Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell: Interview With Johnny & Louis

It says a lot for the state of current music when a band playing the kind of riffs not heard since 1973 can kick up such a stir with their debut album and that band is Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, With a new album on the streets courtesy of Rise Above Records (that should really have been released on 8 Track and Reel To Reel), I reached out to the band inside their timewarp bubble to fire some questions over.

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell

Good day sirs! First up, Johnny will be well known to many people from his other band Gorilla but how did Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell come about?

Johnny: Louis came back from Spain, Bill had been out of Gorilla for about a year or so, we met up and thought it might be a laugh to have a jam, we did and this led to the idea of doin’ a covers band just fer laughs n beers at local pubs, playing Quo, Stones, Mountain, Pink Fairies – stuff we liked, basically. Did a few gigs like that, then one evening whilst drinking beer and listening to a newly acquired copy of Buffalo’s ‘Volcanic Rock’, I realized our warm up jams were better than our half assed covers!!! I wrote ‘Robot Colossus’ and the rest followed from there!

Louis: Yeah, we’ve known each other for years, and have been in and out of bands for as long as I can remember. I ended up living back at my folks following my sabbatical to Spain and needed to play. Bill had quit Gorilla, so the idea of the Shovell as a pub band was a no-brainer. We’ve always had a penchant for knocking out decent riffs, and was clear from our rehearsal room jams that the Shovell is a force to be reckoned with, cunts! 

Initially this seemed to be something of a side project for Johnny but momentum has picked up so is this now a full time band for all of you?

Johnny: Yeah after 6 years we’re an overnight success!! Haha! Be daft not to ride the wave eh??!I think it’s picked up since we got involved with Rise Above quite nicely. Louis is still playing with the re-formed Bronco Bullfrog, I’m still doing Gorilla and Bill will play with anyone who asks nicely!!! But obviously you do what’s put in front of you first, first if that makes sense!!

Louis: Gorilla has always been (and will always be) one of the finest rock’n’roll experiences known to half-deaf mankind, and I always see Gorilla as the beating heart of Johnny Gorilla. For me the Shovell is a side project that’s spiraled out of control. Is on the whole a really fucking decent outfit, with big hairy fucking balls.

How did you guys chose the name? Do you have a thing for unsuccessful seafaring types?

Johnny: We just have ‘a thing’ for sailors!!!’ Haha!! Me and Louis used to go to a boozer near where I lived and just up the road was a house ‘reputedly lived in by the mother of…..’’ you guessed it!! Louis thought ‘Cloudesley Shovell’ had a nice ring to it, and me being stupid liked the ‘Admiral Sir’ bit, kinda homage to ‘Sir Lord Baltimore’. That and we were pretty sure no-one else would have that name already!!!

Louis: As John says, the name was a good un, like Titus Groan or something. A bit prog, a bit mysterious, and fucking terrible for fans to spell. I bet we’ve missed out on record sales because somebody missed the additional “e” in Cloudesley!

Your debut album “Don’t Hear It…Fear It!” has been released on Rise Above Records. How did you hook up with them?

Johnny: We recorded some 4 track cassette demo’s on Louis old Tascam to put up on MySpace (what???) and sent a CDR to Lee Dorian at Rise Above – I honestly can’t remember what we had against Rise Above – Lee came and saw us at the Unicorn in Camden and liked what he saw, and very kindly offered to put out a single.

Louis: Yes, we liked the cut of their jib, and felt like the kind of label that would give us a punt. The album looks and sounds pretty special, and I shit a brick every time I see that cover.

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell

The album has a very raw, live sounding production. What was the recording experience like? How did you achieve such a vintage sound?

Johnny: The recording was a lotta fun, two trips to deepest darkest Wales in a clapped out Saab! We get a lot of comments on the vintage sound or production, but to us that sound on the record is just what sounds right to us – we don’t feed all the recordings through a ‘Regent Sound ‘71’ iPhone app or anything!!

Louis: That “vintage sound” has a lot to do with our DNA. We barely listen to anything post-1975, and if we do, it’ll be fucking exceptional.

Listening to the album it’s clear that you guys don’t seem to listen to much recorded after about 1975. I described it in my review as “proto-metal”, does this seem like a fair description? Who would you class as your main influences and what is it about the retro sound and style that appeals to you?

Johnny: ‘Proto-metal’ is a very fair description, in fact Julian cope described us as exactly that when he reviewed our demo tape on his ‘Head Heritage’ website a few years back! We prefer to call it ‘inept’ heavy metal! I think the influences are all there to hear, we’ve all been listening to this style of music since over ages ago, it all sinks in – you name it, it’s probably in there somewhere, whether we know it or not!

I think it’s just the honesty, simplicity and energy of this style that appeals.

Louis: Yeah, Andromeda meets the Yardbirds, but played by Ted Nugent in a South London speed den to a backdrop of Colour Climax features.

You’ve played some pretty high profile gigs…Graveyard, Groundhogs, Roadburn…etc. What’s been the highlight? Any interesting tales to tell, snorting cocaine off groupies’ arses…etc?

Johnny: Highlights would be things like getting TS McPhee playing on the LP – I mean fuck me!! In my book he’s up there with the likes of Iommi, Blackmore and Angus – y’know, ya listening to a ‘Music file’ re-issue of ‘Split’ when yer twelve and diggin’ the shit out of it, and then the geezer’s sitting there in front of ya playing slide guitar on YOUR FUCKIN’ LP!! That was a mind blower I can tell thee!! Roadburn was great too, but it’s all been a blast.

I can’t categorically state now that we have NEVER snorted filthy cocaine off of any groupies arse’s ever. We prefer speed!!

Louis: I agree. I had to leave the room clutching my head with both hands. Reverend TS McPhee playing on our album, what’s that all about? Best thing was when we suggested Tony had a “better take in him” for him to reply, “yeah, up my arse”!

I’m guessing the band doesn’t provide a living for you guys, how do you juggle home, work and doing the band?

Johnny: With varying degrees of difficulty! Can be a pain in the arse sometimes, but we’ve somehow managed to juggle gig dates with days off and leave time for those who work, it ain’t that hard if you want to do it, you find a way.

I’ve know people quit bands for work or to have kids or to get married or coz their chick don’t like the paranoia – wotever. If you quit for any other reason than you don’t enjoy it no more then good luck – coz your gonna have a bitch of a time living someone else’s dream.

Louis: I work for the council and have a very good policy on “work/life balance”.

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell

You guys are from Hastings which is mainly famous for pretending to be the site of a battle in 1066…but wasn’t! What is the scene like in Hastings in terms of venues and bands?

Johnny: And for being a drinking town with a fishing problem and the one of the highest suicide rates of young males, in Europe!! No, strangely enough the battle was in Battle weren’t it?? Spose the clue is in the name!! ha!

I wouldn’t say there was a ‘scene’ as such, all the bands who like what each other do tend to gravitate to each other, and gig together, we try and get as many out of town bands in as we can to keep it a bit fresh and exciting! There’s a couple of decent places to play in Hastings for non-covers bands, but like any small town its never gonna be Liverpool in the 60’s again!!

But the same attitude applies as when Gorilla started, we don’t want to compete with local bands, we wanna compete with the world!

Louis: Hastings is full of the cream of smalltown rock’n’rollers. Dean Doe and the Weaklings are one of my favourite acts. Royal Standard and the Tubman are great venues. Thing is, in Hastings there are no promoters and nobody argues about paying you a decent wage for gigs, even when they’re not charging on the door. A lesson to be learned for all you big city rip-off merchants. We’re worth £200 in Hastings so give us £200 in Sheffield you cunts!

Does it harm or help you guys being stuck out of the way of all the main musical action?

Johnny: Bit of both I reckon – there’s less gigs and musicians about, but rehearsal space is a lot cheaper than London and when you do find musicians they tend not to be in like a hundred different bands playing a thousand styles of music. I never tend to trust the credibility of musicians I meet who play in heavy bands who happen to have a ‘side project’ that plays psychedelic-r’n’b-rap-dubstep-ambientgroove-world-music-electro-pop!!! I think there a bunch of fame chasers who’d suck the corporate cock soon as look at ya! If you stick to what ya know rather than using music as a fashion accessory, I respect that, whatever the genre.

Also it pushes me to get out of town get in the van and play anywhere and everywhere we can. Can’t stand rehearsal room bands who talk a lot and do fuck all!

Louis: It works in our favour. We can rehearse regular as we need to, there’s no temptation to go out and gig shit venues for a shit wage on a Wednesday evening, and as a result, we’re not demoralised.

What other current bands, if any, would you recommend people to listen to…other than Gorilla?

Johnny: More Gorilla. Don’t honestly know, let me think…FuManchu, but that’s about 20years old now innit?? I heard a good Scandinavian (I think??) band called Brutus the other week…fuck knows – I’m totally the wrong person to ask mate!

Louis: Gorilla, Vaginal Blood Fart, and The Cunts.

Speaking of Gorilla, again, what is the situation there, will we see any more action from the band?

Johnny: Oh yeah most deffo – we’ve been training up a new drummer, who’s the bollocks, so we’ve got the proper old Gorilla sound back!! We’re working on new songs for an LP, no label at the mo’ though so if anyone reading this is interested……

Me and Sarah have been doggedly Gorilla-in it for getting on for over ten years now and we’re both too stupid to know when to quit!! I think us and Orange Goblin are about the only UK band from that first wave of ‘stoner rock’ left, though we always had too many fast songs to fit into the ‘stoner’ scene properly. It’s hard to believe, but when we started Gorilla, heavy 70’s style music just wasn’t that popular in the UK. We didn’t look the part for the heavies and we were too heavy for the garage scene and indies!! Life’s always tough for pioneers….sob…sob….

Louis: A new Gorilla album can only be a good thing.

Give us 5 all time great albums we should listen to

Johnny: Off the top of me head –  AC/DC ‘Powerage’, Deep Purple ‘In Rock’, Motorhead ‘Overkill’, Black Sabbath ‘Volume 4’ and the MC5 ‘Back in The USA!’.

Louis: Sir Lord Baltimore ‘Kingdom Come’; Master’s Apprentices ‘Choice Cuts’; AC/DC ‘Dirty Deeds’; Blue Oyster Cult ‘Tyranny and Mutation’; and Tremeloes ‘Master’.

What are the future plans for the band…gigs, recording…etc?

Johnny: Keep writin’, keep gigging and touring make another LP –that’s about as far as I can say at the moment.

Louis: Yep, there’s a few albums worth of riffs in us, so we’ll be bothering the charts with our radio friendly hard-rock sound for the coming years.

Any last words?

Johnny: Be good to yourself at least once a day!!

Louis: Do farts have lumps in them?

Generally no, farts don’t have lumps in them…that’ll be shit!!! There you have it, the fevered minds behind one of the best bands to emerge in recent years. Buy the album, catch them live, book a holiday in Hastings and buy them a drink!!!

Interviewed by: Ollie Stygall