FRONTM3N are a trio you’re going to love. Consisting of Mick Wilson, Pete Lincoln and Peter Howarth, the lead singers of legendary bands 10cc, Sweet, and The Hollies (respectively), who have combined their musical talents to take you on a nostalgic journey in a show that is jam packed with the hits you love, delivered with an acoustic twist, a few surprises and a great sense of fun. Due to touch down in Australia later this month, Rock Club 40 had the pleasure of chatting to 10cc’s Mick Wilson about the all-star lineup and why it’s a show that no lover of 60s/70s music should miss.
Tell us, how did the fabulous FRONTM3N come into existence and who planted the first seeds?
We first met about 25 years ago, we were all singing with Sir Cliff (Richard) and we got on very, very well. We knew that when we were singing together, it sounded special and we really enjoyed that. Then, over the next 20 years, I guess, the next 25 years, over that period, through no design of our own, we ended up being the lead singers, or front men, if you will, for three of the best British pop and rock bands of the 60s and 70s. So we would still keep in touch with each other, we would bump into each other at festivals and things like that.
Then about 3 or 4 years ago, myself and Peter Howarth were playing at a kind of acoustic festival. I was playing on one day and Peter was playing on another day and then somebody said to me ‘We’ve had Peter here the day before, would you fancy doing a gig with Peter?’ I had just spoken to Pete Lincoln a few days beforehand and we were talking about doing something like that as well, so in the end I said, ‘If you want a real good time, the three of us would be great together’ so that was the seed really. It wasn’t until Peter Lincoln was talking to a German promoter, who is now our manager, a chap called Stefan Muhl, he said ‘We’ll put on two gigs in Germany, come over and see if anybody likes it and then if people turn up… great! If they don’t turn up then we’ll all go home and think about doing something else’… and people showed up! It was such a surprise because we really did put it together for fun, just to enjoy ourselves and the fun thing comes across. We enjoy being together, we have a great laugh on stage and that kind of goes out into the audience so everybody has a great time.
I saw some online footage of you and thought it was great, you do look like you have a lot of fun. Can you remember what your first impressions were of the guys when you met them in Sir Cliff Richard’s band?
Peter Howarth had been singing with Cliff for a good few years before I joined. It’s really weird this kind of thing, when you are a working musician, often you get thrown into the lion’s den. When I joined, it was almost like a working family. There were 5 people in the band, 3 backing vocalists, all the crew, Cliff himself and all of his management and everything, so you immediately get absorbed into a family of 20 people so you have to swim, you have to get on with them.
My immediate impressions of the 2 guys… they were welcoming. They welcomed me with open arms and I think what was really important was that when we sang together, it really sounded great. The 3 of us, not only are we different personalities but we’ve got 3 different voices as well and just the blend…and you know, I’ve been very fortunate to have, and the 2 guys as well, to have worked with hundreds of other singers in different bands, whether lead vocals or backing vocals. But when the 3 of us sing together, even for us, we know, we look at each other and go ‘This sounds good’, you know?
I love a good harmony. Did it take a bit of time for you to get the harmonies right?
Well again, because of where we sing, I’ve got quite a high falsetto so I go at the top, Peter Howarth has got this strong middle kind of voice and Pete Lincoln has this lovely, not necessarily baritone, but this lovely warm voice so when we split things up, we just go where we’re all comfortable. We kind of have to work out some of the arrangements, I’m not saying that it happens automatically, but basically for the harmonies themselves, we know where exactly we need to be, a bit like a football team or something. You know you have defenders, attackers, goal keepers; everybody knows what their job is and when it comes out the other end, it just sounds like us. It sounds like the FRONTM3N.
You do sound amazing.
Now, you’re coming to Australia later in the month, what can we expect from the shows?
For anybody that was around those times, in the 60s and 70s, that heard this music for the first time, they can expect a couple of hours of us dragging them back down memory lane to those times, and they’re hearing all of the hits from all of the bands, hits like ‘I’m Not In Love’, ‘Dreadlock Holiday’, ‘Ballroom Blitz’, ‘Love is Like Oxygen’, ‘Bus Stop’, ‘The Air That I Breathe’, all the big hits from all the bands. Then we do some Cliff tunes as well.
There are a couple of other little surprises so it’s just a big trip down memory lane. A lot of people, when we see them afterwards, they say ‘Thanks for the memories again’. They had forgotten some of the tunes or we took them back to when they first heard them. So that’s what they can expect, 2 hours of great music.
Fantastic! But you’re not coming to Sydney, what happened?
I’ve no idea as to the why’s and wherefore’s. I do know that the trip itself was kind of on and off. It’s quite a big thing, logistic wise, to get a band to come that far and make it work. So I guess, the powers that be… I don’t really ask questions anymore.
You just turn up and do your thing …
I just turn up on stage and sing. Although we’ve been to Australia a good few times individually, with our other bands, this is the first time for the FRONTM3N. I guess effectively, it’s a new band coming to your shores, so it’s more of a reconnaissance trip just to see the lie of the land. Hopefully the gigs that we do end up doing are well received and then hopefully that news trickles through to the promoters and the powers that be and they look at it and go ‘Do you know what, let’s get these guys over again’. Hopefully somebody from a gig in Sydney might hear about it, hear the buzz and we can be here next year so fingers crossed.
I love that sort of music myself and it would’ve been great to see the show in Sydney so I do hope you come back.
Hopefully people will get the drift and people from Sydney, or a promoter or a gig somewhere in and around Sydney, will say ‘We want to get on board with this‘ and then ask us to come back.
What do you hope to see or experience whilst you’re here in our country?
I’ve just had a look at the schedule and I think I’ll be sleeping for most of it.
That’s a shame…
Yes. It’s going to be kind of a whistle stop tour, I’m afraid, but it’s such a beautiful country.
Is it like that most of the time whilst you’re on tour, you don’t get much of a chance to experience the country that you’re in?
Absolutely. Unless there’s a proper day off with a good few hours either side, you do the show and then you try to get into bed as early as possible. Then you’re up, you have breakfast and then you’re in the van or taxi, or whatever it is, to the next airport or the next gig. I’ve probably seen most of the countries in the world through the window of a van. On occasion, you might have a couple of days but, as I said before, to have even half a dozen guys on the other side of the world not working, it’s costing somebody an amount of money, I guess. The rules of engagement are that you’ve got to work as much as you can.
The only time that I did spend a long time was at … I’ve forgotten the year now, it must be about 10 years ago, but it was when the Icelandic ash cloud went up over northern Europe. The airplanes around the world were stuck on the ground. I was with 10cc at the time and we got stuck in Perth for a week. Which was lovely, you know, it was almost like a forced holiday. I guess that’s the longest we’ve spent…. but hopefully if we do come back again, we can put in some rest days where we can see your beautiful land.
Is it difficult when you’re coming from a cold climate to adjust to a very warm one like ours? Does that affect your voice at all?
Not particularly, the only thing that really affects voices, that we would all agree on, is just having enough sleep. It really is just tiredness a lot of the time. We’re old boys now, we kind of know how to look after ourselves a little bit.
The heat generally is better because if you’re in a country where it’s very, very cold a lot of the time, you’re in and out of very cold places into the hot hotel and then you’re back out again. Sometimes it’s the constant changing of temperatures that can affect anybody. People get colds and flu and things like that when that happens but being able just to walk about in a lovely ambient temperature, like it probably will be because it’s the end of Spring into Summer, in November there, so we’re all looking forward to that.
The temps here have been all over the place. It got to 37 on the weekend, here where I live….
… but the evenings have been quite cool and last night I had the heater on. Bring a jumper, just in case!
[Laughs] I will do.
Even though you’re performing 10cc songs, which you’ve played for many years now, does performing these songs acoustically, with a different band, make them feel fresh and new for you, give them new life?
It’s exactly that, you know, and what it does as well for the audience is that it removes all the bells and whistles and the big production. What they end up hearing is the actual song itself and I would say, particularly with the Hollies songs and the early 10cc stuff, a lot of it was written on guitars. Perhaps there were two guys sitting in a room together, facing each other, with two acoustic guitars. Obviously, we have to change the arrangements because there are only 3 of us, 3 acoustic, 3 voices…but also what it does is that we’ll play a Sweet song, next to a 10cc song, next to a Hollies song and they all have the same kind of FRONTM3N flavour to them.
What we’ve had in the past is dye-in-the-wool Sweet fans turn up to see the Sweet part of the show and then they say to us ‘Wow, I didn’t realise I would enjoy the 10cc songs or the Hollies songs’. We do Cliff Richard songs as well as, obviously that’s how we met.
You make new fans of them …
Yeah, so it’s refreshing for all of us to hear all of these songs done this kind of way. It’s nice and because we obviously have microphones and PA … it’s generally a quieter evening so you can really kind of lean in and listen to the lyrics where perhaps you couldn’t do that before when the whole band are crashing away. It’s a great night.
How did you decide what songs would make it onto the setlist and was that a difficult process given the vast catalogues you’ve got to choose from?
The difficulty, as you say, with the large catalogue, is not what to put in but what to leave out! We had a huge list of songs and then we looked at it and thought if we play all the big songs, we’re going to be on all bloody night, you know?
So we had to be very sensible and divide it all up so basically we divided it all up into the 3 bands. We also did some Cliff numbers and we do a couple of other numbers as well because we put our own album out at the back end of last year so we’ve got a couple of our own tunes which kind of fit in well with the sets and it is nice for us to do because obviously we come from … you know, we basically trade on being the front men of those other bands but we’re still artists in our own right. We don’t beat people over the head with it but we do a couple of our own songs just to say ‘We can write songs and enjoy these’ and see what people think.
Even then, the show runs for nearly 2 hours and that’s with just playing a few hits from all of the bands so it’s not what we put in, it’s what we have to leave out, really. [Laughs]
You’ve got an album called ‘All For One’ that consists of covers and some new material. Tell me about the new songs and did all 3 of you contribute to the songwriting process?
Absolutely, yes. We’ve all got our strengths, you know, some people are more pedantic about chords and other people are pedantic about lyrics and stuff so everybody sort of chips in with their ten penneth worth. We’ve kind of recorded it all ourselves and produced it all ourselves.
It was nice because we were away for the first year, we were obviously just trading on the bands that we were in at the time and people kept coming up and saying ‘We love your harmonies, we love your set. Do you do your own songs? It was only after so many people kept saying it, we thought let’s just give it a go. I think we holed up in one of the hotel rooms or dressing rooms, threw a few ideas about, and because all three of us are into the same kind of music, we’re obviously influenced by our 3 bands so some of the tunes were quite similar to what we were already doing with the hits so they fit in really, really well with the set. People so far have been very, very kind so we will play a million selling song next to a FRONTM3N song and people will accept it exactly the same and hopefully buy the album.
It’s a good way to do it, isn’t it, because I’ve heard from other artists that they find it difficult to get people to listen to their new songs, which I can’t understand as I welcome new music… but when you can mix them up with what they already know, hopefully they can fall in love with the new songs as well.
Yes, exactly. If people do buy the ‘All For One’ album, it’s a double album and one of the CDs is the live concert so people are getting everything we played that night. The other CD is a studio CD where there are a few twists and turns on the band numbers but also half a dozen of the new songs. As I said, we’re not beating people over the head with it, we’re just saying that these are our own songs. If you like them, great, if you don’t, you can go and listen to all the hits that you know and love.
We do appreciate it if somebody wants to pay money to hear the hits then we need to play the hits but we just slip a few of our own tunes in and hopefully when we play again, if we come back again, we will be seen as not necessarily a tribute act playing tunes from the bands we were in but hopefully we can be seen as a band in our own right, with our own music as well.
That would be fantastic.
Do you get nervous when you play new songs to people?
We did, actually, we spoke about it. We’ve all been lucky to do some very, very big gigs so when you’re working with an artist, whether it’s Cliff or 10cc or whoever it is that you’re working with, once you walk out onto the stage and you’ve got ten to twelve thousand people there, you just accept it because you think that band always performs in front of that amount of people but when we do some of the FRONTM3N gigs, we don’t do crowds that big but we’re playing in front of five-six-seven hundred people and when you then play one of your own songs, you know that there’s no history to them, there’s no catalogue, people haven’t grown up with these songs so it is quite nervous… but hopefully they will be accepted the same way as all the big hits are. So far, touch wood, everybody has been very, very kind and hopefully we’ve written some good songs and we’ve taken a little bit of inspiration from all the bands so our songs aren’t too far away from all the rest of the songs that we’re playing for the rest of the night. But now we’re getting quite comfortable with it so we’re not as nervous as we were.
You’ve kind of lived parallel lives in a way, haven’t you?
Yes, the 3 of us, it’s the weirdest thing, we met as just 3 backing vocalists for Sir Cliff and we all left the band at different times and then we went off to do our own things and then we went off to do other bits and pieces and sessions. It just so happened that over the following, I guess 10-15 years, we ended up being the lead singers of these 3 bands. It is quite a unique situation.
Yes and maybe that’s the title of another song ‘Parallel Lives’?
Thank you, very much. We’ll take that!
We’ve gone over time so I guess I better finish up with one last question…
Bless your heart.
If I could grant you 3 wishes, what would they be?
Three wishes… I think one of the wishes would probably be to do a duet with KD Lang. I would love that very much.
Three wishes … that’s a tough one, I don’t want to get political about it … I’m an avid non-smoker so if the world could exist without cigarettes or tobacco, that would be a lovely thing. I know it’s very difficult for people to do but if the world could do that, then that would be a great one.
My third wish, really, if I was going to be selfish, would be that I could carry on and just enjoy myself and play music for as long as I possibly can.
I did have a retirement question for you but we’ll save that for another day because clearly you’re not ready to do that ….
… and I still have to see this band perform.
Yes, not ready yet.
Alright, Mick, thanks very much for your time, it has been a real pleasure…
Absolutely. If we speak in 5 years’ time then maybe we can talk retirement.
No, I hope not! I still want to be out there rockin’ away to my favourite bands when I’m 70 or older so we’ve still got a while to go.
Okay, you’re on! It’s a deal.
Happy birthday for next month, too!
Thank you very much indeed, I appreciate that.
Thanks again for your time, Mick.
No worries, we’ll see everybody soon at the shows.
Thank you and bye now.
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Have a listen to their new song:
Catch the FRONTM3N at the following venues:
Tuesday 19th November 2019
Memo Music Hall, ST KILDA VIC
Thursday 21st November 2019
The Gov, ADELAIDE SA
Saturday 23rd November 2019
Doo-Bop Bar, BRISBANE QLD
Sunday 24th November 2019
Southport Yacht Club, GOLD COAST QLD
Tickets to Frontm3n’s Australian All For One tour are on sale now.
For more information, please visit www.frontm3n.com
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