Changes; An Interview with a Bowie Tribute act 3

Changes; An Interview with a Bowie Tribute act

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Considering many tribute bands are happy to ham up the cheap ‘n’ cheesy preconceptions of their chosen profession, it can’t be the easiest of musical careers to forge widespread critical respect. 
Yet today, GIITTV is meeting up with that rarest of beast: a tribute act with art rock integrity, razor sharp theatrical timing and entertainment overdose all in a one-man thankyou band. 
His name is Laurence, and he’s about to tell us why so it’s so enticing to play the part of a rock and roll star…

How did you come to begin performing Bowie’s material professionally?

I had been playing in covers bands for a while, we would put into the set a couple of Bowie songs. Increasingly people would approach me at the end of gigs to say that when I sung Bowies songs I sounded like him and so should do a tribute, I resisted for quite sometime but when it became apparent that there was a growing consensus I relented.

The Bowie Experience has been highly acclaimed and arguably comes close to being endorsed by the man himself. What gives it the extra edge, do you think?  

If The Bowie Experience does indeed ‘have the extra edge’ it could be attention to detail in the presentation and standard of musicianship, and frequently reappraising all aspects of the show.

What’s your favourite song to perform and why?

That is in constant flux but one that has staying power with me is Sound and Vision, not sure why, I could speculate but it’s a feeling, one that I’d rather not analyse.

Do you see what you do as theatre, as in you’re playing the role of Bowie?

Yes, definitely not impersonation, more as you say playing the role, in the same way that different actors play the same character, the character is always the same but the actor brings their own interpretation.

You go through several costume changes during the set to reflect Bowie’s timeline, and they all look really authentic. Do you have a good tailor?

Yes, the best in my opinion.

Do you write your own material and if so, do you avoid making it sound Bowie-esque or embrace what could, after all, be an inevitable inspiration?

I do write my own material and I am influenced by many people and many things, if Bowie comes through, then so be it, although if the Bowie influence (or any other particular influence) is very apparent then I look very critically at what I have produced, a kind of self censorship.

Bowie came out of “retirement” last year but maintained – perhaps bolstered – his mystique. What did you make of his return?

I know many people said that Bowie had ‘retired’, but that assumption seemed to me to be without foundation so when he released ‘Where Are We Now’ it didn’t come as a particular surprise to me.   The mystique you mention is ephemera, an attitude dreamed by dreamers, which of course in very useful if you know how to use it, which as we know David does.   I can summarise what I made of his return – although it should be obvious that I didn’t think he had gone away in any way – as “right, good, normal service has resumed”.

And finally, in a time when people are experimenting with the concept of “Bowie live” in the absence of the real thing – such as the Tony Visconti show later this year – could you see the Bowie Experience broadening out in the future to experiment with different concepts? (I for one would like to see Bowie’s aborted 1984 musical reconstructed and staged!)

Yes I’d like that tosee the 1984 musical reconstructed too. We have put on shows that you might label ‘a different concept’, for example we toured the Ziggy Stardust album in 2012, forty years after it’s release, with a stage set that resembled the album cover photograph, I even performed that show in Heddon Street, where that photo was taken.   On the tenth anniversary of the twin towers attack we based a show around the opening track of the album Heathen, delving into Bowies back catalogue of dystopian compositions as well as contemporaneous material, also we have put on a show which was a faithful reimagining of his Serious Moonlight tour shows. So as I mentioned before we are constantly reappraising what we do and how we can experiment with his material, this is a constant work in progress which sometimes can lead to some interesting and occasionally surprising results.   I would like to put on a show based around his albums Low, Heroes, and Lodger, but the economy of these things has to work and what brings people to the shows (mostly) are ‘the hits’, and you can’t let people down, that said I am always looking for an opportunity to do something a bit more interesting.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.