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This article was originally published in issue #57
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Surrey born Bloater has drawn praise from his contemporaries for his powerful voice and instantly recognizable guitar style, with luminaries such as Imelda May and Jools Holland among his biggest fans.
With Big Boy Bloater and the Limits' new album, 'Pills,' scheduled for release on 15th June 2018, Big Boy Bloater is the subject of this issue's Guitar Interactive Songwriter Spotlight.
Surrey born Bloater has drawn praise from his contemporaries for his powerful voice and instantly recognizable guitar style, with luminaries such as Imelda May and Jools Holland among his biggest fans. His career has taken him around the world performing with the likes of Carl Perkins, Wanda Jackson and Paloma Faith. Appearing at some of the largest festivals such as; Ramblin’ Man Fair, Latitude, Secret Garden Party, Hop Farm, BluesFest, and many more. Bloater has even performed at the top of the World Trade Centre and was once invited to record at Abbey Road by Sir Paul McCartney.
What first inspired you to learn to play the guitar / write a song?
For as long as I can remember I wanted to play the guitar. There was just something about it that seemed so cool. My parents got me a Spanish guitar when I was about 9 or 10, but that didn’t really cut it for me. Then my Dad came home from the pub one day with an electric guitar that he scored for a fiver. The thing was a complete dog! Hand-painted ‘leopard skin’ (yellow with brown spots) and the missing whammy bar had been replaced with the brake lever from a bicycle. I plugged the thing in and hit a slightly dodgy open G chord and from that moment I was hooked! Songwriting just seemed to be a natural part of playing the guitar. Then I found out you could earn money from writing songs and that was it, school was out the window! Haha – I never looked back!
When you compose a song, how important do you think it is to write for an intended audience?
No, I think it would be arrogant to assume what your audience want to hear, and of course, most bands have a diverse audience anyway, so I honestly don’t think about that at all. I think when writing one of the most important things is to write something I like and would want to hear. If you’re not into it how’s anyone else supposed to get excited about it? Of course, once it is released I then spend the next six months worrying if anyone else will like it, but I expect most people get that ‘release anxiety’!
What was your favourite moment during the writing and recording of ‘Pills”?
We only had a week in the studio to record PILLS and it went by in an absolute flash! I think a bittersweet moment was when we re-amped one of the guitar tracks on ‘Unnaturally Charming’. I put loads of processing on one of the guitar tracks, tons of overdrive and delay and I also added a pitch shift to double the part and drop it down an octave. We cranked the amp, ran for the safety of the control room and hit record. It sounded fricking awesome! Really fat but the end result was it blew the speakers on my Fender Vibroverb amp. It was an expensive little experiment!
Have you ever studied songwriting formally?
Haha, I’ve never studied anything! Either formally or informally! I either write about stuff that has directly happened to me or I entirely make something up from the dark depths of my imagination. Then I like to mix it all together and see if people can tell which is which.
What’s the worst advice you ever received regarding your songwriting?
I don’t think I’ve had any advice about my songwriting. I think the worse bit of advice I’ve had about my music career is from a man in a suit, smoking a big cigar who said, “I’ll make you a million bucks! Just leave it all to me Bloater, you don’t have to do anything.” What a complete load of bollocks! No one is ever just sitting there waiting to make you money, you gotta put the work in yourself. Only you can do it! The song ‘Stop Stringing Me Along’ is all about big wigs in the music industry who promise the Earth and deliver nothing.
How do you know when your song is done and time to stop revising it?
That’s a really tough one. I could probably tinker with songs for years but there’s usually a deadline that stops me. These days I like to get songs out there pretty quick. I like to think of my albums as a snapshot of my mind at that particular time. If I had sat down to write them six months earlier or six months later they would be very different I think. So I like to get them out there then draw a line and move on. A great man once said, “More is lost from indecision than wrong decision.” So get those songs out there!
Could you us about your favourite piece of gear right now?
I’m not really much of a gear head or guitar collector to be honest. I love a lot of guitars and amps but these things are just the tools of my trade. Having said that I do have a soft spot for my previously mentioned Fender Vibroverb amp. It’s a ’93 re-issue of the ’63 Vibroverb that Fender produced for just one year. It is much admired where ever it goes and it now has a new set of speakers (oops!). I just have one guitar that I use, and that’s an early noughties, Japanese Fender Strat. It’s been modded a bit with a new trem block, Seymore Duncan pickups and I had one of the tone pots removed (I never got that two tones thing on Strats). It is affectionately known now as the Bloatercaster!
What's your musical guilty pleasure?
I don’t really believe in feeling guilty about liking any kind of music. If you like something, be proud of it, it’s what makes you unique! Although Blues and R&B have always been my backbone I have very wide musical taste ranging from blues to glam rock via 70s soft rock, modern pop and even Hip-Hop - maybe even a bit of country! I hope that comes through with my work with The Limits. We try not to be defined by one particular genre. People love to pigeonhole music these days – for me there’s just two kinds, music I like and music I don’t!
Strangest place where you have written a song?
Well I definitely wrote at least one of the songs from ‘PILLS’ in the toilet but I wouldn’t really call that a strange place. We’ve all done that right? I write down a lot of stuff as it comes into my head (I make notes on my phone) so I’ve often written bits on the road in the tour van and in pubs etc. I then tend to sit at home and piece all the bits together and try and get a song together, so some of my songs have been written in multiple places!
You love to play live. How do you like to get prepared/warmed up for each show?
There’s not a great deal of prep before gigs, and I have never suffered from nerves, which is a blessing. I’ll probably change my strings the day before if possible then it usually a pretty laid back affair with The Limits having a few beers in the dressing room before (and after) the show. I know you’re not supposed to drink alcohol before singing, and you should warm up, but I’ve never worried about that in my 25 years of being Big Boy Bloater! About the only thing I avoid before a show is eating. There’s probably some warm-up exercises I should do on the guitar, but I’m usually having such a good time with the guys that I forget! I once did a show at The Roundhouse in Camden with Imelda May, and she had Jeff Beck as one of her guests that night. He was in the dressing room next to mine, and the whole time we were there – the entire time – he was noodling on his guitar. I was impressed and a little humbled by someone at his level still keeping up such a high standard. I could learn a thing or two from that Beck fella….!