By Jeff Maisey
Britain’s Vinny Peculiar will perform an intimate gig Saturday, March 18 at Colley Cantina. He’ll be joined by a backing group of Norfolk musicians tasked with learning a variety of his works, including tracks from his critically acclaimed concept album, “Silver Meadows (Fables from the Institution).”
In 2014, Uncut Magazine called Peculiar “an unsung national treasure,” while Q Magazine labeled him a “warm-hearted Morrissey.”
I recently interviewed Vinny Peculiar, aka Alan Wiles, to learn more about his recent success with “Silver Meadows,” a new album and his upcoming show in Norfolk.
How was reaction in the UK to your “Silver Meadows” album?
The album attracted some very decent heavy weight reviews from The Irish Times and various national dailies as well as online reviews. I was pleased with the reactions. National radio also played a few tracks and there’s at stage play currently in development written by Liverpool writer Ian Salmon.
Do music reviews from the press still impact sales in the UK?
I think less than they did as the magazine circulation is down, but musicians still like to see some kind of written affirmation of their work. Personally, I still buy the printed music press but less so than I did, on line reviews, you tube and streaming sites have changed the way people consume music, this also has an impact of music sales.
What can you share about the WR3 demos you’ve been releasing?
I moved back to live in the midlands where I’m from eighteen months ago and it inspired a new collection of songs, WR3 is the working title. They are all songs with local connections; I’ve been posting the demos on Soundcloud to give people an idea of what to expect, it’s always nice to get reactions and feedback from listeners.
When will these songs get studio production touches applied? What musicians are you featuring?
I’ve just finished a studio session recording bass and drums for the WR3 record, it’s the same rhythm section that played on “Silver Meadows,” Liverpool musicians Paul Tsanos on drums and Bobby Kewley on bass. Most of the remaining instrumentation I will do at home, then back into the studio for strings and brass in a couple of months time. The record should be ready to go in the summer. I also have a young band here in Worcester who I’m about to start gigging with and hopefully recording with later in the year.
What can you tell us about your upcoming performance in Norfolk, VA?
I first played The Naro Theatre in 1997 opening for Dar Williams, so this will be a 20-year anniversary trip playing band shows with some incredibly talented local musicians: Jim Hazel [guitars/bass], Albert Hammett [guitars] David Almeleh [drums]. I’m really excited about it. Norfolk is a really special place for me. When I’m not playing I will be catching up with old friends, loitering on Colley Avenue and hanging out at the Hope House Thrift Shop.
Can you share with our readers the challenges in bringing a touring band from the UK to the USA — even for a week of gigs?
The question everyone needs to ask is, “Are we going to cover our costs?” Flights for a band, van and equipment hire, a tour manager, and maybe a sound guy, you can imagine it all mounts up. There is less money in the industry now so even bands on bigger labels don’t always get financial help to tour. The solo singer/songwriter on the other hand stands a better chance of at least breaking even and with any luck a profit.
Looking back at your recording career, what is your favorite Vinny Peculiar album and please explain why?
I think my favorite is probably “Silver Meadows,” at least from a technical production kind of view, it’s the most recent. I also have a soft spot for “Ironing The Soul,” which was made in 2003 and still sounds like a classic!
And your favorite VP song?
That’s difficult – my favorites tend to be the ones I’m working on now, or have just written…there’s a song called “The Singing Schoolteacher” which will figure on the WR3 album, I was pleased with that one, it tells the story of Clifford T Ward, who taught me at school and went on to have top ten hits in the UK, he was an inspiration. I also have soft spot for “Confessions of a Sperm Donor.”
What is your viewpoint on the Brexit result and do you see any similarity with our American presidential election?
There’s definitely a grass roots fed up with the establishment view here in the UK that the left didn’t really see coming [just like the Trump Victory]. The Trump approach seems to be do what you like say what like change your mind and re write whatever you like, it’s a Twitter approach to politics. It’s depressing as it is worrying. The man is unhinged. The campaign here to leave was all about fear; fear of immigrants; fear of terrorists; distrust of politicians; it played on people’s fears and they bought it. I voted remain, most people I know did. Now the barriers are going up; we are preparing for separateness whilst groveling to the US for some kind of trade deal priority. Hmmm…I’ll stop there as I can feel a rant emerging.