INTERVIEW: Simon Fowler / Daniel Rachel – One For The Road

INTERVIEW: Simon Fowler / Daniel Rachel – One For The Road

Evergreen beloved brummie quartet Ocean Colour Scene are cemented as an indispensable guitar folk rock band who emerged in the early-mid 90’s and are still firing on all cylinders 30 odd years down the line.

Back when the band broke into the mainstream, appearing on Channel 4’s The Word as an eager wide eyed 60’s mod throwback 4 piece, regular slots in the weekly music papers illustrated front man Simon Fowler adorning a long sleeved striped t shirt, looking like a mix of early 60’s Paul Jones combining the wiry magnetic appeal of Mick Jagger, the band didn’t get the recognition their music and image deserved. Fast forward a few years I caught the band in a small setting at Nottingham’s Rock City supporting Oasis on a string of dates in small venues, this was when OCS were gaining popularity again thanks to the meticulous work of Steve Cradock who had been chosen to tread the same floorboards as his hero Paul Weller.

Fast forward another year or so, I caught the band once again in Nottingham this time in the bar at Notts County Football Club. The band were championed as comeback kings having had their Green Onions anthem Riverboat Song chosen as the opening theme tune to Chris Evan’s chaotic yet loveable early evening televised showpiece TFI Friday. Since this time the band have stayed consistent, producing some of the very best self-penned songs this country has ever composed from those years. Recently I witnessed the band return triumphantly to their roots in Birmingham headlining at a picturesque open-air event, Pairc Festival, situated in Kings Heath, a stones throw away from the bands stomping ground.

The bands frontman Simon Fowler has an overly infectious charm, quick wit and a longevity of appeal that has naturally followed him since being a journalist right up to his rock and roll days, it is with these traits a new book; One For The Road: The Lives and Lyrics of Simon Fowler should be fully embraced and remembered like a winning goal in the FA Cup final.

Fowler is a unique front man, not many of his kind come along in our life time, but when they do you know you’re in the presence of someone special whether it be up on stage, in a studio setting or one on one, which I was fortunate enough to enjoy an hour or so of his time, along with the books co-author Daniel Rachel to discuss this exciting publication centered around the life of Fowler, each shared with me their travels towards the culmination of the book including some entertaining and revealing stories thrown in.

Both gave little glimpses into what fans can expect. Whilst many might’ve thought Fowler was the hoarder with reams of archive material it is infact ace script writer Rachel that has kept and allowed access to hordes of artifacts including handwritten lyrics and unseen photos Rachel ‘there’s Fanatics (Fowler’s previous band) previously unseen photos, handwritten lyrics amongst the collection. 90% of the book I was able fill with stuff I had, I don’t know why I still have this stuff.’ Rachel continues ‘My initial thoughts was the book would all be in Simons words, but it’s turned out to be a conversation between us 2 and our friendship from the past 5 decades, with a depth and warmth to how we’ve been on this journey together, it’s a lovely thing. I have a better memory than Simon, but once Simon heard a certain place or time everything came flooding back to his mind.’

The friendship between Fowler and Rachel started way before Ocean Colour Scene, even before Fowler became a journalist, Rachel ‘The first day I met Simon I thought he was going to be a pop star. He acted in a way that he would be a star, he had the best voice we all heard. He played to me privately once a cover of Waiting For My Man, I thought John Lennon was in the room. Steve Cradock was desperate for Simon to be in a band with him, Simon was very loyal towards being in the band with me at the time, even though Chris Cradock was trying to get him to join Steve.’

Fowler ‘I made the recordings (some appear in the release) in my Mum and Dads house on a tape, which is how I still record ideas for songs. Daniels’s Mum was very close to me and my partner Robert. The cassettes that Daniel owns were made for Daniels Mum who was a big influence on me for caring and reaching out to me and Robert’.

Things started to change for Simon when he teamed up with Steve Cradock and Damon Minchella after going to a Stone Roses gig at Birmingham Irish Centre ‘seeing The Stone Roses was a big influence on us all’. Rachel ‘a club in Birmingham called Sweat we visited regularly; musical influences were not true to what it really was by the band. The image was always related to Mod but there was a lot more influences than the journalists would think.’

Lyrics have been a focal point for Fowler, which get extensive coverage in the book ‘99% of the (OCS) lyrics are written by me, apart from Riverboat where the music came first. For me to write a song I would have to sit down with a guitar and start to write. When I started out the songs I wrote were very derivative of my heroes like Bowie and Dylan, but isn’t everyone out to follow their heroes’.

The journey continues in the book with traces of when they were stopped from performing, Fowler ‘Dave Bates head of Fontana stopped us from playing live, we were told to make an album of guaranteed top 5 hits, so we retreated to Birmingham.’ Rachel ‘Moseley Shoals was written when the band were all on the dole. The culmination of smoking spliffs, drinking cider and taking drugs helped fuel the productivity. Fontana turned the band down even when they had a demo tape with many of the tracks from Moseley Shoals.’

Fowler ‘King Heath, Birmingham in 1992 was where we wrote Moseley Shoals, before its release we toured with a band from up north. I saw the riot when Oasis played Newcastle, the signs preceding the gig weren’t good as after they arrived their merch store was done over. After 5 minutes of the band being on stage Noel came bursting through the backstage doors covered in blood saying he had been hit on stage, the band had jumped into the crowd. ‘John Lennon wouldn’t go back on stage’. The next gig was at Town and Country, Leeds, Radio 1 were all over the gig, I said to the band ‘I know what you’ve done, you’ve bigged this up’, this was wall to wall coverage for band.’

The crux to get the book together appears to be influenced by one of the Fab Four, Fowler ‘the trigger point was the Paul McCartney lyric book, you take a song which makes a chapter, 1234 the Craig Brown Beatles book was also an influence. Those gave me a hint how to frame the book.’ with these example publications plus the influence of Rachel the culmination comes in the form of this majestic book that showcases Fowler to be one of the great front men. Fowlers portrait is framed of a man always at the peak of his craft, emotive to the point of genius with a Bic pen in his hand ready to spin a rhythmic tale or 3. If this new release is anything to go by the joy of speaking with the great man all who purchase it will be in for a treat.

One For The Road can be ordered via the following link

Matt Mead

Matt Mead

Freelance writer who likes anything with heart and soul