Toby Jepson gjorde sig ett namn med Little Angels och återfinns numera i Wayward Sons. Vi fick ett kort samtal med sångaren och snackade bl a om Van Halen, tidiga skivköp och hans fascination över David Bowie.
What was the first record you bought with your own money?
It was “Wheels of steel” (1980) by Saxon and on the same day I bought “Sabotage” (1975) by Black Sabbath. In my little town, because I was a little kid and I didn´t have any money, there was a fantastic secondhand record shop and I got to know the guy that owned it really well over the years. I can remember, it was one of those things when you were little, I always used to think that if I went into the shop all the big lads would be looking at me and I´d be like… I wasn´t supposed to be there because I wasn´t really allowed to buy stuff because I wasn´t old enough or whatever, but Paul, who owned the shop, as I was flicking through the sleeves and I knew I wanted to buy a Sabbath album and I knew I was going to get the Saxon record. It was secondhand because it had been out for a while, but I was flicking through the Sabbath sleeves and I didn´t know much about the back catalog, but I saw “Sabotage” and I picked it up and it´s got Geezer with the little red tights on and he´s got the caftan and all that and Paul from the back of the shop went “Don´t worry about it lad, they´re not gay or anything like that. It´s fine.” (laughs) So I just bought it not knowing what to expect. It´s still one of my favorite records.
Was it those records that really had an impact on you and that made you feel “This is my music! This is what I want to do!”?
It´s a weird one because it´s an amalgam of lots of things. I grew up in a household where my dad was a first generation British teenager and he was into The Who and a massive fan of The Beatles and The Kinks and that sort of thing. We didn´t have TV in our household when I was a kid, so what I used woke up to in the morning was my dad putting on a record, so I would wake up to everything from The Who to Wilson Picket, he was really into soul, and then the next day I´d be listening to the Mamas and the Papas. So I grew up in this household of total music all the time. When I started discovering my own tastes, even though all of that stuff was there, it was pretty much standard rock and roll at the time. It was Deep Purple´s “Machine Head” (1972) and that sort of thing, but really, when I look back on it now as a composer, I think the early days when I was a real young kid, all that Beatles stuff and dad was also a massive Beach Boys fan, I think that was the most influential thing on me, melodically. I think I got to understand that it was all about melody. But in terms of the style thing I think it really was… probably, if I´m being truthful, probably Sabbath, I think. They were the ones that kind of galvanized my want to do that. And Queen. I think Sabbath and Queen were the two “I want to be in a rock band.” Then it went on from there. I had a friend when I was a teenager and he was massively into punk and he´s the one that got me into punk and my sister was into punk, so I was going home listening to The Clash, GBH and the Sex Pistols and at the same time I was putting on Deep Purple and the Dio records. To me, I´ve never had a thing where it was “Oh, that´s what that is!” I just liked anything that was cool and I just thought the Sex Pistols sound like a cool rock and roll band. Then I got into Bowie and he´s probably my greatest hero. My favorite record of all time is “Hunky dory” (1971) and that one defines the greatest songwriting to me. I have an eclectic taste.
Would you say that his death was something that really affected you?
Yes, completely. I feel so connected to David Bowie´s music. It´s an ingrained thing. When he passed, even though he´d been very quiet for a while and there hadn´t been a lot of action, for him to go out in the sort of way that he did with “Black star” (2016), which now I´ve listened to endlessly and think is one of his greatest records, it´s the depth of the art. It´s that ability to embolden yourself with the work.
It´s so much more than just music.
It is. He the purist of artists and he affects me daily. There isn´t a day that goes by where I don´t listen to something he´s done or I at least think about it or I read something. I think he´s the closest we´ve ever gotten to a modern-day Mozart. It´s the purity of it and it´s the journey and the search to create something wholly unique and say something that doesn´t just take you away from the world but gives you some idea to the ancestry of the world. It´s so layered that it´s almost impossible to explain. It did affect me enormously and I think he will in years to come, if humans survive, I think he will be up there with Mozart. For me he already is.
Going back. I was an avid reader of Kerrang magazine and I just remember Little Angels being in every issue. Do you miss those days? There was a lot of hype about the band.
It was and the weird thing about Kerrang is that they did nothing but take the piss out of us really. It was always a big joke, you know. Our guitar player Bruce got so incensed by this. We would be in there every week whether it was a review or Ray Zell would do the Pandora Peroxide and take the piss out of us thing and Bruce would be like “I will not put up with this!” We were going into the studio to do some demos for a record, like the second album or something, and he got really incensed about this and was like “Why are they always taking the piss out of us?” Why are we always the brunt of the joke?”, so he rang Kerrang´s office and went “This is Bruce Dickinson from Little Angels! I´m disgusted by the way you´re treating us.” None of us knew this had happened, so the next thing we get, the manager´s on the phone going “What´s Bruce rung up Kerrang for? Ray Zell´s going to come to the studio and he wants to meet you all.” Bruce was like “Right, when he gets here…” Ray gets there and I don´t give a shit, but Bruce is like “Right, explain yourself!” and ray goes “Hang on a minute! I have people writing me saying – Please put me in Pandora Peroxide! Please take the piss out of us! The only reason I give a shit is because your popular and you´ve got something that I think is interesting. That´s why.” He became a firm friend of the band, but it was a real learning curve for us and especially for Bruce. When you´re young… what affects you is that you just want everyone to like you and you´re so needy. They turned out to be the biggest supporters of the band and everything we did they were on our side. I remember when we sold out Hammersmith Apollo the first time with the “Young gods” (1991) record, which was a big deal. Kerrang from that point on started to take us properly seriously, because you can´t deny that then. That was cool and they were always great and I´m still friends with a lot of those guys.
What are the future plans for Wayward Sons now?
I feel privileged that I´ve had an opportunity to do this again. I hadn´t given up on being an artist, but I´d been in Dio´s Disciples, Fastway, GUN and I´ve done all these other things and I started producing records. At the end of the Dio´s Disciples thing, and I got invited to do that by Wendy, but it reached a point where we got to the end of the first American tour and I just thought “This can´t go on any longer where it feels like it has some relevance.” Because doing the first tour was very much about the Stand up and shout cancer trust and saying thank you to Ronnie (1942-2010). I only met him once, but I was a massive fan, so to do it was a huge privilege, but it got to a point where I felt “At the end of the day what I´m doing is singing somebody else´s songs and it´s not me.” I just couldn´t see myself doing it any longer and I just said to Wendy that I didn´t think it was my world anymore and she was very gracious and everything was fine. Then I thought that the next thing I do have to be me and it´s got to be right. I could see the music business changing and up to a point where I didn´t recognize it anymore. It was like “How do you break a band these days? What the fuck do you do?” Then three or four months later I get a knock on the door from Frontiers going “Have you ever thought of making another record?” and I said “Well, if we do it, it has to be on my terms.” I´d rather it totally fail and I´ve done that, because they wanted me to put together a super group of various American players and I´m friends with a number of people and there was this whole big plan and me and Brian Tichy were going to do some things and then I looked at Frontiers back catalog and there are all these bands with Brian Tichy (ex Dead Daisies, ex Pride & Glory) in them and that´s not what I wanted to do. I said “I´ll do the record, but it´s got to be my thing and I´ll come up with the name and the artists.” They just let me get on with it. The first album was a real joy to do because there was no pressure at all. I just did what I wanted and I brought all my influences, all my punk and new wave and just had a go and I didn´t expect anything to happen. But the next thing people are asking us to do things, so I think the simple answer is that I don´t know what´s going to happen next and that´s why I like it. Who knows? This business is so complicated at the moment and so difficult to navigate in. I don´t envy any young band, because how do you get anyone to listen to your music anymore? It´s white noise, really. I´ve got a slight advantage because I´ve got a bit of a history, but even that doesn´t really help you. I think the one this is, is that you… one thing I´ve learnt over the years is that you just have to be fucking good. The songs are the only thing that matters. That´s it. Forget all your drum sound and your guitar sound, it doesn´t fucking mean anything. If you haven´t got anything to say, you´ve got nothing to do. That´s what I stick to. I stick to that principle. I´m going to write the best song I can and I´m going to put all my effort into that and if people like it, then I´m doing something ok and maybe it will happen. I´m on tour in Sweden with fucking Steel Panther so I must be doing something right. (laughs) That´s the way I look at it.
Little Angels toured with Van Halen in 1993 for their “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” tour. Any good stories?
I´ll tell you the greatest story you´ve ever heard about Van Halen. They were amazing to us. This is a brilliant story. First gig, Munich. We set off in our Splitter van and we were self-driving because it was a really low budget for us. They weren´t paying us too much to do the tour. We were on Polydor and we were quite a big band, but we didn´t really mean a lot in Europe, so this was a big opportunity. It was like the only tour they´d done in a number of years, so we get the tour and everyone´s really jealous so we say “We´re not going to fuck this up and we´re going to get there early.” We get to Munich with about four hours to spare and we got on the Autobahn that goes around Munich and we couldn´t get off the fucking thing. We drove round it three times because there was no satnav, just a map and we were a bunch of idiots trying to read the map like “Get off here!” So we arrived and the doors were already open and the tour manager was standing there going “You motherfuckers! Get your fucking shit in!” We had to throw our stuff on the stage and we played for 15 minutes. The tour manager was at the side of the stage going “You motherfuckers are off the tour! It´s over!” and we were like “Oh my god!” We got thrown into the dressing room and the next 15-20 minutes go by and we´re sitting there going “We´re fucked! We´re completely fucked! It´s the biggest opportunity in our lives and we bollocked it up.” Next thing there´s a knock on the door and the door opens. There´s Eddie (Van Halen) going “Heeeey guys, I heard what happened! It´s fucking great!” he thought it was amazing and he was like “That´s the greatest thing I´ve ever heard! You couldn´t get off the road? Ha ha ha!” After that he was our best mate. The entire tour he spent in our dressing room. He say there with his Frankenstein guitar working shit out and one day our trumpet player, who was a massive Van Halen fan, as we all were, Eddie was sat there and our trumpet player Grantham (Kirkhope), who is a really mouthy fucker goes “Why don´t you play Hot for teacher?” and Eddie went “I don´t know, man! I don´t even know if I can remember how to play it?” He starts trying to play it and Grantham pulled his guitar off of him, put it on his knee and went “It´like this” and started playing it and Eddie went “Oh, thanks man! I remember.” and then they played it that night. That was the only time they played it on that tour. He thought we were fucking great and the whole tour was a joy. He was as good as you thought he was ever going to be and they were gracious and talked about us in all their interviews. It was fantastic. Really brilliant.
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen