We’ve launching our Champions of Rock programme with the following interview with our very own Steve ‘Boltz’ Bolton. We are assembling a collection of staff, journeyman musicians, and rock stars to share some of their music experiences, tell their stories, and advise on on anything from guitar tone, practice techniques, auditions, touring, rehearsals, gig bag essentials, drum heads, to favourite instruments, riffs, songs and gigs. We’ll feature them in our newsletter (please share with your FSOR kids!), on our website and on our Facebook page.
THE BOLTZ INTERVIEW:
Q. Did you choose the guitar or did it choose you?
A. The guitar most definitely chose me…I saw Hank Marvin’s Fender Stratocaster on TV as a young teenager and was smitten…I knew there and then I wanted, had, to do that!
Q. When did you do your first gig, with whom, and what were you playing (instrument/songs – whatever you remember)?
A. My first gig was at St.Anns’s church hall, near my home in Royton, Lancashire….we were called The Modrox and I seem to recall we had a repertoire of 5 songs..mainly Shadows instrumentals!
Q. How did you wind up in Atomic Rooster? The Who? Belinda Carlisle’s band? Paul Young’s band?
A. After playing in a few semi-pro bands in the Manchester area, we decided the only way we were going to make it was by hitting The Smoke!! The band came to London and within a few weeks split up…inevitable! I answered an ‘ad’ in Melody Maker (bands, even top acts, would advertise in the trade papers for members –that wouldn’t happen now!) …the ad said: Atomic Rooster require guitarist for upcoming US tour. I auditioned and got the job…they were at number 2 in the singles chart at the time! I guess that was my ‘initiation by fire’ – The God Of Hellfire as it happens!
After my spell in AR I played in various outfits until the early 80’s when I got a phone call from Paul Young asking me to join him – he had nearly finished recording his album No Parlez…at the first rehearsal Paul asked me if I had any songs as they were a tune short for the record. As it happened, I’d written a song only the previous day! I submitted it, he loved it and KuKuKurama went on what would become a mega selling album of the 80’s! I realised then that the way to make money is by writing original material!
Following on from the Paul Young band – or rather because of me being seen doing my thing in that band – I got the phone call from Pete Townsend himself asking if I’d be prepared to take on lead guitar duties for The Who!! Would I?! Pete was having hearing problems and said there were only 2 people he would ask to do this – Joe Walsh [The Eagles; James Gang] or me!! Quick as a flash I answered, “Well Joe is a Yank and you can’t have a Yank in The Who…it wouldn’t be cricket!” I had the gig! It wasn’t a breeze learning 125 songs, I can tell you! Before the age of the Web…learning from a pile of cassette tapes whilst driving across London every day to rehearse!
Q. Do you prefer performing with you latest band, Dead Man’s Corner, you acoustic solo show, or your ‘Evening with Boltz’ trip down memory lane?
A. I tend to ‘make a living’ these days by doing solo acoustic gigs across London and the South East…it’s great fun and most definitely ‘on my terms’…I play songs from my own personal mental juke box so it’s great fun for me…and the audiences I hope!
I have a band, Dead Man’s Corner, which I have huge plans for! We have our own recording/rehearsal space in Whitstable..it’s been a bit of a journey as the sound of Dead Man’s Corner is rather unusual…think a David Lynch movie…all is not what it appears! It’s very different out there in music land from when I started…some would liken it to the Wild West…I think these are very exciting times..better than record companies having a ‘stranglehold’ on everything…if you have talent it will ALWAYS shine through…you just gotta keep on pushing and ‘Play Live!’
Q. Do you have an all time favourite riff or song that inspired you?
A. I guess if I had to choose a riff it would have to Whole Lotta Love for it is the simplicity of it – 3 notes and boom! There you have it!
Q. You’ve been ‘giving back’ to the kids that come to FSOR for many years now – do you have a system for working with our fledgling bands, or do you react to whomever is in the room on the day?
A. My system is ask every student of rock “what are you into?” and give me a song so we can all listen…then when everyone has submitted a tune and I assess (mentally of course, if there is a hope of us being able to play it)…we then take a vote. Sometimes it gets a little chaotic, but I cast the final vote!
Q. Do you have a favourite gig or recording (as a participant)? Why’s it special to you?
A. I think I would have to say “The Who..The Kids Are Alright” ‘live’ DVD from the ’89 tour I did…such a thrill and an honour for me.
Q. Who are your guitar heroes and what tracks inspired you?
A. My guitar heroes in my formative mid-teen years were Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac “Then Play On”)// Paul Kossoff (“Free”), Jeff Beck (“Truth”), and of course Jimi Hendrix (“Axis Bold As Love”).
Q. If you could put together your fantasy all-star band, who’d be in it with you?
A. My fantasy all-star band? Hmm a tricky one, and always changing…but right now Bass: Felix Papparlardi (Mountain); Drums: Keith Moon; Keyboards: Jimmy Smith (Hammond Organ); and on Vocals & Guitar Terry Reid.
TIPS & TRICKS?
Q. What’s you best tip to young guitarists coming up through the FSOR ranks?
A. Practice every day and write and record original songs/riffs and play with musicians that push you to be just that bit better!