FILLING YOU UP WITH EVERYTHING GOOD IN NORWICH EACH MONTH

Music > Interviews

The Icicle Works

by Steve Plunkett

30/05/20

The Icicle Works

Ian Mcnabb is a real life rock ‘n’ roll troubadour with a strong reputation throughout the decades as a truly great live performer, that’s played with some rock legends. He is good friends with an ex-Beatle’s son and still going very strong indeed in 2015. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. I was delighted to ask The Icicle Works front man some questions about both his solo and band career to date prior to his up and coming appearance in Norwich at the Waterfront in October. 

Ian, how are you doing? It’s great to have the Icicle Works back on the road once again and more importantly for us long term Icicle Works / Ian Mcnabb followers. You are coming to Norwich again at long last (hurrah).

Well hello there. Yes, I am very pleased to be back playing in Norwich. Been way to long! 

I think that the last time we saw you in Norfolk you were playing keyboards with The Waterboys and then also supporting the late great John Martyn at the UEA. It’s been a while hasn’t it? Have you been avoiding us? Why has it taken you so long to visit us once again?

It’s a bit of a sod to get too unless there’s a date on the way down there or on the way back. I apologise. I nearly made it to Kings Lynn for a court date a few years back.

Really. What’s that all about?

Some bank arrears stuff, with a big high street bank.

I can remember seeing you play at the University of East Anglia (The Barn) back in 1984 with The Icicle Works when you were touring your debut album of the same name. What memories if any do you have of playing in Norwich?

I don’t remember that one in particular. But, I do remember doing lots of UEA shows over the years….great venue. 

There has been a bit of gap since your last solo album (Electic Warrior), I know that you play lots of live shows, but why have you been so quiet in the studio? What got you recording again, enabling you to get the new album Kruggerands released? 

That was my nod to (Marc) Bolan when I released the last album. Two years isn’t an excessive gap between albums, I put three out between 2009 and 2013. I’m working on an album of new songs at the moment, but wanted to put out a record of some old tunes played by my buddies Cold Shoulder and me as we’ve been sounding good live. High On A Hill and Hurricane Elaine are reborn with these scoundrels. 

Yes, you have certainly given many of the songs a new lease of life. Was that the intention? Hurricane Elaine in particular is just for me Ian Mcnabb at your very, very best.

Thank you! Yes, Hurricane Elaine needed to be heard that way I think? I’ve already put two versions of it out and they missed the mark. This version is definitive for the time being. Songs evolve and change live so much over the years, you never really capture a track perfectly. You do the best you can then move on. 

How has it been received by your fan base?

Everyone seems to like it so far. No one’s asked for their money back yet and new orders are coming in daily.

Are you still in touch with the original band members from the Icicle Works (Chris Sharrock and Chris Layhe)? Is there any chance of them turning up at any of the gigs to play a show or two?

Yes, I asked Chris Sharrock every few years if he’ll do a tour but he always says no. Chris Layhe always pops up when I announce an Icicle Works tour wanting to know why he’s not doing it but I’ve been doing this for a long time now and I don’t think his presence onstage without Chris would put bums on seats. He’s been invisible since we broke up. I’ve kept these songs alive and I don’t see why anyone should hitch a free ride.

What made you get the band back together?

I haven’t really. It’s the same guys that have played with me for over ten years now. Richard Naiff, Matthew Priest and Roy Corkill. We have been doing Icicle Works shows with this line up since 2006. 

Have you ever been asked to play on any of the eighties Reload (reunion) tours? If so what was your reason for not taking part? If you got asked to play them would you? If not why not? 

No, I haven’t been asked. But if I was asked to do them, then I'd do it if the money was good. Sure, why not?

So since that debut album back in 1984. How has the journey been? What would you do differently if anything if you could do it all again?

My only real regret is the way we were failed by our U.S record company after the success of the first album. They rejected the second album and all of the ground that we gained by working really hard there was lost. I’m very bitter about that, it’s cost me a lot. 

What do you think to the current British music scene? Is there any artist or band that manages to catch the attention of your eyes and ears or even both these days?

I don’t think much of it all. I don’t hear many great songs. The current generation don’t seem to care much for the art of song writing. They’re more concerned with how they look. I hear a good song occasionally, but no one is blowing me away. There’s so much old stuff that I haven’t got through yet. I love so much up to about 1992 then it all turned shit.

 Are there any plans to do an update on your autobiography (released in 2008) ‘Merseybeast’ (a musical memoir) at any stage?

I haven’t decided yet. Maybe? I’m an impulsive kind of guy. I always make my mind up at the last possible moment and there’s still time to change it even then?

Have you been hanging out with Ringo (Starr) recently? Please tell us about your connection to the man.

No, but I played in his band twice for two, twenty five minute charity shows, twenty years ago. That’s it. I got the gig as I am mates with his son, Zak. We played Monaco and Guildford and it was an amazing experience. I’ve played with a Beatle!

You supported Neil Young in Liverpool in 2014. You also played with Crazy Horse on your Head Like A Rock album; how good were these two experiences for you? Are there any plans to do some more gigs or recordings with them in the future?

Opening for Neil was a dream come true. Especially as it was in Liverpool. Playing with Crazy Horse was an amazing experience also. I also played with them at Glastonbury. There are no plans at the moment to collaborate again, but who knows what the future holds? They’re getting on a bit now though so I’ll have to hurry up!

Has that been your career high to date?

Both of those experiences were right up there yes. The real peak though was the beginning, playing on Top of The Pops and then touring America with a hit single and album. It was an amazing time. 

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud that I’ve lasted so long and am still getting better. A lot of people from my era have lost more than their vocal range. 

What can we expect from the gig at the Waterfront?

Two hours of great music and great playing.

After releasing five studio albums the band split up in 1991, although there has since been the occasional gig since 2006. Are there any plans for a new Icicle Works album? Is there any new material in the new set list?

No there will not be another Icicle Works album and the set list has nothing after 1990 in it. 

You have an enviable reputation as a great live performer. Are you ready to remind us of that and in the process collect some new Robert Ian Mcnabb believers?

More fans are always welcome.

Any plans to play Understanding Jane, Hollow Horse, When It All Comes Down or Up Here In The North Of England? Oh, I could go on, but any chance of sticking one of them at least in the set please?

They’re all in the set.

How much has the industry changed since you started?

It hasn’t changed, it’s died. I survive by having direct contact with my audience now. The internet has done great things for musicians, but it’s done one very bad thing too. Many people don’t think you should pay for an album and that you should just stream it! That’s bad. I miss the big advances, but I now earn £10 for every album that I sell, instead of pennies.

What advice would you give to any new artists trying to make it in the music business today?

Don’t get involved if you’re doing it for the money. Treat it as a hobby. If it’s money you’re after, go into banking. You won’t get rich playing music anymore.

And, one more before you go if you don’t mind? You have written some truly remarkable and life etching lyrics in your time, I have several personal favourites. But what's the best or your favourite line that you have ever written? 

Thanks for the compliment. Well there's so many songs now it's hard to pick out anything. I always liked the lyrics to Lady By Degrees a lot. The best? That's for the listener to think about I'm more interested in the next song.

 

The Icicle Works play at the Waterfront on Sunday the 4th of October. Tickets from ueaticketbookings.co.uk.

 

 

 

 

Ian Mcnabb is a real life rock ‘n’ roll troubadour with a strong reputation throughout the decades as a truly great live performer, that’s played with some rock legends. He is good friends with an ex-Beatle’s son and still going very strong indeed in 2015. Cometh the hour, cometh the man. I was delighted to ask The Icicle Works front man some questions about both his solo and band career to date prior to his up and coming appearance in Norwich at the Waterfront in October. 

Ian, how are you doing? It’s great to have the Icicle Works back on the road once again and more importantly for us long term Icicle Works / Ian Mcnabb followers. You are coming to Norwich again at long last (hurrah).

Well hello there. Yes, I am very pleased to be back playing in Norwich. Been way to long! 

I think that the last time we saw you in Norfolk you were playing keyboards with The Waterboys and then also supporting the late great John Martyn at the UEA. It’s been a while hasn’t it? Have you been avoiding us? Why has it taken you so long to visit us once again?

It’s a bit of a sod to get too unless there’s a date on the way down there or on the way back. I apologise. I nearly made it to Kings Lynn for a court date a few years back.

Really. What’s that all about?

Some bank arrears stuff, with a big high street bank.

I can remember seeing you play at the University of East Anglia (The Barn) back in 1984 with The Icicle Works when you were touring your debut album of the same name. What memories if any do you have of playing in Norwich?

I don’t remember that one in particular. But, I do remember doing lots of UEA shows over the years….great venue. 

There has been a bit of gap since your last solo album (Electic Warrior), I know that you play lots of live shows, but why have you been so quiet in the studio? What got you recording again, enabling you to get the new album Kruggerands released? 

That was my nod to (Marc) Bolan when I released the last album. Two years isn’t an excessive gap between albums, I put three out between 2009 and 2013. I’m working on an album of new songs at the moment, but wanted to put out a record of some old tunes played by my buddies Cold Shoulder and me as we’ve been sounding good live. High On A Hill and Hurricane Elaine are reborn with these scoundrels. 

Yes, you have certainly given many of the songs a new lease of life. Was that the intention? Hurricane Elaine in particular is just for me Ian Mcnabb at your very, very best.

Thank you! Yes, Hurricane Elaine needed to be heard that way I think? I’ve already put two versions of it out and they missed the mark. This version is definitive for the time being. Songs evolve and change live so much over the years, you never really capture a track perfectly. You do the best you can then move on. 

How has it been received by your fan base?

Everyone seems to like it so far. No one’s asked for their money back yet and new orders are coming in daily.

Are you still in touch with the original band members from the Icicle Works (Chris Sharrock and Chris Layhe)? Is there any chance of them turning up at any of the gigs to play a show or two?

Yes, I asked Chris Sharrock every few years if he’ll do a tour but he always says no. Chris Layhe always pops up when I announce an Icicle Works tour wanting to know why he’s not doing it but I’ve been doing this for a long time now and I don’t think his presence onstage without Chris would put bums on seats. He’s been invisible since we broke up. I’ve kept these songs alive and I don’t see why anyone should hitch a free ride.

What made you get the band back together?

I haven’t really. It’s the same guys that have played with me for over ten years now. Richard Naiff, Matthew Priest and Roy Corkill. We have been doing Icicle Works shows with this line up since 2006. 

Have you ever been asked to play on any of the eighties Reload (reunion) tours? If so what was your reason for not taking part? If you got asked to play them would you? If not why not? 

No, I haven’t been asked. But if I was asked to do them, then I'd do it if the money was good. Sure, why not?

So since that debut album back in 1984. How has the journey been? What would you do differently if anything if you could do it all again?

My only real regret is the way we were failed by our U.S record company after the success of the first album. They rejected the second album and all of the ground that we gained by working really hard there was lost. I’m very bitter about that, it’s cost me a lot. 

What do you think to the current British music scene? Is there any artist or band that manages to catch the attention of your eyes and ears or even both these days?

I don’t think much of it all. I don’t hear many great songs. The current generation don’t seem to care much for the art of song writing. They’re more concerned with how they look. I hear a good song occasionally, but no one is blowing me away. There’s so much old stuff that I haven’t got through yet. I love so much up to about 1992 then it all turned shit.

 Are there any plans to do an update on your autobiography (released in 2008) ‘Merseybeast’ (a musical memoir) at any stage?

I haven’t decided yet. Maybe? I’m an impulsive kind of guy. I always make my mind up at the last possible moment and there’s still time to change it even then?

Have you been hanging out with Ringo (Starr) recently? Please tell us about your connection to the man.

No, but I played in his band twice for two, twenty five minute charity shows, twenty years ago. That’s it. I got the gig as I am mates with his son, Zak. We played Monaco and Guildford and it was an amazing experience. I’ve played with a Beatle!

You supported Neil Young in Liverpool in 2014. You also played with Crazy Horse on your Head Like A Rock album; how good were these two experiences for you? Are there any plans to do some more gigs or recordings with them in the future?

Opening for Neil was a dream come true. Especially as it was in Liverpool. Playing with Crazy Horse was an amazing experience also. I also played with them at Glastonbury. There are no plans at the moment to collaborate again, but who knows what the future holds? They’re getting on a bit now though so I’ll have to hurry up!

Has that been your career high to date?

Both of those experiences were right up there yes. The real peak though was the beginning, playing on Top of The Pops and then touring America with a hit single and album. It was an amazing time. 

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud that I’ve lasted so long and am still getting better. A lot of people from my era have lost more than their vocal range. 

What can we expect from the gig at the Waterfront?

Two hours of great music and great playing.

After releasing five studio albums the band split up in 1991, although there has since been the occasional gig since 2006. Are there any plans for a new Icicle Works album? Is there any new material in the new set list?

No there will not be another Icicle Works album and the set list has nothing after 1990 in it. 

You have an enviable reputation as a great live performer. Are you ready to remind us of that and in the process collect some new Robert Ian Mcnabb believers?

More fans are always welcome.

Any plans to play Understanding Jane, Hollow Horse, When It All Comes Down or Up Here In The North Of England? Oh, I could go on, but any chance of sticking one of them at least in the set please?

They’re all in the set.

How much has the industry changed since you started?

It hasn’t changed, it’s died. I survive by having direct contact with my audience now. The internet has done great things for musicians, but it’s done one very bad thing too. Many people don’t think you should pay for an album and that you should just stream it! That’s bad. I miss the big advances, but I now earn £10 for every album that I sell, instead of pennies.

What advice would you give to any new artists trying to make it in the music business today?

Don’t get involved if you’re doing it for the money. Treat it as a hobby. If it’s money you’re after, go into banking. You won’t get rich playing music anymore.

And, one more before you go if you don’t mind? You have written some truly remarkable and life etching lyrics in your time, I have several personal favourites. But what's the best or your favourite line that you have ever written? 

Thanks for the compliment. Well there's so many songs now it's hard to pick out anything. I always liked the lyrics to Lady By Degrees a lot. The best? That's for the listener to think about I'm more interested in the next song.

 

The Icicle Works play at the Waterfront on Sunday the 4th of October. Tickets from ueaticketbookings.co.uk.