Steve Cannell interviewed.
It's almost the 'lost' period of Birdland's history: the 18 months or so following the release of their one-and-only long-player. With no record company support the band toured during early 1993 with a new rhythm section and a set containing several new songs. Press reviews were not great and after that - silence.
It was a great thrill then to receive an email in June 2008 from a member of that touring party. Steve Cannell played bass for Birdland on the tour and has good memories of the experience. He kindly agreed to answer some questions about the time - shedding positive light on what, from a distance, looked like a dark period.
You said your initial role with the band was on the merchandise stall during the album tour. How did that come about?
had signed a merchandising deal with a company called ACME in Northampton.
This meant that ACME supplied both the merchandise and a vendor for
tour to support the album in early 1991 was one of the band's biggest
but behind the scenes things seemed to be going sour quite quickly.
Do you have any particular memories from that time?
the tour ended I kept in touch with both Lee and Rob. I lived in Northampton
and they were at their parents in Kingsbury near Tamworth and, as I
had a car, it was no problem to drive to them. We would also have evenings
out in Northampton and if I was on tour with a band I would get them
on the guest list.
I vaguely remember that they had been rehearsing with a kid (whose name escapes me) on the bass. It was not a permanent arrangement as he was in a band called Crystal Injection who then went on to support us on the subsequent tour. They may even have done a gig with him but again, it's all vague now. As for who was the drummer, I can't honestly remember although it wasn't Kale. Lee asked me to come along to a rehearsal and it just happened from there.
from some press cuttings that you'd played in bands before. Tell me
a little bit about your musical background.
I had been
playing bass since I was 16 in two local Northampton bands called Re-set
to Innocence and The Rocking Turks. Both bands had a notorious
local reputation. The first was an early 80s punk band and there were
a few incidents of trouble at local pubs. The Rocking Turks were
a proto Oasis-type band. We enjoyed some local success and from my touring
connections we got to support a few bands such as Pop Will Eat Itself
and Dr Feelgood. After that I began to manage a band from Northampton
called Awesome Wells. Again from my merchandising work I got
them on a few support slots and we released a single with a little help
from Daniel Ash from Bauhaus.
it a day managing them when the Birdland opportunity arose and
they changed their name to Cain. They supported Birdland
at the Islington Powerhaus gig.
was Chris, although his surname also escapes me. When we began to rehearse
we auditioned a few drummers. He was by far the best. Not sure where
he came from but could have been Birmingham way. He certainly had the
accent! He was a really nice guy and a good solid drummer.
a good few months rehearsing prior to the tour. I felt it was quite
intense but having not been in an 'established' band before I assumed
that this was what you did!
The first night at Newcastle was, in my opinion, great with a really positive atmosphere and the second at the Mad Music Club was a riot. The gigs at Rock Cty in Nottingham and my home town of Northampton went down a storm but the Southampton gig wasn't great and the subsequent scathing review in the music press did dampen things. I remember the so-called 'journalist' who wrote it was hypocritically nice-as-pie to us all backstage.
know what the longer term plan was - if there was one? Were Rob and
Lee still looking for someone to put out Birdland records?
started to rehearse for the tour we went to see a guy called John who
was the boss of another merchandising company I worked for. He agreed
to have a look at the financial / legal side of the band and produce
the tour t-shirt. Things were a mess and many problems began to appear.
I think the band knew who was to blame.
and Rob had recorded some demos before I joined, containing new songs
and I think the plan was to re-record better quality versions at some
the tour I found out my girlfriend was pregnant and, unlike Lee and
Rob, I had a mortgage and bills, etc. to pay. The constant driving up
the motorway and the fact that I couldn't work was taking its toll on
me financially. It became clear that the band wasn't going the way any
of us wanted. I think in their hearts both Lee and Rob knew this. I
explained it the best I could. I think Rob understood but Lee was angry
not sure what happened after I left. I disappeared on a long European
tour. I think they may have done a few more gigs without me but not
No. I recently
helped out a local band in a managerial role but they didn't last long.
Their bass player now plays for Maps.
I remember when I worked with the band on the album tour I would watch them and so want to be in that band. A year later and I was nervously waiting backstage ready to do just that! The pride, excitement and joy of been on stage with two talented good friends: Rob was a good mate and Lee a real character and a tremendous musician.