This man doesn’t do interviews. After all – or before everything else – he’s a musician, not a talker. Still, the reason is Trevor Bolder just feels it’s not him the subject of interest but those he played with – and his CV, if not very long, is glorious. This time, though, it was different, the center figure being Trev and Trev only, with the rest put aside. While his bass shatters, Bolder is softly spoken, yet highly entertaining man even off-stage. So here it is, the first ever career-spanning interview of the rock legend.
– What initially inspired you to become a musician?
My father, he was a musician. My father was a trumpet player. All my family are musicians – my two brothers, all my father’s brothers, my grandmother was a musician too. One of my aunts was a dance teacher, and my other auntie was an opera singer. So you had to be a musician in our family – if you weren’t a musician, then you were a failure! (Laughs.)
– How many instruments do you play?
Any guitar, trumpet, bass, trombones… I can play any brass instrument. A little bit of piano – I get around to piano a bit to write songs on it. Anything I put my hand on I will play it.
– How often do you get to play trumpet? I know you played one on…
…On “Hunky Dory”, yeah. But I don’t play anymore, I haven’t played for years, I stopped playing years ago. My father died three years ago and he left me his trumpet, so I keep thinking I’m going to start playing again too see if I still can play.
– Coming from such a musical family and becoming a rocker, wasn’t that strange? How did you relatives react?
I played in what they called brass bands for many years since I’d been seven years old and got to the point, when I was fourteen, where I was very good, I was one of the best in the city that I lived in. I was like a solo cornet player with a school band, and that was when I wanted to join the army – I was going to join the Royal Marines and play in a Royal Marines band after school – but my mother wouldn’t let me go, she didn’t want me to join the Royal Marines. And then THE BEATLES came along, and as long as they came along, I wanted to play with a band – and my brother as well. At fourteen we bought two guitars and we needed a bass player, but he didn’t want to play bass, so it was down to me to learn and play it, and I bought me a bass. But it was great! We used to rehearse in our house – full band, with all the equipment. Our parents never complained – they bought us a van so we could get from gig to gig and PA, and they encouraged us.
– What people in Hull, in province, thought about all this? There, sure, wasn’t a huge scene, like in London.
Oh it was great, cause we were so different! The band I played with was a blues one, I never played in a pop band – ever! We were playing the stuff THE [ROLLING] STONES were doing, a blues-ish type of thing. People in Hull loved it, and we were playing live five nights a week, and in the end we were playing all over Yorkshire. Of course, when all of a sudden the blues thing took off about 1967, with CREAM, and FLEETWOOD MAC, and John Mayall’s BLUESBREAKERS, and Alexis Korner and all that stuff, it was really great playing around, because we were already doing that. They started playing all these songs that we’d been playing for life – years before. We always played blues and we were pretty heavy when we played it.
– How did your bass playing style evolve? From Paul McCartney?
Not really from McCartney. Through the blues mainly, through listening to the blues players. I started out from listening to a lot of the old blues players from ’30s and ’40s, listening to a lot of Sonny Boy Williamson, a lot of early blues stuff, copying it. We didn’t have a lot of blues albums in England when we were fourteen and learnt to play, but we liked it [the blues] so much that it was all we ever played. In Hull, we would go out just on Saturday with what money we had from mid-day working or whatever, and we used to buy every blues album we could find. We found all these great songs by all those people.
Then, along came a chap called Jack Bruce – I saw him play with Graham Bond and Ginger Baker, in Hull, before they formed CREAM, and then I saw him play with CREAM, and that was just unbelievable. I wanted to play like Jack Bruce, and I practiced to all his records continuously. He was unique, there was anything like it before him. Before that, the bass players were just standing back playing along with the drums and leaving it for the guitar players and singers, but when he came along, he turned the bass up. For me, it was stunning to watch him play, and he was a great singer as well – it was brilliant, the way he sang, much more than Clapton. I mean, Eric Clapton was no one at the time, with John Mayall and THE YARDBIRDS, and to me, the whole crux of the band [CREAM] was Jack Bruce. Also there was John McVie from FLEETWOOD MAC, who was with John Mayall at the time, a lot of his stuff I liked and I copied a lot of his style. A little bit of McCartney and John Entwistle, but mainly Jack Bruce, he was the big influence – for the feel, he had great feel, amazing!
– Was it difficult fo you to play a kind of lead bass going along with the drums rhythmically, and following a voice or a guitar in a melodic way?
No. I think the thing that was good for me – like it was for Jack Bruce who played cello, which is a melodic instrument – was that I played trumpet and I adapted the trumpet stuff to the bass as well, playing melodic parts. And I never wanted to just be a bass player plonking away, I always wanted to have the edge to the sound and be able to play with a melodic feel. It took many years for another great bass player to come along, which was [Jaco] Pastorius, who also played in that style but with a jazz feel. My style’s developed, and that’s the way I play: I play a lot of notes… too many notes sometimes. (Laughs.) I actually found that if I was restricted in a way I play – if somebody said, “You don’t play like that, play like this!” – I don’t think I could do it. It would be difficult for me, because a bass player isn’t just somebody who just sits back there and plonks away, it’s somebody who adds a lot to the music. And if you can add more to the music, it’s exciting, really exciting. If they took that away from me and said to play like a regular bass player, I think I’d be a terrible bass player.
No, no! I sang when I was in regulars bands in the city, all unprofessional. I used to sing backing vocals, but we had a singer as well. I never thought about being a singer – I wanted to be a bass player. That was it, you know.
– Did you at the time think you’d be a musician for all of your life?
I never thought, “What if I’d be a musician for all my life?”, I was too young and enjoying this. I really wanted to be a professional, I always knew I wanted to be in a band and do it all professionally.
– What was your first band? Was it the one with Mick Ronson?
First professional? Yes, with Mick Ronson, a band called RONNO.
– Because Ronno was the leader?
No, not really, we just called it that. Somebody thought of the name, and we took it.
– How did you meet Ronson?
We played in a local bands in Hull, in rubble bands. I played with my brothers, and though I’d seen him lots of times I never really got to know him, until I hooked up with him in RONNO. Before, he was in THE RATS, and THE RATS were playing a youth club called “Jarvis’ High School”, and I went along to watch. Their bass player at the time was a friend of mine, who wouldn’t play bass, cause he was afraid of getting electrocuted, so they asked me if I’d step in for it. I said, “OK, I’ll play”, so I got up and played. Ronson had seen my play a couple of free concerts in parks in Hull, and he wanted me in the band – that’s how I started with him. And then we became really good friends: we went everywhere together, and he was best man on my wedding. Then, of course, he joined Bowie.
– Did you stay with Mick all the way to Bowie’s band?
Yeah. We went down to London and did radio show with Bowie, played on John Peel show which is now on the “Live At The BBC” [“Bowie At The Beeb”] album of Bowie’s – we went down just to do that but finished staying in London doing “Hunky Dory” two weeks later, then we did “Ziggy”, and the rest’s history.
– But how did you, hailing not from London, arrived at that session?
Mick Ronson and Woody [Woodmansey] had played on “The Man Who Sold The World” album with David Bowie. They did that album with him and then left – they didn’t want to play with Bowie anymore – so they came up to Hull, where I joined them, and we played for about six months as a band. And Bowie rang up one day and asked if we’d go down and do this John Peel show with him, cause he needed a band. So we said, “OK, we’ll come down and do that”. That’s basically how it all started.
– How it was working with Bowie? I mean, technically, he’s not a great singer…
I think, he is! He’s got his own unique style. I preferred him in the Seventies, his vocals in the Seventies had an amazing range: he sang really high, it was great, and the control he had over his voice was stunning. You would have liked the sound of his voice, though he’s not a rock singer – there’s no way he’s a rock singer!
– Was David a band member or rather separated from THE SPIDERS FROM MARS?
It started out as a band, really: he asked us to join him and we said OK, cause we were on a record deal at the time and we gave that out to be with him. We were promised the same share of everything if we would do this, and it was, like, DAVID BOWIE AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS, or ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS. We started out playing in clubs in London and, as a band, we went to all the gigs together in a car, but the bigger he got – and the band would gо wherever he’d go – the less we actually saw him. We only saw him as we walked on-stage. He separated himself from us towards the end, he was like a solo artist that didn’t need us, while in the beginning he definitely needed us. I don’t think that he’d go up there as fast as he did without THE SPIDERS FROM MARS – because of the playing, for one, and the feel of the playing, and the musicians who really helped to make all those albums.
– Where did this “spiders” thing come from? From Bowie?
It came from Bowie, yeah. That’s a Bowie idea, that ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS thing – we just took THE SPIDERS FROM MARS and used it for ourselves, that’s how we got our name.
– What was your input in the band? You didn’t write then, did you?
No, but we arranged a lot of stuff, we had to arrange the songs and played towards it. Stuff like “Jean Genie” and a lot of songs Bowie would bring in, he would play on an acoustic guitar, and then we put it together as a band, made them into a “band” song rather just as somebody sit with a guitar in a corner.
– What memories do you have of the stint with Bowie – good, bad?
Mixed – a mixture of good memories and really bad memories. Really bad memories towards the end, when he changed as a person. He was really until then, just a regular sort of folk, he was a nice, caring bloke, but the bigger he got, the bigger his head got, and the less important you were to him. From what the stories I’ve heard, with all the musicians that were with him, he tread that line: when he didn’t need you, he’d discard you, but while he needed you, he was very friendly towards you, but as soon as he’d used you for what he wanted, then he wouldn’t go around your door, never to be seen or talked to again. I saw him do it to a few people as well – they used to do shows with him, and once he finished using them, he didn’t want to see them, and if they come to gigs, he wouldn’t let them in. They tried to see him play, and he’d be like, “I don’t want them here tonight, I don’t want them here!” That’s just the way he works.
– Did you feel like a star during that time?
(Pause.) I suppose, I did. Yeah, cause if you’re famous, you’re on the TV, you playing to a lot of people, and people come up and talk to you – especially, fans – you’re feeling that. But I never felt any different from what I felt all my life. I mean I didn’t think, particularly, “I’m a star”, it was just me. I was getting all this glory stuff, which is a lot of bullshit, but I still was the same, indeed. But the worst point was when it all finished – being out of work, being penniless: in the end, we had no money, and I had a family, and Bowie didn’t really care about that. He didn’t give me any money, he didn’t give me the percentage I was on, he just let me suffer, which I thought was nasty, so that’s a really bad memory. I’ll never forget what he did then.
– You used to dye your hair then the way Todd Rundgren started doing a bit later. Do you think you influenced him?
(Laughs.) Oh most likely! He most likely copied it, yeah. A lot of people did. But I started as black, really jet-black…
– A style revoluiton?
No, the band wasn’t as wild as HEEP were when I joined them, we were quite reserved. The major thing was, we went to America on a tour and we were playing to, like, a hundred people a night over three months – we did fifteen shows in three months – it was a week in Florida, and a week in New York, we did one gig in all those places, and I think we lost a million dollars on that tour. But at the end of the tour we were playing twenty-five thousand seaters!
– You weren’t sacked, right? What was the reason for your leaving?
I wasn’t sacked. Woody was fired, because Woody decided he’d had enough of Bowie’s attitude and stuff, and his manager. Me and Ronson went on to do “Pin-Ups” after Woody was fired, with Aynsley Dunbar on drums, and then Ronson went solo, and I went with Ronson to do his solo albums. And then Bowie did “Diamond Dogs”, and he didn’t use us – he just phased us out more than anything else of the whole thing, we were phased out of the scene. But many still think it was indeed the best band he’d ever had, THE SPIDERS FROM MARS.
– Having left with Ronson, you and Woody did an album as THE SPIDERS FROM MARS though. Did you think it would be as big as with Bowie?
Of course, we did! (Laughs.) Nah… We got two guys involved from Newcastle to go on: Pete McDonald [the same McDonald who Trevor co-wrote a couple of songs with for HEEP, – DME] to sing and Dave Black to play guitar – he’s a very good guitar player, and Pete’s a very good singer, he sounds very much like Paul Rodgers. The album that we did, I suppose, was a good album, but it was not in the Bowie vein of that time, so many people bought it thinking it was another “Ziggy Stardust”, while we took to the music in a different way.
– Did Bowie allow you to use the band name?
He couldn’t stop us, he could not really stop us from using it. That album was OK, but it [the band] didn’t last long – I fell out with Woody at the time, we had a big argument, so we broke up. He was very heavily into Scientology, and I didn’t particularly like it, and we had a lot of disagreements about the band. He wanted to rule the band, and I didn’t think he should have. But the album charted in America, it went Top 40! [The conversation is – spookily, regarding its next turn – interrupted by HEEP calling “Trev, we need you!” and continues once the soundcheck’s over.]
– So the call from URIAH HEEP came right after THE SPIDERS broke up? Didn’t you have any other offers?
Not really. I moved back to Hull, to my hometown, and I was going to put another band together, myself, with some people from Hull, which never materialised – I had a few musicians lined up and stuff, but it never came about, cause the HEEP offer came in. When I joined HEEP, I suppose I’d not been playing in that style, but a different type of music. They had Gary Thain before that, and John Wetton: Gary was another bass player that was not restricted in what he wanted to do, he just played what he wanted to play. HEEP style of music had changed the time I joined from the earlier stuff: I mean, take “Firefly” and compare it to “The Magician’s Birthday” – that’s different style altogether. But I was left to play what I wanted.
– Didn’t Ken Hensley tell you what to do?
He couldn’t restrict me, he was too busy getting on playing his keyboards and doing his bit. Later on, especially with this band, I actually progressed my playing even further, because we had better songs that opened up more room for bass playing, as well as any of the old song that we did, like “July Morning”. So I used to do what I want, and I get solo off now and again.
– About “July Morning”. Now you play a bass solo in it…
If you can call it that! Yeah! (Laughs.)
– …but where did this guitar slinging come from?
You mean, in the end? I don’t know, I always used to lift a guitar up a lot, above my head, and slide off the hand if I’m doing a slide. I used to do it all the time. I used to stick a guitar in the ground upon the head and bang. I used to do a lof of stuff with HEEP, though over the last few years I stopped doing it so much. I don’t know if I got bored of that. But I don’t know where it came from – it just happened. It was just something I did one night and then carried on doing it. Everybody liked it. (Laughs.) It’s just aggression, it’s just feel, it comes with the playing, it’s just part of it, a part of the way I play.
– When you joined HEEP, was there a singer?
(Pause.) No, [John] Lawton came along after, we auditioned Lawton after I’d been with the band for a couple of weeks.
– So the David Coverdale audition occured before you came?
It was before, yeah. I think, a week before I came in.
– Was it interesting for you to join a heavy band? With Bowie even “Jean Genie” wasn’t a hard rock thing.
As I said before, I’d been playing in bands that did the blues, and we did quite a heavy style of blues. We used to do CREAM songs which were very heavy, so I’d always played in that vein. When I joined Bowie it was lighter, yes, because that was the style of music he did, which didn’t mean I couldn’t play this style, as I’d done it all before. And it was quite easy for me to actually walk into HEEP, cause I had been playing with that sort of thing and technique. All I did was revert back to how I was playing before I met Bowie – I just walked in and did it.
– How did the HEEP offer come along? Through record company or some acquaintance?
No, it came through Woody Woodmansey. He rang up one day and said, “There’s a band called URIAH HEEP looking for a bass player”, cause he was on Bronze Records label at the time. “I’ll put you forward for it. Do you want to do it?” So I said, “Yeah, OK”, and I rang up, I think, Ken Hensley who told me to learn “July Morning” and “Easy Livin'”. I went out, bought the record, learnt them and went to the audition. Played those two songs straight off, and then we did a jam thing, blues thing for a while – that was the audition. I turned out to them and said, “Look, you better tell me now whether you want me to join or you want me to go. I don’t want all this, ‘We’ll call you next week’, you’d rather say ‘No’ now if I’m not right, and I’ll go away and get on with what I was doing in Hull, which was forming another band”. They made me sit down and said, “Oh no, no, no, you don’t, you’re in”. So I got the job right there.
– And that’s when you started writing more and more.
After “Firefly” we did “Innocent Victim”, didn’t we? And then it was “Fallen Angel” – “Fallen Angel” was when I started writing. I wrote two songs on “Fallen Angel” [in fact, Trevor’s credited only for one, “Save It” – DME], and then on “Conquest” I got into writing a lot more.
– Becoming a main balladeer in the band?
I don’t know if I am! I was after writing rock songs! (Laughs.) But I like writing ballads, I do like writing anything, really. I just sit down and plonk away on a guitar and see what comes out.
– Because it brings out a sensitive, lyrical, romantic person in you?
It does, yeah. ’Mick like romantic, their songs are great, and they write ballads as well. But I’m quite sensitive in that area too, I write songs that have a lot to do with me or with somebody I know.
– How different for you was “Conquest” in terms of rhythm? What was the main difference between Lee Kerslake and Chris Slade?
Lee’s bigger! (Laughs.) Er, Lee’s a heavier drummer than Chris; Chris is more technical, I think. Chris had a bit more of a technical ability, but Lee was more the rock drummer, more that animal on the drums, he has the warmer style. Chris is a great drummer as well, he went on to play with quite a few other people, and I’d say when he played with AC/DC it was the best I saw him play, because there he was being an out-and-out rock drummer: it was pretty simple drumming, but he was just playing very good rock. But that’s the basic differences – I mean, they’re both great drummers, but Lee’s in a bottom field and Chris in the technical field. Me and Lee can read each other pretty well in what we’re going to play – I try to just play something out of the blue, and he’ll go with me, and if he starts to play, I feel I can go with him and I know exactly what he’s going to play, so we feel quite tight as a rhythm section. Of course, we’ve been playing together for many years…
– Which of the two you found more interesting to play with?
They’re both great to play with – you can’t say one is better than the other. But I suppose it’s more interesting playing with Lee: when he’s really on form and heavy and really going for it, he’s brilliant, he can really lift you, while you couldn’t get up from Chris so much, cause he didn’t hit the drums as hard as Lee did. So I would go with Lee for a rock drummer rather than with Chris, but Chris would play jazz if you wanted to play jazz or something, which we used to do at soundchecks now and again for a bit of fun. I really enjoyed playing with both of them – it’s good to play with different musicians anyway, it inspires you.
Sometimes I go and play with me brothers – they’re really good guitarists, my two brothers, they’re in one band together in my hometown and play locally – they’ve got a good drummer in their band. And when I played with WISHBONE ASH, they were completely different to HEEP in a sense that they played more stuff in a technical way, they would jam at sounchecks for two or three hours, and they were really good! They would go from anything, from reggae to whatever, and you had to play along with them, which improves your playing.
– Didn’t you play reggae before? There’s a song on “Innocent Victim” called “The Dance”, which is reggae.
It is in a way… It’s a real reggae. Yeah, you’re right! (Laughs.) Yeah, I did play reggae with HEEP! Rock reggae!
– How come you played on Hensley’s solo album, “Free Spirit“?
I didn’t play on it! (Laughs.) Ken invited me to do the whole album and he wanted me to write some songs on it as well. We were doing a photo session, and all of a sudden this other bass player turned up, Mark Clarke. I was like, “What’s he doing here?” Ken brought Mark Clarke over from New York to play bass on the album, after he’d asked me, and I was going in the next day to do that! And I was so pissed of with Hensley! That’s what he was like. But anyway, it turned out that Mark Clarke had to go back to New York two days later, so Ken rang me up and said, “Would you come and play on my solo album?” So I did two tracks, I didn’t want to do any more after that.
– If he offered you a gig in his band, would you accept it?
I’d rather die! (Laughs.) I mean, a lot of people look at Ken as, like, ‘He wrote this song and he wrote that’, but my experience of working with URIAH HEEP when he was in the band was that he would come in with a song and then the band would put it together. It was the band who actually turned everything into a song and made it the way it was. But Ken is Ken, and today you still can’t trust him; Ken is just out for Ken, and bollocks to the rest of you! When we released “Innocent Victim” [apparently, Trevor meant “Conquest”. – DME], the German record company desperately wanted to release “Fools”, which was my song, as a single, and I recall Ken arguing with [managers] Lilian and Gerry Bron that he would quite the band if they didn’t release one of his songs as this single, and not mine. And I thought, “If you go to this extent just to get one of songs out because somebody else has written a song…” The company really wanted that a single, and he would not have it, so instead of my song being the single, it was one of his – I don’t remember which one it was.
– Is that your favorite HEEP song? I mean, ones that you wrote.
No, from that period a really good song to me is “It Ain’t Easy”.
WISHBONE ASH time
– And from the Bowie period?
There’s a song called “Quicksand” on “Hunky Dory”, that’s one of my favorites. And “Moonage Daydream”.
– What did you find in HEEP that made you stay for so long?
Er… The music and the friendship, the big thing. We’re all very good friends, we’ve gone through a lot of hard times together and a lot of great times, and we’re still here. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t friends with them, I wouldn’t play with them. I mean, I played with WISHBONE ASH for two years, and I never really fit in with them socially that well. I got on really well with Laurie [Wisefield] and I get on well with Andy Powell now, but I never felt like a member of that band.
– So why did you get in it?
Well, I left HEEP because they were going through some really bad times, and I got offered the job in WISHBONE, and I had to make a choice really quick and decided I’d rather go and play with WISHBONE to see what happens. They needed somebody like me, with a name, who’d played on a lot of stuff, to replace the bass player that left – which was John Wetton. I was with them for two years but I was really glad to get back to HEEP. once Mick rang up and said, “Wanna come back? We’re looking for a bass player”, I was immediately out the door, packed and gone.
– Talking of getting back, did you meet Mick Ronson after you joined HEEP?
Things started to change a little bit when he went solo. I saw him once after we split, after his solo album was finished, I just saw him one time.
– In his ‘teenage idol’ phase, as they wanted him to be?
A sort of. He never really wanted to do that – that was the problem. I mean, he wanted to do solo albums, but I didn’t think Mick really wanted to be a front man, he wanted to be the ‘Keith Richards’ of the band to Bowie’s ‘Jagger’, that was his role that suited him. He was good at that, and when they tried to make him into solo artist, he didn’t feel comfortable, he just didn’t want it in the end and after two albums he wanted to get away from it. He wanted to be in a band, let others to do all the singing and play along. Last time I saw him was in 1977, and he’s been dead ten years now, he died in 1993. I didn’t see him at all, but I talked to him on the phone once. He called me the week before he died and asked me if I’d come and play on his solo album that he was doing at the time. I said, “Yeah, I’ll do it”, but he died, so I never got to play on that. We just lost contact with each other. He rang me several times when I lived in London, but I was always on tour with HEEP, so he would be in London and called me, and I couldn’t see him. Then I lived in Dallas and I had a friend who ran the radio station there, and he gave Mick my number, and every time he came to Dallas he would call me, but I was back in England playing over there, so we never got to meet each other again. We never got to bump into each other.
– What was the reason of forming THE CYBERNAUTS? Trying to re-live THE SPIDERS FROM MARS thing?
It was an accident. We did the Hammersmith Odeon gig in London [in 1994], a big tribute gig for Mick Ronson with lots of different people playing, and they wanted to do THE SPIDERS FROM MARS thing. So me and Woody got a guitar player [Billy Rankin], Phil [Lanzon] did keyboards, and then Joe Elliott from DEF LEPPARD called me and said, “Look, we’ve been asked to do The Ronson Memorial. What if we put a band together as THE SPIDERS and we come on and guests? What if I sing and play, and Phil Collen plays guitar as well? So we’ll have three guitar players”.
We did that concert, and then they did another memorial concert for Mick, a year later, in Hull, and there would be Phil Collen, Joe Elliott, me and Woody, and a keyboard player from Birmingham called Dick. We thought, “What if, instead of just going out and doing that one concert, or two, we do a little tour of England?” So we put a tour together with a friend of mine before that concert, as HEEP weren’t working at the time anyway. We did five concerts and then the memorial concert, and we went to Dublin, where Joe lives. He took the studio off his house and brought it to the concert hall, and we recorded it [the show] live, and then we went into the Irish studio and recorded more stuff. We had a whole bunch of stuff that we’d recorded live, and over the next year Joe put it together in his studio with an engineer and he mixed it all. We decided to call the band on the album THE CYBERNAUTS, not THE SPIDERS FROM MARS, because they weren’t really THE SPIDERS FROM MARS and people might get confused.
– Because of the two meanings of ‘the web’?
Yes, because of the web thing. So we put the album out on the Web and we also put it out in Japan, and we toured Japan with it, which was really good. We sold a lot of records in Japan, it was fun, and we had a laugh doing it. It was never anything serious – we decided to just go out on the road and have a laugh with it.
– So you’re not inclined to take an offer to do something else outside of HEEP, some session or whatever?
I don’t know, I’ve not been asked to do something. It’s a closed shop, a lot of that. A lot of people do that sort of stuff, they know each other, they all live in London – and I don’t live in London – and they go and hang around the right places, and I don’t do that. I’m not one for ligging and meeting people, though me and Lee did it a lot! (Laughs.)
– Did you ever think of doing a solo album?
Yes. Eventually I started one, but I’ve not finished it. I’ve been doing it for ages, I’ve been too busy. I started a solo album with taking all the demos that I’d done of all the songs I’d ever written to make them into solo album by doing them as I’d written them, putting out the original demos but making them sound a lot better than they were, cause they were just demos with me singing and playing everything except for the drums. Of which I got seven songs that I never got time to finish, but next year I’m going to finish it because I’ve just bought a brand new studio system, and it’s all computerized, so I’m going to put it all on computer and then gradually get it finished. And I want to do a lot of new stuff.
– Who’ll be the players?
Mainly me! (Laughs.)
– You know, it’s very like HEEP. I just talked to Phil, and he said he’d like to do a solo album as well and that he’s even recorded some of HEEP songs on piano, and Mick’s been talking of doing a solo album for years too.
It might be a very good idea for everybody to do a solo album. And Lee’s doing his little project, isn’t he? So it might be good if just me, and Mick, and Phil to do solo albums and put them all out at the same time, together, as a package, so you’ll buy the three solo albums in different styles. It’s all finding the time, cause at the moment we’re writing for the new HEEP album, and I’ve just moved house: there’s always something else to do. There’s always a gig, or you’ve got to go to do this or that. It’s terrible! I lost my own recording studio when I moved house and I’ll have to build another one, which won’t be built until next year, so I’ve got all my studio equipment in the front room at the moment, in the dining room. (Laughs.) It’s hard to get time to do anything, but I’ll definitely get it done next year and put something out, even if it’s just on the Web.
– Some moths ago your name cropped up on the “Mojo” magazine message board and “Whatever happened to…” section. How could people lost track of you when you’re so easy to find through any searching engine?
I don’t know. Somebody’s got a whole thing on me somewhere in the Web, and if you type my name it comes up with all my history and everything that I’ve been doing, so maybe they just forgot and then one day decided, “Let’s see what he’s doing now”. But I went to see Ian Hunter play, in Leeds, last year – I went with Joe Elliott, who’s pretty famous – and I spent the whole gig signing autographs, because people went up who didn’t ever meet me, and I must have signed for nearly the whole audience. People were shocked that I was there, they never expected to see me at a gig like that. One guy even went home and got his wife and his kids out of bed and started playing Bowie albums, as he was a Bowie fan, telling them he just met me, and he never thought he’d ever meet me in his life. He was so excited! And it’s great, people like that, for they lose touch with you and think they’ll never see you again, like I’ve never seen Jack Bruce – I’ve not bumped into him or seen him anywhere, or played gig with him, but I still have his albums and I still listen to him. If you’re not in the public eye, people do think that you disappeared off the Earth.
– Then, what people find in you that makes them love you?
I don’t know! (Laughs.) I think, like with a lot of bass players, it’s the playing. It doesn’t matter how famous you are if they don’t like what you do, then they dismiss you. I’m not a musician who’s been in a lot of bands, hanging around and playing with lots of different people, so most people who know me they’re HEEP fans and they know about HEEP, and your usual Bowie fan is not a HEEP fan, they’re dedicated to Mr. Bowie and don’t know where you are.
But we were on a train when we did a gig in America last year, in Trenton, we were going to the Ground Zero on the underground – or subway, as they call it there – me and Mick and Phil, and there’s a guy sitting opposite further at the carriage, on his own, and he keeps looking at me. I’ve got the sunglasses on and my head down, but he keeps looking, then comes over eventually and says to Mick, “Aren’t you Mick Box?” And Mick says, “Yes”. “Oh I’m really pleased to meet you, I saw you play at some gig in New York”, and blah, and blah, and blah, So Mick turns out the guy and says, “And this is Trevor Bolder”. The guy nearly died, he was in shock, he was shaking. He said, “I’m your biggest fan! I just got this”, and he took out THE CYBERNAUTS’ album out of his bag that he was playing, and asked me to sign it. It’s a million-to-one chance: he’s sitting on a tube train and if he hasn’t recognized Mick, he’d never meet me in his life. He was just over the moon. And there are people like that who never meet you, the classic fans of what you do, and you never meet them. That was really a one-off situation that he had that CD in his pocket.
– And what do you feel in such a moment?
I feel quite humbly, because he’s a fan, he’s as important to me as I am important to him, because without those people you wouldn’t be able to do what you do.
– I guess, when you’re on a train, you’re reading, as yesterday in the dressing room. Are you an avid reader?
No, no, I’m not a big reader. To be honest, I read about two or three books a year. I read a lot of biographies, I’m not interested in fiction or anything like that. I like to read about other people’s lives and what they got up to.
– So what about writing an autobiography?
(Laughs.) No, I don’t think so. Me and Woody were going to write a book about Bowie and THE SPIDERS, but he backed out, and I really wanted to do it.
– Was he afraid of some lawsuit from Bowie?
No, you can write what you want in a book as long as it’s true – and it would be true, it wouldn’t be elaborated, it would be the way it was, from our point of view. Lee’s set to write a book about Ozzy and the early days, of Sharon and stuff like that, but if I wrote a book, I’m sure, Bowie would deny everything that would be written in it, cause he always denied everything. A friend of mine wrote a book on the days with Bowie, and he came to me for information, and I gave him lots of information on things that happened. He finished working with David Bowie in the end but presented the book to him and said, “I want you to read the book before it goes to print and tell me what you think”, and David came back to him and said, “This is untrue, that’s not true, and that’s not true, this is rubbish, that’s not true”. So the guy said, “This quote there, I asked nine individual people for their comments, and they all said the same thing. So who’s telling the truth, you or them? They must be telling truth, but you’re saying it’s not true because you’ve decided to change it in your mind, because you don’t want to be seen like that”.
– When was the last time you met Bowie?
I haven’t seen him since 1977.
– I was rather shocked to know he didn’t take part in any Ronson memorial concert.
We all were hoping he would come, but he said – this is David Bowie for me, and this is Ken Hensley style – he was too upset that Mick had died to turn up for his memorial concert. But when Freddie Mercury died, Bowie was straight on that stage because it was in front of millions of people. He got there for Freddie Mercury’s concert, but he couldn’t get there for Mick Ronson’s, because it wasn’t big enough audience for him. And Mick was on-stage with him at Freddie Mercury’s show and Mick was really ill when he did that show. I think, the thing was that Bowie couldn’t face the musicians like me and Woody and other people that he’d done really not nice things to. But couldn’t he just come and do one song? Just. One. Song. He said later on that he thought it was going to be a shambles and he didn’t want to be a part of a shambles. And it was really good, it was a great evening.
– If you did a dream team kind of band, who would be in it? Ronno?
It would be a pretty big band, with lots of musicians! (Laughs.) How many guitar players do you want? I played with lots of great musicians and they’re all individually different. You could put that band together and it might be dreadful, it might not work. It’s like a football team: you can have superb individual players, put them in a team together, and they play terrible; and you can have a team of good players who play as a team and win everything. You don’t need to have a massive amount of ability as long as you’ve got the great feel. So I wouldn’t pick the best players in the world, I wouldn’t pick brilliant musicians. I wouldn’t want to play with Joe Satriani and people like that that’s just too much, I’d rather play good down-to-earth music with good players who don’t have to be a genius on their instrument, and have a good time.
– What music do you listen to these days?
I listen to the radio! (Laughs.) I don’t listen to much music at all these days, I put on an old stuff like THE BEATLES, I don’t listen to a lot of modern music, because there’s not a lot that makes me want to go out there and play but I hear it on the radio anyway. The music scene in England is dreadful, so I listen to the radio stations with blues programmes and rock programmes and country programmes, and they play some really good stuff, but it’s individual stuff, something I’ve not heard before and maybe will never hear again. But I don’t buy records as much, just older stuff. There’s always grungey stuff and thrashy metall-y stuff, and everything sounds the same, and I wonder how could one sit and listen to that all day long. And there’s nothing in the British pop anymore.
– OK, the tricky one: why do you always look so sad, when you’re certainly not?
That’s just the way I look! Sometimes I can be tired, but the main reason is that I’m very shy in a lot of ways. I mean, I’m OK on-stage, I do what I do, but I’m not one of those people who go out and say, “Hey, look at me! I’ve just come off-stage! Here I am!” And I tend not to pushing on people – Bernie‘s always upfront, he’s in people’s faces immediately, whereas I’m more laid back. I just sit there waiting for the people to come and talk to me, and if they want to talk, I’ll talk – fine, but a lot of people look at me and go, “He’s not saying anything”. Unless I’m drunk – then I’m the opposite, I can go from one extreme to the other, and after another drink I’ll be the opposite. People think I look miserable, but I’m not, I’m just being relaxed and quiet.