Gibson custom

"My Les Paul . . . wouldn't leave home without it"

Hk

"It's the one amp I've stuck with for many years now"

Prs

"My Custom 22" . . . I've had it a long time, it's a gem"

SUMMER UPDATE 

Hi everyone
I know things have been a little quiet from the front-line here, but other than the regular gig to gig stuff there's not been a lot to write about.

For those of you who have seen Smokie in concert recently, you may have noticed a new member onstage due to Terry having the need for a minor operation. I'm glad to report that Terry is now very well and rejoined the band this week at the Convention Centre in Sri Lanka. Trerry has an infectious stage presence and it's great to welcome him back.
I personally would like to thank David Levi for his confident and professional contribution on the last few gigs as always he is a pleasure to work with!   Anyone who's heard my solo album will be familiar of course with David, he also makes a contribution to my new album "Under My Skin" which I'm hopeful to have some news in the next couple of weeks, in terms of a release date.

As I look ahead to Autumn, I'm planning my rig for Australia. In Sri Lanka, I've used my Hughes & Kettner Grandmeister 36 again, so that will also go to Australia. In terms of a spare I've recently latched on to the Bluguitar Amp1 . . . . an unbelievable small 100 watt amp that fits in a gig bag. click here for details.

So don't forget, keep an eye on the date sheet for changes, and get your tickets early if you want good seats in OZ !!!


 

I'M JUST AMAZED 

. . . . . I'm just amazed at the effort that folks will go to wish someone a Birthday Greeting.
In my case on the 22nd of March my personal Facebook page was awash with Birthday Greetings, which reminds me what a lucky guy I truly am.
From all corners of the globe, well-wishers sent me personal messages, posted on my wall; I even got an Mp3 email from a family in Australia singing happy birthday dear Mick, which was great, many thanks to the Brice family !!!

I just want to say a big thanks to all, you made me feel very special . . . I would like now to wish you all a very happy Easter !!!

AND THE PRODUCER SAYS . . . . . 

On the day that the great record producer, Sir George Martin has passed, I'd like to share my thoughts on the producers that I have worked with.

I've been lucky enough to work with several producers now, and that experience has given me the knowledge to make informed decisions whether that be in the studio or songwriting. Record Producers can have a huge influence on how a musician performs and ultimatly how a song will sound and an album will ultimately sound to the listener.

Simon Humphry was the first producer that I worked with on my first Smokie album. Simon knew exactly how to deal with each and every member within the band. When I was new on the scene I found him quite strict and daunting, but he taught me a lot about getting the job done, he would have a real influence on my future recordings both in Smokie and elswhere. I still see Simon now and again, I have great admiration of his skills.

Barry Beckett, came with a past record that we all held with great admiration. Barry was the keyboard player in the Mussel Shoals setup and in it's heyday Barry played on all those great albums, from Aretha Franklin to Bob Seger and the Stones. Personally I was quite scared to work with the great man when we turned up in Nashville but Barry took me under his wing somewhat, and that apprehension soon disappeared. My first sessions in Nashville were most enjoyable and Barry gave me a free reign to play what I felt was right. He said to me on one occasion "It's your party Mick . . . . Play what you feel, if it's wrong I'll tell you" . . . and of course he did, but in a nice way ! . . . RIP Barry

Peter Iverson produced two albums for Smokie when we did the "Uncovered Projects"    Peter was a real technician, his knowledge of anything technical was really quite jaw dropping. Peter was also a great musician, both as a gutar player and keyboard player, so when he suggested something he had the experiance to grab the guitar and say "Like This" He knew sound no doubt about it. I had great times working with Peter and had many a fun session, but he was serious about everything he did. Peter also mixed both Uncovered albums, and they can stand tall that's for sure.

John Parr is a great songwriter and he learned most of his producing skills by working with the great Mutt Lange and David Foster. Myself and John co-produced a couple of tracks on my first solo album, and he produced the vocals on 'Remember Those Days" . . . . I don't think I sang the song that great, but It was a long hard session and when John says "Again" he means again and again and again and again untill you get it right . . . . he's a task master and his focus is one hundred percent especially when it comes to diction of sung words.

Stuart McRedie has produced four tracks on my new forthcoming album and he's another technical genius. He seems to make it a priority to get the drums and bass right before venturing further; for other musicians this can seem tedious, but he totally gets drums . . . . he will spend time making sure that drum fills etc will never interfere with what others are playing. I think he gets a better drum sound than anyone I have worked with. He hates autotune, so if it's going to be a vocal session, prepare for it to be a long one !!!!

Blue Miller has won two Grammys and for no other reason than having the talent to deserve it. Unlike Stuart McRedie and Peter Iverson, the technical side of things are almost totally ignored, he will sit with an acoustic guitar stating how bad the lyric is in a certain part of the song and needs to be changed. He works the song so that all is understood for both the musicians who are playing and eventually the listener.     Blue somehow gets into your thoughts, he has a mission to make ideas happen in a way that the writer will be happy and comfortable even after he has made changes. When it comes to vocals, all efforts are challenged to make a line or a word better but he keeps it enjoyable. Backing vocals are strict and he takes hours just getting them right. I think my recent recordings with Blue are some of my best ever works.

There were other Producers around whom I have worked with in the past.     I remember working on a session with two prominent producers from Sweden once. I hated every minute of it.  They did know their shit and I'm sure they were very good  . . . . I guess for them, right place wrong time . . . . That record never materialised, and perhaps at the time the band members didn't give them they effort that they deserved.
Another Danish producer for me, just never got it and the album made in ten days sounds like? . . . . well; an album that was made in ten days, with mistakes that should have been taken care of.


 

RUSSIA 

The one thing about touring; as the old saying goes . . . . "you get to see the world" (I could have also joined the navy I guess?) Anyways two gigs in Russia in two great cities, St. Petersburg and Moscow. I have to say I enjoyed both !

First live dates of the year, I generally feel a little rusty, but i'd made a real effort in January to practice somewhat, I had a few days in the UK plugged in my boogie and went for it. I won't say practice makes perfect, but it sure helps!        I realise at this point how comfortable I am with a guitar round my neck and I actually enjoy the routine of being back on the road. We have a relatively quiet start to 2016, but dates coming in thick and fast with a summer diary that is almost full, will ensure a rather busy year.

It's great to be back on the road again !!!!!

"MY KINDA HEAVEN" BACK IN STOCK AND READY FOR SHIPPING 

After lot's of requests to purchase Mick's first solo album, we've finally managed to secure a small number and they're ready for shipping.
It's highly unlikely that there will be a re-pressing of this album, so when they're gone. . .  They're gone!!

Paypal is a safe option for your purchase, but remember that a digital version of this album is available on iTunes.

MERRY CHRISTMAS 

I would like to wish my friends, fans and followers a very Happy Christmas and a very prosperous New Year.
This is the one time that I get a chance to thank you all for your support over the past year and I genuinely appreciete your efforts in getting to our live shows.
It is my hope that 2016 will be  a busy year for touring and I can't wait to see the release my new album "Under My Skin" which is now finished and getting mixed in Nashville. I can tell you that I will be playing some live shows to support the release, so maybe a few of you can get to see me in the UK !!!

RUOKANGAS GUITARS FINLAND 

Two great shows in Finland at the weekend with Slade and Nazareth, the final shows in my calander before I take a break for Christmas.

Last summer I came across a guitar company called Ruokangas based in Finland. A picture of a particular guitar that they make, namely a Mojo made me contact them about an artist deal. Juha the MD and Luthier at the company came straight back to me with loads of info, and we discussed the possibility of hooking up and maybe making an order sometime in the future?
When I saw the Finnish dates come onto our tour dates I contacted Juha to invite him along to one of our shows. We instantly got on and he brought along a Mojo to show me his skills . . . . . Wow . . . . When it comes to guitars I take some impressing. I have to be turned on to an instrument in all dimensions, the look of it. the way it plays, and the way it feels. Ruokangas Guitars are quite special let me tell you. So here goes . . . . My review of the "Mojo" A "Mojo King" to be exact!

FIRST IMPRESSION
The Candy Apple Red colour looks stunning and I have to say Red would not normally be a colour I would go for, but this colour over the solid alder body is very nice.
Being based around a Telecaster I expected the guitar to be a little lighter? but it's certainly not heavy either.
The one thing that makes you stare at the Mojo is the fact that it looks so different, yet a shape we all recognise? The scratchplate that dominates the front of the guitar is probably the key here, it's shape almost Jazzmaster in a fashion but original too. The scratch plate houses two of the three pickups one being the Mojo P90 and the other a T-type pickup. The Bridge Pickup is housed in a steel case at the bridge position and is somewhat more powerful that a regular T-pickup of which the technical aspects I am a little unsure although I know it has some noise canceling capabilities. I only got to see it just before stage time, so I don't have all the info. A five way switch takes care of grabbing your selection of tones along with a series (Coil Tap) switch in the les paul position. Now I have to admit that I didn't have the time to sit with this guitar and plug it in before the show, but Juha made a suggestion that worked really well and I quickly addapted to the guitar and it's switching of pickups.

BUILD QUALITY
When you know guitars, you know what is good and what is bad . . . . The "Mojo" I had my hands on is top notch, boasting the best materials money can buy. When your looking at guitar that the guy sat next to you has bulit with his own hands, you can't help but accept the efforts that has gone into something that Juha hinges his reputation on. The Mojo oozes quality and he clearly has a passion, that is reflected in his instruments.
I was blown away by the feel and look of the neck, I think it was maple with a curly maple fretboard that just looks like marble and gives this guitar that real wow factor. The headstock is remarkbly original yet somehow stays retro to it's influence the Tele. Juha has sculpted the edge of the matching painted headstock with precision and you start to realise that nothing here is accidental, or an after-thought. He tells me that this is one of his trademarks !!

PLAYABILITY
The Mojo had a set of 10's fitted, which normally feel way to heavy for me as I use 9's, but i was surprised at the ease of how it played, It was set up perfectly and I instantly felt at home. It had a great acoustic quality and plenty of "twang" allowing chords to ring out, I was crying out to plug it in in!!!!

SOUNDS
I only used two of the three pickups on the songs I used the guitar on, so I can't make a review of all the sounds and tones on offer. I had intended to play the guitar on one song in the middle of the set, I played it on two and I used it for the encore, two more songs, So I think that tells you how good I thought it sounded. One of the band members looked over when I went into one of my big solos . . . . It got approval right there and then, onstage!!

VERDICT
The "Mojo" isn't cheap but like all things in life, "You get what you pay for"  . . . . I'm sure anyone buying a Ruokangas would do so because they want somethng special  and out of the ordinary.

Juha is a great guitar builder and now I'm glad to say, a friend too!



 

AUTUMN CATCH UP 

I say Autumn catch up, because for the first time yesterday I felt like winter was on it's way. . . . . So what's been happening?
Well for one thing the Smokie gigs have been rather good and the recent trip to Israel was pretty awesome let me tell you. Three gigs in a row were totally sold out, One in Haifa and two in Tel Aviv. Great place, wonderful people and great food!, what more could you ask? . . . however I'd also like to add that it's been a long time since I've enjoyed three gigs together like that. I thought the band played really well and the audiences were certainly one of the noisiest in a long long time! Everyting just came together and yes, great memories.

"LUKE"
I'm enjoying my Musicman Luke guitar at the moment, very nice instrument to play and quite inspiring, I might just keep it on the road a little longer.

MIXING OF UNDER MY SKIN
Pete Greene sent me the first three tracks and after a few agreed tweaks, they really do sound amazing, however a Record Company gig took Pete off my album onto another project, but he tells me he'll be back at the faders before Christmas!

MUSIC STREAMING
I was reading about the new Adele release that WILL NOT be available on streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music and I totally agree that bigger artists such as Adele and Taylor Swift stick up for matters that they feel is right? Maybe this stance will allow smaller artists who don't have such clout, to have their opinions heard and possibly allow change that may enhance earnings that a truly deserved, who knows?

MUSIC I LIKE AT THE MOMENT
I've just dropped the latest James Bay album into my music library along with the latest offering from one of my favourite guitar players, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, I love buying albums and reading the inner sleeve booklets, you can't do that with streaming!!!
Now here's one for you to look out for, especially if you like Cross over Country . . . . Chris Stapleton who's based in Nashville has a brand new album out entitled "Taveller" He's a great songwriter whom at last has his own release after penning so many hits'  He's written for Brad Paisley and the likes, so quality material on show here.

Best wishes
Mick



 

BACK IN THE THICK OF IT 

Great to be back on the road let me tell you . . . . . . . Recent gigs in South Africa, Germany, Norway and Israel have been wonderful and a totally off the wall TV show in Norway this week was rather fun, to round off another busy period.

South Africa is no doubt one of my favouite countries in the World, but on our recent tour there, we were reminded of just how dangerous SA can be. Our longtime friend and Promoter Franz along with his family, were held at gun-point and robbed in broad daylight in their own home, badly shaken; he told me that he thought it was the end of his life and he thought he was going to die. I am glad to say apart from a few bruises Franz looked well, sadly the mental scars will stay much longer.

Anyone who saw the TV show last Monday in Norway would have seen me sporting a Musicman Luke guitar. I just felt that I needed something a little more versatile in the event that I'm only carrying one guitar around with me, this cuts the mustard and I have to say sounds killer and very comfortable to get along with, so I've no doubt it'll be on the road for a while!

On the trip to Israel last week I read a book called "Eyes Wide Open" by Andy Powell . . . . . A great read about one of my all time favourite bands Wishbone Ash. Andy talks about the business he's been in for the last fifty years and the band that influenced the likes Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy, have certainly had their ups and downs. He talks about band bust-ups, that evetually saw original members scrapping in court over the use of the band's name.I do however; have a great admiration for anyone in this business who, like Andy Powell continues to not only play those songs for what he is well known for, but who tries to bring to the fans new ideas that are clearly "Not stuck in the past" . . . . . He's a true road warrior !

I love buying on Amazon!!! . . . . I bought the new David Gilmour album, "Rattle That Lock"   I have it playing in my car at the moment, yes it's a little Floyd-y but only in parts. What a great guitar player!   There's also a couple of songs what I'd describe as Folk-y? . . . . . Whilst I'm talking about guitar players . . . . I won't mention names either, so as not to offend, but;  There's a few awards been given out at the end of the year especially in the Blues Genre from the magazines that boast their presence. However; when I browse the catergory for which votes are being sought, I notice "Best Gutarist" "Best Newcomer" etc etc . . . . aside from the British Blues awards, there is never an award for "Best Songwriter" or "Best Song" which is a surprise given that that, is what we are ultimatly listening to in the first place is it not? . . . . Great to hear all this new talent, but I like to sing the song long after I've turned off the radio or switched off the CD, but I'm finding that is happening less and less!

 

IS THAT SUMMER OVER THEN? 

Is that summer over then? . . . . yes indeed and time to pack yet another case and venture back on the road.
I've had a wonderful summer and enjoyed the delights of a new house in sunnny Spain, luckily having time to spend there and enjoy time off that felt well deserved by mid August. It's amazing just how much I miss gigging and life on the road, I always notice that I'm itching to get a guitar round my neck as our summer break nears it's end.

This weeknd I look forward to gigs in Germany and the Czech Republic, before going to one of my favourite places in the World, South Africa. SA has, and will always be a special place to tour, I always feel more than anywhere else we have a status there that makes me feel very special and the venues we play are truly magnificent. Jo'burg and Cape Town will welcome us this time round, shame that we aren't doing more dates, but I'm excited all the same.

Gearwise . . . . I have a couple of new additions on order, so a new mandolin and another guitar should make their debut at a stage somewhere near you soon!!

I've been listening to an album in my car that I bought many years ago, Joe Bonamassa's "Slow Gin" . . . . Wow ! some great songs that I forgot where so good!! . . . . I don't know who looks after him but just recently he's getting more coverage than One Direction it would seem?
I also plan to buy the new David Gilmour album, no doubt that will be great too.  

So here goes, "Back To It" . . . . . . Bring It On!!!!