DANNY BOWES (THUNDER): “Our Label Thought We Were Insane But We Didn’t Know When We’d Be Able To Tour Again”

Thunder band 2022
Photo: Jason Joyce

With a UK tour a few weeks away and a brand-new double album, Dopamine, out today, things are getting busy for UK Rockers Thunder. Mick Burgess called up lead singer Danny Bowes to talk about the tour and the making of the new album.

These last couple of years have been a challenge for everybody. How has this time been for you?

Apart from having that feeling of being trapped in my house and not being able to play live, it’s been pretty much normal. I used to have an office in town where I plotted my world domination but I gave that up with uncannily good timing, three months before the pandemic. My plan had been to open another a few months later but the pandemic came along so I was lucky not to have been paying rent on a building I couldn’t use, so it worked out quite well.

You’ve had almost two years off the road due to the Covid restrictions. Is that the longest you’ve gone without performing live?

It is yes other than the couple of periods between 2000 and 2002 and also 2009 to 2011 when Thunder were on a hiatus and I didn’t perform but the other guys in the band were out doing other things. This is the longest that Thunder haven’t been able to play while we’ve been together as a band.

Have you played any shows since the lockdown was lifted?

We did two Christmas shows in Wolverhampton which were our first in over two years and they were fantastic. It was a slightly strange feeling as Omnicom had just hit and everyone was a bit nervous of how it was going to go and no one wanted their Christmas to be ruined. Everyone was a little reserved at first but once you added the alcohol in, it came much closer to normal.

You’ll be playing 5 UK shows in May starting in Glasgow on 21st May and reaching Leeds on 22nd May. You must be looking forward to playing throughout the UK again?

We are very excited about it. These shows were originally announced in 2019 for us to play in May 2020 and they were rearranged to May 2021 and rearranged again to May 2022. I feel like I have an itch on my back that I can’t get to so when we get these shows done then I’ll finally feel like I’ve been able to scratch that itch. They’ve been a long time coming and we have released two albums since our last show. It’s going to be quite interesting choosing the set list.

You mentioned it being a challenge for you to pick a setlist for the tour. How do you go about doing that?

We have 16 songs on our new album Dopamine that’s out at the end of the month and there’s 11 on the previous album, All The Right Noises, both of which will have been released since our last tour and then if you add 500 songs from way back when, it’s going to be difficult to choose. We’d love to play all of the new tunes but we have to recognise that some people may not have heard the new record and will be going along to hear the tunes that they know and love. What we have to do is strike a balance so we’ll probably split it 50 % between the last two albums and 50% old. I’m just guessing though as it’s Luke who chooses what to play, so we’ll just have to see what he comes up with. He’s always done it.

Dopamine your 14th album is out soon. You must be excited ahead of its release?

Yes, we are super excited about this record. Under normal circumstances we’d put out an album and go out on tour, spending about 9 months playing all over the place and then we’d spend another year writing and recording an album. It usually takes us two and a half years between records. We had sat on All The Right Noises for a year before it’s release waiting for the right time to release it over the Covid period. When it became clear that we weren’t going to be able to go out and play live, Luke went back to writing more songs. He couldn’t go out, couldn’t play golf or go to the pub so he said he may as well just go back to work on new songs. Within two months of the release of All The Right Noises, we were back in the studio recording new songs which was really strange. We then had a couple of months off and Luke wrote some more songs and we went back into the studio in September. It was mixed in October and by November we’d handed it over to the record label and we wanted it releasing before the next tour. Our label thought we were insane but we didn’t know when we’d be able to tour again after May so if they didn’t release it now, we could end up sitting on it for two years. It was bad enough sitting on the last one for a year. We were not doing that again.

You’ve already released “The Western Sky” as a single. How’s the reaction been to that?

It’s been really good. It was released with virtually no fanfare and everybody got excited about it which made us really chuffed. We’ve just released “Dancing In The Sunshine” which was timed well for the lovely weather and that’s gone down really well too. The next single with be “Across The Nation” which is about being trapped inside during the Lockdown and how brilliant it will be when we emerge, so there’ll be three tunes released before the album comes out.

Luke writes most of the material for Thunder. How does he present his ideas to you? Do you get demos with guide vocals?

He has a recording studio at home and he pretty much records the album twice. Once with himself and once with all of us. He sends us demos and the songs are fully formed, not always in their final state but they’re good enough for us to know what is needed. He does the vocals on them to give me an idea of what he wants and luckily, he’s not as good a singer as me otherwise I’d be out of a job. I always joke with him that he should release his versions to give everybody a good laugh but trust me, no one wants to hear that, it’s not pretty. Luckily, he can carry a tune, he’s a brilliant songwriter and a great guitarist. He’s a great arranger and really good about being objective about the material which is why he produces the album too but his singing does leave a lot to be desired. I know exactly what he wants and we all know where we fit in and he’s able to take a lot for granted as we’ve been together for so long. He knows exactly how everybody will do it and we know what he wants from us when he presents us with his demos.

This is your first double album and features 16 new songs. It’s clear that Luke was in a particularly productive vein of creativity?

He’s a clever old stick, there’s no doubt about it. Once he started writing, it became very apparent to us that he was pushing the envelope in terms of creativity as a lot of songs he was writing weren’t the usual Thunder fare.

Did you start off with the aim of making a double album or is that how it turned out?

By the time we went into the studio for the second session we’d already recorded seven songs and we had another 12 or13 done in the second session that we couldn’t choose which ones we wanted to leave off. We’d recorded 20 songs and if we were going to put out a single album, we’d have to cut that down to 11 or 12. We couldn’t choose eight songs to remove. Luke said he’d been thinking about a double album. It kind of crept up on us and because of the depth and variety of the songs we’d recorded then it seemed right to put out a double album. Some of those songs wouldn’t go on a single album as they’re a bit longer, like “Big Pink Supermoon” with the long saxophone solo at the end which was so good we didn’t want to cut short or some go into a slightly different area of creativity but they suit being on a double album so we decided to go ahead and release a double album.

Was Luke influenced lyrically about what has been going on for the last couple of years?

There’s a few that deal with isolation, some that are self-examining, there’s a couple about freedom and emancipation and one about racial discrimination. There’s some social commentary, conspiracy theories and some hopeful ones in there too. Luke always writes about what’s in his head. Some are darker than others and some are happier. “Just A Grifter” for example is aimed directly at Boris Johnson.

With a double album due out and an arena tour round the corner, things are certainly good for Thunder at the moment?

I don’t know what it is, whether we’re slow burners or we’re like a fine wine and the tunes get better with age. I really don’t know what it is. I don’t know the answer and don’t really care. All I care about is if people like what we do and enough of them buy it, that will give us the licence to keep on doing it.

What are you planning for the rest of the year?

We’ll be doing five festival shows in June in Europe. We’d like to do more but the business is still trying to get back on its feet. A lot of the festival bills this year are the bills from the previous years that got put back so a lot of the festivals are full. It’s not the end of the world, we have to be philosophical about it and hope there’s plenty of gigs next year. Beyond releasing the album and doing these shows, I don’t think we’ll be doing a great deal so Luke will go back and write some more songs.

Dopamine is out now on BMG.

Thunder’s UK tour starts on 21st May in Glasgow. See thunderonline.com for more details.

Interview By Mick Burgess


  • 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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