DALE HODGKINSON: IN CONVERSATION ABOUT THE PECKHAM COWBOYS
Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke
There's a band based in London which have two studio albums to their name. Both albums shine brightly with creativity and hold dear to their bosom the principle that rules do not apply.
Guitarist Dale Hodgkinson is a co-founder of The Peckham Cowboys and was very kind to take some time out of his busy schedule to chat to MetalTalk.
After some friendly banter about lamp-shades and waxing lyrical about Rock n' Roll, I asked Dale what made him pick up the guitar in the first place.
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Dale: "I think I was about 15. I was quite old when I first picked the guitar up. Always loved music you know; Elvis Presley that did it for me. As I got a bit older I got into The Beatles – Well they'd obviously finished by then and Elvis was well dead by the time I got in to him. Then I think it was Adam and the Ants that really did it for me and I thought – that looks good as well."
Dale then adds to his answer some of his experience before joining The Peckham Cowboys.
Dale: "I've been in various bands. I suppose the biggest stint that I did with a well known band called And Also The Trees; UK band, pretty big in the rest of the world; sort of underground worldwide success – I did a couple of years with them and got to tour around everywhere which is brilliant. Then I joined Dogkennel Hill which was a band that Guy Bailey (The Quireboys) had put together with a mutual friend of ours called Tim Bewlay, and Tim still does that band. It was through Tim that I met Guy over a number of years, and the seeds were sown for The Peckham Cowboys."
Joining the dots, I then took Dale to their debut album 'Flog It!' and left him to fill in the blanks.
Dale: "I formed the band with Guy and Marc Eden. How that came about was that Marc and I knew each other indecently of Guy, we all knew each other but not together you know. It was a few years ago but it was Guy's birthday and there was a whole group of us around at his house for a bit of an after-party and we were back in Peckham."
Dale informed me that an impromptu recording session took place which has never seen the light of day which was an acoustic-blues style with a country-esque feel to it. It took several more of these laid back encounters where jamming songs together became something so enjoyable that they naturally said - why not make an album?
Dale: "Marc nicknamed the project if you like, or the little musical recording venture that we were doing The Peckham Cowboys. Everyone was living in South London; we were recording it in Peckham just off the Old Kent Road. At the time I was working for a dodgy building firm, so that's where the cowboys bit came from – so we got The Peckham Cowboys and that was the name of this recording malarkey way, way before it became a band. That recording venture eventually became 'Flog It!'."
While we both paused, I took the opportunity to reiterate how it was a natural result to what sounded like an effortless collaboration. A happy accident if you like, or as Dale put it – "We had no intention of forming a band you know whatsoever." Then he adds "Took on a monstrous life of its own."
The reception for their debut 2010 album 'Flog It!' was of critical acclaim, and a generally united gasp to the tone of how refreshing it sounded and how innovative it was in comparison to other albums at that time. Commercially 'Flog It!' was another story. So moving forward from what had been an underground success, the second studio album '10 Tales From The Gin Palace' moved the band forward once more.
Dale: "When we'd made 'Gin Palace', which was a very different experience to making 'Flog It!', I mean Marc really lived and breathed 'Gin Palace, in a lot of ways it was his record; from another perspective it was a band record as well because there was obviously a band this time around as opposed to three blokes putting something together. But it was a pretty intense process for Marc - nearly sent him around the twist 'cos he lived it and he breathed it 24/7 for the best part of a year."
Dale continued: "We knew what we'd got was really good and clearly we knew it was a progression and something different from 'Flog It!' which we were very proud of as well 'cos it was such a head-fuck, mad fuckin' out-there album, we knew 'Gin Palace' was really something special. What we didn't expect was the sort of universal unanimous love for it, everybody fuckin' loves it! I can't remember how many reviews we've had but there's been loads and loads and loads of them. I think we've had one shit review and even then they couldn't give us a proper kick in."
The tone wasn't one of arrogance or someone who was full of self-confidence; it was explained in tones of surprise and slight bewilderment.
Dale: "To be compared to the 'Stones at their best and for people to say straight-faced that this is a masterpiece and the best album by any new English band in decades, it's wonderful and it's heart-warming. Like I said, that aspect took us by surprise. When you're in the middle of something you don't know its happening. It's very nice and we're all very happy and somewhat humbled by it as well I have to say."
To read more detail about '10 Tales From The Gin Palace', check out the MetalTalk review which you can find here.
I brought up the constant line-up changes and Dale responded by bringing me up to date.
Dale: "We put together this new line-up. Marc largely did that, he knows more people in the business than I do. He'd known Nigel Mogg for a lot of years; I'd not met Nigel at that point but knew of him through Guy and The Quireboys connection. So we asked him and he leapt at the chance. Marc had found Ryan (McCormick), he's a lot younger than the rest of us but he's incredibly experienced and he's a superb drummer and he'd also cut his teeth, toured Europe and stuff like that with various other bands.
"Duncan (McKay) again was a mate of Marc; he's worked with absolutely everybody and Primal Scream is just one. His CV is a foot long with people he's worked with. As Marc jokes, he's the only man to be fired from Primal Scream for being too out of it! He's a genius horn player. He blows that trumpet and voodoo magic comes out of that."
For the briefest moment Dale pauses as he searches his mind for the remaining member of the band he hasn't made reference to.
Dale: "That left the issue of the guitar player. We knew at the time that Timo was working with various other bands, so we went to Timo (Kaitio) and said look man would you be interested? He leapt at the chance and unbeknown to us when 'Flog It!' came out, he said to his I think girlfriend – I wish I was in this band; which was beautiful to find out later on.
"Of course Tim Kaitio again a brilliant guitar player and the man that co-wrote 'Right Next Door To Hell' which opens Guns N'Roses' 'Use Your Isllusion'. He worked with Izzy Stradlin in his band and did loads of recording with him. Obviously grew up with Michael Monroe and those lads in Hanoi Rocks and was with them right from the inception."
Dale reveals at this point how he felt something had clicked with the six members. He also points out his appreciation and acknowledges Phil Fright who helped the band out last year as Nigel Mogg faced some logistical issues due to living across the Atlantic. Phil had quite a significant involvement during the recording of '10 Tales From The Gin Palace'. Noting his contributions, Dale refers to him as the seventh member of The Peckham Cowboys.
So there you have it; some background on a band that formed by accident and that have to their name some remarkable material. Do yourself a favour, and if you have the time and the funds, check out '10 Tales From The Gin Palace' because it's a slice of prime English Rock'n'Roll blended at times with other musical flavours. They're a band that isn't in it for the money, they're in it to create the best music they can and would be humbled if you joined the party.