Gavin Brown Takes On The Dowling Poole
The Dowling Poole consists of Willie Dowling and Jon Poole, two very talented musicians who, after working in many revered bands, came together to make uplifting and catchy music packed full of pop and psychedelic sensibilities. Their last album See You, See Me came out last year and the band are currently working on a follow-up at the moment and as well as that, they have just released The Trump Chronicles EP, a collection of songs dedicated to a certain disgraced former American president.
We had a chat with Jon Poole to talk about a myriad of different subjects including the Trump Chronicles and how it came about, the power of protest songs, new material from The Dowling Poole, playing music during the pandemic, his other musical projects, his time with Cardiacs and The Wildhearts and his most memorable moments in his musical career in an interesting and informative chat.
The Dowling Poole have just released Trump Chronicles EP. Did you plan to release these songs collectively as soon as Trump was voted out of office?
No, not at all. The EP is made up from songs that date back to when we first started working together as The Dowling Poole which was September 2012.
The oldest song is actually from early 2013 and was one that Willie had bought to the table with a lyric that had been written after having seen a documentary about a bloke called Donald Trump who’s bullying campaign to force people out if their homes in Aberdeen that were on land he wanted for his poxy golf course had struck a chord of disgust with Willie.
When we recorded the song we had no idea that such a person might stand for president and even less of a clue that there may be masses of blind followers that would ultimately vote him in.
So no plan was made to put a collection of songs about Trump out after he was voted out of office because we never knew he’d ever end up IN office in the first place!
The EP ends with the brilliant and apt Fuck You, Goodnight. How much fun was it writing and recording that particular song?
Does it? I thought it ended with the brilliant and apt ‘Fuck you goodBYE!
Whoops, sorry about that!
This was another song Willie bought to the table (he’s not half bad at those political protest songs!) but to be honest I have very little memory of recording it because it was recorded in 2014 really quickly to go on the B-Side of one of the ‘Bleak Strategies’ singles…possibly ‘A Kiss On The Ocean’? But yes, wish I could remember more about it.
How has the reaction been to The Trump Chronicles so far and have you had any negative reactions from idiot Trump supporters at all?
Over the years that Trump has been president we’ve had the occasional complaint from disgruntled Trump supporters and sometimes from people who are so A-political that they’d much prefer our songs without all the ‘lefty political stuff’ but we fail to view that as anything other than ‘missing the point’.
We’ve occasionally had to show the odd person the door simply saying that ‘perhaps this isn’t for you’.
We have no reason to apologise for our actions nor do we force anything on anyone who doesn’t want it.
If it’s not for you then switch it off. Scroll past. That’s your right. You won’t ever be able to change us, our beliefs or our right to shout about them though. That’s our right.
Will you do a similar one for Boris Johnson when he (hopefully soon) goes?
We hadn’t planned to although there must be an album’s worth of material sitting there in Downing Street as we speak.
Do you think that the tradition of protest music is still prevalent?
As in ‘do I think people are still writing protest songs?’ I’d really like to think so.
There’s a pissed off nation with more to shout about now than ever… er no shit,Sherlock. I always loved Devo’s stance on ‘De-evolution’…the idea of technology rising and becoming more and more advanced whilst ‘man’ dumbs down into the monkey-spud he started out as in the first place. It’s happening to an even greater extent than they predicted back in the early 70s and de-evolution is more relevant now than it’s ever been. While this continues to progress (or regress) then I hold out for the ‘heads’ of the world to speak up and let the world know that we’re on to it and that we’re gonna speak up about it. It’s essential.
What, to you, is the greatest protest song ever and what makes it so powerful?
Impossible to pick one but ‘Shipbuilding’ by Robert Wyatt (written by Clive Langer and Elvis Costello) has gotta be up there surely? Actually talking of Costello ‘Pills And soap’ is another beauty. I always appreciated the simple message of racial equality put across by a lot of the 2-tone bands, particularly The Specials.
Tracks like ‘Concrete Jungle’ and ‘It doesn’t make it alright’ never fail to hit the spot/nail on the head and their most recent album from a few years back covers issues that still need to be acknowledged.Frank Zappa’s ‘Heavenly Bank Account’ about television evangelism… It’s an endless list.
Dowling Poole released We Are The Noise late last year, what has the reaction been like for that single?
Pretty positive I’d say. I mean it’s been a strange year hasn’t it? I think we’ve all been fairly pre-occupied to varying extents so I haven’t had my mind fully on ‘how we’re going down’ but I have had a good amount of positive comments about that track and it received good reviews and some radio airplay.
Dowling Poole released the album See You See Me last year. Have you got any update to follow up to it?
I believe we have around 5 or 6 songs that are not that far off completion, whether they make it to the next album or not depends how they come out after being mixed. The way it’s gone in recent years is we just record a load of songs over a period of time, not necessarily with a plan in mind and then we pick the ones we think fit together.
How has that album been received so far?
Again really lovely reviews and some airplay. I think our main hurdle is reaching people and that’s not always easy.
I mean we do have fans in the UK and plenty overseas but getting to the next level is an uphill struggle. It would be nice if the positive reviews could result in higher sales but this is the modern music industry we find ourselves in and it’s not getting any easier as time moves on.
How did the recording of the album go and was it all done pre-pandemic?
Yes it was all done before the Pandemic hit. I think we started on it in early 2017, some of it possibly even 2016 but Willie (on keys) and then myself (on bass) joined Dr Hook and we got incredibly busy with touring all over the shop. When we weren’t touring we were recuperating and spending time with our families so we got a bit lax for a bit there but then it sort of picked back up around early 2019 so we were able to complete what we’d started.
I think it was a great process as Willie and myself had spent so much time together with Dr Hook that we had a certain amount of telepathy at play so we could work reasonably quickly and efficiently.
We quite naturally found ourselves able to try new stuff and move in directions we hadn’t explored before and the familiarity between us by that point made decisions relatively easy to make. Willie also bought a few new studio toys so the mixes, we felt, were a lot more advanced sonically than on our previous work.
Do you and Willie still write and record the same way as you always have and do you have a set way of doing things as you always have?
We tend to come up with the basics of a song independently from one another then knock up a rough demo which will get bought to the table for us both to then turn into what is ultimately ‘our sound’ or style.
Whatever the idea is, it doesn’t really take on our identity until we’ve both gone at it.
Now with Lockdown we’re going to have to find new ways of working. I think for many artists it’s not ideal to not be in a room together and creating. I personally find the human contact element essential.
But that’s not to say you can’t make it work in separate locations. I just feel it isn’t ideal but what can any of us do about that at the moment?
Obviously, things have changed so much and will continue to do so but how much are you looking forward to hitting the stage again?
I miss it on many levels. At the most vulgar level it’s how I support my family so the loss of earnings has been crippling to say the least. Also, it’s become something that has spelt out my sense of worth over more recent years so to have it snatched away is a little bit alarming. I also really miss the interaction with my friends but I don’t want to bang on about this because we are all suffering to varying degrees at the moment and to start spouting the ‘oh woe is me’ claptrap is probably quite irritating to have to endure so I’ll shut up now.
Have you got any tentative live dates lined up once gigs can start happening again?
Nothing with The Dowling Poole. We have sort of taken a break from gigging for the time being as we haven’t yet discovered a cost-effective and fulfilling way to do it yet. We found we could make all the statements we wanted to make via the recordings but hey, ‘never say never’ and all that.There are various dates on the calendar with Dr Hook and some gigs with Lifesigns (another band I play bass for).
As we all know everything is up in the air and subject to change so for me it just feels like a case of ‘you’re full of shit ’til you’re on the plane’ as a dear old Aussie friend of mine used to say.
What have been some of the most memorable gigs that Dowling Poole have played and what made them stand out?
It’s all very hazy. I do recall one at the 12-Bar in London. It was an acoustic gig and Willie was on particularly good ‘protest’ form that night, jumping out of his seat, hot under the collar in his suit, pointing and ranting at the audience as if a lifetimes-worth of political dissatisfaction came to a head. I sat there (we were sitting as it was an acoustic set) just watching him go off and I think it was the one time I felt like a member of the audience and just sat and enjoyed the show!
Your other band Lifesigns are just about to release their new album Altitude. Can you tell us about the making of that album and when it is out?
People pre-ordered it and were rewarded with a download of it yesterday (1st Feb 2021) and I believe the physical copies should be going out in March. It was my first experience of Lockdown recording and it personally took me a while to adjust.
The others had worked that way before so were more used to it than me but I caught up in the end…just about. As with all Lifesigns albums it was pretty ‘involved’ and mixes and masters were analysed and pulled apart until we could do no more. It’s a relief to just have it out there. It’s no longer ours…it’s ‘theirs’ now!
What have been some of your best memories with Lifesigns?
I think it’s the people you meet along the way. Some really interesting characters.
We have certain gigs where everything falls into place musically and emotionally which can be a buzz. We’ve had some nice dinners too. I like the dinners.
Is it a challenge dividing your time between different bands at all?
Yes it really is. It’s a matter of us all having Calendars and trying to avoid any severe clashes.
Tim Smith your Cardiacs bandmate sadly passed away last year. What are your favourite memories of Tim?
Fuck, so many. I mean. I was only 21 when I joined Cardiacs so I sort of grew up (if you can call it that) under Tim’s wing to some extent and he was very much a mentor to me for the 12 year I was in the band. He had a great knack of making you feel like you were the only person in the world and a very unique way of viewing the world. I remember once I was going through a tough time and was very anxious about various life stuff and he just pulled out this map and said ‘check this out’ and pointed to where we were on this map and then pointed out how massive the rest of the globe was and how insignificant in the scheme of things that our tiny problems were. It was so simplistic yet somehow a genius way of dealing with stuff and I couldn’t help but feel better.
I can’t do him justice with just one paragraph though. He was a beautiful, beautiful soul and I miss the fuck out of him.
Did the Cardiacs revel in their status as a cult band?
Nooooo. The idea that we might set out to be ‘cult’, ‘weird’ or ‘different’ is the complete opposite of what we were ever about. We simply had a genuine love of what we did and we just viewed it as pop music. Our hearts were completely wrapped up in it. And ah souls.
What album by the Cardiacs stick out for you as the most memorable to make and for what reasons?
Well we only made two when I was in the band and one of them is a fan favourite called ‘Sing To God’ and this is easily my favourite of those two. We recorded a load of it at Jim (Tim’s brother and bassist) ‘s house in the country. It was the height of Summer 1995 and it was just a really vibey and creative session. On a good chunk of the album I worked very closely with Tim on the arrangements and I even wrote 5 songs for it so it was a great experience for me to learn from him and to share some of my input. We would also invite all our mates over every Saturday and they’d camp out in the garden while we had these amazing parties where we’d get all ‘loved up’. It was the best time I had in that band. And there were a lot of good times.
What were some of your highlights of playing bass with The Wildhearts?
Playing Japan was always an amazing experience. Just to experience a completely different culture was intense. I think The Wildhearts have a great community-spirit amongst their fanbase and I often enjoyed having a drink and a chat with them at gigs. I do miss a lot of those fans actually. Same with Cardiacs fans.
What moments from your career are you most proud of?
I’m just thankful and proud to be still doing it in some form or other. Maintaining any kind of career in the music industry is near impossible these days particularly when you’ve hit your 50s as I have so it really could be a whole lot worse. Now if we can just beat this fucking Covid thing.
Check out The Dowling Poole at the following links, you won’t regret it!
The Dowling Poole CD’s – https://thedowlingpoole.bigcartel.com/
The Dowling Poole downloads – https://369music.bandcamp.com/
Words: Gavin Brown