Good News, it’s finally out there! After a couple of hiccups, King King’s new album Maverick was released on Friday 27 November. The good news is tempered by the fact that the band have again had to alter their planned tour next year, further revisions all being down to the uncertainty regarding Covid-19. To make the most of things however, Velvet Thunder were recently able to share thoughts with Alan Nimmo, leader of and songwriter for King King.
I start by making the point that these days, interviews are more important than ever in being able to chat to folk and see how things are going in these strange times. We actually started this particular interview way back in March when the album was originally due for release, so it’s a pleasure to finally square the circle! Importantly, I firstly check on how the band are, to which Alan comments that they’re all fine, like everyone else they’re not without their struggles at times but they’ve recognised that progressing their music helps them get through it. And yes, it’s a big relief to know the album is finally out, with fans at last getting to hear the whole thing.
I ask whether they have been able to gauge what sort of reception the recent first two singles have already generated, to which Alan says ” The reaction from the fans and the fantastic amount of airplay that both singles have had, I can only assume that they have gone down well and people seem to like them. I’ve had so many comments and personal messages about the songs and the album and all of them have been very positive”. Echoing that sense of almost relief, I’d realised that King King’s last album, Exile and Grace, was released in October 2017. Some great singles came off that, but the band have been a little quiet on the recording front until this year, so I ask whether they were just mega-busy touring, or up to other projects -and when did they actually record Maverick? “Yeah! We actually recorded Maverick last year (2019) and just as it was almost finished the lockdown kicked in and we were unable to get the last 3 vocals on for a little bit. It seems like a long time in the making but in fact it actually wasn’t”. He goes on “Yes, we did take a bit of time out to get the new guys rehearsed and to get the new material together plus I felt that we had been over playing so I didn’t want people getting King King overkill!! It’s been a long time getting all together and we’re now ready and itching to get back out on the road and play live again in front of people! Every aspect of touring is great if you’re with the right people.!”
I enquire about the significance in the title of the new album, and cheekily pose whether it’s a reflection on Alan, or maybe on his kid brother, recently recruited to the band! Alan chuckles and says “It’s more of a reflection on myself to be honest as I have had to make a few bold decisions recently, changing the band line-up and a couple of other things”
I then own up to not having heard too much of the band’s earlier stuff, but that from what I had heard Maverick feels like a more dense, more ‘mature’, smoother mix of sound compared with your earlier work – and ask Alan whether that’s a fair summary? Alan responds “I’d say that Maverick is just a natural progression from our previous work. I think there are some songs from the last couple of albums that hint towards what Maverick was going to be but I feel that it’s been this way with all the albums. I think the difference each time is that the song writing quality improves with each album.” He goes on, “Maverick is an album that I chose to write with complete freedom, musically, it’s more mature and more complex than our previous records, but it also has the simplicity of an album that just has great catchy songs that people will want to sing along with. The essence of King King is still there and always will be. We hope the energy, fun and passion is evident throughout!”
“Recording the new album with the new line-up has been a whole lot of fun and very interesting,” says Alan “It’s great watching the guys using the great talent they have bringing the songs to life.” Most of the songs, bar one, were co-written by all the band members, while all arrangements were co-written by Alan and keyboardist Jonny Dyke. Says Alan, “I value contributions from all of the guys in the making of new music. Johnny and I found a great rhythm working together. We just got our heads down and made sure that the songs were arranged in the best way possible.” He adds “we both wanted keys to feature a lot more on this record because of what our intentions were in terms of the type of songs we wanted to write. Although it wasn’t necessarily about making one instrument more prominent, it’s about what’s right for the songs.” King King have evolved as a band, and being their fifth album, Maverick continues that process.
Alan goes on to talk a bit more about the band members: Johnny (keyboards & Hammond) has been in the band now for a few years but this is actually his second stint in King King. He was with us in the very early days of the band so he’s a familiar character already… Andrew Scott, who plays drums, we came across by chance on social media. Zander our bass player had discovered some of his demonstration videos and pointed me towards them – the rest is history! As for our bass man Zander Greenshields, I met Zander when I was 15 years old and we started playing together in my very first blues band!! Along with a friend of ours we started a little band called “Silvertrain”, and from that “The Blackwater Blues Band “ was born when Zander and I recruited my brother (Stevie Nimmo) which was to become “The Nimmo Brothers”! Zander and I worked together on and off over the years but more importantly we became very close friends way back then and it stayed that way so when I needed to find a bass player for King King he was the obvious choice!”
I also touch on Alan’s little brother Stevie now being in the band, and ask how did that come about and what’s it mean for the dynamics within the band. Alan makes the point that it’s another natural change reflecting the style of the new songs. “I have been planning on getting a second guitarist in the band for a while and was just waiting for the right time. There was only one choice for me where this was concerned and that was Stevie!” I follow this up by asking about the ‘split’ in guitar work between the two, whether they swap lead and rhythm around from track to track? (I refer to my favourite track on the album, Whatever It Takes To Survive, and the superb solo on that). Alan surprises me: “Stevie’s guitar work actually didn’t feature at all on the album. He did however provide some of the lyrics and some backing vocals. On live shows (whenever we get to do those again) we will incorporate some dual guitar work now and again but mainly he’s going to be providing a great second guitar and a fantastic backing vocal”
I make the point that Alan’s guitar work really shines on this album, another stand-out being End Of The Line – but in fact I was massively impressed by the whole band’s standard of musicianship across the album – it’s very classy! Alan modestly replies by saying every one of the guys performed their parts amazingly on the album and he’s so proud of them for putting such a great effort and heart in to it. I am happy to agree!
One of the recurring things that struck me listening to Maverick was the richness of Alan’s voice, I tell him it reminded me throughout of Paul Carrack. Alan is modest in his reply, confirming he’s a big fan of Paul Carrick and takes this as a real (and very deserved) compliment. “I feel like I really found my voice on this album but I think that the songs helped that. I didn’t need to try and sing beyond my limits or try and sound like the kind of singer I’m not so I feel so much better about this album.” I agree that the album definitely has a smooth 80’s feel to it, it certainly stands comparison with those classy, polished acts from the 80’s such as Steely Dan, Bob Seger, Paul Carrack’s several bands etc., and ask whether that’s a reflection of their influences, or a natural change in their own musical style? Alan enthusiastically agrees: “It’s definitely a reflection of my early influences. I find that the more comfortable I get with songwriting the more these influences bubble to the surface.”
Having said that I think there’s a very satisfying range of tone and pace on the album, it occurs to me that the way the band rip into the blues-boogie of Dance Together shows it’s clearly a band favourite, an obvious candidate for playing live? Alan slightly disagrees – “I can honestly say that there’s not one song on this album that I don’t want to play live. And that’s a first!” I mention that it must seem weird to have written the new album a while back – were they working on new material already? Alan sort of agrees “We are starting to put some ideas together for new material but before we do that I’d like to get this one out first, at least for a little while!” (fair point!)
We then get onto the topic of touring – a sizeable tour is planned for 2021 and 2022, the band is champing at the bit to get out there. I ask whether they are struggling to keep the “band momentum” going, the difficulties of rehearsing together etc. Alan make the point that the “business” of running the band always means there are things to be done “So it’s actually been as busy as always but just without the touring. We always try to keep the fans connected to us with lots of information and content like acoustic songs, videos and keeping them up to date with our progress.”
It is, however, fair to say Alan is looking forward to gigging again! “I’m really excited to be getting out on the road for the first time with the new line-up. There’s a tremendous camaraderie among us and the musical chemistry is really great. We’ve all been waiting to get out there and play for our fans and it’ll be great for the new lads to get acquainted with our loyal King King family”
And on one particular “tour” in 2019, King King went on Joe Bonamassa’s cruise “Keeping The Blues Alive At Sea”. I’m fascinated by what that must have been like, and whether Alan hopes to do it again some time? He replies ” Yes! the “KTBA” cruise was an amazing experience for us. We got to meet and hang out with so many bands – some of which are friends of ours and some who we met for the first time! We made so many new friends and each show we played went down very well and we also made a whole lot of new fans. It’s a great event and something that will no doubt continue to be great and I think we’ll probably see a lot of these kind of events happening more often. We can’t wait to get back on there again to have some great fun and hang out with all the fantastic people on there!”
Thanks to Alan for taking time out from his musical mission! I’m here to tell you they will be great wherever you get to see them in the future – and Maverick is a great record, if you haven’t heard it yet, Now Is The Time!