1. LR : Can you tell us what we are going to hear from you as special guest of Mostly Autumn.
JS :I can’t tell you specifically what you’re going to hear from me on the Mostly Autumn shows, because, as any performer will tell you, the element of ‘surprise’ is half the fun. But I intend to pack the set with as much music as I can, giving a respectful nod to the past, while hopefully being able to air a couple of new tricks I’ve learned since the last time I visited your country.
2. LR :What is the story on your last album 13 Storeys,
JS : 13 Storeys would not exist had it not been for the sudden death of my brother Lawrence. I’d long considered doing an autobiographical album, but it was the aftermath of that life-changing event which gave me the necessary focus required to attempt it. I recorded it at home, and the only time I wasn’t working on it, was when I traveled to Wales to record Dark Matter. I remember we’d recorded all but one of the tracks. We needed one more. We’d been playing a 13 Storeys song (Dream a Dream) live, and the guys coaxed me to add it to Dark Matter – which we did. It was a very intense period. At the time, I thought I was merely recording an album. But looking back, I now see 13 Storeys as nothing less than the grieving process set to music, and is as a result, the most personal and honest thing I’ve ever come up with.
3. LR: Many dutch visitors of your performances in Holland will be Heep and Gary Moore fans. They are very much looking forward to meet you. Do you like to talk about that stage in your career ?
JS : I haven’t talked much about my time with Heep and Gary Moore. Mostly because they are so far in the past, that they now seem like a previous life. But it’s a life I nevertheless remember in vivid detail.
4. LR: For many people the Heepalbum Conquest was a special one. It is the only one with you and the last album with Ken Hensley. Do you remember the recording days. How did it went?
JS: I really enjoyed recording Conquest. The guys had seven of the tracks recorded by the time Chris and myself came in. We added ourselves to those tracks and recorded three more from scratch. I remember playing ‘No Return’ on the Roundhouse piano one day, and Chris asking me what it was. I told him it was a song I’d written for the band I’d been playing with in Canada the previous year. Next thing we were recording it for the album, as well as ‘Won’t Have to Wait too Long’ - another song I’d been playing in Canada. The last track was Ken’s ‘Out on the Streets’. I gather there’s been some negativity about Conquest over the years, strangely enough from the band themselves. But during the sessions, there was a genuine air of optimism around the studio.
5. LR: Do you remember anything about the Dutch Utrecht 1980 Vredenburg gig ?
JS : The Dutch Utrecht 1980 Vredenburg gig? Wow! Talk about a memory test. I don’t recall anything about the gig itself. But I seem to recall some competition winners joining us for a drinking session. Which is probably why I can’t remember the gig.
6. LR: Who are inspirational singers for you ?
JS: Inspirational singers? Let me see. One of the first I recall is Ray Charles pumping out of the old transistor radio in my parents’ kitchen. Also Little Stevie Wonder (and big Stevie Wonder), John Lennon, Marvin Gaye and Sam Cooke. Aretha Franklin and Joni Mitchell (the guys in Heep used to call me Joni Sloman because I was forever playing Joni Mitchell songs on the studio piano). Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey, Paul Rodgers, Glenn Hughes. Not to mention, Alex Ligertwood of Santana.
7. LR: Would you be up for singing in a rockband again ? What kind of music should it perform ?
JS: Would I sing in a rock band again? Sure. If the material suited. The reason why I’ve declined singing for so many bands over the years, is because the material hasn’t inspired me. And I’m not going to ‘fake it’ just for the money like so many do. But I’m always open to suggestions. Meanwhile, I’ve written a rock album which I intend to start recording in the summer. So maybe I’ll be out there with my own band soon enough.
8. LR: Comparing to your eighties music and your latest cd’s your way of singing has changed. How did that develop ?
JS: I can understand people who are familiar with the stuff I recorded way back feeling my singing has changed. But I haven’t so much changed, as grown into myself vocally. I think if you listen to ‘Firing on all Six’ and ‘Conquest’, the diversity of influence is already apparent. The track ‘Imagination’ on Conquest is a jazz-influenced vocal. I remember thinking as I recorded it, ‘there’s no way this will make the final mix’. Generally speaking though, in Heep, it was about keeping within the boundaries of an established sound. Whereas now I’m only responsible to myself, I go where I want musically speaking. I don’t concern myself with whether or not it conforms to people’s expectations – or if it will sell. Only that I’m being true to myself. Growing up I was exposed to all kinds of music, and I think that’s reflected in what I’m doing now. Even in the middle of a rock gig, there was always a chance I’d throw something unexpected into the pot. Although I have to admit, that jazz scat solo in the middle of ‘Gypsy’ was probably taking it a little too far.
9. LR: What do you think is are are very good singers in rockmusic today
JS: There aren’t too many new big voices out there these days. But I really like Chris Cornell – who by his own admission, has a classic rock voice, which would’ve fitted right in back in the seventies. He also has that bit of darkness which makes it more interesting to listen to. The guy in The Killers has something too. Especially on ‘When you were Young’. That emotive stuff seemed to vanish for a while.
10. LR: Is there anything you like to say to the dutch fans ?
JS: I’d like Dutch fans to know that I’m very much looking forward to playing for them again. I first came to Holland in 1975 with a band called Trapper. And have been back several times since with various bands. This however, will be the first time I’ll be playing my own material. But as Dutch people are music-lovers, I know they’ll take time out to listen. Look forward to seeing you soon
John Sloman website; www.johnsloman.com