With a new six track album, 'Raising My Own Hell', released on Monday 2nd December and a UK tour set up for the start of December, ex-Little Angels front man Toby Jepson has a positive outlook for the future. I caught up with Toby during rehearsals for his upcoming tour for a quick chat about the new album, his songwriting and to find out what fans can expect on the upcoming tour.
I start by asking him to tell me a bit about the brand new album, 'Raising My Own Hell', and why he's decided to record it now.
"Well, technically, because it's over 20 minutes, it's a mini album (laughs). I've recorded it for the sheer... well, Hell of it really! I'm spending so much time producing other people's records and writing for musicians that I needed to please myself a little and so, over the course of four months, I wrote and recorded the songs. I was under no real pressure and it was great fun! I also have no intention of giving up on being an artist, so it's important to keep releasing (new) material."
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So where was the material recorded? "Mainly, it was recorded entirely at my own studio in Yorkshire which I've named "Strangeplace"! It's a tiny studio, but I did all the drums there as well as guitar, Hammond organ, etc – it was a bit of a squeeze at times, but seemed to work out ok! It's all quite lo-fi - but I like that (laughs)."
I ask Toby about the other personnel on the album and how they came to be recording with him, to which he tells me: "I used my mate Matt E on drums, he and I have worked together for years and he's my favourite drummer ever. Dave Kemp played Hammond organ and the horns, as well as Squeezebox! He's a very talented dude!
"Actually, Dave was in the Big Bad Horns who recorded with Little Angels many times. I, of course, played all the guitar parts and some of the bass guitar parts too and for the bass bits I didn't play, I got my old mate Roger Davis to do these for me."
Toby sums up this band of musicians very succinctly by calling them "a killer bunch of guys - generous enough to indulge me for a short while, but top people and my friends!"
As Toby has previously produced material from Fastway (featuring ex-Motorhead guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke), The Answer and, most recently, Toseland (featuring Superbike double World Champion James Toseland), I ask him if he wrote and arranged everything on 'Raising My Own Hell'? "Yes I did, apart from one song 'Patience Of A Saint', which Dave Kemp helped out on."
I ask Toby next about the lyrical themes on the album and he tells me: "I've reached a point now where I'm less interested in just pure entertainment and more talking about deeper subject matters and social issues. I've always had the underdog drive about my songs and have always felt the weight of my conscience, but now I'm older and more reflective it's important to dig even deeper and to pull no punches.
"This record discusses the stupidity of a modern world trying to morally dictate – whilst all the time continuing to show its filthy underbelly. It's no secret that I'm a fully paid up Atheist and so I talk about that. I'm tired of the stupidity, the contradictions, the pain, the craziness and seemingly un-checked psychosis certain areas of society and the world indulge in. I have no fear about confronting what I see as lies and control – fuck 'em! When I die, it's dust and nothing more! I'm confident that I'm right about that and I'm also totally at peace with it."
So where, I ask, does he get his inspiration from? "These days it's a similar answer to the above. I'm drawn to human failings and successes - I take massive comfort from getting stuff wrong and then admitting it! Nobody has any right to judge or to believe they are right. We're all a bag of contradictions - me included!
"I write because I have to, it's as simple as that. I can't help myself, it just comes out! Good, bad or whatever, because I love music so completely that it's language to me that is the purest form of truth. I have a keen ear for new music too, but by and large I still listen to my early influences and try to imagine what they were experiencing and lift those feelings into my time. It's very hard to explain, and probably best left un-said..."
Talking of his early musical influences, I ask him to talk me through some of them: "I keep going back in time - Black Sabbath are a big one for me, as are The Beatles, Rainbow, early Deep Purple alongside artists like Talking Heads, Prince, Ronnie James Dio, Elvis Costello and early Metallica, but I'm not a dinosaur. I love anything that perks my ear, regardless of genre. I'm a song lover - full stop!
"My current favourite is Queens Of The Stone Age and Kyuss – I just can't get enough of them and I'm also in love with Supertramp all over again! I like real heart and soul music, depth and intensity are key for me, and I'm also a sucker for guitars - still gets the hairs up to hear that sound!"
Coming back to the subject of the 'Raising My Own Hell' album, I ask if the release is through a record company or a self-funded release? "The CD is released through my own label, Jepsongs, and through Townsend Music in the middle of last week, with the digital release following on the 2nd December."
Obviously he'll be touring the UK to back up his release, so I ask how much he actually enjoys the rigors of touring? "I do enjoy touring. It's tough and challenging on my own with just a guitar, but I like it. I spend so much time in the studio and love it as an environment, but it can become terribly lonely, so I like to get out and meet actual human beings... change is as good as a rest (laughs)."
Bringing our conversation to a close, I ask if, like some bands he'll be changing the set every night on tour or if he'll stick to a pre-arranged set list? "I don't know yet - I'll see how it goes! I've rehearsed roughly twenty five songs so it will be a case of seeing what works best! I want to audience to have a good time, not bore them to death (laughs)."
With that, we part ways, but with the album currently topping my personal playlist for December 2013, I'm certainly looking forward to seeing which songs Toby pulls out of the bag on his UK tour over the next couple of weeks.
Very special thanks to Toby Jepson for taking the time to speak to me and Rob from Stampede Press UK for arranging it.
Raising My Own Hell
Patience Of A Saint
Four Letter Word
You can see Toby Jepson live here:
Sunday 1st December - O2 Academy3, Birmingham
Tuesday 3rd December - O2 Academy2 Islington, London
Wednesday 4th December - O2 Academy2, Sheffield
Friday 6th December - Tivoli, Buckley
Saturday 7th December - The Box, Crewe (supporting FM)
Monday 9th December - Fruit, Hull
Wednesday 11th December - Rock City, Nottingham
Friday 13th December - Fibbers, York
Saturday 14th December - Bootleggers, Kendal
Sunday 15th December - Stereo, Glasgow
Saturday 11th January - Diamond Rock Club, Ballymena
Official Website: http://www.tobyjepson.com