Room Thirteen talk to charimatic young songwriter Tom Allalone.
R13: To start with you sound like an expert musician, how long have you been writing and playing for?
Tom: Well, expert is not a term that I would use. There is so much that I do not know. But slowly, with a little help from some bigger boys that I hang around with, I'm learning. I started writing seriously about 10 years ago and since then I've just been researching the idea of 'song' and honing my skills day by day. I played my
first shows as the musical accompaniment to a Cooch dancer in a carny show. Then I got given my own slot and did well for a while. I'd play old blues numbers mainly, a few rust songs, the usual. Then the dancer found herself in the family way and her father sacked me from the show. And then I went out alone. That was about 4 years ago now.
R13: What was the first tune that made you want to pick up a guitar?
T: It must have been something by one of the greats...it's hard to think. I guess from and early age I was a big fan of the album by Francis Albert Sinatra and Anonio Carlos Jobim. That is one of the finest records I've ever heard. Other than that, lets see...er... maybe something by Chet Baker or even Sonny Boy Williamson. Those are all old favourites of mine. In terms of pop music, it would have to have been either the Beatles or the Doors or something.
R13: Your sound is very fresh and different to the current trends, what or who are your inspirations?
T: Other than the people I've already mentioned, I'd say.... Alan Lomax is a complete God as far as I'm concerned. Any music lovers reading this should look him up. Everybody owes him big-time! Individually it'd be Robert Johnson, Son House, Mel Torme, The Four Freshmen, Screamin Jay Hawkins, Hot Club Of Cowtown, Calexico, Ray Charles, James Brown, Doris Day and Franciose Hardy. I know that may sound like a complete mish-mash of musics that have no coherence. But I assure you, they do. They are all strung together by one thing. Attention and emphasis on the song. Not the performer. Which leads us on nicely...
R13: You've shunned current scene heroes like Pete Doherty and Johnny Borrell saying that you want to be more of an entertainer. For someone who's never seen you before, how are your performances more exciting than the standard indie show?
T: Well, now I have to be careful. I have no objection to the people that you mentioned in terms of their success or existence. And if I start slating the indie scenes, I'm in danger of alienating a lot of people who actually like what I do. That's not my point. What does worry me, for all our sakes, is the monopoly that takes hold. There's this siege mentality that requires all bands to be similar, or at least related to, what has gone before, and anyone who falls outside those walls, is treated with contempt. It' like the way that kids will poke a dead fox with a stick. We are so scared of the unknown, that we keep it at arms length. At the moment England can only digest new music that follows on from last year's big thing. This approach leaves no room for the element of surprise. So in a nutshell, playing badly and acting like a cunt may be in fashion now, but let's all open our ears to....I don't know...maybe an ugly old man from the other side of the world, who can play well and will do so for free. Radical huh?
My live show is supposed to fun. We don't ask you buy t-shirts or Tom Allalone key-rings. We would however, love it if people danced. Please just come to out shows and do the twist or something. You'll be amazed at how liberating it feels to dance to a live band. Kids in China have only recently been allowed to dance. Do it for them.
R13: Are there other acts on the current music scene that you enjoy then?
Outside the scene yes. But not in the scene I find myself in. I don't discredit them. I just don't enjoy them. Simple as that. Friends of mine listen to contemporary music and get so frustrated when I refuse to like what they like. They think I'm just being difficult. But for me, if I like what everybody else does, what's in it for me? I know what the Arctic Monkeys sound like. And I know they're good at what they do, but when I asked if have bought their latest long-player, my answer always infuriates them. Then I say...'But I DID buy an old Sam Cooke LP!' And I win the argument.
R13: You play with a band live, is it strange having someone else play your music when you're used to writing, and presumably recording, alone?
T: Most of the time I'm with the band. But, no, it's not weird. The band are great. They all come from good homes, but they do a little moonlighting on my side of the tracks. I recorded this first album with an amazing Producer/Arranger called Neil Luckett. He descended from half a German. I met him during a tour of YMCAs that I played last year. He was a bit washed up and drinking too much desert wine, but he liked what I had played that night and we went to his little dorm room in the hostel and recorded the album in one night. So he and I whittled this music together. He is very much the Rogers to my Hart. He'll correct my mistakes and beat me up if I write something too lightweight.
R13: Did you choose the band members or are they mates?
T: My drummer Matthew was part of that travelling show I mentioned. He used to operate the ferris wheel. Until there was a slight accident. Richard Clarke was an old friend form a band I was in called the Debonaires who operated out of Rosherville. Tom Connor was originally employed as the doorman at the now infamous 'Cellar' club in my hometown, Gravesend. One night our bass player disappeared and Connor stepped in. Come to think of it, that other fella is still missing. What was his name...?
R13: If you could play with any other band in the world, who would it be?
T: Hhhmmm. I would have loved to be in Devo. Yeah. Devo i think.
R13: Will you be playing any festivals this summer?
T: Yes. We are on the bill for Electric Gardens in Canterbury, Foxfest in Lewisham, SE London, and we're headlining The Riverfest in Burnham-on-Crouch. No, really. We are.
R13: What's been the most exciting show that you've played so far?
T: Gee, what a great question. I can't think. Er...we opened up for a Burlesque dancer called Crimson Skye. That was exciting. I got excited.
R13: What are your hopes for the future?
T: Well, I must admit I don't know. My musical career relies on people being willing to listen. You know, truly listen. So I guess I hope people will do that.
R13: Thanks for your time and good luck.
T: Thanks very much. But luck has nothing to do with it.
Room Thirteen talk to charimatic young songwriter Tom Allalone.