ďSoftly softlyĒ is not a
maxim that King King are familiar with. Since surging into life they
have barely stopped for breath, and their electrifying sound and
scorching live shows have generated more of a thunderous roar than a
This is a band which knows
how to make an entrance. Fronted by charismatic bluesman Alan Nimmo,
their exhilarating debut at Monaghan Blues Festival created such a stir
that it prompted organizer Somhairle MacCognil to remark: ďKing King
arenít just playing the festival. Word is that King King ARE the
festivalĒ. With a reception like this thereís no surprise that the phone
has been ringing off the hook since, and the last year has seen a
frenetic schedule of gigs and festival appearances which have received
outstanding praise and added plenty of new blood to their burgeoning
army of followers.
the charge is the aforementioned Alan, a frontman famed almost as much
for his contagious energy as his dazzling guitar work. Widely known
across the UK and Europe for his pivotal role with the award-winning
Nimmo Brothers, Alanís full-blooded style, technical brilliance and
impassioned vocals combine to hit all the right buttons and reach spots
that many others can only aspire to.
Bringing up the rear we have Lindsay Coulson. Donít be fooled by the wry
smile Ė beneath his unruffled exterior lurks a powerhouse of punchy, fat
bass whoís musical career has seen him take to the stage with such well
regarded blues acts as Aynsley Lister and Philip Walker. He has also
been a regular in the Nimmo Brotherís lineup, and this history with Alan
has resulted in a dynamic musical chemistry which is evident in both
songwriting and performance.
I caught up with Alan
Nimmo and Lindsay Coulson at the Skegness Rock and Blues Festival.
What are your first musical memories growing up in Glasgow?
Alan Nimmo: My
father was a singer in the local bands around Glasgow and he was always
interested in what was popular and wanted at the time, stuff like Deep
Purple, but my interest in blues came from my mother. She is a massive
blues fan, still today, and when we were kids she had all these records
by Peter Green, Eric Clapton, Derek and the Dominoes, BB King Ė she had
it on the record player all the time. There was an old acoustic guitar
lying around in the corner of a room and it had sat there for many many
years, just as a coat hanger really, and then one day my brother and I
got interested in guitar playing, at around the same time even though he
is six years older than me. We started playing separately but I wanted
to sound like what I listened to, I wanted to sound like Peter Green. I
can remember being 2 or 3 years old and sat in the middle of the living
room hearing my fatherís band so Iím used to noise and Iím deaf anyway
Did you always want to become a musician?
Alan Nimmo: I
canít ever remember having any of those sort of ambitions when I was a
kid, I canít remember saying I wanted to be a doctor or a musician or
anything. I just wanted to run around and get up to mischief when I was
a child and I didnít look to the future. I suppose I stumbled on the
music and guitar playing and didnít really know how much it meant to
me. I would always say that music grasps you, you know it takes
you, you donít grasp music. It chooses you. I realise that
before I knew it years had passed and Iím doing what I do. If somebody
came and asked about my ambitions, Iím here doing it and living my
What kind of material were you playing in the early days?
Alan Nimmo: A lot
of Peter Green and Eric Clapton. Iím a massive fan of Free, they are my
favourite band even today and Paul Rodgers is my favourite singer. My
brotherís my favourite singer as well of course. Paul Kossoff's guitar
playing really stood out for me; the passion he had for playing and what
he did when he played really got hold of me and I took a lot of early
influence in my playing from Paul Kossoff. You can still hear it
today, thereís little bits of it in there. My brother always says to me
that when heís watching me he knows when Iím lost in the moment and ďYou
donít know whatís going on around you, because you start playing like
Paul Kossoff again. Thatís when I know youíre in your own little zone.Ē
Alan White: I
remember seeing Free at
Mothers Club, Birmingham and I
froze. Most amazing sound!
Alan Nimmo: My
mother saw them in Glasgow in 1968 alongside the Small Faces and Joe
Cocker on a sort of caravan tour.
Am I right in saying that it was the British Blues movement and English
blues musicians in the Ď60s that really first attracted you to the
Alan Nimmo: Yes, I
guess so. The great 60s blues boom with the John Mayall thing when he
started introducing all the great guitar players and, yes, Iíd say it
was the British scene first and then I got more interested in the
American stuff, even the Texas-style shuffle and the Chicago thing as
Together with Stevie, your first band was the Blackwater Blues Band Ė
tell me about those times.
Alan Nimmo: We
were just kids back then, I was only 17, itís probably one of the last
times that we had a band. Four guys all pulling in the same direction,
wanting the same things, taking the good with the bad and we were
literally just four young lads from Glasgow who, well, I wouldnít say we
didnít care, but we just had a brutal honesty about us and we just came
in and we played. It wasnít about how it is nowadays when you are
marketing a business and youíve got to look after it. We didnít have a
clue about all that back then, we were just young lads who wanted to
play in a band and we all loved...well we were often associated with the
sound of Fleetwood Mac back then because it was two Les Pauls and thatís
kind of what we did. Those times were great. With hindsight I suppose
if we had marketed ourselves better and ran more like a business then
who knows what would have happened. But I have no regrets for any of
that because we had a ball. Iím still in touch with everyone who was
involved in that band and weíre all great mates now; all doing different
After the Blackwater Blues Band you and Stevie became the Nimmo
Brothers. You were with Matt Beable on bass and drummer Craig Blundell,
were they in the band at the beginning?
Alan Nimmo: No,
when we first disbanded the Blackwater Blues Band because, well, the
drummer with that band is my good pal Boyd Toner who plays with The
Stumble. He was the original drummer and he moved down to England to get
married. We still had players from Glasgow for a long time and Lyndsay
Cookson was the regular bass player. For a long time our drummer was
Dave Rayburn or Mark Barrett, both former players with The Hoax.
The first Nimmo Brothers album 'Moving On'
versatility, but it was your next album 'Coming Your Way' (your
first with Armadillo Records) that was most influential took you to the
forefront of the British and European blues scenes, tell me about those
Alan Nimmo: The
Moving On album we recorded in Glasgow at the same place we recorded
the Blackwater Blues album and used a couple of local guys in Glasgow
that were playing with the band at the time. I actually really liked
that album. I always have trouble listening to albums Iíve recorded and
I always think, ďOh no, thatís not quite rightĒ. You have album
naivety of course when you are young, you are just 'gung-ho' and you get
on with it, especially when you are a live band and thatís what we are
best at. But trying to recapture that in a studio with limited means
and very limited funds is difficult so I thought we did really well. I
liked Moving On and I still like it, thereís some good songs on
it. It was Tony Sweet from Armadillo Music who actually saw us 11 or 12
years ago at Colne Rhythm & Blues Festival and he signed us after the
gig, then we did the Coming Your Way album. In terms of how it
was recorded and how it sounded, I always wanted it to sound better, but
you always do, and it did well and we got the award of Best Band and
Your next album 'New Moon Over Memphis' was your first acoustic
album, featuring the beautiful John Hiatt song 'Feel Like Rain' -
always a 'showstopper' at live gigs - this must have a special
meaning for you.
Alan Nimmo: Well, yes, it does. On that album we have a good pal of
ours call Mark McGee who played the saxophone solo so Mark, myself and
my brother would go out in Glasgow as a trio sometimes and do some
acoustic stuff and then Stephen and I got to writing some stuff and we
wanted to do something more raw and naked. Literally, thatís all that
album was, two or three guitars showing warts and all. It was a brave
move but I thought it turned out really nice. We did a little bit of
touring and it was really sweet to do that. It was nice to go out for
the night with no pressure, not having to look after the band. We
always found it very relaxing, just the two of us travelling in a car;
that was really nice.
King King at Newark Blues
Festival, September 2009
Alan Nimmo - vocals/guitar, Lindsay
Coulson - bass, Jonny Dyke - keyboards, Jamie Little - drums
Who has influenced you the most in your music writing and playing?
Alan Nimmo: I
strive to get my own sound of course but my influences definitely draw
from bands like Free. I love my blues music but I am a rock fan and the
guitar players that I like in the rock scene come from blues-based
playing, Angus Young from AC/DC. Another of my favourite bands was
Thunder, Danny Bowes was heavily influenced by Paul Rodgers in his
singing as well, you can hear it, and their type of song writing
appealed to me as well. Blues to me is not 12 bars, itís just not at
all and it never will be. Sometimes you get people who are purists and
they turn their nose up at certain types of music and thatís a shame
because thereís so much great music thatís got blues, because it's a
feeling, it's got heart and soul. Bands like early Whitesnake, David
Coverdales is one of my favourite singers as well. Thereís all sort of
influences, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Thin Lizzy, one of my favourite all
Whatís your favourite guitar?
Although I do use my Stratocaster a lot my favourite guitar will always
be my Les Paul that Iíve had since I was 15. Itíll die alongside me and
Iíll probably be buried with it.
What does the Blues mean to you?
Alan Nimmo: Blues
to me is something that comes from inside. I love music, I'm a
musician, guys like us suffer for our art! I donít need the violins for
that but Blues is my life. I often say that I have a home and a life at
home but Iím more aware and familiar with .... I still live in a bag at
home, Iíve got a wardrobe sitting there that's empty. You can get used
to travelling and as you get a bit older you do get a wanting to stay at
home more and do normal things that normal people do. But I know itíd
only take me five minutes of that kind of life and I know Iíd have to
get back to this.
White: King King? Where does the name came from?
Alan Nimmo: One of
my favourite blues bands is called The Red Devils who produced one album
and then unfortunately the singer, Lester Butler, killed himself,
choking on his own vomit Ė he was a bit of a party boy. Their album was
called 'King King' but it was a famous blues club in Los Angeles
that burned to the ground. So thatís where the name came from. We
thought it was a nice name with a good ring to it and it made for a nice
feature for our artwork. We even managed to get a pun in there with
the title of the album, Take My Hand, I thought thereís cards in
Alan White: I
remember being at what I think was King King's second gig of you first
tour at Joyce & Bill's Barrow R&B Club on 30th January 2009, with
Lindsay Coulson on bass, Dave Raeburn on drums and Dale Storr on
keyboards. Since then you have gone from strength to strength, and I
have a quote: "with an almost instant reputation which spread like
wildfire through the blues scene..." Tell me a little about your
tours and the band's journey so far.
Alan Nimmo: You
know, the last two years have just whizzed past, itís been so hectic.
When youíre in this you donít often see the progression as clearly as
other people because you're involved in it so much, but when you sit
back and take stock of how much has happened over the last two years,
how far weíve come, itís actually something to be really proud of.
Weíve signed to Manhattan Records, weíve got a management deal from Alan
Robinson, weíve played Glastonbury and those kind of festivals, we had a
great time at Colne and Monahan Blues festivals and various European
festivals and it just seems to be that itís like we havenít stopped for
breath. It got to Christmas and we had a bit of time off but the
momentum is still going. Iíve been just waking up in the mornings and
thinking, ďWhereís my bag and where am I going today? Oh, nowhere, I
can relax!Ē Itís been an amazing journey, very hectic, but thatís what
we wanted and thatís how we want it to continue.
Alan White: Iím
sure it will! At Maryport in 2009 you followed Jethro Tull on stage.
Unfortunately thatís the one Maryport Festival Iíve missed (close call
with daughterís graduation!) and Iím told it was to rapturous applause.
How was that experience of following Jethro Tull?
Alan Nimmo: Iíve
got such admiration for any band that stands on stage and does their
thing, itís like a brotherhood, a family, weíre all pulling in the same
direction and weíre doing this for the same reasons. And Jethro Tull
are legendary so it was great, absolutely fantastic, to go on stage
after them. I have to be brutally honest, we are not afraid of anyone.
Itís not a competition for us, thatís for other people to do, weíre just
musicians, a band playing. I would happily go on stage after Eric
Clapton because it wouldnít be intimidating, it would be inspirational,
I would watch that and want to play. It makes me want to pick my guitar
up, it doesnít make me shy away and think, ďOh, Iím never going to play
like thatĒ. I just think, ďYeah, Iíll do thatĒ.
King King recorded a session for Paul Jones's BBC2 Rhythm & Blues Show
at Maida Vale, tell me a little about the experience.
Alan Nimmo: Iíve
done it once before with the Nimmo Brothers and the studio was at Pebble
Mill, Birmingham, and that was a great experience but to get to go to
Maida Vale was, just, well, youíre looking at a plaque on the wall that
says ďBing Crosby recorded his last session hereĒ and youíre standing in
a room where every one of my influences have stood at some point and
recorded or played there. That was an amazing experience. The
reception that we got from that with songs getting played was amazing.
We had an email from a chap, and to me this sums up the answer when
people ask me what I determine as success and to me this was it: this
chap emailed me to say that him and his brother had been looking after
their poorly father and they were driving home and he turned on the
radio and heard the Paul Jones show and he played the version of Old
Love that we do and he said they had to pull the car over, and just
sit there. His brother was in tears and they just sat there, they loved
it that much. And that, to me, is by the most complimentary thing that
anybody could do for me. Iíll take that over any money any day. That's
White: Itís been a long time in the making, tell me about Take My Hand',
Alan Nimmo: Ah,
yes, it's been a long time in the making unfortunately. Because the
bandís been so busy weíve been constantly on the road and finding time
to get back in the studio and finish it off has been a terrible
nightmare. It ends up with having to find availability of the studio
(itís a really popular studio with bands like Arctic Monkeys, Saxon and
all sorts of people in there recording), so you've got to try and find a
slot that fits in with when you are off the road, then find the right
time for the guys in the band who are all busy with other stuff plus
trying to get off the road, was really difficult. As you know Craig
Blundell plays with us quite often along with Wayne Proctor, our two
regular drummers for King King. Craig's an international demonstrator
for Ronald V-drums and he's all over the world all the time; and Wayne's
a very good producer of records nowadays and he's doing a lot of work
for younger bands, so he's busy as well. Eventually we managed to get it
done and it was a big thing. But having said that, Iím very pleased
with the outcome, really proud of it and very proud of the lads for the
job they did. I couldnít have asked for better.
How do you see the future of blues music?
Alan Nimmo: Well,
the blues scene tends to come and go in waves, then it comes back, then
it dies a little bit but I think there has to be a long, long future for
blues music because itís one of the last remaining genres of music
thatís real and honest. Thereís more and more young kids coming up and
learning blues and I donít think it has the same stigma attached to it
that it used to because of the introduction of a lot of young players.
And also in terms of King King are doing with our songwriting, we are
opening blues music and saying, ďLook, it doesnít have to be 12 bar.
Itís great, beautiful, when itís done properly, one of the best styles
of music I still get excited about, but thereís more to blues than just
Thanks very much Alan, I really appreciate that.
Alan Nimmo: You're