Following the release of Dodgy’s long awaited box set release entitled A&M Years which catalogues the bands emergence in the early 90’s before going on to be one of the most familiar bands of the period, breaking through with a mixture of soulful harmonies, catchy chord structures and a fan base that lapped up everything that the band threw at them, it feels right to catch up with one of the band, the multi talented drummer Mathew Priest who talks exclusively to Gigslutz:
Hi Math, can you tell us abit about your upbringing?
Very lucky to say I had parents who loved each other and stayed together, my Mum and Dad were from working class roots. They worked very hard, Dad was a hairdresser, had his own salons, I also had a older brother who I think was abit autistic but he was very creative and artistic, who loved his music and so did my Dad who liked collecting soul stuff on vinyl including the original Otis Redding Otis Blue album plus a lot of Rolling Stones, folk. My brother was obsessed with certain bands including collecting every The Jam and Japan single and importantly loads of Northern Soul singles.
What was the first music you can remember hearing?
70’s music specifically Billy Don’t Be A Hero on the radio which had a huge effect on me plus Seasons In The Sun which I thought was quite harrowing when I was 5 years old, after these it would have been Shawaddywaddy.
What was the first serious music you can remember hearing?
Going back to the first question it would have been from my brother’s music collection, so The Jam, Japan, a lot of 2 Tone stuff including Madness, I loved The Beat, The Specials. I think the first album I bought was Moondance by Van Morrison, this was after I heard it on Radio 1.
Did you attend many gigs when you were discovering new music?
We were very lucky living in Birmingham there was a fantastic venue called the Birmingham Odeon which is sadly not there anymore but all the bands that were coming through at the time would play there. There had a electroset that you would look up at to see who was playing there, I saw Depeche Mode, Duran Duran (all the girls likes them) Run DMC, Beastie Boys, I saw some great bands there and then was I was 17-18 I moved to London in 89 where I saw My Bloody Valentine art the Dome in Tufnell Park, Jesus Jones, Primal Scream, oh yes so many great venues.
Why did you decide to pick up playing the drums?
It was purely aesthetic. I remember seeing drummers on TV with the shiny high hats and the big symbols and I just loved the whole idea of sitting behind the big kit with all its contraptions that made all these different noises, I just loved it all.
Who influenced you to start playing the drums?
Keith Moon, My Dad had some The Who albums and I remember seeing Keith on TV and I thought ‘what the f*$k is that all about!?’. Keith was the original influence, but going further it would be Ringo Starr, Larry Mullen from U2, I was a U2 fan when I was a teenager.
Were you a casual player of the drums or did you studying the science behind playing?
I didn’t have many lessons, when my Mum and Dad saw how serious I was about wanting to play the drums they got some teacher in who used to play drums at the Albany Hotel in Birmingham. When he came to teach me, he said ‘I can’t really teach you much’ because I don’t think he knew what music I really wanted to play, so I taught myself how to play. But after the success of Dodgy around 1996-97 I thought I’d better get some proper lessons in so I approached this guy called Joel Rothman who lived in High Gate who was an old Jazz drummer from New York in the 1950’s and he couldn’t believe how shit I was ha ha, bless him.
Were you in any bands prior to joining Dodgy?
Yes I was. Sensation In The Mind, who changed their name to 3 Tiers For Tokyo and then that morphed when Nigel joined into a band called Four which eventually eventually, eventually morphed into Dodgy. Well, before we were officially Dodgy, we become Coloursonic which then became Dodgy. I was in a soul band before all this but that didn’t last very long,
How did you join Dodgy?
I formed Dodgy! With Nigel, we left Birmingham and moved to London, Nigel had a house and a girlfriend, a Austin Rover car and he rang me up one day and said ‘let’s get serious about the band’, which petrified me because he was a couple of years older than me and I was like ‘I’ve got A Levels to take and university’, I didn’t really but I just had to convince my Mum and once that happened we never looked back. I never had the slightest fear that we weren’t ever going to make the band a success from the start.
Did you build up a big following from live gigs before releasing material?
We did! Back then in 1990-91 it was all pay to play, you’d have to pay the promoters £50 and then they would give you 50 odd tickets and then you’d sell those tickets which is how you’d make your money, this included venues like The Falcon. We set up our own residency just like our heroes The Who and The Rolling Stones did, at Kingston On Thames at Backas Wine Bar. We’d advertise it as a club night, in Kingstone On Thames this was great at the time because there were a lot of colleges and universities around there at the time including a nurses college, and we’d just fly post all these places and from that the wine bar was packed out at every night we played there.
The new box set The A&M Years covers the majority of the bands commercially successful material. The material the band created are some of the most timeless guitar pop anthems of the period with harmonies to match The Beach Boys and The Beatles. Were the band on a natural flow with the songwriting process of the time?
We were yeah. We were hot. Those first songs always take a long time to come to fruition and at the time you’re not sure if they’re any good or not. Naturally because you’ve written the tunes you think they’re great but, we didn’t have much feedback at the time from any professionals, but the crowds we played to appeared to like the songs. We went straight in to record our debut and that was met favorably so we just knew people liked what we were doing so from that confidence fed into the song writing which then influenced the second album Homegrown and the tunes just flew out of us. On the first official tour we played songs from the debut album but also premiered tunes from Homegrown and even the 3rd album.
What was the songwriting process within Dodgy? Did one person have an idea for a song and then you’d all jam things out in the studio?
Nigel I guess was the creative force in the band, he would be demoing a lot, me and Nige would be doing a lot of lyrics, and yeah we would run through ideas together as we liked all the same music which made for a creative explosion in rehearsals. Andy was more of a stoned rocker, Nigel was abit of a punk and I was a soul fan, which meant we all met in the middle and we never really argued about anything.
Were any bands of the period a major influence on the band? I’m thinking specifically of The Stone Roses.
The Stone Roses were a big influence on me. I heard Made Of Stone in 1989 on Gary Crowleys radio show and I thought ‘the b@£tards, they’re doing exactly what we’re trying to do’ which was late 60’s psychedelic with a dancey beat.
I remember seeing a gig of yours when you played the Marcus Garvey Centre in Nottingham when a young band called Cast supported you. Did many new and upcoming bands support you back in the day?
It was great back then as we could decide who supported us, so I remember going to see Cast at the Astoria 2 in London, I remember a track called History that they played and I loved them, they were great. We then bumped into them when we were rehearsing in Liverpool, I heard their harmonies which were fantastic. Space also supported us. We did a big top tent tour in 1996, good way to lose money, but we played up in Greenock in Glasgow where The Supernaturals supported us, we even had a new bands tent where a brand new band played in one of tents called Muse. We also has a new band called Oasis support us at the International 3 in Manchester.
Didn’t The La’s support you at some gigs?
No, they supported us at one gig at the Sheffield Leadmill at some Tax gig, but they were very under rehearsed, it wasn’t The La’s, it seemed to be Lee Mavers and his mates. But they were still great.
Did you enjoy playing on the TV i.e. TOTP/Festival appearances? One stand out memory from seeing you on the box was Dodgy playing Glastonbury on what looked like hot sweltering day back in the 90’s, Staying Out For The Summer was being played and mid song Nigel starts playing Good Vibrations and you get from out behind the kit, bare-chested whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Do you have any memories of this or any other TV appearances that stand out in your memory?
That appearance especially is a standout. Back then Channel 4 broadcast the Glastonbury footage and they would go live to the festival, and we were the first band they went live to 4pm on the Friday. They wanted Staying Out For The Summer to be the first song that was played on the show so we had to keep starting and stopping the set playing anything to stall until we went live. We even played Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen whilst we waited to go live. The other thing about that time at Glastonbury The Stone Roses were set to play the festival but they had to pull out, so we said in the middle of our set ‘if you have any E’s or pills take them now, because we have’.
Have you had chance to listen back to the material in the box set? Do you have any stand out memories from any of the recordings?
The First Dodgy album which is in the set, this is the first time that album is getting a rerelease which a lot of fans are very happy about and I’ve been listening to that album a lot. The memories of recording that with Ian Broudie in Liverpool have come back to me, we recorded that in Amazon studios and loads of bands people would pop in including Cast and Space.
What are Dodgy up to at present?
Apart from the box set were playing a gig in the Half Moon in Putney, and an anniversary gig as part of the 3 Piece Suite, nothing much else at present.
Do you think there’ll be a book released on Dodgy at any point?
One was released but it was shite, it was more like a booklet, but I’ve often toyed with the idea of a book but I’m not sure it would be fair on multiple people involved with the band.
What about new material, are the band set to release anything soon?
No, not really, we have new material lying around but it takes such an effort to record stuff these days, releasing an album these days doesn’t have the longevity it used to have which is abit off putting, but you never know what will happen in the future,
Finally, what’s on your turntable at present?
It was the Dodgy album from the box set on White Vinyl, before that it was Exodus by Bob Marley.
The A&M Years can be purchased via the following link