Twisted Love


There’s true love. Then there’s Twisted Love. And as The Quireboys began crafting the songs that would define their 10th studio album it was the latter that began to dominate frontman Spike’s deepest thoughts against the backdrop of a cold Scandinavian spring. “I decided I had to approach my songwriting from a different angle this time,” he admitted. “Of course the same things keep repeating themselves in life – love and heartache included. And I’ve written about all of that, many times over. But you start to realise that there’s a different twist every time. I started writing the lyrics and showing them to the other members of the band. At first they took them at face value. Then I told them what those words really meant. They were shocked. They said ‘oh my God, we didn’t realise the song was about that’.”


Returning to the remote Swedish outpost of Klippan – and to the Lemon Studios base that spawned the critically acclaimed St Cecilia And The Gypsy Soul – was central to capturing the sound of a band in reflective mood. “It’s a different world,” said guitarist Paul Guerin. “It’s a bleak, stark world that we had inhabited before and we didn’t really plan on a return anytime soon. But in the back of our minds we knew it was the best place to begin again. We took the same approach and brought the same work ethic. But the difference this time was Spike – I’ve never seen him so focused. He was on fire from day one when it came to his lyrics and the songs just flowed.”


Spike hooked up with Guerin and long-time band-mate Guy Griffin to lay down the foundations for Twisted Love. But before long the trio were joined in Scandinavia by keyboardist Keith Weir, bass player Nick Mailing and drummer Dave McCluskey. “You could almost taste the sense of purpose,” added Spike. “We were on a mission.” Rock and roll avengers assembled, it was time for a band of musical brothers to transform hybrid songs into set-stealing favourites.


“To start with the songs are demos I’ve been working on and I play around with the arrangements but they’re never a full song,” explained Griffin. “I don’t see the point of presenting the finished article when I know the other members of the band will come to the table with new ideas. Sometimes there are verses, a chorus and even a title but I play the songs to Spike and he thinks in a completely different way to me. I like the fact that he’s always had the confidence to stamp his own mark on what we do and this time he didn’t hold back. He’d be in one room scribbling away and I’d be in the other working with Paul on the guitar parts. And suddenly we’d have some pretty special songs.”


Even Griffin couldn’t have imagined how special. “The rest of the band really stepped up to the plate,” he added. “I always have confidence that they will improve and enhance the songs. We’re a really tight unit now. Everyone comes in and does their job and there’s an understanding.”


“I think there’s a really strong bond at the heart of this band right now,” agreed Spike. “It’s a running joke that the Quireboys have been through more drummers than Spinal Tap but for the first time in a long, long time we have a rhythm section that’s built to last. Nick is a sensational bass player and I love working with him. Dave is a young lad who’s so willing to listen and he completely understands what we’re looking for. We’re very lucky to have them both on board. Very lucky. And then there’s Keith. We wouldn’t be The Quireboys without Keith Weir.”


Mailing echoed Spike’s belief that there’s something special about the band’s dynamic right now – the settled line-up and sense of familiarity sparking fresh confidence and creativity. “Spike and Guy wrote really closely together on this record but they always write with the rest of the band in mind,” he said. “A lot of it happened literally as they were living in the studio during the sessions. It’s not exactly big or plush – the two of them sat around this tiny kitchen table and put the core of the tunes together. I’ve been playing with these guys for more than three years now and the vibe has never been better. I play for other bands and other people but The Quireboys’ situation is unique. There aren’t many bands who’ve been around this long and who still enjoy each other’s company and still play with a smile on their faces on stage.”


Not for the first time during the last decade, Ulsterman Weir threatens to steal to show on Twisted Love. His trademark keys are writ large over the spellbinding Ghost Train, add a subtle touch of class to Shotgun Way and underpin the Spike favourite Stroll On. “The rest of the guys make it very easy for me really,” said Weir. “I’ll arrive at the studio a few days after the songs have been written and Griff will play them to me. I’m lucky that they give me so much freedom to do what I feel is right – with Ghost Train I just felt it was an opportunity to really go to town. I used the Hammond and some overdrive with the Wurlitzer and a lot of other weird stuff. But it sounded great with the big breakdown. And if there’s a song that doesn’t need keyboards I’ll tell the rest of the band. Sometimes Guy’s songs are so right for Spike that it seems counter-productive to have too much going on. I just can’t wait to play these new songs live. In fact I’d love to play the whole album live!”


Another treat on Twisted Love is the distinctive contribution of soulful chanteuse Lynne Jackaman – her blues-tinged backing vocals adding a new dimension to the staple Quireboys sound. “I’ve got to give Griff a huge pat on the back for persuading Lynne to come on board,” added Spike. “I was so happy to see her – and hear her! She was able to sing all of the falsetto parts I used to be able to sing before I drank too much and smoked too much. She’s a wonderful talent and I loved working with her. Listen to her on Midnight Collective or Twisted Love and you’ll see what I mean.”


Jackaman, Weir and Mailing all make their mark but Twisted Love also serves as a showcase for drummer Dave McCluskey’s exciting talent. With The Union on an indefinite hiatus, the popular Scot was persuaded to make The Quireboys a priority and his partnership with Mailing has reaped rewards. “When I first joined the band I had no expectations that I’d still be playing with them now,” said McCluskey. “As far as I was concerned I was simply filling in but it’s funny the way things work out. Now Nick and I work so well together it seems like we were born to do this. When we met in Sweden to do the rhythm parts it was like we’d never been away. We’ve become good friends and a good team. And I think you can really hear that on the new record.”


If Twisted Love comes across as a dogged album designed to silence the doubters then Griffin insists one of Britain’s best-loved bands no longer has a point to prove to those unconvinced by a decade-long run of career-defining records. “I used to take the criticism to heart as a kid,” he admitted. “Of course it bothered me back in the day. When I was 20-years-old and we had a gold record it still bothered me. But you grow up. You put things into perspective. That sort of stuff just doesn’t bother me at all now. What we’ve done since we’ve got back together has made us even stronger and even more successful. When we reformed the band absolutely nobody outside of our loyal fan base wanted to support us. It was ridiculous how unpopular we’d become. But we rode the storm and we wrote great records – that’s all I’m interested in now.”


Twisted Love is the sound of a band that’s been there, done that and bought the T-shirt – the torn and faded favourite with hundreds of tour dates on both sides of the Atlantic plastered across the back. “I don’t think there’s a harder working band out there,” concluded Spike. “And I’m proud of that. A record like Twisted Love doesn’t happen by chance. It happens because this band plays so many shows, spends so much time together and is incredibly tight – as songwriters and performers. There’s a song we recorded in Sweden that didn’t actually make the cut this time called Win Some Lose Some. That’s The Quireboys for you. And we’re all the better for it.”