Thunder band photo
Photo: Jason Joyce

It looked as though they’d called it a day a few years ago but Thunder returned with the retro influenced Wonder Years in 2015, their first in 7 years. They are now looking forward with a more contemporary sound with the recently released Rip It Up. Mick Burgess called up lead guitarist and songwriter-in-chief, Luke Morley, to talk about the new album and the forthcoming UK tour.

You’ll be heading out on the road around the UK in March. Are you looking forward to getting out and playing again?

It’s always great fun to get back out on the road particularly with a new album out. You go through the process of writing and recording songs and you wonder which ones will work live and the playing of the songs is proof of the pudding. There’s always something unpredictable that happens whether it’s people reacting to a particular song that you weren’t expecting or people spontaneously singing parts you weren’t expecting so we’re really looking forward to seeing how the new songs go down on the tour.

How long in advance do you all get together and prepare for a tour?

We’ll probably rehearse for about a week and the focus of that will be on the new material, We’ve been playing Love Walked In and Dirty Love since the year dot so we know those really well. In fact we make a point of not rehearsing those to give them a bit of an extra edge when we play them live. It keeps us on our toes.

You’ve recently released your latest album Rip It Up. How do you make room for new material when you have so many songs fit into your set?

We’ll rehearse the whole album but we’ll probably pick 4, 5 or 6 and put them into the set but we’ll probably alternate the new songs that we do play. We of course have to play the old songs as well but there’s a good mix and it’ll flow well. The new album is a very strong album so we want to play a few songs off that. Hopefully we get the balance right. If I ever think about how difficult it is to decide what to play and what to leave out I just think of how Mick Jagger feels. You always hope that some of the new songs in a couple of years’ time become ones that you just can’t leave out.

What about ones you haven’t played for ages. Are you looking at some rarities to chuck in there for the hard core fans?

There’s usually always one curve ball in there but over the years we tend to find that the ones that work really well tend to float to the top. Sometimes we’ll revisit songs that we haven’t done for a while and look at them in a slightly different way. All will be revealed on the tour.

What about your pre-Thunder band, Terraplane? Do you ever get calls for a song or two by them?

Oh, definitely not. Terraplane was back then and Thunder has been the last 27 years. I just think it would be too indulgent to go back and play songs that most people just wouldn’t know. We’ve moved on. Terraplane was pretty much our apprenticeship and there were some nice moments in there but I don’t think it’d be appropriate in a Thunder show. I also think it’d be a bit disrespectful to Nick and Rudi who were in Terraplane with us. I don’t think it’s likely to happen.

Do you ever see Nick Linden or Rudi Riviere from Terraplane?

I haven’t seen Nick for a couple of years but I still get messages every now and then from him and I still see Nick about. Nick still plays with a few of our old mates and I know Rudi still does as he bought a brand new amplifier the other day.

There’s a fair few shows sold out already. That must be great see that?

It’s terrific. We seem to be going from strength to strength at the moment. I’m not sure why that would be at this stage in our career. I think maybe, the last album was particularly strong and word of mouth is still the biggest thing we have going for us. The Rock press is very supportive of us but it’s the fans who are probably the biggest factor in getting the word out. The fact that our numbers are going up not down in such difficult times is miraculous. I’m not sure that I understand it but long may it continue.

You’re playing in many of the classic theatres across the country that all the big bands played in the ’70’s and ’80’s. Do you prefer those types of venues compared to the modern concrete arenas?

I started seeing bands at the Hammersmith Odeon so those types of theatre venues are the ones I love. I have great memories going to shows in the ’70’s. They have such great sound quality in those theatres too and they are big enough to put a decent production on and from the audience point of view they get much closer to the band. There’s an intimacy that you get playing in a theatre that you just don’t get in an arena. After having done the last couple of tours in arenas it’s nice to go out and play more shows somewhere more intimate.

We mentioned your new album Rip It Out. Are you excited now that it’s out?

It’s always exciting putting out a new album as you can never tell how people will react. The reviews so far have all been positive and the punters seem to love it too which is great. People can get their opinions out on Facebook and Twitter and we can see those very quickly and so far it’s all been pretty good. We are all very happy so far. It’s a very strong album, a bit different from the last one but still very much Thunder.

It’s been a couple of years since your last album Wonder Days. How do you see Rip It Out as a progression from that?

I think Wonder Days was very much a comeback album. We hadn’t made one for 7 years and it was really back to the core values of Thunder looking nostalgically back to the ’70’s and the album had that flavour. Rip It Up is very much concerned about now and is a lot more engaged with the current times. Musically I’d say it’s a little more varied.

It must have been great to see Wonder Days hitting the Top 10 for the 1st time in 20 years?

It was great but chart positions are a bit like awards they are great when you get them but if you don’t then fair enough. I think it’s all about what else is out that week but if it goes Top 10 then great. It gives the record company something to shout about.

When did you start working on the new record?

I probably started working on it in November 2015 pulling ideas together. We tend to record pretty much as I write. So I wrote the first seven and we went into record those then I wrote some more and did the same. There were about three writing and recording sessions in total over a 6 or 7 month period. We finished recording in July and had it mixed in September.

Do you tend to write on the road or do you tend to have more focussed writing sessions?

I get the odd idea when I’m on the road but for me it’s more about locking myself in a room and not coming out until I’ve written something. I find it much easier to concentrate when there’s not much going on around.

You write the majority of the songs. Do you present your ideas as demos and recreate those demos in the studio or are you directing what you want in the rehearsal rooms and build the songs up from there before going in to record them?

I basically make the album twice. Once on my own as a demo and then make it again with the band. I have a little studio at home where I work on the demos. As we’ve worked together so long I have a good idea how Danny will interpret something. Some songs write themselves as an arrangement as well but with the band in the studio you tend to put more layers on with backing vocals and stuff. I sit there and crack on until the demo is a good enough representation of what is in my head. I’ll send it out to the boys, we’ll get together and they tell me what they like or don’t like and I’ll ignore that and we’ll record it anyway.

Do you write with one eye on the live performance or does the song come first and then you worry about recreating it live?

I usually write the song first. I write to make an album and then wonder how it’ll work live. Occasionally I’ll think that a certain song will work very well live. I always like to record a song like Zeppelin or Queen who recorded an album concisely and then put extra sections into a song when they played live. Bands that like to play, enjoy that sort of thing but to get too self-indulgent is a big mistake.

You’ve produced the album again and have done most of Thunder’s albums. Why do you prefer self-producing?

I think because of the way the songs get written, the actual songs and structure doesn’t normally change much from the demos. One of the advantages of having a studio at home is that you can try little production ideas before you do them in the proper studio. It means I don’t end up chasing up blind alley’s as I’ve been able to experiment at home. From that point of view it’s evolved into that and I’ve ended up doing the production myself but I wouldn’t be against using an outside producer. It’d be difficult as the songs are what they are but it’d be an interesting thing to do at some point.

In your early days you worked with Andy Taylor of Duran Duran. That raised a few eyebrows at the time but he has impeccable Rock credentials. What did you learn from working with him?

What Andy did when he got involved, and because of the whole business of Terraplane, we were not directionless as such, as we’d already written the first few songs for Backstreet Symphony, but he confirmed what we already knew about ourselves but he coaxed it out of us. Danny was an incredible singer and he said I was a great guitarist and he made us feel really good about ourselves and brought that confidence out of us. We wrote some tunes together like She’s So Fine and that was the first song on the album so it was a statement of intent. He was pretty fundamental at the start of the band. He gave us that self-belief that encouraged us to have faith in ourselves and confidence in our musical instincts and that’s the greatest contribution any producer can make.

When you’re not on the road with Thunder, Harry plays with Magnum and Chris with Tyketto and the Ultimate Eagles. Are you still working with Durham lad Pete Shoulder in the Union?

That’s on the back burner at the moment as Thunder is so time consuming and I don’t have time to think. I’d like to work with Pete again. He’s a fabulous talent and a nice guy. He has a beautiful voice, one of the best I’ve ever heard. He played in Thunder for a few months when Ben was ill so he’s a member of the extended Thunder family. I sincerely hope we’ll work together again but it just depends on circumstances really.

After the UK shows are over, what are your plans for the rest of 2017?

We have a couple of weeks off after the UK tour then head over to Europe for a few weeks. That takes us to festival season and we’re doing a few of those around Europe. We’ll be playing in Japan too. We’ll just keep at it and play as much as we can.

Thunder’s 10 date tour of the UK and Ireland starts on March 17th at Manchester Apollo. See for details.

Rip It Up is out now on earMUSIC.


  • 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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