Richard Taylor – British Lion

Written by Paul Monkhouse

 

Richard Taylor of British Lion

There is a huge buzz around my home town as, for the second time in just over a year, Steve Harris brought his ‘other’ band British Lion to a small venue in East Anglia. I have seen Iron Maiden play many times in Norwich, firstly at the University (my very first rock gig in 1981) and then again under various pseudonyms at The Oval, a now sadly defunct rock pub on the outskirts of the city centre. Having been offered the chance to interview British Lion singer Richard Taylor and knowing what a powerhouse band they are, this was an opportunity not to be missed.

When I first stroll into The Waterfront venue with my thirteen year old son I find Richard relaxing on a sofa pre-sound check as he pours through the latest edition of Classic Rock magazine. Very charismatic, but seemingly utterly ego-free the quietly and thoughtfully spoken Richard proves to be a genuine pleasure to talk to and very easy, good company. With a friendship that stretches back many years, being the frontman in a band whose bass player is a genuine rock legend doesn’t seem to faze him at all but that shows that British Lion are truly a collaborative band and not just a vanity side project. When Steve strolls over later on you can sense a very real camaraderie between the two that speaks volumes.

Prior to the interview proper we discussed Live Aid, the pleasures of living in East Anglia, mutual friends who were in the superb The Catherine Wheel, which rock magazines are best, cycling, and our joint love of Springsteen’s ‘Nebraska’ album. As with the rest of the band, here was a man very happy in what he’s doing and enjoying touring immensely. With the sound of drums being sound checked in the background I hit the ‘record’ button…

What does rock music mean to you?
Music in general, any genre, from a youngster, it was my life, it was all I ever cared about. I had kind of an unusual upbringing and music just got me through anything that was troubling my life. So yeah, in a kind of way and not to get too deep, it saved my life as a youngster.

Was there a band or an artist who first made an impression on you?
Yeah, T.Rex, Marc Bolan

Any particular reason for that?
I would have been nine, ten years old and it was melody. That was the first thing, and from that there was so much in the 70s that came along, unbelievable songs and I just latched onto all of that. As a child seeing him on television, it was just “wow!” and I used to have a tennis racquet that I ‘used’ as a guitar as I’m sure a lot of us did. [Laughs]

Is there a particular song or album that still means a lot to you?
BBruce Springsteen Born to Run album coverorn to Run by Springsteen definitely. Again, that was another part of my life, that album, hearing that made me want to become a musician. That entire album, and the album after that as well, both mean so much to me. As he’s American a lot of my friends don’t get it, but even if you take the Americanism of the lyrics away, I find you can still relate to it. And also, although it sounds a complicated album with respect to production, the songs are three chords or four chords on guitar which I can play back to back, all of them, and that was also attractive to me. After listening to bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple that were so complicated, as an acoustic guitarist you can play great songs like ‘Born to Run’, ‘Thunder Road’ or ‘Jungleland’ on the acoustic, whereas playing ‘Smoke on the Water’ on an acoustic is not so easy.

We were talking earlier about various musicians, so what do you say to a (quote/unquote) ‘rock star’ when you meet them?
I haven’t met too many rock stars but I would most probably just say “I admire your work” if it was somebody… actually, I have met a few but I’m not too overwhelmed by that stardom thing.

What’s been your best experience meeting an artist as a music fan yourself?
I don’t know, you don’t really get to know the person if you get to meet them other than saying “Hi” and “I admire your music”. I met Brian May actually and just said to him “Hi Brian, nice to meet you”. I guess it must be the same for them, they must get bored to tears by people coming up and saying “You’ve changed my life …”

And what’s been the best response to you from fans?
Well, it’s kind of been overwhelming really, the last three tours that British Lion have done, two European tours and this British tour. When we released the debut album it was kind of controversial because a lot of people weren’t expecting it to be like that with Steve involved and that was quite hard to take. I think a lot of people didn’t ‘get’ it or quite understand what it was all about, and I think that’s still the case. But when you see it live, from the word go, especially after three tours now, it speaks for itself. It’s powerful and we mean what we’re doing and every night we give it everything we’ve got and the reaction everywhere we’ve played has been absolutely fantastic. Some places the audiences have been a little reluctant to go with it initially but by the end of the evening that has totally changed. That’s been brilliant for me and the rest of the guys as well.

So, what makes a gig special to you?
It’s two things really. Well, more than that! Firstly, I like to feel it. There’s a lot of lyrical content in these songs, especially some of the new material, and I don’t just want to stand there and go through the motions and clichés. I like to be spontaneous and just let that happen, and if that can happen then, of course, you get the audience with you as well, getting elements of the two. The last four or five dates we’ve played have been unbelievable, the crowds have been almost louder than the band and we’re still a new, young band so not too many people know of us yet. Obviously they’re coming to see Steve, we know that and are under no illusion, but like last night, when they leave they speak to you and compliment British Lion, which is what we’re trying to do.

Has there been a notable gig you’ve done that you’ll always hold high and cherish the memory of?

Richard Taylor and Steve Harris - British Lion

Richard, Steve and Paul’s son Sam looking forward to show time

There’s been a few to be honest. I always like to play quite locally if I can because I’ve got family and friends who have supported me for years and have known these songs. ‘Eyes of the Young’ particularly is twenty four, twenty five years old and when they come and see that it’s special to me, getting to sing it to them. There have been a few but I can’t really say one in particular. We have been quite overwhelmed wherever we go by the response to British Lion.

Has there been a gig you’ve attended as an audience member that really blew you away at the time and you still hold in high regard?
Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising tour at Wembley Arena. That album was written after 9/11 and I’d seen him quite a few times before but this time it wasn’t that type of show where he talks to the audience telling them stories and having fun, it was a really serious show, keeping his head down, hard rocking, and he really meant it. You got the shivers all over watching that and for what he was standing for that night. That one in particular, but I have seen lots, I’ve seen many bands. I saw Dylan but that wasn’t when he was touring an album, he just decided he wanted to go to play a few clubs and we saw him at Brixton Academy. He had the most amazing band and played every classic song you could ever imagine and that was quite overwhelming to be honest.

So, sex drugs and rock ‘n’ roll: a jaded stereotype or the meaning of life?
[Laughing …] Big question! So, you want me to answer that? Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, I’m not into any of that … never have been. You’ve only got to look at me; I’m not that type of person.

I know we were talking about your love of cycling earlier on and I know that Steve really takes his health seriously too …
Oh yeah, he’s a great football player and he’s very conscientious about health. I do a lot of cycling and live on the coast and do a lot of running. I do a lot of walking, which is where I get a lot of my ideas from quite often, and those Suffolk skies and along by Walberswick and Southwold … in the summer some of those sunsets are quite outrageous.

So, rock music: music for all or is it quite tribal?
I think it’s a shame. I think rock music should be for everybody but I think unfortunately some people pigeonhole music in categories and if you say it has to be rock or metal it has to be a certain type of rock and I think that’s really sad. But, I think that’s maybe a younger approach and as you grow and get older … Like, I play in a rock band with Steve Harris from Iron Maiden, a band who I love and they’re incredible and I like lots of bands like that who are metal bands, but I love other stuff as well. I love classical music, I love folk music and I think it’s a shame that music does get pigeonholed. I also think that in the UK, maybe more so than any other country, we’re so fashion orientated. If you like one genre of music it has to be fashionable as well. Take Oasis, that was the fashion in the 90s and you wouldn’t let anything else in. It’s the same with certain types or rock and metal and that affects what people listen to. But again, I think it’s an age thing and if you really love music, even if you won’t admit to it … I’ve seen some Maiden fans really loving the quieter side of our music,and that’s great! Certainly the Maiden fans that I’ve met JUST love music and they like all types and that’s brilliant.

I think you’re absolutely right, not only with British Lion but with Maiden too the key thing is the song writing. Not only is there fantastic performances but you’ve got to have the songs haven’t you?
British Lion album coverDefinitely, and I think that’s what British Lion stands for more than anything. When the album was first released I got a lot of comments saying that I can’t sing – “the singer’s rubbish” – but it’s not just the fact that I was singing for British Lion, but I was also a key part of the song writing and to be honest that element is more important to me than being a vocalist. It’s most probably taken some of those comments for me to realise that by the time we record again it will be the first time I stand up and say “hold on, I have to focus a bit more on how I sing,” because some of those vocals had no more than one or two takes. With British Lion, it’s fundamentally about song writing and it’s how Steve and I first got together: we both love great songs and we write really well together, kind of differently to how he’s written before and how he’s written with collaborators before and that’s a really attractive thing. It’s taken it somewhere differently.

How do you think your music is labelled?
I think at the moment it’s just labelled classic rock but by the time we get to our second album I don’t know if it can be titled as that. With the first album you have tracks like ‘The Eyes of the Young’ and ‘The Chosen Ones’ and yeah, that is classic rock, but those songs were written twenty-five years ago. David Hawkins is a big part of the song writing and he’s much younger than me. He listens to bands like Muse and Linkin Park and he’s an absolute whizz in the studio. With Dave and Steve and myself, we all come from different angles. I hate titles…why does something have to be called something specific? I guess it just makes life easier.

I can absolutely see what you mean and as the three of you are coming in with your own influences you give the band very much its own identity rather than a cookie cutter impression of something already in existence. It makes it fresh and interesting, not only for you guys but also for the people who listen to the tracks and come along to the gigs. There IS that variety.
Yes, the people who didn’t get it the first time will hopefully get it by the time we do the second album. Certainly live people are beginning to understand it. You take other bands who have melodic singers and they put on a show but if you see what we do live we’re pretty on the edge and we really get out there and work our arses off. We’re not a safe band, we’re pretty spontaneous and people will get a shock. The album is what it is but live it goes to another level. I’m pleased about that and I think people who’ve seen us have grasped and latched onto that.

Is there a particular piece of music you’ve been involved in, thus far, that you’d like to be remembered for?
Certainly some of the new stuff is pretty special, but on the first album ‘This is My God’, that’s a pretty special song: the lyrical content, the riff. Again, that’s an old song but we’re playing a new song in the set that’s only come out this year called ‘Bible Black’ and that’s quite a special song that means a lot to me.

I recently read a live review of this tour and they picked out that song for a particular mention, which is confirmation of just that …
That’s great! [Smiling widely and nodding]

What would you say to the people who say the rock era is dead?
I think you just need to go and watch bands. Those people don’t know what they’re talking about. Just go and watch Iron Maiden next year and you can certainly see it’s not dead. They’ll sell out arenas all around the world and that’s just one band. It’s not dead, it’s more alive than ever!

What’s next for you?
We’re going to go back and listen to a lot of the live recordings from the last three tours and may at some point put something live out. We’ll also go back and carry on with material for the second album – we’ve  actually got plenty, enough for three or four albums. We never stop writing. I personally write all the time … And back to running on the beach!

Later that evening British Lion proved once more what a superb band they are, taking the packed Norwich venue by storm. With a massive Iron Maiden world tour looming, quite how long it’ll be before the next album is released is unclear. But judging by the magnificent new material played tonight, it’ll be well worth the wait.

CHEERS, GUYS!

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1 Comment

  1. Eve Smith

     /  January 21, 2016

    Great interview I’ve see British lions 5 times live now and they get better every time

    Reply

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