Leo Lyons

Congratulations on 40 years of Ten Years After! This year you've played in Europe, America and Canada, and we can see from your website that the last eighteen months has been quite an intense schedule. How has the anniversary tour been going so far?
It’s been going really well, thundering along! We’ve even played places that Ten Years After have never been to before and the audiences have been great.

Many of the European venues are ones you're returning to after playing there in the last three years - and as well as that you're also performing in cities where TYA hasn't played since the 70s. What is the age range of the audience, and are many of the younger members of the crowd familiar with the early incarnation of TYA (with Alvin Lee) or are they new to TYA's music?
Our audiences range in age from about 13 to over 50 and in some places young people are in the majority. Many young fans I’ve spoken to had no idea of the band's history. They come along with friends, enjoy it, and tell others about it. One guy I spoke to has seen us sixteen times this year. People who come to a show often check us out on the internet afterwards and those new fans are probably responsible for the increase in sales of our earlier records.
Of course we also have a strong long-standing fanbase and there’s always at least one person every night who says to me "I saw you in Munich in 1971. Do you remember?" It’s a wonderful thing.

How have the old-school fans reacted to Joe Gooch taking over the guitar and vocals from Alvin Lee?
Those who expect us to stay as we were in 1969 will never be satisfied but I think those people are now in a minority. Longtime TYA fans who’ve kept an open mind and checked us out are now some of our most vocal supporters. Fans may have been skeptical at first as to how we would sound, but I felt confident that once we’d played a few gigs with Joe all would be fine. He brings a lot to the table and with 75% original members it’s no surprise that the TYA sound is still there! Our audiences get bigger so we must be doing something right.

How much of a dilemma was it for you, Chick and Ric, to re-form the band with new blood?
Our record label suggested it in 1975 but at that time my heart wasn’t in it. When we reformed four and a half years ago it was meant to happen. I was in a different frame of mind, I missed playing live and I jumped at the chance to do it. My songwriting friends thought I was crazy but I thought it would be an exciting challenge and it’s proved to be very exciting indeed.
We knew it wouldn’t be easy and that we had to start virtually from scratch. To many people TYA was an unknown quantity and we had to prove ourselves all over again.
The key really was not just to find a good guitar player but one that would also fit with the band's idiosyncrasies. Finding Joe was against all odds but we found him and it’s a pleasure for us to introduce another great guitar player to the world.

On the recent albums, Joe's also been involved in the writing. How much has he contributed to the new tunes?
He’s contributed a great deal. His guitar work is superb and he sparks off many musical ideas. He’s also put his mark on the old TYA songs we play live.

Tell us about your upcoming show in Luxembourg which is being filmed for a DVD, and when the DVD is due for release?
LEO LYONS OF TEN YEARS AFTERThe DVD release is long overdue. Our fans have been screaming for it for over two years, as have our record distributors.
We had some earlier footage but there was always something not quite right with either the lighting, the camerawork, or the way the sound was captured in the video.
To get the best possible result we’ve booked a 40th Anniversary gig in Luxembourg and invited all our fans to come along to take part in the shoot. We’ve hired a lighting director, film crew and director and sound truck to get the best possible results.
The DVD will be released complete with some extra footage as soon as possible but realistically it may not be in the stores much before January 2008. We’d like to do a special edition pre-release for fans.  

Which classic TYA songs are we likely to hear in the set, and how many of the new numbers?
We’ll play two sets, which will include most of our new material and a great many more TYA classics than on a usual gig where we’re always stuck with a time problem. Hell, we may even play the same song twice if someone asks for it!

You, Chick and Ric were there right at the beginning and toured for many years with Alvin. But you're such a close touring unit with Joe these days that there must be times when you almost forget that Joe wasn't with you back then? In what ways is touring with Joe different to touring with Alvin?
Touring with Joe is very enjoyable. We work as a team and pull in the same direction. Many things are a new experience for him and I think the rest of us get a kick out of sharing it. It’s the kind of pleasure you get from showing someone around your favorite places. There were many times with Alvin when he really didn’t want to be on the road and it made things difficult for us. It could be very stressful in those days.
We’ve forgotten Joe has only been with us for a short time and so have many of our fans. Perhaps being a member of TYA has prematurely aged him!

LEO LYONS OF TEN YEARS AFTERTell us some of the funny incidents from the road.
I’ll save those for my book. Most would take far too long to explain in an interview!

The amount of travelling and performing you're doing is extremely arduous. Without wishing to sound rude, you're no spring chicken... and yet the reviews emphasise the liveliness of your performance! However do you maintain the energy for each show?
I’m cryogenically frozen and travel in a coffin from gig to gig! It’s a mindset. Because I love what I do I find boundless energy to do it. Our audiences are a great source of energy and enthusiasm. If I were a ditch digger in the Tennessee sun I’d be tired and flagging within minutes. I’ve also learnt to relax and fall to sleep whenever I get in the band bus.

What other projects have you got on at the moment? Studio work, producing etc?
Songwriting mostly. I get production offers but it’s hard to make a commitment because of TYA’s hectic schedule - but please keep them coming. I’m also a bit lazy. I have some books I’m in the middle of writing but often on days off I just sit around and don’t even think.

Have you been to any of Alvin's recent shows? Has Alvin been to any of the TYA shows?
No not recently. I’ve not had the chance but Ric saw Alvin perform on his last UK tour. I doubt Alvin would come to see TYA.
In the late eighties my band KICK played two festivals with the Alvin Lee Band and I made the point of watching his set but so far as I know he never saw me play. It would be fun for TYA to play a gig with Alvin and his band.

And I've got to ask about that moustache.... as Hercule Poirot would say, "c'est magnifique!". What's the secret of its magnificence?
Moustache wax is courtesy of the Pinaud Company. Lots of bees making lots of wax. I grew it for a joke in 1968 when the band had a week or two off. And it stayed. It’s become so much a part of me I daren’t shave it off. My family would disown me.

LEO LYONS OF TEN YEARS AFTERWhat have been the highlights of the last 40 years for you as a member of TYA? What are your happiest memories? Which were the best shows you played?
I’d have to include our first headline gig at the Marquee club, The Reading Festival, the first US tour, Woodstock, The Isle of Wight, The Newport Jazz festival, Madison Square Gardens, The Forum L.A, The Filmores, The Budokan, Tokyo and The Royal Albert Hall.
As well as the above, and I’ve missed lots out, I enjoyed all those support spots where we were lucky enough to win over someone else’s crowd. It’s all been a blast.  

And what would you like TYA to be doing in five years time?
Well, I suppose I ought to say "headlining two days at Wembley Stadium televised live all over the world", but five years is a long way away and I’m not sure where we’ll be - but right now I’ve no plans to change what I’m doing. I enjoy it too much! I would like to think that in five years time we’d be a little more organized. With new dates coming in all the time, we never know from one week to the next what’s happening!



 

Get Ready To Roll - 3rd September 2007
GET READY TO ROLL


 

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