Alan Nimmo, (seen here second from the right), lead singer and guitarist with rock blues band King King, chats with Kevin Cooper about having surgery on his vocal chords, winning five awards at The British Blues Awards, their new studio album and their forthcoming tour of the UK.

Alan Nimmo is the lead singer and guitarist with rock blues band, King King. Formed in 2007, they released their debut album Take My Hand in 2011, with follow up album Standing In The Shadows being released in 2013.

In 2015, King King which comprises Lindsay Coulson on bass, Wayne Proctor on drums and keyboard player Bob Fridzema, were inducted into The British Blues Award Hall Of Fame, after winning The Best Band category for three consecutive years.

Other achievements include them finishing in the top three at Classic Rock’s prestigious Roll Of Honour for The Best Band.

In 2015 they released their third studio album, Reaching For The Light, which figured in The Best Albums of 2015 polls by magazines including Classic Rock and The Blues, and the following year they released their first live album.

Whilst getting ready to go out on tour, Alan Nimmo took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Alan how are you today?

I’m good thanks Kevin, how are you, are you well?

I’m very well thank you.

Good man.

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

No problems mate, no problems at all.

And just how is life treating you?

Life at the moment is not too bad really apart from a few ups and downs.

On the subject of the downs you underwent surgery on your vocal chords last year. How are things with your voice now?

That’s right I did. I have been on the road to recovery with that and I am doing my best to take things easy and do everything possible to get myself back on track with everything.

Didn’t you recently have a scare whilst performing live?

That’s right we had just started a run of gigs and I walked out onto the stage and after two songs I got half way through the third song and it was just as if someone had flicked a switch and turned my voice off. It was completely gone; absolutely gone. I simply couldn’t get a note out. I had to walk off the stage and cancel the show which was something that I had never done in my life.

How did that make you feel?

Well to be totally honest with you I was in a terrible state when all of this happened especially after the operation and then coming back. The truth of the matter is that I simply came back far too early and that’s why we had to cancel a few shows. It really does put you on a bit of a downer and you get very worried about your future and your career. And then every time that you walk out onto the stage you are very apprehensive as to whether or not you are going to be okay. However, I’m sure that in time that will go away (laughter).

And just what is the current situation, have you been back to see the specialist?

Yes I have and luckily it was a case of acute laryngitis. That’s what caused me to lose my voice on stage. So I have been on heavy duty antibiotics together with a bit of rest so we are now all good to go as far as I am concerned.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to your voice, you just have to get out there and see if it still works don’t you?

That’s just it isn’t it. You have to find the balance which is impossible at times between building up the muscle again and getting enough rest. So what do you do; do you practice, do you stay quiet, it’s a mixture of both that you have to find. You have to hope that you have got the balance right and you also have to be very lucky with it. Otherwise you have either gone too far or you haven’t done enough and you are not ready for it yet. It really is very difficult.

Have you ever had any sort of vocal training?

In the past no, and to be honest with you I didn’t even want to sing. I never intended to be a singer, I just picked up a guitar as a kid. I absolutely loved Peter Green, Eric Clapton and all of those kind of guys and I just wanted to play the guitar. However, at the same time I wanted to have a band and I wanted to be the leader of the band (laughter). So as far as I knew from the bands that I was watching as I was growing up, if you were the leader of the band then you were the singer. So I kind of pushed myself into it in that sense and as the years developed I got more and more interested in singing, and I wanted to do a bit better with it so I got more and more into it. I’m still learning, I’m still getting there and I’m still not the singer that I want to be and to be honest I don’t know if I ever will be (laughter).

All that I can say is that you had better be on top form because I have been looking at your tour schedule and it is pretty relentless,

(Laughter) yes it is, it is a bit gruelling isn’t it. It’s like everything else, your voice and your vocal chords are an instrument to you. We were recently touring over in Europe for six weeks and two of my guitars broke down and no one battered an eye lid. It was just a case of ‘oh well these things break and we can get them fixed’ (laughter). However, if your voice goes then suddenly it is the apocalypse. My voice is getting used just as much as my guitars and I do expect it to go a little wonky every now and again. However, there are measures that you can take to sort it out and that’s what we did and hopefully everything is now okay (laughter).

You always seem to be playing lots of festivals; do you enjoy the festival experience?

Yes I do, they really are a great deal of fun. You can tailor your set to being a bit more exciting. You walk on, there it is, throw it in the audience’s faces, take that and then walk off (laughter). Hopefully you have left them standing there thinking ‘wow, what just happened’ (laughter). I love the festival season but it is also nice when you are doing your tours and shows when you can get a little more intimate with your songs. You can play a few slower ballads and you have got time to relax in to it. It’s all good fun really (laughter).

Do you still get that buzz from touring?

We really do enjoy touring. The thing that I enjoy more now than I ever did as a young musician, is the actual performance on stage; playing for the people. I enjoy getting the music across to them. Don’t get me wrong, all of the travelling these days is a bit of a pain and of course the bigger the profile of the band gets the further you have to travel. So I have to say that the travelling doesn’t get any easier as time goes on, if anything it gets worse because you have to travel that much further and for longer. I wouldn’t lie to you and say that’s a bed of roses because it can be a bit annoying at times, but it is a part of the job and that is what we do.

And once the tour has finished do you then get stir crazy at home?

(Laughter) have you been talking to my wife (laughter). After a tour I get home for a week or two and I am absolutely craving a rest. You will often hear me shouting ‘I can’t wait to get home, I’m sick of it all’ (laughter). I think that I want to get home, sit in the house and do normal things like going to the supermarket and going out for dinner but after a week my feet just start itching (laughter). I get the look from my wife which says ‘should you not be back out on the road yet, get out from under my feet’ (laughter).

It’s funny you mentioning the supermarket. I interviewed Fish last year and he said that he hated going home after touring because whenever he went to the supermarket everything had been moved and he couldn’t find anything (laughter).

(Laughter) living in Glasgow it is like an ever developing city these days and if you go away for a couple of months and then come back again all of the shops that you knew and used to use are not there anymore, they have all closed down. Also the odd pub that you would have a pint or two in are no longer there, it’s now a Waitrose or something like that (laughter). You just seem to turn your back for a minute and everything has changed (laughter).

I’m going to put you on the spot now and ask you, if you had to choose between writing, recording or touring which would come out on top?

Oh my god, to be honest with you I enjoy all of that. I enjoy the process although it takes me longer to get into the writing and the recording. It does takes me longer to start enjoying it but once I am in that zone and I am doing that, then I get really in to it and I really do then start to enjoy it. However, the thrill for me still is the reaction from the crowd together with the interaction with the crowd. For me that’s the buzz, that’s the lift.

You have got another young band, Bad Touch opening for you on your forthcoming tour. Are you consciously trying to give the young bands a helping hand as they set out on their careers in the business?

I don’t know what it is but I think that we have naturally managed to fall into this position where King King are a band who are showcasing young bands all of a sudden. We have kind of fallen into that but I really don’t mind that because what we try to do every time that we take someone out on tour with us is we try to get someone who our audience will relate to, who will put on a good show and make it an evening that is worth the money that people have paid to come to see it. Plus it is good to give young lads who are keen and up for it a reasonable platform to stand on and get in front of an audience because we all know just how difficult that is. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that kind of a leg up when we were coming up; we didn’t get any help from anyone. We did all of the hard work and so we know how difficult it is. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with that, because you learn a lot and you also learn just how this business works sometimes in a very harsh way.

But if we see a young band who are sounding pretty cool and we like them and they are struggling for work but they are getting good media attention then it all contributes to a great tour, a great performance and a great night for everyone who is coming along. I think that the Planet Rock people are getting behind Bad Touch, they are picking up a few awards and I think that they are doing great. They have a nice traditional style of music about them and to me they sound like Southern Rock which I love, it is one of my favourite tastes in music especially The Allman Brothers. All of that is in there and we just want a band who is on there opening up the night for the punters who are going to relate to it, enjoy it, understand it and it warms them up for us coming on stage.

You mention awards, King King have recently won five awards at the British Blues Awards including Best Male Vocal (Alan Nimmo), Best Bass Player (Lindsay Coulson), Best Song (Rush Hour), Best Album (Reaching For The Light) and Best Songwriter. That must have made you feel good?

(Laughter) well you know to get these awards is just fantastic. It is very nice to be honoured with these type of things and if people are talking about us as being award winners then that’s great. It is just fantastic for me, fantastic for the band, it’s great for our promotion and at the end of the day it is a nice thing to have and it’s nice for us to be appreciated.

How are things with the new studio album?

The new album is almost done, all of the songs were written a long time ago and musically it was all recorded a while back. But obviously with my vocal trouble I had to take some time off which set us back a little so we are not quite done with the vocals as yet. I think that there are another four tracks for us to put onto the album. But of course we have had surgery troubles, plus with such a gruelling touring schedule we really do struggle to find the time to actually get back into the studio and get on with it. Also if we have been on the road for a while I physically can’t walk off the tour bus and get straight back into the studio. I need time to rest, I need time for my voice to come back.

I always have to take a little time off after every tour to recover the voice. There are days between us being on tour when I pop back into the studio and record another vocal but to be honest it’s a never ending saga (laughter). I honestly believe that I will get no rest ever (laughter). But other than that we are getting there, it is almost done. As soon as I get all of the vocals finished we will then move on to final mixes, then on to the mastering and then we will release a single off the album very soon. The single will be out before we release the album to give the fans a little teaser of just what’s to come. Hopefully we have done the right thing this time in terms of the music, and we are not going to annoy anyone with our musical choices (laughter).

And once you release the album you are again in the hands of the beast that is touring.

Yes we are, that’s right. We have already got dates finalised in Europe, Scandinavia and Norway plus there will be another tour here in the UK. Also we will be preforming what we have now decided to call our Annual Christmas Show (laughter). We decided to put on a Christmas show last December and it was such a great success. Everyone really loved the idea and then we were bombarded with suggestions from everywhere saying ‘why don’t you do this every year’ (laughter). We had already been giving the idea some thought so we thought ‘why don’t we do it again’. The show takes a hell of a lot of organising but how can I complain about it, this is what I grew up asking for, this is what I wanted and this is what I got. However, it still doesn’t stop you from moaning about having too much work on (laughter).

Taking you back to last year, you released King King Live. Were you pleased with the reaction from the fans?

We were, we really were and not just the fans but from everywhere. Basically the truth is we knew that the album was going to be held back a bit because of the trouble with my voice. So we thought that we needed to keep the momentum going as well purely from a business side of things. We needed to give the fans something in the meantime. Plus every day we would open up our social media and there would be questions every day from hundreds of people asking us when we were going to release a live album. So we have been getting asked the same question for a number of years now but for us it never felt like the right thing for us to do. We had only released two albums and so we never even considered releasing a live album.

We thought that we should get the third studio album out first. However, we then started thinking that perhaps we had got enough of a back catalogue of songs to enable us to release a live album so why not, let’s do one. So we decided to do that and for something that you were not going to spend a massive amount of money on PR for a live album, my god the reaction from the media and the fans was just ridiculous. We probably got more attention for that album than we have for any other one (laughter). It was incredible; it was all over magazines, it was featured in Classic Rock, it was getting played on the radio and copies simply kept flying off the shelves (laughter). The DVD also helped because people would say “look there I am” and then that creates a massive amount of hype for the album without you actually having to do much (laughter).

Is the Blues here in the UK in a good place?

I personally think that it is. Blues for me has always been something that in the UK has had its peaks and then its little dips. I think at the moment it is in pretty good shape. There are a lot of young bands out there doing some great stuff together with a lot of great artists who are promoting the Blues, not just here in the UK but we are taking it all over Europe. I have to say that I honestly think that the Blues is well and truly on the map now and that is truly fantastic. We can’t ask for more.

I was fortunate to catch you on the first night of last year’s tour here in Nottingham.

Did you really, well let me tell you we were all so knackered that night because we had been out in Mumbai for a week and we flew back overnight the day before so we literally arrived at Heathrow airport, drove straight to Nottingham, went straight to the venue and started to do the first show (laughter). I was so knackered that I barely remember that gig, I was so tired that I literally didn’t know where I was. All of my body clock timing was all wrong (laughter). I had no idea where I was and I had my hero singer Danny Bowes standing shaking my hand saying “alright mate how are you doing. It’s great having you on board” (laughter).

You are back in Nottingham on the 7th May, playing the Rescue Rooms. What can we expect?

A bloody good show (laughter) and as we will only be travelling from Holmfirth there definitely won’t be any jet lag this time (laughter).

I personally think that the band are continually getting tighter and tighter. Would you agree?

Yes I would, I really would. We do pride ourselves on having a very tight band and a very tight live show. It is something that we are proud of and I think that it is because we regard ourselves as being old school, at least in terms of our attitude. We believe that there is a certain standard that needs to be maintained and luckily enough everyone in the band knows this and feels that way about it too. I never have to crack the whip as such, it is just an unspoken thing that we all know that we need to keep on pushing ourselves, keep on pushing the limits to what they are, keep up the standards and remember to keep on improving all of the time. That is the kind of thing that we pride ourselves on and it will always be that way. There is no excuse for it, you simply cannot just show up and deliver a below par performance.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

Oh there have been a few very different highlights. I think that you think of things as being highlights for all different reasons. I am, as you are most probably aware, a massive fan of Thunder. I first saw them playing live way back in 1990 when they played a pretty small venue in Glasgow and I have followed them ever since. So when you grow up watching a band like that, you get to see them in bigger and bigger venues, watching them become more famous and a bigger band and then you get the call asking you if you want to go out on tour with them, then that was the ultimate tick in the box for me. Not only to do that but to do that at Wembley Arena was simply the stuff that dreams are made off (laughter). That stuff is amazing. That is definitely a massive highlight, to get to walk out on stage and to say ‘hello Wembley’ which I made sure that I did (hysterical laughter).

What was the first record that you bought?

My goodness, I don’t know if I can remember that far back (laughter). I think that it was Play That Funky Music by Wild Cherry (laughter). However, the first album that I bought was Hysteria by Def Leppard which I’m sure that you will agree was a far better choice than the single (laughter).

Should I leave out Wild Cherry in an attempt to save you any further embarrassment (laughter).

(Laughter) now listen, everyone knows that my musical taste is far and wide. I am often getting slated on Facebook for listening to Wet Wet Wet (laughter).

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

Now who was that, I think that would have most probably have been Big Country.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

There is a Chris Stapleton album called Traveller and there is a song on it called Whiskey And You which I find to be very emotional. It is a great song, it’s beautiful. I think that was the song that got the lump in my throat the last time. I have to be honest and say that many songs do that to me. I am a very emotional guy when it comes to music. I let music inside me and it gets me all the time so loads of songs do that to me but that was probably the last one.

On that note Allan let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been a pleasure. You take care and I will hopefully see you here in Nottingham.

It’s been my pleasure Kevin. You take care and I will speak to you soon. Bye for now.