English rock legends Thunder are gearing up for the release of their thirteenth studio ‘All The Right Noises’ (out 12th March 2021 on BMG). Set to be one of the best albums of 2021, ‘All The Right Noises’ is Thunder at their very best, and lead guitarist, songwriter, and producer Luke Morley joined us to talk about the album, and what went into the songwriting process.
As an old-hand at releasing new albums, do you still get nervous just before a new album is out there for all to devour?
I guess that there is always a certain degree of apprehension, you have your own feelings once you finish an album. The weird thing is that this time around we’ve had much longer to live with the album before it comes out, because of covid and everything else. Usually, you find yourself doing interviews about the album when you haven’t had much time to live with it, so you’re not really sure how you feel. But with this album, we’ve had a long time to listen to it, to sit on it, and that’s really precipitated a lot of excitement amongst the band because I think that it’s one of the best that we’ve done. When you’ve done something that you are proud of, you want people to hear it.
The album is going to blow people away, the band must be incredibly proud of it?
Yeah, we’re thrilled with it. There is a lot of energy about it, which is quite remarkable when you get to our age really! It has a thrust and an energy about it, and I think a lot of that is probably, to be fair, down to the last two things that we’ve released, well one was a best-of compilation and the one before that was ‘Please Remain Seated’ which was very much an atypical Thunder album in that it was quite gentle and explored a lot of musical styles. I guess some people would have called it indulgent, but it was an album that we felt like making at the time, where we looked back at the songs and explored them. We didn’t want to make just an acoustic album, we wanted to go further than that and look at the style of the songs and enjoy ourselves as musicians. Anyway, I digress, but after that, and the greatest hits album, we felt that we needed to come back with a really positive, uptempo rock album, and hopefully that’s what we’ve done.
With you being so close to the album, as songwriter and producer, when you sat back and listened to the album from start to finish, for the first time, what moment gave you the biggest goosebumps?
To be honest, I tend to see it as a whole thing really and try not to focus on individual tracks. I do think that ‘Last One Out Turn Off The Lights’ is a great album opener, it’s very exciting and it sets out its intentions in the first bar with a big power chord. Some of the songs I’m pleased with for different reasons, ‘Destruction’, the second track, is really interesting because it’s probably the heaviest thing that we’ve ever done, but it’s also got some really nice flourishes with the female backing vocals, it’s almost like a funky groove in the verses. It’s an unusual tune, and the chorus is just a guitar riff, which is unusual. With Thunder, you would expect a melodic topline and maybe backing vocals, but on this, the chorus is just a big steaming riff, so that’s kind of interesting. Lyrically, it deals with stuff that maybe you wouldn’t normally associate with us, the dark side of the human mind, and depression, so I’m really pleased with that, in that it’s something that we’ve not done before. And after 13 albums it’s nice to be going places where you’ve never been!
It’s a very timely song, given what everyone has gone through the last 12 months or so…
It’s very strange, I’ve done a lot of interviews recently, and a lot of them have pointed out how strange it is that the album was written and finished before covid because a few of the songs are quite pertinent to what’s going on at the moment, and ‘Destruction’ would be one of them.
A lot are topical, ‘Force of Nature’ for instance, this one has you looking inside Donald Trump’s head, but once you were in his head, could you get back out?![Laughs] You mean how did I find being a crazy megalomaniac?!
It’s interesting to do that sometimes, just to switch things up, because everybody obviously looks at Trump and pretty much has the same reaction! But it’s interesting to see things from his side I suppose, and that’s what made the lyric an interesting one, and I wrote a load of verses for that, way too many, so I had to pare it down to what I thought was the best bits. As a songwriter, you want to try and go places where you haven’t been, and look at interesting aspects of things rather than go down the same roads. It’s the only thing that I think keeps you moving forward, to challenge yourself.
Given everything that is going on in the world at the minute, there has probably never been a better time to be a songwriter!
No shit! Fickle times and testing times are always good because you feel the same frustrations as everybody else. People can relate to things, I mean, ‘Last One Out Turn Off The Light’ is very obviously about Brexit and the last four years of misery before. And everyone understands that. If you write a song about love and feelings then people can relate to that, but I think that people can also relate to other things and it’s nice to give people the opportunity to think about those things. Everybody expects a rock band to have a lot of songs about chasing girls, but I’m 60 years old now so I can’t really justify that! And I’m not interested in that anymore and I’m more interested in the world around us and how that affects people, and I guess that is going to come through in the writing. There is so much going on in the world that is interesting, but not all of it in a good way, but there is plenty of subject matter out there.
You mentioned Brexit, I know that tours are on hold at the minute, but as a musician, have you looked into the costs and logistics now involved in touring the EU as a British band?
I’m hoping that before touring abroad becomes a real possibility that – I mean it might be possible that we are allowed to tour here before we are allowed to go abroad – by then, there is a lot of feeling in the music community and generally in the creative community that the limitations on movement and all the difficulties with the form-filling and the paperwork, visa’s blah-blah-blah, that that may be resolved by some sort of temporary working visa for musicians and others in the creative industry. But, we’ll see. If that happens, then it’s something that we won’t need to worry about. However, when we get to the point that a European tour is on the horizon, then we’ll have to look at it. But who knows where we’ll be then!
With you being on Facebook now, did you catch Fish and his live broadcast where he went into, in great detail, what was now involved in touring the EU? The costs involved are quite frightening…
Yeah, I read the piece that he wrote, which was great, I’ve known Fish since the ‘80s, he’s a great lad and we always enjoy it when we meet up. [The costs] Exactly, I mean, there you go, he broke all the costs down for you, and that’s the reality of the matter, but, fingers crossed the government will listen to the creative community. If they look at the money that this industry brings into the UK, they have to take it into consideration.
You mentioned on a recent teaser clip on social media that ‘St. Georges Day’ is probably the most serious song that you’ve ever written. Maybe not so much in the UK, but in the US for sure, some artists feel that they are in danger of alienating 50% of their audience by making a political statement, so they chose to remain silent. When you wrote ‘St. Georges Day’ did you worry about anyone saying “stop being political” or something similar?
I don’t think that you can, you’ve got to be true to yourself and write what you feel, because if you don’t, then it won’t convince anybody. Listen, who’s saying that I’m right? It’s from my point of view, and it is only rock & roll, but I’ve always really respected people like Bob Dylan and John Lennon who said what they thought, regardless of any potential consequences, because you can’t think like that otherwise you wouldn’t do a thing in terms of taking risks. It’s an observation really about the state of the English mentality, not the Scottish, the Welsh, or the Irish as I think that they all have very different identities. But the English mentality, that kind of 75-year-old, blinkered, xenophobic…I hate it. I grew up in South East London, very mixed race and mixed cultures, and that’s part of my life. If you don’t embrace the current situation with the world, because it is global, people are crossing the borders…well they were until Priti Patel got the gig [as Home Secretary], and set us back 50 years, you can’t deny the ebb and flow of culture. You can’t do a King Canute and try and stop it, it’s not going to happen. So embrace it, take it for what it is, absorb it, and it’s such a tiny amount of people when you look at it.
Touching on a few other songs on the album; ‘I’ll Be The One’ is such a strong ballad, power-ballad, whatever you want to call it, you have such a strong knack for writing powerful ballads, what do you put that down to?
Probably because I’m a sentimental twit! I don’t know? Is a ballad defined by the lyric or the music? That’s the first question. If you do something that’s slow and gentle and has an emotive melody, people tend to go “ballad”. Largely they are right, but I think if you look at the song, this is maybe more about being there for somebody that needs support, so it’s not necessarily a relationship song. It’s about saying to someone…” you can depend on me for help, or emotional support, or whatever it is…”, and I think over the last year there has been quite a bit of that. It was quite non-specific when I was writing it, I was thinking of emotional support more than anything. But once again it doesn’t really matter what I think, once it’s out there it’s how other people interpret it that matters. If people interpret it as a love song, that’s great, I don’t care as long as they enjoy it!
Now, ‘Going To Sin City’, the first time I heard that one I got a major Abba flashback! The short guitar intro put me in mind of the Abba hit ‘Does Your Mother Know’!
I take that as a massive compliment! For me, when I was thinking about that song, and arranging it, if anything I was thinking of ‘Suffragette City’ by David Bowie. Especially with the horns, and the fact that the lyric deals with that very glamorous, androgynous, late-’80s scene in L.A., I just thought it would be great to have that kind of horns on it, and I was thinking of Mick Ronson on the guitar, that’s what was in my head. I love Mick Ronson, I’m a massive fan of his, he was a big influence on me. So that was what was going through my head at the time. But I’ll take Abba! Hey!
Is there such a thing as a “signature” Thunder sound?
Ah! That’s hard for me to know really! I don’t think that we sound like anyone else, but then again, I would because I spend more time listening to the band than anyone else! Because I write all the songs and produce the albums. Thunder is built around the songs and Danny’s voice, Harry’s drums, and my guitar. I guess that they are the things that are the most defining, but I suppose that it’s the tunes that people remember at the end of the day, and you live or die by them. We’ve worked just as hard on every album that we’ve ever made since we were young, we want it to be as good as it can be because you have to live with an album for a couple of years. You’ve got to go out and play it…well, chance would be a fine thing! You’ve got to like it and believe in it, and believe that you can communicate with a lot of people, and you’ve got to hope that people like it back.
How do you measure an album’s success?
Oh, wow! No-one has ever asked me that before! I would say, having been doing this for thirty-one years in the same band, I would guess the measure of success is when I start thinking about what songs we are going to do when we tour. What are the songs we can’t leave out? Over the years there have been some obvious ones: ‘Dirty Love’, ‘Love Walked In’, ‘Backstreet Symphony’…, but there have been a few others that have crept in, that we can’t leave out. And every time you make an album you hope that you have the nice problem of trying to fit as many of the songs from the new album into the set without people thinking that we haven’t played any old stuff. You are aware that an audience has paid good money to see you and they have expectations, they might not even own the new album for instance, but they might hear some new stuff and think “I liked that, I’ll go out and buy the new album”. I suppose what I’m saying is that you can only judge anything creative, be it music, a painting, film, theatre, whatever, when you look back at it a few years later, and it’s still with you, and it’s still important to you, and to other people, then maybe you have done your job well and it is of some quality.
What can you tell us about the ‘All The Right Noises’ online TV special which airs at 19:00 on March 13th 2021 and will be streamed for 48 hours afterward, enabling ticket buyers to watch as many times as they like during that period?!
Nothing! You’ll just need to wait and find out!
‘All The Right Noises’ is available on multiple formats on 12th March 2021 on BMG, more information here. For tickets & full info on how to watch the online TV special, visit: https://thunderband.lnk.to/TVspecialPR
Interview – Dave
Live images from Steelhouse Festival 2019 – Rob Wilkins