It was the start of what was to be a very pissed up and boozy evening. I was standing with two of the possibly dodgiest characters in rock ‘n’ roll – Guy Bailey and Dale Hodgkinson from the group of reprobates that are The Peckham Cowboys.
The Peckham Cowboys are a down trodden, blues driven, dirty, beautiful mess…. They have been gigging solidly around London, packing out venues across this fine city and setting it on fire. At each gig they are bigger, sharper and more alluring.
Teamed with Marc Eden, who is probably one of the rawest rock vocalists in London at the moment, this trio cannot put a foot wrong as they leave a blazing trail of rock ‘n’ roll debauchery through good ol’ London town, gaining fans by the day.
Dale tells me how they know each other. “It was Guy’s birthday, he phoned me up and said: ‘Just come on down man, it’s me birthday.’ We got together with Alrick who I met there and Marc. He knew Guy independently of me, which was weird because I was also friends with them! So yeah we got together.”
“Sorta like cosmic dust,” Guy says, “If it was anybody’s birthday we’d get round mine. I’ve got the studio there, and we’re just like ‘come on let’s go upstairs’ like we do. Saturday night round at my house and we pick up our instruments and just have a jam, and we start recording, then one day we just went hang on we’ve got about eight songs there.”
Dale continues, “We thought hang on this is good, Shall we make an album?” - Guy laughs and looks at Dale and says “Actually no, we said this is terrible.” Dale laughs, taking a draw of a cigarette “Yeah, it’s fuckin’ awful.” Guy still laughing holds his hands out questioningly “But we got eight of ‘em, what are we gonna do?”
The Peckham Cowboys to me have quite a unique sound. Now I know, as others have said to me that it’s nothin’ new that this ‘sound’ may not be for everyone. However I haven’t heard a band out there playing now that sounds as fucked up as this, and I mean that in a great way! I have heard so many people when speaking about this debut album ‘Flog It!’ say “I had to ask if it was supposed to sound like that.” Now forgive me for speaking my mind but that isn’t my general reaction when I put a record on. It’s refreshing and that is what The Peckham Cowboys achieved, I am not kidding when I call them a beautiful mess. It took me a while to realise that the crackling, distortion was intentional. I didn’t know if it was just a really shit recording or if this was the real deal. Fortunately for me and you lucky lot out there, it was. I asked Guy what happened, how and why they recorded this way.
“By accident” He laughs. “No, when we recorded it I used to tweak it for about a week afterwards, I’ve been going to see bands; bands that I really, really respect and that were brilliant. But there was a kind of ethos coming out a few years ago and it’s still going on - ‘let’s play everything a little bit faster and be a bit louder and it will rock a bit more’. It doesn’t work like that. It’s like music by numbers and join the dots and it doesn’t work like that. If you listen to The Stones, everything is just over heartbeat rate and low acoustic guitars, which is not what we are about but…”
Dale adds “The first record company that was interested in signing us - and strung us along for years - fuckin’ wankers. When I spoke with them and said, ‘Are you interested in doing any business man?’ they said ‘yeah, but I gotta ask you Dale, is it meant to sound like that?’”
“Guy and I had this long running joke ages before that comment. “This is fuckin’ awful” he laughs. “But yes, it is meant to sound like that, and people seem to like it and good! Fuck knows why.” He says in bursts of laughter.
I think it’s different, some folk might not agree, but I think people are crying out for something different at the moment.
Dale Says “There is a lot of apathy about isn’t there, and that’s what we’ve, well, having said that half our bands not shown up today.” He looks around. Guy says “That could be construed as rock ‘n’ roll but I dunno. I dunno how it works anymore.” We’ll go with that I say laughing to the guys.
Guy agrees “Yeah we’ll go with rock ‘n’ roll, but that’s the thing, yeah, apathy - I don’t know.”
Dale says “Well complacency then, people are still aspiring to be Oasis 15 years after the fact or Coldplay; I mean what the fuck is any of that about. It’s just nonsense now.”
Guy takes a more serious tone “I gave the album to Chris Kimsey, a very lovely man, and I’m blessed to be a friend of his. I gave him the album and said ‘Chris it’s meant to sound like this’ and he phoned me up about a day later and he left about a 10 minute voicemail message going ‘Fucking why wasn’t I involved in this, you should have given me a call’.
At this very point in time Dale takes another draw of a cigarette, he and Guy look at each other and both say in unison “Because you’re too expensive Chris” as they both roar with laughter.
Guy continues “When you get that sort of endorsement, you think ‘OK, we might be going along the right lines, but the thing is I haven’t had this much fun since I started the Queerboys as it was, yeah it’s a bit approximate, but fuck it, ‘ave it.” He says in a brash cockney accent.
Talkin’ about ‘avin’ it as it were, I got to thinking and told the guys that this was gonna be the first time I have seen them. (Coincidentally after this gig I saw them a further two times, and will continue to see them when they play as each time I can honestly say I am left reeling for more.)
“Yeah we might be fucking shambolic Chelle.” Dale says as we all laugh.
Knowing full well that this isn’t the case I ask if there is anything in the works at the moment, any new material to look forward to?
Guy tells me “We don’t get together and think right we have to write this, we just get together. We’ve got about half an album and it goes between sort of Rockabilly and Reggae…”
Really? That’s quite a departure from the blues laden riffs that we are used to hearing from The Cowboys.
Dale says “Yeah, the only rule that we’ve got is that an album should never be more than 10 songs and no songs should be longer than about 3 minutes. No live set should be longer than 15 minutes.” He laughs.
Guy continues “What goes down stays down. We put the track down, maybe practice it for 5 minutes but as soon as we start recording that’s it, you got one shot at it. None of this ‘take 32’ it’s so boring, and I’ve got to sift through them and say oh that’s a good bit I’ll ‘ave that. It has to be one take and that’s it.”
“Guy has been really fucking vicious about that.” Says Dale - “Sometimes we say ‘oh I could do that again man’ and he’s like ‘No, no that’s it’. We were gonna call the album ‘What goes Down Stays Down’ but we come up with ‘Flog It!’ Guy and I were watching day time TV one morning when we got up and The Antiques Road Show was on and I said ‘you know if we ever tour this shower of wankers, that’s gotta be the name of the tour, ‘The Antiques Road Show’ Not sayin’ we’re old or anything but you know that’s how ‘Flog it!’ came about.” He laughs.
Guy jumps in “It’s fun and if people appreciate it, then it’s brilliant, it’s music and there’s this thing about it. Anybody should be able to pick up an instrument and get something out of it. Just something out of it, that’s what we’re trying to get, people to turn around and say ‘I can do that’ go on then, just do it!!”
That’s one of the best things about music isn’t it, just getting out there and playing it. Be it in your bedroom or on stage. Just to play… I used to play drums many moons ago… Dale asks me “Do you want a job?” hahaha I laugh “Man, I haven’t played a kit on over 10 years. “You’re over qualified.” Says Guy as we all burst out laughing.
Dale fills me in on how the drums went down on ‘Flog it!’ “On the album we’ve used computer drums, again this is all just done out of necessity and we have this metronome drum sound going off and me and Guy meandering around it. And that’s how we recorded the album. When we thought who the fuck can we get to reproduce that live there was only one answer and that is Simon Hanson. He’s a fucking machine, absolutely brilliant.”
“I’ve played with two drummers that have really done it for me.” Says Guy “That’s Ian Wallace who God rest his soul used to play with Bob Dylan and he did drums for Don Henley also. When he was playing he was amazing, God rest him. The second is Simon Hanson; you know you lay down a groove and play. You cannot go wrong.”
Dale tells me “Simon Hanson one of the best drummers in the world didn’t actually play drums on the album but he did play….” – “Piano!” say Guy and Dale in unison as they both laugh. “Then you have Alrick who is a drummer, but he plays everything.” Dale continues “Tonight he’s gonna play guitar, keyboards, harmonica, backing vocals, you know the fuckin’ lot! He’s a superb, superb talent you know.”
“He’s a great musician, and slide player.” Says Guy “It’s great, the chemistry is great.” Dale adds “It’s fractious at times, we fall out a lot.” Guy laughs “We just get up there and say ‘ave this, as you’ll see when we get up there, it’s not hard.”
With all the talk of the live shows and gettin’ up there and ‘avin it, my mind wanders and I ask the guys about their best rock ‘n’ roll memory…
Dale replies “I don’t know Chelle, ask Guy, he’s the one with the stories.” I look over at Guy and give him a look and wave my dictaphone in his face. “Erm, I dunno, it was either playing with The Stones or meeting Steve Cropper. I don’t know.”
That is pretty amazing, when did you play with The Stones?
“I think it was ‘The Urban Jungle Tour’ in about nineteen ninety…. I dunno, but they flew us over from the states to play St James’ Park in Newcastle and they invited us backstage, that was lovely, as you know they were absolutely brilliant. But meeting Steve Cropper one of my all-time heroes was the bollocks. That was great!”
I turn and look slyly at Dale - Come on; give a girl a fuckin’ break! We all laugh – You must have something, why did you start to play music in the first place?
Dale tells me “Because when I was a young boy I went to see a band formally known as the Queerboys, there was this geezer there with a big hat on, playing guitar, and now I play in a band with him.”
I know plenty of people that would love to play in a band with someone they idolised as a youngster, and you struggled to find that memory??
Dale smiles “Well I was thinkin’ about it…” Everyone bursts into laughter.
Vocalist Marc Eden didn’t join us for the interview, but we got to talking about Marc’s vocals and his abilities. If you haven’t heard him, then you are missing out. I have been watching him for years from covers to originals with bands such as Men and Gods and also covers band Rockworks, who no longer play but singing songs from Velvet Revolver to Zeppelin I have always known just how much of a talent Marc is. Not only is he an amazing rock vocalist but he has the attitude and the aura to go with it. I asked Dale – Didn’t Marc actually audition for Velvet Revolver at some point?
Dale replies “He told me the story. He said he got home back to his place in Crystal Palace one day and had an answering machine message, as he was checking through there was one from Slash. He thought it was a fucking wind up, but he’d left a number. Marc thought it’s obviously a load of bollocks but he called the number and low and behold it was Slash. They flew him out to LA for 3 months and yeah, he worked on the first incarnation of Velvet Revolver and there is still come controversy that exists to this day about the writing of ‘Slither’.”
As quite the Velvet Revolver fan I would have loved for Marc to have landed this gig, but did my ears deceive me, did Dale just say that Marc wrote fuckin’ Slither?
Dale continues “He had a big hand in it, yeah. Marc was so skint when he was out there, they put him up in a really good hotel and when it was time for him to leave, he had no money to get to the airport, so he had to phone Slash up and borrow some money. The geezer showed up in his black Mercedes and gave him $50 so he could get to the airport. Marc met them a couple of years back, I can’t remember when they were playing. It must have been about the time when it was the absolute end of Velvet Revolver at Brixton. So yeah he went there and erm, he went backstage and Slash’s first words were, ‘where’s my fifty bucks man’.”
We all laughed – No way!! I was astounded…. I guess that’s how rich folk stay rich I guess. Dale laughs “Yeah man, yeah.”
Marc’s vocals are something else. I think he sounds quite raw; he has a great tone to his voice.
Dale says “Well he’s a man that absolutely believes in everything that he does, it’s mad to see him work, when he’s there, he’s full on you can’t say anything to the bloke.” Guy adds “His lyrics are brilliant, you know he’s an amazing lyricist and I’ll be sitting at the computer doing a vocal take down thinking ‘what the bloody hell is he talkin’ about’, you know. Dale quotes some of Marc’s lyrics “’Using gentle yoda to the parallel swing’ what the fuck does that mean?”
Guy continues “You listen to it as a whole and it just works it’s what they say like everybody in this band, ‘Just let ‘em do what they do best’ and it works out.”
So do you all work on the lyrics and things together, or is it just Marc that writes them?
Dale tells me “Marc and Guy are the lyricists of the band. I’ve had a go but the pair of them say ‘No, mate’.” Dale laughs. “Marc also plays bass quite a lot and he’s done a lot of guitar on the album too. Everybody fiddles about; I’ve done a bit of bass.”
Guy adds “I’ve done a bit of harmonica and bass and guitars.” Dale says “Everybody thinks that ‘South London Thing’ is a load of screaming guitars and it isn’t. It’s a harmonica that Guy played, the only guitars on there is a solo in the middle and a solo at the end the rest is a harp that Guy played.”
As time was drawing to an end the guys strolled off into the sunset to do what they do best, they did have a show to prepare for! The Peckham Cowboys definitely have something very original about them. Their attitude is refreshing and it has been an absolute pleasure and a laugh to have a chat with them about their tunes.
You can catch The Peckham Cowboys later in the year as they are currently organising a tour for around Christmas/New Years. I would suggest that if they play near you, you get your ass to that show as they will not let you down. As much as I love their recorded work The Peckham Cowboys really shine live!! I’ll see you down the front!
All articles are © Michelle Nevill