Having been told by Creation Record’s boss Alan McGee that the time was right to reform, front-man of Hurricane #1 caught up with Louder Than War’s Harry Mulligan for a few words.
Hurricane #1 were one of the bands that featured on Alan McGee’s Creation Records, and were fronted by Alex Lowe on lead vocals and guitar. It might be suggested that there was enough talent in Hurricane #1- for cell-division to occur, producing two powerhouse Britpop-groups. That is precisely what has happened. Andy Bell (Ride, Oasis, Hurricane #1) and Alex Lowe (Hurricane #1, Gun Club Cemetary) are re-establishing manifestations of Hurricane #1 and RIDE, two mainstays of the Creation era. At the behest of founder & Svengali, Alan McGee – Alex Lowe the charismatic and charming Scottish troubadour – having endured monumental and horrendous personal trials with cancer, reformed Hurricane #1 late in 2014.
He has stated plainly to me that he has: ‘Unfinished Business!’
Hurricane #1 who had seven top forty Hits, and two Top Twenty Albums in Blighty, were also featured on Top Of The Pops, TFI Fridays and performed at T In The Park and Glasto in their heyday
In November 2014, at the very depths of his ordeal, a resurgent, re-ascending McGee told him: ‘Alex, reform Hurricane #1, the time is right for this!’
With Andy Bell committed to endeavours of his own elsewhere, Alex hurriedly put together Hurricane with Italian brothers Giancarlo & Lucas Miriani, and drummer Chris Campbell. He may have looked like a boxer on the ropes to an outside observer, but appearances are mis-leading, and Cream, as it is inclined to do, always rises to the top.
Alex has already written a plethora of new songs for an album while in hospital. Following what is looking like a Sold-Out Tour of the UK this Spring, he will take this Statement of Intent a step further by venturing into the Studio to fully alchemize his creative efforts.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with the Dude, and this is what was said:
Harry Mulligan: Alex, when I think of you, I think of a phoenix rising from the ashes. Tell me what it’s been like for you enduring cancer, chemo and radiotherapy, blood transfusions and kidney dialysis; what’s it been like navigating your way through those challenging life experiences?
Alex Lowe: Honestly, it’s been really, really tough! You think well it’s never going to happen to you, and you live your life the best you can. It was a challenge and a half. I mean, I’ve had so many challenges in my life, like my boxing career. Even Hurricane #1 was a big challenge to me when it first happened. I was naïve, playing in little bands. But would go onto playing with people like Andy Bell (RIDE, Oasis) and get involved with people like Creation and Alan McGee, you’re going up a step, up a league, and you’re in the Premiership.
The cancer thing, when they first told me, I was absolutely devastated. At the same time, it kind of went over my head. I was like: ‘Well what the next step?’ and the next step was the chemotherapy. It was repairable, which was brilliant news – that was a great thing. They gave me the chemo for the five, six weeks, the radio-therapy on top of that, which is just hideous. My eyes were bleeding, my feet were numb, my hands went numb, I took it really bad, but I got on with it. If you don’t get on with the thing, you won’t win it. I think you’re finished, you’re done, forget about it, you’re never going to get back. You’ve got to be really strong to get through something like that. I’ve spoke to a lot of people that have had cancer, and some of them – the doctors and nurses will say: ’We’ve seen many in here – six foot five and three hundred pounds, crying like babies…’
They actually call me ‘The Pocket Rocket’ in the hospital, because I’m just a small guy, I’m not big – five foot eight, five foot nine, ten and a half stone. I got through it – I’ve always been a fighter, in one way or another, physically or mentally, I’ve always been a fighter. It has been tough, I can’t say that I’ve failed it. It’s been very hard. It’s been a gruelling period in my life. I’ve thought: ‘This is it, I’m done!’ I’ll be sitting sometimes, and think: ‘I can get through this, this is no problem,’ and you get up to make a cup of tea, say, and then the thought just totally change, and you’ll go: ‘Oh fuck, I’m done, I’m knackered, what the f…?’ So the mind is changing all the time. So it’s very strange, a very strange thing that you go through. Then when they told me, after the operation on the cancer, that I had only one kidney, and that it was damaged, I was born with one kidney. I had never known this at all, no idea at all. I had no idea that I had one kidney, and it got damaged with the chemo. So now I’ve got a drain in my back that actually drains my kidney. It’s just a small drain though, to keep it from building up with lots of rubbish, you know? Hopefully I’m going to get rid of that, and get back on my feet. It was tough though! It is very tough.
I put my hand up to little children that go through this. You see it on these adverts on TV; little kids having cancer, and you think: ‘My Goodness, these kids are so strong!’ You get a lump in your throat. I mean, I’ve cried a lot watching these things. I’m like: ‘I shouldn’t complain. I’ve had a bit of a life, I’m forty-six. These little children are like three and four years old. It’s just so heart breaking. It breaks my heart to see this. Life goes on, and you’ve got to kind of deal with it. At the end of the day, anybody reading this that going to go out, I mean one in three of us get cancer, it’s inevitable, that’s how it is. People are going to go through exactly what I’ve gone through, maybe worse. I don’t wish it on anybody. At the end of the day, it’s been a tough, tough slog, and I’ve just got to get on with the next stage of my life, which is this kidney thing, and getting Hurricane #1 on the go again!
I didn’t know that boxing was part of your history, it makes me think of Hurricane, the Boxer; did that have any bearing on the naming of the band?
Yeah, I think it was Andy Bell’s (Hurricane#1, Oasis, RIDE) idea to put the boxer on the front of Alan McGee’s, I’m not sure, because I was a boxer. I’d fought for nine years as an amateur. I won a couple of titles and things like that. I had about thirty-five fights, I actually boxed in Canada as well when I was a kid. I was schooled in Canada for a wee while. The boxing thing, I think they did that for my sake. They put the boxer on the front. I think it’s a great cover anyway for Step nto My World. That was Alan McGee and Andy Bell’s idea, to welcome me into the band. It made me feel great. It’s my favorite cover, the first cover. I think Dexy’s Midnight Runners, used the same cover, years later – the same cover on one of their songs – which I wasn’t too chuffed about. I was like: ‘Ahh, you buggers – it had been a classis cover!’ I wasn’t too happy about that – it’s took the shine off it a wee bit!’ I thought.
Tell me what role Art & Music have played in keeping your Spirits buoyant in the past year (with the cancer), and indeed in the context of the totality of your life?
Wow! Art- I used to dabble a lot in art when I was in Hurricane the first time around, and art has played a big part in my life. I’ve always loved art, even when I was a kid. I’d sit and draw wee dinosaurs. I’d get the pen and paper out, and the wee crayons. I always drew stuff and my Mum noticed and sometimes I would draw these really abstract, weird things, like faces with a book coming out the ear, or a car coming out on their tongue. She used to look at me and laugh and say: ‘That’s strange!’ For that age, six or seven years old drawing this kind of stuff. So I’ve always been into art. It’s actually got me through, before I knew that Hurricane was getting back together, and I was doing a lot of paintings, and that’s what actually got me through my cancer as well. When I was in the hospital, I was in once – I was doing a stage in hospital, about six weeks I think it was. It was just terrible. It was just a terrible time. I got all this paper from this nurse, this lass – and some pens, and she said: ‘Why don’t you start drawing again?’ I drew all these pictures in hospital, and it brought me through the cancer. So art has played a massive role in getting back to being healthy and keeping my mind occupied. It’s a mid-set thing I think, cancer. I think that if you are negative, and have negative energy round you, you can meet people with lots of negative energy around you. I met a lot of people in that hospital that just wanted to die – and they were just lying there, just wanting to die. There wasn’t that much that was wrong with them, they were just going to go and finish… I was like: ‘Just get up and do something!’ do you know what I mean, and walk around the Ward. I was drawing, I was writing lyrics for songs. I would even go down to the café.
In the hospital, it was great, there was actual art exhibitions. You’d go in this room, and there was all these people’s art. I’d sit for hours, just looking at art. So it’s like you said Harry, the art played a very big part in my life, and going through my cancer and stuff like that. It’s just made a massive difference to me, you know?
Right, and music?
Well, the music – art, music’s in my blood. I’ve played since I was fifteen. It’s just always been there. Well, what got me through it. I had a lot of songs in the hospital with me. There was one album that got me through it, and that’s and I was actually saying that to Paul Quinn, when he was in his new band. It was Grand Prix, by Teenage Fanclub that actually got me through cancer. I played that religiously on my I-pod. It just got me through. For some reason, it just cheered me up. It was great. I had other stuff obviously. I had the Revolver album by the Beatles, all my favorite stuff I had in with me, and it would keep my spirits high. Music played a big part as well, as well as art. As I said, art came along, really, professionally, later, about six years, seven years ago, I started doing it professionally. I’ve always played music since I was fourteen, fifteen, so that’s always been with me. It’s always got me through, not only the cancer, it’s got me through hard times; you know, the break-up with your girlfriend. My other friends, they’d go and get drunk, I’d write a song, you know. Music’s always played a part in my life, not just cancer, all tragedies. It’s been one roller-coaster of a life I’ve had. Some of the stuff, you could never believe the stuff that’s happened to me. It would make a great book, Harry. Stuff that people didn’t know, that I would like to get out.
How much have you been able to, or are you interested in, alchemizing your experience with the cancer into music and lyrics with Hurricane #1, and how much have you done already?
Ah, that’s a really good question. I’m glad you’ve asked me that. I’ll go back a wee bit. This thing I’m doing with Hurricane #1, and the new line-up, this is all about playing the Hits and going on tour, letting people hear the hits that we had, and the people that want to hear the songs. When I was in hospital, I’d actually written a whole album on some of my experiences with my cancer. Everybody does it I suppose. You have an experience and songwriters write about their experiences – which I never really did before. It was just non-sense songs, they didn’t really mean anything. I wrote for melodies. I love melodies, I live for melodies. If you remember it three days later, hearing it once, then it’s a great song. But this time round, I’ve actually went out my way to write about my tragedy in hospital – well not tragedy – things that I’ve experienced in hospital, and that has given me the new album actually. I’m going to dedicate it to all the cancer patients. We’ll probably give a pound per album to the cancer charity, the way it’s looking. That’s basically the experience I’ve had with cancer, it’s in my songs, and what I’ve been writing lately. It’s been a big part. It’s a horrible word. I would never say the word, you know? It’s a disgusting word. You never think Harry that you’re going to get cancer mate. You just don’t think that. When you’re sixteen- seventeen, you think you’re ‘kin invincible. You rule the world and play in a rock n roll band, you’re gonnae be a Rock Star! At the end of the day, it doesn’t save you from getting cancer. Like I said, one-in-three with cancer. This time round, the music that I’ve written-I’ve written fifteen songs, and twelve of them are going to be on the new Hurricane #1 album, which is definitely going to get released. I can’t leave this earth without doing another album. Not that I’m going to leave this earth the now. You never know when you’re going to go. I really want to make another Hurricane#1 album because I think its unfinished business – the way the Band split the first time round. There was a bad feeling with me, at the start, not that I said anything bad about the Boys, or Andy, or something like that. I kept it all to myself. There was a bad feeling.
Everything right now with Hurricane #1 right now, is tabla rasa – a blank canvas, which I know you will love as an experienced painter. What are your plans for the new material today?
Right, that’s good, okay. As I said, the album is written. It’s done. In as far I’m speaking to you Harry, there is a pile here, of the new lyrics, the album, because I’ve been going over the songs and changing pieces – and stuff like that. So the album Is written, it’s done, its ready to record you know? This new line-up is like, if you look at it like –that’s a great way you look at it – you said it – it’s a blank-canvas. I agree with you, totally, one-hundred-percent. You’re so on-the-ball there with that. That’s exactly how you could describe this band. It’s totally a blank canvas, there is lots of stuff you could just add to this. The first time round, you know, obviously it was Andy (Bell) that wrote the songs. I wrote three or four for B-sides and stuff like that, for the albums. For the second album, I had one track on there. But this time around, it’s up to me, to do this. Carl (Giancarlo), the guitarist, I think he’s got maybe two songs that I’m going to listen to, and maybe put on the new album as well. It’s going to be the new writing, It has to be said, I’m going to put what I’ve experienced in the last year, it has to be said, you know? Yeah, it’s a blank canvas, and it’s just going to be a really testy rock and roll album. Every band says that:
‘It’s going to be a great rock and roll album!’ but you know, it’s going to be a rock and roll album for people, and we’re still going to have that Hurricane #1 sound, that great guitar sound that Andy had, and we’re going to incorporate that still, that’s going to be kept there. There’s a lot of other sounds that’s going to be happening in that, on the new album. We just have to go in and record it, with a couple of weeks in the studio, maybe a week in the studio. Get in there, do it and then release it…
You have two young Italian/Brazillian brothers in your line-up, Giancarlo (Carl) and Lucas Mariani, who were dyed-in-the-wool Britpop kids. What’s it like working with that freshness, and do they bring some of that Latin sexiness to the mix?
Ha ha ha ha! I don’t know about the sexiness… Brilliant – that’s good! Listen, if there’s Chicks out there that think they’re sexy, then that’s great. Joking aside, they’re totally lovely guys. These guys are so up for playing, and they are good players, I don’t care what anyone says. These two guys can play. If they couldn’t play, I wouldn’t waste my time playing with them. I’ve played since I was fifteen. I’ve been through the rock and roll thing and
Top of The Pops, TFI Friday, and all the shows, and I know what these players are. When you play with someone in the studio, it gels, you know when it gels. If it doesn’t gel you’re like: ‘Oh wait a minute, this isn’t happening Boys!’ But it’s gelling and I’m glad. Lucas, the Bass player, he’s got a Bee up his arse, but he’s an absolutely fantastic Bassist. He can’t stand still that guy. He’s totally mental, he’s crazy. He’s got those really Sixties Bass lines. That rumbling Bass, McCartney styled Bass-lines. Then Giancarlo, he’s just a Guitar Wizard. He’s just full of energy, and that what you need. They’re still a little bit green because they’re excitable because they’re excited about it. That’s what I want. It’s fresh and new, and it’s new to them, because they’ll bring excitement. They haven’t been through the wars like I have, on Tour, in the backs of Transit Vans, touring up and down the place. Twenty-three people and: ‘Look, I’m going in the back…’ It’s just Soul destroying. They’re touring with a Band that’s nearly got a Sell-Out tour, or will be Sell-Out tour when this goes out. They’re great players, got a great look about them, and they just love music, that’s the main thing. They love what they do. You can tell when people love what they do. The excitement in their eyes, you can just see it in their eyes. They get so excited about the least little thing. It’s perfect for me, which is what I want, you know. I was speaking to Chris Campbell (drummer), who’s phoning me constantly now –we’ve actually become like best-mates in the last couple of days. Paul (Quinn – Teenage Fanclub drummer who was a possible replacement but has now left) had other things. I don’t know why. He left the band anyway, blah blah blah. Really great guy – Paul and I’s fine. I had another drummer lined up as soon as Paul left. In five minute we had another drummer. When you’ve got cancer and kidney failure, and you’ve got a tour coming up in two months, you can’t hang about. We got Chris within minutes. We had to. Not because we wanted to, we needed to. That’s how it went…
Did you anticipate that these Spring shows would be as close to Selling Out as they are, and are you optimistic and encouraged?
Oh totally! I mean, what can I say, I mean it’s just unbelievable that the Ticket sales have gone as good at this time of year- in January. Everybody knows in the music business with tickets and stuff – Hell any kind of business, it’s slow, you know. I didn’t think it was going to be so big a deal. I think what it is, is curiosity, out of people’s minds to come out and go: ‘I want to see this band – a whole new line-up. Okay, Alex, the original singer. He’s got these guys round him, are they as good as what they say they are?’ The thing is, we haven’t said too much about the band, saying ‘Oh, we’re going to Storm the world!’ We’ve just came in casual. You know, we’ve got a few shows coming up. Come along, see what you think? If it’s good, there will be another one, then we’re going to do the record. Facebook. I’m really not a big time fan of media. Stuff like that. As I’ve said before, you’ve got to have it. That’s the way of the World, nowadays. Facebook can be great, and it can be terrible at times. But the fans of Hurricane on there, I just about take my hat off to them. My friends. They’re just wonderful people. I must get one hundred e-mails a day, from fans at The Hurrican#1 site. There must be a hundred a day. In fact, when I was in hospital, which was even before Hurricane before I’d even told anybody, the fans are like ‘Listen, we can’t wait to see you play’ and stuff. It’s been great mate. I appreciate it so much, I’m a humble guy – I’ve always been humble. Alan McGee will tell you. Alan McGee and I have always been very close. I’m a loyal guy. Once you’re a friend, I’m always your friend. I’m just so chuffed people have got on it with the Band. It’s been a big surprise, but we’re going to put on a good show. I’ll try my hardest to put on a good show for these people!
Alex Lowe, thanks very much and all the very Best for 2015!
Thank-you Harry, and the same to you!
All words by Andrew Neal. More writing by Andrew on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.