Steeped In Blues – An interview with Alan Nimmo (King King) by John Finn
The Nimmo Brothers have been wooing audiences up and down the UK and beyond for many years with their special brand of honest, hard working, and down to earth rock blues. After 20 years on the road together, and each with their own solo projects demanding more and more time and attention, Alan and Stevie Nimmo have decided to put The Nimmo Brothers out to grass for a couple of years. Alan henceforth will be focusing on his own band King King, and Stevie will be working with his trio The Stevie Nimmo Trio.
I went to watch the Nimmo Brothers on the final leg of their 20th Anniversary UK tour, and Alan took some time out after the gig to give me an update on the Nimmo Brothers, his immediate plans for King King, and a sentimental look back to his early days as an aspiring musician.
I started the interview by asking Alan to shed some light on his childhood family home in Glasgow, when both he and older brother Stevie were two young aspiring guitarists. What was the home environment like that would produce two of the most formidable blues guitarists to come out of Britain in the last decade? Stevie, older by 6 years, was playing around with guitars long before his little brother,showed any interest, but Alan was being exposed to lots of musical influences from very early on.
Alan: My mother is a big blues and rock fan, so we were listening to blues and classic rock stuff from very young. She introduced us to people like Peter Green, Free, Bad Company, Rod Stewart, Steve Marriott, and Thin Lizzy. Stevie and I immediately fell for that kind of music and loved it, so we both grew up listening to, and being influenced by the same music.
It wasn’t too long before Alan began picking out tunes on the guitar for himself.
Alan: I think I was about 12 before I started getting interested in actually playing guitar. I remember hearing my brother practicing guitar in his bedroom, and I’d run in there and just sit at the end of the bed and have a look at what he was doing. I was fascinated with what was happening, so I’d run off to my bedroom and practice what I’d seen him doing.
Before too long, the brothers started going out playing live music gigs. Initially, the brothers followed slightly different musical paths.
Alan: We were playing different things, and began playing in different bands for awhile. And then, twenty years ago this year (1995), we decided that we both wanted to start working together. We recorded our first album together (The Nimmo Brothers) and went from there.
John: Was there any sibling rivalry between you?
Alan: Ah, no! There’s never been any rivalry between us. We’ve been nothing but encouraging to one another. You always get people saying “I prefer him” and “Who do you think is the best?” But to us, that’s just nonsense. It means nothing. There’s no competition (between us).
With 1,000s of live performances, and six acclaimed albums over 20 years, the brothers have decided to put The Nimmo Brothers in moth balls for awhile. One could be forgiven for surmising that this sabbatical is linked to internal problems with the band, or some sort of conflict or drift between the brothers themselves.
Alan: Oh! We’ve had our fare share of battles over the year! But we’ve given a bit of road to that kind of nonsense now. We know each other so well, and we’re just best friends!
It’s the same with the guys in the band. Bass player Mat Beable has been with the Nimmo Brothers for 10 years, and he’s just like another brother. And Wayne (Proctor) is also the drummer with King King. We’ve known Wayne since 1999. So we’re all buddies and friends. It makes it a lot easier for everyone, especially on the road.
As much as they love playing together, they both have our own ideas which they are both keen to pursue
Alan: Although we’ve got very similar tastes in music, I wanted to do something with a Hammond player, and write a certain way. Stevie has his ideas for what he wants to do. I’d say that, these days, Stevie is more of a country rock/Americana music fan.
Because of the momentum that Alan’s King King and Stevie’s Stevie Nimmo Trio are getting, the brothers decided to ‘…step back a little bit from The Nimmo Brothers, and let the two other bands do their thing, for a couple of years”.
In between days off and the Nimmo Brothers’ final UK tour, Stevie has been in the studio recording his own album for The Stevie Nimmo Trio. The album will be released early next year (February), and the band will be touring as a package with Ben Poole.
Alan: Like I say, if anyone has got any confusion about what’s happening, The Nimmo Brothers will not, and never will be splitting up…. ever! Until one of us is dead, that will be the only time we’re done.
And of course, Alan will be very busy touring with his own band King King. The band have aready embarked on another major UK tour, after which they head out to Germany for dates in December. And 2016 is already looking like being a very busy year as well, starting with an arena tour in February with the rock band Thunder.
Alan: I get dizzy thinking about what’s coming up. I find it difficult to juggle everything. It’s become a bit hectic, and we hardly ever get any spare time. No one gets home anymore, ever! That can be very very difficult as we both have families. Stevie lives in France, so his family is over there. And mine is back home in Glasgow. Fortunately enough, we’ve all got families and loved ones that are very understanding, and know exactly what it is we do. We’ve got a great support system from family and friends. We’re very fortunate.
One of the highlights of the tour with Thunder is that the band gets to play the iconic Wembley arena.
Alan: We’re really happy about that!
Notwithstanding the Wembley highlight, there’s one gig in particularly that Alan is very excited about. The band’s final gig of 2015 is happening in his home town of Glasgow, just before Christmas.
Alan: I get to play at the famous Barrowlands in Glasgow, one of my all time favourite venues. And we’re doing the show with one of my favourite rock bands from when I was a school kid, a band called Gun. This is a massive box for me to tick personally. I remember going to the Barrowlands lots of times; everytime they (Gun) released a new album, I used to go to watch them. I used to jump up and down in the crowd. And now, I’m so fortunate. I feel so lucky and privileged that I’m friends with the band. We phone each other and chat, and it’s great to be part of that. We’re going to put a great show together in Glasgow.
With all this talk about rock, I asked Allan to clarify his position on the blues, a musical genre I’ve always considered as King King’s modus operandi.
Alan: I think what’s happened is that with the natural progression with the type of song writing I’m doing, especially for King King, the music has gone a little classic rock. So when I write songs now, all those early influences from Free and Bad Company all seem to start coming out. Classic Rock, and Planet Rock, and those sort of guys have started pricking up their ears and paying attention to it a little bit. We’re quite happy with that; that’s fine for us. But there’s always going to be blues in my music. There’s always going to be blues; we’re steeped in blues. And that’s where my roots are in terms of the music.
Rock or blues, Alan seems to have an uncanny sense for what his fans want, judging by the reaction of audiences up and down the country to his particularly brand of rhythm and blues. I was particularly intrigued by how he seemed to connect emotionally to people through his guitar playing. I asked him what his secret was.
Alan: I personally think that if what you do is done with honesty and passion; if your genuine about what your doing, and it’s not just all a big show; it’s not all fake; I think the audience will see that. I think that’s what connects with the audience. It’s the only thing that connects with the audience, the fact that they can believe in it because you believe in it. I think that’s the only way forward for doing this!