Interview by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
There are drummers in rock music that have never really got the credit they truly deserve; absolute masters of their craft displaying a groove and feel that is so absolutely rock solid yet filled with soul and style.
Standing amongst the very top of that category is John Coghlan, the former Status Quo sticksmen a shining example of how to really do it and his work underpinning some of the greatest rock and roll records of the past decades.
Hugely popular but seen as a band who never changed their winning formula too much, Quo’s records from early singles like ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’ and ‘Ice In The Sun’ thrust them onto the psychedelic pop scene but the change to heavier material saw them as a constant fixture in the singles charts along with a string of massive selling albums.
Those songs are, of course, legendary and absolutely everyone knows the material from those classic years, each and every one driven by the unstoppable rhythm of Coghlan’s drumming.
Scratch a little under the surface of the so called ‘heads down boogie’ and you’ll hear some drum playing that really swings, echoing the greats of the jazz era and a finessed touch in amongst the heavy artillery. Sure, Quo could rock harder than most of the bands out there but there was also some real light and shade in there if you take the time to listen.
Since leaving the ranks of the band in the early 1980’s Coghlan has been busy making more music and most recently has been a constant fixture on the road with John Coghlan’s Quo, or JCQ for short.
The band have been packing houses up and down the length and breadth of the country and into mainland Europe, their good time rock ‘n’ roll going down a storm and bringing that heady and raw excitement back to high decibel life.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yi1azXKLoMs&w=560&h=315]
The band have proven that they’re so much more than a nostalgia act and the release of the recent single ‘Lockdown’, complete with tongue in cheek lyrics and video, has shown that their original material slots in perfectly with the Quo back catalogue they perform, a perfect brew of good times and great sounds.
John fills us in on what he and the band have been up to during these past few months and reveal some news that will have rock fans of all ages rejoicing.
First off, and most importantly: How are you doing?
I’m fine but missing playing and gigging – and all my MVT events have been cancelled. We’ve got the single ‘Lockdown’ out though and its Number 4 in the DJ’s Heritage Chart.
How have you been keeping yourself busy?
Going for long walks. Unfortunately, our dog died last year so that’s the next thing we’re looking at doing…but we need to be out there and playing.
Have you been doing any online live shows or seen any good ones?
No. But we JCQ have made our ‘Lockdown’ single and video, edited by Rick Chase our bass player.
Have you had to change your way of writing material?
I have been sending drum patterns to the others online. ‘Lockdown’ was written by Rick and Pete Mace…they got together with Rick writing the lyrics and Pete on guitar and that’s how that particular track came together.
Rick did all the video and it really shows the great humour in there…we really need to be taken out of the doom and gloom of these times at the moment and the songs got a great tempo and gets you going.
The ‘Lockdown’ t-shirts we’ve made have gone down really well too, with all the dates on the back saying you’d gone from one room to another because you can’t do anything else!
Do you keep in touch with your fellow bandmates / other musicians much?
Yes, we speak most days on zoom and we’ve had a couple of socially distanced garden BBQ’s…anything for a bit of fun!
What plans have you had to change this year?
All of them!! All gigs and festivals have been postponed till next year, rather than cancelled entirely. Lots lined up ready to be played but things are getting boring now.
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?
Not at all the same and probably no atmosphere. I don’t really think they’ll work because they’ll put to put space between the seats, in a theatre especially, but people will move about anyway. They might start off behaving themselves but once the music starts, they’ll be jumping around and going all over the place.
How do you think the music industry will have changed after this period of lockdown?
Many venues and musicians will be struggling to survive – the future looks a lot harder. Recording has changed though as so many people can do their recordings from home. Back in the day you used to have to go to a studio and spend a fortune in there so it’s quite different now. There isn’t much music that turns me on these days as I hear so much crap on the radio…I heard a song the other day that sounded like they used a carboard box for the bass drum, it was bloody awful.
I’m still a Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones fan, the good stuff from the 70’s when music was music. There’s so much crap out there now that I don’t even bother listening to the radio because why should I? There might be something that comes on from Phil Collins or the Rolling Stones and you think ‘Great! Proper bands with musicians who can play!’ Some of these (new) people don’t even have a band…it’s just a vocalist jumping about on television and miming…and you think ‘can we have some proper music please?’.
I think I’m lucky that at my age I was around in the 60’s and 70’s when there was real music and real bands playing. That’s kids though and I guess it was the same when I was young…when I was growing up my mum and dad were into jazz…which I didn’t like because it wasn’t pop music but there was a lot of stuff I did like and love, the old dance bands and there was some great music about. But you know what it’s like, things will change because that’s part of life.
During his time with and after Quo, John put together the all-star John Coghlan’s Diesel Band as a fun side project, the gigs a byword for a good time. The band often saw guest appearances on stage including the seemingly ever present Rick Parfitt along with Lemmy and, very memorably, at the Marquee Club in Soho just a few days before Live Aid, Quo bassist Alan Lancaster, the first time the three had played together since Coghlan left the band in 1981.
We put a Diesel album out some time ago with Jackie Lynton and Micky Moody and it was a great little band…we didn’t even rehearse, we just got together, chose a few songs and went for it! It was really good fun. (The three-disc box set contains the whole of the legendary Marquee gig along with a selection of studio recordings and is well worth checking out.)
What plans have you got for when the isolation finishes and gigs start back up again?
To get back on the road asap.
How can people support you during this time?
By downloading and buying our latest single ‘Lockdown’ and also look forward our album when it comes out. We’ll let everyone know when it’s ready to be bought and are really longing for it to be released.
All the songs are written by the band, obviously no Status Quo songs in there of course, but they’re all brand new tracks with a groove. I’m really happy with the band at the moment: Mick Hughes, Rick Chase, Pete Mace and me…the four of us click together and we really work well and get on. It’s really nice to have that really good band, I’m so happy with it.
It’s been funny, there’s been all these things on the internet where bands have been playing in a room somewhere, trying to make it sound like a gig but when you think about it there’s no audience to play to and the buzz IS playing to an audience.
That’s why we’ve not done anything like that because you’d find yourself just going through the motions to make out there’s an audience there but I could never do that.
We’re just going to have to be patient and wait until hopefully gigs start again and we can thank the fans for staying with us…we’ve got a big following of Quo fans who want to see my band and I’m really happy with that.
It’s party time basically and when people go to a gig by Quo or with JCQ, whether they’ve got problems in the world or not, they just leap around and get into the music.
The new album will be out next year now and we’ll be hitting the road with it. I just really wish the world could be a better place…but it would be an awful place without music…especially music that you love. We can’t wait for the first gig to start.