Q&A with award-winners Starlite Campbell Band, flying in the face of disposable music and keeping the roots of rock music alive

"Music is important to me. It’s part of the language and expression of being alive - being human!"

Suzy Starlite & Simon Campbell:

A Fresh Taste of British Rock!

British award-winners Starlite Campbell Band Starlite release exciting third album 'Starlite Campbell Band - Live'. Flying in the face of disposable music and keeping the roots of rock music alive, award-winning Starlite Campbell Band release their exciting third album 'Starlite Campbell Band Live' on July 22nd, 2022. Husband and wife Suzy Starlite and Simon Campbell are passionate about the music as well as each other and have been on a thrilling roller-coaster musical ride following the worldwide success of their first two albums 'Blueberry Pie' and 'The Language of Curiosity'. With their high energy, virtuoso performances, no two gigs are the same with their thunderous groove-ridden rhythm section, mighty tone-filled riffs, strong melodies and poetic lyrics complimented by unexpected, exciting improvisational free-form jamming. Caring deeply about giving audiences a great time at their live concerts and creating beautifully recorded music, they wanted to capture the sound and spirit of those special concerts for fans of Starlite Campbell Band. Recorded over a series of dates in the UK at The Met, Bury and The Grange Theatre, Oldham, their new live album features Steve Gibson on drums (The Buzzcocks, Jack Bruce) and a trio of outstanding organists including Jonny Henderson (Matt Schofield, Kirk Fletcher) and Christian Madden (the Liam Gallagher band) on Hammond organ and Wurlitzer electric piano.

(Starlite Campbell Band / Photo by Paul Husband © 2022)

'Starlite Campbell Band Live!' features all the band's original songs from their catalogue of work with one exception; when Josh Phillips, Hammond organ player with the legendary band 'Procol Harum' joined Starlite Campbell Band on their 2019 UK tour, there was no question that the iconic 'A Whiter Shade of Pale' had to be included in the setlist and features as the closing track on the new 'live' album.

Interview by Michael Limnios    Starlite Campbell Band, 2017 Interview @ blues.gr

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music? What has remained the same about your music-making process?

Simon: I started writing songs when I was 17 with an electric guitar in my band Whitefire. It was the time of the riff, the time of long solos and virtuoso playing. Punk arrived and this quickly came to a mainstream halt. I never really followed the trend but slowly my writing became more concise. At that time, I was only writing music and some top-line melodies. After my big record deal in the ‘90s and at the ripe old age of 35 I started singing lead vocals and writing lyrics as well as the music which changed the way I looked at songs and my writing style. I was using a lot of drum machines and acoustic guitars, which I still do now, but I am totally inspired when I pick up an electric guitar with a great sound. I have always used synthesisers on and off and now use various MOOG and Sequential instruments, the latter where Suzy and I are recognised artists and ambassadors. I have also just started to play piano and messing with sampling and loops, which is really opening up my creativity.

To sum up, for me it's all about the lyrics with a good melody to deliver it.

Suzy: Music is important to me. It’s part of the language and expression of being alive - being human!

Growing up in a small town had it’s downside as there weren’t many opportunities to see live bands; I was in our local record shop all the time sifting through vinyl, looking for new musical and ‘life’ experiences; music was my best friend and sometimes my only friend. I spent my weekends dancing and the rest of the time listening to music. When my mum bought me an acoustic guitar aged 16 I started writing songs and recording little demos and ideas on my prized portable cassette tape machine. Those ideas, the things that you cannot say in words but can better express in music… that process, that desire to connect and communicate, writing lyrics, recording song ideas and melodies (now on my mobile phone) - that’s something that has always been there, always been a part of me and my emotional oxygen.

I have grown so much as an artist it’s crazy! That is primarily down to Simon who totally and utterly believes in and supports me with such deep love, respect and positivity! I’ve never experienced that before!

Where does your creative drive come from? What do you hope people continue to take away from your music/songs?

Simon: To tell you the truth, I don't know where the drive comes from other than to say music just ‘arrives’ when you least expect it and here the voice recorded on your phone is your friend!

Suzy and I are both observers of the world, voracious readers and just love putting ourselves in situations where we are inspired - restaurants, art galleries, bars, the beach. There is no doubt that in the nine years we have been together, Suzy has really made an impact on the way I create. She is one of the most interesting and alternative people I have ever met. As intimated before, the lyric to us is the big thing - there to inform, observe and arouse curiosity.

"Don’t worry about making mistakes when playing live - what is a ‘mistake’ anyway? An unintentional moment and then the music has already moved" (Starlite Campbell Band / Photo by Paul Husband © 2022)

What do you think is key to a music life well lived? What musicians have continued to inspire you and your music?

Suzy: To make a living from your art is the ultimate for any artist plus of course maintaining your enthusiasm and creativity through good times, and bad.

Simon: Daniel LanoisI fell in love with Lanois through his production of Bob Dylan's masterpiece ‘Oh Mercy’ and quickly found the other records in the trilogy: ‘Yellow Moon’ (Neville Brothers) and his first solo album ‘Acadie’. All three were recorded in New Orleans using fabulous local musicians plus the wonderful talents of our friend Malcolm Burn along with Mark Howard, Brian Eno plus Larry Mullen Jr and Adam Clayton of U2. Over the years we have followed him with a passion and the rockumentary ‘Here Is What Is’ is a great favourite of ours. Lanois has produced some monster albums, working with a stellar array of artists from U2 to Robbie Roberson, Peter Gabriel to Sinéad O'Connor, but it's his collaboration with Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris that really floats our boat. He works with Brian Blade, who along with Vinnie Colaiuta is one of our favourite drummers. The fact that he is a songwriter, vocalist, guitarist, producer and engineer provides a deep connection with Simon who plays our vinyl copies of ‘Acadie’ and ‘Oh Mercy’ before every session he records  - just to set the standard. ‘Nuf said.

Simon: Nigel GodrichGodrich is Radiohead’s producer and works also on Tom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood's side projects. We just love his production sensibilities making complex music very accessible and appearing to be very much a part of the creative process. But he is much more than just Radiohead. The ‘From the Basement’ series of live performances are totally amazing taking its inspiration and vibe from The Old Grey Whistle Test. Outstanding.

Simon: Jimmy PageI was born on January 9th, the same date, but not the year as Page and feel a real connection with his playing and production. He is a very ‘British’ guitar player, a bit sloppy - not as clean and refined as some of his American counterparts. Zeppelin III was my first introduction after an older boy at school who didn’t care for the music gave it to me. Of course, I voraciously consumed all the albums, using a reel-to-reel tape machine to slow them down, and learned every track. Houses of the Holy and #1 have remained my favourites and are on regular rotation in our studio. It was these that made me want to learn how to write, arrange and produce records. To this day his slightly crunchy guitar sound always sounds great to me and made me dislike the muddy overdriven sounds of many ‘modern’ guitar players. Take a listen to our new album ‘Starlite Campbell Band Live!’ and you will see what I mean.

Suzy: David BowieWho can’t love his style, avant-garde thinking, intelligence, and his constant pushing of musical boundaries. Like most artists, he was of course a musical magpie picking up musical ideas from the likes of Scott Walker and Jacques Brel. He also surrounded himself with great musicians, primarily guitarists such as Ronson, Fripp, Alomar, Slick, Belew, Rogers and Gabrels plus of course legendary producers Eno and Visconti. My all time favourite ‘Bowie’ rhythm section is the combination of George Murray and Dennis Davis. Simon and I cried when we first heard ‘Where Are We Now’ as it was clear - to us - he was dying.

Suzy: Scott WalkerThis enigmatic, mysterious, troublesome genius has been so influential to vast swathes of modern music. He always lurks in the British psych with his magnificent early Walker Brother hits but it's his solo material that really strikes home. The later material can be a very tricky listen but totally worth it.

"To tell you the truth, I don't know where the drive comes from other than to say music just ‘arrives’ when you least expect it and here the voice recorded on your phone is your friend!" (Suzy Starlite and Simon Campbell are a married couple and full-time musicians / Photo by Peter Putters © 2019)

Currently you’ve one live release. Do you have any interesting stories about the making of the new live album?

Suzy: It happened before and during the pandemic which was challenging.

The biggest issue with any live recording is the quality and flexibility... We were lucky in that one of our regular gigs at The Met in Bury - which is near Manchester in the UK - has a fabulous facility and, more importantly, the crew know how to use it! We were able to record each instrument on a separate digital track which then we could remix back in our studio in Portugal. ‘Guilty’ from the album was recorded at a theatre in Oldham and the performance was recorded on a digital multitrack by the live sound crew from Tube UK Ltd.

Artists and labels will have to adapt to the new changes. What are your predictions for the music industry? How do you think the music industry will adapt to it?

Suzy: The pandemic has severely hit live venues all over the world and it is taking longer than anyone ever expected to recover. Some places have closed permanently and every week more and more venues are forced to close through lack of public support and funding.

We are creatures of habit and these habits have changed - it’s very hard to get people back!

Simon: Live streaming and online ‘live’ videos provided a great opportunity for people to consume ‘live music’ at home during the numerous lockdowns, and although nowhere near as beautiful an experience, it was also a lot less expensive… and for people with health issues, there was also no ‘risk’ involved.

There are however many thousands of livestreams every day - how do you find out about them? Via social media? That’s another algorithmic nightmare where you think people, your friends, your ‘followers’ know what you’re up and see your posts… but in reality, a lot of the time they don’t. You have to pay to be seen! You have to pay to advertise!

Everyone is suffering from rising prices and this of course reflects in the live music scene.                                         (Starlite Campbell Band / Photo by Paul Husband © 2022)

A great number of blues festivals that did not cancel and managed to go ahead in 2022 are featuring bands that they had booked back in 2020.

Both the declining numbers of live venues and the homogenization of support for ‘popular bands’ has had a serious and detrimental effect on a band’s income, as much of the overall revenue from touring is through merchandise sales.

Combined with videos on social media, streaming has really changed the way people consume music and how artists are paid. The usual suspects of Spotify, Amazon Music, YouTube Music and Apple Music et al give a tiny amount to the artist but some services have bucked the trend. The immensely popular Bandcamp Fridays are a notable example, offering all revenue to artists and labels one day a month and SoundCloud have shaken up the industry by introducing ‘Fan-powered’ royalties which in a nutshell means the more fans listen on SoundCloud, and listen to your music, the more you get paid.

Under the old model, money from your dedicated fans goes into a giant pool that’s paid out to artists based on their share of total streams. That model mostly benefits mega stars and the huge labels that support them (who have also negotiated a much higher rate per play) .

There has been a lot of talk about this problem over many years and besides these notable exceptions, we can't see it changing soon. We release almost everything on vinyl which is a booming medium, so much so it's very difficult to have your music pressed as the major labels hog the plants. Apart from seeing a band live, buying vinyl is a great way (and most sonically pleasurable way) to support artists. The Starlite Campbell Band record, mix, master with vinyl in mind. In summary...

  • The best and most enjoyable way to support artists is by coming to gigs and buying merchandise - the revenue from one t-shirt is more than 5000 plays on Spotify
  • If you don't go to gigs, buy merchandise from the band directly online
  • Stream away but if you really like the music, buy downloads from Bandcamp or any of the online stores
  • Visit your local record store and buy there

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Suzy & Simon:

  • Remain positive even in the darkest moments
  • Be courteous and respectful to everyone unless they really piss you off
  • Don’t look back, don't stand still and never let anyone put you down
  • Work and collaborate with the best musicians you can
  • Read books and meet people - they are your inspiration
  • Don’t worry about making mistakes when playing live - what is a ‘mistake’ anyway? An unintentional moment and then the music has already moved on… get over it, move along… as Scott Walker sang ‘Next!’
  • Always look on the bright side of life

Starlite Campbell Band - Home

(Starlite Campbell Band / Photo by Paul Husband © 2022)

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