Of all the less-known heavy bands from the early 1970's, INCREDIBLE HOG remains one of my favourite groups. Their only full-length record 'Volume 1' is a powerful masterpiece of raw blues-driven heavy rock. INCREDIBLE HOG are loud and their riffs are chunky and drop like a hammer. There are no pseudo-progressive noodlings and the songs are straight in your face. Having in mind all of the accomplishments, it's the more sad that apparently nobody seemed to care about this great band. At least that was my impression 20 years ago. But fortunately things have changed for the better due to the greatly increased interest in 1970's heavy rock and riff-based rock in general. INCREDIBLE HOG have also noted this so it's no wonder that the band re-united which also led to a performance at this years Roadburn Festival. In addition, Rise Above Relics has released an excellent re-issue of 'Volume 1' in 2011, which leaves hardly a wish unfulfilled with its unreleased demo cuts. For me as a huge fan of INCREDIBLE HOG, it was about time to do an interview with guitarist/vocalist Ken Gordon. You can probably not imagine what it means to me, because for almost 20 years I was waiting for this moment. Due to this reason, it's an extremely in-depth interview and I hope you like it. Thanks to Lee Dorian for the support.
Hey Ken, it is an honour and pleasure for me to do an interview with you. I never thought this would happen, but fortunately I was wrong. So, let's get into the time machine and let's stop in the very early 1970s. If my information is correct, you and bassist Jim Holmes played together in a band named SPEED AUCTION, before you formed INCREDIBLE HOG. Please, tell me more about SPEED AUCTION. When was the band founded and what kind of music did you play?
The classic Rock band "How-we-got-together-at-school" clichÃ©; I was 18 and still at school when I first bought a guitar in 1968 and joined up with fellow students Jim Holmes (Bass), Alan Drew (Drums) and Barry McGee (Guitar) to form Speed Auction. We were all self-taught and musically illiterate! We covered classic Rhythm n' Blues standards played by most of the British Blues Boom bands of the time. Songs by Muddy Waters ('Got My Mojo Workin' & 'Catfish Blues'), Sonny Boy Williamson 2nd ('Checkin' Up On My Baby' & 'Help Me'), Chuck Berry, the obligatory 'Johnny B. Goode' and I recall an original song called the 'Tin-Man'! Fleetwood Mac's 'Long Grey Mare' and The Yardbirds 'Over Under Sideways Down'! We really cut our musical teeth by endless jamming around 12 Bar Blues songs!
How would you describe the music scene in London at the time when you played under the name SPEED AUCTION? Was it easy for you to get gigs?
Speed Auction hustled for gigs in local schools and community centres learning our trade for the next 18 months, until we finished school. Speed Auction gigged at the legendary Bottleneck Blues Club in Stratford, East London with Sam Apple Pie and John Walden's Blues Workshop. The dream for all new bands would have been to play at the Mecca of the growing underground Blues/Rock scene, the legendary Marquee Club in London's Wardour Street! That's where the Who and the Rolling Stones found fame! It was a stepping stone for many of the now iconic Rock and Prog Rock bands still performing today! But Speed Auction was still school kids and worshippers at the new altar of Rock music.
The thermometer for all contemporary music was the Pop chart, it was a sociological guide to teenage culture; even recordings by the new bubbling Underground scene would sneak into the Top 40 like Cream, Jimi Hendrix, the Who and the Yardbirds! The charts polarised popular music taste of the time and acted as the only mirror of popular music culture in the late 60's. Don't forget this was the analogue age, you had to play to be seen or heard if you were an unknown act! We still had monochrome TV with only 3 mainstream conventional channels. The underground scene survived with the support of the Rock clubs and pirate radio (John Peel) stations. The alternate music press was the internet of the day. The Melody Maker was the Rock bible for the alternate underground scene, if you didn't appear in their hallowed pages you were anonymous.
Teenage identity was dictated by the musical cloak that you adopted. You were either a Mod who followed Soul music, early Who and Tamla Motown; a Rocker who followed the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and American R'n'B, or a Hippie into bands such as the Doors, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan and the Byrds! Live music was ubiquitous, everywhere in pubs, clubs and the emerging free concerts in parks and fields. It was an amazing time to live in with the explosion of new sub-cultures in music, a fertile cocktail being brewed of Blues, Heavy Rock, R'n'B, Rock 'n' Roll, Folk music and Psychedelic music all planting the seeds and the platform for the different music genres of today! We would watch many of the iconic bands of Rock music for peanuts in our local rock pub!
When did you decide to form INCREDIBLE HOG and what was the reason for you to close the SPEED AUCTION chapter?
In 1968/69 the band members of Speed Auction had finished their school studies and went their separate ways into work. But for me it had been my musical baptism and my first step into premature musical oblivion! In 1970 Barry McGee took up a career in banking and we reformed as a power rock trio which was effectively the birth of the not so incredible Hog! We were christened originally under the name of Monolith and again gigged at the legendary Bottleneck Blues Club by coincidence with Sam Apple Pie!
What were your musical influences?
My father was the lead violinist with the Leeds Philharmonic and a great Operatic Tenor who gave up his musical career to raise a family; he became a part-time music teacher and a reluctant lecturer in Mechanical Engineering. My mother was a gentle nurse who flirted with Chopin on the piano. So my early influences were Puccini, Verdi, Chopin, Sibelius and all the great Classical Romantic composers. My secret (we were not allowed to listen to pop music in the 50's) Pop music influences were the usual suspects, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Everly Brothers, the Shadows and the incomparable Beatles.
I was a massive fan of most early 60's American Pop music and would religiously listen to Radio Luxembourg to learn the Top 40 Charts of by heart! My Blues/Rock influences from the British Blues Boom 60's era were numerous including John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, the Yardbirds, Savoy Brown, Jimi Hendrix, and of course the Godfathers of the heavy rock trio Cream! My biggest influence was probably my hero Rory Gallagher and the late 60's mystical universe of the Psychedelic world of the Underground!
I think that INCREDIBLE HOG was a great choice for a band name. Have you been influenced by the Earth-7840's version of the Hulk?
No! In fact I have only recently discovered that the Incredible Hog was a brief Marvel Comic creation. Jim and I dispute the origin of the name because we were originally just plain old Hog! I seem to recall spoofing the name from the iconic Incredible Hulk Marvel Comic creation of Stan Lee!
Where and when did you meet drummer Tony Awin?
After Speed Auction, Jim joined a short lived Jazz-Rock band and the drummer was Tony; they cannot remember the band name.