I have always been interested in music and performing live. My earliest experience was when I was 6 years old while taking a family night out to the London palladium. During the show, they asked for children to come up to the stage in an attempt to wake up the Honey Monster with the help of Richard O Sullivan. I can remember running as fast as I could for an opportunity to go on stage. I made it, and was handed a recorder to make loads of noise in an attempt to wake up the sugar puff giant! I loved it, and even now I remember it so well.
Listening to music from a very early age, as my parents and my brother were always playing something around the house, I had the opportunity to listen to some great bands. One particular artist was Gary Numan, and I found his music mesmerising. His Live album, “Living Ornaments 1981”, was played every night while I went to bed – I still have it. With a brother that was so musical and active with watching bands, it wasn’t long before I tagged along, seeing bands such as Queen (at Knebworth), David Bowie, Gary Numan, U2, Japan, Echo and the Bunnymen, Big County and many others. I went on to see Gary Numan 23 times in one year, and have seen him live over 80 times.
I had a dream of performing on stage as Gary Numan. I use to spend most of my spare time dressing up like him, singing in front of a mirror trying to adopt the faces and poses he used to do. This lasted years actually, and although I soon had a family of my own, I created a small studio in the garden, complete with Roland drum kit, which was used to make my own Gary Numan backing tracks. I applied to go on “Stars in their Eyes” because I thought I had a decent enough backing track to perform to. During this time, and completely by accident, I met a guy who would help me carry out my ultimate dream – Julian Carter, who is a great guitarist, singer and performer. He was playing at a local charity gig in a village church yard. I asked Julian, who I had never met before, if I could have 5 mins of his show time to perform “Are Friends Electric?” . He said “sure”, and within a week he had found 3 other musicians to put together a tribute band with me as the lead singer called “Numen”! I could hardly believe my luck! I had absolutely no experience of being a front man, so I decided to perform at some local talent contests to gain some experience. I actually got to the finals of the “Chicago Rock Café” contest.
So my first band was formed, and this was where I met Barry, who is in the “Robots” now. For a while, I was also working on my own studio, buying synthesisers, drum machines and computer recording equipment, to write and recording my own music.
In 2011, I entered a song writing competition and came 5th, winning the chance to produce a full CD album. So in 2012, our (Sonia and me) “Antidote – Peace of Me” was written, recorded and produced. It was a very proud moment for me when I sent the CD to my brother, who collects music. Later, I even swapped a CD with Zayn Malik (I had no idea who he was at the time!).
I went on to be the lead singer in a number of bands: The Kicks, Ellie Dee, Second Sight, The Chosen, Booted and Scooted, Replicas and Konya. I also met some great musicians on the way, including my wife Sonia, Paul Davies, Mick Sharp, Steve “Fingers” Carty, “Pabs” Paul White, Julian Carter, Russ Ross, Keith Jenkins, Steve Rapp, and of course my fellow “Robots” Barry Chuckles and Pete Hollis, whom I only wish had joined the Numan bands that I was in.
My influences and heroes are:
The Sisters of Mercy
Dexys Midnight Runners
Hello, I’m Barry. I play guitar and do backing vocals in the Robots. I’m the one that’s mostly in tune and err…. Oh yer…. I’m the miserable one !
Although I might look miserable,I’m really smiling on the inside… Honest !
A bit of history….
You may not think it to hear me, but I joined my first band on guitar at 17 (a long time ago). I then changed to playing bass. Since then I have played in various Pub \ club and functions bands. I met Keith after being asked to join his Numen tribute band and went back to playing guitar. Straight away had my eyes opened to the wonderful Gary Numan.
When that split up I had the crazy idea of asking Peter Hollis if he would be up for getting together with Keith and myself and continuing the idea, playing dark 70’s & 80’s classics.
The Robots were formed in 2013.
Being the oldest member of the band, I see my role in the Robots as a kind of jiminy cricket character. I’m the voice of conscience and reason who sits on their shoulders and listens to Pete and Keith’s crazy ideas. Then after thinking about it for at least a good 5 seconds, dismiss it completely and then have to try and sail them back to the shores of reality (A full time job I can tell you).
My musical hates: Just about everything that Pete likes and ‘nearly’ everything that Keith likes.
Favourite music: It Bites, Nik Kershaw, Go West, Prefab Sprout. Frank Sinatra.
Favourite Guitarists: Jeff Beck, Guthrie Goven, Greg Howe, Francis Dunnery. John Mitchell.
Favourite Bass Players: Marcus Miller, Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, Nathan East, Mark King & Phil Lynott (Just because!).
The Gear I use……
Guitars: Fender Stratocaster/ Levinson Blade Custom Stratocaster
Blackstar \ Marshall Amplification
Basses: Status 80’s Classic Headless 5 string
Status 80’s Classic Headless Fretless 5 string
EBS Amplification & cabs.
So That’s me in a nutshell.
No hang on,This is me in a nutshell…..
Help I’m trapped in a nutshell !
My early musical experiences came about through luck! At age 8, my primary school offered instrument lessons to anyone interested. When I applied, the only instrument left was a cornet (a brass band version of a trumpet – it’s the instrument that plays the melody in the “Coronation Street” theme!). I went for it anyway because it felt like I should take the opportunity. At about the same time, a pianist friend of my parents offered to give me piano lessons at 20p a lesson (this was in 1971). Again I felt like I should take the opportunity! And so my classical training started.
For me, the real life changing event was when I started secondary school. The new school was happy for me to continue learning a brass instrument, and I was introduced to “Max”, the peripatetic brass teacher. He was a fantastic teacher, and very quickly enrolled me to take the Royal School of Music exams. By this time, my parents had saved up enough money to buy me my very own second hand trumpet, which I took all the exams on (I passed Grade 8 when I was 16). However, apart from being a great teacher, Max was also one of the bandmasters of the Royal British Legion marching band, and he soon recruited me into the band at age 11. This band was originally formed in 1952, and is regarded as one of the best youth bands in this country (frequently winning national band contests). I learnt so much in this band, in particular the discipline of how to work with other musicians. Even up until 2015, I would still help them out occasionally (usually playing the tuba!).Through the marching band, I met a few other musicians who also played contemporary instruments (guitar, bass, drum kit), and we formed my first group in 1980.
When I was about 16, I started listening to popular radio more and suddenly found a love for the music that was in the charts at the time. This was 1979, and I can remember the first single I ever bought – Supertramp’s “The Logical Song”. I really liked a lot of the new wave stuff that was floating around at the timetoo, which was so refreshing compared to the punk scene of only a few years earlier, which nearly put me off popular music for life! But the stand out sound that really inspired me was Gary Numan/Tubeway Army’s “Are Friends Electric?”. It was unique, and I was so excited that it stayed at the top of the charts for 7 weeks! Gary Numan, and this song in particular, set me on a journey re-discovering the electronic music of the 70s that set the stage for the synthesiser revolution that was to follow in the 80s. Of particular influence to me (apart from Mr Numan) were Jeff Wayne’s “War of the Worlds”, Jean Michel Jarre’s “Oxygene”, Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn”, Vangelis’ “Pulstar”, Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, M’s “Pop Music”, John Carpenter’s theme to “Assault on Precinct 13” and Giorgio Moroder/Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”.
1980 saw a mini revolution as electronic music started to gain a foothold in the charts, and bands like Spandau Ballet, Adam and the Ants, OMD, Ultravox, John Foxx and Visage became household names. This is the year that I had my first gigs with my first group, and we covered many of these artists. It’s ironic that “Fishing For Robots” have resurrected so many of these songs today (so no excuses if you hear me play a bum note because I’ve been playing some of these songs for nearly 40 years!). The keyboard I used at the time was an “Armon” portable organ. It was relatively expensive, but sounded more or less the same whichever button you pushed! However, I managed to coax an acceptable noise from it by running it through an old chorus pedal, making it sound a bit like the synthesisers of the time.
I took a 3 year break to study engineering at Liverpool University, but when I returned, I took out a loan to buy some decent keyboards and a Tascam 4-track tape recorder. I then started gigging with a great vocalist called Richard (“Digger”) Baylis using backing tracks recorded on the 4-track using Roland, Korg and Yamaha synthesizers and a primitive Roland drum machine. We covered everything from A-Ha, Visage and OMD, through Michael Jacksonand D-Train, and even rock classics by Deep Purple and Bryan Adams. A year or so later, I bought a Roland sequencer and a decent sample-based Roland drum machine, which I then used for the backing tracks.
Since then, I have played in a handful of other bands, most notably “Shot 2 Funk” and “Blue Vision”, which still perform today. However, around 2009, Keith approached me to play in his Numan tribute band. I was very flattered, and desperately wanted to join, but my day job and family commitments had to take priority, so I decided to decline. Keith is not one to give up easily, so would frequently ask me if I was interested, and in 2013, I felt I had the time and space to commit. We discussed what we wanted to do, and together with Barry, we decided that we should not restrict our repertoire to just Gary Numan, but delve deeper into the genre to give ourselves more universal appeal. “Fishing For Robots” was born! Even so, we still thought we’d have limited appeal, and maybe get 2 or 3 gigs a year. We had no idea just how popular our choices of music would be, and we find ourselves to be quite busy with a warm reception wherever we play!
For the gear-nerds out there, here is a run-down of the equipment I use:
Korg LE61 “Triton” – great string and brass sounds
Roland XP30 – beautifully realistic piano samples, plus whoosh synth sounds
Roland Juno Di – good all-round keyboard, with vocoder
Roland MC50 Microcomposer – yes, I still use diskettes with this machine!!!
Korg O5RW module – fantastic drum, sample and synth sounds. This is the unit you hear in all our backing tracks (mostly bass and drums)
And more importantly, my heroes and influences:
Daniel Miller (producer of Depeche Mode, Naked lunch, Fad Gadget)
Vince Clarke (Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Erasure keyboard player)
Jon Lord (Deep Purple keyboard player)
Mick MacNeil (Simple Minds keyboard player)
Human League (particularly with Craig-Marsh and Ware)
Jean Michel Jarre
Nile Rodgers (legendary producer of Chic, Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran, Sister Sledge)
Trevor Horn (producer of ABC, Buggles, Art of Noise, Yes, Grace Jones, Pet Shop Boys, Seal)
Conny Plank (legendary producer of Kraftwerk, Ultravox, Echo and the Bunnymen)
Brian Eno (producer of Bowie, U2, Talking Heads, Coldplay)