Paul Woodward aka Woody has been writing for the Midlands Rocks website since 2009. He is a big fan of melodic rock a rather big fan of the excellent Vega…
How did you become involved in the music business?
I don’t really consider myself as someone who’s involved with the music business to be honest. Doing reviews is something I’d never planned to do or even particularly showed a passion for in the past, it is all totally accidental and unintentional. If my old English teachers knew I was delving into the world of journalism now after they’d finishing laughing they would ask are you sure we are talking about the same person, the kid I remember thought correct spelling was for sissy’s and grammar was for toff’s!
It all really steams from the music or rather the music I’m passionate about. I got into melodic rock at a time when it was at the height of un-cool, just after grunge emerged and the genre imploded on itself. So it always felt that that when I expressed my thoughts on music or tried to share it with others it was dismissed without a second thought. That has made me very vocal about music because I truly believe if people gave many of the bands I love a chance they would love what they hear, they just need to give it a chance. Also with mainstream media looking down their noses at the genre declaring it unhip and something to be mocked or not taken seriously, it makes me want to shout louder so those who are totally unaware of the melodic rock underground scene know that it’s still kicking and it’s good!
So once I got internet access way back in 2003 I became vocal discussing gigs and albums on various internet forums, and eventually this lead me to writing a blog on my MySpace page (remember that?) because I wanted to share my experience’s. I never wrote reviews, this blog was just my thoughts. So I suppose starting to do reviews was a natural evolution of what I was enjoying doing, sharing my passion and love of melodic rock and AOR. I’ve never been cool or hip, I’ve never let anyone dictate what is good or not to me and I don’t intend to change now.
What was your first review and interview?
My first review was a live review of Tyketto when they played the Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton. I was very nervous and re-wrote it many times before submitting it to the boss. Thankfully though the Tyke’s are an amazing live band so they made it really easy for me to do a review. I think my writing has improved a lot since then but I’ll never be a professional and to be honest I know my blog style writing will mean my name never adorns a pro magazine or website. That said I enjoy writing the way I do, I want to express myself not be a critic and although I’d love nothing more than to be able to make a living out of journalism I know it will never happen. I’ll not change though because I enjoy writing the way I do and I don’t want to change to fit in just to get a paycheck. I want to be me, if you want to read a professional review there is more than you can shake a shitty stick at out there – enjoy!
I avoid doing interviews if I can possibly help, it’s not something I enjoy doing although I know most fans are more interested in interviews than reviews! Interviews can be a lot of hard work when it comes to transcribing and very laborious so the vast majority of interviews I do are via email. My first interview was with Brummie Tony Mills, you know that dude who sang with SHY and now fronts TNT, I don’t know you may have heard of him? Haha!
It was a real nerve racking experience. Tony was living in my hometown of Walsall at the time and his PR guy passed on my number to Tony so we could organise a meeting. Near shat bricks when my phone rung, so I managed to get a few words out to arrange a meeting although my nervousness did show as Tony had thought I sounded off on the phone as though I was disinterested. Obviously I quickly apologised and explained it was nerves. Luckily Tony used to live in an area not far from me and knew my neck of the woods well enough to meet me in my local pub, which was nice. Tony is a great guy and he quickly put me at ease and made it a really cool experience. Spending the afternoon in the pub getting tipsy with Tony Mills talking about music, does it get much better than that?
What are you currently up to music wise e.g pending interviews, reviews?
I have a list of album reviews longer than the bible to do. Since I’ve been involved with Midlands Rocks I have developed a new respect for journalists, keeping on top of the workload is a lot easier said than done. I never like to do any of my reviews half arsed or rushed, I always give every album a fair few spins and want to give as detailed a review as I feel the album deserves. So a lot of the time my reviews are well overdue. To stay on top of things I do have to pick and choose what I do, I know people who are unaware of the time journalists spend on what we do think we are just freeloaders after free music and press passes for gigs. If they knew how many hours I spend ‘working’ for free on reviews, podcasts, interviews and the gig guide over at Midlands Rocks they would be shocked!
Got a load of good stuff to review including an album I can’t talk about, but trust me when I can the whole world is going to know that the saviours of melodic rock are back with an almighty bang when I’m allowed to! I may strap on my air keytar first though!
Gig wise I’m looking forward to seeing Dante Fox again when they support the Electric Boys in Wolvo, which reminds me I need to get my welcome home banner ready for them! Of course I’ll be at Magnum’s Wolvo gig in December they never miss us out on tour so I’ll never miss them, watching Uncle Bob throwing shapes is a thing of beauty! I’m looking forward to seeing Epica again at The Robin; this has nothing to do with my slight obsession with Simone Simons.
I think the gig I’m most looking forward to this year is the Little Angels in Wolvo! I never got the chance to see the band live they had split before I got into music, so as a huge fan this is going to be a real treat! I suspect I may need to change my underwear on several occasions that night.
Oh and I can’t forget the SHY gig celebrating the life of Steve Harris in Brum at the end of October. It promises to be a very special and emotional night for everyone attending. It’s going to be great hearing Steve’s final piece performed and I’m sure there won’t be a dry eye in the house after Tony takes to the stage for some classics.
Interview wise, operation “avoid doing them” is going great! One of my favourite excuses is “they expect me to be there at what time?! Do they think we don’t have lives?…..bloody musicians.”
Advice for someone wanting to get into reviewing and interviewing for a magazine/webzine?
My most important piece advice would be do everything the total opposite of me!
Seriously though, it is a lot of hard work and will consume a lot of your spare time. Anyone who thinks reviewing is easy for very little work with lots of perk, you’re in for a massive shock! I really enjoy doing what I do, but if you want to do it properly and gain the respect of bands and fans, it will consume a lot of your time and if you’re not prepared to sacrifice that time don’t bother! Also it’s not a very glamorous job, you will be considered the enemy by bands and you will receive angry emails telling you are shit and they are going to smash your face in. Every word you write will mean ‘the public’ will cast judgement on you and criticise everything you say and do.
On a positive note it is always great to receive an email from a musician thanking me, obviously this is usually in response to a good review, but the amount of emails I’ve received praising my efforts and the time they see I’ve spent with their music is really appreciated and fuels me to carry on doing what I do.
Remember if you feel like getting involved with reviews having a computer and a passion for music doesn’t mean you are going to be any good. Having a good grasp of English is highly beneficial and something that has dragged me down from the beginning, although I constantly try to improve it will always be a battle for me and set me up for mocking from ‘the public’. Having a thick skin and a realistic view on your writing talents is essential.
How did you become to be involved with Midlands Rocks?
As I mentioned earlier I used to write a blog on MySpace and one day many moons ago in 2009 I received a message from Peter Keevil. It stated that he was looking to start a new web based magazine that supported the Midlands live music scene and Midlands based bands and he was looking for writers and photographers to get ‘Midlands Rocks’ up and running. He couldn’t offer payment but hoped as the site took off we may start getting press passes for gigs.
I initially turned PK down, stating I didn’t feel I’d be any good at reviewing and that I was a music fan not a critic. He responded stating he liked what I was doing in my blog and that’s all he was looking for, a fans experience of a gig not a critical breakdown of the music. So I had a good think about it. I thought it would be a great way for me to help spread the word on melodic rock outside of the underground scene that maybe through Midlands Rocks I could reach ears and eyes of people oblivious to all this great music as the site would cover all styles or rock and metal. So I thought screw it let’s do it!
I’m really proud to be one of the original members of the Midlands Rocks Team. The site has grown from a MySpace page to the fully fledged website we have today. A lot of this is down to the hard work of Peter Keevil and also the hard work of some very talented writers and photographers, many I now call friends!
As the site has grown in its readership and its reputation we are now considered a quality and professional webzine. I still can’t get over how well known the ‘Midlands Rocks’ brand is now, considering our very humble beginnings. This has led me to on a couple of occasions to consider leaving the team so that the site can continue to improve and maintain the professional reputation it has gained. Obviously my blog style writing does bring the site down, but PK says whilst I may not be the greatest writer, my passion and knowledge for melodic rock outweighs this and as long as I enjoy it I should keep on doing what I do!
Have you noticed your taste in music changing down the years?
To be honest my taste in music has been pretty consistent and unchanging. I have all my life been criticised for not been more eclectic, but I can’t force myself to like music I don’t just to appease others.
When I got into music I had no influences from siblings or friends. I was a complete blank slate; I did very quickly find my taste was more towards Rock than anything else. I love Melodic rock and I’m very passionate about it, it’s a genre of music that resonates with me and I find music extremely cathartic. The genre gives you music for every mood happy and sad and everywhere in between! I’m not close minded to other genres, but there is very little out there that drags me away from the music I love.
Any band/album you raved about in the past that you can’t believe you liked in hindsight?
I think music is always about the ‘now’; we always crave new music because we are looking for the new sound or song for ‘now’. So there’s a hell of a lot of albums I revisit and think I can’t believe I used to love this and play it to death. Yes there’s plenty of classics that I will always return to, but some great albums don’t have longevity but that doesn’t make them bad albums because I enjoyed them at the time. I think ‘fun’ albums tend to lose their shine in reflection, albums that have a deeper emotional edge that you can connect to tend to remain favourites for life or at least that is how it is for me.
How do you see the live scene developing in the next 5-10 years when many of the big rock and metal bands will have retired for good?
Due to the recession the live scene across the board and regardless of genre is struggling at the moment. I think once people have more disposable income the live scene will become far healthier, the reason it’s struggling isn’t lack of interest it’s lack of money!
I think there will be a lull in the amount of gigs we have within certain genres of rock and metal. The only way this will be different is if we have more younger bands emerging to take the place of the old guard. As far as melodic rock is concerned I think it will be hit hardest we really need the current crop of bands old and young to inspire a new generation to keep the music alive. It is depressing to think about it, but I think there are some great bands out there that can inspire a new generation of rockers so you never know.
Who are your musical heroes and why?
I’m not sure what to say to this one, I have no musical talent what so ever. So I can’t say I’m inspired to be like any musician.
I suppose I have a lot of respect for certain musicians who show pride and passion for their music and make big efforts to get their music out there on the live circuit. You’d be surprised the amount of bands who sit back and wait for phone calls and put no effort into getting out there. Yet there are others who bend over backwards to get on a stage, any stage, and share their music with their fans. I have a lot of respect for these bands.
I’m huge fan of Danny Vaughn, he is an extremely passionate performer, who always gives his fans his all and we love him for it. His attitude towards music resonates with me, his passion and fire is inspiring and it’s always heart warming to witness a musician who loves music with as much ferocity as you do yourself. Danny is a shining light within the scene and a great spokesperson for the melodic rock genre.
Tom & James Martin are heroes of mine because they are the greatest melodic rock songwriters of my generation. They seem to be able to write so many songs that resonate with me; they are real unsung heroes of the current scene. Actually all the members of VEGA including Nick Workman and Dan Chantrey are heroes of mine as they push the scene to a younger audience and push the boundaries of the genre to modernize it and make it fresh whilst remaining true to everything that makes melodic rock awesome! If there is a future for the scene beyond the older bands it lies with bands like VEGA who will hopefully inspire the next generation and also bury some aspects that keep the scene a joke amongst mainstream media, like having a modern image, no spandex or big hair in sight!
I have a lot of time for Glenn Hughes mainly because of his pride and passion for the Black Country, which is where I’m from and I’m proud of it. The Black Country doesn’t have the best of reputations it has a large working class population and is a very built up urban and industrial area, so we aren’t very pretty! Hughes’s love towards the area is amazingly positive and supportive, for this Hughes will always be a legend and I’ll not hear a bad word said about him!
How do you view the current melodic rock scene in the UK? Have bands like Vega and Serpentine given it a boost, along with more classic rock orientated bands like the Treatment and the Answer?
I fear all British melodic rock bands will always struggle to gather respect and true support within in the UK, most hardcore genre fans openly state that it’s Scandinavian and American bands that do it best for them. I’ve seen so many great bands change style or just call it quits over the years all because they felt they couldn’t break into the scene. It’s ironic a band like Pride are more popular now than before they split up, where the fook were you guys when the band needed your support?!
There are some great bands out there, the more classic rock ones will flourish as the appeal outside of melodic rock circles and their sound has more in common with a rock sound that Britain is famous for and also damn good at!
For the melodic rock bands and there is some amazing talent out there it will always be a struggle and they’ll have to fight hard and be twice as good as any other band to get acknowledgement and respect from the core fan base.
VEGA will break through and to a wider audience as well, they are just too fooking good to be ignored or dismissed, they are a shining light in a scene in very real danger of going stale. If anyone can give this scene a kiss of life (pun intended) it’s these guys.
The Serp’s have managed to build up a very supportive and loyal fan base and I have high hopes for them. I think they could help keep the flame burning for a more traditional melodic rock sound but hopefully infuse it with some youthful attitude and energy. Matt Black is a real god send for these guys and a proper rock and roll front man.
First album that got you into rock music and what you like about it?
This is a hard question to answer as I can’t really pin point one album which made me go ‘right, I’m a rocker, give me more’!
If I’m honest and I know this is the height of un cool to admit but as I was getting into music there was an endless stream of ‘Rock Anthems’, ‘Worlds Greatest Rock Hits’ ect… type compilation albums been released and I got a few of them and this is where my rock education truly began as I investigated bands I liked which in turn introduced me to others. Not a great answer but a truthful one!
Thunder were one of the first bands I got heavily into, thanks to ‘Love Walked In’ and then I went to see them live at the Aston Villa leisure centre back in 95, my first gig, and as Thunder do live they made me their bitch and I’ve never missed an opportunity to witness them live since.
The first CD I brought was Tyketto’s ‘Standing Alone’ single, it had been cassettes prior to this. ‘Strength in Numbers’ followed shortly after into my collection which includes my favourite Tyke’s tune ever ‘Meet Me In The Night’ and I’ve been in the Tyke army ever since, seeing them live on the reunion tour in 2004 was like a dream come true, especially as they were kind enough to play the Black Country twice on that tour Dudley and Wolvo, which was nice.
Hang on I change my mind can say Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd cause they blew my mind….now that’s much cooler…haha!
Any good rock ‘n’ roll tales to tell…
To be honest not really, the lines between Musician, media and fan are very blurred within the melodic rock community largely down to how small the fan base is. Many fans regularly share drinks with bands and even call some friends. This is something I’ve never done.
Don’t get me wrong it is nice to meet a musician and express a quick word of appreciation of their music and if I wasn’t an ugly bastard and hated having my photo took I’d have a pic with all the stars like everyone else does to! I think from a reviewing perspective this has stood me in good stead as I’m not blinded by friendship or loyalty.
I’m sure there are a few bands I support that people are convinced I’m mates with cause that’s the nature of the current scene, but I’m not. There is a few people out there who’s opinions I view as biased as I’m aware of a friendship or connection to a band they support. Most bands I support probably don’t have a clue of who I am even if they stood next to me!
So this doesn’t lead to many tales of one time at band camp me and Jeff Scott Soto shoved a flute up Ted Poley’s ass, man we were wasted type tales!
This isn’t fun or an exciting tale, but as far as personal experience’s connected to music is concerned, hanging out with the guys from VEGA and their friends and beautiful other half’s at last year’s Hard Rock Hell in Prestatyn was an amazing night and an experience I’ll never forget. I won’t go into details but a few of those guys said some really cool stuff to me that night and they really made feel included in their group. Hanging out with the guys and gals listening to some demo’s was a really great moment especially when they started singing along. Even going back to my hotel in the early hours in the pouring rain, and I mean heavy fooking rain, the type that bounces off your face drinking a can of caffreys I’d had of Nick Horne’s missus Carina will be a lasting happy memory! Good times with some amazing people.
On Sunday 28 July 2019, David Randall celebrated his 600th show. “Assume The Position” started in June 2007 on UK City Radio before transferring a year later to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio. The show includes tracks played on the first show plus Upton Blues Festival highlights, new music and the regular features “Live Legends” and “Anniversary Rock” which this week celebrates the Island Records label 60th anniversary.
Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
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Power Plays w/c 5 August (Mon-Fri)
COCO MONTOYA I Wouldn’t Wanna Be You (Alligator)
SKYFEVER Burning Hands (OTI Records)
HENRY’S FUNERAL SHOE High Shoulders Everywhere (indie)
MICHAEL J BOLTON Trans Lunar Injection (Market Square)
Featured Albums w/c 5 August (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 STRANDED New Dawn (Escape Music)
12:00-13:00 HOLLOW HAZE Between Wild Landscapes And Deep Blue Sea (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 SESSION AMERICANA North East (indie)
Albums That Time Forgot (Mon-Fri)
BRIAN ROBERTSON – Diamonds And Dirt (2011)
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