A brief chat with Thunder

Published on: May 29th, 2015

British hard rockers Thunder put out there amazing debut album, Back Street Symphony, back in 1990, and followed it with the arguably better Laughing on Judgement Day in 1992. In their home country, and indeed all over Europe, they were huge but that popularity never translated into an American audience. Still, it’s never too late and the band has a great new album out, Wonder Days. We spoke to singer Danny Bowes about it, and his desire to tour the States one day.B

Yellow Scene: Wonder Days is awesome, and it’s classic Thunder. At this point, does the band try to grow and evolve, or is it simply a case of writing those great Thunder tunes?

Danny Bowes: To be honest, we’ve never really had any massive grand plan. We’e always worked on the assumption that, if it moves us sufficiently, hopefully it will do the same thing with our audience. We’ve identified very closely with our audience. If we’re excited, we’ll hopefully be exciting, and that should rub off. We’ve tried to keep it really simple. We’re not complicated people.

YS: Why did it take six years?

DB: It’ll probably take me six years to explain it if I really went into all the details. Basically, at the end of 2008, I had reached a bit of a crossroads in my life. I was running the band’s label, I was managing the label, I was taking care of our online store, and this comes under the heading of, “Be careful what you wish for.” The internet had come into our lives eight or nine years before, and we grasped the nettle and decided to self-release. That in itself is a double-edged sword because it means you can do what you want, however you want it, free of interference from record labels. It’s your money – you can make your own decisions. That gives you a brilliant freedom. The problem is, as time goes by, with each record you release and with each DVD you decide to put out there, it also starts to become a bit of a millstone. By 2008, I was close to a nervous breakdown and tried to get some help. I tried to get the other guys in the band to help out but they didn’t really know what I knew so it was very, very hard. Consequently, I reached a point by the end of 2008 where I thought that I can’t do it anymore. I value my sanity, I’m on the edge, it’s time to walk away. I did, and the band decided that they didn’t want to carry on without me. I said, “If you want to get yourself a new singer, feel free. I’ll be more than happy to step away and you guys carry on.” But they didn’t want to do that. So the band basically split up. Everybody did different, various things. We were still in business together, talking on the phone, still good friends. We just weren’t making records. It wasn’t until the end of 2012, three years later, when Luke (Morley) said, “Why don’t we get together and do some shows next year? Maybe we’ll do some festivals – some fun things. Make a few quid, have a nice time.” So we did that – we asked our agent to put some shows together, and he did. The moment the word was out that we were happy to play some shows, we just got offered more and more things. 2013 actually became quite busy for a band that wasn’t making records anymore, which was a bit strange. The amazing thing was, everywhere we went, the audience was incredible. There were so many Thunder shirts, there were so many people singing all the words, that we felt moved to make another record at that point. By October 2013, Luke declared that he was going to start writing some more tunes, and it basically developed from there. Initially, everybody was slightly concerned that maybe we were doing the wrong thing – we said we’d go away and could we all commit? Does it mean we end up dropping all of the other things we were doing? Is everybody prepared to do that? We wrangled with it for three or four months. Eventually we stepped into the studio in March of last year, almost to take a baby step. Let’s record four songs and see how we feel. I think that we were all so pleased, not only with the material but the way it felt to be recording again, that that just gave us the impetus to carry on. We just dived back in and out of the studio at different times during last year and finished in early September. Mike Fraser came over to mix, and that was it really. It was like the old team back together. It felt like a very organic process. We didn’t actually step into it quickly. We took our time, and we did it over a coordinated period of time, and at each time none of us were totally convinced that we would end up with an album that we would release. It was only once it was finished, and Frase came over and mixed it, that we just thought, we’re very proud of this. It felt like a very natural thing to do.

YS: It feels at this point like, almost like a Motorhead, you have the kind of fan base that, no matter how long you go away for, they’ll be waiting for you…

DB: Well, we’ve never taken our audience for granted. We’ve always worked on the assumption that, we’ll try to put something out there and we’ll see. We never assume anything, and I think that’s stood us in good stead. We’ve always tried to provide good value, not only with the records but also with the shows, and the ticket price, the merchandise, and all of those things. We’ve always had a very healthy respect for our audience. I think that has bred a lot of loyalty from our audience, and we’re very lucky but we’ve also put a lot of work into making sure that relationship is cared for.

YS: Any plans to tour the US?

DB: That’s the $64,000 question. To be honest with you, that’s the thing that I’d dearly love to be able to answer, “Yes.” We released our first album, it kind of escaped and then we re-released it on Geffen. The first single went number one on Dial MTV. We sold so many albums and we didn’t get to play, and then grunge happened and we never got to play. It’s a bug-bear for me. I don’t do regret really. I’m not very good at looking backwards – I’m much more interested in going forwards. But if I had one, it’s that we haven’t had the chance to really show America what we can do. In think, now we’ve got a release, 20 years probably since the last one, it would be really quite brilliant if we were in a position where America embraced us in some small way and enabled us to get over there and play. We’re coming over there in September anyway, because we do a charity motorbike ride every year in aid of a UK kid’s charity. We’ll be in Santa Fe around September 21, that’s where the ride ends up. We’re looking to a show around then. We’re going all that way – it’d be great to play or do something. That’s not been discussed with the label yet. It’s just something that was mentioned today.

YS: What do you have lined up for the rest of the year?

DB: Well, We’re going to do the Download Festival at Donington on June 12, and then we’re going to Europe for about half a dozen shows and some festivals. We come back to England, and we’re playing a show with ZZ Top at Wembley Arena. That’s really great – we’ve worked with them a few times over the years. Some shows in Holland in July, Switzerland in August, some shows in Japan in November, and hopefully some more shows in Europe in November. But I’ll be pushing very hard for that show in Santa Fe in September. It really comes down to whether or not the label feels that there’s enough traction and support to warrant it. It’s a big expense for the label. The music business isn’t what it was, so we need to hope and pray that something really good happens, and our agent gets very excited and wants to do something.

Wonder Days is out now. Find out more at thunderonline.com.

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