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Ben Wood and the Bad Ideas - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 10 / 4 / 2020

Ben Wood and the Bad Ideas - Interview


Guitarist with London indie band Ben Wood and The Bad Ideas Andy Duke speaks to John Clarkson about their ambitious plans to release a single a month throughout 2020 and working regularly with famous guest musicians.

London indie band Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas has set itself the task of releasing a single a month throughout 2020. The group, which consists of vocalist and guitrist Nen Wood, lead guitarist Andy Duke Craig Welsh on drums and current bassist Ed Sonsino, prides itself on its collaborations. January's single 'Cora, Cora, Cora' combines guest musician Bow Wow Wow and Adam and the Ants' drummer Dave Barbarossas tribal rhythms with Wood's sturdy vocals and Duke's haemorrahaging guitars across a waspish two-and-a-half minutes. 'Noon Drunk' with its palpitating sound and Wood's self-rallying cry of "I'm finding my way/I'm finding my way" captures the giddy, defiant feeling of being drunk in the middle of the day as the rest of the world goes about its usual business. Most recently there is 'Lead Me On', which starts off as a reflective ballad in which a crooning Wood weights up the need in all of us for someone else to take charge sometimes, before stop-start guitars and guest ex-Sex Pistol Paul Cook's muscular drums kick in, bringing the song to a surging conclusion. Like all of the Bad Ideas' songs, it is underlined with a strong sense of melody. Andy Duke spoke to Pennyblackmusic about the singles and putting out a record a month. PB: Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas were first formed when you had to put together a band in 48 hours to record a track for a US X-Ray Spex charity compilation. How did you become involved in that compilation? You chose to record ‘Obsessed with You’, the second track from ‘Germ Free Adolescents’, not the most obvious choice for a cover. Why did you decide to cover that track? AD: Prior to participating in this compilation, Ben was a good friend and also a formidable force on the London live circuit as a solo artist. We’d meet up regularly over a pint or three and the topic of working together musically in the future came up regularly. At the time, I was in a band who were making some waves stateside and this group got approached by the organisers of the Poly Styrene tribute release to contribute a track. As I had long wanted to work with Ben, I asked the New York-based concern if they’d consider a new artist and explained that we’d be putting a band together especially for the project. They loved our enthusiasm. We happily threw ourselves into the recording process. By that stage, all of X-Ray Spex’s hits had already been chosen by other groups taking part and, as Ben and myself love a challenge, we deliberately opted for the least obvious choice for a cover with a view to making it our own. PB: You recorded ‘Obsessed with You’ back in 2012. Has the line-up changed of the Bad Ideas changed much since then? Some of you play in other bands. How easy is it for you to find time to record and work on material? AD: The core of the band has always been Ben, myself and Craig Welsh on drums when he’s free. That said, we’ve had other members come and go with the regularity of Spinal Tap’s skin bashers. PB: You have decided to release twelve singles, one a month, across 2020. Why have you decided to do that instead of releasing an album? AD: Ultimately, attention spans are such that albums feel sadly anachronistic in 2020. Only the most intense of music fans are willing to immerse themselves into a full-length album these days and this is a shame. And, as a result, drip feeding releases on a monthly basis makes sense. In addition, we really like the idea of making an event out of each single. Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas also treasures the breathing space the monthly releases give us as we’re largely putting the songs out shortly after we’ve recorded them. PB: The Bad Ideas have a classic 70’s punk sound yet there is lot else going on in there. What do you see as your main musical influences? AD: That’s an observation we’ve not heard before. I love the way that people hear different things in what we do. A very important part of my early bonding experience with Ben is that our musical tastes are both incredibly diverse. We’re equally passionate about music and can happily spend hours examining the work of bands and artists across the decades. We gravitate to the feel and appeal of a song rather than genres or eras. I feel this comes out in what we play. With a voice as distinctive and strong as Ben’s, we’re fortunate to be able to explore so many different musical feels without losing the band’s sonic signature. PB: We have just interviewed Paul Cook who had very good things to say about you guys. He is just one of several special guests to appear on these singles and other tracks include Bruce Thomas from Elvis CostelLo & The Attractions, Dave Barbarossa, Billy Ritchie of 60s prog group Clouds, Nick Maybury from the Scott Weiland Band and Juliette & The the Licks and Mike Webster from Asylums. How have you managed to attract such heavyweight guests? Is it a case of just asking them? AD: We have many great things to say about Paul Cook. Great drummer. And he makes an amazing cup of tea. Our network has been built up through touring, friendships and past bands. Not that these elements are mutually exclusive. Dave Barbarossa and myself, for instance, worked together in a band called Cauldronated and have also collaborated on a few sessions together as a rhythm section for hire. With 'Cora, Cora, Cora' – we knew that Dave would be perfect for the track’s tribal feel and he happily got involved as we enjoy playing together. With Mike Webster, he became a friend when we met on the road supporting his band, Baddies. Ben and I always loved his guitar playing in that sadly defunct group and Webster was more than happy to dig his Strat out in our honour which we were delighted about. Whereas some of the players we’ve recruited came via touring and other bands we’ve been involved with - others, like Bruce Thomas and Billy Ritchie, are just good friends who were happy to dust off their respective instruments for us. With the latter, who is very much like a surrogate father to me, we knew that we wanted to work together for many years but wanted to wait until the right musical project came along. Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas became that project. I’d originally met Paul Cook when I was playing bass with him on a charity track recording session for Guide Dogs which, coincidentally, is where I met Ben Wood for the first time. In addition to being a superb drummer, he’s also one of the nicest people in the music business. Nick Maybury came to us via our regular drummer and partner in crime Craig Welsh. His band, Waco, were supporting Juliette Lewis & The Licks across Europe and the Australian guitarist and he became fast friends. As it happens, in addition to being a fantastic guitarist, Maybury is also a big Bow Wow Wow fan and collaborating with Dave Barbarossa on 'Cora, Cora, Cora' was a dream come true for him. PB: The video for ‘Cora Cora Cora’ pays lo-fi homage to Bob Dylan’s ‘ Subterranean Homesick Blues’. Why did you want to pay tribute to that? It was shot in one take in Savoy Way, presumably quite a busy street in London. How easy was it to do that? AD: We wanted a video that felt like a ‘slice of London life’ and, with very little time to play with and no budget to speak of – we thought about giving ourselves a very deliberate one-shot challenge as a means of achieving this aim. In addition to being Bob Dylan fans, we both love his promo for 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' and the whole single-shot/take feel of it. The fact that the filming location for this iconic promo is on our doorstep helped to make the choice a no-brainer. It was a cold January morning when we filmed our promo for 'Cora, Cora, Cora' and Ben very nearly got run down by a Mercedes or two during the shoot. The road that he’s standing on is in fact a bit of a rat run between Victoria Embankment and The Strand. Being the good sport that he is, these near-death experiences happened without a single complaint being uttered by Ben. One thing I feel duty bound to say is that the security staff who work at The Savoy were initially sceptical about our appearance on their turf but, after finding out what we were doing and our reverential attitude to the location, they happily gave us their blessing. PB: You played somewhat unlikely given your punk influences Prince Charles’ Garden Party at Clarence House. How did you get that gig? AD: Bizarrely, that one came from Ben busking on the London Underground. He used to road test a lot of material there. He swore by it. He’d alternate doing a Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas song and then a good, old fashioned cover. The vast majority of the capital’s commuters would walk past and treat it as background music. That is, essentially, what it’s for but people’s reactions were an interesting litmus test for original songs. Conversations would often be struck up as everyone uses the tube. I used to go and meet him down there after he’d finished and we’d go for a debrief in the pub. Bookings happened that way a fair bit but Prince Charles’ Garden Party was certainly the most unlikely and weirdest gig to come out of that exposure. It was actually a big, organised, day-fest type of event to raise awareness of environmental issues. The “Garden Party” name makes it sound like we set up the amps on Her Majesty’s picnic blankets and were plagued by stray Corgis on stage. Though that would have been distinctly memorable and fun but it wasn’t quite that. PB: Do you know yet what you will be releasing as the next singles? Do you have any other plans beyond releasing the singles for the rest of 2020? AD: Our fourth single for the year will be 'Lead Me On' and it features Paul Cook on drums. It’ll be released on the last Friday of April. We were going to have a video featuring the former Sex Pistol behind the drumkit but, thanks to the Coronavirus outbreak, we’ve had to delay filming for obvious reasons. We will put out a special ‘Version 1’ of the video on the date of the release with a view to getting Paul involved when we’re free to elbow bump each other and film music promos in person again. PB: Thank ypu.

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