STOMPIN’ DAVE ALLEN –Multi-instrumental roots wizardry

Stompin’ Dave is Dave Allen a multi-instrumentalist and one of the best in the UK. His mastery of Banjo, Guitar, Piano, Fiddle and harmonica is staggering; add in his dancing (hence ‘Stomping’ Dave) and it’s a unique combination. He performs in various formats; solo; as a duo accompanied by guitarist & bassist Dave Saunders; and as a three piece electric band.  Watching Dave perform in the electric band is an experience in itself – his stage set includes – fiddle, banjo, harmonica in harness, electric piano, acoustic guitar, resonator guitar and electric arch-top guitar. That amounts to a lot of leads and wire, and it adds a certain frisson to Dave’s live show – as he moves quite gingerly around the stage, climbing over leads, picking up and putting down instruments, adjusting stands and various bits of protruding metal it feels as if we are on the brink of an almighty crash and disaster, there is a subtle air of Tommy Cooper as Dave moves around coming dangerously close to a crash. Its an element of the show that Dave takes advantage as he flips and throws the fiddle during his fiddle solos and comes within a hairsbreadth of dropping it; ‘Don’t worry he assures us’, it’s only a cheapie: that’s very funny but there is an air of tension a degree of stress about Dave, especially during the early part of a show – but as things settle, Dave cools and proceeds, with a certain rusticity to charm the audience as he presents an astonishing range of roots and blues music.


You’ve obviously been doing well in terms of gigs and festivals, especially in the past 18 months. From our perspective in London it was like you suddenly came out of nowhere and everyone was saying like ‘Hey, have you seen this guy Stomping Dave?’ So I wonder if you can tell us initially have you sensed a real ‘coming into the spotlight’


That would be really wonderful if I could start really making some head road, because it is a very difficult business to make an impact, especially playing the niche types of music that I’m interested in. I am disadvantaged by geography in some ways. I have been working out of beautiful deepest Dorset, so to anyone not familiar with the West Country scene, I guess I may seem to of come out of nowhere. I have been very active across the south of the UK, particularly the south-west for quite some time.  I performed my first solo gig in London at ‘What’s Cooking?’ recently, and I’m set to perform at The Ealing Blues Festival in the summer.


We read your in-depth bio on the web-site and it’s obvious you’ve been very deeply into music for a long-time, but how long have you been doing music full-time? And did you have much of a selection of jobs outside of music before you began getting established


I’m very lucky I’ve never had a real job. Upon finishing school, I went Bournemouth & Poole College to study music, then I had a couple of years out where I travelled, was a street entertainer and studied classical music, then I went to do a music degree at Southampton University. Since I completed my degree in 2000 I have been very lucky to have been able to make my way playing music.


In terms of recordings you are, to say the least, prodigious; was there a sense of ‘having to get it all down’?


It’s an obsession, I move through a lot of different music, and I like to document where I am at any given time. I love the process of making recordings. In addition to the ten albums I’ve produced in the last six years under the Stomping’ Dave name. In my previous incarnation as Dr. Stomp (began in 1998) I produced eight albums. There is an album or two that never got released in the transition period, other albums of side projects, of possible release quality, that for one reason or another got shelved. Plus I have two big boxes of cassette tape recordings, I’ve made over the years which maybe one day I’ll get to sort through and put on CD.


You seem to be a bit of a cottage industry – it also harks back to the old days, especially in the USA, of independent labels – what’s your method of recording


I have a digital 8 track recorder, I love it! I use a very old fashioned naturalistic method of recording. I very rarely use overdubs or digital editing, or effects, and if I do they are used very sparsely. I basically set up mics and I/we play into them.


As an example; the recent release ‘Stomping Dave’s Electric Band’, was most of that done in one take, or how many takes?


The latest Electric Band release was recorded in the skittle alley of The Ship Inn, Upwey in Dorset.  That was all done in two evening, so mostly one or two takes. The band albums have been very spontaneous.


You are very prolific in terms of recording and releasing albums – it’s almost as if you can’t wait ‘to get it all down’ – there’s intensity there – can you comment


As I have said, it’s a bit of obsession.  It’s silly really. I guess I should slow down and be more measured, but I find it hard to stop myself. I think I have at times felt urgency at times to show people what I can do, and quickly so that I can get the kind of gigs I would like as soon as possible. I have been impatient. I get interested in different types of music. Also I guess I have been too eclectic and made myself hard to categorize. I guess I get bored too quick and want to try something else; whether it’s different musical styles or instruments. It has made for an interesting show for those who have seen me, but I know I’ve alienated some people along the way.


At my novelty show gigs when I perform a lot of banjo music, and do a lot of tap dancing I don’t sell so many CD’s. Although those shows have broad appeal, and high entertainment value, but it’s a pretty unique type of person that wants to actually buy a CD of tap dancing and banjo music. Again, I do have a growing number of people that seem to buy whatever I bring out though.


I have quite a lot of projects in my mind currently that I want to get down. I want to record an album of the classic solo acoustic blues pieces that I’ve built up. I also have enough material for a follow up to my Fake American Accent bluegrass album. I also have enough material worked up for a Flat-picking Guitar CD, which has been an interest of mine since I first visited Winfield Festival in Kansas. It’s a matter of what to start on first as I already have a lot to finish off. I made a live recording Michael Roach at the Electric Palace, in Bridport fairly recently that needs completing. I absolutely adore it, but I guess Michael may not want to release it. I also think I have a CD’s worth of live material of myself performing with Dave Saunders the past year or so, which I have not finished as some of the mixing, I began on, got lost in a car crash I had before Christmas. I also have an albums worth of  original material that I recorded in a studio type setting (my mate’s garage), with a new rock line-up that needs to be mixed. What happens is that the machine gets filled up with stuff and I can’t do anymore recording until I address it, which is the boring part, even though there is satisfaction when a project is finished. I would get another recording machine, but it would just double the problem.


I am not the most organised of people. I also really want to release one of the albums that got lost between Dr.Stomp and Stompin’ Dave, which is already mixed and mastered but I’ve currently lost the photograph that I want to use for the cover.

 > > Part 2


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