Europeans & How We Live

Interview with Colin Woore



Europeans and How We Live guitarist Colin Woore


Following Steve's interview, Europeans and How We Live guitarist Colin Woore contacted me in the summer of 1999, and also offered to answer some questions for the site. This exclusive interview reveals more about what went on in the two groups, and what he has been up to more recently. Many thanks to Colin for his time, help and enthusiasm.




Ferg, Geoff and yourself were in 'Motion Pictures' before Steve joined. How, where and when did you form?

One day I heard a racket coming from my neighbour's garage and went over to investigate.  It was Geoff and Ferg in there, with my neighbour David Carr - they were all at school together.  This was in 1971, in Glasgow, and we were between 11 and 13 years old. David Carr had a drum kit, Ferg had a bass, and Geoff was playing electric guitar.  I went straight back over to my house and grabbed my Woolie's 'Top Twenty' electric guitar and amp, and joined them.  That was the end of peaceful Saturday afternoons for our neighbourhood for a while.  After some months, maybe as much as a year (through the process of natural selection), Geoff took over as drummer after displaying his natural gift for it.  We stayed a three-piece band until 1979, playing hundreds and hundreds of gigs, at one point playing eight in a week.  At that time a friend of ours, Alan Dalgleish, who played keyboards and also sang, joined the band. We all moved to London in our band van in May 1980, shortly after a disastrous club booking in Denmark. Despite getting some really good gigs in London, after three or four months, Alan quit the band.  We now needed a new keyboard player.




In the Autumn of 1980, Steve joined as keyboard player.  How and why did you pick him ?

We ran an ad in the Melody Maker classifieds looking for a keyboard player.  After speaking to a couple of guys, Steve called and I spoke to him on the phone for while.  He seemed to be on the same wavelength as us and into the same kind of music.  Ferg and I went to meet him at his place and we all hit it off.  He could play well and sing too - just what we wanted.


Colin Woore in the studio




Did you enjoy recording and playing with John Otway?


Playing with John Otway was a lot of fun, especially the 'Band Behind The Curtain' tour where we appeared only in silhouette.  Nearing the end of the set, I would drape a towel over my head and then put on a top hat - Wild Willie Barrett magically appearing. We were pretty knackered after a few nights though as we were also the support act and were supplying and moving the PA and all the gear.  Most of the recording was done with the band playing live together in rehearsal studios with a mobile recording studio parked outside.


How did Europeans sign to A&M ?

We had recorded some demos with producer Trevor Vallis on studio downtime working through the night.  One of these was 'The Animal Song' which was put down over a couple of nights at Music Works studios and we were pretty pleased with the way it turned out.  Ferg took the tape, and some shots from a photo session we'd done, to Wally Brill at A&M.  Wally loved it and came to see us in rehearsal, then we delivered some more demos.  He then brought the whole company down to see a gig at the Venue in Victoria.  After that, they signed us to an album deal.  It was a very exciting time, A&M seemed to be the best label around then with the Police, Squeeze, Joan Armatrading, Joe Jackson, Split Enz etc on the roster.




Colin Woore in 1983


You say on one of the interview pages that the Vocabulary album "took too long to record."  Why was this?  What are your favourite tracks on that album?

I thought this because the band at that time had a great live feel which was spontaneous, interactive and had evolved through a countless number of gigs and thousands of hours of rehearsal time.  We had been producing very good demos, all playing and singing together with near live backing tracks.  When we went into the studio with producer Vic Coppersmith to record the Vocabulary album, his approach was a bit different to that.  He tended to separate everything more into its component parts, in particular spending, in my view, far too much time on the drum sounds, not leaving enough time to do everything else, and most importantly not capturing the feel of the band which was very much a live animal.  This was also the opinion of our record company and management and the main reason for us coming out with a live album so soon afterwards.  We were not entirely blameless ourselves, at a time when production seemed to be getting more and more important - we fell into that trap of trying to make a 'studio band' album without realizing that the reason such bands recorded like that was because, more often than not,  they couldn't play live.  Anyway, it was our first time making an album and we did it all without a manager, only employing one afterwards.  Favourite tracks on Vocabulary...  I just had a quick listen:   'The Animal Song' - one of my children,  'Modern Homes' - captures the feel of the band at the time - love the middle 8, and  'Kingdom Come'.




"Climb The Wall" features you on lead vocals.  How did that come about?

One of the strengths of the band was the fact that we could all sing and, at different times during our development, had all sung lead.  'Climb the Wall' was a piece of music we had for a while and used to jam at rehearsals and wanted to turn into a song.  We were messing around with it in our publisher's studio one day and I came out with the vocal idea.  The others liked it and we all pitched in to finish the lyrics. It was recorded during a demo session with Warne Livesey in a little studio where we would record about eight songs in two days.




Your guitar playing is very distinctive on the Europeans material. How did you create the 'Woore' sound?

I was lucky enough to have Roger Giffin, the guitar maker, build me the guitar I wanted which became my main guitar during the Europeans time and had quite a distinctive sound.  It's kind of a cross between a Strat and a Tele.  I still have it. 


Colin performs live with Europeans




Was the recording of the Recurring Dreams LP a much smoother affair?

Yes, apart from the fact that Ferg was quite ill and so couldn't be there for the first few days, and Steve and I were suffering badly from hay fever in the middle of the Welsh countryside at Rockfield Studios in the middle of June.  After all our demo work with Warne Livesey, we had insisted on using him to engineer on the album, and we had a lot of respect for David Lord's musicality as producer.  We all enjoyed making the album and liked the result.  It's a great shame that A&M fell apart at that time, on the day of its release, stopping it from getting the promotion it deserved.  This eventually led to the break-up of the band.   




How did your writing partnership with Steve work?

Steve and I were very much on the same wavelength and seemed to have an empathy for each other's ideas. Generally, when we wrote together I would come up with the music and Steve would write the lyrics.  When Steve wrote the music, he would still write the lyrics, and my attention would be more on the arrangement, feel and recording of it.




You formed How We Live with Steve after Europeans split.  What are your memories of recording the Dry Land album, and what are your favourite tracks?

We had a great time down in Bath recording the album. I'll never forget the experience of standing in the studio with David Lord conducting the Allegri String Quartet, bringing the keyboard string arrangement I had written to life on the 'Dry Land' track.  Also, recording the 'All the Time in the World' guitar solo at night in the nearby church hall in the middle of an old graveyard with my amp cranked up all the way.  My favourite tracks are 'Working Town', 'India' and 'Dry Land'.




Colin, half of How We Live


How did you go about assembling the musicians for the 'Dry Land' sessions?  Did you play other instruments on the album?

When Steve and I formed How We Live, we put a band together with Andrew, Taif and George playing with us from quite early on.  Manny Elias lived in Bath and played with Tears For Fears.  Steve picked  up Jim Couza busking in the town.  The Allegri String Quartet and Stuart Gordon were brought in by David Lord.  John Wyburgh was brought in by our manager. Gill Wisdom was a friend of Andrew's and Francis Fuster turned up in a cab all the way from London claiming that he thought that Bath was just down the road after being asked to make his own way to the studio.  Expensive re-percussions!  I played bass on 'All the Time in the World' and 'Working Girl'.




How We Live supported Chris De Burgh on his European tour, but did HWL undertake a full tour of their own to promote the LP?  Did the performances include songs other than the 'Dry Land' tracks? (Steve couldn't remember and told me to ask you!)

We had the same management as Chris De Burgh - that's how we ended up doing a British tour, European tour and some Irish dates supporting him... but on our own, as far as I can remember, we didn't do a full tour, just one-off dates.  I've just found a tape of a gig we did at the Kings Hall in Belfast and on that we did 'English Summer' (which didn't make the album but we used as a B-side to 'Working Girl') and a song called 'Sun Shines in Your Eyes'.  I'm sure that we used other non-album songs at different gigs. 

What did you think of Marillion's version of 'Dry Land' ?

Good but I miss the real strings. 




Are there extra, unreleased tracks or outtakes recorded by Europeans or How We Live ?  (Steve mentioned 'Wrap Me In The Flag' and 'So Far Away.')

Loads.  There are at least a dozen Europeans songs which were recorded in at least a demo form but not used, and Steve and I had recorded over 20 songs that weren't used on our album.  These included 'Easter', 'Simon's Car' (which supplied the verse for 'Cover My Eyes'), and a song called 'This Town'.  The music and melody I'd written for 'So Far Away' was used as the verse of 'The Space'.




What have you been up to since How We Live split? What are you doing at the moment?

Since Steve and I split, I have been busy writing, recording and playing for myself and with various others.  The first song I wrote and recorded after HWL, 'If You Really Love Me', went on the International Hostage Release album.   It was a charity album, and besides donating one of his own songs, Peter Gabriel gave me the free studio time to record the song.  Through 1990-91, I was working with Joan Armatrading and we did a world tour.  After that, I went to New York and started writing with Curt Smith of Tears For Fears and Robert Bell of the Blue Nile.  Curt's solo album came out in '93.  Since then, I have split my time between London and New York, continuing to write for Rondor Music in both places until 1995.   I have now written a solo album, which I'm really proud of, and will be busy working on it for the foreseeable future.  I continue to collaborate from time to time, most recently with Graham Lyle.  




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