EXCLUSIVE SLADE IN ENGLAND INTERVIEW WITH LEGENDARY SLADE DRUMMER DON POWELL
Colchester Charter Hall,
a local authority run badminton court and occasional venue for live bands was where I caught up with Slade legend and all around nice guy Don Powell just two days before Christmas.
I had pre arranged to meet up with new Slade bassist Dave Glover (answers on a postcard) in order to give Slade 2 a fair crack of the whip and chat with the band about what was happening now and in the future. Slade 2 were 'headlining' an evening of fun with BC Sweet and T Rextacy as their support, the whole show being organised by local promoter John Hassenthaler.
Arriving mid afternoon I found Don on stage setting up his drums and he kindly agreed to allow me to interview him for Slade In England.
DP I've long since come to accept it, like my sense of smell or lack of it, they told me years ago that the nerves that come down to the bridge of the nose were severed in the accident, and over the years since, they have become withered and so it will never come back.
DG I suppose that if the accident had happened today there may have been something that could be done with the advances that have been made in medicine over the years, but you were lucky to survive the initial event itself.
DP Well I was told later on that if they could have caught it at the time they could have fixed it, but they had too much on their plate to worry about that, they had other things to think about just keeping me alive. I saw a neurologist in New York, he was a best friend of our agent over there at the time, and he arranged for me to have tests done and he explained that with my skull fracture and all the other damage, my sense of smell just wasn't important enough for them to worry about, so its gone, and I don't think about it any more.
DG Did you go to New York to see this guy especially or were you touring there at the time?
DP No, we were on tour so it seemed like a good idea at the time.
DG Moving on to the here and now, do the band not travel together? Dave Glover I know is travelling here at the moment and is somewhere on the M25.
DP Well I live down south in Bexhill, so I came up from there this morning, and Dave will get here later on, he'll drive himself down from the Midlands.
DG So here we are in Colchester a couple of days before Christmas, this is your last gig until what? what are the band up to next?
DP we're finished now over Christmas and new year then its Russia next.
DG I get a lot of e mails from Russia about Slade, you have quite a large following over there, are you looking forward to it?
DP Oh they are great people over there, I love it, very friendly, very welcoming, great people.
DG The internet has made the world an even smaller place, I don't carry any information pertaining to this incarnation of Slade on my site at the moment. There are sites out there that do, but I feel that a band the stature of Slade should be better catered for. Do you or Dave keep tabs on what is happening with the net?
DP We should do, but its a big thing now, its incredible, I've got a computer at home which I am waiting to be upgraded at the moment, something wrong with the motherboard or something.
DG Well the net is a big thing and I think that the band should embrace it and use it as the tool that it is.
DP It's frightening isn't it, especially how global it is, stuff gets sent around the world at the touch of a button in seconds, amazing.
DG I carry a load of what are known as MP3 files on my site, mostly bootleg stuff, the quality isn't exactly first class, but even so there have been over 50,000 downloads in a little over a year, most popular are the B sides that never appeared on albums, there are rumours about Polydor releasing an album of B sides but I don't believe that they will, was it ever something that the band might have done?
DP We were going to do an album once called 'A Sides and Backsides' and It never happened, it would have been a good album.
DG Some of the B sides were great records, you were involved in writing some yourself in the early days, not perhaps the commercial stuff but good records.
DP It would be nice for that to happen, but It wont, Polydor will never do it.
DG I was 13 when I first saw Slade, at an open air festival just down the road from here at a place called Halls Farm Weeley. It was billed as the Weeley Rock Festival, do you have any memories of that?
DP Yes, sort of, who else was on?
DG I really don't remember, I do remember Slade however, it was August bank holiday 1971, and you had just had your first chart success with 'Get Down & Get With It', you were growing your hair from the skinhead thing and you really were an 'in your face' band.
DP That's the same way we broke at the Lincoln festival in '72, exactly the same thing, there were all these introverted bands on, and of course we came on and wiped the floor with them. It was perfect because we were the first band to use the lights that day, it was just perfect. That was Chas's doing that you know, with the lights, he argued to get us on just as it was getting dark, perfect.
DG What was your reaction to his death?
DP It's sad, it's funny you know, me and Nod were with him the week before and he was perfect, he was great, and then a week later Nod called me and told me.....I was like "What?" Couldn't believe it. Sad.
DG It must be hard, he was so important to the band for so many years, almost a father figure in some respects?
DP Well he was more like a brother, like part of the band almost. We used to have stand up rows with him, but the thing was he was always right, that was the annoying thing about him, he was always fucking right!
DG Moving on again, looking at the kit you will be using tonight, it's a little different from the custom built Ludwig kits that you played a few years ago. Ludwig custom built your kits for you, could you pick and choose what specification you wanted?
DP Well this isn't my kit, the promoter provides all the equipment, P.A, everything except the guitars.
DG You had quite a long association with Ludwig, were they the best or were you lured by the corporate image and the freebies?
DP I could be anywhere in the world, and I could phone them up and say 'I need so and so quick' and it would be there on the next flight. Absolutely incredible. I saw Bill Ludwig the third a few years ago and he told me that they just couldn't compete with the Japanese.
DP Oh that was great that was. That was him Bill the third. The great thing was that it was the 75th anniversary of Ludwig Drums, and they invited 75 drummers from throughout the world, and I was who they invited from England. They had dinner suits all made for us, we had this photograph done and well........it's a lost weekend for me I am afraid.......Can you imagine 75 drummers together in the same hotel?
DG Was there much of a hotel left afterwards?
DP Oh yeah, I think so anyway, they did this photo of us with Bill the 2nd and Bill the 3rd and all the champagne glasses....you know like the cascade thing they do........
DG Plenty of Kudos to be invited to represent your country at such an event. Where was it held?
DP Chicago, that's where the factory was. They really pushed the boat out for us, had seamstresses there to make up the tuxedo's for us from the measurements we had sent over, really great weekend.
DG Chicago was a good place for Slade in the States I get quite a few mails from there
DP Yes all the mid west was good for us, we had a good following in the mid west.
DG I was actually very surprised at the amount of fans that there are in the States, I always thought that Slade had made little impression there, but you are fondly remembered across the country. There was a hard core of Slade fans here in the UK and Europe, the same 500 or so that used to get to the really small places that you were playing in between the huge days and Reading in 1980, there is also a hard core of fans in the States and Canada that are just as fervent but of course had it much harder because of the lack of coverage there, they just don't get why Slade were never as huge across the country as they thought you should have been.
DP It would be nice at some point to get back over there, we'll see how it goes, It would be nice to do Australia as well, maybe as part of a world tour incorporating a few territories along the way.
DG Its good that the band are still gigging, we don't get anything from Nod and Jimmy It's pleasing that you are still out treading the boards.
DP Well Nod or Jim Aren't interested anymore, they'll never do it again.
DG Tell me about 'Lorna Doon' which I believe you have a small role in.
DP Oh that was great, I think they are showing it Christmas eve and Boxing day, fantastic stuff that was.
DG How did it come about that you ended up in it?
DP Originally I was just an extra, a crowd extra in the film, so I don't know how much they are going to show of me. The producer was looking for 'a bit of rough' and he looked at me and said 'Perfect You'll do' type of thing, so I became one of the baddies, and I did just over a weeks filming down in Wales, I was only booked to do four days filming originally. It should look fantastic, the scenery was just superb, the set everything looked so real, thatched cottages made of fibreglass, but you couldn't tell.
DG Did you enjoy it?
DP Oh yeah
DG Even the early morning starts, mind you I expect that was no surprise after doing Flame?
DP Oh no that was easy, I really enjoyed myself, It'll look really good when its all on screen.
DG Did you find yourself getting swept up in it all?
DP Oh yeah, you cant help it, especially when you are in the farmyards covered in shit, it is real...........
DG And if you had been born 150 years ago what do you think Don Powell would have been?
DP ...Oh I don't know......probably a poacher.
DG From your recollection was it the same as doing Flame?
DP Pretty similar, except that it was mostly filmed outside.
DG Was Flame a pleasant experience as far as you recall?
DP Oh yes, very enjoyable, everything was in those days, just good fun.
DG Dave has always maintained that Slade's flame began to dim a little after the release of Flame, do you share his view that it helped to push the band out of the record buying public's psyche?
DP What it was, was that we were seen arguing in the film, and we weren't Slade in the film, but the public saw Flame as Slade, and they didn't like it, Robin Nash the top of the pops producer asked us if it was the right move, and now I dont believe that it was, but it was good fun to make, but a bit too near the knuckle.
DG I will let you get on with setting up your equipment and thank you for the chat.
DP No problem at all.