King King are ready to rock on ‘Exile & Grace’

King King are easily Britain’s hardest working blues-rock band. Ahead of ‘Exile & Grace’, their fourth studio album in six years, and their biggest nationwide tour yet, singer and guitarist Alan Nimmo discusses the band’s next natural move, getting an audience to relax, vocalists he admires, and the best guitar solo ever.

Your songs often grow and transform when you play them live. How do you take this into account when you’re writing songs for a studio album where things are more confined?

The answer is I don’t! It’s a very natural thing for a song to evolve in a live situation so when I write a tune and put it on an album it’s the finished article. But the live show and the recording thing are two very different animals. Songs will almost always evolve when you play them live. It’s just fun that way.

Looking at it from the other angle, how important is it to capture that thrill of your live shows on a studio album?

It’s very important to capture the vibe on a studio album… it’s also difficult when you’re a band who thrives on audience reactions. But you must find a way to get the energy into the recording and if you can manage that you’re on your way. I think the most important ingredient that translates to recording and live work is simply putting the passion and honesty into both.

On ‘Exile and Grace’ you’ve incorporated more classic rock elements. What one song on the album best captures that?

I’d say a song like ‘Broken’. For me it has all the ingredients to fit that bill, like the powerful chorus and the climactic vocal.

What prompted you to add those ingredients?

I wouldn’t say that anything prompted this “change” as people seem to see it. it was yet again the next natural move forward for us as a band and for me as the main writer. I just feel that the more experience I gain in writing songs the more relaxed I become over it and that’s when all the early musical influences come out.

I’m not worried about the hard core blues fans as such because I believe that what we have isn’t a bunch of blues fans along with a bunch of rock fans. We have King King fans and as long as they still believe that what we’re doing is true to our hearts, then they will stick by us. But you can never please everyone all the time and that’s something we can’t control.

Could you tell me a bit more about those early musical influences that came out?

What I love about the classic rock genre is something that I touched on earlier and that’s the passion and honesty that comes through in the performance of these songs whether it’s live or on album. That’s what drew me to this music and indeed to blues music. When I listen to an album like Thunder’s ‘Laughing On Judgment Day’ or even Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac ‘Live at the Boston Tea Party’ you can hear the genuine anguish and you can pick out all the other powerful emotions in there too. It’s what makes an album not only great but last forever.

The powerful emotions in your own songs really take a hold of your audience at live shows. What do you attribute that connection to?

I have no idea. The beauty of music is that it touches everyone in its own way. Of course there are some songs that are just naturally catchy and easy to sing along to, but maybe it’s the words or the way a piece of music takes shape or builds that strikes a chord in the individual. The great part is that there are no rules to it. If it’s good to the person listening to it and it makes you feel something – whether it’s happiness, sadness, or whatever else – then for that moment it’s yours.

How important is that connection when you’re playing live?

It’s probably one of the most important things to me personally. To have an honest and genuine rapport with the audience is key to having not just a great night but a great, long career. I love what I do and I want the audience to love it with me, so sometimes you can tell when they’re being a little shy but that’s normally down to the type of venue that we’re in. Those dark rock venues are easy, but when you get a relatively sober rock audience into a seated theatre, then it’s my job to, as quickly as possible, get them to relax. The sooner they relax them the sooner we can all have a good time.

There’s no trick to it other than being more willing and confident than any of them at the start of the evening and breaking the ice. Usually for me it’s just with a silent smile at them when we walk on stage, maybe a little cheeky glint in the eye that says: “Hey… get out of those seats and get rocking!”

As an excellent guitarist yourself, do you have a particular favourite guitarist or favourite solo?

There are too many great guitarists out there and doing too many different amazing things to pick one, but I’d definitely say that my biggest influence from when I was a kid was Paul Kossoff. His style and passion moved me in ways that are hard to describe. He played a fantastic solo on a live version of ‘Fire & Water’ on a German TV show and it was out of this world.

Your vocals on this album sound stronger, more powerful than previous albums. Was this something you set out to achieve?

I’m always trying to improve on my singing, playing, and writing but think this time around it was noticeable that my voice was recovering from my recent operation to remove polyps from my vocal chords. When I listen back to previous albums it’s very apparent that I was singing with a damaged throat.

Is there a singer you aspire to sing like?

There are so many great singers both past and present, but the ones who really got in there under my skin are guys like Paul Rodgers, Danny Bowes, and David Coverdale. I remember having a conversation with Danny saying it was his fault that my throat was sore because he and those other guys made it sound and look so easy… until I tried it and realised that it most certainly was not.

Finally, which of the new songs are you most looking forward to playing live for an audience?

I’m looking forward to playing all of them to be honest… it’s great to record these songs, but there’s the next challenge of getting into the rehearsal room and working on them to make them live songs too.

King King’s new album ‘Exile & Grace’ is released by Manhaton Records on 6 October 2017. 

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London, Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Wednesday 17 January 2018
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Birmingham, Town Hall
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Bath, Forum
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Sheffield, Leadmill
Saturday 27 January 2018

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