Interview with Simon Friend of Levellers

The Levellers are back with a ‘Greatest Hits‘ out on 29th September 2014 via their own On The Fiddle Recordings label. Released both digitally and on CD/DVD, all versions include every Levellers single & video released over the last 25 years (of which 20 were chart hits), together for the first time. From the folk punk roots of Carry Me, through the anthemic One Way, Fifteen Years, Hope Street, Just The One and Beautiful Day to more recent tracks such as Truth Is and Cholera Well, all show the Levellers’ mix of scathing political comment and positive DIY attitude to life hasn’t dissipated with age.

On the occasion of their live show on the second day of the OnBlackheath Festival, we met the band’s guitar player Simon Friend for an interview on music industry and life with the Levellers.
Q: How would you describe the Levellers, the music you do?
A: Wow, 27 years into a small moment… Free. Musically I guess we’re a big mix up of different influences really. We all love folk music, there’s punk and rock influences as well, and a bit of classical as well. As a collection of people we bring all our influences together, I think the easiest description I’ve heard was The Clash meet the Pogues. We’re pretty much of a same mind, but I wouldn’t categorise, personally I’m not particularly keen on politics, and otherwise we’re lot a fun.

Q: How does it feel to be here at the OnBlackheath festival, it’s the first year for the festival.
A: It’s good, I mean, Festivals in towns are a bit difficult to do really, it’s definitely a good time for festivals, it’s not Glastonbury, you’re on Blackheath, in the city, that changes things. It feels good, I mean, my grandfather lives down the road, I went to this old pub actually early today, I had to. I love the area. I like it.

Q: What’s your opinion on the music industry today and what’s the media’s impact on the music industry?
A: There you go (laughs), that’s a large answer, really. To be honest with you I’ve always tried to stay clear of the industry section, cause I’m a musician and I’m a hippie, and I don’t really dig massive corporate things. The industry has somewhat disappointed me in the last 25 years, it’s changed hugely from when we started. Now it’s changed, you do have things like the X-Factor, I don’t see it as music really, I see musicians or vocalists are given a platform where they can get a career as a singer, but it’s not music, the stage is a massive karaoke really. I just hope that the underground music still continues as it always has. We never wanted to go mainstream, it was never our intention to as a band, we just fell into it, but that was never our choice.

Q: How do your songs come to life? Where does inspiration come from?
A: Life, for me personally. I may be inspired by a film. It’s a collaboration, really.

Q: What’s next for the Levellers? I know a new greatest hits is coming out.
A: Yeah, that’s at the end of the month, also next year we got a film out. It’s not a rockumentary, it’s a film about people who end up in a band. It’s interesting. We’ll be touring with that. It’s just a different thing, you know. Other than that, we’ll be writing a new record next year, we’re still trying to get to Australia. That’s a land we really wanna do, never been there.

Q: Pick 3 albums you would take on a desert island with you.
A: “Songs of Rogue’s Gallery” which is Pirate’s songs, ballads and sea chanteys, it’s lots of various artists doing sea chanteys. I’d probably take “Led Zeppelin III“, and I could take my guitar (laughs). Jaqueline du Pre’ doing all Brahm’s versions, it’s amazing classical music.

Gessica Puglielli

Visual/Web Designer, Digital Marketing Strategist born in Lecce (Italy), I currently live in London. Between 1998 and 2005 I collaborated with Michael Jackson’s staff and in 2000 I had a meeting with the man himself. I founded Rebel Rebel in 2013 and so far it has been an exciting journey. Some of my favourite artists include Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Skunk Anansie, Depeche Mode, Pink Floyd, Archive, Kraftwerk, Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Anthony & The Johnsons, Gazpacho, The Maccabees, Led Zeppelin, Brian Eno, Beethoven, Bjork, Steve Wonder and many others. I feel a deep connection to animals and Mother Nature, which led me to choose a vegan lifestyle. I like playing electric guitar, photography, cinema, art, entertainment, travelling, playing tennis and browsing London.