hard to write on the road when you’re in a Transit van with
six other people"
Interview and Photos by Dawn
This evening’s Duke
Special gig at the Leicester Charlotte is one of the best
yet. The diminutive Irishman’s music has always been wonderful
and in a class of its own but, over the course of the last year,
Duke’s alter-ego Peter Wilson has grown in confidence onstage
and, as he does, his performances become ever more unforgettable.
Earlier in the evening, Record Overplayed sat down with the Duke
himself for a chat about everything that’s happened since
we last saw him, in Leeds back in May.
‘That was a long time ago...’ says Peter, with a thoughtful
look suggesting that he hasn’t actually stopped touring since
then. The number of yawns which punctuate his answers add weight
to this theory, but Peter is as charming and as talkative as ever,
despite his lack of sleep. ‘That was in the middle of a headline
tour with Beth Rowley, I think. Beth is now number nine in the iTunes
download chart so she’s doing really, really well –
things are kicking off for her.
|‘I did a lot of festivals
over the summer - everything from Glastonbury to Glasgowbury, in Northern
Ireland – and various European festivals, then after that I
did a residency at the Belfast Empire - five nights each with a different
theme - which was brilliant. Great fun to do and very challenging.
‘I did a three
week solo tour in Ireland of small venues. I’ve been to Paris,
I did four nights in London...’
As if that weren’t enough, Peter is currently on the road
supporting Crowded House at a number of big shows, in between which
he’s managing to squeeze in the odd headlining gig like tonight.
So when is he going to find the time to write a follow-up to Songs
From the Deep Forest?
‘It’s in my plans,’ says Peter.
‘Over the next while I’m going to be taking five months
off from the road, from January to May. It’s going to be a
time of writing, recording, recuperating - and anything else beginning
with ’R’!. And reinventing, probably, as well. And time
to figure out where I’m going. The label I have been with,
V2, has been taken over by Universal and I didn’t know if
I’d be kept on, but it turns out that I have been, so my next
record will be on Universal Records. I’ve got a few new songs,
but I really need some time by myself. It’s very hard to write
on the road when you’re travelling in a Transit van with six
the sounds of it Peter’s songwriting ideas often come when
he least expects them:
‘Walking along, I often get a melody, then a little hook line,
then eventually I’ll transfer it to the piano or the guitar.
It can take some time getting it right. Often the melody comes first
for me. Maybe a few phrases – often there’ll be maybe
a phrase someone says that sticks in my head then I’ll be
walking along and I’ll come up with a melody. Getting the
second verse is always hard. You get an initial idea then you realise
you know, you’ve got to follow it up. I’m a bit of a
novice in terms of writing so I’m very much looking forward
to stretching myself in that respect.’
One of Peter’s most recent releases was the
download-only single Our Love Goes Deeper Than This, which
featured Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy and Romeo Stodart of The
Magic Numbers. Quite a line-up for a single?
|‘I had the idea of
writing a brand new song for the rerelease of the album, and I wanted
something that was a bit ambitious,’ he explains. ‘Originally
I had a choir of about 20 people, really well-known people, which
was really ridiculous for what I was trying to do. But as I was writing
the song I could imagine Neil singing it, so I gave him a call and
asked him. And I’d met Romeo a few times over the summer and
he really liked my record and I really liked his, so he ended up singing
With so much having happened for Duke Special this year, it’s
difficult for Peter to pick out the highlights but, when pressed,
he says: ‘Headlining one of the main tents at the Electric Picnic
Festival in Dublin was brilliant. And so was supporting Ray Davies
at the Electric Proms.’
|No doubt tonight’s
gig could also now be well up there among Peter’s favourite
moments of the year, thanks to its lively crowd and seemingly endless
encores. The show contains everything from deafening audience singalongs
to a frankly terrifying interlude during Salvation Tambourine
when, as the lights go down, Duke’s record player emits maniacal
laugher, his band unleash a cacophony of eerie noises and, lurking
in the shadows, hatted guitarist Paul Pilot looks for a split second
as though he belongs on the front cover of A Clockwork Orange.
Thankfully normality is soon restored, with Ben Castle’s extraordinary
saxophone solos, Duke and Paul’s beautiful rendition of This
Could Be My Last Day and Chip Bailey’s death-defying stage
dive amongst the night’s other highlights. Thank you, Duke and
co, for another special evening.
With huge thanks to the lovely
Peter and Matt, and to Phil and Paul. Visit www.DukeSpecial.com
for more information.
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