Interview - RockCounsellor

RockCounsellor is songwriter and musician, Thoby Burton. Let's have a chat with him about his music.

Hi there, Tell us about your latest release Laura.
‘Laura’ is a song about a song I wrote as a Jim Morrison obsessed teenager at secondary school for a friend I walked home from school with. Entitled ‘Ship in the Night’, the original song casts my friend Laura as Thor’s mistress who is battling to overcome the heartache and misery she is suffering. So ‘Laura’ is me wondering years later whether she was ever able to escape the “dark angels” that hounded her during her school days and find the happiness and love she craved.

How would you describe your sound?
My collaborator and producer, Richard Campbell, and I share a love of classic rock and pop. When I finish writing a song I almost always have ideas about what type of sound I’m aiming at when it comes to production. And like a good hair stylist, Richard knows how to give me the cut I want, and brings his own ideas as well. He’s also a fantastic musician and multi instrumentalist, neither of which I am, so Rock Counsellor's sound wouldn't be achievable without him.

Overall, it seems I can’t shake the 80s sound. I think it's in my voice and my songwriting, even before we get to production. And even if I bring a more contemporary influence to the music, which I like to think I do from time to time, I feel like you can still detect the 80s in there.

With ‘Laura’, Richard and I wanted an unabashed 80s feel to reflect the narrative, hence the Pet Shop Boys style orchestral stabs, but for the guitars and drums we were aiming for a Queens of the Stone Age sound because the guitar riff sounded a little something Josh Homme might come up with. You can discern that if you listen closely, which is worth doing if you’re a Pet Shop Boys fan who also likes QOTSA - there must be one or two of you.

What do you write about?
I’ve always been interested in people and relationships, and this has only deepened as a result of my work as a counsellor. Of course I hear a lot of interesting stories so I use some of what I hear in my lyrics, as well as writing about my own experiences.

What do you listen to when you are home?
I like a wide variety of rock and pop. When I’m feeling lazy I listen to classic rock radio or a Spotify playlist, but when I put a record on it could be an album by a contemporary band - Idles, Everything Everything, King Gizzard, are acts I like.

Your favourite live performance so far?
RockCounsellor is a studio project for now. I identify as a songwriter these days. But when I was younger I played some cool gigs with ‘67’ my band at the time, supporting Steve Albini’s Shellac and The Jesus Lizard. They were packed-out gigs. A little later, when I had an acoustic band called ‘Pocket Rocket’, we played a lot of really fun shows that I fondly remember.

Tell us a funny story that happened in studio or on stage
So my band got a couple of gigs in Paris one time. Two nights at the same bar. We were playing acoustic with drums, bass and sax. We get to the gig having hired a minibus to get the band and a bunch of friends there from London, only to discover that the PA we were promised is just a number of tiny hi-fi music speakers dotted around the venue. The type you see around restaurants. So my vocal goes through these, we use our amps for the guitars, and the drums and sax are unmiked. We are a little disappointed but we see the funny side. Anyway, we are part way through a song when a woman comes on stage to talk to us. Luckily this song has a musical stop or two in the arrangement, so when we reach one of these I ask her what she wants and she tells me she needs us to move our van. So we don’t go back into the song, but instead our bass player goes out and moves the van while the rest of us just stay in our positions and wait. When he comes back, he sits back down, gives us a nod, and we go straight back into the song, as if we had just pressed pause.

...maybe you had to be there?!

Your favourite albums?
Well, here’s a few that come to mind….

Crossing the Red Sea with the Adverts - The Adverts
Get to Heaven - Everything Everything
Welcome to my Nightmare - Alice Cooper
Rio - Duran Duran
Valhalla Avenue - Fatima Mansions
Crooked Rain - Pavement
Favourite Worst Nightmare - Arctic Monkeys
Viva! Roxy Music! - Roxy Music
Adolescent Sex - Japan
An American Prayer - Jim Morrison and The Doors
In on the Killtaker - Fugazi
Lexicon of Love - ABC
Searching for the Young Soul Rebels - Dexy's Midnight Runners

A musician you would like to meet for a beer?
I feel like I should say someone famous, but I’d prefer to meet up with a couple of the musicians I used to play with and see what they've been up to all these years.

What would you ask backstage if you were the most important band on earth?
Champagne and sushi, peanut butter and bananas.

What are your plans for the next future?
I hope to keep collaborating with Richard and hopefully release a follow up to the MusicTherapy album I released in November 2020. In the meantime, I expect I’ll release a single or an EP in the new year, as I already have a couple of new songs ready to go.

Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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