RGM Introducing – Paul Fletcher and the Dukes

So full disclosure, ive know you a while now mate but for the people that don’t know yer what made you decide to start the band ?

I’ve been in and around music for the last 20 years and its just something that I just live to do  whether it be writing, producing, or playing live, I just love every part of it. As part of the publishing deal that I’ve got, the opportunity was given for me to create a band and ultimately write, perform my own music so it was too good of an offer to turn down.

Introduce us all to the members of the dukes and their musical history?

The Dukes is more of a collective of musicians that we call upon dependent on what the song needs. The live band is made up of Stephen Broughton, Richard Lewis, and Mike Beatham. Stephen has been loads of established bands such as Mary Wrote with Howarth and Feral Brood. He’s really become someone I can bounce ideas off which is good. I know he’s into the likes of Simon Phillips and Mark Schulman. Richard was in Braver Than Fiction most recently, prior to that Indigo Alone and Backlash. Mike is a dark horse, the silent assassin. He’s been in loads such as Brian Blessed’s Milkfloat Massacre, Left The Oven On, and Womb Womble – great names them! He’s also played live with Whitney Houston’s nephew.

It’s been a bit of a wild last year, how have you guys managed to pass time and stay sane during lockdown?

We planned to reduce the number of live gigs that we were doing to finish this album off, so the plan was always to take time off to finish the album and then come back and fill our boots with live shows, therefore, it hasn’t really impacted that much. We’re just excited to play live and get everyone listening to this album. We’ve been rehearsing over the last 8 weeks and it’s sounding good live, especially the new songs. New songs always give the set a bit of new feeling. We’ve also got a new bass player Richard, so he’s really starting to put his stamp on things.

How positive are you feeling now restrictions are loosening?

Super positive! Even super-duper positive. Just the fact you can see live music coming back is great. I walked around town over the bank holiday weekend and I saw an open mic happening which just gave me a sense of things getting back to normal. We can’t wait to get back playing live, that is the top and bottom of it for us. We’re available, anywhere, any place at any time – That’s fits with us all ha ha!

How has 2020  effected your mental health?

Personally, it hasn’t affected my mental health at all, but I know it has others. There have been some really sad stories within my friendship group, but you got to keep keeping on (so they say). I understand that many have unfortunately struggled, which is a sad state of affairs. I’ve tried to keep in contact with people through this period and I’m making a point of being more proactive with talking to people now as having that face to face contact taken away has made me ensure that I’m not taking it for granted anymore.

How much are you looking forward to playing live?

We just can’t wait! I’m buzzing at rehearsals, like a little kid.

Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories? 

Not really, yet I’m the biggest hypocrite there is on this. I don’t really have the time to look into anything that deep. I like watching conspiracy theory films and documentaries though. I love that film Conspiracy Theory. Conspiracy theorists to me are people who have too much time on their hands.

You are a busy lad, tell us about your record label and the roster you have built up?

So the record label has come about via the publishing agreement that I have. In the past, I have worked with artists that have been both established and not established, writing and producing. We’ve had some success and songs in the charts, but I fell out of love with it as it became very much a production line mentality. The aim of the label is to take new artists and work with them and get their music out to the masses. We have Holly Tandy who had great exposure on x factor and Eurovision. But we also have acts such as Lottie, who has literally just started on the journey of becoming an artist but is absolutely amazing. The key for us at the label is that the people that we bring on want to be artists, write their own material, and want to create an artistry within music.

What advice would you give other artists starting out?

Stick to your guns, you don’t have to make music that is ‘the norm’ or ‘abstract’. You don’t need to make music that is constantly pushing genres either. Make music that you can stand by. It’s not always about breaking barriers. For me you don’t pick up a guitar for the first time just for the hell of it, there’s always an influence somewhere. I think the point of the music is that there is a connection and ultimately it makes people feel good, that’s why we do it.

Whats one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?

I suppose I was getting asked a lot about when this album was coming out because it was taking a while. However, I think the next question will be when’s our next gig. I don’t really get fed up, I’m happy to talk to anyone. If you know me, you know that’s true!

As an experience group / collective, drawing on your experiences, how does the industry feel today compared to 5 or 10 years ago?

I think that it’s more accessible now with technology and home recording etc. There’s more people trying to set out by themselves to make a career. I suppose 10 years ago the idea of independent labels was different, However, I think that’s a good thing, artists having independence is good. Many may say the quality has dropped, however, for me, music should be accessible and anyone who releases anything shouldn’t be criticised. Songwriters should have credit for putting their heart and soul into everything. I believe anyone putting stuff out brave. I hate to see bands getting criticised by people that haven’t ever attempted to put anything out there. But at the same time, I don’t think artists should get defensive when criticism does (no doubt) come their way. You can’t please everyone, but if you believe in what you’re doing, then that the important thing. I do believe that it takes a lot to put something out their for people to listen. As a musician, I’m really positive about how the industry has changed and how accessible it is.

What’s your favourite song right now from another band currently on the Sheffield circuit?

I love Perfect Parachute Picture. I think the song is called ‘Idea’. I don’t tend to stick to one genre and they’re heavy compared to us, but I just think it’s great. I like the stuff that Lauren Tate does too. Again, not the type of music that we do but both have absolute belief in what they’re doing. Just wait until you hear the stuff that Lottie has done from our label, it’s really good. Goes without saying Alvarez Kings I do like and I’m keen to hear what they do next. 48ks are good. I also liked the solo project that Tom (ex Feral Brood) did come to think of it. I always liked his stuff. I think the Goodwin brothers new project to cool too. There’s lots of good music and I’m excited to see what comes next from some of the new bands that are undoubtedly going to come out.

What support is out there for new artists in Sheffield ?

I think there’s lots of support for new bands, but I don’t think it’s kindly going to find the band if the band thinks it’s just going to come to them, It wont come to you. Bands need to put work into finding the support. However, there is a lot of people doing good stuff, such as Dave Sanderson, Paul Tuffs, us at Music Panel. If you want it it’s there. If I was starting out I’d be talking to the above. They’re good guys! The scene is about collaboration, you need to put yourself out there and ask ‘how can you help me’. Theres such a huge amount of support who want to help get live music out, I think you’d be surprised!

Who is inspiring you at the minute on the Sheffield unsigned scene?

See above! I think it’s great that solo artists are starting to make waves. Artists like Lottie, Darren Cadwallander and Dan James Vardy starting to get success in the writers charts too. Hats off to them.

 If your fans could remember one thing about you what would it be?

I’d hope that it’s the music and that it’s catchy. That’s ultimately why we do it, also I have got impeccably good dress sense.

What useless party trick /talent do you have/? 

I think one positive think about me is that I don’t have any party drinks. That’s all I can say on that one

What was the most fun you have had on stage?

I think I played the Leadmill main stage was great, playing The Cavern too was fantastic, just because of everyone else that had gone before on that stage, amazing! It was a great crowd at both venues, loads of really good interaction. I played a festival also called Redrock with Space (band from Liverpool – Female of the Species) and that was really good also. They were top lads.

What was the worst experience on stage

I don’t think I’ve had a worst experience on stage if I’m honest because I love it. I get nervous, but I think that’s a good feeling to have. I try not to drink before a gig because I did once get too drunk and fall of the stage at Tramlines, however, even at that point I was having a great time!

Name a four piece band made up of legends – who would be in it? (drummer, bass, lead singer etc)

Drummer: Keith Moon 

Singer: Liam Gallagher

Guitarist: Johnny Marr

Bass: Sid Vicious

If you could play any music festival which would it be?

Hands down Glastonbury… Glastonbury, Glastonbury, Glastonbury!

What advice would you give someone going into the music industry?

Stick to your guns, do what you think is right, listen to your head, and don’t be disheartened… keep going.

What makes you stand out as a band?

The tunes, it’s all about the music. I’ve not got to the point that I need to get the foxes head out the garage and do a Peter Gabrial. Maybe for the next album…. Who knows! The next album is pretty much demo’d and it’s going in a different direction again, so we’ll see where that takes us. We’re proud of ‘In The Blink Of An Eye’ but we got to keep moving and experimenting. They’ll be no cosmic Jazz though.

Right now, whats pissing you of the most? (Cant say the virus 🙂 

I think what’s annoying me the most is that we’ve missed so much time around playing gigs and getting out there. Then again, we have had plenty of time to finish the album and we’ve also got an the follow up written. We just want to play the new music, we all understand why we have taken this hiatus, but we are definitely coming out of the other side. We’ll all be playing as soon as possible.

Whats your favourite song to play live and why?

Its probably between ‘No More Tears’ and a new song called ‘In The Blink Of An Eye’. They’re both songs that are very personal for me, so I love them…and they’re brilliant also!

Tell me about your new album and  how it came about

The new album came about as part of the gig that I got, I think we wanted to make this album a little more personal that the first album. The first album was songs that were more born out of situations of other people whereas this album is a lot more personal, there is more depth present. This was a conscious decision to make these more personal, a little more relatable. The production is also bigger as we had a bigger budget and Dave Sanderson did an amazing job. I loved working with him. He really pushed me.

How was the recording process given the various restrictions the UK has been under of late?

To be honest, much of the recording process was done prior to lockdown, it was more just the post-production done during lockdown. I enjoyed working on the songs that weren’t finished before lockdown, because they’ve gone down the route that we wouldn’t normally go down. Songs Like ‘Devil In Your Heart And Soul’ and ‘Number 58’ are examples of that.

What are your plans for the year ahead?

Gig and Gig. We’ve also started working on recording the next one. I’ve got a few Eps that I’m keen to release so there’s lots of new music to come. It’s certainly not going to be as long between releases as this time.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

Love your work son!

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