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Ian Hill – Interview – Crossed Guitar Festival – Holland – 2012

Bruno: Nice to meet you Ian

Ian: Good to meet you too Bruno

Bruno: What was your first guitar and when did you get it?

Ian: It was a “Jedson”, it was red - a Telecaster copy, and it would have been in 1975.
My Mother bought it for me from a friend at school. I was 14.

Bruno: What’s your first guitar memory? Was it at 14?

Ian: Probably before that – maybe when I was about 12.
I have two older brothers, and they had an acoustic guitar they used to play, but it only had two strings on it!
I started to play guitar with only two strings!
The earliest thing I can remember is when my brother showed me how to play the intro of PICTURES OF MATCHSTICK MEN - that’s probably the first thing I can remember learning to play.

Bruno: So already into Quo’s music

Ian: Yeah! My eldest brother bought the single of POMM when it came out, which I remember listening to as a kid and then, a few years later, I was at my sister’s house.
I was looking through her records (I was about 11 or 12) and came across this album called PILEDRIVER!
Of course I saw the picture on the front – wow!
I recognised the name ‘STATUS QUO’ so I put the record on and expected to hear something like POMM.
Then DON’T WASTE MY TIME started and I thought… “WOW!!”
That was the moment I was hooked - that would be 1973 I think.

Bruno: I was gonna ask you when did you fall into Quo’s music, so POMM, late 60’s beginning of 70’s.

Ian: Well I remember liking that song (POMM) when it came out, cause my brothers bought it, but I did not make the connection until I saw and heard PILEDRIVER that day at my sister’s house.
That’s what the song “Keep On Rockin’ On!” is about.
It’s about that day when I first saw the cover of PILEDRIVER, and I heard DON’T WASTE MY TIME for the first time and I knew…this is for me!

Bruno: My favourite one of all time

Ian: I think DON’T WASTE MY TIME is the definitive QUO Song.
If it had to show someone just one Quo song, that’s the one!

Bruno: Before that, what were you listening to? Any influence from your brothers?  Classic question, but were you Beatles or Stones?

Ian: Neither really.
I would probably say Beatles, because my sister was a fan.
I was born in 1961 so I grew up hearing the Beatles all the time!
The Rolling Stones are over-rated I think, I like maybe some of their early songs, because again – I heard this stuff when I was a kid.
I’ve never really been a great fan of the Rolling Stones though, to be honest.
I suppose I was just listening to the pop music that was on the radio every day, but I was also hearing people like Jimi Hendrix, Free, Jethro Tull, Lindisfarne, from my brothers.
I was hearing lots of different music as I grew up.
Then along came PILEDRIVER and DON’T WASTE MY TIME and that was it - that was what I was looking for!

Bruno: Mentioning DONT WASTE MY TIME and PILEDRIVER, does it mean it is your favourite QUO album?

Ian: Oh – that’s a tough question!
I think if you told me I could only keep one Quo album, I might say PILEDRIVER, but from a technical point of view, I think BLUE FOR YOU is possibly their best album.
I think BLUE FOR YOU is the most consistent in sound & production - that’s when they really nailed the sound, I think.
With PILEDRIVER, they were still trying to find that sound – their ‘identity’.

Bruno: Now, forget a bit about QUO, anything else in your musical collection?

Ian: TUBULAR BELLS (Mike Oldfield) He is another of my musical heroes!
I have most of his albums.

Bruno: Really? Any reason?

Ian: I just think he is a genius - what he achieved with that first album and the way it was made.
I remember everybody talking about this album called Tubular Bells.
This young guy, doing it all himself - it was the fact that he played all the instruments himself that interested me.
I had no idea what the music was like until I listened to it.
When I heard it, I thought it was amazing.

Bruno: It is a complete different universe!

Ian: Oh yeah, definitely!
I actually like quite a wide range of music.
If you looked at my old albums and CDs, you would find a lot of sort of rock stuff, obviously – Motorhead, Free, Bad Company, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, ZZ Top etc.
But you would also find Mike Oldfield, Genesis, Yes, Steve Hillage, Kate Bush…

Bruno: You have anticipated my next question, I was going to ask you, what in your collection would you think surprise a QUO fan?

Ian: Cocteau Twins, The Pretenders, The Police…?

Bruno: This is also the kind of music I like or can listen to.

Ian: To be honest, there is not a lot of popular music that I don’t like.
I’m not a great fan of the dark ”death” metal stuff  – all those strange “Uugghhh!” and “Ggrrr!” noises instead of singing – I like a melody I can sing along to, you know? Ha ha.
There’s only one thing that I really do not like - RAP.
I cannot listen to it.

Bruno: Any rap?

Ian: Well if it’s a song – if it’s got a melody, OK.
But to me, Rap is basically just shouting & talking over a repetitive drumbeat.
I find it really irritating – maybe I’m too old to understand it!
That’s the only type of music that I would intentionally turn off.
I will listen to reggae, jazz, blues, country - anything that stirs an emotion or makes me want to smile, laugh, dance, sing - or cry.
My second favourite band is Free.
I just love the way you can almost burst into tears listening to some of their songs – so much soul and emotion.

Bruno: what do you listen at home then?

Ian: For me, surprisingly I don’t really listen to much music at home these days.
Maybe in the car, driving.
I use to listen to all sorts of stuff in the car – mostly bands I already mentioned.
It depends on my mood, I might listen to Mike Oldfield or Genesis one day or Motorhead and QUO the next day!
I used to like some stuff from Steve Hillage in the late 70s – his album ‘Green’ especially.
People used to think it was strange that I liked bands like Quo and Motorhead, but also Genesis and Mike Oldfield!
For me, there has always been a crossover between bands like Yes & Genesis and the rock bands that I also like – it’s different styles, but I enjoy the contrast between them.

To me, it has always been about ‘the sound’ – interesting sounds and production.
I have always been fascinated by the sounds of synthesizers, right from the early 1970s.
I am a guitar player, but I don’t find guitars very interesting.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a 1959 Les Paul or a £200 copy – to me, it’s just another guitar.

But synthesizers and keyboards, they’re fascinating – I love the technology.
One of my first jobs was in a big music store in Manchester, called ‘A1 Music’
I got a job demonstrating keyboards, but the problem was, I could not play keyboards!
I had to learn a few keyboard lines, so I could demonstrate the products properly, but I was fascinated by the technology – I always have been.
Many years later, I worked for Roland as a Product Specialist – most of my studio is Roland equipment!
In fact, apart from the guitars, I think everything I used on “Keep On Rockin’ On!” was made by Roland!

Bruno: In your CD, your wife is playing the piano? Not you?

Ian:  Well, she plays about 4 bars on one song – ‘Spin The Wheel’
It was funny - I was trying to make the middle part of that song sound like ‘Break the Rules’ - the guitar solo, the piano, then the harmonica etc.
I was struggling with the piano part in the solo and she came in and said, “This is the way you should play it” – she was joking really, but she played this little line and I said, “Do that again!”
I recorded it and so she got the credit.
She is a singer, but she is also a very talented keyboard player.

Bruno: Let’s go back to QUO, as a guitarist, what any advice would you give to a QUO fan that would like to start to play QUO music? Where would you start?

Ian:  Firstly - Find your own sound!
You see lots of people on the Quo Website or on guitar forums etc. saying, “I’ve got this pedal board - how do I get a sound like Rick Parfitt?”
Well, honestly - you’re not going to sound like Rick Parfitt because you’re not Rick Parfitt! Even if you played with his equipment, you’re still not going to sound like him!
Find your own sound.
I know it’s a little strange for me to say that, because I’ve recorded all these songs on “Keep On Rockin’ On!” that sound like Quo!
But at the same time, they sound like me.
Actually, I don’t think they do sound like Quo – I think they sound like me, trying to sound like Quo!
(I hope that makes sense – ha ha)

Bruno: You would tell them maybe buy a Fender - not a Gibson?

Ian: Hmm - Maybe.
My guitars don’t have Fender pick-ups in them, so they don’t sound like Telecasters anyway.
In fact, they probably sound more like a Gibson.
I have always found, I could pick up a very cheap copy guitar and a very expensive Gibson and I would sound exactly the same on both guitars.
Because it’s me that creates the sound when I play – not the guitar.
I am not a very good guitarist, I am OK but I am not very technical - I cannot play a very fast Van Halen type style, or anything like that.

I’m not concerned with having a very expensive guitar – it wouldn’t make me play any better.
The main guitar I use when I play with the cover band, STATE OF QUO, is actually an old TOKAI guitar, not a Fender - it is a nice guitar, it sounds good, and it plays well.
If you put a £2000 Gibson or Fender Custom Shop guitar in my hands I wouldn’t sound any better – I would still sound like me.
I used to say the same thing to young guys while I worked in the music store Manchester - they would be buying their first guitar and wanting to spend a lot of money, far too much money! They would want a certain guitar because they thought it would make them play or sound better.
I would say, “You’re just learning, start with this cheaper guitar, and then think about it. Spending more money on the expensive guitar doesn’t mean you are going to learn to play any better”
I used to disappoint a lot of kids...and my boss also – for not selling the expensive guitar!
I think the kid’s parents were very pleased though!!

Bruno: Last question then Ian, if not Ian Hill as a guitarist, then what?

Ian: Record Producer or Recording Engineer.
I always wanted to have my own recording studio.
I have my own personal studio now and it’s great, but I always wanted to run a commercial studio.
I would have liked that – recording lots of different bands.
I the UK these days, there are very few ‘demo’ studios left, because you can do so much now with software on a laptop.
But 25 years ago, when I had a band called ‘Red Sky’ with Dave Owen and Andy Marsden (they are the drummer and new bass player in ‘State of Quo’) we used to pay £40 per hour to record demos at a local studio!
These days, most studios like that are gone, because of all the software and digital recorders that enable musicians to record at home.

Speaking of my own studio – my next project is to re-record some of the old songs I wrote for the band ‘Red Sky’
Most of them were written 20-25 years ago – so I will be updating them to sound more modern.
They won’t sound as much like Quo as the songs on “Keep On Rockin’ On!” but I am looking forward to giving them a second chance to be heard!

Bruno: Ian, thank you very much for your time.

Ian: Thank you, it was my pleasure!

PRESENTATION project CD – Ian Hill

“Keep On Rockin’ On!” was written and recorded as a personal tribute to the band I grew up listening to in the ‘70s and still follow to this day - the one and only Status Quo!
 
Recording the album was a great ‘labour of love’ which came about almost unintentionally!
 
After a period of relative musical inactivity, I began writing songs again a few years ago.
 
(In the 80s/90s I wrote for and played in my own original band, RedSky, playing a mixture of heavy/commercial rock)
Some of the new ideas I came up with sounded, to me, very much like the sort of tunes I used to love hearing Quo perform in their 'classic' era.
 
Initially, I had the idea to submit a few demos to Quo themselves, to see if they might be interested in using them.
However, shortly after I had posted a couple of demos on MySpace, I started getting lots of song plays, followed by enquiries from people as to whether the songs were available to download or purchase on CD.
Within 12 months, the demos on MySpace had enjoyed over 30,000 plays and the idea of completing a full album became a viable project.
 
Fast forward to the end of 2011 and the completed album "Keep On Rockin' On!" was made available to order online, on CD and via Digital download.
 
The album created quite a buzz in 'Quo circles', with great feedback from ‘70s era die-hard fans and newer Quo fans alike.
Quo's Bass player, John 'Rhino' Edwards, has a copy himself and informed me of his intention to play it on the Quo Tour bus, saying: “it’s great material!”
 
At the moment, the album is available on CD from:
www.ianhill.bigcartel.com 
However, the individual album tracks also can be previewed and downloaded from:
www.ianhill.bandcamp.com 
 
The album receives regular airplay on German Internet Radio station SQRR 
(Status Quo Rock Radio) and was recently featured on NRK Nettradio in Norway, when DJ Bård Ose described the album thus: 
"The songs and sound are so good that this album could have been the follow-up to Blue For You"
 
With “Keep On Rockin’ On!” I tried to capture the flavour of Quo’s music over the years and I’m very pleased that some Quo fans have hailed the album as “The best album Quo never made”
 
Completely self-financed and self-Produced, the album has already sold enough copies to recover the cost of making it, and orders continue to come in daily from across Europe and beyond.
 
My next planned project is to re-record some of the songs written for and performed by my old band, RedSky.
Original demos of some of the band’s material from the 80s/90s can be heard at:
www.myspace.com/ukredsky  

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Francis Rossi aka Frame or the Gomor Rick Parfitt aka The Womor Alan Lancaster aka "Nuff" John Coghlan aka "Spud" Roy Lynes Andrew Bown Pete Kircher Matt Letley John "Rhino" Edwards Jeff Rich Bob Young Leon Cave the new boy 2013 Paul Hirsh