The Honey Sliders, led by versatile and prolific Brisbane musician Danny Widdicombe, are about to unveil the next installment of their highly anticipated series of classic album homages, which over the past few years has seen them pay live tribute to some of their favourite ‘all time classic’ records from over the decades.
Having previously performed masterful interpretations of Jimmy Hendrix’s ‘Axis: Bold As Love’, Neil Young’s ‘On the Beach’, The Band’s ‘The Last Waltz’, The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sticky Fingers’ and ‘Abbey Road’ by the Beatles, this time around Danny and band are set to showcase the music of colossal 60’s power trio, Cream. In fact, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the final coming together of Cream, consisting of British blues explosion legends Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker.
Danny is one of the hardest working musicians on the scene, also playing in country/roots/bluegrass band The Wilson Pickers, as well as lending his formidable guitar and song writing chops to artists of the calibre of The Go Betweens, Tim Rogers and Bernard Fanning.
In the lead up to the Honey Sliders’ upcoming performance of the music of Cream at the Currumbin Soundlounge, I posed a few questions to Danny about how the shows came about, as well as getting a bit of an insight into his background and future plans..
Can you tell us a bit about the genesis behind your ongoing series of ‘homage’ shows? Was it something that became its own entity based on the enjoyment and response you got from the earlier ones? Or did you always have a ‘big picture’ plan in mind to do a series of these shows?
In 2013 I was still in recovery from my third fight with leukaemia and a good friend was putting on a series of shows where local musicians performed their favourite albums. She asked me if I could play Hendrix’s masterpiece ‘Axis: Bold as Love’. I decided to give it a go as a trio with Dan and Ben (current Honey Sliders members) and the reaction was overwhelming. That show gave me the signal that I’d reached a turning point in my battle with my health problems. The next year we decided to play Neil Young’s classic noir album ‘On the Beach’. This was the first show we’d brought down to The Soundlounge. Brad from the Soundlounge has been a huge supporter and he does wonderful things for the local Gold Coast music scene. He encouraged us to come back with our Rolling Stones review the year after, when we recreated ‘Sticky Fingers’ with Tim Rogers. That was sold out – it was a gyrating sea of sweaty bodies all adding to the rock n roll nature of those incredible songs. Last year we came back with our ‘Abbey Road’ show and had the same response. We’re basically going through our record collections and taking the time to explore them in depth both technically and also recreating the specific guitar tones and sounds that make these records so significant.
How do you come up with the choice of which artist/album to go with? Is there debate amongst the band, or does the decision sit with you, and you then present it to the band?
When we did ‘The Last Waltz’ by The Band, our bass player Bos said one night that he’d watched the movie again and I just said to the band ‘let’s do that this year!’ That was a sell out show at The Triffid with Bernard Fanning, Troy Cassar-Daley, Jeff Lang and many more. Basically, I go to the band with the idea and they let me know if they’re keen. Luckily we’re always in agreement!
Have you ever seen any of the members of Cream play live before?
I’ve seen Eric Clapton play twice. The first time was in 1987 and I started playing guitar the year after that – he was a big influence. The next time was in 1991 and he had Nathan East on bass and that was eye opening for me. Unfortunately, Clapton’s thick bob style haircut and flashy suit left me wondering who the hell he’d become, but the music was great!
Are you planning to continue on with the concept? And if so, can you let us in on which other artists you may be considering to pay homage to?
It’s been so much fun recreating these epic musical moments from the history of rock n roll that I think we’ll keep doing it as long as we continue to enjoy making music together. I’d love to revisit Hendrix – or even the Creedence Clearwater Revival album ‘Green River.’ George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’ is definitely something we’d also love to do.
You’re also a bit of a ‘guitar slinger for hire’, having shared stages with artists of the calibre of Tim Rogers and Bernard Fanning. How do you go with juggling all of your musical commitments, being that you’re also active with The Honey Sliders and The Wilson Pickers?
I’m actually completely single minded, so I can really only do one project at a time. At the moment I’ve got a lot of different things going on, so I just try and tick them off one at a time and then refocus on the next idea. The key is to try and play every day. I’m learning pedal steel guitar at the moment and that is a real challenge, but I love it. It’s a beautiful instrument. The Wilson Pickers are taking some time off while one of our members takes time to travel. We’ll be back with a new album next year – and hopefully win the ARIA next time – nominated 3 times with no wins!
I also read that you’ve played with The Go Betweens – that must have been a buzz?!
I grew up with their album ‘16 Lovers Lane’, so it’s embedded pretty deep in my musical mind. It was thrilling to be asked to play with the band. Those songs are so good. I met Grant McLennan a few times before his untimely passing a decade ago. I won the GW McLennan Memorial Fellowship and also Lindy from The Go Betweens is involved with Support Act, who helped me and my family get back on our feet after my last bout of chemo – so there’s a real connection with the band outside the music also. I can’t speak highly enough about Support Act and the help they give to struggling musicians and music industry people.
What else is going on, musically speaking or otherwise, in the world of Danny Widdicombe, for the rest of 2018?
I’ve written a new album of songs that I’ll be recording with the modern experimental jazz band Trichotomy, which I’m really excited about. We’re heading down to Bernard Fanning’s La Cueva studios in Byron to record in October with Nick Didia. The songs are suited to the improvisational nature of Trichotomy. Also, The Honey Sliders and I will be writing and recording our own songs. Can’t wait to bring those tunes down to the Gold Coast!
Sunshine Of Your Love: The Songs of Cream – Performed by The Honey Sliders, is happening at the Currumbin Soundlounge on Friday, 20 July, as well as The Triffid on 21 July.
So be sure to catch Danny Widdicombe and his Honey Sliders (which also consists of Brisbane musical luminaries Dan Mansfield, Chris Bosley and Ben Carstens) as they lovingly recreate the epic sounds of sixties rock legends, Cream.