Joe Geesin contributes to 'Record Collector' and GRTR! plus compiles sleevenotes for various CD's and has a famous dad…
How did you become involved in the music business?
It was kind of natural – with my dad so involved, I grew up with it, even though I took a completely different direction.
- Looking back the innocence was fun; as a kid I got to play with Roger Waters' and David Gilmour's kids, and Pete Townsend's kids too, during the 70s, birthday parties and etc. I have stories about Townsend's terrible two that are probably unprintable. Just because my dad was friends with them, you don't get starstruck at that age.
But when I got into rock music, in my early teens, I got into collecting and it took off from there.
What was your first magazine and your first review/feature?
-Well, several piss-taking features for a university magazine, against others in my halls of residence, usually under a pseudonym because they were pretty libelous. But music feature? That was Record Collector. I'd been a reader since the mid/late 80s and in 1991, on leaving university, I wrote to them saying they'd done Deep Purple and all the offshoots/related (Rainbow, Whitesnake, Sabbath and etc) but not Ian Gillan's solo band and I was a fan/collector so could I do it. And they said yes, here's his manager's phone number. So my first ever commission was in a pub with Ian Gillan over a few pints, aged 21. Was I in heaven? Do bears shit in the woods? Are G'n'R overrated? Of-smegging-course!!!!
-Who are your musical heroes, and why?
-My Dad, Nuff said.
-The Motors – because they were the first band I really got into in a big way. Their 2nd LP “Approved By The Motors” was my first ever LP and I got to write the sleevenotes for the first / only decent CD release. I still love them.
-Ian Gillan – I got into Gillan before I got into Deep Purple. Fantastic vocalist and his band had a kind of magic only otherwise seen in The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – a combining of perfect frontman with the right ass kicking band.
-Cozy Powell – I got into his work through Rainbow Rising. I got into Gillan and Rainbow before Deep Purple and it was looking for other work with Cozy on that got me into record collecting. I got to interview him for Record Collector and, having done my research, I decided to blow him away. He was tired, a day full of the same old questions. But I have on tape his answer to my first question – “Fuck me, you would have to start with the most obscure thing I've ever done!” and we became mutually respecting friends after that. I ended up running his fanclub.
Of the many people you have interviewed over the years, who have been the most fun/honour to interview and who was a bit of a nightmare? Anyone else you would still like to interview?
-Cozy Powell was fun (see above). Saxon I've interviewed more than anyone, so much so that I've met Biff Byford by chance in Oxford Street twice, and stopped and chatted. Biff's a star. Mick Box (Uriah Heep) is always fun.
I've interviewed so many, Christopher Lee and John Peel (I did one of his last) stand out. Jackie Chambers (Girlschool) and John McCoy are always great too.
The first Gillan interview was fantastic but I interviewed him a second time and got him on a bad day – so prickly I got nothing usable and it remained unprinted.
But for a real nightmare it has to be both Tony Iommi and David Coverdale. They were email interviews and both came back with one line answers and, being email, I couldn't prod for more info.
I've met Brian May a couple of times and would really like to interview him.
How did you become involved in running the fanclubs for Nazareth and Paul Samson? In the internet age have the days of 'offline' fanclubs had their day?
-Nazareth – I pitched a feature to Record Collector when I submitted the aforementioned Gillan feature and they said go with it. Again I was a collector so I had my own LP collection as a start to the research and I hooked up with Mark Brennan (Captain Oi! Records) who was a collector too. I soon compiled a discography so detailed it is still used as a reference by the band and their labels 20 years on. The band were so friendly to interview we became friends, and I offered to do a fanzine based on their input and my collection and it took off from there.
It was this work that led to me writing sleevenotes for their reissue CDs, and subsequently other labels/bands too.
Offline fanclubs, like magazine and CDs and LPs, always have a place. People want something they can hold and read, away from the TV screen. Someone recently sent me a picture of a folder they'd made, containing all of my Nazareth fanzines. Then, I knew, I'd made a difference, my physical fanzine is still held in esteem. I knew that many online sources referenced it still, but this was like the final confirmation.
Anyone who says it's ALL download is talking shite and I have the proof!
As for Paul Samson – I was living in Sussex at the time, late 80s and early 90s, and Paul was playing with a covers band (he'd previously worked with the singer/bassist) because he'd broken his arm and was getting back into regular playing. I was a fan/collector and introduced myself and it seemed a natural progression.
There is a Cozy Powell biopic in the works. When did you first meet him and which piece of music do you think best sums up his playing/style?
-It's all down to Rainbow Rising. His definitive piece has to be A Light In The Black – the extended instrumental interplay that sees Blackmore duel with Tony Carey. It was done live in the studio, first take, and it is seriously mind blowing. It's what got me into Cozy, Rainbow and rock music.
My first meeting with Cozy was an interview for Record Collector (see above), and when he realised how serious, keen and knowledgeable I was we soon became friends.
As for Cozy's best works? The two Jeff Beck albums, Bedlam, the 3 with Rainbow. Whitesnake, MSG and ELP stand out too. Most of all though, the three with Rainbow. And his first solo album Over The Top.
What have been the best bands you have seen live and why?
-Saxon, because they never ever let you down. Always solid, always fun and enjoyable. They have a strength of catalogue during the 90s and 00s and aren't afraid to use it. Anyone with a complaint about a Saxon performance or setlist over the last 10-15 years is brain dead or an idiot I would happily square up to.
Freedom Call – energy and musicianship, likewise Uriah Heep.
I've seen so many bands live, many great ones. But one of the best live performances I've ever seen is when my dad (Ron Geesin) performed Atom Heart Mother with Italian tribute band Mun Floyd, 40 piece choir, 10 piece brass and cellist Caroline Dale, over two nights in London, 2008. The second night saw them joined by David Gilmour who played the best I've ever known. Atom Heart Mother as it should have been, 35 minutes of magic. If that ever came out as a live album it would knock over a LOT of people.
Is rock music in a healthier state now than ten years ago? How important has it been to have a specialist magazines – 'Classic Rock’, ‘Fireworks’, 'Power Play' – in the High Street stores raising the profile of the music?
-Lets face it, the 90s sucked for rock press, and for rock music too. Largely because of Grunge and Nu / Alt metal, all of which I consider abominations. In terms of press coverage and success, yes rock is in a much healthier state than it was 10 years ago.
Classic Rock was groundbreaking, innovative and essential when it started, and it was for years, but has become rather self serving, complacent and repetitive of late. Much as I love AOR and Prog, the additional magazines are way too expensive and just give space in the main mag for the aforementioned problems. There's a large underground scene for which Fireworks and Power Play cover well (remember Metal Forces in the 80s?). Yes, all criticisms aside, all is better now than it was 10 years ago. Much better.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
-My dad, my family – with the do what you want to do and take pride in it attitude. I've made mistakes and they've been there all the way. Musically – Nick Garvey, Ian Gillan, Cozy Powell and Darrell Sweet have a lot to answer for.
Any hints/tips for people keen to start out in rock journalism?
- Yes do as much as you can and enjoy what you do. Any and all unpaid work can lead to both a portfolio of published work and, most important of all, networking opportunities. Ploughing through 1000s of shite CDs to find a few good ones is worth it (I've proved this with GRTR alone), and it's amazing what can come from going to so many gigs. Be a pain, get yourself out, about and known. Most of what I've achieved is through getting to know labels, bands, PRs, direct, and that's only by networking combined with reviewing a plethora of good, bad, ugly and all the shite no-one else will touch, because there is no space for prima donnas.
I still do loads for Record Collector unpaid, ie news interviews and live reviews. There's a lot to be said for passion for the subject.
Research is important, as going into an interview (or the review of a major band) will make you look like a complete tit. There are a lot of uninformed twats out there, don't be one of them.
Basically, know your stuff, do your research, enjoy what you do and put yourself about.
And be persistent.
Heard any good music lately?
- F**k me there's a lot of shite out there. There's very little new music that's grabbing me, largely because I dislike singer/songwriter and indie guitar pop/rock that is trying to be rock or metal. And there's plethora of it all about, enough mediocracy to drown in. Likewise Alt, grunge and death metal. All dead. It's like calling Green Day a punk band – a big NO all round.
The best new music I've heard is from established bands. The best new music I've heard this year is the new albums from Rhapsody Of Fire and Saxon.
What has been your most embarrassing moment?
-When I was 10 years old, my dad tried to explain to me Pete Townsend's role in The Who, ie guitarist and songwriter. My reply was along the lines of The Who? Who are they, they can't be any good if I've never heard of them.
Any good rock `n' roll tales to tell?
-Probably more than I can remember. Certainly a good number that will only come to mind after this interview is published. Many a social event and after show party for sure.
Cozy Powell phoned me the day before he died, having just pulled out of Malmsteen's tour and telling me how much he was looking forward to the tour with Brian May. There were things he poured his heart out about, and 24 hours later BANG!
Darrell Sweet (Nazareth) phoned me the day before he died too. Does that count?
Seriously though, Cozy once took me for a spin in the car he would later die in. I spent the day at his house and got to listen to 100s of tapes of unreleased material.
And during the recording of Nazareth's Boogaloo, I spent several days in the studio with the band playing snooker, drinking and getting all these stories from them touring around the world. When they recorded Cheerleader, I was sat behind Darrell in the studio with the producer trying to wind him up, because apparently Darrell played better when he was pissed off. Only when he was telling the producer to fuck off did they get the take.
When GMT formed, I got an email from John McCoy saying “I'm working with Bernie again, oh and I think you know the drummer”. The next day I get an email from Bernie saying “I'm working with John again, on and I think you know the drummer”. That drummer, Robin Guy, I was at school with.
I got offered an interview with Norah Jones at such short notice I had to run through Hammersmith and Kensington to get the the label's offices in time to have a chance to listen to the then new album before doing the interview.
One of the first rock gigs I went to, Ian Gillan at the Charing Cross Road Marquee on the Naked Thunder tour, 1991-ish, I met Mick Box in the audience. I spent half the night chatting with him and he came out with all these stories about being in Japan and pissed on Sake.
My first ever concert, aged 10/11, was Pink Floyd The Wall and Earls Court. I got to meet the band, Gerald Scarf, James Hunt and ABBA backstage.
Oh, and apparently I have quite a loud whistle, and it can be heard on live albums by Saxon, Gary Moore, Rush and others. And on BBC2 when James May did his ManLab at High Voltage. In fact at the recent Saxon gig a complete stranger came up to me and said “Are you Joe? There's people upstairs complaining about your whistling”. Many crowd complaints over the years, but the only time the band has complained (outside of pub gigs) is at a Justin Hawkins solo album launch, where he stopped the band mid-track to proclaim “Will that loud c**t shut up”!
Anything else to add…
I've been lucky in many respects, but there's been a lot of hard work along the way, I have ploughed through a LOT of crap.
Career highlights have to include getting exclusives from Christopher Lee and WASP's Blackie Lawless 2 or 3 years before Classic Rock ever even approached the subjects.
Of the 2500 CD reviews I've done for GRTR, I've discovered two of my favourite bands in Rhapsody and Freedom Call, both of whom I've since interviewed.
Many bands I've worked with, including Cozy Powell, Nazareth, Praying Mantis, Paul Samson and others I've ended up doing PR for, it's where networking has become friendship.
A complete list of my published work as up at www.joegeesin.com, along with examples that include the Motors sleevenotes, the complete Cozy Powell and Christopher Lee interviews, and an otherwise unpublished interview with Magnum
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