Previously known for his work with Johnny Marr, and Haven, Iwan Gronow spoke to us about finally going solo Interview: Iwan Gronow Talks New Single
Q: After the success of Haven, and being part of Johnny Marr’s band since ‘Playland’, what is it that’s made you go solo?
A: Ever since Haven, I have always been writing music, and I started to build up quite a lot of material, and a lot of it I sort of did, ah’s and ooh’s, just sort of simple melodies, then I sort of developed the lyric side of it, and started to turn them into songs. Initially, it was all just instrumental stuff, but it developed slowly, the melodies then turned into more songwriting, and I got into the lyric side of it and quite enjoyed it. I did quite a bit of writing with the singer of Mutineers, so I’ve continually always been writing really, and it felt like the natural thing to do really. I had a lot of music, and thought some of it was really good, so I thought it would be nice to know what other people think.
Q: Who were the influences for making your own music?
A: I grew up in Cornwall, with a lot of heavier stuff. In Cornwall, there’s a massive sort of grunge scene, so I started off with a lot of grunge bands, then dropped out to more melodic stuff really when Haven moved up to Manchester. We started to get into bands like The La’s, Shack, all sorts of bands, and we got a lot more melodic, but I still had a soft spot for the heavier music, I’m into Stooges, and Pistols, the rocky side of stuff. When we moved up from Cornwall, we sort of went through different stages of music really, in Cornwall there was the grunge scene, and Manchester had it’s own scene, we learnt more about the Manchester bands, and ended up with Joe Moss (The Smith’s manager), and meeting Johnny influenced us a lot, and we learnt loads about different musicians and different bands really.
Q: What was it that made you move up to Manchester then?
A: It was Joe really, he was a huge influence, and I have a lot to thank him for. He developed us in Cornwall, but he said if we wanted to really give it a crack, then we had to move to a city, and Manchester was where he was based. We just turned up in a van with all our stuff, all our bedding, all our amps, that sort of stuff. We never really looked back after that. We managed to get a flat, and Joe was the main reason, he got us into the Night and Day scene. It was the early 2000’s, there was a lot going on really, with Badly Drawn Boy, Elbow, Doves, all these brilliant bands, and we were based around Night and Day, we rehearsed there. We learnt loads, and personally I learnt loads from that period about songwriting, going on tour with Badly Drawn Boy, and hanging out with Guy Garvey, and all these people who were amazing musicians and songwriters. Joe told us to spend a lot of time around that area, and that’s what we did. It was an exciting time!
Q: Going back to your latest single in the mire, are there any guest musicians on the single?
A: No, it’s just myself. Generally I put all the music together, then do the vocals, and Tom Twemlow from Hope Mill Studios will put the drums down over the track, and then mix it. I do it all alone really, I write and record it, then take it to get the drums. For most of the tracks, that what we’ve been doing. I’m lucky really, Tom’s a brilliant drummer, and we have a great relationship and work ethic.
Q: So have you always wanted it this way, or was there any thought on getting other musicians in?
A: I think maybe in the future. Initially with these first songs, it’s a big learning curve, it’s so odd, and strange for me listening back to my voice, as generally my voice is behind someone else, like Garry or Johnny, so it’s a learning curve hearing my own voice and learning from it really. I think when I move on to the next stage, it would be good to write with other people, but at the moment i’m so used to doing it on my own, I’ve got a method of doing it.
Q: Is there anyone you would love to work with?
A: Ermm, that’s a good question, I’ve never really thought. Recently I’ve seen a lot of good music through festivals, we saw Anna Calvi recently, she was really good, I saw a lot of the IDLES, there a really good band, and good guys too. I met Joe the singer, and he was really nice, and I like what they are saying as well, they are putting across a good message really. I like Jesca Hoop, she has a really good voice. There’s a lot of good music going around. I would like to take into a different producer maybe, or I think it will be all in good time really.
Q: Do you get around the music scene in Manchester at the moment?
A: We’ve been away so much this summer, for the past few months, I’ve not had the chance to get into Manchester much, but I do plan to do it more. I’ve caught a lot of music from the festivals, but I need to get into Manchester, as i’m in Stockport, and check out the upcoming bands. Have you got any recommendations? There’s Our Fold, they’re good. There’s the Blinders, similar to IDLES.. Oh yeah I know them, they supported Blossoms, they’re heavy aren’t they. Saytr Play are pretty good too. I’ll check them out, but recently we’ve not had much time to get into Manchester but something I plan to do when the festivals are done.
Q: You said you were from Stockport, do you feel there is a need for a bigger music scene in Stockport?
A: Yes. Blossoms have definitely helped, and they produce Fuzzy Sun, which is good and I thinks the gig they did in Edgeley park was great. I know Chas and Joe pretty well, but I think it would be good. Things are changing in Stockport now, and hopefully that will develop some music I think. We need more venues really, even in Manchester there are venues shutting down, it’s a tough time for smaller venues, but it would be good if Stockport could do that. I think also with everything that is going on in the world, then there’s gonna be bands. It’s gonna happen, bands like IDLES and Blinders, these bands that have a message to say, they are basically just pissed off.
Q: Do you feel the situation we are in is a good thing for music? In a sense that it will bring out more new music?
A: Yeah, I think it will. In personal terms, it has with me, but i’m not gonna go down the political route, I hint at it, but I’m not gonna go solely down that route. Some of it’s positive as well, I think you have to try and look positive, we can’t be so negative about everything. Things are bad at the moment, you cant avoid it, but I think things will go in cycles, and I think there’s a lot of really good music about at the moment, and they are pissed off. You will hear hints of the political side of it, because it can’t be avoided. It’s not great, but I suppose you have to try and look at the positives.
Q: So what is ‘In The Mire’ about then?
A: Well, it’s how I feel, and how I think a lot of people are feeling about the situation we are in at the moment. It also sort of hints at trying to get out of the moaning. There’s Cornish routes there as well, a mire is a bog down there. I’m trying to mix the city and the country, as that’s what I know. It hints at the good times in Cornwall, but goes into how things are today. It’s not totally negative, it tries to look at the positives too.
Q: One last question, out of Johnny Rotten, Boris Johnson and Jim Davidson, who would you have a beer with, who would you go to a gig with, and who would you slap?
A: Aha. I’d obviously slap Boris Johnson. I wouldn’t go near Jim Davidson at all, so I suppose i’d do the others with Johnny Rotten. I don’t want to involve Jim Davidson at all ahaha. Actually, I’d slap Boris twice.
Iwan’s debut single, ‘In The Mire’, is to be released 13th September, be sure to listen, because it’s a fantastic track.