How did you get into music?
I got into music at the age of 13. That was the first time I ever heard T.Rex, really. But I was one of these musicians that had been in various original bands, wrote my own material and got let down by major record companies. I went through that for many years. One day I got so fed up of it I thought: ‘I’m just going to form a band and play music I’ve grown up loving’, and that was the music of Marc Bolan. That was in 1992 when there was no such thing as a tribute band scene. Now every town has their own ABBA or Beatles band, but at that period in 1992, there was no such thing.
How has the scene grown since then?
It’s gone a bit crazy. I always look at it like this: I was into punk around 1976 and 1977, and there were so many awful punk bands because it was the thing to do that everybody formed one. You get the ones that try hard and work hard at the art, and hopefully you will rise through it all. I think it’s like that with the tribute scene. There are a million tribute bands out there now that just seem to want to jump on a bandwagon. With me it wasn’t like that: it was purely the love of the music. Only a year after I formed the band, we were playing Wembley Arena, the NEC and Whitley Bay ice rink. Gary Glitter came to see us and chose us to be his opening band. Within a year we were playing to 10,000 people.
Is it ever frustrating not being able to play your own material?
If I was one of these people, say I was a Beatles fan but I had formed a T.Rex band instead, I think it would be. My heart and soul wouldn’t be into playing the music. But every time I get on stage, it’s like I’m playing it for the first time because I’ve got that passion, still. I don’t really miss not playing my own material. The strange thing about this is that we’ve had recording deals. I know it’s unusual for a tribute band, but we got signed up to Columbia Records, which is fantastic. Being on the same label as Bob Dylan pleased me a lot. On our second album on Columbia Records, I was able to record my own music as well as recording Marc Bolan songs. Every album we’ve released, I’ve made sure there’s two original songs of my own on those albums. In a way, I was able to still put out my own material.
I’ve always wanted to write my autobiography. A few years ago I got a deal through a publisher. They thought I had a lot of stories, like when I met David Bowie, from when we toured with original bands. I’m working on that, and with the band what’s next is gigging away in really nice theatres. The fans are getting older, I’m getting older, and people want to hear good quality sound and see a show as well. Even though we play theatres, I like the fact that people still get up and dance and shout the songs. It’s nice to be able to play a rock gig in theatre surroundings.
T.Rexstasy plays The Customs House, South Shields, on Friday 12 May at 7.30pm. Tickets are available from www.customshouse.co.uk