Hot off the stage after playing a sensational set to a packed out room that was bursting at the seams, HRH Mag’s Doug Bearne caught up with Wayward Sons frontman Toby Jepson for a chat.
Hi Toby, and welcome to HRH AOR. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Your second time at HRH AOR I believe?
Yeah we did one back in November 2017 but that was very early doors.
What a great set – how was it for you?
The set was fantastic as ever, great fun. Always great fun playing these events – yeah real good.
Great to hear a new track from the upcoming new album.
Yeah we’ve been playing a couple of new tunes just to road test them while we did the headline dates in November. We normally put a couple in but as this was only an hour we squeezed one in. This was the last date of the current album cycle. We finish(ed) in the studio in April, so we won’t be playing this set ever again.
So the new album is coming along alright then?
Really good, yeah. I mean as ever with these things you don’t really know how well it’s going to turn out as you are doing it – it’s all a bit like that, but yeah, we’re enjoying making it. I feel very compelled by the material. I think it’s gonna be a different record to Ghosts Of Yet To Come, and so it should be, you know, we shouldn’t be continually seeking to make the same record all the time, I don’t think. I think it’s a nice progression, and the guys know each other better now, and we’re all writing together. I’ve written a lot of songs for this album but we all collaborate on it, so it’s very much a proper band project. Yeah it’s exciting – will be exciting to see where it’s going to head.
And lot’s of tour dates to follow it, hopefully?
Tons yeah! I mean we’ve already landed the Living Colour dates obviously in July, we’ve got some European festivals through the summer, with a couple of English festivals, with a couple yet to be announced. Then there’s the Black Star Riders tour, which is gonna be great. Then we’re looking at various other things as well so it’s going to be very busy, as it should be Doug!
You’ve accomplished a hell of a lot in a relatively short space of time with this band – is it different to when Little Angels started?, Was it a longer period?
Well it was in as much as we were young kids, and we had to build our beast in our home town, if you know what I mean, and we spent a lot of time in Scarborough working on the material and getting the band up to scratch and just playing local shows. I mean obviously that wasn’t the same with Wayward Sons – we came and hit the ground running really, with the band, but that’s because of all the history that exists already its’ a kind of, well it’s not so difficult to get people interested in what I’m doing. But the proof of the pudding is always in the eating and I think the great thing about the Ghosts album is that people did react and went “Oooh it’s really good. We like it”. Cos I think if it hadn’t of done we wouldn’t have done so many shows. And people wouldn’t still be coming! Well yeah people vote with their feet don’t they.
Frontiers (Record label) approached you to do something, didn’t they?
Yeah they did – it was a good one really. I originally had a conversation with Derek Oliver, who used to work with Frontiers – he was an old mate and used to work with Geffen Records and worked for Kerrang and all those things all those years ago. We’d talk to each other occasionally, and he called me one day and said they were looking for something and would really like to work with you – would you fancy putting a project together. I went back and forth and round the houses about what it was going to be. I was going to work with some American musicians, but that didn’t work out for one reason or another, and actually I wasn’t really feeling that anyway. So eventually they just turned round and said “Well what do you want to do?” (laughs) Well I thought well I might as well just do my own thing, and I’m gonna put together a band that I feel confident about and if you leave me to it to get on with it I might do it! They said “Well OK we’ll do that then”, and that’s what they did, and I’ve got to say I’ve got nothing but praise for the label – they have been absolutely brilliant to me.
So how did you actually pick the band then? How did you put the band together?
It was quite straightforward, because I was always gonna work with Dave, the keyboard player – you know we are old buddies and we write songs for other projects together so he was always in the mix. He’s a fabulous musician, so he was always gonna be there. I’d spotted Sam (Wood) as a guitar player in his previous band, The Treason Kings from Leeds, and I’d produced their EPs, and I just thought he was a fantastic young guitar player. And when it came to actually choosing a guitar player he was the first guy that popped into my mind. I thought it would be great to have a new player rather than somebody I had worked with before – cos this is part of my modus operandi really, to change everything up and to do things completely differently than I’ve done before. You know including with people. I didn’t want to work with people I’d worked with before. Apart from Dave – he’s the exception to the rule. And you know, I’d known Nic (Wastell – bass) from being with Chrome Molly, but I’d never worked with Nic. I’d always loved his bass playing, so that was an easy one. And I came across Phil Martini (drums) really , he actually auditioned for Toseland when I was working with James, and I spotted him then and thought ooh he’s a great player, and he’d really suit, well “me” sort of thing, you know. So when it came to trying to find a drummer he was the first guy that popped into my head. So it was actually it was quite simple. And they all said yes. Fortunately!
Well they are obviously good, cos they have all got other stuff going on as well – and you have too, obviously, with your producing and Lightening In A Bottle. So how do you manage it all?
(Laughs). With a great deal of difficulty! No, it’s alright. It fits together, and we plan ahead you know, and these things have a habit of working out. And d’you know what, I’m not a superstitious person and have no belief in any god or anything like that but I do think that there are forces at work somewhere. I do think that if things are meant to be then they are, and we haven’t had any difficulty so far. I mean Phil’s just been in America touring with Spear Of Destiny and Sam has just done some gigs with his other band he’s got up in Leeds which is fun, The Land Sharks. Dave does his thing too. Nic’s got a full time job. I do producing, so I mean we just basically talk to each other. But really we all know we’ve got priority with the band and so we make it work, you know.
So which other bands are you working with at the moment? Or can’t you tell us?
(Laughs) I can’t tell you the one I’m working with at the moment, but you know, I’ve kind of reduced my production output quite a bit – mainly because I wanna work with stuff I really want to work with. So it really depends on what is around. But I’m working with a great new band at the moment, and that will all be revealed in the fullness of time. And there is other stuff on the go. I’m writing stuff for films and that at the moment which is good fun, so I’m doing that. Yeah you’ve gotta wear a few hats these days you know. But yeah Wayward Sons is the priority, but you know the music business isn’t the way it used to be – it’s a different thing.
So when you get time off, what are you listening to at the moment, and who do you keep going back to?
Well to be honest with you I’ve been going through a period of rediscovering old classics really, so I’m going back through all sorts of records. Blondie are featuring quite heavily for me at the moment, so listening to those great records. I mean I do keep my ears to the ground because I have to ‘cos I make records for other people. But I’m primarily interested in songs more than anything else, so it just depends what catches my ear. A lot of old records though at the moment. A lot of Bowie – I’m heavily in Bowie land again which is quite common for me.
You recently posted on Facebook about the amazing support you have from your family. It must be great to have them behind you – I know they come out to the gigs sometimes.
Oh I couldn’t do it without them. It’s an extraordinary thing to have that level of support from your family you know, it is a very difficult thing to be the wife of a musician. But me and my wife have been together for 25 years this year, and we’ve got 3 great kids and you know, something obviously seem to work. But it’s still difficult and it does tug at the heartstrings when you are away touring and you want to be with each other. It’s difficult – but it’s also what I do and it’s a career so you have to weigh it up, you know.
Has being a family man for many years changed the way you write, and what you write about?
Well I’ve always reacted to my surroundings and the things that are going on in my life at the time. You know, I don’t invent anything, it’s just a case of, well, I can’t help it coming out, so that’s the situation. You know I wrote Womankind when me and my wife got together – it’s expressly about my relationship with my wife, so that’s a good example. Young Gods was about our breakout of a small town in the North East of England. Ghosts Of Yet To Come is about my tongue in cheek and quizzical view on the world today, as all of those songs on that album are, so it’s about what’s going on for me now. I very much react in the moment.
Recently you did a couple of acoustic shows in Bristol with Dave (Kemp – keyboards) – are there plans for any more?
Well I do them kind of when I’ve got the time. And if I get asked and feel compelled. I’m not that great at it – I mean I like doing it. It’s good fun – I mean I’m no guitar player, I’m a deeply average musician but it’s the stuff I’m singing about and the words I sing that matter to me, and what the atmosphere in the room is. But it does take a certain amount of energy to conjure it so you have to prepare yourself quite well. It’s quite stark being up there on a stage on your own and singing songs, but I do like it, so yes there will be more of it.
Well you do it well – people were very disappointed when you didn’t do the last acoustic tour.
Well it’s one of those things, you know. It all got confused because of other opportunities and well, it will happen but you’ve got to find the right time for it really.
Which then leads to the obvious question that everyone wants to know the answer to – are The Little Angels gonna make an appearance again?
(Laughs) It’s highly unlikely. Highly unlikely. But you never say never. It just depends on what the situation is. I mean right now my priority is this band you know. I’m enjoying Wayward Sons so much – it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. I absolutely love being part of it and being with the guys, so it takes priority over everything.
You’re still working with Bruce (Dickinson) a little bit aren’t you with his Waterbear project?
Well yeah. Listen, we’re great mates. Absolutely, I mean we’re all great friends, I’m in touch with all the guys. We all talk, we all hang out with each other whenever we can and it’s great fun. I mean there’s a slim possibility but I don’t know when it would be.
Well on that note, we say thank you very much for joining us, and hopefully see you back with HRH soon.
Great, thanks a lot.
Since this interview took place, Wayward Sons have been announced for HRH Road Trip 2020 in Ibiza. Tickets are available now at www.hrhroadtrip.com