‘Lesson learned? No one remembers the boring ones who immediately fuck off after they’ve played their set.’
– Andrew ‘Fuzz’ Sutton, On Trial UK lead guitarist.
My Dad was a jobbing part-time musician in the mid-60’s and played bass/sang in various bands in the London/Surrey area (highlight was supporting The Graham Bond Organisation in London who included at the time a pre-Cream Ginger Baker on drums) and my mum was an avid gig-goer in Belfast (she gloriously walked out of an early Jimi Hendrix Experience concert at the Belfast City Hall after three songs complaining that it was ‘too loud’ and the following week ended up ‘entangled’ with Dave Dee!), so music & instruments were always somewhere to be found in the house. I started with a Slazenger tennis racket miming along to George Harrison with two toilet rolls stuck together as a microphone but soon progressed to writing my own morbid songs on a cheap four stringed acoustic guitar bequeathed to me by a death in the family. I was literally Goth before Goth was invented.
Choosing to play guitar..
Weirdly enough, I first played very rudimentary piano at music class in school but the first instrument I got to grips with was the bass guitar (my Dad’s influence probably) but my first musical ally during the 4th & 5th years at school was Dave Blomberg (who later became guitarist in New Model Army for about a decade in the 90’s) and his elder brother Phil (who was also in bands such as Dreamgrinder etc..) who lent me a custom built Fender Jazz copy bass to learn on. Myself & Dave then formed our first punk band in ’85 and ‘invited’ fellow school friend Jonathan Taylor (a certain Mr Wah Wah) to ‘guest’ on vocals. 32 years later, this rash decision after a bottle of silver Merrydown through a straw still haunts me. My dad could probably sense this wasn’t a whim and bought me my first bass guitar (an Ibanez Fender Precision copy) which I transported back from Singapore with the help of an air stewardess who was my ‘escort’ for the journey home.
I then played bass in Dave’s next band (and recorded some incidental music in a proper studio for use on a BBC documentary!), some more bass in some other local bands and then switched to guitar. Having cleansed myself of Goth tendencies, I then immersed myself in the C86 indie/DIY ‘scene’, became obsessed with the Jesus & Mary Chain, grew my hair and grew my FX pedal collection.
Having the attention span of a goldfish with dementia, I then started playing drums on the side but not before playing guitar all round the London & local circuit in the early 90’s (supporting McCarthy, The Wishing Stones, Thee Hypnotics etc.). Also spent a weekend recording with Martin Rushent (Buzzcocks, Stranglers, Human League & Dexy’s producer), which was nice.
Carried on with the guitar for a few years, hooked up with Wah Wah again in the reformed ‘Emergency’ with Chris Corvette and everything was going swimmingly until I snapped my right index finger in three places whilst playing football. Oops. Luckily my practice on the drums proved useful as I became their tub thumper for the next two years. After this came to an end I sporadically gigged until initially playing with On Trial in 2004 (back to the bass!) and then joining as guitarist with them again in 2009 (after my dad’s passing).
The guitar is still my favourite as my teenage years/early 20’s went hand in hand with such luminaries as Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr, Jesus & Mary Chain, Pixies and Blur enlightening me. Fret ye not, I will defend Blur against anyone.
Guitarists : Thurston Moore, Lee Renaldo, Captain Sensible, Jay Mascis, Steve Jones, William Reid, Graham Coxon, Cream era Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Marr, Johnny Ramone, Steve Albini and Duane Denison.
Songs : Freak Scene by Dinosaur Jr, Love Song by The Damned, Touch Me I’m Sick by Mudhoney and Holidays in the Sun by Sex Pistols.
My successes and failures..
Successes: Playing to 8,000 people at Silverstone Moto GP was great until I invited the 10 individual stag night celebration parties down the front to ‘do their worst’. I ended up walking away with a rugby top, three trainers, half a crutch, umpteen glo-sticks, 159 plastic pint glasses, a screwdriver, a yellow cardigan, three paper aeroplanes and the ‘best wishes’ of 8,000 bikers. Mind you, it was a great 8 song set and we got a trailer full of chilled Guinness as a reward. Every day in On Trial UK without someone trying to kill one of the others could be deemed a success I suppose.
Failures: My complete lack of confidence in myself and natural shyness has often been my undoing.
Many funny stories (including flooding venues, falling from venue roofs unscathed, sleeping under cars, scanning buttocks at service stations, riding goats, inter-band headbutt competitions, setting fire to roadies, playing ‘Bodies’ at ‘Help for Heroes’ charity all-dayers, getting locked in Hells Angels beer cellars, getting home dressed only in a damp towel, supporting jazz funk bands, still drinking in B&B kitchens with the owner when the morning cleaners arrive etc….)
Recommendations and worldly advice..
Learn your weapon of destruction to a fairly passable punk standard first and then strap in, it’s a long and enjoyable ride. Try to avoid drinking your own bodyweight in beer before attempting humour with the added confidence of a microphone. Try to support and not belittle other bands, even if they’re not your cup of tea. Try not to be two-faced and be prepared to back up your convictions in real-life when your drunken computer keyboard bravery catches up with you.
Recording a new album with those reprobates On Trial UK in Jan/Feb 2018 and hopefully visiting some new places (to me) like Sweden, Dublin and Slough next year.
Good starter guitar..
Guitar-wise, I luckily started with a ’67 Fender Stratocaster that I bought for £75 in 1986 from a local postman (I know how much this is worth now but I’ve blocked out the memory of me selling it for £150 two years later) but a decent starter guitar these days is affordable via either the Fender Squier Stratocaster/Jazzmaster/
Telecaster affinity range (from about £170) or any Epiphone (Gibson) Les Paul/SG model (approx same price range). You can buy cheaper but the quality does tend to veer off into ridiculousness…..
I currently flit between a Fender ’99 Jazzmaster, Fender HSH Stratocaster and Fender Telecaster but my favourite guitar to play (it never leaves the house) is a custom Fender Squier reverse headstock Stagemaster from ’98 which has the slimmest neck ever and is the best guitar I have ever played/owned, and only cost £100 on the way back from a gig in Nottingham! My budget range is wholly dependent on how much I can save over any given period.
Dream guitar and setup..
I pretty much have my dream instrument but I wouldn’t mind a Johnny Marr Fender Jazzmaster in Olympic White. A snip at £1,750…… Amp wise I adhere to only Fender combo’s as I have a history of blowing up any variant of Marshall amps…..