Miles Hunt is the singer/guitarist and songwriter for the Stourbridge based Alternative Rock band The Wonder Stuff. He recently released a book, 'The Wonder Stuff Diaries 86 - 89’ where he delves into his personal journals to give a vivid account of how a young British kid, in love with rock'n'roll, worked his way up from the beery, sweat stained clubs of the Midlands to become an international touring rock star in his own right.
After hearing that Miles and Co were putting on 4 gigs just before Christmas (details below), we thought it would be a great idea to get in touch and drop a few questions his way, imagine my surprise this morning when in popped an email from Miles with answers to every question we sent across, read on to find out about how they 'made it' in the US, what he thinks about the resurgence of the audio cassette and his underwear preference....
Who was your main inspiration for leaving the drums and becoming a frontman?
Without doubt Mike Scott from The Waterboys. Around the time I made the switch I was obsessed with their albums 'A Pagan Place' and 'This Is The Sea', still am if I'm honest. I guess Clint Mansell of Pop Will Eat Itself also had an influence on my decision. I was sharing a flat with him at the time we formed The Wonder Stuff and he always seemed to be having a good time fronting his band.
What was the first Wonder Stuff song that made you realise you had something special?
'Red Berry Joy Town'. Our guitarist Malc and bass play Bob were jamming out the idea on the floor of my kitchen one afternoon. In terms of musical components it had far less going on it than anything else we had written to that point. I guess it taught us the old 'less is more' lesson, not that we stuck to that mode of writing, but it certainly worked the day we wrote 'Red Berry Joy Town'.
If push came to shove, what do YOU feel is the BEST album ever produced?
You can push and shove all you like but I can't choose one, the very notion is ridiculous.
In those first few years of the band Bob 'Bass Thing' Jones was a huge presence in the band, did you worry that his leaving would be an end to the band?
It was for a couple of weeks, but after a phone conversation with my friend Wayne Hussey of The Mission I was talked into getting a sub and going on tour with them around Europe and North America while we considered our next move. We shouldn't have stuck with the bass player we chose for those two tours but I am grateful that we didn't shit can the band after only two albums.
What are your views on the use of smartphones at gigs? Would you rather see smiling faces or phones staring at you?
Couldn't care less, the audience pays their money, they can do as they please, as long as they stay off the stage, that's mine!
I saw the band on the HUP tour and it was a great gig. In the book it’s apparent that relationships at this time were strained, how did you manage to leave that stuff backstage so that gigs didn't suffer?
Sometimes the gigs did suffer, but in all honesty, the five of us at that time only knew each other 'cos we were in the band together. There was none of them I would have chosen to hang out with outside of the band and that is certainly true of how most of them felt about me too. I loved how they all played and that was what we were there to do. These days I prefer actually liking my band mates.
What do you think about the recent resurgence of the good old audio cassette?
It's utterly bizarre. They sound like shit.
You mention band members girlfriends/wives in the book. How much did 'Yoko Ono Syndrome’ affect the band?
In the case of Bob's choice of partner in 1989… that definitely fucked up the original line up. The daft bastard didn't even stick with her after he quit the band to be with her. What a waste...
Have you really ‘Never Loved Elvis’?
Really, I've never minded him. We just used that title to antagonise the US label who didn't seem to be on our side. We were hoping they'd dump us and we could find a label that were into us. It didn't work....
Your uncle was in ELO and Wizzard. what did he think of The Wonder Stuff?
He likes us and is proud that he passed the band thing onto me. I've asked him to tinkle the ivories on our next album and he's said yes, I think it would be good to bring us together musically at last.
Which social media platforms have helped you the most to get your music out there?
The obvious ones, Facebook and Twitter. Before those two I was a keen user of MySpace too. Now that traditional media has all but wiped The Wonder Stuff out of history it's incredibly useful to be able to connect directly with our audience via those platforms. I'm all for it.
Many UK bands struggle to do well in the USA, why do you think the Stuffies translated so well there?
I guess for lack of anything that was coming out of the US at the time. We were lucky, there were a lot of UK based bands that were popular at US alternative radio at the time and we fitted in with the Anglophile agenda that excited at the time. We were a good and feisty live band too, a North American audience appreciates that.
What advice would you give to a band just starting out in relation to management / labels etc?
Do absolutely everything yourselves, have nothing to do with major labels. Every band has a few mates that can take on the managerial/label entrepreneur roles, take them with you on your journey.
How does it feel to be considered one of the UK's great songwriters?
Vic Reeves (Jim) gatecrashed our wedding years ago and I had a good chat to him about his collaboration with you on ‘Dizzy’, are you still in touch with him?
Indeed we are, I love the man, he's got a great big heart.
How is the next instalment coming along?
I've started transcribing the next set of diaries. There is far, far more detail in them than the first batch that I used to write this first book with. The next part of the story is grimmer, even though the commercial success was far greater. I guess that could be said for a lot of bands.
What’s next for Miles Hunt & The Wonder Stuff?
As I've already mentioned, write the next book and crack on with the next album, I'll have both ready for our 30th anniversary in 2016.
Prior to releasing Miles Hunt back into civilisation, we decided it was only fair to throw a few quick fire questions his way....
Acoustic or Electric?
Whichever is nearest and in tune.
The Blackcountry or The Westcountry?
I have scant experience of the West Country, so I guess the Black Country wins.
PWEI or NEDS?
PWEI for my tastes, they were always ahead of the curve. I did see Neds play this year though and they knocked it outta the park.
Ozzy or Lemmy?
Glastonbury or Reading?
Neither these days, Reading was a lotta fun 20 years ago though.
Tour bus or Hotel?
Tour bus every time.
CD or Vinyl?
Vinyl every time. Although it does tend to jump on the tour bus.
Boxers of Briefs?
Fry up or Sunday Roast?
God or Google?
Fed up of advent calendars being on sale in Tesco already? Sick of the thought of quaffing copious amounts of mince pies and eggnog? Well why not sack all that traditional festive rubbish off and go see Miles and Co playing a few songs?
Frontman Miles Hunt explains: “Erica, Dan and myself just couldn't refuse the opportunity to come and have a seasonal ‘knees up’ with you. The three of us will be hitting the road in December, performing all of your favourite Wonder Stuff tunes acoustically.”
whilst I cannot guarantee that he won't be performing cover versions of Wham and Slade classics, you can be guaranteed a great evening out and you can even grab a festive drink at the same time!
Monday 15th – Newcastle, The Cluny
Tuesday 16th – Oxford, O2 Academy*
Wednesday 17th – London, O2 Academy Islington*
Thursday 18th – Birmingham, O2 Academy*
*Box Office 0844 477 2000 or www.ticketweb.co.uk
We'd like to thank Miles for taking time out to answer our questions and we look forward to meeting him at one of the 4 Christmas dates, now, should I buy him a pair of Festive Briefs or Boxers?
Interview by Chris Venning & Steve Muscutt