We have been very lucky recently in being able to talk to some amazing musicians and getting their stories. Craig Allen and Steve Douglas were kind enough to answer a few of our questions…
So, Would you like to introduce yourselves to our readers?
CRAIG: Greetings, I'm Craig. Born and raised in Brum.
STEVE: Hi I'm Steve Douglas, I'm from Birmingham England
When and how did you both meet?
CRAIG: I got to know Steve when we both started legging it from school through punters and cars for the bus. We were out of breath and laughing but super-fast!
STEVE: Yeah! The 897.Top Deck, back seats, school days, aged 11.
Has music always been your passion?
CRAIG: Absolutely. John Peel. Annie Nightingale. Reggae white labels. And my Mum sadly lost her brother , a genuine 60s hippy, in tragic circumstances so there was a constant very loud chaotic soundtrack of Dylan, Young, and The Everly Brothers.
STEVE: Since a very young age, Beatles in the house and Glam-rock on the radio, tried guitar when I was 12, failed , self taught at 16, just fell into place over time.
Who is the songwriter? Does this come naturally or do you find yourself
with writers block a lot of the time?
CRAIG: It's a team thing, we have an intangible understanding. Sometimes we get the "Spinal Shiver" and we're chuffed, other times we bin things very quickly. We have methods to beat any blocks. TOP SECRET INFORMATION! PRICE NEGOTIABLE! We're very good mates which helps in many ways. There are so many ways to write , we're still learning tricks - not cheats - now. Homage is cool but originality rules supreme!
STEVE: Both of us, usually naturally, never a block , but we work extremely hard with quality control. If one of us has a reservation about something, anything, tune, lyrics, artwork, title, it goes, we both have to dig it. It works, we're close as brothers, respect is the key.
That is a great way to work together!
Where do you both get your inspiration from?
STEVE: Social injustice, life , love, Jude, hearing something that I've never heard before , like RODRIGUEZ, Cold Facts album from 1970, only heard it this year. Difficult having a diary of your life in print, but it's a beautiful burden. I guess!
CRAIG: All the things Steve has said. He pays the bills! But yeah, life is cool and wonderful in many ways we don't however lie or paper over cracks, politics and big things need to be discussed, ideas shared. Also personally I'm lifelong Bipolar and a recovering alcoholic - 20 years plus - so I write a lot of bluesy cathartic emotional stuff which is therapy for me and I truly hope other people can relate to it.
What bands/musicians would you say have an influence on your music?
CRAIG: Wow! I have thousands of albums. Early on - UB40, Dexy's , Kraftwerk, The Human League and reggae legends like Barrington Levy, Bob Marley, Desmond Dekker and Gregory Isaacs. Thereafter Miles Davis, John Martyn, Elbow, Doves, Joni Mitchell, Mark Kozelek , Stevie Wonder, Van the Man, Leftfield, The Orb, Wilco, Jason Molina, Tori Amos etc. It goes on forever! Oh yeah I adore African music. Arguably my favourite genre. And of course Steve and I love line-dancing. We're always at it! Matching outfits, the works!
STEVE: Originally The White Album, listened to it at a young age, Then John Lennon, then fell in love with MADNESS, who wrote much more adeptly and seriously socially than people think. Craig introduced me to Neil young and then I'd catch him toasting to dub, making all these lyrics up, Yeah Craig is an inspiration too- massive.
CRAIG: Oh yeah, I guess I have to give Steve a big nod too. Some of our early songs were nuts, out there. We hadn't got a clue. Steve knew I had words and ideas so he'd ping guitar strings with a pen or bang a big African drum and I'd sing over it spontaneously just like it was a Studio One dubplate. Crazy days! I remember a song "Love leaves me hollow". Pretty good for youngsters. We should revisit that one! Often my kid brother Kirk was there and he loved the madness of it all. He writes too. Quirkier Zappa, Captain Beefheart type stuff. He's a big fan. Encouraging us to revisit our earlier stuff and sound occasionally.
Is music and songwriting your full time jobs?
CRAIG: No. Not yet. But I ain't dead and will never stop dreaming. It should be. I honestly believe we're good enough.
STEVE: No, But Craig's novel gonna make me some dough though.
I’ll keep my eye out for the novel! You have a new CD out... Would you like to tell us about it?
STEVE: THE GREAT FACADE Parts 1 and 2. 30 brand new songs.
It all started around the origin of Covid, songs inspired by our thoughts of the bizarre situation, then it morphed into our feelings as they evolved during Lockdown.
CRAIG: Exactly what I was going to say. Steve's been reading my journal. But, yeah he's spot on, we never set out to write a "LOCKDOWN" album but I guess we have done so. It's not contrived or premeditated, it's a genuine document which we believe has sincerity and gravity. We're not famous or tied to a label so fortunately are free to address the politics, camaraderie, eeriness and whole craziness of 2020 however we choose. THE GREAT FACADE is a journey, a trip and we're very proud of it!
Craig, You have a website micromusicreviews.com... Do you want to give us some information about it?
CRAIG: I honestly don't know. I think I was hypomanic, woke up and decided I had enough knowledge to be a good reviewer so I set it all up in one day. Uber-stress, Duracell batteries and all that. It's steadily growing. I want more help and writers long-term. Ultimately I offer free positive micro reviews to up and coming Indie acts. There's so much dross around, pop pap and I really hate what that represents and destroys passionately so I'm very driven on this. All good artists need support and limelight. Art above money. I've already had some review help and I'm confident the site will become well respected with people reciprocating. Fingers Crossed! In essence it's an A&D thing, a spin off, Steve and I believe in this stuff. We don't play at it!
STEVE: Will leave this to Craig, I hope to get involved in the future, but Craig has a fantastic way of saying a great amount with so few words.