» News and Features » Twisted Wheel interview: 'You make your own rules up, I like that'
Twisted Wheel interview: 'You make your own rules up, I like that'
Daniel Lovatt caught up with frontman Jonny Brown as Wheel embark on their massive comeback tour.
Date published: 24th Apr 2018
Image: Trust A Fox
As Twisted Wheel approach a UK tour and a Finsbury Park support slot for Liam Gallagher, frontman Jonny Brown shows no signs of slipping from the vivacious, cut throat rock star that propelled Wheel to stardom since their formation in 2007.
The relationship between Brown and (for the most part) his new band: Harry Lavin, Richard Allsopp and Adam Clarke is as formidable as it ever was, and although fans have not been granted new music as of yet, Brown vows that the return of Twisted Wheel is just the beginning, and hopes to see all material, old and new, stand the test of time.
Brown is eagerly anticipated his return to his frontman responsibilities, saying that he is more confident and comfortable than ever with performing.
The upcoming tour includes a sold out show on June 1st in their hometown at Band On The Wall, plus heaps more and before all of this, Daniel Lovatt caught up with Jonny, to discuss drug addiction, eclectic influences and much more...
I follow you on Instagram and I read your post about overcoming heroin and crack addiction. With your mentality at the time, did you feel that taking drugs was a platform to becoming a great rock and roll star?
No, not at all. To be honest, I didn’t see it coming that stuff. I was just doing gigs and chilling out at my flat. Loads of people were coming ‘round, loads of different people and there were just parties all the time. I suppose I was doing a bit of drugs, but it wasn’t a major issue like. A little bit here and there. Then somebody started bringing crack round, then before we knew it, we were smoking heroin. That’s what we got, that’s what we were doing every day. Nobody intends to be a crack addict, it just happens and it grabs you. Funny way of taking you down. That’s all done now, I’m not proud of it. The best thing to do is to be honest about it, and maybe help somebody else. Who knows.
I also saw your post on twitter about your pre-charity gig for drugfam, with a picture of Elizabeth Burton-Phillips novel ‘Mum can you lend me 20 quid, what drugs did to my family’ Do you feel as if drug addiction is not treated with the seriousness it deserves?
I think that people should be more aware about addiction. I wouldn’t call it a disease, it’s a massive personality disorder really. You can relate it to anything. People should be more on a level of understanding with people who use drugs. People look at crack and heroin users and think ‘scumbags’ and ‘wasters’, but it can happen to anyone. Celebrities, a lot of millionaires get into drugs. Crack leads to heroin, there needs to be more awareness.
Congratulations on securing a support slot for Liam Gallagher’s Finnsbury Park show. I know that you supported Oasis back in 2009. If not the biggest, is this one of the biggest shows Twisted Wheel will ever play?
Erm, I’m not sure. Heaton Park in 2009 was three dates, we did three dates. Obviously, there was more people at Heaton Park so I think that was bigger, but as time goes know, its definitely gonna be a highlight of anything I’ve ever done. It’s great to have been accepted and to be a part of Liam’s new stuff and his adventure. And the other bands on there as well. To come from not doing anything for so long to get onto a gig like that is major. Major for where we are going next. Obviously, he’s a legend and it’s an honour to play the same gig. Hopefully, there will be a few more in the pipeline.
As a stokie, I feel obliged to ask. What are your memories of playing in Stoke?
My first memory of playing in Stoke was Gatsby’s. Is that still there? With my old band. I was in an old band called The Children, I think I was on the bass. It was derby day, so all the Port Vale and stoke fans ended up running into each other outside Gatsby’s. So whilst we were playing, there was this 30 on 30 brawl in the street, which was quite entertaining really.
We were safe and sound in the clubs playing guitars. My friend did a college course in Nantwich. He met a few lads from Stoke there, before I played. It was one of first places we had played outside of Manchester, I think that was the first gig actually. Since we’ve played there afterwards, there’s always been some party but I can’t really remember the details.
It’s fair to say that your music and image as a band as found its demographic in young mods and punks looking for music to represent them, as well older mods and punks. But you and the band I’ve listed influences from folk and rock music as well. What genre of music would you class Twisted Wheel as?
I don’t want to ever say that. I mean there’s influences of punk, post punk, early punk. In the new stuff, there’s more of a 60’s influence. 60’s garage and psychedelic stuff, and there’s old songs like 'Bouncing Bomb' that sounds punk, but there are some that sound indie. I don’t want to label it with anything, if anything I’d like to be known as Twisted Wheel, that’s who we are. But time will tell on that one.
The mutual affection between you and your girlfriend Ashleigh is no secret. How vital has she been in shaping your journey as a musician?
Very, very important. Super important. I met her in December, at the time of that comeback gig we did at Band on the wall. I was already doing stuff, I don’t want her to come across as her being a distraction from drugs. It’s not the case that I only got with her to come off drugs, I was already coming off drugs. I think because I put some positive cheer into my life, and when you put effort in like that, I think you get it back in some ways. I think around that time, I saw a lot of changes to myself, bettering myself. And then I met her and it’s perfect. Yeah, she’s great, she does everything for me. The best girlfriend I’ve ever had.
I know from one of your old interviews that the inspiration behind Twisted Wheel was the lyric from ‘Into Tomorrow’ by Paul Weller. What is your interpretation on what Twisted Wheel represents?
I don’t even know what it was. I think I just said different things each time I was asked. I can’t put my finger on what the exact reason was. Oh, that was it. The real reason is because, half our mates were conceived there. Half, well some of our mates, claimed that they were conceived or made in the Twisted Wheel club toilets. So, I thought what a great name for a band.
You stated on twitter that The Chameleons are one of the best bands to ever come out of Manchester. Who in your opinion are the best band to come out of Manchester and why?
Erm. I’d say right, and a lot of people argue against it, and I’m not saying they’re the best. But I think the band that has everything: lyrics, grove, you can dance to it, stories, reality and has a true Manchester feel to that era and was there when Manchester properly took off are Happy Mondays. In my opinion.
You often refer to your sound as ‘Naughty rock and roll’. In this sense, do you think that there are any other bands like you at the minute?
I don’t know what people call naughty rock and roll. There are a lot more guitar based, exciting bands around at the minute. Lyrically as well. There are quite a few bands I’ve heard that have the edge, which we haven’t seen much of recently. There seems to be a lot more now, but whether they’re naughty or not, I don’t really know many of them to be honest. Whether there music is rock and roll I don’t know.
I call our music rock and roll, because to me, it’s classic. You make your own rules up, I like that. With Twisted Wheel, it’s a wheel that’s twisted. I can go wherever I want with it. I’ve had my head down for ages, doing nothing. So now I can do whatever I want, I love that, it gives me a sense of excitement. There’s not much of that going on with bands today.
There’s a uniqueness. I think it’s going to be nice now I’m more level-headed and I’m putting more effort into what I’m doing, artistically and creatively, I’ll be able to get across my vision of Twisted Wheel across and where I want to go. When we were younger we signed for a major record label, and a lot of decisions got made for us and we just went with it because we were young.
Lastly, with a tour approaching, do you find it easier or harder to engage the fans and recreate the same atmosphere that you had when you first started touring?
I’ve not done a lot since we’ve been back, I’ve only done 3 gigs. I think it’ll be easier than it’s ever been. I’m more natural now with what I do, I can do it automatically which gives me more space to work on speaking to the crowd and connecting with them. I can be more down to earth and more of a frontman. I’m really excited for it.
We were a three piece for most of what we did so I had a lot to do. Memorising lyrics and guitars. Now that we have another guitarist, I can put more thought into the quality of these things. I don’t have to worry about remembering so I feel comfortable. That’ll swine through. These gigs will be special. There’s a lot of kids coming through who didn’t get to see us first time, because they weren’t old enough.
I’m looking forward to the youngsters coming, because a lot of people get into bands, disappear, then reappear and the same fans go and watch them again. But if we can get new fans who want to come who weren’t around then, that’s super. If the old tunes have meaning to the new generations, that’s a buzz. It shows the music is aging well.