Richard Thomas interview 7.5.15

Here’s the final part of the reformed THE HIGH jigsaw. Interview with classy pianist and the man behind the Manchester By Piano series. Very enjoyable interview. Take a read!

Hi Richard, how are you?

Great thanks, still feeling good from the gig in York last weekend.

Tells us a bit about your upbringing?

I grew up in Yorkshire, my Dad is very musical and he sorted me out with guitar and piano lessons from a young age. There was always music in our house, it was a really lively, happy environment.

Tell us how you first got into music?

As I said, my family really encouraged me and I had an older brother who introduced me to Bowie’s music, and a younger sister who eventually became my gigging partner – we went to see the Mondays, Charlatans etc and we were at Spike Island, a brilliant day out.

What made you start playing the piano?

We had the piano in the house and I just used to lose myself in it when I was a kid, it took away all the stress of school. Somehow I ended up being lucky enough to go to music college in Leeds.

Who are your keyboard heroes?

Nobody really but I have always loved Gary Numan’s music , even when most people hated it, and I started playing covers of “Down in the Park” and “ Are Friends Electric” when I was about 14, they were the first piano versions I did.

Can you go into a bit of detail of how you started the Manchester by piano series?

I have always played those songs on the piano for my own pleasure and relaxation, then someone gave me the idea to upload them on youtube – I went back to Spike Island and filmed a video there which I put with the “Made of Stone” piano version. From that I started doing covers of all my favourite bands, Chameleons, Roses, Smiths, Oasis, Paris Angels and of course The High. Its really just music that I love and the songs seem to strike a real chord with people who are into that music and that time.

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Have you had much feedback from the actual bands you have covered? If so who has contacted you?


Apart from the incredible moment when John from The High emailed me (a big thing for me being such a massive fan from way back), I have also heard from Paris Angels, Mark Burgess, Northside and Inspirals, just messages of good wishes really.

Of late you have been involved in the reformation of early 90’s band THE HIGH. How did that all happen?

As I said The High have always been one of my favourite bands and I have never stopped listening to the incredible “Somewhere Soon” album. In terms of musical structure and melody “Up and Down” is one of the finest songs ever written and my sister and I used to play and sing that all the time when it first came out. I still can’t believe I was on stage with The High last week, considering I listened to all those songs for years in my bedroom and I knew every chord and melody to them. I think it was Tina Street who put me in touch with John a couple of years ago and he said that he and Andy loved my version of “Up and Down”. Then earlier this year I heard from him again asking if I would like to have a go at playing piano for them – you can imagine my reaction !!

 

 

How have rehearsals been? 


Amazing, I love the vibe there every week with these fabulous songs ringing around the walls. We also seem to get on well and have some good banter. For the first couple of rehearsals I was so nervous I was shaking at the piano, but the guys made me feel very much at ease. It is a pleasure playing with such talent, the rhythm section of Jack and Tony are absolutely rock solid and keep the songs driving along.

THE HIGHs songs have piano parts in them do I guess you fitted in quite naturally?

I knew the piano parts to most of the songs, but Andy has pushed me to add some more parts and also play the Organ-based songs like “Bombay Mix” and “This is My World” which are both great to play.

Were you a fan of THE HIGH back in the early 90’s?

I was one of the Number One fan, me and my sister had 3 different versions of the Box Set Go single, and I had all the other vinyls. I’ve still got all the records, including at least 2 different 12” singles of “Take Your Time”. I listened to Somewhere Soon every day for years, and I still listen to it all the time now. It’s the combination of Andy’s amazing guitar and John’s wonderful dreamy vocals, sheer quality. Andy has the distinction of having his own guitar sound, to me that is the hardest thing to find with a band, but you hear Andy play and you know it’s him no matter what the song or band.

What are your fav tracks of THE HIGH?

Up and Down just because it is such an amazing song, that song will live on in history. Lots of others, including the less familiar stuff like “Keep on Coming” and “Joustabout”. They are all amazing songs in my mind.

Did you enjoy the comeback gig at York? Any personal highlights for you?

It was like seeing my favourite band live and actually being on stage with them. The feeling within the band that day was amazing, and despite the stories of me smashing up a restaurant in York it was a great time. Adam, our driver, roadie and friend was an absolute legend keeping us going until the early hours as we wound our way back to Stockport and Chester.

Are you looking forward to Gigantic?

Yes massively!! My sister (the one from The High and Spike Island days) is going to come up with me for that one so it will be an amazing day, plus hopefully some old friends will be there.

If THE HIGH continue to tour after gigantic will you stay with the band?

Just taking it a step at a time, it’s a dream come true to be playing with my favourite band so who knows where it’s going?

Are there any further plans to do any more piano covers?

Well as I said I play the piano all the time, I’m playing lots of Smiths tunes at the minute so maybe I will put some of those on Youtube.


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