He has enjoyed an impressive 30-plus year career with Little Angels, Gun, Fastway and many more, but as he entered 2017 Toby Jepson was busying himself as an in-demand producer rather than
a vocal-powerhouse frontman.
It all changed when he was approached by record label Frontiers about putting together a new project. The first thought was a new solo album (his last was 2013’s Raising My Own Hell), but Jepson quickly decided otherwise.
“We thought about doing a solo thing, but I had tried those acoustic solo tours and I always felt naked without a band,” he says. “I can’t do it as Toby Jepson, it’s ridiculous. I spoke about putting a band together and I felt compelled to do it. It’s so hard to get a record deal in this industry, so it was a privilege to have them come to me. They just said to go make the record and they’d hear it when it was done. I’ve never had that. I don’t know why they were so confident!”
With a record deal in the bag, Jepson put together Wayward Sons, tapping Sam Wood (guitar), Nic Wastell (bass), Dave Kemp (keys) and Phil Martini (drums). Jepson was confident that his bandmates would gel, but some of them met for the first time only when they got into the rehearsal room.
“It was wonderful,” Jepson says of the band’s first get-together. “At the first rehearsal we did two or three days flat out, and seven songs from that session made it on to the record. That was how successful it was.”
They quickly had their debut album, Ghosts Of Yet To Come, in the bag. Tracked live off the floor in a Worcestershire studio, it’s an unapologetic slab of retro rock that finds Jepson in ferociously fine fettle. On opener Alive, for example, he shrieks with an ease that really should be beyond a man closing in on his 50th birthday.
“The high stuff I find a doddle to do,” he says. “I don’t know how or where it comes from, but it’s still there.
It seems that Wayward Sons repaid that much-welcomed label confidence by putting out a record that played to the band’s strengths. The aforementioned Alive has tinges of 80s metal, while the title track falls somewhere between classic Thin Lizzy and 90s Brit rock. Most refreshingly, the record is rough, raw and a right old rocker. So did Jepson not get Gene Simmons’s memo about rock being dead?
“That’s an absolute load of balls,” Jepson says. “It is total toss. What he’s doing is just self-promotion. I love Kiss, but this ‘rock is dead’ stuff is bollocks. There are bands playing in garages around the world right now that will be the next generation of great rock’n’roll bands.”
Ghosts Of Yet To Come is released on September 15 via Frontier Records.
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Although inspired by classic rock for his new project, Jepson embraced some more unexpected influences too. “I listened to all the old records I loved: Parallel Lines by Blondie, The Blockheads, The Knack, Never Mind The Bollocks, as well as Sabbath and Soundgarden. I listened to that and the songs started flowing.”