When Nigel Clothier got back from a trip overseas, he put his life in the right direction by forming Sharp Practise, an upbeat rock band which consists of Kevin Butcher (Guitars); Katherine Crowe (Vocals); Mark Daghorn and John Fortune (Bass); Jason Matlock (Drums); Tony Turrell (Hammond organ) and himself (Vocals, Keyboards) as its frontman.

'Hiya', their first album, faithfully brings together soulful music and lively spirited lyrics , both of which have deservedly gained Sharp Practise a lot of respect in the UK, the USA, Australia and also Greece.The band had also been featured on Amazing CDs and Make It Big Records websites and playlisted on the KAOSFM World Underground Music Show. All of that and much more proves that Sharp Practise were no doubt formed to snatch a piece from the sweet pie of popularity for themselves.

Now, you have an unique chance to learn more about what led up to 'Hiya 'and how Sharp Practise were formed, as Nigel spoke to Pennyblack in an exclusive interview and put the group's biographical puzzle into picture for us to view.

PB: I know that you have travelled a lot. Why did you decide to come back to Britain and to form Sharp Practise?

NC: I was travelling partly because I was fed up with record companies,publishers etc saying to me “we like your music, but come back when you’ve got a full band in place”. Due to personal circumstances at the time I wasn’ t able to put something permanent together in one place anyhow, so it seemed like a good time to do some serious travelling. When I pitched up back in the UK I had a friend who is a make-up artist devise 5 different characters with me. We had photos taken of me in these various guises and then I put my music back in front of the various companies. Once I had got definite interest in what I was doing, my manager helped me put the current line-up of the band together. Incidentally, it was this piece of sharp practise, fooling the companies into thinking I already had the band in place, which gave the group its name.

PB: Could you tell us where the different members of Sharp Practise come from ?

NC: We’re all from Britain, but come from various parts of the country. I have lived all over the UK and also in Fiji and I’ve travelled a lot round Australia and New Zealand too. Mark is from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Katherine lives on the Isle of Man, and Tony, Kevin and Jason are from Essex in England. We all met through working at New Rising Studios which is just outside Colchester in England.

PB: Could you reveal something about the history of Sharp Practise and describe the influences that have helped you evolve into such a great band?

NC: Sharp Practise was formed in April 1999 and is pretty much based at New Rising. I do all the writing and my big heroes as a music writer are people like Rik Ocasek of The Cars, Tom Petty and pretty much anybody who can sum up a life in four or five minutes of song. I also admire Springsteen for the sheer range of his material. In terms of making the music, Mark is really into Pink Floyd and his background is in prog rock. Kath is more on the folk side of things. Tony, Kev and Jason are mainly into rock music and are good all-rounders. In fact, Tony was very much into Fish’s music (the ex-Marillion frontman) at one time and even played in Fish’s band for a while!

PB: Amazing, as Sharp Practise you’ve been round only 2 years but your music has already proved to be very good and become popular. What achievements are you especially proud of?

NC: Getting played on the radio in the UK after I did my own plugging for the band! I’m also really proud of the reviews we’ve been getting, which have been very kind and enthusiastic. It’s great when you see that people who’ve heard a lot of new music over many years think your sound is something worth listening to!

PB: I know that this includes a great many people from abroad. How are you getting on there?

NC: It's going well in Australia, where an influential journalist of some standing picked up on 'Hiya' and gave us a terrific review. We have an agent in the USA who's helping to promote us on the radio over there, and we've just acquired an agent in Japan, where it's early days for us. We've also had good help from a couple of magazines in Greece. That, and also a deal with the Italian firm Fila, gives us a toehold in the European scene too. It's important to us to cross national boundaries as well as musical ones. It's certainly true to say that reports of radio play in the US and Australia help boost your morale when you're trying to introduce your material to a world that's already swamped with songs.

PB: Can you remember what was it that made you decide to opt for a career as a musician?

NC: When I was very young I was taken to a show at the local theatre. There were a husband and wife duo singing and playing acoustic guitars. I was fascinated by the way the audience reacted to them. From then on I just wanted to make music that people would respond to in that kind of positive way.

PB: I find the lyrics on 'Hiya' highly-spirited and very expressive. I assume this is because of the attractive way that they deal with the most ordinary situations. Where do you get the ideas for such great lyrics?

NC: All my lyrics are based on personal experience or observation but one song might cover more than one situation. For example, ‘Eve Got Adam’ is about a girl I knew whose power over me at the time was as total as that exercised by the first woman over the first man, whereas ‘Born And Raised’ is about the break-up of a torrid relationship between two people who were born in the same town within three months of one another.

‘Love Freely Given’ is about a friend of mine who joined the firm she works for when she was 16 and now she’s older and more qualified they still treat her like a child despite her growing sophistication. ‘Book Of Days’ was inspired by a gift from someone to me of a book in which I could record all my adventures on a long trip overseas.

PB: I like ‘Half Full’ in particular. I understand it as a challenge to rethink what we want out of our lives but what exactly were you trying to say here?

NC: The song ‘Half Full’ is about the deepest I ever get from a philosophical point of view. When you look at the glass of life, do you see it as half empty (the sad view) or half full (the happy view)?

The song was actually written while I was on a train and looking around at all the other passengers, who were a mixed bunch to say the least. I was trying to figure out why they were all travelling that day and what their lives might be like, whether they were happy or sad. Out of this came the song, music and all, just into my head in about an hour all told. I always carry writing paper and a pen so the words got scribbled down quickly along with a basic chord sheet. When I got home I tided the piece up a little but it’s still basically the song that was written on that train!

I guess also the lyrics are a little motivational talk for anyone who feels a bit down at the time.

PB: How do you collaborate with the rest of the band when you are working on a new song? You said you that you write all the lyrics but who does the music ? Do the other members come up with ideas for new songs ?

NC: No, it’s all down to me I’m afraid. I write the words and music and make a rough demo of the song at home on an 8-track. Mark and I then go through what I’ve written and pick out the decent stuff, and that’s what we turn into our records. I’m very easy about the interpretation of the songs. Everyone else is in the band because they are a talented and expressive player, so I tend to sit back and let the guys express their vision of how the song should be played. Fortunately, we’re all on a similar wavelength so the end result usually tends to come out fine.

PB: Personally, I don’t believe there is any final stop in music as there is always something new to be discovered, but is there a direction or an aim you are heading towards?

NC: I tend not to analyse what I write in too much detail as I think it would inhibit what I do. Consequently, I tend to work in spasms where three or four reasonable songs may come out in a few days. These might draw on a similar combination of influences. Then, after a few days break, I’ll probably write something new using different influences. If, say, the best two songs come from different groups of material that’s great because, although they’ll always have my musical signature on them, they should be mfairly different in style. I know in my heart that the moment I stop improving as a songwriter is the day I’ll give up writing. I’d like to think I’m fairly honest about my songs and I seem to have no trouble in weeding out the ordinary material, the stock songs, from the choice of material I present to Sharp Practise.

PB: What are you working on at the moment? Anything that we should be looking out for?

NC: The latest news is that we’ve provisionally been booked to appear in the online chatroom of an important music show on TV in Australia on 10th August, so we’re getting ready for that and hoping it will help us become more widely known. Also, we have a track ('Eve Got Adam') coming out on a compilation album for Fila sportswear, which they’re calling ‘Come On Fila Noise’ would you believe, that is due for release in mid-July. The CD will be available through the Fila shops worldwide, so that should be great exposure for us.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to get some more material together so we can finish off the new album later this year.

PB: After falling for'Hiya' I believe that fans won't be able to wait to hear the new album. Would you like to say something more about it and what it’s going to be like?

NC: We have signed a recording contract with Positive Records, a UK based independent label, and a new album, to be called ‘Radiocity’, will be released later this year.

It will be mainly the same type of music but we’re working more with drum loops to make the sound more modern rock than classic rock and also we have been joined by a great, heavier sounding guitar player called Ant Kempster on this new record. Fingers crossed, it will, when finished later this year, move our career on another stage again!

PB: Have you made any plans for touring? Maybe to support the up coming album?

NC: It’s all in the hands of our manager really. We’re hoping to do some showcase gigs, certainly in London, and some video and radio promotional work in support of the new record. After that I guess it depends on how the album is received in the press and so on as to what opportunities present themselves to us.

PB: Sharp Practise is evidently becoming quite a popular and well known band which must feel great but how do you bring this together with the other parts of your life ?

NC: Fortunately I never have had much of a social life so it’s not a problem really! I could moan about the fact that I never keep girlfriends ’cause they get fed up with me working all the time, but the bottom line is that I’ ve chosen to get this band together and keep it together, so I guess I’ve pretty much forfeited the right to complain about what I might miss out on as a result of spending time on Sharp Practise. I enjoy making music and the company of other musicians so it’s cool and I’d like to think I cope OK with the lifestyle.

PB: Finally, have you got anything you would like to say to people? I mean anything that you believe in and which helps you to make the most of your own life?

NC: You’re here for a good time, not a long one, but try to squirrel a little bit of spare cash away just in case your time is longer than you bargained for!

PB: Thank you very much.

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