INTERVIEW: Mick Wilson – Frontm3n

Frontm3n

 

The songs of The Hollies, 10cc & The Sweet have been played countless times across the world & over the years on various radio stations, TV shows as well as live and three of the vocalists that have been part of that musical history are heading to Australia for the very first time for a short run of acoustic shows to share these momentous tracks that we all know & love.  Frontm3n is an acoustic project involving Mick Wilson, who played & sang with 10cc for nearly twenty years, Peter Howarth who has led The Hollies since 2004 and ex-Sailor lead vocalist Pete Lincoln who been involved with Andy Scott’s Sweet since 2006.  Between them they formed their new project; having first met back in the 90’s when they worked together in Cliff Richard’s band.  2018 saw the trio release their debut album ‘All For One’ which is a collection of studio & live tracks featuring rearranged acoustic versions of songs like 10cc’s ‘I’m Not In Love’ & ‘Rubber Bullets’, The Hollies ‘The Air That I Breathe’ & ‘He Ain’t Heavy’ and The Sweet’s ‘Love is Like Oxygen’ & ‘Ballroom Blitz’.  The Rockpit managed to get some phone time with Wilson to find out where Frontm3n all met, joining 10cc and the six degrees of separation within the music scene.

 

Sean:     Hi Mick, great to talk to you.  How are things?

Mick:     Hey matey, great thank you.

Sean:     You guys must be close to getting packed ready for your trip to Australia for the first time with you acoustic show with Frontm3n.  That must be pretty exciting for you all.

Mick:     Yeah, we are really looking forward to it.  We’re kind of dipping our toes in the water a little bit to see if everyone likes it and then if we get a good reaction we can look to come back on a bigger, more countrywide tour next time.

Sean:     The set list will be saturated with hits, not just from one era but from three or four decades of music from three iconic bands.  Also to get to hear these songs arranged acoustically is something pretty special too.  I was listening to ‘All For One’ last night and so many of the tracks work so well in this format… they are wonderful versions.

Mick:     Thank you for that.  We wanted to make sure we weren’t just regurgitating the music from the bands that we have been in.  We wanted it to have a fresh approach to it and people love the fact that they can hear a 10cc song next to a Sweet song, next to a Hollies song and they all sound like they are from the same place because it’s the same instrumentation.

Sean:     The fact that they are all such well-known songs must also make for great audience participation.  Even though some of the older tracks are just out of my timeline, when they first came out, I know most of the chorus lyrics to all of them.  It must make for a special evening.

Mick:     Yes, absolutely.  And I think that because the audience knows these songs almost inside out, if there is anything missing they put those bits in there themselves, because they know the songs so well.  As it is an acoustic show we do get a bit closer to the audience that way as well.

Sean:     Not only will the set be filled with all these hits of yesteryear but also you guys have written some fantastic original material that no doubt you will be keen to play too.  Songs like ‘Your Own Worst Enemy’ & ‘Fall For You’ which had an almost Eagles feel to it, are just a couple I could mention but how much fun is it when the three of you get to write together?

Mick:     Yes it is.  In fact Pete & I as well as the other Pete are getting together before the tour starts up and starting to write some new tunes, which will hopefully be for a new album.  We spend a lot of time together and talk a lot so generally we are all on the same page when it comes to writing.  We’re really pleased with all the songs we’ve written so far and what’s really lovely is that the audience accepts those songs alongside all the others, so that’s a real treat for us as well.

Sean:     Do you find it a naturally easy process between the three of you?

Mick:     Whenever you write with somebody new, even when you’ve known them for a long time you still have to find the right groove and find out who does what so to speak – I might really like to get involved on the chord side of things while one of the others might concentrate on the lyrics and so on… we’ve certainly hit our stride now and certainly finding it easier to write.

Sean:     The eras & styles of the three bands are all quite different in a way, with The Hollies a 60’s pop band, then The Sweet with the 70’s Glam Rock and then finally 10cc with their… what would you call their style – was it almost a Prog Pop Rock?

Mick:     Yeah, 10cc was kind of a bit of an arty style and hard to generalise really.

Sean:     Frontm3n certainly seem to have taken Germany by storm – you seem to tour their quite often and they seem to really have embraced what you’re doing.  It’s a country that seems to have a real knack of picking up on good music and hanging on to it…

Mick:     I don’t think it’s a knack really.  I think they just have this ability to be able to listen to music whether it was released recently or from years back and still appreciate it the same way – they don’t view it in a way that just because a song is thirty years old it doesn’t count anymore.  They like it because it’s a good song.  There a quite a few of the 70’s bands that make a good career out of touring there and still make a few quid doing that.  They also are aware that we aren’t the original singers from the bands we were & are with either but they take that a face value and appreciate the fact that we are three guys who have been in the music business for a while and we are performing two hours of great music, where ever it comes from – it’s still just great music.

Sean:     If we have time I’d love to talk to you briefly about 10cc because unbelievably you spent nearly twenty years performing with them.  You joined the band back in 1999, how did that come about?

Mick:     It’s a weird one because people always ask how do you get into the music business and how do you do this & that but most of the time it’s not really orchestrated – most of the time it’s just a phone call and if you’re a good musician and you keep your nose clean then hopefully that phone rings from time to time.  Graham (Gouldman) & Eric (Stewart) did their last concerts together as 10cc back in 1995 and Graham wasn’t that particularly motivated to get the band back together after that but he was asked to do an acoustic show and he did it with Rick Fenn (10cc) and ironically Peter Howarth of The Hollies, who was one of Rick’s mates.  They needed another voice and Peter & I had worked together with Cliff Richard so they decided to give me a call – it started just as the four of us all playing acoustically and then things took off from their really.  Graham realised I could sing all the high stuff so we added ‘Donna’ into the set and then ‘Rubber Bullets’ and it just steadily grew – In the end it became 10cc but really it was more a Graham Gouldman touring version of 10cc, which I was very lucky to have been involved with for a further fifteen years after that.

Sean:     I know you just mentioned the connection there with working with Peter a few times over the years but there was another connection in the fact that Graham wrote ‘Bus Stop’ for The Hollies and now you are singing it alongside Peter.

Mick:     Yeah, it’s another one of those six degrees of separation type things.   He wrote quite a few things for the guys up in the Manchester scene so they were all in and out of studios up there.  Graham had a manager who had something to do with The Hollies as well so they were always on the lookout for songs – I believe at the time Graham was one of the young guys writing songs so they picked up on a few of his tunes.

Sean:     To be honest ‘Bus Stop’ is one of my favourites on the ‘All For One’ album…

Mick:     Obviously, Peter sings that one because it’s down as a Hollies tune but what’s great about it is it shows off the harmonies really, really well and it’s well written.

Sean:     I was wondering how ‘Ballroom Blitz’ was going to work as an acoustic track too but it’s another great song that has transformed so well into the set.

Mick:     Yeah, in rehearsals we tried it a few different ways, found one that worked and like I said before, once we start playing it and people realise what song it is they soon forgive the fact you don’t have the full electric guitars & drums playing along with you and they just join in.

 

Frontm3n

 

Sean:     With such a long and successful career in the music industry I was wondering where it all started for you because I read you got your first guitar around seven years of age.  Did you find it an easy process at that age or was it something you really had to work at?

Mick:     [laughs] That feels like a long time ago.  You know, learning the guitar is quite tough, especially if you’re young with your fingers on the strings… it hurts a little bit.  I remember being so passionate about it… I can’t actually remember how long it took me to be proficient on the guitar but I just recall loving actually playing the guitar.  I remember having one epiphany moment when I took my guitar to a family Christmas party and one of my older cousin’s boyfriends started playing it and people just started coming out of all the other rooms… I think he was sitting on the stairs in the hallway at the time and they all came out of the other rooms to watch him sing & play and I just knew that’s what I wanted to be able to do one day.  That moment was the one that just spurred me on to do the best that I can.  You can sit on the end of your bed and play a great song but it just disappears but play it in front of 500 people that song suddenly means something and you can feel the love too then.

Sean:     And its certainly different playing on the end of your bed and then finding yourself playing alongside artists like Alice Cooper, Lionel Richie & Chris Rea… such an incredible career. 

Mick:     [laughs] I’ve been very, very lucky, I must say.  Some of those things were just the odd show here & there or just a recording but to stand alongside somebody just once to sing something is a real treat.

Sean:     When you were learning the guitar, the influences at the time would have heavily involved The Beatles & The Rolling Stones I’m guessing but were there any other artists that you were drawing from?

Mick:     Not really because I was quite a mainstream kid.  I got my first guitar probably around 1967 or 1968 so when I kind of hit my stride of becoming relatively proficient to be able to play covers it was the time of bands like Slade, Mud & Suzi Quatro.  I also ended up moving over to the bass guitar quite early because my brother played guitar as well and was putting a band together – I was a big, big fan of Slade and of Jimmy Lea and I was very fortunate about three of four years ago to finally get to meet him so that was a real treat.

Sean:     I know its late where you are over in the UK so I won’t keep you much longer but I have a few regular questions I love to end with if that’s ok.  If you could invite three guests from the music world, dead or alive, to join you for dinner to have a chat about anything you like, who would you invite?

Mick:     I think Paul McCartney would be one of them.  Marvin Gaye would be my second choice.  And my third would probably be Jimmy Lea because I’d love to talk to him some more.  I notice I’ve picked two bass players so there must be something about them.

Sean:     What was the last album you listened to?

Mick:     Oh, I forget the name of it because I was listening to it on Spotify and you end up shuffling things…but I was listening to a guitarist called Joey Landreth who is from Canada and his band The Bros. Landreth.  He has this kind of really cool folk & alternative country sound and it’s really, really good stuff.

Sean:     I’ll add it to my list and check them out.  Finally, if you could be credited with writing any song ever written, which song would you choose?

Mick:     Oh wow… I think that with mentioning Marvin Gaye just now, I would have to say ‘What’s Going On’ is my favourite song ever so I if I could be credited with any song it would have to be that one so that would be lovely.

Sean:     It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you and I know this tour is going to be a wonderful chance to see some of these incredible songs striped back to acoustic versions.  On behalf of us all at The Rockpit we would like to wish you all safe travels, success for the tour and hope to see you back for a much longer & more extensive run of shows next time.

Mick:     Yes, well that’s the plan.  We are all starting to get ready for the trip and the UK weather is starting to get a bit dreary now so we are all looking forward to getting a little bit of sunshine and seeing everybody later this month.

Sean:     Well, spring is upon us over here so you should be fine weatherwise.  Thanks for your time Mick.

Mick:     My pleasure. Cheers mate.

 

TOUR DATES

Tues 19th Nov – Memo Music Hall – St.Kilda, VIC
Thurs 21st Nov – The Gov – Adelaide, SA
Sat 23rd Nov – Doo-Bop Bar – Brisbane, QLD
Sun 24th Nov – Southport Yacht Club – Gold Coast, QLD

For more information, please visit: www.frontm3n.com

 

Frontm3n Australia tour 2019

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