Alan Nimmo, (seen here second from the left), lead singer, songwriter and guitarist with rock blues band, King King, chats with Kevin Cooper about resting his voice after an operation, their Christmas party with brother Stevie at the Lincoln Engine Shed, their latest album Exile & Grace and their rescheduled tour of the UK in 2018.

Alan Nimmo is the lead singer, songwriter and guitarist with rock blues band King King. Growing up in Glasgow with his elder brother Stevie, they originally formed a band called The Blackwater Blues Band until in 1995 Alan and his brother decided to perform as The Nimmo Brothers. Despite Alan forming King King, the brothers still perform together.

Releasing their debut album, Take My Hand, in 2012, King King won The Best Album award at The British Blues Awards. Their follow up album, Standing In The Shadows, released in 2014 was also honoured in the Awards for that year.

King King was voted the Best British Blues Band for three consecutive years from 2012 to 2014. The Nimmo Brothers have also been honoured in the world of blues music.

Hi Alan how are you?

I’m alright thanks Kevin are you well?

I have to say that I am fine thank you.

Good man.

And let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

It’s my pleasure buddy, thank you.

And I have to ask you, apart from the voice just how is life treating you?

(Laughter) life at the moment is not too bad. Obviously this has been a very difficult time with things going a little haywire with the voice but I’m pleased to say that we have decided to take a little time out and wait until the voice is fully recovered because if I had simply carried on then I would have kept on getting the same problems. It could have been a disaster and ruined my future within the business so we all thought that the time had come for me to totally rest the voice and get myself fully recovered. So I thought that I would do it properly this time and get myself fully recovered. So that is what we are doing (laughter).

Is rest all that is needed?

What is needed at this moment in time is the right amount of rest together with the proper rehabilitation of my vocal chords. The voice is a muscle; it is an instrument like anything else and I try to equate it to a sports athlete trying to run around the pitch with an injured knee for example. If you don’t rehabilitate it properly then it will never get better so that’s the plan now, together with a lot of health and fitness. So as soon as we have finished our chat today I am off for a walk up the hills because the sun is out for one of the last days up here (laughter).

Well here in Nottingham we have got rain and fog (laughter).

What can I say, we must have loaned it to you for one day because that is what it is usually like up here (laughter).

You mention going for a walk, just how are you keeping yourself busy without singing?

Apart from the fact that I have got at least six or seven interviews to do every day, I am currently spending a lot of time in the gym, and there is still an awful lot of work that gets done behind the scenes when you are in a band which I am sure that you are fully aware of. I am also using the time to write some new material as well, although we are still waiting for the latest album Exile & Grace to be released on Friday 6th October. I thought that it was an ideal opportunity for me to start working on a few ideas that I have got for the next project. I thought that I may as well get ahead of the game. Also my wife keeps constantly reminding me that we have a garden that needs weeding so don’t worry I am keeping myself very busy (laughter).

You have mentioned the forthcoming album Exile & Grace. I have been playing it for a couple of weeks now and I have to say that I think it is a fantastic piece of work, I love it. I keep playing it over.

That’s great, thanks very much and let me tell you we are all very pleased with the outcome. I have to admit that the album has felt like it has been a long time in the making although we didn’t spend a massive amount of days in the studio, it’s just that they seemed to be spread over a very long time because of the gruelling tour schedule that we have, together with fitting in the rescheduled shows plus all of the current things we have going on. So when we looked back on the recording of the new album, the very first day recording felt such a long time ago now. It has been a process, a bit of a journey, but we got there in the end and I do have to admit that I think that it sounds pretty damn good (laughter).

Where did the title come from?

It is difficult to have a theme running though an album in its entirety because you don’t want to be writing ten songs about the same subject. As well as being pretty damn impossible it would also be pretty damn boring (laughter). But one of the main things that I wanted to speak out about was the current state of the world. There are a large amount of people in the world today who seem hell bent on causing trouble and they seem to be more interested in death and destruction rather than peace and love if you know what I mean. Don’t get me wrong I’m not trying to sound like a hippy I am trying purposely to steer away from anyone thinking that the new album is a political statement; it is not that in any way.

It is very much written from a human point of view; from a compassionate side of things. I am simply asking ‘why do people keep on hurting one another and getting greedy for their own gain’. And that has spurred on a number of different words and ideas for the title of the album. There were quite a few ideas being passed around using the sort of words that we finally decided upon. It’s also a tip of the cap to us as a group in terms of how we have felt over the years. We have had a bit of a slog in order to get where we are. It has been a lot of hard work but we are proud of where we are today. There have been times when we have felt like exiles being left out a bit so that has made us work harder and harder.

We felt that we were working harder than most to get where we are so the grace part of the title was us getting a nice response from the public but also being very humble about what we are achieving. We also continue to be very grateful for everything and everyone who comes along and buys a ticket to watch us. So from the albums point of view the grace aspect is all about hoping that the planet, together with the people on board this planet, can at some stage see the light a little bit and move forward as one race, the human race. If that made any sense to you then you are a better man than me (laughter).

At this point I would normally be telling you that ‘I like this track’ or ‘I like that track’ but I have to say that with this album I simply can’t pick one track above the other. In my opinion they are all stand alone tracks.

I suppose that I could take that in any way that I like and I will just choose to take that as a very nice compliment (laughter). Sometimes when you listen to an album a couple of tracks will hit you in the face and then that is it. Then sometimes you can get slow burners that you need to listen to a few times, but I would agree with you and say that every one of these songs have all got their own legs; they have all got their own strengths and as you kindly say, they can all stand alone. I think that when you hear it collectively as an album then you can hear that it is a strong album. I personally feel that there is enough in there to keep you interested, there is enough tongue in cheek, there is enough depth, there are enough tracks trying to be clever; sometimes less is more and sometimes it is just a no brainer. I personally think the album has a bit of all of that and it is always a bands ambition to never record a track that you skip.

That is very difficult for us all to achieve but with this album it really does feel as though we have achieved that. Having said that, you have to remember that you can’t please everyone all of the time. All that you can do is try your best and just put everything into each song as you write and record them. If you don’t feel that a song is good enough then you simply won’t record it. There were times like that when we were working on songs for the new album when we thought ‘no that’s not working let’s ditch it’ and we will either bin those tracks completely or put them onto the back burner ready for when we start recording the next album. That is something which we have done on every album that we have worked on.

We have already mentioned that the album is set for release on Friday 6th October. Is it dragging for you now, do you just want to get the album out there?

Yes it is, I have to admit that it is dragging a wee bit but look, it’s always like that. You get excited at having written and recorded the new songs and you just want to get it out there for the fans and the public to hear it. The other thing is that you want to get out there and play the tunes live but at the end of the day you have to stop and remember that you are still in the music business and you have got to time things right. Everything has to be in the right place; you have to make sure that you have got the optimum times for all of your promotional work together with your marketing. So you can’t just say “right we have finished today, how fast can we throw it out there for people to hear” you just can’t do that, you have to get your timings right. You have to hit the right targets, the right audience, at the right time to ensure that you get your maximum best chance to get it to as many people as possible.

I personally think that the album is rockier and heavier than your previous material. Was that a conscious decision?

No its not, it is never that. I have to say that there is never a conscious decision taken within this band especially when it comes down to the writing. There is never a conscious decision to either write or play in any particular style. As I have said all along it is basically still a natural progression from our last album. The more experience that I gain in writing songs the more relaxed I become doing it. It is apparent now, that all of the early influences from the music that I was listening to as a kid seem to bubble to the surface. All of that stuff just seems to come up when I am writing a song; that it what I can hear. That is how it comes out. However, it wasn’t like that for a long time when I was writing songs.

I would be trying so hard to make sure that the second line rhymed with the first (laughter). I have to say that I thought about song writing in a rather short-sighted way whereas now I am looking at song writing from a higher perspective. I now have a broader view on just how I want the sound to turn out. I now tend to hear things first and I know where I want to go with it rather than just playing a chord and putting a vocal line with it; something that might rhyme with love (laughter). Over the years I feel that you become better as a songwriter and as I have said previously all of your influences finally find their way to the forefront of your song writing and I think that is what has happened here.

As I have been listening to the album I have been making a few notes and knowing your respect for the guys in Thunder I have a note in front of me that reads Thunder, Whitesnake, Free and Bad Company. Would you agree with me on that?

Well what can I say, I would have to agree with all four because those are the bands that I have listened to the most for most of my life. And if that is the calibre of influence that I am now able to use when writing songs obviously without blatant plagiarism then that’s great, I am very happy with that (laughter). And I would just like to thank all of those guys for being an amazing inspiration.

For me the opening track (She Don’t) Gimmie No Lovin’ simply smacks you between the eyes and leads you through the album. It takes you on a journey.

I would have to agree with you on that. That was one of those songs that came together really fast. I would sit down in the studio when were recording another song on another album in fact, I would find myself sitting in the studio with the guitar on my lap, trying to work on something. Whenever a certain Mr (Steve) Cropper is messing around during downtime in the studio everyone thinks that he is doing important work, which I have no doubt he is. However, the problem I have is that when I am doing that the rest of the band thinks that I am just messing around (laughter). It was during one of those occasions that the riff for that song was born. It’s a quirky little number and I think that it works because whilst it is sometimes great to have the depth, it’s great to have the emotion and the feeling that is there on the album but sometimes it is okay to have a, I’m not going to say a throwaway track because it isn’t a throwaway track.

I have to say that I think that it is a great track; I think that it is very catchy and a little quirky and that is just exactly what I needed. For the first track on an album you need that something to grasp the audience right away and I think that is what it does. I think that it makes you want to get onto the next track because you are thinking ‘okay that’s a great track but what am I in for next’ (laughter). You mention being smacked between the eyes, well that is the intention with that one, that was literally the intention to say “here you go; here is a bit of a classic rock number. You don’t have to worry about this” and if you find yourself watching us in a live environment then you will be clapping, dancing and singing along to it because it is easy to remember. And that is the aim sometimes; sometimes it is just okay to do that.

The last time that we spoke you told me that you try to make each album better than the last. Do you think that you have achieved that with Exile & Grace?

Yes I do, most definitely. If you are sat in the studio working on a song and you are being honest with yourself, then you will know if there is a lack of quality in it; you will know that there is basically something not working. Whether you know what that reason is or not doesn’t matter, you just say “I am not going to pursue this anymore, let’s move on”. A lot of the songs that finally made it onto the album would have been in that situation if me and the rest of the guys didn’t believe in them one hundred percent and wanted to keep going with them. We always try to put that little bit extra into it; trying to improve on the quantity and quality that you are putting into it.

And more importantly sometimes it is what you don’t put in, what you leave out and what you take out. We have been caught out a few times before but fortunately we have realised before it was too late that you can overproduce your songs and you can put too much into them. There is always a danger that you will try to do too much. We now tend to record a track, leave it alone for a few days then sit and listen to it when without a shadow of a doubt someone will say “we really don’t need that part, there really is no need to have both guitars in that part, let’s take it out” (laughter). Boy oh boy oh boy if you had heard (She Don’t) Gimmie No Lovin’ the first time around it was a totally different song.

There was far too much nonsense on it so we stripped it back in an attempt to make it sound as though a four piece band was playing it (laughter). And thankfully that is what we achieved; we just opened it up and it became what it is. It soon became very clear to us and we simply agreed to put our trust into the song writing and not in the sounds that you can later put into the song. We all agreed to move forward from that point and that is what we managed to do.

At this point I would now be asking you just how many of the new songs will be making their way onto the set list for the forthcoming tour but I have to say I don’t envy you that task.

(Laughter) it is always an issue. It’s always a problem because as a band you simply love to play all of the new songs but just being sensible about it, there is no way that we would ever just walk on and play a whole new set because when you play a set based entirely upon new songs what you tend to get for the most part is the vast majority of the audience standing there listening to it, trying to take it in and occasionally giving you a cautious nod. But they are not at that point able to enjoy it simply because they don’t know any of the songs. They listen to it and they try to take in parts so that they understand what it is that you are trying to do. So if you give them too many of those you will forget that you are on a stage and that it is a night for other people too; this is their Saturday, this is what they have been saving up for, this is what they have been looking forward to for a whole month.

So we like to ease the new songs onto the set list perhaps two at a time and get people used to them. And then what happens over a period of time is that a natural rotation of songs will occur where people don’t really notice it happening. They don’t really see it happening at the time. Then six months later someone will say “hey what’s happened I haven’t heard that song in ages”. (laughter). That’s because we have eked it out in order to slip these ones in. You have got to do it right and you have got to be very smart about it. The last thing that you want to do is frighten people off. Our albums are great to sit at home with, and listening to the new songs because you can put it on repeat and listen to all of the songs all day as you go about your business. However, its different when you come to one of our gigs; it’s only for a short period of time because we have got to play a great cross-section of what we have done, what we are doing and what we are going to be doing all squeezed into that one gig; into one two hour show.

This is a totally selfish question to finish with so please don’t feel that you have to try to please me in any way (laughter).

(Laughter) okay Kevin fire away and I will do my very best.

Will the voice be okay for me to see you on Sunday 17th November at the Engine Shed in Lincoln at the King King Christmas party?

(Laughter), absolutely Kevin, absolutely. We are due to start our German and Scandinavian tour from the end of October and I am really looking forward to playing the Christmas show up there in Lincoln. It is going to be a great night with my big bro Stevie Nimmo and his band together with Rebecca Downes. Keep this to yourself but there will be a great jam session at the end of the evening. We will be playing a host of the new songs and who knows, there might just be a few familiar songs from the past for the older fans that have been with us since the old days (laughter). Bugger, I think that I have already given far too much away (laughter).

On that note Alan let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been great as usual. Good luck with the voice and I hope to see you in Lincoln.

It’s been my pleasure Kevin, you take care buddy and I will most definitely see you in Lincoln. Bye for now.