LOOKING FOR A KISS – Last Great Dreamers guitarist Slyder Smith

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The Last Great Dreamers are a British rock/pop band with a bit o’ glam n’ swagger. I talked to guitarist and vocalist Slyder, who took of his shades ’n’ top hat and told me where it all began for him starting with his earliest gigging experiences…‘In the 80’s my first gigging band was called Scarlet Tarts, we were a kind of glam/goth band influenced by Hanoi Rocks, New York Dolls and Sisters of Mercy. I joined when I was 16 and my first gig was at Fareham Youth Centre in Portsmouth. The following year the band split and I formed my own band Anyone’s Daughter, taken from the Deep Purple song. We played in the Portsmouth and Southampton area in pubs and clubs with our biggest show being a support slot with the then up and coming Wolfsbane. Coincidentally I will be hooking up with them again 30 years on as we will be guests on 2 of their shows in December!
Disillusioned with the local scene I moved up to London after answering an ad that Marc (Valentine – Last Great Dreamers vocalist/guitarist) had placed looking for like-minded musicians to form a band into Hanoi Rocks, Dogs D’Amour etc.’

silver1992
‘With Silver Hearts later re-named Last Great Dreamers we played 100’s of pub and club shows all over the UK. We did the rounds in London at places like Covent Garden Rock Garden, Shepherds Bush Opera on the Green until we started getting regular shows at London’s Marquee club including supports with Suzi Quatro, Dogs D’Amour amongst many others. Highlights from that era were 2 support tours to promote our first album with Bang Tango and then Warrant also taking us into Europe’.

1989
‘More recently we have toured with The Runaways’ Cherie Currie on her first UK tour for over 30 years, this was very special as it felt like we were properly back and not just on a nostalgia trip. We had just released our first brand new single Dope School and the tour was an amazing experience being our first proper tour for over 20 years. Following that was a UK tour with Tigertailz in 2016, again a great tour and another new single release with Glitterball Apocalypse’.

LGD are involved in a pledge campaign and I was going to write about the pledge system that a lot of bands are involved in, but Slyder just nailed it… ‘Basically the pledgemusic campaign is a brilliant way to fund your music with no record company. The fans can pre-order the record so you can use the funds to make and manufacture your product. The pledgers also get exclusive updates on the progress including pics, videos, artwork etc. Plus the opportunity to get stuff like private gigs, signed stuff, test pressings, rare pics and demos etc. As well as cutting out the middle man and giving us more control over what we do it also gets the fans directly involved. It’s very humbling to have so many people pledge their hard earned cash so we can make our record, it really means a lot! We had great success on our last album and this time has been even better having raised the stakes to make a bigger and better album!’

How has the internet impacted on music ? ‘It’s a lot easier to get your product out there now. When our first album came out in 1994 it was very hard for fans to find it despite being distributed via one of the largest independents, also we weren’t allowed to sell any at gigs. Now with distribution via online sellers, download sites etc. plus our own website and Amazon shop our products are easy to find. Online marketing and social media is also fantastic for independent bands although it’s getting more expensive and the market is flooded a bit. The downside I guess is streaming and illegal downloading which really cheapens the product which is still very expensive to produce’.

Who were your influences in music ?  ‘I’ve had so many influences in music over the years and now I still reference loads of stuff from my childhood and teenage years when I’m writing and recording. I caught the tail end of glam rock as a kid but I first started buying records in the late 70’s when I was about 7/8 years old, mostly post punk/new wave stuff. I then got more into rock and metal so I suppose my earliest influences in my guitar playing were probably Ritchie Blackmore and Bernie Torme being a huge Deep Purple and Gillan fan. Into my teens I discovered Hanoi Rocks so Andy McCoy then became a big influence and the whole Hanoi vibe and image which led me back to early 70’s glam rock which I’d just missed out on so I’d add Marc Bolan into the mix.
All this led to me moving to London at the start of the whole Sleaze Rock n Roll scene heralded by the likes of Dogs D’Amour and The Quireboys. Since then Manic Street Preachers have also have been a constant in my life so they must have influenced me a lot over the years’.

How did you get involved in playing music, was there a defining moment when you said ‘I want to do that’ ? ‘Music was always being played in my house growing up and was important to all the family. I did have a guitar when I was about 4 or 5 but never really learned to play it. Top of the Pops was a huge event every week on Thursday nights. I have vivid memories of the likes of Alvin Stardust, Mud, Darts and Boomtown Rats on that show and I used to go to town every week to buy a single with my pocket money. I was kind of in a school band when I was about 10, we would play along to AC/DC records round my friend’s house, making a racket without being able to actually play. I was the drummer and my kit was a table football table with Tupperware pots as drums. I did have real drum sticks though!
The defining moment though was at the age of 11 when I went to my first gig, Saxon at Portmouth Guildhall closely followed by Thin Lizzy and Motorhead. After that I used to stage my own ‘gigs’ in my bedroom where I would mime to my records in front of my mirror with a tennis racket as a guitar! Soon after this I got my first proper guitar, a 5 watt amp and a fuzz box. I soon formed a band with some school mates. Again we couldn’t really play properly but from this it developed as I started guitar lessons and taking it more seriously’.

MARQUEE

What were your experiences of recording ?  ‘I started writing and recording way back with Anyone’s Daughter, we recorded 3 demos. The first was crudely done on a 4 track in our rehearsal room which was also a school classroom. My first proper studio experience was one that the band won in a Battle of the Bands competition. It was an 8 track studio, all a bit ropey but good experience I guess.
Once I had joined up with Marc and we’d formed Silver Hearts we recorded lots of demos over the years. We rehearsed for years at Alaska Street Studios, Waterloo and did most of our demo recording there, the last of which got LGD signed to Bleeding Hearts Records in 1993. Since reforming LGD those early demos have become quite sought after so as part of our pledgemusic campaign we’ve got them onto a limited edition CD set.
Our first album, as Last Great Dreamers, was recorded at Lynx Studios, Newcastle, formally owned by AC/DC’s Brian Johnson. We were signed to Bleeding Hearts Records (Music For Nations). Which was owned by Eric Cook and Tony Bray (Abaddon from Venom). Although names like Andy Scott (The Sweet) and Chas Chandler were banded around as producers it ended up being produced by house engineer Kevin Ridley. The first attempt resulted in the studios closure for 6 weeks as a cup of sugary coffee fell off a monitor into the mixing desk wrecking most of the channels. Eventually we got back in the studio to complete it with the house engineer Kevin Ridley and the result was Retrosexual released in November 1994 on CD. Re-released on our own label in 2015’.

CRASH LP

‘Our next release was Crash Landing in Teenage Heaven. We recorded most of it at Alaska Studios, London during the mid-late 90’s. 3 of the tracks were for single release with Bleeding Hearts Records but after getting out of that deal it was planned for release on X Records but that company went bust. LGD split soon after in ’97 but on our return in 2014 we decided to release our ‘lost album’ on our own label Ray Records.
Since then we recorded our first album proper, since our return, Transmissions from Oblivion. This was mostly recorded at Foel Residential Studios in rural mid Wales, released in September 2016 on Ray Records on CD and vinyl. It was successfully funded by a pledgemusic campaign. We are currently recording our yet to be titled fourth album also with the help of a pledgemusic campaign. This time we are in a small studio in Henley working with producer Pete Brown (son of Godfather of Rock n Roll Joe Brown). It would be quicker to list who he hasn’t worked with but to name a few Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds, Status Quo, George Harrison… the list goes on. He comes from a rock background having cut his teeth working for producer Chris Tsangarides (Anvil, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest) but has vast experience across many genres. We’ve just spent 10 days laying down all the rhythm tracks and so far it is sounding fantastic. I would say this could be the biggest and best Dreamers album to date!’

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Did you record any TV appearences or film any music videos ? ’We never did any videos back in the 90’s, mostly because our record company wouldn’t fund any! With the last 2 albums we have made our own videos, 3 from each record. All can be found on our You Tube channel. They are pretty low budget mostly filmed on iphones but with great results. We feel it’s all about what you capture, the creativity and the edit plus there is usually a bit of Dreamers humour in there! Our last video was made by a fan of the band that we have become friends with. He has captured loads of live and studio footage and put a great little video together for our song Tommy’s Tears from the Transmissions album’.
(Check it out, with the songs immeadiate Phil Spector intro and catchy little 60’s chorus. Another video track on their channel ’Glitterball Apocalypse’….has the opening lyrics…’The revolution starts tonight, the skys on fire, the streets are turning red’….while the song bounces along to a trippy Kinks/Hanoi tune. Well worth a listen).

1995

Have you any stories from playing gigs ? ‘There’s been loads over the years but one good one was when we were on tour with Bang Tango in 1995. We had done about 7 or 8 dates in the UK with them and had a few in Holland and Belgium to do. We had been playing pranks on each other throughout the tour as we had got to know each other really well. The last show in Holland, Bang Tango had tried to lock us in our dressing room to keep us out of mischief. The night before they had gaffa taped all our bags on the dressing room walls and ceiling so they knew we would have something up our sleeves. Meanwhile we had found some stuff in a broom cupboard in our dressing room that we thought would make good props for a joke plus we had got out of our dressing room easily. We decided that I would dress up as their bass player Kyle and surprise them on stage followed by the rest of Last Great Dreamers who were wearing an array of dodgy wigs, white overall coats and pushing brooms across the stage. It worked better than expected as Joe Leste (Bang Tango vocalist) was doing the intro to a song and I slipped on stage behind him looking very convincing as Kyle with slicked back hair, fake goatee made from gaffa tape, wrap around shades and leather waistcoat. He jumped round and proceeded to rock out to his song with the fake Kyle (me) on bass until he looked over to the right and saw the real Kyle. Then he saw the rest of LGD in wigs carrying brooms as they pretended to sweep the stage. They took it in good spirits but did have to re-start the song!’

What has music given you ? ‘I think music has always been an outlet for emotion whether playing or listening. Whether you are happy, sad, angry or depressed listening to music you love can always heal you. When LGD split in 1997 we had become very jaded by the business and that in turn made playing a chore. I played in another band for about 3 years but it never really felt quite the same as The Dreamers. Having had a 10 year break from playing completely until 2014 I now really appreciate what it means to me whether in the studio, rehearsal or on stage – it’s just a real buzz. The business is as tough and crappy as ever but when we are playing everything is alright’.

CROYDON

What are the future plans for Last Great Dreamers ? ‘This year has been another amazing year for us. We toured as special guests to The Quireboys on their UK tour in April and September doing 20 dates with them. It was a fantastic experience playing to bigger crowds and making lots of new fans and friends along the way. We also did HRHAOR Festival in Pwllheli, North Wales and HRH Road Trip in Ibiza plus a few other great festivals.
As I said we are currently running a pledgemusic campaign for our fourth album, which we have just started recording. The campaign has just hit 93% of its target so a brilliant response. It runs until 6 January so it’s still possible to pre-order the album if you want to be involved.
The album is set for release in April 2018 so we are looking to be doing a headline or support UK tour to promote that. We have a tour of Spain booked for February 2018 with some festival appearances lined up. Prior to that we have 5 dates in December including 2 shows with Wolfsbane. We’re on The Croydon Rocks Festival on the 2nd with The Main Grains and a few others plus a New Years’ Eve party which we are really looking forward to’.

For more info/live dates/tickets/pics contact the band on the official website
http://www.lastgreatdreamers.com

Or pledge at: http://www.pledgemusic.com/lastgreatdreamers

Last Great Dreamers are:
Marc Valentine – Vocals/Guitar
Slyder – Guitar/Vocals
Steve Fielding – bass
Denley Slade – Drums

Interview by Gary Alikivi November 2017.