Category Archives: Guildford


The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) in Guildford, Surrey has announced the launch of their first ever SKUNK ANANSIE SCHOLARSHIP.

The recipient of this prestigious award will receive a fully funded place on one of the academy’s reputable degree courses, worth up to £27,000.

All applicants that have successfully auditioned and enrolled for Degree programmes in Bass, Drums, Guitars, Keys or Vocals at either ACM Guildford, ACM London or the group’s newest campus, ACM Birmingham, will be eligible to apply.

The recipient of this prestigious award will receive a fully funded place on one of the academy’s reputable degree courses, worth up to £27,000…

Those applying will submit a video performance for screening by ACM’s world class teaching faculty, with a shortlist delivered to Skunk Anansie for a final decision to be made.

The award winning British rock band has been recording & touring for over 20 years, and have sold over 6 million albums and comleted many sold out world tours.

They’re the perfect role models for ACM’s students. In between studio recording and touring with the band, guitarist Ace works at ACM as Head of Creative Industry Development and drummer, Mark Richardson, is a Wellbeing Coach for the academy students.

Ace said “I’ve been honoured to be working with ACM for a very long time now, booking top industry guests, sourcing real world work opportunities, setting up networking events and advising students on a one to one basis. For three months of the year I pause my work on-campus so that I can tour with the band – bringing back the freshest knowledge directly from the industry back to the students. The music business has been very good to us over the years and it feels incredible to give back and make someone’s dream of studying music a reality.

Skunk Anansie vocalist, Skin, said “We are so excited to be able to offer such a life changing opportunity in partnership with ACM. Starting out in music can be tough financially, so being able to take away that burden for someone who is at the very beginning of their journey is incredibly rewarding. We love the fully immersive experience that ACM offers its students and are so excited to see the shortlist.”

Applications are still open for September 2017 study at ACM Guildford, ACM London and ACM Birmingham.

To book an audition or visit the Academy for an open day go to or call the admissions team directly on 01483 500 841.

To apply for the SKUNK ANANSIE SCHOLARSHIP or one of ACM’s other scholarship awards (including the Freddie Mercury Award and the BASCA Scholarship), visit


Subsource – live at Boileroom, Guildford

A doomed and condemned cyberpunk generation of damp Surrey urbanites turned out in force during this weekend’s wet & windy conditions to party with their favourite cross-over band. Subsource are not punk, neither are they drum’n’bass. They’re not modern indie rock. They are not dubstep nor metal – they are an amalgam of all of these styles. A truly holistic sound. Theirs is the sound of justice and conscientious inclusiveness. But, more importantly, they drive their audiences wild with their hysterically energetic live sets and their blistering hot musicianship. We were at the superb Boileroom venue in Guildford to witness this sensational act.

Promising some bombastic pieces such as the recent single ‘On My Video’ (created as a result of the riots in London and railing against the lack of values / worth in a consumer society) this song goes giddy with those spraying & wallowing splash-bass beats, strained to-the-max vocals and gigantic proportions.

Subsource are also famous for their re-smashed covers, clocking up thousands of internet hits by re-treading old songs by the likes of RATM and SOAD. One of these, ‘Breed’ (Nirvana), is a pelting sand-storm blast of sounds that will make your eyes water. It is an effervescent vortex of energy that pulls you down into its depths, whilst you are left crazily fighting for breath.

We especially liked the band’s latest work such as ‘The Feeding’ (from the brand-spanking-new ‘Generation Doom’ E.P. ) with it’s pendulum of rhythms swaying one-way, then the next.The spots of sound are ripped away like sticking-plasters, only to be re-locked and wedged into gaps elsewhere. But the piece centres around a well-spring of golden sentiment and a giddy ‘Feeding’ chorus. This vessel may be cracked and stained, but it still holds the juice in. Take some!

Our favourite new song is ‘Molotov’ with beeps and sparks of electronic energy and squeals of pain, as those lacerating guitars take hold. This is razor-sharp and full of throated grunge. With ‘Kurt Cobain’ style vocals and a series of hugely successful riffs … any metal fan would be proud to have this in his collection.

Or ‘Kill The Thief’ which introduces the audience to an ambient side, of low oscillations, which spit along amiably before the full majesty of the show really takes hold. This then becomes regal. It is power – but wielded for the good of all.

Moving towards a memorable climax and looking forward to a storming version of the Queens of the Stone Age standard “Feel Good Hit of the Summer ” we suddenly lost all sound – suffering ‘technical difficulties’ that nearly put paid to the show. Apparently a brand new amplifier performed an act of ritual suicide. And so Boileroom was left silent. After some helpful advice from the audience, like “Turn it off and turn it back on again” and “Try giving it some red bull, it normally works for me” the band reluctantly withdrew back stage for at least 30 mins, whilst a replacement amplifier was found.

Back on stage to a rapturous reception, Subsource seemed a little subdued, and the mob certainly seemed calmer – “We can’t see any sweat on the crowd in the front” screamed out front-man Stuart – and the party got going again.

And what used to be filthy, dirty dub is now becoming so heavily tinged with metallic ideas that one delighted onlooker exclaimed “It’s like watching Gary Newman crossed with Pantera – it’s like dub-u-metal – I love it.”

© Neil_Mach April 2012

For more information about the Surgery Productions ‘Dubumentary’ Susbsource film visit:

Grab the ‘World of Tanks’ ‘Molotov’ track by visiting

See Subsource at Redfest- 20th July at Robins Cook Farm, Redhill, Surrey

Weyward Chile – at the ‘Wey Will Rock You’ event – The Star Guildford

Weyward Chile possesses that kind of cock-rock insolence and sweaty strutting charm that actually swoops the gals off of their feet and sets the men a-jigging. And that’s exactly what occurred at The Star Inn, Guildford on 9th Sept at the boys’ regularly hosted rock night ‘Wey Will Rock You’ (planned for the last weekend of every month.) The guys and girls were dancing and grinding  – and hollering along to the best, biggest and most bruisingingly boisterous bad ass blues rock this side of the Smokies.

Frontman lead vocalist Karl looks very much like ‘Donovan’ but he possesses the seriousness and the rustle of Robert Plant. He is as bold as he is beautiful. On the sweet lead guitar we have chancer and chief mojo-maker Korush, on the smouldering rhythm guitar we have Jack and on the power-house percussion we have Alex showing off a tantalizing new kit, with James on finger-lickinginly good bass.

Starting with an onslaught of power and strength that shakes the roof tiles off the mossy ole ‘Star, the band smash into a blistering set that can only be described as ruthless classic rock. Delivered in dollops so big, you will need an excavator and a pile-driver to make sense of the chords and chops. With songs like “Whole Lotta Love” and Jimi’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” you know what you’re going to get.  Yes, exuberant classic rock and blues.

But their own songs are also full of promise and contagious, good time, rock-ability. From their gas-bottle necking grassband country twanging, feverish ‘Go Go’  to ‘Clouds Start To Rain’ which has an elegant chord structure and a tuneful verse together with nagging guitar ripples from Korush- lightly feathering the pattering rhythms. I can’t wait for their studio album.

There was a lot of low-down, yard-dog, dice rolling type numbers, like ‘Mike’s Song’ created with roostering roistering buoyancy. And ‘I Went Down’ which is their truest ‘Bad Company’ number. It’s like running down the strip with a desolation angel on your arm, trying to get to the liquor store & grab yourself a bottle of Gentleman Jack before the big game. It’s like sluice-juiced rock-daddy headymen Aerosmith before their big-hair dandy days. When they played true honest-to-goodness rock, blues and metal.

Huge sound and energy is created by Karl as he prances the boards and teases the audience with his wild shirtless holier-than- f * ck arrogant swagger. Yes, Weyward Chile are now truly ready for stadium stardom. I can imagine these boys making a success of a West-coast tour anytime now.

Hard place dominant rock and blues for the wise and the ready…

© Neil_Mach
September 2011


The WonderYears Senior Rock Chorus

After seeing the amazing WonderYears rock chorus rehearsing at their ‘headquarters’ in Virginia Water, and after listening to the warm praise and unabashed acclaim for their enthusiastic and memorable live shows, I was very keen to meet the dynamic personality behind the WonderYears – The Senior Rock Chorus and Band. So on Monday I met the founder and esteemed musical director of the project, Dave Thomas.  Dave is a modest man, warm and confident. He is clearly passionate about his creation, and he cares deeply about every single member of his troop, acting like a rock n roll pastor to his flock.

From the outset, Dave stressed that the WonderYears are not a choir, but, to be precise, a chorus.  “We don’t harmonize – we concentrate on musicianship, live performance and self-expression. Our performances are always energetic and entertaining “ He tells me.  “So the chorus embraces the true values of rock music?” I ask.  “Exactly” he tells me. “And it is important to explain that our four-piece band is an integral part of our overall sound – they are the engine room for our performance and they distinguish us from groups like the Rock Choir, who tend to use backing tapes”. The 24 members of the chorus- comprising of 14 ladies and 10 men – plus 4 in the band, and the sound people,  are all ‘Seniors’. “The average age of the chorus is 70” says Dave “and the oldest member is 86 – we are the UK’s only seniors rock chorus and band.”

Keen ‘Radio 1’ and ‘Magic FM’ listener Dave sang in choirs in his childhood and later turned to opera. He got the inspiration for The WonderYears from the 2008 documentary film ‘Young@Heart’ by Stephen Walker. The documentary focuses on a New England based choir who take up singing the old classics and contemporary rock and pop songs together. So Dave placed an advert locally, inviting older people from the Surrey community to help form a Seniors Chorus and to be prepared to leave their comfort zones- and to become excited by the world of rock music.

Dave says he is a ‘supporter’ and ‘motivator’ rather than a conductor. And members of the chorus agree, saying that they feel thrilled and energised by his ever increasing levels of enthusiasm and verve. Audiences report that the feel good factor ‘overcomes you’ when you attend a  WonderYears concert  – and they say that an evening spent with WonderYears is every bit as good for you as a night out seeing a West End show like Mama Mia!

“Are there any consequences or unusual complications in the management and operation of a choral group comprising of seniors – rather than ‘young’ performers?” I was keen to know. Dave is kind about his team, and he raves about their individual talents. He is generous about the contributions that each individual makes to the overall sound, but he admits that there have been some small difficulties to overcome, and that the project is still evolving. “For example, I realized early on that I need to split up the choruses and the solo parts – in order that the songs become memorable and easier to learn and to master ….  As you get older, it’s harder to remember things – especially lyrics – and so we tend to break down the songs into more manageable pieces. And we also tend to choose songs with ‘proper’  and ‘appropriate’ lyrics  for our later years. Nothing too suggestive or too muddy”.  The group have, in the past, rejected some songs, because, perhaps, they are too cloying in a sentimental way – or because they are distressing for the older singers to perform. “Where have all the Good Times Gone” by the Kinks and “Dance with My Father” by Luther Vandross were two numbers that proved unpopular with the chorus members.

But the words of some well known rock songs often have surprising connotations or take on fun new meanings and special significance when performed by older singers. Take for example The Who’s  “My Generation” or “I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones.

Although he admits to loving the ‘big hair’ rockers of the 1980’s  such as a ‘Journey’, Dave also ensures that the WonderYears Chorus address some rock pieces with rougher edges, including a good dose of punk. “Our most popular number is the Killers song  “Human “.

“In addition, we always get a great reaction from ’Should I Stay or Should I Go.’  “Burt (aged 86) does an astonishing solo on “Let the Good Times Roll” and Tom does equally well on the Stones number “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. Other audience favourites include the Bee Gees hit “Stayin’ Alive” (another song that reveals new meanings when performed by a group of seventy something seniors) and “It’s My Life” Bon Jovi. “I ain’t gonna be just a face in the crowd. You’re gonna hear my voice, when I shout it out loud….”

Dave admits that he receives a lot of stick for the constant introduction of new songs to the group. “But I need to keep feeling that our Chorus is refreshed and rejuvenated” He says, “We must keep our energy flowing.”

Exciting times are ahead for the Surrey based outfit. Guilfest has invited them to come back to perform after a great success last year. They are also scheduled to perform at the Wokingham Food and Drink Festival. They even registered for this years Glastonbury festival. “Who would you like to share the top of the bill with – if your dreams come true?” I asked, “Bon Jovi” says Dave, without pausing, and with a glint in his eye.

“But it is always a great honor to play live music to any audience, anytime, supporting any performer.  Obviously, we want to ‘go all the way’ and play all the big venues and all the big festivals. But we also realize that we owe our local community a huge debt of gratitude for the support they give us. For example, we owe Christ Church, the community church of Virginia Water – a great big thanks for allowing us to practice there every week. We are not a church choir and we have no ties to the church, but they allow us to practice in their area and that is very precious to us. Every year we do a benefit concert to thank the church. We will never forget our local community and the warm support that our neighbours give us.”

“Twenty-four singers is an ideal size to provide the power and emotion that our songs require.” says Dave. “Only once, when we took the Chorus to County Sound Radio (to do a live broadcast), did we did experience a little ‘difficulty’. We discovered it was a bit of a  ‘squeeze’ to fit us all in. And then we could not hear our music properly, the sound was coming through the cans. We have a reliance on our live sound for the rhythm and structure. But because we couldn’t hear our live band sound, it all went a bit wonky!”

Dave says that it involves a lot of hidden costs and logistical support to take the band plus 24 singers and sound engineers onto the road. The WonderYears are currently looking for a sponsor to help with expenses. Currently the choir is self funded – the members pay a regular subscription. But there is no shortage of new volunteers. “We currently have 8 women and 3 men on our ‘wait list’ – but we keep our choir at the optimal size.”

“Our audiences range in age from grandchildren to great grandparents. Our songs appeal to everyone.” says the official WonderYears publicity officer, Maureen Grogan. “Just because we qualify for a bus pass, it does not mean that we are over the hill”.  She smiles. “Last year we developed a very popular Christmas show and we did several performances of it. But in the end we had to turn down requests to perform it because everyone wanted it!   We are becoming a big success.”

“We have performed at the Hackney Empire and we were in the windows for the Phones 4 U (ad) so we are now getting the recognition we deserve.”  But Dave is quick to point out that committing to about eight concerts a year is ‘right’ for the Chorus. “We are working on 24 numbers for our 2011 our show- and 19 songs are brand new for this season – so each song so has to be learnt and rehearsed.”  He says. “We rehearse each week and expect all of our members to attend all rehearsals. Eight big performances a year is quite an ambitious goal for us.”

Founder and Musical Director of the WonderYears, Dave Thomas was talking to Neil Mach

© Neil Mach 2011


The WonderYears will be performing alongside PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED and others on the GOOD TIME GUIDE STAGE on 17th JULY at GUILFEST 2011

Wokingham Food & Drinks Festival Saturday 27th August

Haydon’s Place – The Hobgoblin, Staines APR 01

Absurdly good looking Surrey band Haydon’s Place (named after a charming street in Guildford) brings to mind those influential Canadians “The Band” or even the sixties legends “The Byrds”. Their top-notch quality folk-rock sounds seem to be driven by those old style “collegiate folk” melodies and harmonies.  So easy to slip into. Like a big duvet full of sensual sound. Restful and relaxing.

The skillful combination of rhythm and blues fused with American folk melodies and soulful harmonic style country-rock is evoked by Christian on keyboards and vocals, Antonio on joyful lead guitar, Steve on percussion and Terry on bass.

Christian is tall and lanky, curly mopped and smiling – and brings to mind a more serious ‘Mika’. But his voice sounds very much like Welsh rock band ‘Budgie’ lead singer Burke Shelley (check out the Budgie classic “Parents” to see what I mean.)  Or even Rush’s Geddy Lee, if that kinda thing floats your boat. Christian’s distinctive honey sweet eagle soaring voice complements and adds soulful relish to each masterful song.

Antonio plays in an unhurried and confident style, his licks gracefully arching and falling like an exalted crane. No technical wizardry but sweet, quiet and lovely instrumentation.  Bass and percussion are played superbly, with great feeling. But even if there are no obvious fireworks or whooshing rockets of sound, this is not mediocrity – it is fulfilled and controlled musicality full of passion and creativity.

The dirtied up pure folk-rock sound provides ample opportunities for some swaying, cuddling-up and gentle pecking. Their warm-hearted songs- sung with grace and satisfying clarity-  often vividly embody luminescent peaks of sound  and gentle choruses, to warm those hard-up cockles. The crowd at The Hob Staines, just lapped it all up like Cheshire cats on the cream.

A jubilant audience found themselves swaying and dancing in the aisles. And the queue (at the end of the performance) for the band T’s and CD’s twisted round the Staines venue like a python ravels itself around an exotic dancers thigh.  This band is gonna be big.  Mark my words.

Haydon’s Place is all jangly, sure-footed, run-out-and-buy stuff – this music is played with a sweet heart  and an enthusiasm for highborn Americana – crafted with love and genuine emotional attachment.  My only negative criticism is that the lads new single  ‘Distance ‘  is a tad too obvious and far too cheesy for my taste … in fact all I wanna do is  “runaway runway”  each time  I  hear  it  . . .

Joyful pop for a new beat generation.

© Neil_Mach
April 2010

Next live at:

Apr 30 2010     8:00PM  Plantation     Guildford


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Imperial Leisure at The Boiler Room

It’s hard to take your eyes off of Denis Smith, the singer and Imperial Leisure frontman, as he flails around the stage like an out-of-control gyro-copter with his Sideshow Bob hair twisting in the spotlight. This band is just about the most exciting
thing to hit the leafy Guildford streets in weeks – nay months!   Imperial Leisure are wrecking our home and things ain’t gonna be the same no more!

The band is justly famous for their energetic live performances.  I even heard rumors that they play the ‘big uns’ with two bass guitars, three horns, two MCs and a cast of ten other musicians. When I recently saw ‘em playing live in Camden there was a squad of eleven up there on stage. But here in Surrey (The Boiler Room) we have the stripped down lite version of this excessive party band – just six gang members –  but wow they could brighten your day without even trying.  It was like setting a swarm of hot hornets free in a  candy shop. Enough energy, buzz and electricity in the air to keep your hands high and your tippy toes moving with a uniquely gnawing anticipation.

Imperial Leisure recreate all those best loved vintage sounds with their style, attitude and finesse but their music is also casually shaken up with large shots of hardcore rap and rock  to create a subtle beast whose flavours and aromas may be largely poppy 2-tone sounds like Madness, but almost always laced with the sour punch of something new wave – like Rage Against the Machine. Some of their more recent works sounds like the band is making (an unwelcome) foray into indie post-punk sound too – but the greater proportion of their output is still as two-tone ska as ever.

This skalextric sextet pumped out some of their old-time sounds like ‘The Art of Saying Nothing’ with unifying offbeat tempos and those skacore attributes or the crowd favourite ‘The Beast’ with its ridiculous intro and juicy walking bass lines. AJ on guitar is white-lightning fast and devilishly clever, Scott on drums is rapid-city and that bone has  treble-the-grunt  of any other I have  heard,  and adds grind and churn to each Imperial Leisure tune.

Itchy feet skedaddled and slam dunked around that wickedly small stage as the crowd scoobied to the beat in unison … Den implored the happy sweating crowd to hop, bound and jump.  And move they did. Because this music is designed to lift you up and keep your tinkle toes twinkling in the air. Superb songs like ‘The Landlord’s Daughter’ and ‘Man On The Street’ were decorated with notes of yearning might-  blast-notes from the achingly gurnish bug-eyed maestro on trombone and layers of velvety smooth chords were pumped and sifted through by Stu on keyboards.

The gig was as fast and as furious as a ferret on the run from Susan Boyles underwear draw … and was over all too quickly for the crowd who moaned and wailed as we sailed to the end.  Highlights were ‘Alperton’ and ‘The Landlord’s Daughter’ with those smooth interludes showered with invigorating bucketfuls of skantastic sounds.

Six pints of juice and pure energy, a curious cure for apathy. Man, you gotta have some of this!

© Neil_Mach
March 2010


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Weyward Chile – Hob, Staines 21st Feb

Weyward Chile – Get it Done

On the cusp of brilliance, this band just need to increase their reserves of chutzpah, audacity and shameless life sparkle to achieve the kind of stellar success that they dream of.

Looking like Sacha Baron Cohen with Anthony Kiedis’s hair and Marc Bolan’s makeup, singer and feisty frontman Jason Guy leads his team into battle – but he needs to grasp that nettle (and shriek with the pain of it) if he really wants our hearts to sing and our crotches to smoulder.  I bet you he really screams out one helluva dynamic performance, if he puts his mind to it – but tonight the arrogance and the attitude is somehow missing.  A flattish ‘Get it On’  (T.Rex)  was, however, fun and welcoming and the punters at The Hob Staines lapped it all up.

Weyward guitar comes from the nimble fingers of Korush Mahdavieh, and his savagely cruel,  slinky,  splashing she-cat guitar sounds. Licks are  so cool yet so fiery that they put flames into the bone and freeze-dry the balls all at the same time.  The mouths of the excited audience froth with enjoyment as the band plays superb little numbers like the new Stonesy stoner “I Went Down’ with its architectural blues, or ‘Mikes Song’ with its refreshing slices of teasingly acidic guitar over a bluesy thumping rump of a bass/drum back-beat.  Maybe the sick coyote-howls of guitar could have been smarter  – wilier –  but generally the quality of blues guitar from both Korush and Mike Magnussen (on rhythm) was fine and dandy.   Bass (James Collyer) was also formidably good – with its muddy roots and sooty dark soul  firmly planted in those damp Mississippi banks.  One could almost smell the catfish gut.  And drums (Alex Gray) were crisp, bright and sinful.

My only criticism is that this kinda music – perched midway between the rock blues of The Black Crowes and the sleaze of Rattlesnake Remedy – must be performed with more sneer … more arrogant rut. In fact, it ought to be performed with a hell-bent attitude leading towards growling hysteria.  But, that said,  driving tunes like “Go Go”  with those thrumming drilling rhythms and gummy guitars licked with a hot pepper paste of slimy,  sinewy vocals or that crowd pleasing conclusion to the gig – a right royal slug of brilliant “T.N.T.” –  made for an enjoyable and lucid experience and the crowd just loved it.

A bit later Jason later told me he was fighting a bad attack of influenza – so that is may be why the performance lacked a bit of lustre.

Weyward Chile is an exciting band from those muddy groves of sleazy Southern Rock. Best after a double dose of Southern Comfort and a hot chick in a string-vest at your side. Tasty!

© Neil_Mach
February 2010


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