In A Field Of His Own – Alan Mair
After a lengthy musical career that has included playing bass in The Beatstalkers and in The Only Ones Alan is preparing to release his debut single Four Winds, which comes out on his own IKA Records on December 19tth 2014. Alan’s strong voice is a revelation – singing with Peter Perrett for so long has clearly left its mark and there’s some Bowie in the mix. Keyboards feature prominently, as do the guitars of Zal Clemlinson, a friend of Alan’s from way back.
Alan has been playing music since 1962 so it has taken him a while to get round to a solo career: why now? “A solo career has been at the back of my mind for a long time. It was the Beatstalkers reunion at Barrowlands in 2005 that triggered my desire to get the Only Ones back together. Until then I’d never missed playing bass, because I was always doing stuff in my own studio, Field Studio. I spent a lot of 2006 going to and fro, first Mike Kellie said he would do it, then John Perry said he would do it. I saw Peter three times, finally he said yes in September but he was still using drugs at that point and now he can’t even remember me coming to his house to ask him. Sony offered to put some money up because they were putting out the best-of CD. I had been thinking about doing something on my own but the Only Ones took over full on for the next five years.”
“Then things went a bit flat and I was tired of running everything – merchandising, signing contracts, dealing with promoters and then going onstage. So I thought it was time for me to put all this effort into my own material. I have always written and this seemed so long overdue. I’ve got fifty or sixty songs, some recently written and some stockpiled over the years. On the single I’m playing bass, I did most of the drums, little bit of keyboards and all the production. The album will be called Field Of One. Releasing the single is the first step to create an interest in the songs that I do. I’ve already got the next single “Stairway To Hell” planned, using Ted McKenna on drums and Zal on guitar.”
We are talking over the kitchen table in Alan’s Camden cottage a few days after his return from Tokyo, where the Only Ones played three dates with the Flamin’ Groovies. “Japan went really well – the Groovies were great guys. We talked about playing some more co-headlining dates together in the States, and some here in the UK.”
“It was very strange physically going to Japan without Kellie and a bit sad. I was apprehensive at the first couple of rehearsals with Jake from Strange Fruit playing drums but he is such a good, solid drummer and he was very quick to pick up the full set, we probably only had three rehearsals as a full band. We also had Jamie Perrett on rhythm guitar. Peter can run out of energy on stage so if he stops playing Jamie can pick up those rhythms. I always stand on the right onstage, but we decided it would be better for Peter and Jamie to be together so they could hear each other so I moved over to between John and Jake. It felt different playing besides John and he seemed to play differently with fuller chords. I just loved the way he was playing, sort of a more Towshend-y Vibroking sound. Suddenly it felt like a real powerhouse rock band, without blasting out Peter. It went from being one of the worst soundchecks I’ve ever done to one of the best gigs”
The hiatus in Only Ones activity dates back to some unsuccessful recording sessions from 2009-2011 held at at the London studio Fortress and at Wincraft, Steve Winwood’s studio in Gloucestershire. Alan likens the situation to a marriage. “If people who used to be married try to get back together again sooner or later they get to ‘she’s still doing that’. Suddenly it felt like an extension of the third album – we went from doing fantastic gigs to being very uninspiring in the studio. Most of the blame was put on Kellie for the studio not working but it wasn’t all his fault. Then we just drifted apart. When we did the first two Only Ones albums and the Peel sessions we were so on fire – four tracks in three hours, but we can’t do that anymore. But Peter’s new songs are great.”
“We did think about releasing ‘Transfixed’ from Wincraft as a single because that is a recording that kind of works, ‘C Voyageur’ is another possible one. I did a lot of work on Transfixed here in my studio, editing and checking bits and pieces. I’ve always loved Transfixed as a song, plus me and John do the backing vocals onstage, more so than on any other song.”
Alan is now more optimistic about the Only Ones future. “Something had to change. Now there is definitely a renewed appetite to go back into the studio.. Initially there was no suggestion that we would take Jake and Jamie on tour it was going to be just the studio, but then we got the offer from Japan.”
Another exciting project on the horizon is the possibility of releasing the legendary 1979 Only Ones gig from Minneapolis on DVD. Apparently two fans who didn’t know each other recorded the gig, one filming on Super 8mm film and the other recording on tape. Alan has now managed to synchronise the images and the sound which means that for the first time we may get to see a complete Only Ones gig from their first time around, if a suitable means of distribution can be identified. Also on the horizon is an update of Nina Antonia’s book on the Only Ones, to include their more recent activities.
And there might even be some Alan Mair solo gigs. “If I do some dates I might do My Way Out Of Here” This song, written and sung by Alan, closed the Only Ones third album but was never played live. “We recorded My Way Out Of Here and one of John’s songs because at the time Peter wasn’t coming to the studio much. I just got tired of being in the studio, sitting around. Producer Colin Thurston played bass and I played guitar. I was going to keep it for myself but once it was finished Muff Winwood and Howard Thompson from CBS came down and they really liked it. We took a vote as to whether it should go on the album and everyone voted Yes except Peter.” Ironically due to a CBS cock-up the track was mistakenly credited to Peter on the first 20,000 copies of the LP and only now, thanks to the Sony remasters, is Alan getting due credit. He is philosophical about such matters and retains a remarkably positive outlook as he looks forward to releasing more solo material and working with a re-energised Only Ones in 2015.