Loaded 44 formed in 1996 by guitarist Dave then joined by vocalist Beki and currently have a brand spanking new rhythm section-Kev on bass and Tommy on the drums. They’re known as “the ass shakin’ punk rock band from the North East of England” and that’s no lie! I discovered Loaded 44 on a British punk compilation CD I bought as a 17 year old kid, growing up in the southern California beach town of Huntington Beach, at the now defunct Bionic Records off Bolsa Chica Street. The minute I heard them, I was shakin’ my ass and knew this was a band I was going to enjoy! Here I am, 20 years later, finally getting to interview some of the coolest and nicest musicians in the scene, with a lot to say and a lot of positivity and determination! So, LISTEN UP and hear what these super cool people have to say! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Erin: When, where and why did your dream as a musician (or band in your case,) begin?
Beki: I always wanted to be in a band. I remember as a kid, seeing Kate Bush on Top of the Pops, or listening to my mam’s Janis Joplin records and being totally mesmerised. I never thought I’d have the balls to get up and do it. Then one day, (many years later!) I realised life is too short to not try it. I can’t imagine life without being in a band now!
Dave: I actually got a white flying V guitar for Christmas when I was 13. Initially, I only wanted it to hang the wall however; it came with an amp so I decided to learn how to play after a few years. I’m still learning. I wouldn’t class myself as a musician to be honest; although I do write the songs along with Beki. We still do this as a hobby.
Kev: My first foray into playing music was when I was around 15. I bought a terrible ‘Shark’ Superstrat guitar from my mums catalogue for around £150 and started a low budget GBH type band called ‘Skullduggery’ with some friends, we were dreadful!
Tommy: I first started learning to play drums when I was 15. I learned to play along to early punk such as Crass, The Undertones, Sex Pistols, Devo and Blondie. I later listened to The Who and Led Zeppelin, who were without a doubt my biggest influences. I would practice roughly 5 hours a day. I went on to study music at college and studied how to play drums properly in various styles achieving a Grade 8 in music performance and sight reading. I’ve never had any big dreams as a musician. I’m happy with everything I’ve achieved so far. I do have a few things to look forward to in the future, which are yet to be announced and I’m looking forward to recording with Loaded 44 once we have completed the album.
Erin: When and why did you choose the instrument you did? Did this ever change? If so, why? Do any of you play multiple instruments? If so, which is your favourite to play and why?
Beki: I had only ever thought about singing in a band. I played trumpet at school and I could play a couple of tunes on the piano, but not enough to ever play it in a band. Playing guitar would be great, but remains a total mystery to me. I can’t stay still either, so being stuck to an instrument would drive me mad. I keep promising myself I will learn to play the accordion one day. And I’m not going to warn the neighbours first!
Dave: In the early days of playing in shite rock bands it was just cooler to play guitar, even if we were crap. I’ve never played any other instruments in a band even though I have been asked to play bass several times. I did used to be the main vocal in Loaded 44 between 2000 and 2005 however, also played trumpet at school.
Kev: As well as bass, I also play guitar and can just about hold a beat on the drums. Over the years I have swung between playing guitar and bass depending on the requirements of the band I was in at the time. I feel more comfortable on the bass as it’s what I’ve spent the last 8 or 10 years playing mostly. I haven’t played guitar live for some years, although I would never rule out playing guitar on stage again at some point.
Tommy: I’ve always had an interest in playing the drums since I was roughly 7 Years old. Growing up, we would listen to a broad range of music. I would play along to the songs on boxes or chairs.
Erin: Ok, who are your major influences? A band, a song, a scene, anything!
Beki: It seems like a cop out to say there are too many to mention, but it’s true! There are so many bands and songs, from the past that I love, from all genres and that are really special to me from all stages of my life, but also so many brilliant bands now. Although I’ve been involved in the punk scene for as long as I can remember, I can’t pin down exactly what influences me. New influences happen every day, from everywhere.
Dave: My influences are varied, as I grew up listening to my brothers punk collection but ended up getting heavily into rock music mainly throughout the 80’s , which I think is what gives our songs a slightly different edge to the run of the mill punk bands. Not keen on hard core, songs to me must have a melodic tune and catchy chorus. I would say early influences would be Adam Ant, Dead Boys, Ramones, Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper and Michael Monroe and I do appreciate a good Beatles tune, too. I have loved various scenes through the years but looking back think WTF.
Kev: Norman Watt Roy is an early and ongoing influence on me and my playing. Ian Dury and the Blockheads was firm a favourite of mine. I bought “Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick” when I was 9 or 10 years old. I saw Watt Roy with another hero of mine, Wilko Johnson a few years back and am still blown away by his energy, stamina and skill. His album with Roger Daltrey is a constant visitor to my playlist. I was also heavily influenced by the early American punk and hardcore scene, bands like Black Flag, Cro-Mags, Bad Brains, etc., are still influential today.
Tommy: Major musical influences for me would be Led Zeppelin, The Who, Sex Pistols and Dave Groh. If I had to choose a specific song, it would be Stairway to Heaven. I love the way the drums explode into the song and the fills are well placed and complement the song beautifully.
Erin: Any major successes or failures you have encountered you would like to share or enlighten us on?
Beki: Loaded 44 have had some great successes. We’ve released 2 albums and a few eps, played some brilliant gigs and venues in the UK and abroad, supported people we really admire, and even played Rebellion 5 years in a row! (Hopefully we’ll get back to play there really soon). We’ve got fantastic fans, some have Loaded 44 tattoos, which is just amazing and met some incredible people. We had the same line up for 10 years which is an achievement in itself, until Steve left to join the UK Subs and Nelly fell in love and moved to Germany! The new line up with Kev and Tommy has also played some excellent gigs and new material is being written, so it’s all good! I don’t dwell on failures, if you’re trying, you’re not failing.
Erin: That is the BEST answer to my downer “failures” question, EVER. Beki, you nailed it!!!
Dave: I regard still having this band together in one form or another after 21 years a success in itself. We’ve had so many great times over the years; one great memory from 1999 was when we were entered into a battle of the bands competition at The Redcar Bowl. There were over 1500 people in the audience and us being a punk band were classed as the outsiders, especially as there was a local college band playing with a huge following in the crowd. By a stroke of luck, we actually won the competition and were meant to play a few more songs at the end, but the fans of the other band decided to cause a mini riot throwing chairs and over turning tables, we were escorted to the van to make our escape. Really proud to have played with everyone that has ever been in the Loaded 44 line up. We’ve never really had any bad feelings amongst the band, which is unusual. I’ve done backing vocals for three Toy Dolls albums over the years with another one on the way and as a payback favour, I asked Olga to play on our 2011 album “Wasted on You”, which he did and did a great job. I wouldn’t say there have been any failures, yes we’ve had bad gigs, but it’s a learning curve that we get through.
Kev: So many failures! Pick yourself up, file it and try again! I have been lucky enough to record and release music with several bands over the years and more recently have played some fantastic venues in the UK, Ireland and Italy including Nottingham Rock City, Fibber Magee’s, Dublin, North West Calling festival, Manchester.
Tommy: I wouldn’t count anything I do musically as a failure. I believe everything happens for a reason to an extent, as doors close, others open. I enjoy learning new music regardless of genre and if a musical project I work on doesn’t gain any traction then so be it! If you don’t get out of your comfort zone and try new things then you’ll never achieve your potential.
Erin: So, any funny stories you would like to share with me and the readers? Lessons learned, perhaps haha!
Beki: Lessons learned…
- Don’t share a Dublin hostel room with a drummer that’s had at least 6 pints of Guinness. Unless you’re wearing a breathing apparatus.
- Band flat accommodation can vary in quality. Quite dramatically!
- Don’t hail a taxi in Berlin in only your underpants. Although ,it does work!
- Don’t wear stilettos on stage where there is a chance you can get stuck in the floor and have to be rescued by a kind friend, who actually moves part of the stage to free you (thanks JohnnyP) while the rest of the band just laugh at you.
- Don’t dance excitedly while inebriated unless you want to break your nose.
- Don’t break any fingers when you’re a guitarist.
Always wear a sombrero if there is one available.
Kev: None that are publishable! Many lessons should have been learned but probably haven’t. Important lessons indeed!
Erin: What are your recommendations for those wanting to play your instrument and/or even get into the business?
Beki: Don’t do it for the money. Do it because you love it. Study your instrument. Write your own stuff. Join a band with people that you actually like.
Dave: If you want to get into the business, then you have to give it 100% at all times whether that’s learning your instrument, writing tunes or playing live. It would be really hard to earn a living from this as a business especially these days, there’s always someone wanting to rip you off or wanting you to play a gig for free, fuck that. We get asked to travel the length of the country for £50, it just can’t be done.
Kev: Keep it fun. Don’t make learning to play a chore.
Erin: All good advice you guys! So, what about your future plans? Do you have any upcoming tours, new albums, new videos, new merch coming out?
Beki: We have some time off till May and are working on new songs. A new album would be great this year.
Erin: YES! I would absolutely LOVE a new album outta you guys!!!!
Dave: At the moment, we don’t have too many gigs planned this year, hopefully we will be added to the Rebellion line up in August. We probably could be gigging every weekend but that doesn’t mean there is going to be a great turn out every time. I’m spending time writing new material at the moment which is working out really well with the new line up and looking forward to going into the studio.
May 11 Black Bull, Gateshead with Pete Bentham and the Dinner Ladies
May 20 Star and Garter, Manchester with Knock Off and Kid Klumsy
Oct 21 Stalybridge Tavern, Stalybridge
Dec 2 Star and Garter, Manchester UK Subs
Get Ready – https://youtu.be/7QIkXz20_Vw
Erin: Ok, the last part of my interview is about your each one of your instruments specifically. Which specific instrument you started with and how you progressed to what you play now. How much should you be willing to spend on this start up instrument?
Beki: As a singer, it’s a relatively cheap profession! We only play venues that have a PA as we don’t have our own. Mics are always provided. However, sometimes the mics look like they’ve been dug out of a swamp so you might want to have your own! I have a Shure SM58, which is fairly standard and around £100 and I also have a Behringer Ultravoice XM8500 which I prefer, it is cheaper at around £20, and is louder.
Dave: I started with a white flying V, however, probably not the best guitar to learn with. I would imagine these days you should be able to pick up a half decent starter kit for a few hundred quid, which should consist of guitar, practice amp, strap etc.
Kev: My first bass was a dreadful 80’s Westone bass, I bought it from a flea market in around 1986, it looked as bad as it sounded but it gave me a good starting point. My first new bass was bought in 1990 for just a few hundred pounds; I still have and play my Tanglewood Lone Wolf Precision bass live. I have upgraded the pickups to Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounders and given it a full rewire with 500k CTS pots and an oil filled capacitor, it sounds and plays great! A good budget bass to start on would be something like a Squire by Fender, they are good quality and retail for as little as £250 which I think is a good price for a new player, they can be easily and cheaply modified to give better tone and playability.
Tommy : When learning to play the drums, do not buy a new kit. Purchase an old Premier APK. Second Hand Premier drums are by far the best drums for the money. Expect to pay roughly £150.00 excluding cymbals and hardware. An equal drum kit would cost you roughly £900.00 new.
Erin: What are you guys playing now? Budget range?
Dave: I have played a left handed Epiphone Les Paul Custom for the last 20 years, bought it new February 14th 1997 for £600. I did exchange the pickups for Seymour Duncan distortions which cost approximately £120. It has had one fret dress in 20 years which is great. I have found this guitar to be better than any Gibson’s that I have had over the years, however if I had a spare 3 or 4 grand lying about I would have an early Gibson Les Paul Custom. Recently I have bought 2 Hagstom Vikings which I really love as well, for about £550. They are great guitars and I haven’t had to replace the pickups which I always have done. I also have a Gordon Smith GS1 and a Tokai Les Paul Custom that I play from time to time.
Kev: Japanese made Fender Aerodyne Jazz bass, they retail for around £1100, and I’ve had mine for 10 years or so and have upgraded the wiring, swapped the original pots for 500k CTS pots, oil filled capacitor and changed the pickups to Seymour Duncans for that extra punch! Amplification comes from a Gallien Krueger mb500 500wt head through a Marshall 1200wt MBC410 cab.
Tommy: I gig with the same kit I bought when I was 17, a 1990s Premier APK. It cost me £180.00 from Willie’s Drum Shop in Sunderland and has been on tour with me throughout England, Scotland, France, Germany, Holland and Belgium
Erin: Ok, I promise! Last question! What are your dream instruments to play?
Dave: As I said earlier, I would love an early Gibson Les Paul Custom in white or black, amp wise I do like my Marshall TSL 60, it actually does what I need it to do, no effects just gain from the amp, and it has 3 channels.
Kev: Gallien-Krueger 2001RB head (£1500) through Gallien-Krueger 800wt 410 (£999) and 400wt 115 cab (£680) stack.
Tommy: My dream kit would be either a Ludwig Amber Vistalite or a Signia. I don’t use a specific brand of hardware and Cymbals.
I try to purchase all of my drums from “Sunderland Music”, or as it’s known locally, “Willie’s Drum Shop”.
Well, guys, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time out to chat with me and give me so much insight into the band and the instruments that make it happen! Hoping for a new album from you lot soon and get out there and see these guys play, readers! You WILL NOT be disappointed! Thank you Beki, Dave, Kev and Tommy for your time and insight. I will see you all around soon!