Alan Power has squeeze every ounce of enjoyment and wisdom out of his life thus far.
A songwriter, troubadour, and spinner of tall tales, he's developed a habit of popping up in the right place at exactly the right time.
Whether that's hitting the road with a then-unknown Adele to play toilet venues or introducing the actual Mumford to his sons, Alan Power has been there, done that, and flogged a t-shirt on the merch stall (two for £15, if you ask nicely).
New album 'Songs To Break America' covers all these experiences and more, a cowboy hat clad return from the inimitable, hugely unique talent.
Clash caught up with Alan Power for his guide to on-the-road life.
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There’s rarely a dull moment on tour with Spector. I have had the privilege of supporting them on a number of their UK excursions. Fred, the lead singer, is an old friend and one of my favourite people to spend time with. Their music strikes an unexplainable nostalgia that tugs on my heart strings. They play in rooms of no more than 200 people or so. But the audiences are like none I’ve ever seen before. It’s unpretentious, amusing but not in an over ironic way. There is something about it that really moves me. There is a unique connection between the audiences and the band. It gets me every time.
A few years ago my wife convinced me to try the South American entheogenic brew, Ayahuasca. She said it would help me become a better version of myself… and who doesn’t want to be a better version of themselves?
The event/ceremony was hosted by a real life Shaman and 70 other guests were in attendance (I later discovered that this way too many people). It lasted for three days in a remote location in rural Wales. How I didn’t identify the countless and clear signs to back out before still puzzles me even to this day.
On arrival the vibe was definitely off. I had envisaged a bit of a hippy / peace / love and expensive linen / scented candles kind of affair… Instead it was slightly more feral- imagine a covert Extinction Rebellion meeting exclusive only to the real hardliners. I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous. I felt like Mark’s character in Peep Show when he finds himself unintentionally infiltrating a Rainbow Rhythm’s get together.
I tried to push my neuroses to the back of my mind and get into the spirit… Self improvement was why I was here after all.
After a while it was time to get down to business. Everyone was seated, there was chanting and banging of rare indigenous instruments as a line started to gather towards what looked like a Pagan Alter.
Feeling deeply apprehensive and very hungry (it had been recommended that we fast for 24 hours prior to purify / cleanse ourselves), I joined the line.
When I arrived I noticed that the Shaman was nowhere to be seen, she had apparently developed a giddy tummy and would be sitting things out for the time being. I thought this must be normal and carried on. The guy filling in for here handed me a massive cup, full to the brim with what looked like unfiltered coffee if you were hoping to make the strongest coffee every made. It was bitter but bearable.
I went back and sat down (lotus position) and waited for the effects to creep up on me. Not even 10 minutes had passed and I felt an overwhelming feeling of of fear that was was rapidly replaced by terror rising in me like a freight train. I tried to suppress / manage it but it was raging beyond my control. The next thing I remember is thrashing around on the floor, taking people and objects with me. Needless to say, it had not got off to a good start. I was living my worst nightmare and my rational mind was nowhere to be seen.
Having been wrestled to the floor by a few old timers I remember an elderly woman looking in my eyes and trying to talk me down but her face turned into an abstract crow like creature. The uncontrollable thrashing and writhing continued. I have no memory of what happened over the next few hours. I just remember it being deeply disturbing and nonsensical. It was like a nightmare I would never wake up from.
When I finally came out of it I was offered another cup. I politely declined and went to sleep in a heap on the floor. - When we finally made it home I thought I’d never make a full recovery. - I appreciate that this has nothing to do with being on tour. I read the question ‘Worst Trip’ and started typing.
Perhaps the above should come with a warning! Anyway - there it is.
Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. I love everything about the place.
Best or worst exotic food…
I haven’t toured much outside the UK so the best I can offer is a dodgy kebab or something.
Most interesting individual you’ve met on tour…
I toured with The Vaccines a while ago and it was the first time I was exposed to a proper major label, big production, O2 Academy type tour. You’ve got four guys in their 20’s playing guitar music in every major city in the UK, you’d think it wouldn’t be much of a big deal? It was a serious fucking big deal. No expense spared. 3 Buses, a crew of maybe 40 people, a catering department cooking you three meals, lighting and sound rigs, all the fucking bells and whistles. It’s someone’s job to literally wipe their arses.
Anyway - to answer your question, musicians have a reputation for being hell raisers, dysfunctional etc. Well they’ve got nothing on on the hard worn road dogs that cart them around. The faceless men and women that bring all of it together, often thanklessly are the real rockstars, and some of the characters I met on that tour were well and truly remarkable.
I think there is something deeply troubling about choosing a life that takes you away form your friends and family, keeps you on tour, robs you of autonomy, tells you where you have to be and when. But some would argue that they do it for the buzz of being on stage, the thrill you get from connecting with an audience, seeing the words of a song you wrote sung back to you by a room full of people perhaps?
The crew bypass all of that. I get the impression they secretly think most of the bands they tour with are a bunch of posers / wankers. And they’re probably right.
Anyway, the most interesting individual I’ve met on the road is a guy whose name I’ll leave out. He’s a very talented front of house sound engineer, father of two with a loving wife at home. Shy demeanour, posh voice and a penchant for cross dressing, taking drugs and sleeping with male and female prostitutes. I didn’t encounter him for long but I was intrigued by the double life he lived.
I’m surprisingly popular in…
My popularity rarely surprises me. However I am surprisingly unpopular in a growing number of cities. I like to speak to audiences as if I’m addressing a single individual. This can be effective in winning over an audience or losing them.
I have an ongoing issue with the city of Manchester. Truth be told I don’t particularly like the place. My family hail from Liverpool so perhaps there’s a trace of disdain somewhere in my DNA. I recently saw a quote by one of my favourite new bands, Working Men’s Club, (who I think are from Manchester?) saying that it was “stuck in the past”. I couldn’t agree more.
I love Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Glasgow… But I was surprised by how much struggled in Manchester.
Worst on-tour injury, infection, mishap or accident…
I like to finish arguments with dissatisfied punters alone in the shower the next day… That way no one gets hurt.
Essential travel item…
A four way.
Essential travel tip…
Don’t take it personally.
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'Songs To Break America' is out now.
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