The Peckham Cowboys: London’s most exciting amalgamation of exceptional musical talent with probably the most impressive collective musical history. Separately, these guys have worked with Mott the Hoople, Slash, Primal Scream, Ash, Dogs D’Amour and countless others. Together, they form the most beguiling and incendiary, genuine rock n roll band on the circuit today.
Nominated for two Pure Rawk Awards; ‘Band of the Year’ and ‘Front person of the Year’, I caught up with the guys at their recent gig at Camden Barfly for a wonderfully jovial, haphazard chat…
After a recent line-up change, the ‘Cowboys are now more geographically diverse than ever before, with all UK-based members residing in about four different counties between them, and bass player Nigel (Mogg) living in the altogether more exotic climes of LA. This, understandably, necessitates the odd stand-in musician here and there. I questioned the practicality of such logistics…
“Well, obviously we’ve got the core element of the band.” explains charismatic frontman Marc “We knew when we asked Nige to join the band that he might not always be available. Peckham Cowboys is a strong brand nowadays and whoever comes under that umbrella is a Peckham Cowboy, whether it’s honorary or permanent.”
“Permanamanent“ guitarist and founding ‘Cowboy Dale adds, from the other end of the table, having previously stated he wouldn’t be taking part in this interview.
Through giggles, I protest on Dale’s behalf. “Nah, I’m only joking” Marc grins.
Dale: No, he’s quite right…
And with that, Dale happily takes his leave in the general direction of the smoking area.
To clarify, the permanent Cowboys are Marc (frontman), Dale (guitar), Darrell (guitar), Duncan (keys & trumpet), Ryan (drums) and Nigel (bass). Tonight’s honorary ‘Cowboy is the lovely Phil, standing in on bass.
“Unfortunately Nige can’t always make it” Marc continues, “he lives in LA and until we get to a point where perhaps people are throwing money at it [the band], y’know… We’re self-financed at the moment. Cargo [Records] put the album out, which was great, but we’re still working on our own steam at the moment, until some fairy god mother pops up. But the band is the band, we’ve got Ryan, the kid, on drums, we’ve got Darrell on guitar, obviously Dale is a founding member of the band, and Phil is coming in off the subs bench… and who else we got? Duncan, he’s our man on the keyboards.”
I ask if having a more fluid line-up keeps things more interesting…
Marc: Yeah. I think the only criteria for me is that, say with previous people we’ve worked with, if they’re not 100% committed, you’ve got to be brutal. You’re a Peckham Cowboy or you’re not. With Guy [Bailey], the other founding member of the band, he decided he was gonna hang up his spurs for touring, because he’s been there and done it, and that’s fair enough.
Louise: So that was amicable?
Marc: Oh yeah! I spoke to Guy the other day, and hopefully one day we’ll be able to do a bit of writing together again, but maybe not, y’know, it doesn’t bother me. We’ve got some great members in now and we’re working on the second album.
Louise: So is the second album planned for release this year?
Marc: It is, we were just talking about this weren’t we, Darrell?
Darrell: Yeah, we’ll be getting together to do some writing very soon, probably in the next week or so. And you’ve already got some new stuff going…
“Yeah” Marc agrees “ I’ve got a few tracks on the go, I’ve got something called ‘Not Guilty’… “ (a nod to Marc’s recent exoneration…) “It’s a beautiful song. And we’ve got one called ‘The Debt Collector’. It’s all drawing on life down in the SE15 area, y’know.” Marc reels off a few more songs, almost enough to fill an album already.
Asked if the song writing is quite a collective endeavour, Marc explains that that’s the plan; “It’s going to be, yeah. I mean, the first album was done with beats, obviously. So we basically put it together in Peckham, in Guy’s bedroom and living room, and when we got into the mixing of it we said ‘actually this sounds great, let’s just do it like this.’ I had wanted to eventually put live drums on it, but we never went down that route in the end. We’d like to do that again, record a few tracks like that, but we’d also like to get everyone together in a room and record some tracks live and see how that works out because obviously we develop the songs as we play, they’re continuously evolving. It’s Stonesy, Zeppliny, y’know, those sort of bands did that.”
Marc: Yeah, June/July we’re looking to go out, properly. We’ve got a few dates in March, including the Awards show.
Louise: Indeed, and you’re nominated.
Marc: We are!
Louise: Band of the Year and Frontperson of the Year.
Marc: Who me? (cue comically feigned overt modesty for dramatic effect)
Louise: Is it exciting to be nominated?
Marc: Yeah, it’s lovely! It’s really, really lovely. When you put a band together, you don’t really know if people are taking any fuckin’ notice… but they are! And that’s really nice.
Louise: And do you expect to win?
Marc: No. (short pause) Having said that, I think we’ve got a good chance with the band.
Conversation shifts to Ginger and who has / hasn’t worked with him. Marc discovers he’s possibly delusional, imagining photos of Darrell on stage with Ginger, whilst Darrell assures us he’s “never been anywhere near the geezer”.
I’m interested to know what other bands the guys have been in previously…
“Let’s go round the table…” Marc suggests, settling in for a long listing.
Darrell: Well I was in Dogs D’Amour for a little while, and Duncan was in Primal Scream.
Darrell: Well, some of us are old boys who’ve been playing for thirty years…
At this point, Duncan steals focus from Darrell as he produces, from deep within the murky depths of his inner coat pocket, a neatly folded copy of his Curriculum Vitae, and hands it to me.
Marc: Is that a CV? Fuckin’ hell, it’s not a job interview, Dunc!
“Royal Academy of Music” I read aloud.
Marc: Fuckin’ hell, I can’t even spell it, let alone go to it.
Some light perusing of the CV reveals an impressive list of bands 99% of which I can’t remember at time of writing, but Embrace, Ash and Richard Ashcroft were definitely in there.
Marc: Darrell and I have both done a lot of work with Mott The Hoople, so we connected on that level.
Darrell: Yeah, that’s the foundation. The ‘Hoople are obviously a great British institution, they’re up there with Free and the ‘Stones and The Faces, y’know, they’re in the top five British bands. So I did five years with them, and Marc did a few
Louise: So you’ve toured the world?
Marc: Yeah, pretty much. I’ve done bits and bobs… DNA Doll, I worked with Slash out in LA through that, but it’s all an apprenticeship, really, to get to where we are here; playing good old British rock n roll.
Marc turns to the baby of the band; drummer Ryan. “Ryan’s obviously brand new”
“But he’s done a lot of playing for his young age” adds Darrell
Ryan: “I don’t really know what to say, to be honest with you. I’m from the Forest of Dean, population of about 10. Played in numerous original bands from the age of nine and now I’m with the Peckham Cowboys.”
Ryan: I love it all, I love it all, it’s what I was born to do. Definitely the way forward with the ‘Cowboys.
Darrell: He [Ryan] was up drinking with a reggae band until five this morning.
Ryan: Yeah, hence the red bull and orange juice (Ryan proudly holds his can of Red Bull and pint of orange juice aloft)
Talk moves on to the early December ‘Christmas Tatt Tour’…
“It was good.” Marc nods “We played a couple of gigs down south and there were about 40 people there, then we went up north and the gigs were rammed. There was one gig in Sheffield where some people saw us in soundcheck, and they were supposed to be going to see Tyla, up the road, and nothing against Tyla, he’s a great lad, but they were selling their Tyla tickets to come and see us instead. We were really happy with that.”
One of the things I really love about this band is the ‘hanging by a thread’, ‘anything could happen’ aura that surrounds them. On the morning of day two of their ‘Christmas Tatt’ tour, Marc posted on Facebook that they were playing Brighton that night, adding as a casual afterthought that Nigel was MIA and if anyone knew where he was, to get in touch. I asked what had unfolded thereafter…
“Oh, he’d disappeared off into the night after the London gig.” Marc explains “We knew he’d be there [Brighton], though. He got the train down. There he was when we pulled up in the van, standing there with his fuckin’ sideburns, looking like Wolverine.”
I’d previously read a review of the band’s debut album ‘Flog It’, which suggested that the Cowboys must surely leave a trail of destruction in their wake, and I was curious to know if the guys thought that was a fairly accurate comment.
Marc: Love and destruction.
Darrell: And a few laughs as well. And maybe a few hangovers. I wouldn’t say destruction because that’s a negative thing, isn’t it? We try to build things up and make people happy, y’know. We don’t smash things up.
Marc: Nah, we don’t do that.
Darrell: There might be a bar tab lying about somewhere
Marc: A few broken hearts. We don’t Hoover up after ourselves, let’s put it that way. I don’t know about destruction – some people might see it that way, some people might say we’re a bunch of scruffy fuckers who don’t give a monkeys. But yeah, a trail of blood and spunk up and down the country… as my old granny used to say.
When asked for any final words …
Darrell: Stay off the hard drugs and have a good time.
Duncan: Have a good time all the time.
Marc: I’ve got one – play from the fuckin’ heart.
For more information on the Peckham Cowboys, visit their Facebook. The ‘Cowboys will be opening the Pure Rawk Awards 2013 on Friday 8th March at the Boston Music Room in Tufnell Park, North London. Visit www.purerawkawards.com for the last few tickets.
All words and live images by Louise Delahunty. Top feature picture © Beki Cowey / Bekitakespictures (2013).