Swans In Flight
‘Far From a Swan Song!’
Swans In Flight’s own brand of ‘sumptuous’ rock music is making a considerable mark on the British live music scene. The band’s energetic and creative live show is also proving highly-desirable to concert promoters.
The current Swans In Flight live line-up consists of the following personnel: Hugo Montgomery-Swan on Lead Vocals and Guitar; Nick Carter on Drums; Julian Hutson-Saxby on Lead Guitar; Kevin Sanders on Bass Guitar; Joy Russell on Supporting Vocals; and Andy Rigler on Keyboards.
Since the launch of the band’s critically acclaimed, self-titled album in the summer of 2008, (an album which features no less than 13 name, world-class guest artists,) Swans In Flight have played many of the UK’s most prestigious and best loved venues, including London Earls Court, NEC Birmingham and Excel London.
Exclusive Magazine recently sat down with Hugo Montgomery-Swan and discussed their debut album, the current line-up, his thoughts on touring the USA, and, of course, ... Penguins!
Taking it from the top and with the name of the band created around your own last name, what other band names were suggested before this was finally chosen? "I toyed with ‘Bucket of Pus’ but it didn’t quite have the same ring to it! All joking aside, the problem with a name is that it often seems like a good idea at the time, then when you have to live with it, use it, become known by it, it never seems quite as good as at the moment when you first had that flash of inspiration. Bands should ideally establish exactly what they are before deciding on a name."
"Thin Lizzy is a good example of that. I’m sure if Phil had known what the band would become he probably would have plumped for something different. Mind you; ‘The Beatles’ is about the worst choice of name you could make – but did it matter ...?"
And being that the line-up fluctuates from band member to band member re: live performances, are you the only constant within the band each time, perhaps? "No, we’ve settled on an established and very committed line-up which is now working as a songwriting unit as well. When it comes to the ‘special guests’, they come and join the band, even if it means we have two or even three bass players on stage – as in the case when we played Birmingham NEC where we had Marco Mendoza and TM Stevens rocking out with us – it was crazy!"
Swans In Flight released a self-titled debut album back in 2008, which featured 13 world class guest artists! How long did it take to record such an album, and for your next album would you undertake such a large number of guest artists again? "It would likely features some ‘special guests’ for sure. There are some great guitar players I would personally like to invite into the frame. Our own Julian Hutson-Saxby is a beautiful player and works a dream with other musicians – as was proved at the recent London Olympia sets the band played in March of this year."
"But in terms of the current album, the mechanics of making, what is essentially a ‘rock album’ using only acoustic guitars and then adding into the frame all these ‘cats’ who were busy touring all round the world, was a huge undertaking believe me! 13 is a bit OTT I admit!"
Indeed, will there be a new SIF album released this year, perhaps? "Best speak to our management about that. We would like to, but I’m keen to ensure that we align ourselves with a label that is going to promote the product properly. We’ve got some great new material – commercial but hard enough at the same time."
It has been said that your music uses recording techniques which have sought to push the boundaries of the acoustic guitar to new dimensions! As best you can, please explain this in more detail to us "Well, in terms of the current album, we employed some very creative micing techniques and also rigged acoustic guitars up to all sorts of weird and non-conventional things – such as the case of This Poor Boy, where I played a Takemine acoustic six string through a Boss Metal Zone and a 100 watt Marshal Stack. (A rig formerly owned by Martin Barre of Jethro Tull; the same rig he used to record Aqualung and Thick as a Brick.)"
"The sound was immense, but so was the feedback! So I ended up playing the solo two rooms distant from the stack itself. It was pretty crazy – the guitar was practically jumping out of my hands!"
You yourself sing vocals and play lead guitar also - a Gibson and Fox, correct? "That’s me, although in ‘Swans’, I’m strictly rhythm guitar. The Fox is a Brazilian made solid body, with customised paint job, very pretty. But being a solid body, it’s as stable as the Les Paul on stage. Cos I do crank it! The Les Paul is a black mirror scratch plated 1970’s model I had it ‘customed up’ along the lines of John Sykes’s black Les Paul."
"In fact, when John’s guitar tech heard my guitar sound at a show we played with Lizzy at the Patti Pavillions in Swansea, he couldn’t believe it! It was a real thrill to have John Sykes’ guys quizzing me on my gear and set up. All wrong really! As for amps, at present, I use a Harkte 100 watt wedge styled amp which is unbelievably pokey – it’s a phenomenal amp."
"Also, when playing the Gibson, I go through a 100 watt Fender Tone Master stack with two 4x12 cabs. Julian is a Marshall man and has some great amps. Coupled to his Les Paul Gold Top and special rack of goodies, his live tone and sound is second to none in my view."
If you could sum up Swans In Flight (musically) in just five (5) words, what would they be? "Tunes, melody, words, rock, positivity."
Is it true you also wrote the book 'Heavy Weather Powerboating' - and if so, is this a major hobby/lifestyle of yours away from music, in general? "Offshore powerboating is my other passion. I’ve done a lot of it – mainly endurance type stuff as opposed to racing. This year I’m heading up an exploration with Pete Goss to the Arctic Circle. We’ve secured over 200k worth of corporate sponsorship for our 8 man mission and with all the press that’s now building, The Gore-Tex Arctic Challenge looks as though it could be the biggest powerboat even of its kind in 2011."
You currently only play in your homeland of the UK, but will you consider coming to the US of A and playing some shows in 2011, perhaps? "Again, I know Helen Robinson, our manager, is considering this – but yeah, we would love to...if you’ll have us!"
Of course, we' love to have you over here! So, in case Customs ask us, do you have any tattoos - and if so, and as we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, what is the latest one and where is it located?! "The only tattoo I have is on the inside of my knee where I got kicked by a horse propelling me some 20ft through the air! Strangely enough it was worse than the time I got kicked by a horse straight between the legs. My tackle stayed in tack, but I still have recurring nightmares!"
Lastly, and throwing you a journalistic curve ball, Exclusive Magazine love penguins ... do you, perhaps? "I do indeed. I think it’s their milk chocolate outer coating that makes them so appealing!"
Interview: Russell A. Trunk