So for anyone unfamiliar with yourself, tell us a little bit about your backstory and how you ended up here.
I’m Miles, I’ve been playing for years. We all have. I’d written a bunch of songs in the 1990s and made a few demos. Later on I got married and had kids and ran an arts festival and was writing a lot, and the music took a back seat for about ten years. My marriage ended in 2016 and it really made me ask a lot of questions about my life. What did I really want to do? And one of the answers was play music. I met Billy Hickling (drums) and Tim Bruce (bass) and Alan Dawson (guitar) almost by chance, partly from playing open mic nights in York. Billy I’d seen play with King Courgette. We did a music and poetry gig in September 2018 and Tim happened to be there. We got talking afterwards and he said he’d been in lots of bands. We played for the first time with the three of us in September 2018 – just jamming at Billy’s house, and I thought it was brilliant. It had a lot of energy. As a songwriter you can play the guitar and do the vocal but sometimes you need that power. They are a brilliant rhythm section. Billy’s always trying new things out and Tim can draw on his time in soul bands and playing bits of funk and disco. Billy auditioned for Stone Roses and Tim for Simply Red. Meeting Alan was similar – he walked into The Three Legged Mare one night in the summer of 2018 and he was fantastic, playing all these jazz things. We played together that night. As a band, we’ve done maybe seven or eight gigs. We were just getting going and then coronavrirus happened.
How have you coped with coronavirus?
It’s been a drag for so many musicians and venues. We’ve shared a few ideas via garageband etc. We are hoping to record in June but the studio want no more than three people in at one time, which is fair enough under the circumstances. Tim’s been a bit bored I think. Billy’s painted his rehearsal area and I’ve been writing lots. I write poems and stories as well as songs, so it’s been quite good for me. But it’s messed up our plan for playing live. I hope we can get some more stuff online soon. I’ve read a few bits of dystopian fiction over the years, so I wasn’t hugely surprised by it. The loss of human contact was the hardest thing, for me. One of my new songs refers to the virus. It’s called ‘Drag Me To The Light’.
What’s Happening Now: Tell us about what you are currently up to.
We launched our first video in February, for a song called ‘When It Comes To You’. It was great to get it online. The first things anybody wants these days is a video so they can get a flavour of what you are like. It took a while to sort it out. It was filmed in December 2019 at The Crescent in York and we got it online in February 2020. People are looking at it. Video and Youtube are a really powerful way way of getting your music out there. The song is on Spotify and iTunes etc. It’s a fun song. It’s got a bit of that new wave influence in there. Billy and me both love The Police, The Pretenders – that sort of thing.
What is next for you?
We’re not sure how many gigs we can play, so we are going to focus on recording music and making videos. I’d like to get another video online soon, and hopefully, we can start to build an audience. Everything takes time. I want it all today but, as Tim reminded me philosophically a while ago, Rome wasn’t built in a day. We’re very independent-minded, keeping our own stamp on things is important, so maybe the slow approach is okay. I hope the live scene will return in due course. It could be a while.
Give us an insight into your Influences & Inspiration
Influences? Between us, most types of popular music. Tim likes soul, r’n’b. He likes Lindisfarne a lot. He used to go and see them. Billy likes The Police, Stone Roses. Alan likes David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Randy Newman. I love Newman too. He’s such a good songwriter. For me, it’s really about good songwriting. Use the words and music to touch people. Move them -= physically and emotionally. I saw Paul Simon in Hyde Park a couple of years ago and he said a lot of his songs were meant as dance songs. The way music makes you want to jump about. Van Morrison’s great that way – I love his music. Also, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Leonard Cohen, Jackson Browne. Justin Currie is amazing. That guy is so talented. I like the new wave thing a lot, too – The Police, The Pretenders, Blondie – all those bands. They had so much energy, and wrote great pop music. We try and use some of that punchy sound in Miles and The Chain Gang. ‘When It Comes To You’ is pretty fast. I tend to write short songs. Don’t outstay you’re welcome. You’re not in Yes! I can see us doing some longer things, in a Neil-Young sort of way, but maybe in the future.
I’ve chosen The Pretenders – a clip of them rehearsing Brass In Pocket from 1979. I could have chosen Van Morrison, or Bruce Springsteen, or Del Amitri, but this is great. The audio isn’t the best, but just the way they work as a band, facing the drummer, and the cohesiveness between the four of them. Being in a band is like being in a gang, you really share something between you, and this clip shows that. The first Pretenders album is one of the greatest rock n roll albums ever. They were extraordinary. They really understood band dynamics. It’s not just a thrash. Honeyman-Scott, the lead guitar player, in particular, was fantastic. The story is tinged with sadness. There were a lot of drugs, and both James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon were dead within a few years of this clip being filmed. Chrissie Hynde said they were a dangerous band. And she meant it. They were so dangerous they destroyed themselves. Chrissie looks gorgeous in this clip. She’s had a great career but that first album is a towering achievement.
Miles and the Chain Gang’s latest single ‘When It Comes To You’ is available on Spotify, GooglePlay, Apple Music and Amazon MP3.