Tom Spencer (The Professionals) Q&A

 

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Q1. Growing up you were surrounded by music and art, did you realise then that this would be the path you would follow and did you appreciate the skills they were learning you at the time?

I didn’t know any different. I’d wake up with various musicians asleep on sofas, it was normal to me. My school mates hung out at mine because you could smoke and write on the walls.

Q2. What are your memories of playing in your Fathers band, was this a harsh learning curve or a great experience to be given?

Now he’s gone I realise what a great experience it was. Getting to know him as an adult and mate. He was harsh in that he wouldn’t lend me things like leads or picks – get your own he’d say. I’m always kitted out nowadays. Other band members come to me for strings and fuses, it’s one of my roles.

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Q3. How good/bad were your early bands, and what difficulties did you come up against in those early days after your fathers band?

My early band life coincided with the advent of dance music. That and the pay to play bollocks that was going around in London venues. It was difficult and frustrating.

Q4. Big Boy Tomato managed to get a record deal, was this your first experience with a record label and what went wrong?

By now its the early 90’s – a more band friendly era with the indie labels.  Our small deals were good then, we signed to a bigger label who basically used us a tax write off, totally killing the momentum we had gained.

Play: The Loyalties – Til The Death Of Rock and Roll

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Q5. You went on to play in the Lurkers for a number of years, how different was this from your previous bands as they had already been around for a while and had some success?

I think Arthur and the Lurkers saved my career. For the reasons given above, giving up was getting close. The Lurkers had been signed to Beggars Banquet at the same time as my dad. Arthur lived up the road, so I knew him. All of a sudden I was touring Europe, getting paid and more importantly getting treated with respect. Venues restocked rider fridges, audiences appreciated you – it was great. It gave me the confidence to form the Yoyos and kickstart the next chapter of my music career,

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Q6. The Yo Yos and the Loyalties were bands that released very little, but what was released was very impressive. Do you think they could have made a bigger impact given other circumstances?

Two totally different stories. The Yoyos came together when me and Danny McCormack were both asked to do BV’s on a Toy Dolls album. We had so much in common and we were both gagging to start something. The Wildhearts had just split up. I was naive when it came to the heroine thing though. Drug issues got worse. We signed a three album deal with sub-pop but they dropped us after one. We did two long tours of the US. I think we were a bit too rock n roll for them – lots of complete chaos – real sex drugs and rock n roll with a dose of violence thrown in. Missing money, cut arteries – you couldn’t make it up.

The Loyalties was a band formed by myself and Rich Jones. Designed as a vehicle to get us gigs abroad. I’m proud of both albums but yes, they didn’t see well. I guess we didn’t really put the time and effort in.

Play: The YO YO’S – My Sunshine Girl

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Q7. What was your thinking when asked to join the professionals, did you envisage the extent in which the reformation of the band has been received and how has Stevie Jones reacted to you taking your place?

I was originally asked just to rehearse until Mr Jones came over for the gigs. When it turned out he wasn’t coming, it had become good in its own right. Not sure what Steve thinks now. Cookies with him in LA now. I might find out more on his return. It was major when he agreed to play on the album though, him and the other guests. It gave me the confidence to take it further.

Play: The Professionals – 1-2-3

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Q8. The Professionals already had an impressive back catalogue, but what is your own opinion of the new material on “What in the World”?  Did you know when you recorded it you had something very special, or have you been surprised by the attention and adulation it has received?

The adulation was a great surprise. I’ve always given my bands everything and been proud of what I do. I guess the main surprise is any form of success. I still make music despite a lack of it commercially.

Play: The Professionals – Good Man Down

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Q9. What was the process in getting these songs to an album, was it different to other bands you have been in and did you all share your experiences in bringing something to the album? How did you choose which guest to have on which song, was this a difficult process?

The guests were just down to Cookies marvelous address book. He just asked mates. We worked on the songs in threes. Strummed them on acoustics. Then I made demos on Garageband. We then went into Zac Starkey’s studio to lay down the foundations. The final 10 songs were worked on further at Dave Draper’s studio in Pershore. Guests sent files from various studios, we added bits and pieces. Dave as producer made it all work. having said that me and Cookie had a hands on approach throughout. I guess we co-produced it. Dave has brilliant ears, he could hear a dog fart a mile away, but we knew what we wanted and stopped it ever straying from that.

Play: The Professionals – Going, Going, Gone

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Q10. People may not know that you are a talented artist as well as musician and have your own Stained Glass studio at www.tattooglass.com , did this passion start with being around your mother who was an artist.

Yes. I’ve always had to supplement my musical life with various jobs. At one point I started helping my mum out, absolutely no intention to take it further. I then noticed my tattooed arms looked a bit like stained glass panels – strong colours surrounded in black borders. I made a stained glass jukebox for my own flat, put a picture online, and started getting orders. It’s become a business now.

Q11. There are some great pieces on your website very intricate and colourful, there is a range of influences running through them including punk, Skulls the sea etc. How would you describe your work or is every piece an individual thought?

Some (maybe most) of my work is commissioned, so the subject is chosen by the customer. Other stuff I make for galleries, there I can make what I want. I’m deviating from the tattoo thing a bit now. I’m using a lot of reclaimed old church glass in pieces.

Q12. What is your favourite song of all time?

Wow! Some question. No one could answer that.  Even on Desert island discs you get 8. I had some mates round the other night – drinking and playing tunes. My favourite that night was ‘White man in Hammersmith Palais’

Play: The Clash – (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais

Q13. What is your favourite song that you have been involved in musically? 

Another bastard question!!! I’m answering the whole of What in the world. The boss might be reading this.

Play: The Professionals – Let Go

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