Charlie Hart, original member of Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance and collaborator of Eric Clapton, Ian Dury and Pete Brown talks with Pop Expresso about the new Slim Chance album “The Phoenix Tapes” and shares his view on the future of this legendary all-star band
An exclusive Pop Expresso interview with Charlie Hart
By David Warren for Pop Expresso
Together with Steve Bingham and Steve Simpson, the singer and multi-instrumentalist Charlie Hart is one of the original members of the legendary Ronnie Lane’s passion project Slim Chance. He opens up about the band’s new album, influences and future direction
This reincarnation of Slim Chance follows the original concept which Ronnie Lane first created back in the 1970’s, does the newly recorded music also reflects that same concept?
The tracks heard on Phoenix Tapes were actually recorded at different times in the period 2010-2018. In this time I guess the approach did evolve to some extent, including a wider range of material, including some originals by band members. But the underlying ‘concept’ remained pretty much the same… ie naturalistic, organic, relaxed, honest, from the heart, and not forgetting humour…. and Meher Baba’s dictum ‘don’t worry, be happy’ !
In general the big egos steered clear of Slim Chance because they realized this was not the band for them
The all star line up for Slim Chance features some of the most talented and creative musicians in the music business, in the whole history of the band, were there ever any ego clashes between any of the members?
In general the big egos steered clear of Slim Chance because they realized this was not the band for them. So…very few clashes within the band, as we even took turns in buying the next round!
How do you, as a longtime collaborator of Ronnie Lane, look back on how the band developed over the years, especially having lost Ronnie Lane?
My time with Ronnie in the ’70s was a magical time for me, and influenced the way I approached playing and recording in future years. For a long time I didn’t even think of trying to continue the band, but the 2004 Albert Hall memorial concert made me realize how much I enjoyed playing Ronnie’s songs, and how relevant they continued to be. But even after that it took 6 years before a reformed (but unrepentant!) Slim Chance emerged. Since then its been an interesting and rewarding journey. In large part I’d say this is because we carried on Ronnie’s approach of always putting people and their relationships first, and the music came together naturally from that. Its been a pleasure socially and musically working and playing with everybody who’s been in the band since 2010.
Iconic and influential bands such as The Yardbirds, keep renewing their line-up over the years to be able to tour and record new music. Will we see Slim Chance renew their current members in the future with new musicians maybe who weren’t even born when Lane founded the band?
We’re open to everything and everybody! James Walbourne played a gig or two with the band some years ago. I think he was born 1980, which is not that long after Slim Chance was founded. He’s a great player and added a great new dimension. Change is the natural order of things in this world, so hopefully there’ll be more, as time goes by.
Look back at Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance performing “Anniversary” in 1975 featuring Charlie Hart
Everybody brings their own musical direction to the band
This new album features versions of songs originally recorded by artists such as the Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan and also new recordings of the band itself, did the Slim Chance musical influences changed over the years according to its members or does it remains the same?
Everybody brings their own musical direction to the band. For instance, I’ve always had a connection to African music, and this can be heard in a couple of songs we have recorded. Steve Simpson has many country influences, Geraint Watkins is more of a blues/swing man. But we also have a lot in common, Americana as well as British rock music, so that remains a constant.
Notable guests on this album include The Who’s Pete Townshend, are there any plans to record other songs in the future with some of these guests?
We’re thinking of the next album already. Billy Nicholls is the latest person to join the band, even though he knew and worked with Ronnie before anyone else, and he has got certain ideas about new directions. Let’s see what happens!
The underlying ‘concept’ remained pretty much the same… naturalistic, organic, relaxed, honest, from the heart, and not forgetting humour…
Classic Rock bands and names such as the Faces, Ronnie Lane, Rod Stewart or Slim Chance remains a top preference of music fans despitethe changes in the music industry over the decades, outselling new artists in some cases. Do you think there was more substance and artistry in bands and songs from the 1960’s or 1970’s that still makes them earn new fans today?
The sixties was an amazing time for all the arts, and provided a very stimulating environment for musicians to work in. Some of the music from that time has become almost a ‘classical’ music, and the fact that kids are interested in it has proved its quality and power. But there’s new things happening all the time all over the world, and we shouldn’t be blind – or deaf – to them by being over absorbed in the past.
One problem that has come to light is that musicians are not benefitting from streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify. Hopefully the industry realizes that needs to be
corrected as a matter of urgency
How do you think the pandemic and lockdown has influenced artists and music industry worldwide?
Well, hopefully it’s give musicians time to practice, though in reality the absence of live gigs did affect one’s motivation. But the pandemic made people more aware of nature and of the value of music, and how its an intensely social activity. Because live music has been absent, music has had to find other ways of reaching people – eg live streaming, recording and so on, so musicians have somehow managed to carry on being creative, and audiences have been able to go on deriving enjoyment from music. Long may that continue! One problem that has come to light is that musicians are not benefitting from streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify. Hopefully the industry realizes that needs to be corrected as a matter of urgency.
This vibrant new album retains that same music spirit originally conceived by Lane, “The Phoenix Tapes” was recorded between 2010 and 2018 in several sessions held by the band, including songs recorded live in concert. Originally almost all the songs featured on the album were published on YouTube as a contribute of the band to music fans during the 2020 lockdown.
Listen to “Anniversary”, the opening track of “The Phoenix Tapes”
Slim Chance Upcoming Tour Dates in the U.K
June 23 @ 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm
THE WATER RATS
The Water Rats 328 Grays Inn Road, London
June 25 @ 9:00 am – 11:00 pm
CHELMSFORD CITY FOOTBALL CLUB
Chelmsford City Football Club Salerno Way, Chelmsford
September 23 @ 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm
DUKE OF CUMBERLAND
Duke of Cumberland High Street, Whitstable, Kent
September 30 @ 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Farnham Maltings Bridge Square, Farnham
October 2 @ 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm
COURT THEATRE TRING
Court Theatre Tring Station Rd, Tring
October 8 @ 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm
The Greystones Greystones Rd, Sheffield
October 15 @ 8:00 pm – 10:30 pm
WOKINGHAM MUSIC CLUB
Wokingham Music Club The Royal British Legion Club, Woodward Cl, Winnersh
Steve Simpson: vocals, guitar, mandolin and fiddle,
Charlie Hart: vocals, fiddle, accordion and keys
Steve Bingham: vocals and bass
Geraint Watkins: vocals and keys
Brendan O’Neill: drums
Billy Nicholls: vocals, mandolin and acoustic guitar
Official Charlie Hart website:
“The Phoenix Tapes”, a new vibrant and solid collection of songs by Slim Chance, the Ronnie Lane’s original passion project
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