Interview by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
Some bands are legendary purely down to the fact that they have been around a long time, others because they are actually truly great. Stray are most definitely in that last category. In fact, since forming in 1966 the band have been bringing their own brand of hard rock that’s brimming with melody and blues to the masses and packing out venues all over the globe.
Much loved by both fans and fellow musicians, a stream of constantly high quality albums has seen them ride the waves of fashion, cutting their own path and having various adventures including being managed by Charlie Kray (brother of Ronnie and Reggie) and being asked to open for Iron Maiden on their 2003 European tour.
Central to their success is the guitar mastery of Del Bromham, the only original member still with the band and a man of a million riffs played with style and feel. Easy going and always charming, he lets the music do the talking and boy, does it talk as it delves into five decades of material that has truly stood the test of time. Never happy just to rest on their laurels, the band continue to put out material and not live off a legacy that is the envy of many.
Stray have seen a variety of musicians pass through their ranks over the years, each bringing their own particular talents to the group and their sound, with the most recent crew being lauded as one of the best they’ve ever had.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHptB9N8oGc&w=560&h=315]
Earlier this year saw the newly invigorated line-up head out on an extensive tour with Ken Pustelnik’s Groundhogs, proving once again that you can’t beat real musicians playing really good music. Since then the lockdown hit and everything ground to a halt on the live music scene. Fortunately, the timing hasn’t been all bad for Del and he fills us in on his activities since coming off the road.
First off, and most importantly: How are you doing?
I’m doing ok thankyou Paul. I’m keeping healthy in these strange times.
How have you been keeping yourself busy?
Well it’s not very Rock ‘n Roll, but I’ve been very busy lately as I moved house recently and the house needed lots doing to it. So, I’ve been doing plenty of D.I.Y. stuff.
Have you been doing any online live shows or seen any good ones?
No, I haven’t done any myself (yet!) and I’ve watched a couple but I’ve not seen any that have inspired me to do one myself. I have had several people ask me if I’d do something, but up until now I have decided not to. Also due to the house move most of my equipment is in storage.
Having said all that, I did one on Saturday 4 July at 9pm for The Rec Rooms titled Saturday Night Legends (You Tube). It’s in conjunction with The Eel Pie Club, London and as you know the Eel Pie Club has a long musical history. I was honoured to be asked to contribute to a documentary about the club on Eel Pie Island Twickenham for the BBC.
Have you had to change your way of writing material?
No, because for me songwriting is a natural expression not something I particularly plan. It’s hard for me to explain, but songs to me are a bit like gifts that come out of the air! Sometimes I might not even be thinking about writing a song … and then an idea appears in my head.
The best ones are when the words come instantaneously. Sometimes the lyrics feel like they are coming straight from my head to the pen and paper. They are normally the best songs. I don’t really like to sit down and think “Ok, I’m gonna write a song” (which I have done by the way), but they always take too long, for, for me anyway, and I never think they come out as the ones that come naturally.
Do you keep in touch with your fellow bandmates / other musicians much?
Yes, very regularly. That’s the great thing about the band is that we are all mates, in fact like extended family. Likewise, I speak to other musicians who are not in the band with me.
What plans have you had to change this year?
In March this year we were nearing the end of a sort of part 2 of the tour which we started last September but was cut short by the Corvid-19 virus. Consequently, the end of the tour was cancelled as are most of the shows in for the rest of the year. There are a couple remaining, but it remains to be seen if they go ahead. Some of the shows have been rescheduled for next year, but for the first time in my lifetime, we cannot make any definite plans at this time. We can only wait and see what happens.
What do you think of the social distancing gigs (like the one that happened in Kansas recently – 229 people in a 1,100-seat venue) or the thought of drive-in gigs as has just been announced by Live Nation?
I don’t see how they can work financially for the promoter or the artistes. I know promoters are saying that they need the people in to cover the costs of staging a show. The artistes would be asked to take a huge pay cut and it’s not like any money could be made on merchandising to back up the financial shortfall, as there would be less people to buy product.
How do you think the music industry will have changed after this period of lockdown?
Well, I am normally an optimist, but my sensible head keeps telling me that even if the virus goes, I’m sure many people may not feel confident going to venues where they are perhaps shoulder to shoulder with other people, strangers even. I really hope I am wrong, but I am sure things will change and not be as they were.
What plans have you got for when the isolation finishes and gigs start back up again?
For the first time in my life, It is difficult to plan very much at this time as we do not know what tomorrow will bring. If there was a plan as such it would be to record a new Stray album and tour it. Both go hand in hand really, but we will have to see what tomorrow may bring. If we can’t play shows live then we have talked about playing our music in the studio and perhaps making it available ‘Online’ or You Tube, something like that.
How can people support you during this time?
We are constantly looking for other avenues to keep the interest. We have noticed a resurgence in interest in Stray partly due to the albums being released on Esoteric Records and also my solo albums and the fact that we have been able to play live up and down the country up until recently.
Consequently, we are looking to source other recordings we have made over the years. Some unknowingly, such as bootlegs and BBC recordings which we have found are out there. There are some other ideas we are working on with regard to merchandise which people may find of interest.
The band is a business and business means making money to survive. I don’t think the music business has ever been taken seriously by many as a business. It’s looked on as a hobby or something people do as fun.
Well it has always been fun for me and it’s the thing I love doing, but the reality is, musicians like in any trade need money to survive. Finally, our little island, The United Kingdom over the years has brought billions of pounds to the UK economy, so let’s hope somehow that will continue. See you at the next show.