British blues rockers King King have undergone a lot of changes since the release of their last studio album ‘Exile and Grace’, but since the revamp to their rhythm section and the addition of a second guitarist, the band have now regrouped, re-energized and returned with a brand-new album titled “Maverick”.
HRH Mag caught up with the band’s frontman Alan Nimmo in Glasgow to get the lowdown on their new record, his experiences putting the finishing touches to the album amidst the pandemic, and the changes within the King King camp.
You’ve got a new album coming out on the 27th of November. To what extent did the pandemic and the lockdown impact on the recording and the finalizing of the album?
Well, we were recording the album before the lockdown and we were kind of sailing through it, getting on with that. And, you know, there are always obstacles in the way, even at the best of times.
And then the studio, it’s a one-room studio. So, of course, they are trying to fill their diary as well. So there were days available and days not available, etc. So it was hard enough to start with, but we managed to get the bulk of it done. And then there were three songs left that I hadn’t put a vocal on yet, and they closed the studio for the lockdown. So, it was like a disaster – we had to wait and wait and wait. And then eventually, they very kindly opened the doors just for me and then set the place up so that I didn’t have to be in the control room at all. We didn’t have to be near each other, they set me up with headphones and a talkback mic etc. and I just literally came in.
Of course, the one great thing about having had a little bit more time to wait for that is the more preparation you do before you record anything, the faster things go down. So, they gave me the studio for five days to get the last three songs done. And I had all of them done on that day – the first day. Because you know what you’re doing then, you know what I mean? You’re prepared. Then you go right, just press record. and I sang all of them and I just got them all done very, very quickly.
I’ve learnt my lessons for the next time – be prepared. You know all those lessons at school you get when they say be prepared and do your homework? I’m going to start doing that because it takes way less time to get an album done.
The line-up of the band has gone from four members to five. You’ve got your brother Stevie involved now. What was the idea behind adding a second guitarist to the lineup?
Believe it or not, this is something that wasn’t like an overnight decision and I just decided let’s get a guitarist now. It’s just something I’ve quietly been planning for a few years now, before the lineup change. Lindsay and I used to discuss this quite often.
And I knew that at some point there was another guitar going to be needed for a few different reasons. I knew that there were parts that I was having to sacrifice in terms of playing because I need to focus on the vocals – I need to focus on singing. It’s weird because the tables have turned. After all, I was always a proud rhythm guitar player. It was really important for me to get the rhythm side of things great and happening.
I found myself compromising a bit of that over the years because I knew that I needed to prioritize singing. So, there is that, and with the new stuff as well there are parts that need sort of the other guitar player to play for me or play with me or play a different part along with it. And the more the band grows, and the profile of the band grows, and the bigger you get, the more engagement you must have with the audience. So I need to be able to focus on that.
The remit of King King walking on to the stage is just how quickly we can get the audience in the palm of my hand and get them onside right away. Then everyone’s relaxed and comfortable. And I learnt that lesson from watching the Fabulous Thunderbirds many, many moons ago. They walked on stage at a festival in Norway and I stood and watched the first number. And by halfway through the first number, they had the entire audience just sitting there like puppies begging for a biscuit. And I was like, that’s how this needs to be done. And I took that from them, and I’ve made it my purpose to do that.
So of course, there was always going to be another guitar player needed at some point. And there was only ever one guitar player that I was ever going to work with, and it was going to be Stevie. Plus, I’ve got the bonus of one fantastic backing vocalist to be in there.
We’ve already done a lot of recording for a live thing that we are going to do later this month. We recorded it live and I’ve just been listening back to a couple of the tracks. And you know what, between Stevie, Zander and Jonny as well now, when I’ve got three backing vocalists behind me. It’s just elevated the sound of the band up even stronger. It’s just fantastic, such a difference gets made when the backing vocals are strong. So I mean the whole idea of getting Stevie in was quietly pre-planned a long time ago. I just had to get Stevie to agree to it.
With adding Steve to the lineup were you ever concerned about receiving comparisons to the Nimmo Brothers, and are you trying to treat this as two completely separate entities?
Well, I mean, you’re never going to escape that. We will never escape the whole Nimmo Brothers, Stevie Nimmo Trio and King King comparisons – especially in certain places in the world. Not to mention any names, but Holland. They just don’t seem to understand the difference at all. It’s like they don’t understand that they are different bands.
I mean I’ve had a few questions online like, are you going to be playing any Nimmo Brothers songs? Are you going to let Stevie take the lead vocal or anything like that? The answer simply is no. This is King King and this will always be King King. Stevie’s got his place in the band and he’s got his job in the band and that’s what he will be doing. I will be the frontman and singer of King King, and that’s it. We won’t be adding any Nimmo Brothers songs.
What we will do is we will use our own experience, and what we’ve got in terms of our advantages and skills as the Nimmo Brothers to bring to King King. So, there will be places where I no longer need to check the pedal that I put on that gives me the dual guitar sound (the harmonizer) and we don’t need to do that anymore – so things like that. Because when I record these songs like that, I don’t use a harmonizer pedal in the studio. I record all of the separate parts – I’ll record it all separately. So now we’ve got a great focal point as well. Stevie and I can stand together and do that, and play parts together. You know, all that. So, it just makes for a better show, a better performance and all of that.
And then there are great parts that we can find that we can use the extra guitar for. But what’s pleasing me at the moment, it sounds trivial, but it’s really exciting to me is that there is the stuff that we recorded with an acoustic guitar in the background as well. And we can now incorporate that into the live shows. You can pick up an acoustic guitar now and again. Because sometimes there are some songs where it’s not going to be necessary for two guitars to be playing the same thing. And there’s no point in trying to add another part guitar just because, just play the part that’s already there that’s missing from the live show and put the acoustic guitar in. And we’ve done that on this recent recording that we’ve done live, and it sounds amazing. It just adds such a nice percussive feel to the tunes. So there’s plenty of work for us there, and again it’s all just an effort to improve King King.
Looking at the song titles and listening to the lyrics, there seem to be some positive and uplifting songs on the record such as “Everything Will Be Alright” or “I Will Not Fall”. They all seem to have quite uplifting positive messages behind them. Was that your intention to go with a positive outlook particularly in these strange times?
Yeah, absolutely. I suppose if you listen to the lyrics on some of them – in particular, “One World”, I’m still talking about the same thing as I was talking about on the “Exile and Grace” album. I equate them all to the song “Broken” from that album. But I feel that “Broken” was – maybe not defeatist, but I was kind of like, man, where’s the hope? This time around what I wanted to do was say no matter what we get, no matter what gets thrown at us here, pardon the pun, but we will never give in, let’s just keep going. I wanted it to be more positive and I’m glad that that’s been noticed. I wanted a positive, hopeful feel lyrically, whilst still relaying the message that I wanted to talk about.
King King released their fifth studio album “Maverick” on Friday 27th November 2020 via Channel 9 Music – King King’s new independent label.
Words by Adam Kennedy, Photos by Graeme Milne