Interview with Danny Bowes (Thunder)

After going into what seemed like permanent retirement, Thunder are back for a tour with Journey and Whitesnake. Metal Express Radio chatted to singer Danny Bowes about the latest happenings with Thunder.

Metal Express Radio: In May you’re heading out on tour with Journey and Whitesnake. Are you looking forward to those shows?

DB: What’s not to like about it? It’s an amazing bill and it suits us down to a “T”. It’s great value for the fans too. If you go back in time, whenever things have been tight moneywise, there’s been some great packages touring. It’s a great way for bands to get in front of an audience they wouldn’t necessarily get in front of and give the fans a real treat.

MER: You’re all different musically, but all compatible with each other?

DB: I think so. We all have our own style to make us different, but there’s enough of a common thread there to appeal to a Rock audience.

MER: You’ve played with Whitesnake many times over the years. Will it be good to catch up with them again?

DB: I’m looking forward to catching up with them again. Mr. Coverdale has always been very nice to us.

MER: What about Journey? Have your paths crossed with them before?

DB: We did play at the Monsters of Rock at Milton Keynes together, but we didn’t get the chance to say hello or anything like that. We were involved in quite a lot of promotion backstage on that day, so there wasn’t really much time for socializing. We’ll see when we get out on tour in May, but not all bands like to hang out when on tour, so we’ll just have to see what the vibe is like when the tour starts.

MER: Sharing a stage with singers such as David Coverdale and Arnel Pineda must be quite a daunting proposition. Does having singers of their caliber spur you on to pull out the stops for a show?

DB: I never think about it. I think I’m conceited and arrogant enough to think I’m the center of the universe and when I get on the stage everybody is in love with me. I’ve become a monster. It’s hard to believe that I started out as a shy kid and couldn’t make eye contact with anybody, but when I got in a band it all changed and now I’m a complete megalomaniac. Seriously, though, they are two extremely good singers and it’ll be fantastic for me to appear on the same stage as them each night.

MER: Although you don’t have a new album out at the moment, what sort of set list are you planning?

DB: It’ll be a cross-section of the best of Thunder from over the years. We are now really a touring band only. It’s been over five years since we made an album and another one is unlikely. We’ve done a couple of Christmas shows and a festival in 2011, and that’s about it. This year will be the most activity that we’ve done in at least 5 years. So we will play a greatest hits set. We don’t have that long on stage — only 45-50 minutes — so we’ll play the stuff that people want to hear.

MER: You, Luke and Harry were in Terraplane together before you formed Thunder. Have you ever popped a song or two like “I Can’t Live Without Your Love”, which was all over the video juke boxes back in the mid ’80s, into your set?

DB: I certainly think we created a bit of a stir with Terraplane, but not because of the music, but more for the ridiculous clothing. There was a fair degree of insanity there with the clothes and the haircuts and we certainly made an impression, but not necessarily a good one. It was a band of the moment and a very frustrating band to be in … and when that came to an end we were in a position to do Thunder and we could do what we wanted to do not what we thought we should do. The record company kept telling us it was the right thing to do. It was a learning process for us, but we won’t be revisiting any of those songs in our set.

MER: Being the first band on stage each night will give you plenty of time to wind down after your set. What do you tend to do? Watch the other bands, analyse your performance, or do something completely different?

DB: We’ll probably get something to eat first then watch a bit of the other bands. What I tend to do is hang around for a while and watch different bits of the band each night and get a feel for how they are going down and if you see anything good going down, I’ll nick the idea!!

MER: A while back you stepped away from the band to concentrate on the business side of the music business as a booking agent. Why did you decide to do that?

DB: I managed Thunder and effectively assumed the role of the record company for Thunder too as we formed our own label in 2002, and it’s a lot of work. All I needed to do after that was put a broom up my backside and I could have swept the floor as well. It was quite full on and hard for eight years, and after a while I began to feel jaded and I just felt like I needed to do something else and was in genuine fear for my sanity at one point. I just thought it was time to hang up my microphone and do something else as I wasn’t getting any younger. Someone kindly offered me the opportunity to be a booking agent and I did it for two years and I was quite good at it too, but it didn’t actually do it for me. On a day to day basis, I was doing a lot of problem solving and stopping people from suing each other. I’m very calming in those situations. I’ve always been fairly ordered. I ran Thunder’s office and coordinated other people’s work — to be able to transfer those skills into a different environment I didn’t find that hard to do. I did find it quite frustrating, though, that I wasn’t involved in all the aspects of a band’s life.

MER: Would you look to taking more of a managerial role for other bands now?

DB: I am, as it happens. I manage a couple of bands including Saint Jude, who are an excellent band and have a new acoustic EP out right now, and I also manage Danny and Ben, which is my two man show with Ben Matthews. I also look after Jim Cregan who was in Rod Stewart’s band for a long time. I’ve got plenty of interests outside of the music business too, so it can be quite tricky finding time to fit in the Thunder stuff.

MER: You recently toured with Ben Matthews doing acoustic material and lots of stories too. How did those shows go?

DB: They were amazing … really, really good. We did a tour a year ago and we sold loads of tickets. We couldn’t believe that people would be interested enough to come and see us silly twits rambling on and playing a song every now and then. We were so surprised at the reaction, and when they asked us to do it again we were even more surprised. We thought it would give us the chance to see if last year’s shows were just a flash in the pan, but they weren’t. People genuinely wanted to come and see us and quite liked the concept. Who are we to argue? It was a very nice way to spend three weeks — just me and him in a car laughing our heads off. It was a very easy, fun way to spend January. It’s something that we may do again at some point, we’ll see how it goes.

MER: Was the show pretty spontaneous or did you have to prepare a loose script beforehand?

DB: In terms of the music, we put a lot of work in preparing for that. When you’re used to being in a loud band with five people, it’s hard trying to make an interesting show with just Ben on guitar and me singing. So we spent a lot of time working on the music and arrangements and honing the music for the show. It worked out really well, I think. With Thunder, we do the opposite — we get together at the last minute and rehearse for two or three days, but most of the time we’re sitting around drinking tea and talking.

MER: Your first album Back Street Symphony was produced by local lad, Andy Taylor from Duran Duran. That seemed a strange choice at the time, but Andy had great Rock credentials. How did he become involved with Thunder?

DB: It’s a very boring answer I’m afraid. We had the same accountant. We were talking to the accountant one day and we just mentioned that we needed someone to produce our album and he mentioned that he looked after Andy Taylor from Duran Duran. We laughed but the accountant told us he wasn’t a Pop boy, and his favorite guitarist was Eddie Van Halen, so we thought he could be an interesting choice. We met him and got on like a house on fire. He said that he thought our previous label with Terraplane had squashed everything out of us that was right and he encouraged us to go and do all those things again and everything would work out well … and he was right. He was less of a producer and more of an attitude adjuster — he wanted us to turn up louder and louder, so we did, and then we got a great engineer called Mike Fraser who worked on loads of Aerosmith albums and also worked with Bryan Adams and also Dan Reed Network who made that great album back in the late ’80s. He captured everything perfectly and between him and Andy Taylor I think we made a great record. Andy actually told us that we were the band that he always wanted to be in. We were very lucky to meet him.

MER: After splitting Terraplane due to its more Poppy direction, did you worry that a Duran Duran connection could harm the band’s Rock reputation before you’d even started?

DB: No not at all. By then we’d already decided that we weren’t going through the Terraplane experience again, and we’d do what we wanted the way we wanted and if anyone got in our way, we’d just avoid them. Andy was perfect for us as he said he knew exactly where we were coming from and knew what had been done to us and he was going to do the opposite. He encouraged us to do what we wanted, and all he was going to do was make sure it was all recorded properly and for it to sound fantastic.

MER: What have you lined up after the run of dates with Journey and Whitesnake? Do you hope to do some summer festivals or European shows?

DB: Once the UK shows are over we’ll do some festivals, and afterwards that’ll be it probably. The last one is in August, then I think I’ll have a holiday… then I’ll carry on managing the bands and telling people what to do!

Journey, Whitesnake and Thunder’s UK tour starts on May 18, 2013 at the SECC, Glasgow and ends May 29, 2013 at Wembley Arena, London.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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