How hard is it to get people to listen to your bands music and do you feel let down by todays music industry?
It’s very hard to get people to listen to The Universal’s music, especially as it’s guitar driven music. As daft as that sounds, in the mainstream, there’s not much call for that sound, at the moment. If there are any guitar bands in the mainstream, it’s all that limp, wimpy, indie stuff that fits nicely onto some Insurance advert on the telly. For a long time now, the only way that we’ve been able to get people to take notice of us is to get out there in front of them and play live shows as much as possible, then, the whole thing spreads by word of mouth. I still firmly believe that if we were to be one of the acts on Later with Jools Holland, or we were able to play a few decent festivals, a lot of other people would see us, hear us and be into us and the fanbase would grow considerably. How you break into those circles though is still a mystery to me.
As a songwriter and musician, I definitely feel let down by today’s music business. I’m not naive, it’s always been about money making for record companies but at least in the past they went out and looked for talent and gave bands time to develop. These days it’s all about how many Facebook followers you’ve got, which is ridiculous because that’s not even a reliable indication, as I’m told that you can buy followers.
I guess apart from the record companies, I feel a little let down by some of the artists in today’s music industry too. I don’t think that some of the established artists do enough to give a leg up to the bands that are on the fringes. When I eventually get into their position, I’ll always look to help new and up and coming bands and artists out.
Your on record as saying you don’t really see your band as a mod band but why do you think mods have taken to your band so much?
I think that Mods have taken to my band so much because they’ve got good taste and instinctively know good music when they hear it. As you mentioned, I don’t think that The Universal are a Mod band in the classic sense but the undercurrent is there. I guess the influences of Small Faces, The Who and The Jam are obvious. If I’m ever cornered into actually labelling it, I call what we do, British Guitar Music. That seems a simple enough explanation to me.
Mods love The Who, who for me, are more of a rock band, especially their later output. They love Ocean Colour Scene and The Enemy too, who, again, are not Mod bands in the classic sense. The thing I do love about Mods, with my band in mind in particular, is that if they get into something and can see its merits, they stick with it. That’s not something that a lot of people do these days.
The new Universal album (The Outsiders) you mixed yourself because you felt let down by the way your first album was mixed by others, do you feel this now gives people the true Universal sound and which tracks on the first album would you go back and put right?
I think that the new album definitely gives a truer picture of what you can expect from The Universal at this moment in time. I wanted to try and get some of the energy from our live shows to come across on a recording, hoping that the band and the songs would jump out of the speakers at the listener. Whether or not I achieved that remains to be seen. I’ll let all those who’ve bought it be the judge of that.
Regarding the first album, for me, it was the complete opposite of the new one. I felt that it didn’t represent us at all. In the grand scheme of things, that album didn’t do us too much harm because a lot of people tell me that they love it but I felt that for me and my band to push on at that time and try and make a dent in the mainstream, it left us dead in the water. I still stand beside the songs on that album though, there’s some really good ones on there that I’m proud of, ones that we still play at our live shows today.
To answer the other part to your question, personally, I’d go back and put them all right! But in a way, I suppose that’s also dodgy ground, like Paul McCartney going back and tampering with the Let It Be album. Not, of course, in anyway comparing us and our first album to Paul McCartney and Let It Be, but just the principle of it.
I guess though, it’s out there, it is what it is and I have to live with it. Maybe one day when I’ve got a bit of time on my hands, I might just knuckle down and re-record that album…..
You have a large number of tracks at demo level that people have been waiting to see released, tracks like, Seeing Angels, Pillar To Post and Leaky Boat to name but three of them, do you have any plans to release them anytime soon?
I’m currently writing new stuff for the next album for The Universal and also I’m recording an album of tracks that don’t fit with the sound of The Universal, which I’m hoping to release in the Spring under the Terry Shaughnessy name. Whether or not those three songs you mentioned will make it on there, I’m not sure, but they’re definitely in the hat and in with a shout.
Your not the biggest fan of cover bands but when you cover other bands tracks you put your own spin and take on that track like Summer Holiday and knock on wood, would you ever release an album of covers with the Shaughnessy take on them?
Yeah, I reckon at some point in the future I’d like to do a covers album. Maybe I should put it out there to everybody and ask you all what songs you’d like to see me cover on that album…answers on a postcard, please!
Your a massive Liverpool FC fan as are the rest of the band (Gary, Piet, & Dave) you write a lot of lyrics having digs at the establishment, are they fueled by what the Hillsborough families have had to put up with over such a long time?
I wouldn’t say that they’re fuelled specifically by what those families have had to endure. Having said that, there’s a song in the hat for the album I mentioned earlier, which is called ‘Invincible’. Although it isn’t specifically just about the Hillsborough families, the original idea for it came from what I’m aware of what they’ve been having to endure all this time. Justice for those families is long overdue.
Are there any songs you would never drop from a Universal set, if so what are those songs?
I wouldn’t say so, any of the songs could potentially get the chop. The problem that we’re facing these days is that most of the live shows we do only require us to play 40-45 minutes, which means that there are songs that we’d like to play, that don’t always get to make it into the set. Also, whenever we play a live show, I never really have a definite set list in my mind. I’ll usually have the first two or three songs sorted but then after that, I try to go off the vibe of the crowd, the venue and our feeling on stage. So, potentially, we could play anything from our catalogue. Obviously, if we’re promoting a new album, as we are now, (which you can buy, as it happens, from the shop at – www.theuniversal.info – shameless plug!) you’ll want to play those new songs and they’ll get a bit of a priority but nothing is safe or sacred!
You like to add bits of famous songs to the end of your original songs during your live sets, is this your way of acknowledging the people who influence yourself?
In a way, yes. Sometimes it’s also to give a nod to the song that inspired me to write the original song that we’re playing. We play a song called ‘(Everything About Me Knows That) I Want You’. We give a nod to ‘Let Em In’ by Paul McCartney at the end of the song, for the simple fact that this is my favourite song by Macca and also that I borrowed the plodding, four to the floor, bass and drums from it and wrote my own original song.
Of all the venues you have played which one do you look forward to going back to the most?
Tough question, because it’s usually more about the vibe from the crowd than the actual venue itself.
If I’m pushed to answer it though, I’d have to pick from the ones that we always get a good stage sound at. These being – The Cavern, Liverpool; Epic Studios, Norwich; The Ferret, Preston.
People say The Universal are one of the most under-rated bands around, but who are the most under-rated band The Universal have played with?
We are definitely the most hard working, under-rated band around! Everything we’ve managed to achieve has come from sheer hard work and persistence.
Ocean Colour Scene are probably the most under-rated band we’ve played with!
Over the last 18 months, there have been a couple of bands that we’ve played with that we’ve thought were excellent though…these being Electric Stars from that dodgy land of Manchester and The Local Boys from Preston