“Is any one here from Ireland? Cos, I’m not Irish if that’s what you think”
The unmistakable Geordie wit of Nic Armstrong, was charming eager fans awaiting the arrival of Paul Weller at the atmospheric Manchester Apollo Theatre. Nic Armstrong and the Thieves were providing some commanding and clattering entertainment that was given a longing feel by the sporadic use of a howling harmonica. This was aptly demonstrated in second track; ‘I Can’t Stand It’ one of the many highlights from re-released debut album ‘The Greatest White Liar’ (out now on One Little Indian Records).
In the latter end of the set, newer track ‘I Don’t Have The Face’ saw the rest of the band steal in and produce a sprightly pop friendly number that raised smiles with Weller fans. The rasping finale of ‘Broken Mouth Blues’ buzzed around the venue stinging listeners with catchy 70s rock instrumentals and Dylan-esque vocals and lyrics, leaving the lingering sound of Geordie blues rock in the air.
My journey through eager Wellerettes to the backstage area was made interesting with my eager ears picking up their gossip that Peter Kay is in the venue to introduce Weller. I was in a position to confirm that, as Mr. Kay sauntered past, while I was sat waiting for the main man Armstrong to finish his post gig duties of lugging his equipment back to the storage area.
The after show unwind started taking place as Nic sparked up and comfortably lounged Al Bundy like onto a comfy sofa. My first point of enquiry was to find out why he has tagged the term “And The Thieves’ to his title. How did he feel being part of a band did it take the pressure off? Also, I wondered if he missed the creative freedom of being a one man band, as his E.P.; ‘Broken Mouth Blues’ was a compelling solo effort? The response was preceded by a warm smile that will endear Nic to many people as he climbs the musical ladder;
“I have still got it; creative freedom. It was a natural progression for Johnny (Aitken; percussionist) and I to add to the line up and form a band. We are proud of Broken Mouth Blues, but sometimes it is hard to reproduce that rawer sound.”
So, you still have freedom and unpredictability? I enquired:
“Yeah, I might produce a tripping techno album under a pseudonym in the future.”
Now that would be intriguing! Feeling that Nic was relaxing and unwinding to the sounds of Paul Weller in the background, I felt it was time to quiz him about one of his earlier songs; ‘Warm As You Are’. This nifty number appears on his four track ‘Broken Mouth Blues’ EP. I raised the topic of pessimism that this track skirts with. A shrug of the shoulders then a swift and cryptic reply ensued;
“You just gotta live with it; pessimism it is part of life, but I see pessimism as optimism sometimes.”
A pensive and thoughtful look followed by a long smoke before the song ‘Warm As You Are” was succinctly summarized;
“This song was a reaction to my best mate going crazy and becoming moody all the time. It was a sarcastic wake up call”
Did it work? A sullen shrug and wry smile emphatically answered the question.
It was time to progress onto the meaty topic of debut album; ‘The Greatest White Liar’ that has been re-released now Nic officially has a band behind him. I stated that in my humble opinion the album overall, is crisper and smoother than previous releases especially his raw and alluring debut single; ‘Natural Flair’, as highlight tracks like ‘You Made It True’ and ‘In Your Arms On My Mind’ aptly illuminate. Does he concur?
“Yeah, I mean I was rusty when I first got contacted by a recording company. You have had to get rid of the rust like anything. I think it was a natural progression to become smoother.”
“You won a talent contest in Dazed & Confused didn’t you?” I added.
“Yeah, that’s right my girlfriend sent in one of the demos I produced in my house. It had ‘Too Long For Her’ and ‘I’ll come to you’ on it.
These two tracks made it on to the album and I could see the pride lighting up Nic’s expression. Therefore, I decided to explore his musical roots more and see if hailing from Newcastle had affected his music or did moving to Nottingham have more of an impact on his style?
“I left Newcastle along time ago. Though it did have an impact upon my life and music, it is a two tone place built around work and having fun.”
“Geordies are great people” I hastened to add. What about Nottingham?
“There is an undercurrent of darkness there because of the gun culture and large number of junkies who inhabit the place.”
I nod in agreement as a sullen mood was ensuing;
“I wrote ‘Hero In Life’(on the ‘Broken Mouth Blues’ EP) there. It is about heroin”
He kindly spelt out the delicious pun; Heroin life, “aagghhhh” I said, hence the line;
“If you want to be a hero in life; you gotta take a shot in the arm”.
Having had a slight insight into the depth of Mr. Nic Armstrong I decided there is only one question suitable for wrapping this meeting up;
“In your honest and humble opinion; what is the meaning of life?”
The amiable Geordie chortled and simply retorted;
“To have fun!”
"The Greatest White Liar" is out now on One Little Indian
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