Federal Charm are getting ready to hit the road across the UK as part of the Planet Rock “Roadstars” tour.

The forthcoming “Roadstars” tour will feature a triple bill of some of the best in breaking rock and blues acts around at the moment including Simo, Aaron Keylock and Manchester based quartet Federal Charm.

National Rock Review recently caught up with Federal Charm’s lead guitarist Paul Bowe to talk about the forthcoming UK tour, the band’s new album Across The Divide and their plans for 2017.

NRR:Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today, we really appreciate it.
Paul: No worries.
NRR: Obviously you are about to hit the road across the UK on the Planet Rock “Roadstars” tour alongside Simo and Aaron Keylock, which is a great combination. I was just wondering what are you looking forward to most about this tour?
Paul: Yeah, good question. This will be our ninth UK run in just less than three years. We are looking forward to being part of a unique bill with two other really talented groups/trios, I think it’s going to be a very diverse bill. Just to be part of the Planet Rock brand and basically picking up new fans along the way, it’s always good to get out there. It’s been a while since we’ve been on the road, so yeah it’s just getting back into the routine and it’s another level up, so it’s good.
NRR: How much do you know about Simo and Aaron Keylock, have you had the chance to see them live before?
Paul: Yeah, I’ve checked Aaron Keylock out, we’ve played two gigs with him previously. We played at the 100 Club in London last year and I think at the Giants of Rock in Minehead at the beginning of the year, so we are fully aware of what he’s doing. Yeah, he’s a great young talent. Simo, again a proper true purist of the art, he puts on a great show, so it’s going to be a good £15 for the punter anyway, let’s put it that way.
NRR: Having three great guitarists on the bill including yourself, how much competition is there going to be each night between the three of you?
Paul: (laughing) That’s a good question, I’ve never been asked yet so well done for asking a very unique, fresh and original question. I don’t know about competition, I’m a bit of a sponge, so I will just be nicking everyone else’s licks, that’s what I will be doing (laughing). I think everyone that knows Federal Charm will know that Aaron Keylock and Simo are two trios you know essentially, so they are going to have a lot of similarities in their presentation and what they do. Our band format will kind of come through a little bit more and add diversity to the actual night. Yeah, like I said I will just be nicking everyone else’s material.
NRR: The other thing you’ve got to keep an eye on with Simo, I don’t know if you know but he is a real vintage guitar enthusiast. I interviewed him earlier this year, and between himself and Joe Bonamassa they just keep on passing around these iconic guitars. On his latest album, I think he played Duane Allman’s Gold Top, and he also recorded the album at the Big House as well. So keep an eye out for the amount of guitar gear he has got. Simo is going to have some quite interesting guitars on show I think.
Paul: Well he will be missing quite a lot of it by the end of the tour I think as well (laughing).
NRR: In terms of being a guitarist, if you could play one iconic guitar solo in history, what would it be?
Paul: I think everything that I’ve fallen in love with guitar wise, I’ve attempted to play and I think I can as far as my standards go, anything from “Since I’ve Been Loving You”, which is one of my favourite solos from Zep. I’m loving Lowell Fulson’s “Reconsider”, the solos from within there. There are about four or five different bodies of work that I could probably be able to perfect, even everything up from Eddie Van Halen’s solos (laughing) “Jump” to “Hot For Teacher”, there’s a number I’m still having to reach. 
In terms of going deeper into the question, it’s getting personal touches and singing the notes and kind of copying other people’s techniques through your fingers, but it’s a soulful thing really. I would say one of my favourite solos ever is probably “Since I’ve Been Loving You” by Led Zeppelin.
NRR: We are very much looking forward to the “Roadstars” show at The Cluny in Newcastle on the 30th November. I know that obviously you’ve played in the North East multiple times both as headliners and we’ve caught you with the likes of Rich Robinson, Ian Hunter, Joanne Shaw Taylor and you played here more recently a couple of months back in Newcastle as well. You are becoming quite regular visitors to the area, I just wondering do you enjoy performing in the North East?
Paul: The North East is one of our favourite all time places we’ve ever played. We just seem to feel very welcome up there, we seem to go down very well. You guys up there you come out in your droves to see us, you know the level of band we are at with very limited promo in comparison to other bands to be touring like we do it’s kind of on the hoof and very quick and Newcastle always pulls through when it comes to those types of formats and regimes. It’s almost as if you are waiting for us to turn up and it’s great.
NRR: What’s your favourite track to perform live and why?
Paul: Currently it’s the new single “Silhouette”, there’s something about it, it just drives you when you are playing it live, the chorus really hits me. I kind of really jump up and down for that one when I play it. I love playing the solo on it, it’s very satisfying to play the lead on that. I think as a group it’s one of those moments where we all connect on certain elements of it. We put it towards the end of the set as well, it feels like a kind of send off, it’s just a very good powerful song in my eyes.
NRR: Obviously, you’ve just released a new video for “Silhouette” as well, could you tell us a little bit about the concept behind the video?
Paul: It was made by a guy called Russ Nabb and he basically wanted to kind of superimpose bands within each other in a silhouette effect, kind of quite dirty, quite rigid and almost kind of surreal. It was quite a complex idea that he came up with and I think it’s worked out really well and the black and white adds to the feel of it.
Nick’s lyrics are about a soldier who is about to go into his last battle, and he is contemplating what he has done and what he is about to do and his life and it’s almost like a war poem. I think it’s one of Nick’s finer moments when it comes to putting pen to paper, we were trying to almost make it like a Braveheart kind of thing you know (laughing), but obviously we don’t have the budget for it, so we went for the grungy, dirty silhouette vibe.

NRR: Obviously you guys are going on tour and you perform live every night. Who was the first band that you ever saw play live and what did that first live experience have on you as a musician?
Paul: My first gig was with my Dad in 1989/90 at the Apollo Theatre in Manchester and it was Bob Dylan with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers opening up. I remember feeling like the place was an amphitheatre, I was blown away by the atmosphere. I didn’t know any Bob Dylan, I was too young to kind of have a record collection and be completely knowledgeable of anything at that point. Obviously, I was learning later how significant those shows were later on when he came back. So that kind of opened me up from that side because my father was into 60s and 70s music, everything from Bowie, Supertramp, Zeppelin, the whole lot. On the other side I was into quite heavy stuff, so I think maybe six months later I was watching Iron Maiden at Sheffield Arena (laughing), it was polar opposites.
To answer your question bluntly, the atmosphere completely changed everything. It wasn’t particularly the guitar, that when I was younger I went oh I want to play the guitar, it was the atmosphere of the live music in the venue. The guitar came to me after, I had to find it, it landed on my knee one day and I was obsessed within seconds.
NRR: Have you always known that being a musician was your chosen path?
Paul: Yeah, I think. I will be honest Adam, I’ve had battles with music, I’ve been playing the guitar because it’s an obsession is exactly what that was. But obviously trying to work out whether you can make a living from it whilst learning your craft is an ongoing battle. So you end up getting in a band like Federal Charm, you try and find like minded people and then it becomes a career. Some people say I will learn how to play the drums, I will learn how to play the guitar, I want to sing, I want to become … that’s what I want to do. It becomes almost like a natural progression, it was definitely meant to be, but it was more of a – is this the right thing to do? Can I make a living from it? Then you’ve got to succumb to what’s real. This is it now, it’s where we are at now, up and down the country and we will keep doing it and keep doing it because we love it (laughing).
NRR: It’s a labour of love you’ve got to love what you do, that’s half of the battle. It never feels like work if you love what you do. In terms of your own musical taste, what would you say is the one album in your record collection that you couldn’t live without?
Paul: That’s a very difficult question, there’s too many. If I said one I would feel bad for the other (laughing). My favourite records that I play, obviously I don’t want to be so cliche, but in terms of rock and rock/blues and for my personal tastes it would be “Physical Graffiti” by Led Zeppelin. I could play that all day, every day I could just keep playing that. I love “Harvest” by Neil Young, I couldn’t live without that, that’s one of my all time kick back records. But In terms of sitting there and listening to my favourite guitar riffs or guitar album, there’s dozen but I think those two when you asked the question came straight into my mind.
NRR: What else does Federal Charm have in store for the rest of this year and into 2017?
Paul: Well we are together a lot at the moment trying to work on new material. We’ve got probably more fresh ideas in terms of sort of skeleton songs and sketches, choruses, riffs and things. We are trying to put a concept together and trying to make it the best Federal Charm album we can. The third one is a big deal to us, it’s important as a band and as a business and as a project and as a group of four who has been kind of investing every hour of the day for the last three years. We want to go to the next level, we will go to the next level, we just want to get the third one to the masses and just progress basically yeah.
NRR: That all sounds great, and we are very much looking forward to seeing you live again in a few weeks time in Newcastle. Good luck with the start of the tour and we will see you very soon.

Federal Charm will be joining Aaron Keylock and Simo on the forthcoming Planet Rock “Roadstars” tour. Tickets are on sale now via The Gig Cartel.

Planet Rock Roadstars UK Tour Dates:

16/11 Southampton The Talking Heads
17/11 The Haunt Brighton
18/11 The Globe Cardiff
19/11 Foxlowe Arts Centre
21/11 The Bodega Nottingham
22/11 The Robin 2 Bilston
23/11 The Tunnels Bristol
25/11 Fibbers: Live Music Venue York
26/11 The Box-Crewe
27/11 The Waterfront Norwich
28/11 The Greystones, Sheffield
30/11 The Cluny Newcastle
01/12 O2 ABC Glasgow
02/12 The Mash House Edinburgh
03/12 The Deaf Institute Manchester
07/12 O2 Academy Islington, London

Federal Charm
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Photo: © Philip Goddard

About The Author

Adam Kennedy is an experienced music photographer based in northeast England. He has been shooting concerts for several years, predominantly with the band Vintage Trouble. In 2013, he was one of their tour photographers, covering the UK and Ireland tour including the headline shows and as opening act for The Who. As an accomplished concert photographer, Adam's work has been featured in print such as, Classic Rock Blues Magazine, Guitarist Magazine, Blues in Britain magazine, broadcast on the MDA Telethon on ABC Television in the US, used in billboard advertising for Renaissance Hotels in the US, and featured online via music blogs such as Uber Rock and Guitar Planet. He is also the official photographer at Newcastle Rock and Blues Club.

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