ROBIN GEORGE – An Exclusive Interview

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British guitarist / songwriter Robin George may be better known to many for his vast list of big name collaborations, but his output as a solo artist is often overlooked, and over the global pandemic he’s been busy adding to his solo discography with a number of new albums, remastered and reworked recordings, and a few surprises. One of his latest is Wilderness, (which I’ve written about previously), and here Robin answers my questions (and tosses in some press feedback) about all his new releases as well as his influences, and what we can look forward to hearing in the near future. *For more info and ordering of Robin’s new releases go to http://www.robingeorge.co.uk

The last time we spoke was around the time of the Byron Band release.  You’ve been very busy since then, and in particular since the release of History in 2014. Since then there’s been plenty of releases. Can you start with the History release and your working relationship with Angel Air Records?  

HISTORY MUSICIANS
DAVE HOLLAND, PINO PALLADINO, PHIL LYNOTT, MEL COLLINS, MARK STANWAY, MO BIRCH, TERRY ROWLEY, DANIEL BOONE, PETE WRIGHT, ROBIN GEORGE.

Words From the much-missed Malcolm Dome:

As you’ll hear on the ‘History’ album, Robin George clearly deserves such accolades and plaudits, because the quality and individuality of the music here is simply remarkable. More so, as the tracks here, remastered as one would expect, have been left as they were at the time and represent a fulfilling exercise in the combination of power, song writing and intelligence. What this album underlines is how creative he was even in his formative years.

There are clearly some hidden gems . For instance, you’ll get to hear the original version of ‘Heartline’ a single through Bronze Records in April 1985. If you want to appreciate every nuance and aspect of what makes this a truly great pop rock song, then this is the prime representation.

History is not a nostalgia trip. It’s a lesson in music for everyone.

Angel Air was an unusual deal, a partnership really, 50%50, which was unheard of, but as all musos know there is no real music industry anymore, the internet has put paid to that!

I wanted my music to be heard somehow so I signed to them. They released 7 of my albums, and my loyal friends and followers seemed to like them!

I have to say as a label the packaging/Artwork was very good indeed, and the valid re-releases, of course. They were honest which is rare these days; they always settle their debts. So, it did work in a strange but true way… Angel Air kept my name out there to the faithfuls amongst you. Thanks chaps!

Dangerous Music 2 came out.  That is a collection of songs that you’d originally hoped to be the sequel to your debut album in 1984!? Can you tell me a bit about this album – where the tracks come from and who’s all on it? 

Dangerous Music 2 was going to be the follow up to DM, produced with Gus Dudgeon at the fab Manor Studio, owned by R Branson, who popped in occasionally while driving his kid around to get him to sleep? Then recording continued at Maison Rouge Studio in London for backing vocals etc.

I remember I was adding guitar to my track ‘Streetwise’ when Quo burst in performing their famed guitar dance. Later I went into the pool room for a chat to find Rick & Francis gently lifting Bonnie of The Pointer Sisters, who was with me, off the pool table and placing her on a sofa… without waking her. Gentlemen indeed!

Dave Holland started the sessions as the drummer, but his commitment to Judas Priest meant he had to bail out.

Charlie has played on my last 7 albums, he is the best melodic rock drummer I ‘ve had the honor and pleasure of knowing and working with… he brings my songs to life, no less!

The superb Pino Paladino was playing bass, no way to be his talent could be wasted, so I prog’d a drum machine as a stop gap. Then Gus called in Elton’s drummer the fantastic Charlie Morgan, and the rest is history.

Adrian Lee played keys and was a big influence on the sound of the trax. Chris Thompson Daniel Boone and 3 girls sang backing vocals: Bonnie Pointer, the singer from a major power ad back then and a great session singer… I joined in with the girls of course! The master recording of them was lost somehow which is why I don’t remember all their names. Sorry, girls. So, I never heard them again, but they are always fab in my memory!!

Rogue Angels was issued in 2018, and if I’m correct – your first solo album of new material in 10 years[?]  Now, this album was just you and Charlie Morgan[?]   

 I think Steven Reid’s words say it all! Better than I could! :

Angel Air Music [Release date 18.05.18] George, Robin: Rogue Angels

Recent times have seen Robin George both reappraise his incredible back catalogue and release an impressive stream of new albums. Rogue Angels is his latest set of fresh recordings and for a man long known for high profile collaborations (Robert Plant, Phil Lynott, Glenn Hughes etc), there’s a certain irony that this almost purely solo effort is undoubtedly one of his best. Having worked together regularly throughout their careers, drummer Charlie Morgan is once again the man behind Robin’s beat, the kind of telepathic bond that only time can build hugely benefiting a set of songs that positively burst with vim and vigour. With Robin handling everything else, the cohesive and ‘band’ nature of Rogue Angels really has to be experienced to be fully appreciated; the fire that burns bright from the very second “Wild Eyed Beauty Queen” comes into being completely knocking you sideways with the pure energy it possesses.

That Robin is arguably best known for bothering the charts in the 80s, and his ability to write songs that show other artists at their best, it’s often forgotten that he’s a heck of a guitarist, and with his foot thoroughly stamped on the distortion pedal, the irresistible little guitar runs that add colour and intrigue to “Dangerous Daisy” and the album’s title track (which, if I’m not mistaken, cleverly nods towards George’s biggest hit, “Heartline”) instantly snag the ear and won’t let go. A second look over the shoulder arrives in the shape of “Go Down Fighting 2018”, Robin’s debut single given a meaty reworking here and thriving in this updated form. Throughout, Robin refers lyrically to his long held ethos of LovePower & Peace, the theme of love conquering all and having the power to bring about peace, if we’d only let it, revisited numerous times across these songs and lending them an uplifting quality in the process. Something which comes across again and again in the crafted layers that are used to accentuate the insistent vocals. However, when you feel the obvious love and joy that the likes of “Dancing Shoes Again”, “Rush” and “Surreal Dream” have all been created with, then the same ethos also comes across in the hook laden music and, dare I say it, some of the best guitar solos Robin has ever pulled from his fretboard.

Over a vast and varied career Robin George has created a hugely eclectic body of work, but with the hard rocking, blues edged energy of Rogue Angels it really feels like this singer, guitarist and songwriter is making music that completely satisfies his creative need. Surely it’s no coincidence that it also comes across as one of the most impressive albums he’s put his name to.


With Rogue Angels and Wilderness [and going forward] what’s changed in your approach to writing and recording over the years?  Listening to these albums, there’s lots of great guitar, groove, rock, a bit of funk, blues…

Even some soul with Ruby Turner! I was writing solo songs from around 14 for bands I formed, then later started co-writing with guys and gals I was producing. David Byron, Phil Lynott, John Wetton, Robert Plant, Ruby Turner, Marshall Law, Vix Fuzzbox, Pete Haycock, Pete Goalby and many more. I really enjoyed all those collaborations, but now, I write solo again, suits me these days.

Re-recording, I followed technology at it’s best, then went back to real talented musicians… far more satisfying and much more fun and inspiration.

Can you talk a bit about some of your early influences as a guitar player and what’s sort of influenced your sound and style to where you are today?  

Peter Green, Johnny Winter, all old blues players, Clapton with the Beatles, Gary Moore, Neil Schon, Joe Walsh et al were all great for me. Since my early days I don’t listen to much music, if I wanna hear some I make it 😉 What comes out is how I play today, using my Marshall combo amp & BC Rich, and Washburn, Suzuki and Yamaha acoustic guitars.

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On Wilderness there seems to be a lot of poetry and storytelling. Can you tell me a bit about what inspires your lyrics – where ideas come from ? 

Thanks for noticing, I am being named a ‘Rock Poet’ which is gratifying indeed!

I really care about my lyrics and the messages I share with my friends.

Inspiration arrives out of the blue then I have a vast bunch of words which I slice away at until they resemble a song, Then I improve on what I have until it is a song… then I record it.

My inspiration is mostly from real life, I can hear a phrase or line in conversation that sparks an idea which lights a fire in me.

I don’t know how I do it, but I’m truly grateful for the gift of creativity.

You have a fairly unique vocal sound / style, and the only way I can describe it is sort of like Marc Bolan, fairly quieter , but not really soft. Can you tell me a bit about your vocal approach or influences? 

I never wanted to be a singer, I was a guitar player who sang a bit, but over the years I found only I could sing most of what I wrote, the way I heard it, so here I am, a song writing guitar player who sings a bit.

I have no real influences. The singers I admired were in a different league from me which I could never aspire to. Again, how I sound is what comes out.

I do think Marc was a great pop star though. I was asked to be Bolan 2 if I’d write more poppy songs, but not for me! He was a one off.

During the pandemic you’ve recorded 4 new albums, starting with Wilderness – can you give me a few lines on each of these releases – what each is about, in which order they were done, when did you come up with the ideas, and who else played on them? 

Robin has used Rockdown to nurture and finish some fantastic music, all of which is now available from Damage Control Music in Robin’s Online Store @ www.robingeorge.co.uk, and includes contributions from no less than Phil Lynott, John Wetton, Robert Plant, Sean Harris, Ruby Turner, David Byron, Glenn Hughes, Vix Fuzzbox, Pete Goalby & Pete Haycock to name just a few, Artist credits are also on site.

Robin says,

‘I’ve just remastered the Charity album LovePower and Peace that escaped about ten years ago; It’s now called RockinG LovePower with many new tracks, including a Rock Bangra Flamenco track with the major Bollywood star vocalist Mangel Singh! All Re-mastered & 2021 mixes.

I’m calling it a ‘sharing’ album because… My idea is that we retail at our cost price  (£5), then y’all who buy choose to support the causes closest to your hearts.

This is freedom of helping. I hope it works, If you can’t donate now, enjoy the music from these awesome musicians ‘till you can my friends. Then do please donate… every penny counts!’

Robin George should certainly be garnering applause as the musician who made the most of lockdown (by some long, album issuing way).

Hot on the heels of earlier 2021 releases Wilderness and Heartlines come the dovetailing pairing of Feed the Wolf and Surreal Six String; the former is the latest full length studio album from Robin George while the latter is his first fully instrumental offering (much as Heartlines was his first all acoustic release).

That his distinct and individualistic Dangerous Music sound and style is still alive and well is evident from tracks such as opener ‘Momma Sister Daughter’ (Bolan vocality meets guitaredged Robin George rock and roll), the muscly and, again, Bolan-esque (an oft-cited and valid comparison) title track and ‘Savage Song,’ a gritty, fast-paced number on which Mr George isn’t exactly hanging about.

‘Savage Song’ also highlights a major Robin George trait, that of reinventing & rerecording some of his older songs to suit his current state of musical mind (some may recall ‘Savage Song’ as a highlight of Damage Control, a supergroup of sorts featuring George, raspythroated Quireboys front man Spike, Chris Slade and the late Pete Way).

Other Feed The Wolf highlights include ‘Funky Rock Groove’ (which does exactly what it says on the tin), the bluesy sway of ‘Love is Blind’ (featuring some tasty guitar licks from Robin George), the edgy but melodic ‘Castles in the Sky’ (whose origins go back to the History of the Wolverhampton born musician) and the quirkier ‘Painful Kiss,’ originally from the album of the same name.

The album ends on the similarly quirky and very catchy ‘Early Daze,’ a looking-back and ‘If I knew then’ styled nod to more carefree and innocent times (a shorter acoustic version also sits on Heartlines).

Surreal Six String is a collection of primarily reworked numbers from across Robin George’s career and catalogue, instrumental-ised with the lyric-melody line played on guitar in effective and, on some of the tracks, quite expressive style.

Opener ‘Go Down Fighting’ was Robin George’s first major single release in 1983 but here is based on his later rocked up version; it therefore works well as a feisty instrumental.

It’s also nice to see a place for the atmospheric, tempo shifting instrumental ‘Charlotte Starlight,’ which goes back to the History album, and ‘Love Power & Peace’ (featuring Hammond fills from the late Ken Hensley and melodic guitar play from Robin George) from the all-star charity album of that name.

You’ll also find instrumental versions of Wolf numbers ‘Painful Kiss’ and ‘Love is Blind’ as well as re-workings of the more rock and roll styled ‘Dancing Shoes’ (from the Rogue Angels album) and a shorter take of the blues swaggering ‘Freedom,’ from last year’s BitterSweet HeartBeat album.

Other highlights include ‘Brandy Bottle Blues’ (another with a self-explanatory title), which features a couple of bars of blues blasting sax from Mel Collins, and album closer ‘Oxygen.’ Originally a love song, ‘Oxygen’ works equally well as an expressive guitar workout in instrumental clothing.     

So another brace of 2021 releases from a man who clearly wasn’t twiddling thumbs during lockdown/s.

Further proof of that ever-busy schedule?

Robin George has also released a fully remastered version of the Asia 2 Marquee gig from

1986 (of which he was an integral part), a Robin George & Dangerous Music Euro Tour Live CD, a RoxStar Legends compilation and a remastered retooling of the Love Power & Peace album as Rocking LovePower.

He is now looking at reissuing some Damage Control music and achieving an official release for the album he recorded with Glenn Hughes in 1989 (previously issued under decidedly dodgy and awful audio quality circumstances). 

No wonder he lives in Spain – he clearly needs, and deserves, the siestas.

Ross Muir , FabricationsHQ 

Feed The Wolf & Surreal Six String, along with all other aforementioned releases, can be purchased on CD direct from the artist’s website: http://www.robingeorge.co.uk/

You also issued 4 CDs of remasters and edits….  [again] can you tell me a bit about each of these? 

Early in Rockdown I realized the vaults contained some pure gold music with fantastic musicians and I thought, now’s the opportune time to get to work on them. So I did! All fascinating to work on but bittersweet at times because they were all my friends and I loved all. I know they all recorded with me because they wanted people to hear our music… and that’s the sweet part.

You also have a Live Asia release that you were on. Can you recall that show and how it came about and how well you got on with John, Geoff, Carl… Phil Manzanera was on that as well….

The gigs were for Nordoff Robbin, a charity close to John’s heart. They were a great group of guys. All well cool and in the groove. We got on great which I think shows in the Asia 2 Marquee gig video. John and I were introduced by Bryan Lane, Asia manager, and we hit it off straight away. John took me to his house and amazingly for me, had my single ‘Go Down Fighting’ on his deck… and he played it! John had rented a country house for the summer, and we spent lots of quality time writing, talking, practising, and planning for the gigs. We did 3 nights, JB’s Dudley and 2 at the Marquee London. Great nights indeed! John asked me to join Asia but previous commitments prevented me. Wrong timing or what!

Later he came to my Wolves studio and we recorded ‘Wasted Time’ which features on both

‘Roxstar Legends and RockinG LovePower’… far too good a track to waste! Plus, last time I spoke to John, he said he loved it, so it’s gotta be heard!

 So, aside from promoting all these new releases, what else do you have in the works or things you’d like to do down the road? 

A bit of time off I hope 😉. I’m writing new songs at the moment, so, ‘Only Time Will Tell’!

Any projects involving people you’ve collaborated in the past still in the vaults? 

Yep, the Glenn Hughes album ‘ Sweet Revenge’ is being remastered for the near future. It was bootlegged at appalling quality, don’t buy it; this is the real thing my friends!

Links:

http://www.robingeorge.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/RobinGeorgeMusic/

https://getreadytorock.me.uk/blog/2020/07/album-review-robin-george-bittersweet-heartbeat/

https://www.youtube.com/user/damagecontrolmusic

*Photos of Robin: Fiona Bond

KJ, 12/’21

 

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