Interview with Pearl Handled Revolver
by Tim Marcus with photos from Sam Conquest Photography for Jace Media
As you may recall, at the beginning of this month, Pearl Handled Revolver played their first gig of the year at the Cavern in Raynes Park and shortly before they went on stage I was lucky enough to be able to sit down with some of the guys from the band, singer, Lee Vernon, organist and keyboard player, Simon Rinaldo, and guitarist, Andy Paris, (I think drummer, Chris, had just popped out to grab something to eat!) for an informal chat. Here’s what they had to say about all things Pearl Handled Revolver, past, present and future.
TM: So to kick off guys, how did you first get together as a band?
SR: Well Lee and I worked together in a band called Blunderherd, back twenty odd years ago
LV: Yes, when we were just whipper snappers! We started off just to try and have a bit of fun I think initially and always wrote our own stuff at the beginning.
SR: Yes and there were elements of what we do now in that. We used to do some long, drawn out numbers. It was quite progressive in its way.
LV: Yes, it had a lot of funk, fusion, and blues and rock, all melded into one. There was even a hint of reggae.
TM: Did you all know each other before you got together or was it just you two (Lee and Simon)?
SR: No, just us two initially, then we sort of stopped that for a while but we still worked together.
LV: But then we toured Germany as Blunderherd didn’t we, and did all sorts of big things?
TM: When was that?
LV: Oh dear!
SR: Back in about ’98 or something like that.
LV: Yeah so we did a few little circuits so of course we thought we were it and we’d done it. But then you come home and it brings you down to earth. But that kind of fizzled out. You know, your lives change at that age and everyone went off and did their own thing. But me and Simon always kind of stuck together. I think, now, for fear of not doing anything, I’d go round to his and we’d just keep doing music, writing a few songs and the odd thing.
SR: I was in another band after that, called Bowfinger. That’s where I met Andy. Andy was on the circuit.
AP: Yeah we used to play on all the same shows really didn’t we and I was good mates with the other guys in Bowfinger as well.
SR: So yeah, Lee and I were putting some stuff together..
AP: Is that where we met Ollie as well?
SR: Yeah. Ollie, our old bass player was from Bowfinger.
TM: So did you all come from the same sort of area?
LV: Geographically yes, but definitely not musically; which was the big interest really for all of us.
SR: So we pulled Andy in. I remember watching Andy thinking I really like what he does. He’s not your usual expected guitarist, foot on monitor doing solos. He thinks about what he’s doing and I said to you about him (looking at Lee), and that we should get him in. And we had another drummer at the time but he was only with us for a few months and then we got Chris.
AP: I think Chris was actually the singer with another band at the time, who we met at a festival; Sulpher, I think.
TM: So how long has the current foursome been together as it were?
LV: Twelve years
TM: It’s pretty solid then?
LV: Oh yeah.
TM: Something that our photographer Sam asked me actually which I thought was a great question; where did the band name come from?
LV: (Laughs) Yeah, well this is a good one. One of the incarnations as we were first starting out as Pearl Handled Revolver, we didn’t even have the name at this point; we put together a little, mini EP if you like; a kind of experiment at recording if anything, where we’d tried to get a sound for a little collection of songs I’d written. At the time we had a drummer who was my step son at the time, Luke, and he was looking to get into university with his drumming. So it was a kind of exercise really. Well OK, so we wanted to record this anyway, we needed a drummer, so we’ll get through this bit, just record these, then we’ll see what happens. When Luke goes off and does his uni it’ll be fine. So we did that and then we got in a guy called Steve Tippin, who I still see on a regular basis in Bedford, he’s on the regular Bedford music scene and plays all over Bedford, and a fantastic guitarist. He wasn’t in the best place personally and he didn’t last very long with us, unfortunately because it wasn’t a good time for him then and we needed to get on.
SR: He came up with the name though
LV: Yeah, he came up with the name and this is something we were always very proud of.
SR: The day before our first gig, I’m saying “I’ve got to get a name” and he was just talking. “Do you know what?” he said. “I love playing in this band. If it wasn’t for this band it’d be the Pearl Handled Revolver for me.” And I went, “That’s it! That’s the name!”
LV: And we said, “Where did you get that from?” and he goes, “Well I think it’s a line in Monty Python.” And we thought, well, it was perfect. We had 24 hours to put the poster together and we didn’t even have a name so that’s kind of where it started. But it’s become much more than that. I think we’ve written around that name, we’ve become that name, as much as the name was for us.
AP: Someone wrote about it perfectly. We read it and thought, that’s amazing; “the juxtaposition between the beautiful and the deadly”.
SR: That made the name more appealing
LV: We knew it was a good name but we didn’t quite get why until somebody else said.
AP: I can’t remember who wrote that but, “thank you”.
TM: It’s certainly a name that sticks in the mind. Once people have heard the name of that band they’re unlikely to forget it
SR: Well you say that, but the amount of people that get it wrong! When we first started out, all the posters were wrong, they spelt it wrong and even when you say it to someone, Pearl Handled Revolver, they’re like, Pea Handy what?
LV: But then to get to say Pearl Handed Revolver, that’s just, pure and simple, terrible English.
TM: Ok, so moving on and thinking about the stuff you’re writing and playing now, what was the sort of music that you guys were listening to growing up, that influences the way you write and perform today.
SR: We’re all so diverse
AP: Well I wasn’t a massive music fan until I was about sixteen. I mean there was always music at home. My Dad always played in bands in the 50s and 60s so there were always guitars about. You know, Beatles, Stones, that sort of thing. But when I started getting into music just before I went to college, someone bought me a U2 album, and I’m like, “This is brilliant!” so U2 were a massive influence on my playing especially, but there’s a number of people in this band…
SR: Don’t like U2!
AP:..that absolutely hate them!
SR: I don’t hate them but I don’t like them
AP: So that was the start for me, then I went into the Britpop thing; Oasis, Blur, Paul Weller, and then I found The Jam, that sort of thing and then I progressed into stuff like The Black Crows, who are probably my favourite band to be honest.
SR: Yeah, we were all so different. I was really into jazz and 60s/70s rock. You know, I loved Uriah Heep and Deep Purple
TM: Yes, that comes out very much in your playing
SR: And The Doors. The Doors is a big one for me. And Lee, you were more the blues side then weren’t you?
LV: Well I think I always went for the writing. I always went for the voice as well. I love Sinatra for example but I love Neil Diamond too, because, what a genius, regardless of anything anyone else might say. But voices and character within a song is what I used to look for. Tom Waits for example. When I discovered Tom Waits I stayed in for days just listening to everything I could get my hands on that he’d ever done, until I heard something I didn’t like and it was days until I heard something I didn’t like so I thought right, ok, well he’s going to be with me for a long time. John Martyn’s another one. I’ve seen him live so many times because I just had to see him live. Captain Beefheart too. So it’s about attitude. Screaming Jay Hawkins: when I first saw him perform, on a video obviously, it just blew me away. I’m thinking, oh my god, this in 1950 whenever. He was mental! I’ve not seen anybody that’s been on Top of the Pops in my lifetime that’s been even close to that crazy and I want to see it. Then my Dad would go, “look at Arthur Brown”, and look at this and look at that. I think that’s when I began to get more of a relationship with what I really liked musically. Before then I’d have had anything given to me at Christmas, even Wham albums and all sorts of horrible things, which people still remind me of now (laughs). Like Andy with U2, we were of a type, and that was all we were given, in many respects, unless you were fortunate enough to have somebody to say, here, dig a little deeper of over there, and for many of us that didn’t happen until we went to uni or met people at work.
TM: Picking up on what Simon said, when we first saw you at Margate last year, the first thing that hit me straight between the eyes, particularly Simon’s keyboards and Lee’s vocal, was early Deep Purple, Doors
SR: Yep, there’s a lot of that in there. We get the Doors thing a lot
AP: I think all of us in the band love The Doors
SR: We do, we do love The Doors
TM: I think with a lot of bands today who have keyboards, the keyboards are there, but they’re there in the background, whereas in the stuff you do, it’s quite dominant
SR: The organ’s a lead instrument and I play bass as well, like Ray Manzarek did (in the Doors). And if it wasn’t for Ray doing that I probably wouldn’t have even had the guts to do it. We had our bass player, obviously, and I used to double up sometimes didn’t I? He’d pick a guitar up and I’d say ok, I’ll play bass on this one you play guitar, and we’d have two guitars which was nice, and when he did leave we didn’t bother replacing him did we? I was keen to replace him but you guys liked what we were doing.
AP: Well we jammed after didn’t we and really liked where it was going. And the dynamic at the time, although we did have a couple of people come in, we felt so comfortable, we just carried on as we were.
TM: So how does your song writing process work? Do you put the music down first and then work on the lyrics…
AP: I do everything. (Laughs)
SR: We do a lot of jamming, and just playing. Lee will either already have lines or poems written, won’t you? Or you’ll write it on the fly along with the jam, because we might inspire him to think of something. Generally it takes you two or three jams and you’ve got it. Then if it’s a good song we know it’ll work straight away.
AP: Sometimes it’s just a little tiny riff isn’t it, from you or from me, and then we all play it together.
SR: We never just come to the table with a song, finished, any of us.
AP: We all kind of respect each other enough that if I came in and said, this is the song, these are the lyrics, this is how it should go, I’d be shown the door pretty much. It’s the same with Si as well. We just go, this is what I feel should go on there and we just play around with it.
SR: I never take it too far. If I’ve written something and think, I like that, that feels good, I’ll present it to the lads and see what they’ll come up with. And every time, if it’s a good one, it becomes..
LV: And usually blossoms into something completely different and even the person who wrote it can’t believe it’s got to that and it’s even enjoyable to the person who’s been playing it themselves for a couple of weeks trying to get it right because now suddenly it’s another thing. And that’s the dynamic again. You know, you get somebody in who hasn’t been with you when you started writing it. It’s taken us a long time to get to a point where for example, we started writing a new one recently and it struck me that once we’d worked out that there were a couple of key lines in it musically and that all we needed really now, was a bridge and a middle A of some description we can link these together with, it didn’t matter that I didn’t have any lyrics at that point, we already knew, together, that once we’ve got this inner structure, and we record it in one line like that, we’ll take that home, he’s written that, so now I can sit there, I’ve already worked out the harmony with what’s going on, once they’ve gone, “ah, no it needs to go there”, “yeah, ah that sounds cool”, then I’ll go “right, now we need to..” and we’ll just have a little digital two mic recorder and acoustic thing in the room, instantly that will record the rough version of what we’re doing there so we never forget it, because it is very jammy and often the magic’s hidden in there somewhere and you find it a little while later.
SR: You have to find it a few days later don’t you; I tend to e-mail it
AP: If you didn’t do that, we’ve had experience where we haven’t recorded it and we’ve come back and none of us can really remember what’s happened and we play something completely different.
SR: I suppose it’s safe to say that we’re working on another album, because it feels right to do that now doesn’t it? And straight away things have started coming out already; two or three decent things are ready pretty much.
AP: Don’t ask us when it’s going to come out though
TM: It’ll be ready when it’s ready type of thing?
SR: Yeah exactly. We don’t want to rush it; we’re not putting any time scale on it.
Keep an eye out for part two of this interview which will be published on here very shortly!