Ian Prowse has been busy these past two years. Being one of the few artists who managed a gig during the pandemic and two album releases, plus another on the way. There’s also the legendary Christmas gig at the O2 Liverpool coming up.
There’s a new album out in February 2022 called One Hand on the Starry Plough as well as a raft of gigs. Not to skip over the fact Ian Prowse has been busy during lockdown with the release of some back catalogue material in the form of The Story of Ian Prowse and the re-release of the much loved, but hard to find first Amsterdam album, Attitunes.
There’s more on the way as well, but read on to find out what.
Fresh out of lockdown (for now at least) Ian Prowse has been back on the road gigging and making plans for the Liverpool Christmas gig coming in December. That’s always a proper hair down, dress up, but don’t care evening.
We had the chance to have a conversation. Here’s what he had to say:
P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?
Ian: I’m at home, Liverpool city centre, near the Scandinavian Church. And I’m entertaining my nine year old.
P3dro: So, you’ve got the Christmas show coming up, but you were also one of the few people who managed to get something going last year .
Ian: Yeah. I was talking about this the other day. I had a good pandemic, if such a thing could be possible. Most people didn’t and I’m very aware [of that], but I was OK. We were on tour with Elvis Costello and we’d done 10 of the 13 dates when he came to us and said “I’m getting no direction from any authority, I’ve got half an American crew and half an American band and I’m just going to have to send everybody home.“
So, we were absolutely gutted because we were having the time of our lives. We were going down fab. But I also had loads of merch, unsold. So, I decided to do a Friday night Facebook live gig and let the fans choose the songs. We had so many people tune in and they were saying “Do another one next week”. It’s easy to forget back then, there was nothing to do. It was scary.
We ended up doing 40 of them. I was getting a lot of emails from people from lots of different places around the world saying this was one thing they were looking forward to each week to keep body and soul together. So, I treated it with a lot of respect. It took me a whole week to prepare the show. It became like a variety show and I told stories about meeting Shane McGowan or Joe Strummer or Bruce Springsteen. I re-learned very old songs, I did pertinent covers. BLM [was big] so I learned the Peter Gabriel song – Biko. If you’d told me even three months before that I would have been learning a Peter Gabriel song, I’d have said “You’re fucking mad”.
It became “A Thing” and we had lots of people tuning in. But it was about them, not about me. We’d all talk to each other and basically get drunk together on a Friday night. And I’d soundtrack that drunkenness with songs. It was brilliant. They were incredibly generous and I’d get paid via a tips link. So, I found out early on in the pandemic I was gonna be OK and was able to pay the rent during lockdown. So, that was a relief.
But it was all about getting the audience involved and building a community. We kept them going and it kept me going as well. It was vital.
P3dro: So, how did the Philharmonic gig last December come about?
Ian: It was weird. We’d been re-configuring gigs all the time, thinking this would all be over in three months. So, we were ever pushing them back and pushing them back. We do a big Christmas show every year at the O2. It’s lovely and, again, it’s not about me or the band, it’s about everybody in there joining together. But we knew we couldn’t do a standing up show and The Phil got in touch saying we can put it on and afford to distance everybody. We had to jump through so many hoops, but in the end we did two shows in one day and it was an absolute joy to do.
P3dro: You’ve also managed to release the Story of Ian Prowse and, then more recently, the re-release of Attitunes.
Ian: There were so many things that happened because of those Friday night shows, people were saying “Next week will you play this song, or that song?” And, I thought I was the only person who ever remembered those songs. Because the first two Amsterdam albums were 250 copies and once they had been sent out on mail order, then that was it. We couldn’t afford to make any more. So, Attitunes had a very short life span, it never got a proper release, was never in the shops, we weren’t signed, so it just fell by the wayside. But some people were asking [to hear songs from that album].
So, I’d play the song and then others were asking how to get hold of these songs. If you weren’t one of those people who sent me a postal order in 2001, then you’d never have heard them.
So, it was absolutely lovely and the first thing we did when we got back to semi-normal was an official release of Attitunes, get it into shops, streaming etc. I remember when we did the pre-order for the CD, we sold more than 250 in the first seven minutes. So, that set of songs finally got their moment in the sun.
There’s the other album, The Curse, which came after Attitunes, we’ll [re-release] that one as well, because people keep asking. There’s a bunch of about 10 songs that nobody’s ever heard and never made either of those two albums, so, when we put out The Curse, everybody can have those 10 songs as well.
When I go back and listen to them, I think “They’re pretty good. Why didn’t they go on the record?”
P3dro: You’ve managed to get out on the road over the last few months. How has that been?
Ian: All of these gigs have been moved at least four times, but I didn’t want them to go into 2022, because that’s what I do. People were hungry and they wanted to see the gigs. And off the back of the Friday night shows, I knew people were [keen]. The ticket sales have gone through the roof, so we knew people wanted to come out. Doing the gigs and getting back out is an absolute joy.
P3dro: Is there anything exciting planned for the O2 gig in December?
Ian: Yeah, we do, but it hasn’t been announced yet! but it will be the Christmas show to end all Christmas shows, given what we’ve all been through. And I know people will be coming from all over for it. It will be the usual full on show, with a couple of surprises in the set list. It’ll just be a party.
P3dro: You always give the impression you and the band are having a really good time.
Ian: Yeah. If somebody’s bothered to buy a ticket, maybe got a hotel, been out drinking or had something to eat, then it’s an expensive do for people. So, you’re not gonna come and see me with a cob on. I should fucking be in a good mood – these people are paying a lot of money. I’m doing the loveliest job in the world to people who appreciate it and I treat the audience with as much respect as possible. I’d make the show longer than two hours if they’d let me!
P3dro: Recommend a band or an album you think we should be listening to right now.
Ian: I’ve been listening to a song called Aye by Sam Fender. That’s a good song. I also listened to Cry Baby Cry by The Beatles because I’d completely forgotten it existed. A lovely gem of a John Lennon song. I’ve also listened to Anne Briggs today. And The Jam. I always say I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Paul Weller, they were the first band I ever saw and the passion of it all hit me so hard.
We have a new album coming out in February next year called ‘One Hand on the Starry Plough’. There are a couple of tracks on that which are really, really rocking – proper guitar tracks. For me, whatever it was that Paul Weller imbued me with at those gigs is the fuel with which I made those three tracks on the new album.
Ian Prowse and Amsterdam play Liverpool O2 Academy on 11 December 2021. Tickets from the usual places.