I’m sitting here with the fabulous Leigh Matty from Romeo’s Daughter, here at a gig in Stoke.
“How nice to be sitting with two ladies for a change being interviewed!”
It is International Women’s day in two weeks-time!
“You will find that there are very few women in this industry. I know there are female fronted bands but it is far less than there are male fronted bands. Even interviews tend to men and male orientated. So it’s really nice to be sitting here with two lovely ladies”
Based on that then, how do you find it being in a male dominated industry even though you have been gigging since the early / mid ‘80’s. Do you find it still the same?
“I don’t think it has changed at all. It’s quite staggering really to find how little the rock industry has changed. The music industry has changed a lot but I think the core of rock music still tends to be for men and men in bands. Don’t get me wrong they are some phenomenal big bands but locally and in the UK in this genre, I can only think of a handful of metal bands that are led by women I think, but not our AOR genre.”
There are a lot of female led Nordic metal and crossover artists, and full-on symphonic metal and quite operatic like Nightwish for example.
“Absolutely. But some are exposing young women lots of flesh and it is quite aggressive, which is obviously not what we do at all. So that is where there is a change then because they were not any bands like that in the ‘80s it’s kind of a new thing really.”
So these bands are dramatic as opposed to Glam!
“I can’t get away with the stuff that I used to be able to get away with a few years ago!”
You have been gigging and touring since ‘87 – ‘88, how have you done it?
“Actually it’s longer than that. I met Craig in 1984 and we had a keyboard player called Tony Mitman. The three of us just worked for years, no deals and poor as church mice. We finally got a deal in 1987 and then our first album was released in 1988. We have never toured a lot for some reason and our label didn’t want us to. They wanted us to perform on the big TV shows because we did so well in America. We were invited to tour in a lot of different countries but we are never allowed to go. So we toured pretty much only in the UK.
The first time we did go outside the UK was only 3 years ago in Germany! so we didn’t play that much back then and we broke up for 18 years. Now that we’ve got back together we do sporadic tours, you know here and there and we only tour when we have a product. It’s so hard to tour and people have no idea actually how hard it is in this country. A lot of fans do ask questions, why aren’t we going here or there, but it’s so hard to book a tour. We are not somebody that is very famous and we can’t guarantee a certain amount of people turning up so it takes a long time to organise. Also, we all have our own lives, businesses to run and projects that we work on so it’s really hard to actually organise it. But when we do get together and play, we loved it so much that we were actually bereft at the end of the tour. We have two more gigs left on this one and we would love to do it again but the logistics are very, very hard.
You just released a new EP so does that not inspire you to do another tour or maybe at the end of the year?
“We are actually planning on doing that hopefully in October. You have to be realistic about everything at our stage of life and we have to assess whether we are pulling in new people to hear or is it always the same people. You have to weigh things like that up as well because if you were only going out of the same people every time, wonderful as it is, it’s not really the band becoming any bigger than it already is. We did have a bit of a spoke in the works two years ago when Craig our guitarist, had a major heart attack and he was very, very ill. We were supposed to do a 30th anniversary tour but obviously he couldn’t do that until he was well so we haven’t actually done so and this tour is the first time back. We did a few gigs such as HRH and a few festivals but this is the first time we’ve actually got back on the road. It’s been fabulous and we’re hoping tonight will be fabulous too but we constantly have to reassess the situation.”
Based on what you just said there about your fans potentially being the same ones but what we have seen from looking back on photographs as that there seems to be a lot of young faces in the crowd. Your music is inspiring you people to come in and listen to you.
“Maybe it’s the children of the people who are original fans! We are pretty niche and that was always kind of a problem. Well, not a problem as such. We have no regrets about anything but when we brought out our first album in 1989 (Romeo’s Daughter), radio stations had serious difficulty in putting us in a category and they couldn’t decide whether we were rock or pop and we are not either actually. I think we are contemporary rock with very melodic songs and Craig is a very melodic songwriter. In the late 80s, where do you even fit? Even in America, we did pretty well with the first album. But that’s always been an issue for us because we never fit into one category and you would think that would actually be a good thing but unfortunately not in the rock world.”
What is wonderful about your band is that you could be at a venue that’s filled with hardcore thrash metal fans but as soon as you take the stage you will see them all singing every single word to your songs!.
“ I think people know a good song when they hear it. I might like a song from a band that’s not my cup of tea at all for example an R&B band and I think “that’s a great song”. I also think that people who come to see us say that we are the soundtrack to their lives to a certain extent. Just to give you a quick example. Last Saturday night we played in Blackpool and we haven’t been there since 1989. It was monsoon weather and we thought that nobody was going to come because the weather was horrendous but we were completely wrong and the place was jammed. We went down an absolute storm. We didn’t recognise many there, which was a surprise because normally we know everybody. Afterwards this really nice chap came up to me. He was very respectful and he spoke really quietly and told me that he hasn’t seen us for very many years but that we have been the soundtrack of his adult life – with him through divorce, marriage and so many different phases of his life. Then he started to cry. Tears were streaming down his face and he said he could not even describe what it meant to see us that night. I got Craig and the guys over and afterwards I said, you know when we are whinging about things or thinking that things aren’t going great or we are not happy about how many people come to see us we – have to remember this one chap because he made this night so memorable. Actually, I don’t think we have any idea how much people love what we do. Maybe it’s because we are not around enough.”
From a photographer’s point of view, anytime I turn around and look into the crowd you can see everybody singing and that must be quite a nice feeling, even if it’s the same faces that must be lovely.
“It’s really corny, but maybe because we are older now, we really do appreciate that. When you were younger, you’re just so worried about whether you are doing the right thing, because it was very different then compared to now. Now I do it just because I love it.”
Is that what inspires you, when you see people singing back your hits to you on stage? Are you going to write new music?
“We are trying. Craig is the main songwriter in the band and he has been very ill. We are not the kind of band that brings out loads of albums. We try to do the best album that we can and I know it’s quite easy for some bands in our position to be able to just say that they are bringing out a new album but we don’t do that. We want to be very proud of what we do. We only had four albums – Romeo’s Daughter, Delectable, Spin and Rapture and now we have this little EP which is an acoustic version of some of the songs and also one new song. So really we have only had four main albums out and considering we have been together for nearly 30 years it’s not great. It takes a long time for us to do it. Unless Craig has time to write and he is up to doing that, as we really would love to have a new album out and we sell very well when we bring out a new product. I can’t really say at this point in time but I really would love to say yes.”
We were discussing this on the way over in the car you’ve only had four albums but you are still pulling in the crowds. That’s what bands have to do, you leave a legacy rather than just popping out an album all of the time.
“We want to and even tonight we are playing the longest that we have ever played and playing quite a few songs of each album. In the past we haven’t really done that so we have gone through every album and it has been quite interesting because we discover we haven’t played this one or that one in a while. so tonight we’re doing a journey through our career and playing 18 songs.”
So now that you have just said that you’re playing 18 songs in yourself how did you manage to whittle it down to four tracks on the acoustics for the EP?
“Some of them are just naturally suited to being played acoustically and sounded great. There wasn’t really that much thought to it to be honest. We have got ‘Enemy’ which is from Spin; ‘Talking Love’ which is a really old track which is a very sexy, lovely, intimate kind of tune that was on Detectable. We also have ‘Alive’, which is very well known and a popular song of ours which was on the album Rapture and then we have ‘Radio’, which I love and it’s one of my favourite songs from the album Spin- we have done a lovely pared-down version of that. Then we have this new song called ‘Since You Went Away’ which is kind of a folk-country really cute little ditty. ‘Cry Myself’ is a song that obviously everybody knows. Our set tonight has two acoustics at the end, we are doing ‘Talking Love’ and ‘Since You Went Away’ and all of the others are electric.”
It’s sold really well tonight so there is going to be great feedback from the crowd.
“It’s impossible to know how many people are going to turn out when you book tour so it can be a nightmare especially when there’s a lot happening in a fairly local area. I think it’s going to be really good because there were great advance sales. Last night I looked out at the Bradford crowd because people really do smile when they look back at us. We always have something funny that happens on our tours. Recently, we had somebody come out on stage in the middle of our set, he took the mic and shouted“ I want you to know that Romeo’s Daughter is the best band in the world and look I got my t-shirt since 1989 and it still fits!”. As bizarre as it was, it was really funny! The PA blew last night on the first song so that was annoying but we could say that every night something happens which is really, really weird!
So it’s a great way to wind up this interview is to tell people if you want to find out what the next bizarre incident is, watch this space!
Interview by Fiona Duignan