Kate Tempest, I like Christine And The Queens, these are things I’m drawn towards but… just different songs, I suppose, I’m always about the songs.
Q12 – What are you up to at the moment?
A – Well, regarding music, I’ve recently played solo acoustic shows in Oxford and Liverpool – and the response has been wonderfully heartwarming. I’m really looking forward to playing at the Shiiine On Weekender in Minehead. I’ve written lots of new material and am aiming to release some new music in early 2020.
In terms of life itself, I’ve just finished a long day at work, in my private practice as a psychologist, and I am now going to go to bed, thanks goodnight.
Steve Williamson founded Everything Indie Over 40 as a platform for people to engage positively about the music they love and which has grown to a dynamic and innovative community that encompasses interactive features, digital magazine, book publishing, radio shows and podcasts, social events, quizzes and much more