Roger Nowell has been a part of the Paul Weller crew / family since 1999 – when he started as drum tech for Steve White. A fine bass player in his own right, he soon moved on to work directly with Paul (and his guitars) and has been Head Roadie since the 22 Dreams days.
In 1982, whilst The Jam were in the process of calling it a day, Roger (AKA Trotwood) was starting up his latest band Skeletal Family (the name taken from the song “Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family” from David Bowie’s 1974 album, Diamond Dogs by the way).
The band were not only one of the most influential groups of the eighties Gothic era, with a worldwide fan base spanning all ages, they also regularly topped the UK indie charts and furiously gigged the length and breadth of the UK and Europe. They even supported The Sisters of Mercy during their 1984 Black October tour.
Their debut single “Trees” gained extensive airplay from BBC Radio One’s John Peel, with the band making an impressive, stunning debut at London’s Fulham Greyhound in April 1982. They went on to release two studio albums – Burning Oil in 1984 and Futile Combat in 1985.
Lead singer, Anne-Marie Hurst left the band in 1985 and the remaining members briefly continued before disbanding in 1986.
The roadie side of life kicked off for Roger in the early nineties, via a phone-call that led to him leaving a world of brick-laying to join Oasis on tour in the US and then spending 6 years with the band and crew, right up to the recording (and tour planning) for the bands 4th album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants.
He then moved to roadie for Culture Club and Ocean Colour Scene before arriving with Paul Weller’s crew on a permanent basis around the time of Studio 150 and he’s been a part of the mix for around 20 years now.
We’re talking tours for As Is Now, 22 Dreams, Wake Up The Nation, Sonik Kicks, Saturns Pattern, A Kind Revolution, True Meanings through to last year’s gigs for On Sunset and Fat Pop. They’ve been all over the UK and Europe to the USA and Japan and even down under to play The Sydney Opera House, in 2018.
Click your preferred podcast platform to listen or hit the player below…
EP81 – Roger Nowell – Head Roadie / Guitar Tech… ”I don’t need a ship to sail in stormy weather…” – Paul Weller Fan Podcast : Desperately Seeking Paul
The Return of Skeletal Family
On his own musical career, Skeletal Family have had various iterations over the years.
First reforming with Roger, Stan Greenwood, Ian “Karl Heinz” Taylor and Anne-Marie Hurst in 2002.
The latter had to drop out due to family commitments, replaced briefly by Katrina Phillips, and then by new vocalist Claire Bannister.
That band line up went on to top the bill at New York’s Drop Dead Music Festival, play various European festival dates, including three times at Leipzig’s Gotik-Treffen (Europe’s largest Gothic/Alternative festival with an annual attendance of 30,000 people) and played to an ecstatic audience at the UK’s largest Punk Weekender Wasted Festival in Blackpool.
In July 2005, the band released a new album called Sakura. The title is a double entendre. As vocalist Claire explains “Sakura” is Japanese for cherry blossom, inviting comparisons of a band emerging, revived and revitalised, after not one, but twenty years of hibernation! But also interpreted as a brief, glimpsing, moment of beauty, prior to degeneration back into the welcoming darkness of Mother Earth”.
Recorded over 12 months, the album featured 12 new tracks, citing influences, as varied as The Velvet Underground, Devo, Cramps and Duanne Eddy. It’s a musical story of a band amassing a collection of debris from past, present and future, absorbing and then regurgitating all aspects of popular culture.
Recording with Paul Weller…
In 2010, three founding members of Skeletal Family reunited (Roger, Stan & Anne Marie) to create a new album called Day of All Days (billed as an Anne-Marie solo album at the time, it’s essentially a Skeletal Family album in all but name). Deviating from their original death-rock beginnings into a more rockier sound the resultant album was well received. You can buy it here.
The 13 tracks were recorded at Paul Weller’s Black Barn Studio in Ripley, Surrey and engineered by Charles Rees, with Paul playing a mix of mellotron and piano on Dreamy Days and Your Eyes and Steve Cradock also playing piano on album closer Mixed Feelings.
The band then rebranded as The Skeletal family and performed regularly throughout Europe, USA and South America with various line ups.
Playing on Wake Up The Nation and Sonik Kicks
In 2010, Paul released Wake Up the Nation which featured Roger on Synth Bass for the track Andromeda (along with Steve Cradock on 12 string guitar and engineer Charles Rees on Drums).
The next LP Sonik Kicks featured a host of people credited on bass – Noel Gallagher, Marco Nelson, Andy Crofts, Andy Lewis and Roger! On checking with Rog, it was the track Around the Lake that he played on.
The Best of Skeletal Family and a New Future…
In 2015, Cherry Red Records released Eternal, a definitive 5-CD box set of Skeletal Family’s back catalogue. Both of the band’s albums Burning Oil and Futile Combat are included, alongside all their non-album singles, B-sides and rare compilation appearances. For the first time, many of the band’s unissued BBC sessions for John Peel, Kid Jensen and Janice Long are also included.
As you’ve heard on the podcast, a new Skeletal Family line-up has been confirmed since original vocalist Anne-Marie Hurst left to concentrate of her Killing Eve collaboration with former All About Eve / The Mission bassist, Andy Cousins. Yorkshire-based singer/songwriter Hannah Small joins Stan, Trotwood and Ozzy with a welcome return of keyboardist/sax player Karl Heinz who was originally with the band in their early formation and during 00’s when the band reformed.
The band have been back in the studio (Black Barn – Paul Weller HQ) to record a new album (fingers crossed for a 2022 release) and November 2020 saw the band release a new demo – called State – which was recorded at Black Barn in the February of that year. Exciting times indeed!
Paul Weller’s Tech & Live in 2022
It was great to hear all about Paul’s tech on the podcast too.
To confirm, Paul uses a Gibson SG, Epiphone Casino and Fender Telecaster (oh and each has a back up!).
His preferred acoustic is the Guild and he uses Elixir strings (moving from Picato in recent years).
As you can hear, I’m pretty clueless when it comes to pedal boards – but Roger confirmed that Paul uses a Jim Dunlop Cry Baby WahWah Pedal, Boss RE20 Echo, Blues Driver 2, Fuzz FZ5, TU-3 Tuner and they have recently added a TC Electronic Drip Spring Reverb. Oh, and Fender Heavy Plectrums! (He kindly handed me one with a Paul Weller signature on it!).
At the time of writing, The Paul Weller Band will be back out on the road for a mammoth tour of the UK in March & April 2022 (22 dates across England and Scotland by my count). They then head to Europe (fingers crossed) throughout May into the beginning of June – with a variety of festival and outdoor shows across the Summer, before picking back up in Europe in September.
Check out the latest news and dates here.
1981 – The Elements – Elementary
1984 – Skeletal Family – Burning Oil
1985 – Skeletal Family – Futile Combat
2003 – Skeletal Family – Disinterred – Live at Leeds Cockpit
2005 – Skeletal Family – Sakura
2009 – Skeletal Family – Songs of Love, Hope & Despair
2010 – PW – Wake Up The Nation (Roger on Bass on Andromeda)
2011 – Skeletal Family / Anne-Marie Hurst – Day of all Days
2012 – PW – Sonik Kicks (Roger on Bass on Around the Lake)