When The Happy Mondays came to Chesterfield, Aza Brown, a singer/songwriter from Chesterfield, Derbyshire, spearheaded The WonderWhys, who opened for them and played twice at the Alexandra Palace (Ally Pally).
They were also on the Rock The Boat Cruise with Suzi Quatro and Slade and the Yardbirds and Big Country.
You can read more about his music career and hear about his most recent release in this lengthy interview we did with him.
What is your real name?
What’s your official Showbiz name?
Aza Brown – I chose this as it was my nickname at school and University, and Aaron Brown is also the name of a US Senator and is surprisingly more popular than you’d think
How did you get into music?
I was actually a choirboy from the age of 10. Then I got to 16/17/18 and people started asking me to sing in bands as “you must be able to sing if you’re in a choir”.
What field or genre are you into and how would you describe it?
I’m into all sorts of stuff, but the kinda stuff I write and I’m really into is “Power-Pop” – stuff like Jellyfish, The Lickerish Quartet, Brendon Benson, ELO etc – it’s like pop but with a bit more guitar, yet sticking to pop sensibilities and usually laden with vocal harmonies.
What was your first project and the people you worked with and which year?
My very first band was a dodgy metal band called Treason in 1990 – should probably move on quickly from there, so the first band proper was called The Dazy Age which started in 1992 and we kinda grew together and experimented in the band’s formative years. Danny and Dave went on in 1998 to form Rumpus – who had a great influence on Arctic Monkeys and actually had the same manager and producer
Who or what inspires you or motivates you? And why?
Great music inspires me. It’s amazing to be inspired and moved by music just when you didn’t expect it (a bit like love!). Hacking into a new emotion or something unexpected. Adversity inspires me too! I hate being told I can’t do something!
Any models you look up to? With reason(s) why?
Musically – Zappa, Jellyfish, Neil Hannon, Neil Finn – Melodic geniuses with an ear for a great song. Life coaches – Bill Hicks, Max Igan, Richie Allen – for telling it how it is!
What do you look out for in this line of business?
I look out for something different – when Arctic Monkeys first came out it was such a breath of fresh air from the same old/same old. Something that takes music forward, that pushes the boundaries – if it’s a new band, something fresh, if it’s an established band – watching how they evolve, like Radiohead or Everything Everything, for example
What are some of the challenges you face in your career path?
I’ve had to “relearn” everything after 15 years out and the Internet/Technology revolution. I’m not narcissistic enough to compete with some of the competition! 😉
How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?
When IIIII were’ a lad, we used to go out gigging and “the cream would naturally rise to the top”, word would get around and so would your name. Now, it’s a matter of who performs best on Social Media.
Now, don’t get me wrong – there’s a LOT of good music out there (and a lot of shit!), but if you can make consistently interesting content, then you’re onto a winner, which can sometimes overshadow how good the music is – you’ve gotta sell a “brand” though.
It’s a massive difference – you always needed to be thick-skinned, but now you’ve gotta be extra thick-skinned because sometimes the feedback can be instant and visceral!
Do you have any advice for aspiring songwriters?
I write 3 pages “stream of consciousness” every morning, without fail. If you do this, you start to perceive yourself as “a writer”, and as a result believe in yourself more. It’s very powerful, and as well as bringing forth lots of ideas, it calms down the (sometimes) negative chatter of the day. Keep a separate pad at the side of you for any ideas (song or life ideas!) that may come out in the process. It’s been life-changing for me and I’d recommend it to everyone.
What is your current project about?
There’s a theme running throughout the forthcoming album which refers to my generation – the “Exennials” (indeed, the album is called “Exennial”), which is a mash-up of Generation X and Millennials.
Those of a certain age have witnessed the “before and after” of the Internet and Tech Revolutions, and therefore by straddling either side have a very unique perspective of the state of the world today. Once we’re gone, there’ll never be a generation like us, so listen to our legacy…
What are your hobbies?
I love to keep fit and I play in the local squash leagues here in Chesterfield – I’d love to still play football but I always get injured and I’ve had SIX knee operations! I temper it by mountain biking in The Peak District (20 minutes in any direction from Chesterfield – except Sheffield and Mansfield – you’re in beautiful Countryside).
Other than that, I enjoy regularly exposing the Government and establishment for being the lying bastards that they are, which isn’t exactly hard, although a lot of “normies” can’t see what’s in front of them if it’s an inconvenient truth.
What do you do aside from this profession?
I’m a qualified English Teacher, and also at one point, I used to import and exhibit Fair Trade Artwork from Indonesia to the UK (and I can speak Indonesian to a fairly high standard as a result, randomly!).
Additionally, I founded a Podcast/Website/Youtube Channel celebrating the Music, Arts and Culture of Chesterfield and Derbyshire in order to try and reinvigorate the Music Scene here – which was absolutely thriving in the 90s.
It’s such a shame how people were duped into the CVD nonsense and now not only the Entertainment and Hospitality industries have been decimated, but people’s lives and businesses in all sectors all over the World.
What is one message you would give to your fans?
Turn off your TVs and think for yourselves – that’s two messages but once you instigate the first action, the second will follow naturally…