UK musician/songwriter Del Bromham talks about the yesterdays and nowadays of music and his experiences

"I miss the excitement and the atmosphere which seemed to be going on all around. Like I said before, not just the music, but the culture and changes going on also. Music seems to have little originality."

Del Bromham: The Ballad of Knight

Del Bromham was born in West London - East Acton to be precise - and made his first public performance when he was 13 years old! This happened almost by accident due to one of the guitarists in his brother Allan’s group, called The Traders, leaving unexpectedly a week or so prior to a gig. As Del had sat and watched them rehearse every week for as long as he could remember, he knew most of the songs, so his brother Allan suggested to the rest of the band to let Del have a try out. So much so that he played the gig, which was about a four hour show, after only one or maybe two rehearsals, and ended up staying with the band for a further three years, leaving only when his own band, which had formed at school when he was fifteen years old, started to take off and found it difficult to continue with The Traders. The band he formed was called Stray (back then it was The Stray) and that has virtually been his life’s work ever since. Stray released their first album back in 1970 when the average age of the bandmembers was about 17. Over the years Del has recorded eleven studio albums and three live albums with Stray, and has been on countless tours and one night stands rubbing shoulders with too many artistes to list! In recent years, the earlier albums have been re-released and have continued to sell well, continually finding new audiences.

It wasn’t until 2004 that Del recorded his first solo album, ‘The Devil’s Highway’ which, unusually for Del, was a more blues-based album with a combination of old songs which he remembered from his childhood and some self-penned songs in the style of the old blues masters. This coincided with the time that Del was asked to accompany and tour with guitarist Leslie West on his “Blues To Die For” tour. This was the first time that Del had played a completely solo acoustic set with no backing whatsoever. From this point Del decided to do more acoustic shows and then later formed a side project from Stray, known as Del Bromham’s Blues Devils. Over the years Del has worked with Leslie West many times, and while accompanying Leslie on his ‘Blues To Die For’ tour, Leslie and Del got together and wrote a song called ‘To The Moon’. It was not until some years later in 2011 that this song was included on Leslie's album ‘Unusual Suspects’ - an album which also included guests appearances from Slash, Billy Gibbons, Zakk Wylde, Joe Bonamassa and Steve Lukather. 2008 was the year that the Stray line up of Del Bromham, Karl Randall (drums) and Stuart Uren (bass guitar) worked with top producer Chris Tsangarides to record the album ‘Valhalla’. This marked the beginning of a good relationship between Peter Purnell, ‘MD’ of Angel Air Records, and Del Bromham. Angel Air Records got to hear the Devil's Highway album and released it with additional bonus tracks in 2011. Next year, Del received a ‘Lifetime Achievement In Music' award at The Newark Blues Festival, along with Tony McPhee (The Groundhogs) and Andy Fraser (Free). It was time, and long overdue, to record another solo album. His most current album “Nine Yards” was released in 2013.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Rock n’ Roll culture and what does the blues mean to you?

I am not sure about Rock n Roll culture specifically. I have always felt that for me it was always about music of all genres. I sometimes feel a little embarrassed when I see some of what are called ‘Rock stars’ living the Rock n Roll lifestyle when it’s basically just acting, it’s not really sincere.

How do you describe Del Bromham sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

For me it’s all about songs, verses and chorus’s. I would like to believe that my music can reach a wide audience of all musical genres and tastes. My musical tastes are varied and I think what happens is that it all goes into my brain and comes out like what I hope is identifiable as what maybe defined as identiable as Del Bromham. I think over the years there are those who have found it difficult to put Del Bromham and Stray into a category which is frustrating for some because generally that is what people like to do.

What were the reasons that made the UK in 60s to be the center of Blues/Rock researches and experiments?

The UK were experiencing major changes in culture fashion and music. I cannot define why and I’m not sure anyone can, but it is a fact. People were prepared to take chances and the perfect example of this were The Beatles and of course George Martin. They were miles ahead of everyone else.

"I suppose I would like to have been at Woodstock. It has become such a legendary festival and seemingly the catalyst for so many legendary performances and artists. I can’t think of anything musically more amazing than sitting watching some of those performances." (Photo by Trev Earl)

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I have too many to list but meeting one of my musical heroes Steve Winwood when I was about 17 years old was about the first one. Meeting and working with Leslie West and writing a song titled ‘To the moon‘ which featured on his album ‘Unusual Suspects’. Another of my musical heroes was Terry Reid who I have met and toured with and become good friends with. Steve Harris has become a good friend of mine now, particularly since Iron Maiden recorded the Stray song ‘All in your Mind’. I never thought when I was younger I would not only meet but become friends with some of my musical heroes! My dad gave me the best advice when I was growing up which was ‘Don’t spend all of your money, save a little bit for a rainy day’

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

The first one that springs to mind is when Stray opened for Ten Years After back in about 1971. We had finished our sound check when Alvin Lee walked onto the stage and asked if we fancied a jam. Instead of playing guitar, I sat and played Chick Churchill’s electric piano. It was a lot of fun and he came up to me afterwards and said ‘Hey, a multi-instrumentalist!’ Then asked what I was doing after the show and we went to the cinema … bizarre … and that’s another story! When Stray recorded the Saturday Morning Pictures album, we said we would like to have female backing singers on a couple of songs. So our engineer Martin Birch made a couple of phone calls and a little later, one of the singers who arrived was the legendary P.P. Arnold! Her partner at the time was bass player Fuzzy Samuels. After hearing the song Mr Hobo (I could see him rocking up and down in the corner), he asked who was playing bass? Unusually I played bass guitar on that track. A couple of the guys pointed at me and Fuzzy said something like ‘Hey man, nice bass, nice groove’. Wow, what a compliment from someone like him! As far as opening acts the one that sticks out in my mind was when Stray played in Newcastle, the opening act was Skid Row an Irish band featuring a young 18 year old guitarist named Gary Moore. He was just incredible and our paths crossed many times over the years. I miss him! There was another great band on the gig scene in the UK called Home. Good little band featuring bass guitarist Cliff Williams who later went on to join ACDC and also guitarist Laurie Wisefield who was with Wishbone Ash for a while and went on to become a sought after session player.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the excitement and the atmosphere which seemed to be going on all around. Like I said before, not just the music, but the culture and changes going on also. Music seems to have little originality. There seem to be no really groundbreaking artists around. I cannot think of many songwriters and artists who are around today that will be around and still having success in say 20 or 30 year time, such as artistes like Rod Stewart, Sting, Elton John etc (whether you like them or not). I believe a large percentage of the top albums sold over the Christmas period in the past few years have consistently been artists from the 70’s.

"I would like to believe that my music can reach a wide audience of all musical genres and tastes. My musical tastes are varied and I think what happens is that it all goes into my brain and comes out like what I hope is identifiable as what maybe defined as identiable as Del Bromham." 

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Well I’d like to see the live music scene be as healthy as is it was back in the 60’s and 70’s. When I was growing up in London you had the opportunity of going to gigs 7 days a week with a choice of venues every night. It is quite the reverse now in the UK. Venues are closing and people appear to be less interested in seeing live music. Some of the most succesfull acts on the circuit these days appear to be the tribute acts which is an irony because without original acts there would be no tributes!

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues from Skiffle and Jazz to Psychedelic, Progressive and Rock music?

Ooh! I’m not sure if I’m qualified to answer that question. I suppose it’s that mix of different musical cultures. Blues was originated from the black slaves in the USA. Skiffle followed which was basically the white mans interpretation of the blues. I feel constant need by musicians expanding their musical horizons created various forms which we know today such as jazz, Psychedelic, Soul, Rock and Metal.

What has made you laugh from Reading Festival 1971 and what touched (emotionally) you from the 60s era?

I remember wearing a suit made of mirrors! I went to get on stage and realized I could not bend my legs so I had to have three road crew guys lifting me on.

What is the impact of Blues and Rock n’ Roll culture and music to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Well there are those who do listen to the lyrics. I wrote song which coincidentally was the title track of the second album by Stray titled ‘Suicide’. I wrote this around the end of 1969, there had been a lot of race riots/racism around the world, particularly in the UK and the USA. The song was about a black guy who felt persecuted because of his colour and the only way to end his pain was to commit suicide so that he could be free of the torment caused by racism. There are some who did not understand the song because they didn’t listen and because they hadn’t listened to the song closely I was branded a racist. Quite the contrary in fact. I am a storyteller and I was telling a story. Ironically I have spoken to black people who totally get what I was saying.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I suppose I would like to have been at Woodstock. It has become such a legendary festival and seemingly the catalyst for so many legendary performances and artists. I can’t think of anything musically more amazing than sitting watching some of those performances.

Del Bromham - Official website

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