Your Take Interview with Matt

Here’s Red Guitars drummer Matt Higgins’ interview for Your Take video magazine, autumn 2022.

Your Take: Can I ask you, when and where you were born? Can you give us some background on your parents and what they did for a living? Do you have any siblings?

Matthew Higgins: I was born in Leeds in 1961, my dad worked in Textiles and my mum was a teacher. I have 3 brothers, two older and one younger, and 2 of them are very musical.

Your Take: Do you come from a musical background and what music was being played around the house? What music went onto inspire you and what made you all decide to choose music as a career option?

Matt: My younger brother is an excellent pianist, and trained classically while one of my other brothers is a really good acoustic guitarist. I took up drums at aged 12ish, and it was always useful, because everybody I knew at school who wanted to be in bands was a guitarist or singer, so even if you were a crap drummer, just having some drums of any sort guaranteed you a place in at least one band!

Your Take: How did you join the Red Guitars? Can you talk about the early musical chemistry you had and why you gelled as a band?

Matt: When I went to Hull Uni in 1980, I wanted to carry on drumming. My brother introduced me to Hallam who was a friend of his. I first met Hal one October afternoon in his house in Hull. It was so cold that he was sitting in bed in an overcoat to try and keep warm. He got up to say hello, felt for his slippers but as he put them on there was a squelching sound and a smell. Unfortunately the cat had crapped in one of them! That was our first meet and from then on, we started to rehearse in the attic of that same house, where the meter would often run out and the call would go out, “anybody got 50p?”

Your Take: What are your recollections of recording the band’s debut album, Slow to Fade? What are your memories of the early tours and supporting, The Smiths and appearing on John Peel’s radio sessions?

Matt: Recording the album was great. We’d been playing the songs live for a good while so we were pretty polished. We recorded at Fairview in Hull so we could go home every night and that was great!

The album was co-produced by a guy called Roy Neave who actually taught me a great deal about the discipline of drumming, not least keeping time, not  just pretty well, but very well. We worked with click tracks for the first time, really, and it was hard but really rewarding. If you can hear the click, you’re out  of time!

Supporting The Smiths was so timely! They released their first album during the tour and they were right on the verge of becoming huge! Because they invited us on the tour (Johnny Marr, really), it worked well financially and the fit was really good. We went down generally really well as a support band and I think we double-encored at Nottingham Rock City which was unprecedented. Doing the Peel sessions was new for us, in that everything is recorded very quickly and you completed 4 tracks in about 6 hours, I think, which meant that knowing the songs very well beforehand was a blessing. We met John Porter who produced one of these sessions as I remember; John also produced The Smiths first album, and in a world where you meet a lot of people who promise much and deliver little, John was a breath of fresh air. It was only in later years that I realised the vast amount of really superb work he has done, as a member of Roxy Music, but also as a very big blues producer in the States.

Your Take: Can you discuss phase 2 in the band’s musical journey?

Matt: Phase II of the Red Guitars after Jerry left produced, for me, 2-3 really good songs, like “Be With Me,” “National Avenue” and “America & Me.” We were courted by lots of record companies and eventually signed to Virgin who offered the best deal, but also seemed to be interested in our music as well, what a bonus! However, unfortunately the album we did with Virgin was more of a series of riffs, bits of lyrics and half-completed songs. Recording it was therefore difficult and the result was, in my opinion, disappointing. Nevertheless, we did it, and we were grown up enough  not to get too pushed around by the industry. We did lose a bit of control on the production side and that, in hindsight, was detrimental. It’s easy to be wise after the event!

Your Take: After your departure from the Red Guitars what did you go onto do and why?

Matt: When the band split, I went back to Uni to train and then jumped on the job bandwagon, including 25 years working in Marketing for a bank! Clearly this has boosted my credibility enormously. Subsequently, I’ve worked for charities, been a van driver, and in the last 2 years have become a qualified psychotherapist which is, along with the renaissance of the Red Guitars, my big thing these days.

Your Take Can you summarise your thoughts and feelings from the recent reunion tour? Do you have a favourite moment or memory? Can you describe the audiences and fans you met on the tour?

Matt: The recent tour was absolutely brilliant and I enjoyed every moment. Here I was, back with my bandmates and friends, almost 40 years on, and the impact was just fantastic. Loads of in-jokes, playing better than we did in the 1980s and playing to people who were genuine fans who seemed delighted to see us again. Every gig was very different but all had something unique. Playing again in Hull was obviously special, but they were all great. We’ve re-kindled the spirit of what we were about and while we’re all considerably older, the spark is still there. Hallam & Jerry’s songs are as relevant as ever, and we all have our strengths which means we work really well. It’s a pleasure and a privilege and while we’ve never been about international fame and acclaim, we’re pretty comfortable and confident that we’re not at all bad!

Look out for the full Your Take video interview with the band coming soon!

Two Weeks of Red Guitars

Red Guitars video shoot photo by Richard Duffy-Howard

It’s been a great two weeks of Red Guitars! All the band together again, much of it all round at JR’s place – room rehearsals working up the new album, mixing, recording extra parts and plotting next year’s anniversary release.

This week, we’ve had a fantastic time playing the new songs loud on the big stage with an excellent sound at O’Rileys in Hull, very exciting!

We’ve had three fab days video shoot with Factor Fifty Films at great locations.

And absolutely loads of laughs with friends throughout.

So now, Hal’s preparing to go back to Cape Town, the rest of us as near and far as Brighton and Yorkshire and indeed for now, Rome. We’ll continue polishing up the songs online. Here we are (above) on day two of the film shoot.

Below, room rehearsals, all round at JR’s

Live and loud new song rehearsals at O’Rileys. We’ve gone ampless for these rehearsals. The amp is being used as a table! Sounds excellent. Only my bass amp to lug around. I might have to investigate …

Hal’s nailing some licks, sounds fantastic. look at Pepper, she’s singing along.

We’ve had a brilliant time!

If our new songs have a touch of spaghetti western to them it’s because of the films we’ve been watching after rehearsals.

So, it’s hasta la vista for now, back to online chatting and playing for a while. More stories coming too, so see you next time! 🤠😎

Record Store Day Everyday!

Red Guitars in San Francisco

Back in the day of our first releases vinyl and was just called ‘records’ and without the internet the world seemed a much smaller place. Finding one of our records for sale in any record shop was exciting, so we were thrilled to find out we had a whole section to ourselves in the legendary Recycled Records store in San Francisco.

Photo by Bernice Baynham

“This photo was taken at my old place of employment. The shop was in San Francisco California. It was called Recycled Records. I worked there for two decades plus. Located on the “historical” Haight Street. Ground zero for the hippie movement. It’s also happens to be where I live. A stones throw from the “legendary” intersection of Haight & Ashbury. I played the R G records many times over those twenty years.” Michael Boul

The iconic Recycled Records opened in 1977 and bought and sold collectibles for 40 years. Sadly, the shop closed in 2017, but they still trade online and you can find it here.

Thanks to Bernice for taking the photo of Red Guitars in Recycled Records for us, and to Michael for giving us a spin in SF.

All welcome to our shop!

We have a shop! Click on the link here to look round:

You can get cool T Shirts and Good Technology album CDs

T Shirts come in two groovy styles and five sizes, prices include UK postage and packaging, sent directly from us.

NOw on Sale!

Slow to Fade Tour Tee: based on the sleeve design of the May 1984 re-issue of Good Technology with the April 2022 Slow To Fade Tour shows on the back – £20 Sale Price NOW £15

Three Red Guitars: based on the Good Technology (1982-1984) CD sleeve design. Printed on Gildan Heavy T-Shirts using water-based ink, which is PVC and solvent free to help reduce plastic pollution – £16

The Slow To Fade album plus Good Technology, Fact, Steeltown and Jamaican Homecoming. £9.50 inclusive of UK P&P

Red Guitars at Birmingham O2 Institute 2022

So that was it, our Slow to Fade reunion tour was over and we had a joyous adventure and the response has been unexpectedly amazing for us. Here’s the last set of photos and round up from the final gig of the tour at Birmingham’s O2 Institute. Big high five to all involved and a heartfelt thank you from all of us to everyone who came to the shows. Here’s to the next chapter!

Here we are, all the original band back together, Hallam Lewis, Jeremy Kidd, John Rowley, Matt Higgins and Lou Duffy-Howard, joined in 2022 by Jos Allen and Doug Swallow.

Fab set of photographs by Richard Duffy-Howard, have a look:

Thanks to our special guests Turning Black Like Lizards for a fab set and being great to work with. A big shout out to those who have been to more than one of the shows, sometimes nearly all of them, it’s been great to see familiar friendly faces – and to Andy who came the furthest to see us, all the way from Dubai to Birmingham.

Thank you to everyone who sent us lovely messages on social media, here’s a few:

“The Birmingham gig was breathtakingly brilliant. I still haven’t come back down to Earth yet! Absolutely inspiring.” Tony Gillam

“I only wish I could have attended more than just the one; it was an absolutely fabulous night. If you can do it again, please, please do! Failing that, a live album would be a very lovely thing. Thank you.” David Brown

“Red Guitars it’s taken 4 decades to see this band live, utterly awesome. A great night, you all sounded immense. And you all looked as if you enjoyed it.” Chuck Middleton

“Was the 3rd night in a row seeing this great band – last seen in 1986! Such utter joy to see these amazing people and musicians performing the songs that have shaped me, with sounds that turn you inside out. Thank you!!” @MrRober16070170

“A 38-year gap, but definitely worth the wait to see Red Guitars, recently reformed with all the original members. Thanks for a great show!”

“Overjoyed to catch you live again last night – lovely to see the whole gang back together. Thanks for a great night – you nailed it! Many thanks also for all of you signing my 38-year-old gig poster (adding to Johnny Marr!) Safe journeys back to your various homes & continents.” Tim Bourne

“I think that the whole tour has been so enjoyable for everyone involved, and especially for the fans attending the gigs. The songs are just so good, and the musicianship has been spot-on, Jerry’s lyrics ever prescient and moving.” Ian Stacey

“I saw Red Guitars last week. First gig in over two years. A great night, and a real mental health boost.“ Pete Moxon

“Last night was one of those ‘moments’. A band that clearly meant a lot to people, sonically and politically. And the lyrics are so fresh still. Shaken not Stirred, Good Technology, Sting in the Tale, chillingly spot on. Am still buzzing.” Steve Morgan

“Lovely stuff. I was a fan. Had GT (which still sounds great) after seeing them on The Tube and Marimba Jive. They got heavy rotation from me back in the day.” Steven McKevitt

“I never caught them first time round so this was a MUST!!! Excellent night, that bass, those guitars. Cracking night, much love!!!” The New Fools

“Yup, brilliant night ! And another vote for more gigs please!” Mike Jeffries

“Brilliant gig; and really nice to be able to talk to some of the band.” John McCabe

“They say never meet your Heroes. Well that does not apply to the Red Guitars. Brilliant band, Brilliant Gig and brilliant people. I waited 38 years to see them live and it was worth every single minute.”

“April ended with yet another gig in Birmingham and this was the best I’ve been to in many a long year. Birmingham’s O2 Institute played host to a reformed Red Guitars – one of my favourite indie bands of the 1980s. In the early eighties, while the aforementioned Spandau Ballet were topping the charts with hits like True and Gold, Hull-based Red Guitars were crafting a unique blend of indie rock and African jit-jive and releasing a classic gem of an album called Slow to Fade. Seeing Red Guitars play songs like ‘Remote Control,’ ‘Crocodile Tears’ and ‘Good Technology’ more than 30 years after this short-lived band split up seemed nothing short of miraculous and I was completely overwhelmed with a combination of joy and nostalgia for my youth. It was a pleasure to shake hands with bassist Lou Loudhailer, (who has featured elsewhere on this blog as part of Agent Starling.)” Tony Gillam, Passengers in Time

“Please do another show fantastic !!” Keith Phillips

“What a night. I’ve waited since 1984 for this and you did not disappoint. Brilliant. Please tour again……PLEASE.” Steve Buck

And to close the post, Rob Slade’s review made me laugh out loud. I didn’t know he was there until the next day when it popped up on Facebook:

“On Saturday night my cousin Lou Duffy-Howard was playing for her band Red Guitars in the final concert of their first tour for many years, possibly their only and last gig so I felt the need to see them even though I get bored after five minutes unless the music is really good, eg Beethoven’s 9th

It was a good decision – see the video … where I’ve alternated their promotional video of Good Technology from 40 years ago with my video of the band on Saturday. It’s the same band, the same people, playing the same music and better on Saturday night. My video is better as well!

I’m in the middle of playing a tennis marathon of more than 30 tennis matches in 30 days so so fitting it in wasn’t easy

On Saturday I had a match at David Lloyd Trafford at 12pm which finished at 2:30pm and the gig started in Birmingham at 6pm

So it was just possible but I didn’t really feel like making the effort for something I probably wouldn’t like in a place I didn’t like (Birmingham) so I had a leisurely shower and coffee (enjoy the moment, why rush was my new rule of thumb).

I tried but failed get the online tickets through ticket master but I decide doing this journey would be a challenge and adventure. Luckily Man U wasn’t playing or this would have been impossible, because the my route was past the Temple of Mammon.

I got to the excellent NCP car park in Store St (£6.80 for 24 hours) with 30 minutes to spare and I’m by the platform with 15 mins to spares when I see a Greggs.

Who can walk past a Greggs if you haven’t eaten all day (the emanating smells reminded me)

I queue for 5 mins then I’m served by a slow motion Koala Bear who is cute but takes five minutes to assemble my vegan sausage roll, vegetable bake, pizza slice and assorted sandwiches so I figure a coffee is a step to far. My diet is not going well!

I make the train by two minutes. Clearly I enjoy living on the edge.

At Birmingham New St I discover that the cheapest hotel near the centre of Birmingham is £150 a night which is at least twice what I’m willing to pay for for somewhere to sleep. How can that be? Who wants to stay in Birmingham on a Saturday night or any night?

So I book the Belmont Hotel, £65 and four miles west in Hagley but that means no time to check in and leave my bag.

Its now 6:30 and the gig is from 6:00 to 9:30 but the Red G’s won’t be on until 7:30 I figure so still plenty of time.

I get to the O2 Academy for 6:45 where I discover that the Red G’s are playing at the O2 Institute (why don’t our brains ever read the second word of well known two word phrases?) but I meet there two Red G fans who look coolish so that’s a good sign, they have at least two fans who are not weird 😂

I get to the O2 Institute by 7:05 and I’m refused entry because I have a bag bigger than A4. Who reads admission rules!?

I arrive back at New St station and I’m overjoyed to find a left luggage depot. I didn’t think they still existed. Not cheap. £7.50 for three hours.

It’s now 7:30 so I’m gonna miss the beginning of Red G’s and I’m getting a bit travel worn. I need a decent beer or two and a sit down

My Camra ap tells me there is only one good pub in the entire eastern half of Birmingham city centre, the Spotted Dog and Gmaps tells me it’s not far from the venue.

So I can make the Spotted D and still get to the gig for the last hour at 8:30.

Gmaps is wrong however and while the Spotted Dog is good, well worth a visit, well worth missing 30 mins of a gig, I finally make it to the venue at 8:45.

But I’m almost out of phone battery. I always carry a powerpak back-up but I had the wrong lead 😱

Can you imagine seeing something really really good, perhaps the only time you may ever see this thing and you can’t take even one photo, not even one minute of video? I can’t, and I couldn’t, so I set off back to the station to get the lead from my bag. I calculated that if I ran I could be back at the venue for the final 30 mins 😂

On my way, a few hundred yards, I pass a small Asian convenience store that looked like it might magically have anything and it did, or at least an Apple lightning lead which pretty much is everything. How is that possible? So I’m back in the venue at 8:55, only 35 minute of music left but obviously the the best bit of the gig, and 35 minutes is my boredom threshold for doing nothing, no matter how good the entertainment, unless it’s Beethoven’s 9th symphony, and even then I might have to wriggle and stifle a few yawns.

The Red Guitars is an alternative rock band (skank with soul?) and not overly accessible music but it was good, and some bits where in fact awesome, so well worth the journey. If they play again, I’ll be there for longer. Perhaps an hour 😂

Birmingham not as bad as I thought btw. Lots of interesting or beautiful buildings and spaces, and I almost like the accent. How can you not, if it’s how Noddy Holder or Frank Skinner speak.” Rob Slade

Back to the beginning of the tour, here are the dress rehearsal photos:

Heres’s to everyone who came to the Red Guitars Slow to Fade reunion tour. We had a brilliant time. Looking forward to the next adventure …

A big thanks to Steve Homer at AEG Presents for inviting us to reform for this tour and coming to see us play. The AEG reps at every gig have been brilliant. We have truly had an absolute ball! We’re looking forward to what comes next …