Barrow rockers firing on all cylinders


WILDFIRE have been through more than their fair share of members, but persisting as a trio they're in the best position they've ever been in. The Barrow rockers tell KARL STEEL that it all could have been very different

BY the time a band's list of past members starts approaching double figures, it's usually a sign that things are never going to happen.

Barrow rockers Wildfire, however, insist they're in the best shape they've ever been in.

Five years in, and founding frontman Jonny Regan is on bandmates 11 and 12, having scaled it back to a trio 18 months ago and giving the set a complete overhaul.

Experienced pair Carl Whittam, from acts such as Isolhate and Ultimate Ironhorse, and Dave Turner of CodeJak, take on the roles of bass and drums respectively.

Feedback from the audiences they've blown away of late suggests that this is an outfit in top form and ready to finally make an impact.

Jonny says: "In five years, the 18 months that these two have been in the band have been great - this is the best it's ever been.

"From the first gig, I knew I had my band.

"We never stopped being a band, but some of the new members that came in just weren't up to the standard of the guys they replaced, so it didn't really work out.

"Dave always said to me that if I ever needed anyone to stand in on drums that I should just give him a shout.

"It's taken all this time to find what I've been looking for.

"I've hung around with Dave and Carl for years, but the band has been right there the whole time without me realising it."

Wildfire released one album, right back in the early days of the band, but the revolving door of members coming and going made it difficult to make any significant progression.

 Jonny Regan

Jonny Regan

With it certainly feeling like one last roll of the dice - the aim is still to make a real go of it and spread the name far and wide - it is fortunate then that they've clicked right away.

Dave and Carl already play together in professional tribute band Pink As Floyd, and between the three of them, their links go back almost two decades.

Dave adds: "Jonny was in CodeJak for the first few years, so we've always had that connection. It usually takes a long time to gel, but we already knew how each other thinks, so it all came together really quickly.

"I've known Carl for about 20 years, and we play together anyway, so Jonny had a ready-made band. And because we're in the same band, we always know if there's going to be a clash.

"I feel that I can express myself a bit more - we all can - there's not two guitarists competing against each other, we all provide vocals and harmonise with each other, and I think we probably inspire each other too.

"We're one unit, and it all seems to come naturally."

They've certainly not been slouches, hammering out an album and an EP's worth of tracks, all just about ready to record.

The live set also contains a good chunk of the old numbers too - though even some of the previous members may struggle to recognise them.

"We've been able to do things with the songs that I didn't think were possible," says Jonny.

"A lot of the songs that I'd written have changed so much, and I was struggling at first to see how they would work with me playing both guitar parts. I was unsure if the songs would adapt, but when we started jamming them, they all just seemed to fall into place."

Recent shows have seen Wildfire break out the odd cover too, which previously had been something Jonny was keen to steer clear of.

"I was always against doing covers, but my way of thinking has changed a bit, because that's what people want to hear. So the covers that we do, we make them our own and play them our way.

"The cover of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy is hardly even the same song, but everyone recognises it, and the same with our Pendulum cover, which is normally almost a drum 'n' bass song, and you wouldn't hear a band playing it. We try and do songs that people love but put a bit of our own magic into it."

 Dave Turner

Dave Turner

Wildfire are in their element on the stage, and there are three big local gigs to look forward to: The Big Kings, in Ulverston, this Saturday; The Strawberry, in Barrow, on Saturday May 13; and another Barrow date at The Derby on May 19. Then the plan is to focus on booking some out-of-town shows.

A new EP is looking likely in the coming months too, with three songs completed and ready to record, and a handful more just needing a few tweaks. It's a release more for the band than anything else.

With only a five-year-old record - featuring a long since departed line-up, to their name - Wildfire need something new to hand to promoters and venues as they set out to make a name for themselves beyond South Cumbria.

It might never have reached this stage though. Last summer, Jonny was facing up to the prospect that his music career was over.

One night in June he paid a visit to Carl's Barrow flat, only to slip off a wet metal veranda and fall 16 ft onto his back.

Laying there for two hours wondering if he was paralysed, and in a bed at Royal Preston Hospital for four months wondering if he'd ever pick up a guitar again, Jonny knows that it could have all ended up much, much worse.

"I was centimetres away from certain death, and it was just a massive wake up call for me.

"It was a hell of a long time to just lie there and think, and everything was going through my head.

"There's a metal rod in my back now, and I realise that I was really, really lucky."

Dave adds: "When I was told by his mum that he'd broken his back, to me that meant he was paralysed. My first thought was 'how am I going to push him up the stairs in the Nines?'.

"To see him up on the stage rocking out just six months later was incredible."

The road to recovery wasn't without its struggles, but to overcome such an ordeal so quickly has given Jonny a new lease of life.

To pick up a guitar again and share the stage with his two good mates means more than anything, and he's thankful for his second chance.

"I missed it like God knows what," he says.

"It was four months before I held a guitar again - before that I don't think I'd gone a day without touching a guitar for about 20 years.

"At first though I wanted to see what I could do, and I was really struggling with singing. I'd punctured a lung, and I just couldn't physically manage playing and singing.

"I did my physio and I've kept that up, and eventually it just got easier.

"It's the best feeling ever being back on the stage, and I'm enjoying every minute of it."

Catch Wildfire headlining at the Big Kings, in Ulverston, on Saturday, from 8.30pm. Entrance is free.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at 12:42PM
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