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Vinny Peculiar - Interview

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 23 / 11 / 2007

Vinny Peculiar - Interview


Once described by 'Uncut' magazine as 'the Tony Hancock of pop', Mancurian musician Vinny Peculiar is about to release his seventh album, 'Goodbye My Angry Friend'. He speaks to Anthony Strutt about it, and his band which includes ex-Oasis guitarist Bonehead and former Smiths drummer Mike Joyce

Once infamously described by 'Uncut' magazine as "the Tony Hancock of pop", Vinny Peculiar is the moniker of Alan Wilkes, a Manchester-based musician, singer and a one-time psychiatric nurse. Vinny has now recorded seven albums, 'Gone' (1998), 'Non-Compliance' (2000), 'Ironing the Soul' (2002), 'Growing Up with Vinny Peculiar' (2004), 'Whatever Happened to Vinny Peculiar ?' (2005), 'The Rise and Fall of Vinny Peculiar'(2006) and 'Goodbye My Angry Friend'(2007). Vinny's music takes on a rich variety of styles, including classic singer-songwriter material, pop, country rock, punk and even heavy rock. Members of Vinny's current band include ex-Oasis guitarist Bonehead. former Smiths drummer Mike Joyce, and one-time World of Twist keyboardist Ben Knott. Former members of his band have included Smiths bassist Andy Rourke and second guitarist Craig Gannon. Vinny has also worked as a producer, and co-produced Tompaulin's debut album, 'The Town and the City'. 'Goodbye My Angry Friend'is due out on Pronoia Records in early January and Vinny spoke to Pennyblackmusic about it. PB : Why do you call yourself Vinny Peculiar ? That's not your real name. Where did you come across this character? VP : The Vinny Peculiar alias has been around awhile, since the first album in 1998. The name comes from a fave Simon and Garfunkel song, 'A Most Peculiar Man', that and the funny peculiar idiom. I've grown into it. Most of the musicians I've worked with over the last few years call me Vinny, so I'm kind of used to it...and I guess there’s a functional escapist quality to any pseudonym which I may well be exploiting. PB : You have now released seven albums. Do you think your sound has changed much over the years ? VP : The sound of the records change. They have to for all kinds of reasons- the way in which they are recorded is as influential as the song writing variables. 'Ironing the Soul' was the first proper band album I did, I spent a lot of time fine tuning the songs. It's a record that has some kind of narrative and sonic fluidity. I was signed to Hug records back then who supported us, [Rob Ferrier, its producer, and I] to spend the requisite time mixing and mastering. This made all the difference. The current album, 'Goodbye My Angry Friend', aims high on sonic expectation with loads of different instruments and textures but was recorded in a bedroom with a PC and the odd bit of live percussion which of course has influenced the sound…a lo fi recording with hi fi sensibilities I like to think. It's essentially a solo album. In terms of the lifespan of Vinny Peculiar and how that’s influenced the changing sounds, well, I guess this is down to changing influences and trying to emulate favourite production techniques with varying degrees of success…that and the writing. You need songs, obviously…and songs change over time. You acquire a few more tricks and tools and such like although mine are probably within the same limited sonic parameters as they’ve always been. I’ve not hit the jazz musical rock operatic stage yet and I probably never will.... PB : I first heard of you because you produced Tompaulin. Have you produced many other acts and what do you enjoy about producing other artists? VP :It's funny you should mention that as I'm just mid way into recording an EP with a Barrow folk singer called Jon Byrne who's an amazing talent; like the Tompaulin album you mentioned it's a co-production job with Rob Ferrier and the first time we've worked together for a couple of years. We've just finished the tracking. I enjoy producing/working with other artists. When I produce with Rob I tend to focus on arrangements, fixing endings and chopping up verses, playing bits here and there and generally making sure a sense of inspiration remains within the performances…there's a psychology at work in all creative environments and studios are no different. Rob leads on the technical side of the production. We have a few projects lined up for next year including a new Vinny Peculiar album…we're both going through an Artrock phase. We've got a little deal and expect to have something to release end of next year. We're currently selecting musicians for the respective songs... PB : You were a member of the Fischers. Are you still involved in that project ? VP : I was a kind of interim floating member of the Fischers, I did a few gigs with them and played guitar on the early demos including their current single. I've always loved Jamie's song writing and felt he was somehow restricted in the Tompaulin days by an seemingly unhealthy band politic. It’s great to see him flourishing in a new line up. And, no, I’m no longer involved with them musically… PB : How did Andy Rourke, Mike Joyce, Craig Gannon and Bonehead get recruited into Vinny Peculiar ? VP : Andy Rourke was Djing a club night I was compering in 2004…he saw me play, told Mike and they came along to the following months' show at the Kitchen Sink Disco at the Star and Garter in Manchester. We spoke, rehearsed a week later and the band grew from there. It was great for me to finally get people who could commit as all my mates were either having babies or washing their hair. Craig joined a year or so later. We'd been doing gigs as a three piece and needed a second guitarist. Ben Knott also joined on keys. This helped us replicate the albums in a live setting a little more faithfully. Bonehead started off managing the band after hearing the 'Fall and Rise' album which he loved although he no longer does manage us due to time constraints and because, lets face it, it's a thankless job [so naturally I do it]. He ended up playing bass with us as a last minute replacement for some European gigs we did last year in Germany and Austria and has remained. He's a great player…not a lot of people realise quite how good he is as he was never really a high profile musical presence in Oasis... PB :Why did Andy and Craig leave the band? VP : Andy left the band by mutual consent for want of a better term. He was getting more and more DJ work and couldn't commit. He plays on the 'Two Fat Lovers' single which came out in 2005. Craig also got over committed with film composition work and left March 2006. I still see a lot of Craig and we have plans to work together at some point in the future. As for band shows going back to one guitarist proved quite liberating for me, I'm enjoying filling out all the spaces and generally turning up to 11. I did all the guitars on the last UK tour. It sort of makes us more punky, like the Attractions [or so we like to think]. PB : Is having famous ex members of cult bands good for the band, not just in their musicianship, but do they also help to bring in an audience with them ? VP : I enjoy working with other musicians. Whether they are famous or not is kind of irrelevant really in terms of the creative process. It’s all about what people bring to the table As for the public perception, well, that's kind of out of my control so I don't really think about it too much. If people come to a Vinny Peculiar gig to see someone who used to be in a famous band then fine. We welcome all comers, although the famous people ticket is hardly the box office draw of the century. What I've truly loved about working with Mike, Bone, Ben and Craig is their passion and commitment. Mike especially is a wonderful upbeat person. His glass is always overflowing and he's always so positive. This has kept us all afloat at times…and of course he's a great player too. We're taking a break from band work next year apart from a few European dates. I'll be doing an acoustic UK tour in March/April and recording the new album in-between times. I expect to revisit band shows at the end of next year once I’ve nailed the art-rock record. PB : Are you always song writing or do you tend to stop and start? VP : In terms of the music I tend to stop and start; with words I'm often on the scribble here there and everywhere. PB : Thank you.

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Vinny Peculiar - Interview

Vinny Peculiar - Interview

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