Big Boy Bloater

Big Boy Bloater and The Limits have just released their latest album “Luxury Hobo” and are currently touring the UK.  We caught up with the big man himself for a chat.

When did Big Boy Bloater start playing music?

I started at school really I think, about eleven years old, I managed to get my Dad to buy me an electric guitar. It was a terrible thing, unplayable almost, but I didn’t lose any enthusiasm for it, I stuck with it! I forced my school chums to listen to me playing at assemblies and stuff like that and it carried on from there.

So what drew you to play the blues then?

I think a lot of it was probably my Dad’s record collection, I think a lot of people say that, don’t they? But he had a lot of music going way back. There was always music on in our house, it was on more than the TV. You’d come in and there’d be records playing and stuff. That blues stuff really has a habit of sticking with you, you can’t ignore it can you?

I read some where recently that Sir Paul McCartney asked you to record with him at Abbey Road – did that ever happen?

It never happened, no. It was for his Run Devil Run album a few years back and we got a phone call from Paul’s management saying “Would you be interested in doing an album with Paul McCartney?” – so, eh lets see… what have I got on!!! But as it turned out we were actually in America touring, that two weeks so it ended up we couldn’t do it. I think Dave Gilmore did it instead – but there you go… his loss!!!

You mentioned playing in America, to some the home of the blues. Do Americans perceive UK blues musicians any different to their own?

…yeeeaaah… without being too down on the Americans I think they are quite surprised… A lot of the Americans I met were really pleased that the British musicians kept the flag flying. In the 60s America was really out of love with the blues and it was the British blues bands that kept blues going through the 70s and 80s and then America just warmed back up to it again in the last couple of decades I guess. It is interesting that they would create this fantastic music and then drop it for so long.

You have supported some very big names in your time and you have also headlined your own shows. Is there a different mindset when you go on as a support act or does it not matter?

I think so, because it’s not your show. It is very different being a side man that a front man definitely. I think there are two different skills without a doubt.

I first saw you play when you supported Imelda May in Norwich some years ago…

Yeah, I remember that gig, quite well attended too. We had a really good time there. I’ve done quite a bit with Imelda since – she has been very kind to me over the years without a doubt.

I also saw you at Red Rooster in Euston, here in Suffolk where, as well as your own set you ended up jamming with the Urban Voodoo Machine…

(laughs) I got dragged up on stage, basically because I had a red shirt on I think!

Jammin' with The Urban Voodoo Machine at Red Rooster Festival in 2014 © tonybell.PHOTOGRAPHY
Jammin’ with The Urban Voodoo Machine at Red Rooster Festival in 2014 © tonybell.PHOTOGRAPHY

You seemed very relaxed with them on stage – for someone who just got dragged up on stage.

Yes, its only rock’n’roll, what’s the worst that can happen? I think the audience, a lot of the time like to see that sort of seat of the pants type thing – or this could go horribly wrong. But if it does, it doesn’t matter. If you are a good enough musician you can just play on and forget about it and play it again!

You have a new album out – Luxury Hobo, tell me all about it!

All about it? Where do I start?

Let me be more specific then! Did you set out to write the album or did it evolve from a collection of songs that you were writing?

That’s a good question, you know I don’t really know the answer to that. I knew I was making an album but I don’t think I really worried too much about making a collection of songs. I wrote quite a few songs but the ones that ended up on the album are the ones that worked together. But I don’t think that I sat down and said I am going to write an album and this is going to start here… it was a much more casual thing.

The video for “It Came Out of the Swamp”… so you relay by using Lego yes?

Absolutely yes! I do find it quite relaxing. It was one of those things where I was having a really hard time and this bag of Lego turned up and I thought…. it was almost like therapy, I could just sit here do this and not worry about the world.

Did you do all the stop animation yourself?

Yeah, absolutely.

That must have taken month!

I think it took me three or four weeks but I could have spent a lot longer on it if I didn’t have a deadline I probably would have spent all year on it making it, adding little extra bits in. I didn’t quite get to go to town like I wanted to but I’m quite happy with it.

You have played all over the world, do you find that music is appreciated differently in different countries?

I think it brings people together. I’ve been to place where I can’t speak a single word of the language, shamefully, but you get up and play a few songs and before the night is over you have a bunch of friends – you have no idea what you are talking about but you are having a drink together!

Were you ever going to be anything other than a musician?

No…. (laughs)… I don’t think I even turned up to my school exams. I think I had already decided to skive off maths and go to the music room and play the instruments there. It was basically the only thing I could do. If I couldn’t play music I would be totally unemployable I should imagine!

Back in 2008/2009 you decided to get off the gigging treadmill and go and do something different. How difficult a decision was that to make?

That was pretty tough. It was almost leaving a really well paid job and going… ‘I’m not really sure what I am going to do, but I am going to leave the job!’ But I knew I could have very comfortably stayed, just sat there and done that for the rest of my life probably. I could have played the same circuit, the same songs and done OK out of it. But it was starting to grind me down a bit and I wanted to break out a do a bit more and stretch those musical wings out a bit. It was a leap of faith, it had to happen. I am very glad I did it now but it was quite tough at the time.

So from that, do you think that there is a pool of very good musicians out there who are just turning the handle. Sitting in clubs on a Saturday evening who could perhaps be better?

I think there are some awesome musicians out there who are very happy to go to their club ona Saturday night and play. And why not? A lot of people like to listen to that, and a lot of people love to do that, it is just a personal choice of what you want to do and where you want to go. Some people whant to explore this or do that or be a little more adventurous. I guess it is the same in any walk of life really.

You have played in front of huge crowds, 20,000 or more. You have played little gigs where only 20 people turn up. On stage does it make a difference?

Yes, I think so. A lot of the time you have a light in your eyes so you can’t see hardly anything. I have always said this, there may be 20,000 people at a gig, there might be 10 people at a gig – and I have certainly done both of those gigs – but there could be just one person at that gig who will really appeciate what you are doing. They might have traveled a long way, it may have taken them some serious effort to get to that gig and they might be really loving it and I think you give them the show as much as you would for 20,000 people. You never know who that person in the audience could be – could be the world president of a record label, you never know!

Thank you for taking the time to talk to GrapevineLIVE, we hope you enjoy the Luxury Hobo tour.

And here is Big Boy Bloater playing with Lego….

Tour dates:

12 May – SOUTHEND, Cliffs Pavilion
13 May – BURY St EDMUNDS, Hunter Club
14 May – TUNBRIDGE WELLS, The Forum
15 May – LONDON, 100 Club
20 May – OXFORD, Old Fire Station
21 May – WINCHESTER, The Railway
26 May – LEICESTER, The Musician
28 May – POOLE, Mr Kyps
15 June – SHEFFIELD, Greystones
16 June – NEWCASTLE, Cluny 2
17 June – PRESTON, Continental
18 June – GLASGOW, Nice n Sleazy
19 June – EDINBURGH, Voodoo Rooms
22 July – MANCHESTER, Beer & Blues Festival, Band on the Wall
27 Aug – COTTINGHAM FOLK FESTIVAL, opening for WILKO JOHNSON