Interviews

From ska-punk bassist to raising money for the homeless to crazy cycle rides to promote mental health charities – meet Andy Baker

ANDY BAKER

Andy Baker (Upbeat Allstars, New Riot, Fandangle, Mr Zippy) is a difficult man to pin down. When he’s not producing new albums and EPs, he’s training for long cycle rides to raise awareness of mental health and setting up charities. Fortunately, we managed to track him down for long enough to enable him to answer some questions about his life on tour and his current charity work.

There seem to be several different versions of Andy B: the musician, the producer, the mental health campaigner, the cyclist, the charity worker… how do you identify yourself?

Haha good question! All of the above? I think just as someone that wants to promote and attempt to live by ambition, determination and dreaming big, whatever I’m doing – I’m essentially trying to combine all of the above elements into one, be it producing new music, collaborating, travelling, or raising money or awareness… they’re all passions.

The last time you performed with Fandangle was at the 10 Year Anniversary of Fly Away at the New Cross Inn and you’re currently focusing on your charity work.  Do you feel the itch to get back on stage at any time in the future?  Is that likely to be with Fandangle?

Oh, so much so – I get the itch to play live every day! There’s just a lot I’d like to achieve, and as I’ve been lucky enough to have played some 1500 shows in my life so far, I’m able to sideline that a bit without feeling like I’m missing out – but yea, I miss it a tonne. I definitely have plans to get back to playing live in the near future though, both with a “band” version of my Andy B & The World collaboration project, and something else we’ll be announcing in due course, wink wink. With Fandangle, it’s a lot harder – Adam lives in LA now, there have been various marriages and kids and so all of that means we don’t really play many shows nowadays.

Wedgewood Rooms 2008

The ‘Andy B & The World collaboration project,’ what’s that?

It stemmed from when I came away from touring after leaving Upbeat Allstars – I started writing myself, and before I knew it I had about two albums worth of demos! I didn’t want to start a new band again, and so was born the idea of travelling with my camera – something I love to do anyway – and recording the songs with musician friends from all over the world! And so it was born.

The album comes out this winter, and I’m so proud of it. Also, the profits from it go towards homeless charities, so it’s worth buying for that alone ?

The ABaTW title goes on now into a new venture – a weekly travel & music collab based series, which I’ll be running from our youtube – more on that down the line though, but we’ve just started filming!

Looking back over your musical career with Upbeat Allstars, New Riot, Fandangle & Mr Zippy, what are the standout moments that you’d be telling the grandkids about?

And so – unluckily – I was electrocuted. It was more confusing than painful at the time, as your body “hums” and locks up.

Wow, where to start.. So, the one that gets told the most.. Second Upbeat Allstars European tour, and the first show is in Belgium, in this beautiful but tatty old building, exposed wires and holes in walls. Anyway, I’ve spent years and years playing on stage barefoot whenever I could. We’re a couple songs into the set, and it’s one hot, sweaty show. The crowd are moving, we’re moving, and we take the mic stands off stage onto the floor. Anyway, there’s a metal plate on the floor, that somehow, with my guitar amp, formed a circuit with the building’s main electrical supply. And so – unluckily – I was electrocuted. It was more confusing than painful at the time, as your body “hums” and locks up. Absolutely never want to go through that again, and as a reminder, I now have a slightly unusual heartbeat every few beats – probably be fun for the grandkids to find haha. Wait, Grandkids, how old am I?!

I think the most standout part through all of those bands are the droves of incredible people we’ve met out on the road, so many of whom I am still lucky enough to call my circle of friends

And any more juicy ones that you don’t want to tell the grandkids about?

From Fandangle? Nothing you could print haha. There’s a pretty hairy story about crossing the Czech border after our second tourbus was spray painted front to back in Graffiti by artists at a festival in Austria, where, no longer having documents that matched the bus, got us refused – so we kept trying borders. Obviously, they all talk to each other, and you can imagine how that went…

Any regrets?

I think it’s important to not have regrets, but instead embrace things that maybe didn’t go to plan and learn from them. Of course, that’s an idealistic viewpoint at times haha – But ultimately, no, there’s nothing from our touring days I regret.

Part of the reason I am giving the profits from the Andy B & The World album to homeless charities, or take chunks of time out of life to do these long rides for mental health & suicide prevention charities is because I feel it is important to give something back. We all need to do our bit to look after each other, and we were so blessed to have been given so much by those awesome years on the road touring, playing with and befriending our idols and so on, meeting amazing people at shows all over, that it is important to give back after taking so much. So if I had to cite one thing I “could regret”, it is that we didn’t give as much back, back then, as we maybe could have, we were focused on our own attempts to rise at the time.

Norway, 2008

Good news!  You can create a ska-punk super group.  Who is in it and why?

Can I just have the original Destruction By Definition album era line up of The Suicide Machines?! Ha but if we’re going for a more creative answer…

Vocals – Gabe from Midtown.. I know that’s more Pop Punk but I just love his voice!!
Drums – Derek Grant (Drummer on the first two Suicide Machines records, then Alkaline Trio)
Guitars – I’d have Aaron Barrett (Reel Big Fish) & Brian Klemm (Suburban Legends) – They’re both insanely good guitarists, far beyond the scope of what you hear them play in their bands, but let’s face it, they’re going to nail ska.
Bass – Alexis (Original Bassist from Frenzal Rhomb) – That dude can play, like, really really play!
Brass Section – Honestly, there’s so many to choose from – But I think, above and beyond, it’s got to be Mark & Eduardo from Mad Caddies.. They’re just a phenomenal pairing, sonically.
Keys – Gotta be my pal Chuzz, from Cartoon Violence. He’s ridiculous!

We hear the words Ska Punk is Dead a lot… is it?

Oh hell no. No genre is dead as long as someone’s listening to it, as long as someone is creating in it. A lot of phrases get thrown around like that, man – I think, things are always evolving, and not everyone likes change!

You have to be mad to pursue a career in the music industry… that’s nothing compared to the madness of your last endeavour… tell us about that.

Tobias (singer from The Dead Betas) and I cycled from Canterbury to Rome over 30 days, raising money & awareness for mental health & suicide prevention charities.

Ha ahh, the Cycle to Rome? Right, well, essentially, Tobias (singer from The Dead Betas) and I cycled from Canterbury to Rome over 30 days, raising money & awareness for mental health & suicide prevention charities. Neither of us were, er.. How to put this.. In good shape haha, so it represnted a fresh challenge on many levels. We had our fair share of bad luck – Tobias had a knee injury on day 6 in the middle of nowhere so I had to tow him 60 miles to a train station, we hit an avalanche at the peak of the Alps and so had to turn around and catch a train & a bus around all of Lake Geneva to get to our that day destination on the other side of the peak, we had a freak blizzard climbing the Apennine Mountains in Italy, haha it was an experience!! Ironically, the next day, we were in the sea at Massa, Italy, basking in the sun!

We raised just over £5k with literally only very localised press coverage and facebook word of mouth – Sonny (Saving Sebastian) and I are cycling to Oslo in September, for similar and also bereavement charities. Hey, can I plug our fundraising link? www.gofundme.com/mrlto – please, even if you can only afford a quid, it all helps 🙂

Cycling in a blizzard

According to Mind.org.uk, approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year and it is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem.  What is your advice to someone who is worrying about themselves or a loved one?

Yea, the statistics make for incredibly worrying reading, right? Whilst of course it’s always been prevalent, I think the pressures of today’s modern, hyper-connected society really impact this further and have spread problems surrounding mental health, anxieties and so on even more. First up, I’d say in either case, you are not alone, both in terms of support and shared experience. That’s important to know, because these issues can be addressed, and there are people, groups and organisations that are there to help, whether you are experiencing this yourself or have concerns for someone you know.

The happiest seeming, larger-than-life personalitied people can sometimes be hiding a multitude of problems, so just try and check in with those around you as much as you can. And if you are feeling this way, reach out in any way you can. There are excellent organisations out there all over the country, and I’ll tell you what – If you literally don’t know where to start and would like some advice, please do fel free to email us and I’ll do whatever I can to help – mostroadsleadto@gmail.com – No problem or concern is too trivial or too big.

Arriving in Rome

What’s next for Andy B?

Well – my focus at the moment is purely on the combination of the projects I have going – I’m combining a couple of elements into a new series that will go out on our “Andy B & The World” YouTube every Saturday, I’m actually filming it at present so that we have episodes ready in lieu, and I’m super excited about that.

Talking of AB&TW, the collaboration album that started the whole project idea finally comes out this year – It’s not been an easy ride, from having to cancel some of my round the world plane tickets to underestimating the workload, but it’s been a learning curve and one I’ll always look back on proudly.

Other than that? More epic rides, more producing of bands, more filming – and maybe, just maybe.. a sleep or two. 

Support Andy

Andy is currently cycling to Oslo in support of mental health charities. Find out more on www.gofundme.com/mrlto

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the authorIain Wheeler
Reviewer
Iain Wheeler was born in the Wirral, England and now lives in Bedfordshire (after a short detour to Lincoln) with his wife and 2 children. Iain grew up listening to his parents' record collection, including things like Little Angels and Bon Jovi. He has since moved on to an eclectic collection ranging from The Wonder Years and Mayday Parade to Bright Eyes and Mojave 3. Currently, he is a school teacher who plays tenor sax for 'Codename Colin,' a ska-punk band who released their first EP 'Outgunned' in 2017.

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