Kaz Hawkins

Like many I was smitten by Kaz Hawkins and her Band o’ Men when I first saw them play. That was over two years ago now.  A lot has changed since then and that’s where we started our conversation in between nanny sitting sessions recently!

There has been a bit of a line-up change since last we met.

(Laughs) Nearly completely! I’m still there but I don’t know when they are going to replace me!

You have gone and found two Slovakian musicians, a bass player and a drummer, how did that come about?

Well, they are brothers, for one. It happened through our manager Gerry – the wee drummer that was with us, that you met in Norwich was Rory, he was standing in because our drummer had walked just as we were headin’ out on tour I think it was. So desperate times, I think Gerry was posting to every available drummer in Northern Ireland – and there aren’t very many because it is such a small place! But it just so happened that Pete had replied. He met up with me and he said I have commitments, he was going to join a big wedding band and then it fell through. So he and Rory were going to be covering some of the dates… however one thing let to another, Pete said he’d like to be in full time because he saw the potential and that was it – party over!

I can imagine that playing in a wedding band and playing in the Kaz Hawkins band are two slightly different life styles?

Definitely, definitely!! (Laughs) But he came on board and little did I even know then that he was this powerhouse, now he’s a year in and he has contributed so much to the new sound of KHB. And of course you also met our bass player Michael, the big giant of a man. Unfortunately towards the end of last year his Daddy took cancer and he was just so stressed out when we were coming to the end of the tour the he couldn’t commit anymore. He wanted to experiment with his music, he had learned double bass, and as much as I love double bass it wasn’t where I wanted to go with our new rockier sound. So we parted ways gracefully and we gave him our blessing and we are still in touch with him.

Then I think it was that Janny messages Robmount Music and they sent me the email and I said to Pete – do you know your brother has applied to join us? Pete went WHAT? I didn’t think that this would be his cuppa tea! It was just a weird situation and then I went and met Janny for coffee. He was petrified, he was shakin’ and he said “I can’t believe that I am talking to you” – he has a worse Northern Ireland accent with broken Slovaian than Pete! I said “What are you shakin’ for?” He said “I’m just so nervous, you are just so amazing” – So I went “You are the man for me!” (Laughs) Flattery gets you everywhere!

Not content with getting two brothers you then went and got Nick’s cousin on board.

Yes. Well Dee had been singing with me…. I had been mentoring her for a year. We’d been out doing some cover gigs for the past year. I was kinda molding her myself, I think in the back of my mind I really wanted backing singers. But I had two, I was mentoring another girl but she then was more of a lead singer and had joined up with her new boyfriend and they were out doing acoustic gigs. So I asked if Dee could commit and she said should give me three years – she hasn’t settled down yet. So that sort of became our three year plan for KHB. We brought in new crew working behind the scenes for design and stuff like that.

So we are all in for three years. A UK tour this year, which is bigger. And then we head for Europe in 2017.

All this new branding and the new band members – has the sound changed?

It has grown, and I would say that it has changed. We just put our first track out “This is Me” on Jason Elliot’s show, the Blues and Soul show. There are two covers on the album, one is “I just Wanna Make Love to You”, its kinda rock, blues, funky – we’ve kinda let go on that. Pete and Janny come from a kinda prog rock background and they are very multi cultural. They have played in everything from African bands to grunge to heavy metal so they brought this power and this new level of intensity because they are joined at the hip on the rhythm – you know, ones left foot is the other one’s right! I wanted to make use of that and experiment with “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” and what we’ve done its… its a really long track but there are so many different levels, we have changed the lyrics about a bit, it is far more rockier and it packs a punch and its gotta be played loud!

I am sitting her trying to imagine what a “more intense” Kaz Hawkins sounds like! I mean you are pretty full on anyway!

Well yes, but do you know what they say?  They say you are only as good as your backing and since I gave up doing solo appearances and stuff like that I have been able to experiment and see what fits me most. And I don’t like too many gaps in those big rampant songs that we do. I kinda like to leave that for the more ballad less blues stuff – so I wanted that mayhem, that craziness and just be absolutly out there. I said to the guys I want to create something original out of this cover… and I think they did. And it was also about showcasing the band, they are new, and they bring so much more.

khbSo is KHB now a fully professional outfit? The last time we met band members had taken time off work to go on tour.

Well we have two member that are still workin’ but the way that it is headin’ we could be goin’ full time next year. Me and Janny are full time musicians but Nick is part time but he has a really supportive boss who works in the arts. But Pete has a family and Dee has a mortgage to pay so, until such time as thy can afford to suffer for their music…

About six or nine months ago you attempted to raise money for a tour bus which wasn’t hugely successful, was it?

Well, in the end, we got the tour bus – a brand spanking new £50,000 motor home which sleeps all of us because a secret backer came in just as the campaign was closin’. So we made £1,200 on the donations but then the secret backer donated the motor home, so what we did was that we used the £1,200 to get it legal – insurance and stuff. So for me it wasn’t that it wasn’t unsuccessful, just different.

And the shinny new website went live recently but how was it that you drove your web developer mad?

Well, not even mad, God love him, I just don’t think he’s met anyone as intense as me! (Laughs) And he was so great, he was lovely. He supported what I wanted and every time we had a meeting, we have them down at the house, so he kinda became a silent member of the Kaz Krew. Getting the balance of the website was hard because I wanted so much in there but I wanted to keep it simple. ( www.kazhawkins.com )

Most people by now know your back story. Your route to being a headline act has not been an easy one – is life getting any easier these days?

Oh my God yeah! I think, last year I kicked everything to bed, no more interviews on my past, no more back stories being published and I kinda restricted what people asked me and now I am able to focus on the music and life has calmed down and family is good and we are all healthy. Life has just balanced out perfect.

That is so good to hear. Does anything ever get you down?

No because, Tony, when you have a life of trauma and things come good you live every second as if it is your last. As anybody knows with depression you could sink back into depression with any trigger. So I like to live to it to the full – its a bit eccentric but I don’t really care because it keeps me sane, it keeps me goin’ and that’s all that matters.

The UK tour kicks off in Belfast on 28th May and the first date in England is at the John Peel Centre where I first saw you. Is there anything scary about going on tour?

No I don’t think there is anything scarin’ me because we have worked so hard on the album, we have worked so hard to get our new sound. We are together as a unit, we now have the tour bus which takes off so much pressure, we have our tour manager who will be doing the drivin’ ’cause last year nearly killed me! I just collapsed when I came home and it took me about three weeks to recover – it really pushed me to the limit last year.

Of course on last year’s tour we were losing members, the year before was the car crash! This year nothin’ better go wrong, but we have done the ground work and have a good team behind us in the background who organise everything. We are more prepared for this tour than any other we’ve done, because we have that knowledge of the other two tours.

Tell us briefly about the album.

Well, “feelin’ good” is exactly what it says on the tin – we are feelin’ good, life is good. We mix the genres, we go from heavy blues rock to the classic ballads that I do. I don’t know, I am so struggelin’ to put a label on it.. but it is tight.

Kaz, it has been a real pleasure talking to you, we will catch up at the John Peel Centre and maybe at The Murderers too – have a safe tour.

[box type=”success” align=”alignleft” class=”” width=””]WIN! Kaz has generously given us a copy of “Feelin’ Good” to give away in one of our competitions – click here to hop on over to our competitions pages and see how you could be in with a chance of winning.[/box]

You can hear the Kaz Hawkins Band on tour at the following venues:

28/05/2016 Empire Music Hall Belfast/Northern Ireland
04/06/2016 Ardrossan Music Experience Ayshire
09/06/2016 Danny Boy Blues & Jazz Festival Limavady
10/06/2016 John Peel Centre Stowmarket
11/06/2016 Coolham Village Hall Nr Horsham
12/06/2016 Devizes Festival Devizes
14/06/2016 100 Club London
15/06/2016 Vonnies Club Charlton Kings
16/06/2016 Hanger Farm Arts Centre Southampton
17/06/2016 The Met Arbertillery
18/06/2016 Westcoast Bar Margate
20/06/2016 The Haven Club Oxford
23/06/2016 The Murderers Club Norwich
28/06/2016 Bottleneck Blues Club Rochester
29/06/2016 Worthing Pier Club Worthing
30/06/2016 The Convent Stroud (Live stream)
02/07/2016 Church Stretton Blues & Roots Fest. Shropshire
09/07/2016 Fuse Festival Lichfield (1pm slot)
09/07/2016 Sisters of the Blues & Soul Fest. Todmorden
06/08/2016 Friezland Hall Saddleworth
07/08/2016 A New Day Festival Faversham
18/08/2016 EastSide Arts Festival Belfast
27/08/2016 Hilden Beer Festival Lisburn
16/09/2016 Oldham Playhouse Oldham
17/09/2016 Old Courts Wigan
23/09/2016 Keighley Blues Club Keighley
24/09/2016 Redcar Blues Club Redcar
25/09/2016 Guild Hall Lichfield
28/09/2016 Ropetackle Arts Centre Shoreham on Sea
29/09/2016 Chapel Arts Centre Bath
01/10/2016 Victoria Hall Settle
14/10/2016 Northern Ireland Hospice Charity Gala Fortwilliam Golf Club
11/11/2016 The Anvil Basingstone
12/11/2016 3rd UK Blues Challenge Robin 2 Wolverhampton
13/11/2016 Tenby Blues Festival Pembrokeshire


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