Written by: Frank Iacono
The acclaimed London-based rock guitarist, Nigel Bennett is best known as a lead guitarist who recorded and toured with the UK punk bands The Members and The Vibrators. The self-taught guitarist has long been considered by music fans to be the best lead guitarist on the punk music circuit, both past and present. After 30 years of being a respected guitar player and sideman, Nigel stepped into center stage as a solo performer and front man.
In 2012, Nigel released his debut album entitled Truth or Consequences on Zip Records/Sony Red in North America, South America, and Europe. Truth or Consequences features 13 tracks that highlight Bennett’s appreciation for styles ranging from country-tinged melodies to hard rock instrumentals to reggae. The album, produced by Pat Collier (The Wonder Stuff, Katrina and the Waves), truly culminates his lifelong desire to create songs on his own terms.
Over the years, Nigel’s guitar virtuosity has caught the ear of many respected musicians, producers, and journalists. Recently, he was featured in Guitar Player magazine for his cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” a radio-friendly, buzz-making track on Truth or Consequences.
In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of conducting an in-depth interview with Nigel Bennett and asking him a few questions about what first got him into music, his musical inspirations, his career in The Members and The Vibrators, his debut solo release of Truth or Consequences, and his tour schedule.
TCS: At what age did you first realize that you wanted to be a musician and what was the first song you learned how to play?
Nigel Bennett: I suppose I was 12 when I decided that I wanted to be a musician for a living. I started playing guitar at age 7 and piano at age 3. However, I can’t remember the first song I played because I started playing so long ago.
TCS: Do you have a formal music education?
NB: No formal training. I taught myself.
TCS: How would you describe your current musical genre and overall sound?
NB: I’m a blues-band rock guitarist.
TCS: What famous musical artists and/or bands were among your early influences and describe the impact they had on shaping your music style and song writing as well as your overall career?
TCS: Has your approach to music changed since you’ve transitioned from a lead guitarist and side man in a band to being a solo performer and front man? If yes, please explain how?
NB: Yes. The main difference is that I now decide what I want to play.
TCS: What are your thoughts about the past, present, and future of punk music?
NB: It was significant at the time but it wasn’t long lived. As far as the future, for me it’s cabaret.
TCS: Describe for us the background to the hit single you wrote when you played lead guitar for The Members entitled “Radio”?
NB: I wrote it because I wanted a song to be played on the radio. I thought if the song was called “Radio” it would be. And it worked. It was a big surprise.
TCS: Speaking of the hit song “Radio” tells us about Duck Sauce?
NB: Duck Sauce, the crazy coupling of superstar DJs A-Trak and Armand Van Helden, released a single called “Radio Stereo” which samples the classic “Radio” song I wrote with The Members.
TCS: Tell us about your career as the touring and recording guitarist for The Vibrators and why you decided to leave in December 2012?
NB: It was fun being the touring and recording guitarist for The Vibrators. However, in December 2012 it was time for me to leave and focus on my solo career.
TCS: Which aspects of the album did you find most troublesome to put together and which were the least problematic?
NB: No aspects were troublesome or problematic. I had to record it very quickly because I was in between gigs with The Vibrators then. Some of the recordings were completed in one take, like “Both Sides Now,” which turned into a favorite on the CD.
It’s always hard work and fun at the same time. For me the best bit is playing the guitar.
TCS: How did you land on Truth or Consequences (Zip Records) as the title of your debut solo album?
NB: I was on tour with The Vibrators driving up a small highway in New Mexico and I saw an exit sign that said “Truth or Consequences” and I thought that would be a great title for my album. I haven’t been to the town of Truth or Consequences, but it’s on my list.
TCS: Tell us about the day you spent in New York City shooting your album cover followed by meeting some new friends in Haddonfield, New Jersey?
NB: The photographer was my dear friend, Brooke Ismach, and it was so much fun to work with her and my manager, Cheryl Squadrito of Media Friendly Public Relations, who helped with art direction. It was hot summer day in New York City and the backdrop was perfect. I love New York, who doesn’t?
Cheryl organized a party for me in her hometown of Haddonfield. I met so many great people and some press. I’ve been to Philly and New Jersey, and I hadn’t been to Haddonfield before. It has a great feel to it.
TCS: Tell us about your in-studio experience in working with producer Pat Collier on this album?
NB: Working with Pat is fantastic as we really understand each other. He was The Vibrators original bass player and then the producer for The Vibrators. He was the obvious choice because he’s a great guy and a great producer. We work really well together.
TCS: Can you share with us who did the video production for the song “Scarborough Fair”?
A big thanks goes out to the five Temple University students in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who storyboarded, photographed, edited, and produced the video for “Scarborough Fair.”
TCS: On the album you feature a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” so tell us how you put your unique take on the classic tune?
NB: I’ve never been familiar with her music, but I heard that song on the radio and it was great. In my mind, it’s pointless to cover a brilliant song the same way. You should interpret it and make it your own.
I thought, since she plays an acoustic guitar and has soft voice, I would do a powerful version with big chords like The Who. And that’s what I came up with.
TCS: Is there one song in particular of the 13 tracks off of Truth or Consequences that you’ve recorded that stands out above the rest from a musical and/or lyrical perspective that you felt really connected with you personally? And, did this song connect as you thought it would with your audience?
NB: Yes, the song “Melody.” I like that piece of music. It came out better than I thought. Listeners seem to really enjoy it, which makes it worthwhile.
TCS: How do you plan to market your new album, songs, merchandise, appearances, and etc.?
NB: I plan to market the new album, songs, merchandise, and appearances through the following avenues:
TCS: Share with us your experience in touring with Julian Lennon?
We had some laughs and we still keep in touch. He’s great guy.
TCS: Can you describe the first time you stepped onstage to perform and tell us how does it compare to being on stage now?
NB: My first performance was playing the piano at a school recital at age 9. A lot has happened since then.
TCS: During your illustrious career you’ve been primarily a London-based performer. With that, how would you compare audiences in Europe to the audiences in the United States from a love of music perspective?
NB: I found audiences enthusiastic the world over. The Americans and the Germans particularly appreciate guitar playing.
Some of my favorite cities to visit are New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
TCS: Please share where fans of Nigel Bennett can go to learn more about you, your music, and your tour schedule?
NB: To learn more about me, my music, and upcoming tour information, I invite you to visit the following links or you can email Cheryl at MediaFriendly@mac.com:
Additionally, I’m touring the UK and Europe with The Members now, so you can find the dates listed at:
TCS: What’s the most unusual venue that you’ve ever played a show or made a recording? How did the qualities of that place affect the show/recording?
NB: The most unusual place I played was the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona on tour with the Vibrators in 2012. The audience was into it.
TCS: Is there a particular venue that you’ve always wanted to play? And, what other entertainer and/or entertainers would you most like to have play alongside you on that stage?
NB: I’ve always wanted to play Madison Square Garden. I’ve always wanted to play with Wishbone Ash.
TCS: What specific advice would you give young artists wanting to become singers, songwriters, guitarists, and/or performers?
NB: Keep going no matter what. And they’ll be a lot of “what’s.” My motto to myself is to never give up!
Song List on Truth or Consequences (2012)
- Another Day
- Truth or Consequences
- In My Dreams
- The Edge
- Both Sides Now
- Scarborough Fair
- Miss You
- Truth or Consequences, Pt. 2
- New Mexico
- In a Heartbeat
About Frank Iacono
Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.
Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.