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Why Danny’s Champs now fall into line
A LOOSELY assembled musical collective sounds like the bohemian dream, but as Danny Wilson found, it had its pitfalls.
When he comes to the Railway Hotel for a gig next week with Southend Americana outfit the Lucky Strikes in support, the latest line-up of Danny and the Champions of the World will look slightly more organised.
Danny laughs as he describes the rollcall of musicians who made up the original group, turning up to which ever gigs they liked.
He says: “It was really interesting. We’d play festivals and there’d be nearly 20 of us on the stage. Then sometimes I’d turn up and it’d be me, a kazoo player and some bloke on bongos.
“In a way it was brave to go out there like that. It felt like the right time to be not doing exactly the same show every night, but giving people just what they’d invested in.
“I think people like to know what they’re spending their money on. It’s certainly good for me to be doing what it says on the tin.”
The move was sparked when Danny signed a new publishing deal this year and started work on the latest album, marking the ideal time for a shift in approach.
He says: “It was sort of a step up. It was a good point to be able to get a new band in. It was very easy. It felt quite definitive.”
It also marked a change in sound for the band, with the tighter group taking on a rockier tinge and moving away from the folky sound of their previous incarnation.
Despite that Danny declares they’ve maintained their core.
He says: “All bands sound like they sound. I’m not taking anything away from the band. I chose the band and the people I wanted to work with on how I invisaged it sounding.
“The Champs were very freewheeling, folky and pastoral, taking influence from people like Ronnie Lane, the Faces and Van Morrison – with a little psychadelic edge. When all that started coming unstuck, I started wanting to go back to the kind of music I was listening to before.
“I guess everything happens in a weird way. When things aren’t going great you just want to go home or back to something.
“I started listening to music I wanted to play in the first place – Springsteen, Tom Petty, stuff like that. I decided I wanted to make a completely uncynical, uncomplicated rock’n’roll record.”
Danny and the Champs will be showcasing tunes from that record, this year’s album Hearts and Arrows, at the Railway gig.
Danny says: “I didn’t write the songs in different ways. I didn’t write a song before because I thought it would sound good on a sitar – we just slotted that in. And I didn’t write these ones because I thought they’d sound good on an electric guitar.
“It’s definitely a different sort of jacket they’re wearing, but it’s still a jacket. I was in a band called Grand Drive for ten years, we did five albums.
“It was a great experience, but we’d been from A-Z and back again musically, so it didn’t feel strange to try a new direction.”
Danny’s got a taste for the area when he played a solo set at Leigh Folk Festival earlier this year and he’s looking forward to playing in Southend, the hometown to some of his musical influences which include the Kursaal Flyers and Canvey’s Dr Feelgood.
He says: “I played in Leigh and I was completely blown away by it to be honest. I’m very excited about coming to Southend because of its music history. A lot of bands I really like come from that neck of the woods.
“That Oil City Confidential film was quite a big infuence on this album actually, not that it’s an R&B album, but that pub rock sound.”
He’s looking forward to sharing a stage with the Lucky Strikes, who will be joining Danny and the Champs on tour this month.
Danny says: “I’m really chuffed they’re coming with us. They’re a really great band, we’re lucky to be having them on the road with us.”
Danny and the Champions of the World with the Lucky Strikes Railway Hotel, Clifftown Road, Southend November 16, 8pm, £7 advance from Fives Records, Leigh Broadway or www.wegottickets.com