Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell: rock the way it used to be

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell

On the south coast of England something ugly is stirring. Something that smells of patchouli oil, damp leather and cheap cider drunk beneath the nicotine-stained ceilings of grotty pubs. It’s the aroma of the 1970s, from a time when men grew their hair and denim flared and guitars sounded like motorbikes and punk didn’t exist and no one had invented disco yet and the sickly-sweet stink of Red Leb lingered in the air.

It’s Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell. They rock like bands used to. And they’re in it for the long haul. “As long as there’s air in these lungs and I can keep a fist across the fretboards,” says bassist/singer Louis Comfort-Wiggett, “we’ll continue purloining the riff archives for more and more of the usual inane sounds.”

With three albums under their belt (with another 10 to follow, apparently) ASCS have already plundered the riff archives a-plenty. Last year’s Keep It Greasy was described by Classic Rock as a “welcome dose of balls-out and booze-bothered rock’n’roll that knows its onions and likes its eggs sunny side up”, and they’ve followed it up with new single Nightmare, a demented slurry of bong-ready riffs and maniacal soloing accompanied by a video we can’t even begin to fathom.

We spoke to Comfort-Wiggett and vocalist /guitarist Johnny Gorilla in an attempt to make sense of it all.

How would explain Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell to a complete stranger?

Johnny: I was told never to talk to strangers - unless they gave me sweets and fondled my privates, but if that was the case I’d say ‘Like being caught up in a motorway services car park punch up between Budgie, Motorhead, Sir Lord Baltimore, Slade and Status Quo’!

Louis: Difficult one. A no airs or graces, low-octane, riff-busting, pub-metal three-piece from the South of England. My money’s on Slade as I reckon both Noddy and Don Powell would handle ‘emselves pretty darn well in a street fist-fight.

You have a new drummer. Tell us about her.

Johnny: Yes indeed, the amazing, exploding and patent pending. ‘is that a fridge freezer being pushed down 10 flights of stairs I hear you ask’ Miss Serra Petale!! Flown in all the way from Perth, in a bomb proof cage…mate!

Louis: Serra Petale ain’t just a dynamite drummer, she’s also a proper down to earth lass with no hang-ups and no ego, a ruddy good laugh ‘n all. She’s the sort of drummer who’d push the fridge-freezer back up the 10-flights of stairs, just to hear it being pushed down again.

So… Tell us about the Nightmare video. What the hell’s going on there?

Louis: The video? Fuck, what is going on there indeed? I guess it’s a warning to purveyors of murder and porn. Keep tickling yourself with that shit and one of two things is sure to happen; you’ll either get whacked by an axe-wielding buzzardman; or worse still, have to endure the rotten inept noise that is Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell!

How do you achieve that vintage sound on your records?

Johnny: We excel in lacking any knowledge whatsoever in modern recording techniques! Our man Harvey Summers slings some mics up and we tell him when he’s achieved the default sound setting in our tiny minds, which usually means un-doing all his good work up to that point! Then we feed the recordings through a ’Black Sabbath at Regent Sound Studio’s 1971 app’ on Louis’s phone!

Louis: That vintage sound is a result of having vintage ears mate. As a teenager I can’t remember ever taking on board any contemporary sounds and instead listened to a bunch of old shit from the 60s and 70s. This just deepened as the years went on. The end result is having reference points stuck firmly in pre-1977 settings. The Ponswood Hit Factory recording facility (“where dreams are ruined”, “if your band sounds shit, we can make it sound shitter” etc) has a rudimentary charm where we churn out rough as shit recordings for the masses. The aforementioned single is yet another Hit Factory production. Harvey Summers has good ears for making the Shovell LPs sound like pleasant stereo listening; go check him out at Broadoak Studios.

Do you listen to any modern music?

Johnny: Nah, not really! I tend to stick to the stuff that first got me into it. I’m not a musical snob though, If something I like catches me ear then I’ll check it out further, embrace and wholeheartedly support it, but to be honest, not much has really caught me ear lately!!

Louis: Is there such a thing? Sounds like alchemy, witchcraft even. I have a fear of such sorcery! Seriously though, there have been a few bands along the years that excited us, Fu Manchu were always “on it”, Fistula are saviours of the hard and heavy, the last Ulysses album Law and Order was ace. Yup, modern music is occasionally permissible in the van.

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell (Image credit: Gemma Shaw)

How important is weed ‘n’ booze to the band?

Johnny: So far as making music goes, for me, not at all. It’s what I do to relax or when I’m bored from not playing rock’n’roll! Booze is a given, obviously, weed’s OK so long as ya don’t over do it and end up talking hippy bollocks! We tend to prefer our medicine fast and in an upward direction! I ain’t a preacher though, find what works for you but don’t kill ya self doing it!

Louis: Yup, no need for booze or weed necessarily. You can make an album on sparkling mineral water, tea, pot noodles and biscuits. Oh, and cheese and onion pasties, Pringles and those mini Quorn sausages. Oh, and banana milk shake, aspirins, bakewell tarts (Mr Kipling), and that gourmet coffee Harvey Summers always seems to have kicking around. Oh, and some speed.

What do older bands like The Groundhogs make of you?

Johnny: We asked the Reverend TSMcPhee to share his thoughts – and this is what he said, word for word: “As long as bands like the Shovell are playing I have no fear for classic rock, dig the Shovell!”

What are the benefits and downsides to being based in Hastings?

Louis: the benefits of living in Hastings are that we do love to be beside the seaside. It’s a cracking town with a decent live music scene and a history to go with it. The Who played Hastings Pier the day of the moon landing in 1969. Shit a brick, that’s the sort of shit you can’t make up. Fucking Keith Moon, moon-landing the ‘orrible Who in ’69 on our little old pier, height of their powers. What more can I say? I met the Wombles when I was four in Hastings. The downside? You routinely get your ears split by the Shovell’s horrible racket.

What can people expect from your live shows?

Johnny: A chance to forget their problems for a bit and lose themselves in the pure joy of non-bullshit, good old workin’class, hard, rock’n’roll riffs, played loud and proud from the heart. Ya might even have a laugh or two!

Louis: Hairy bastards playing “borrowed” riffs at brain-numbing volumes to a bunch of out-of-control freaks. Tight jeans, tight t-shirts, denim, leather, more denim, double denim, platform boots falling apart at the seams and zips a-plenty. The smell of beer and bad breath. A siren wiling, a baby crying, a flashing image of Peter Sutcliffe’s tasteful “murder underwear” fashioned from a v-neck sweater worn upside-down with leather patches on the knees (or should that be elbows?), and a lot of very happy punters.

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell are on tour next month (dates below). Keep It Greasy is out now.

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell tour dates

May 26: Tubman, Hastings
May 27: Scene Club, Swansea
May 28: Gryphon, Bristol
May 29: TBC
May 30: 13th Note, Glasgow
Jun 01: Santiago Bar, Leeds
Jun 02: Rigger, Stoke-on-Trent
Jun 03: Steamboat Tavern, Ipswich
Jun 04: Unicorn, London

Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, live in London

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.