After battling cancer, frontman Alex Lowe has emerged triumphant and resurrected his old band with a new line up. In 2015 Hurricane #1 released their first album in 16 years, "Find What You Love And Let It Kill You" to critical acclaim. Alex Lowe took time out from recording their next album to talk to Mark Millar to talk about his incredible journey.
Hi Alex what have you been up to recently?
I’m just happy that I got the results from my cancer scans. I have been waiting for weeks chewing my fingernails waiting on the results. When I got the results back they were perfect and said I’m clean as a whistle; everything is great you are cancer clear. I got on the blower to the guys and everybody is so relieved. We did have to cancel a few shows because of my health. My health was really bad; it really was a bad time for me. I think last year because of my health we were just dipping our toes a bit with the new band, just to see how things were going to work and it worked out fantastic. We got a record deal and we put out a new album which has done really well so that’s what I’ve been up to. My health has been the most important thing just now. I got the scan results back and it’s been such a relief. It’s been a scary time; the last few years have been dreadful.
How did you feel when you found out you had cancer?
It was weird really, they took me in and told me they had found a mass and I thought, “Ooh right, ok”. It kind of went over my head and I asked what the next step was. They said they would give me chemo and radiotherapy and I just thought, “No problem”. I didn’t really want to believe it to be honest and I think that’s what got me through. In the end, I was on chemo pills: they were ok then I got chemo through the drip for about ten hours the first day then they left it for a month and on the last day of my chemo it was ten hours again. I sailed through the lot and about two weeks after that I started going downhill, it just hit me.
They took me into hospital because I was losing so much weight. I was in the hospital for 3-4 weeks. I thought, “I’m never going to get out of here”. My potassium levels went up to 8.9 – you should be dead at 8.4, so they were really worried. Now it’s like I’ve never had anything. I’m running seven miles a day, I’ve been doing that for the last 4 weeks and some exercises. I was a boxer for about 9 years and I used to train constantly. That’s all I ever did.
When I got the letter in I was scared to open the thing. It would sit there for days and I was like, “I can’t open this”. I was going to wait until the band came up this week and ask one of the boys to open the letter to tell me the results, but I thought I can’t do that, I can’t put that on their head. I had to get it and open it up and just get it over with and man up.
Do you fear death?
I believe in the supernatural, you don’t just die and that’s it. There is something else. There has to be. When I was in the hospital I had the bad kidney thing which I’ve still got. They told me they were going to take me into a room and put a line down my neck through my vein into my kidney. I was like WTF? So they took me into a room where there was a female Nigerian doctor who could hardly speak a word of English and didn’t wash her hands or wear gloves. I said, “You really need to wash your hands”. I asked her, “Have you done this procedure before?” She said, “No” and I thought, “Oh no, I'm in trouble here”. So they got this other doctor to stand with her so she could do the procedure. She had a camera and monitor so she could see where she was putting the line through my neck and down past my heart to my kidney. So she starts off putting it in and I thought, “There’s something not right here”. I had it done before and it was easy but this was the second time. When she put it in I started feeling like I was sinking into the bed. I thought, “What the hell is going on?”
Then all of a sudden bang! Gone. Nothing! I sat up on the bed and I thought "God what the hell happened there?" I put my hand on my neck to see if the line was in and it was gone. I looked around and I thought, “This is amazing I feel great!” So I jumped off the bed and I sat in the wheelchair and said to the nurse, “Excuse me, could you take me back to my room I feel great now?” She ignored me and didn’t answer. I said, “Excuse me, could you take me back to my room please?” There was a red light going off and on on the wall but I couldn’t hear anything. Then all of a sudden all these doctors came running in like headless chickens. I looked and saw myself lying on the bench.
You had died?
Yeah! I stood up off the wheelchair and the first thing I said to myself was, “Oh for fucksake I’m dead”. Then all of a sudden I looked up at the corner of the ceiling and all I heard was a whirring sound. There was nothing there, but there was this whirring sound going in and out coming towards my face then moving away. It was like a presence. So I shouted out “Who’s that?” I thought this isn't good and I started to panic, though I felt the same as what I was when I was alive. I didn’t feel any different. All of a sudden I felt myself falling and I fell back into my body. I jumped up and I started to try and get my breath. I heard the doctor say, “He’s back”. Then they put the oxygen on me and I heard the doctor say, “You’re okay Mr Lowe”. I said, “Did you just see what I saw?” I was trying to tell him that I could see what he was doing and he didn’t believe me obviously. They took me back to the room and I swear to God I was shivering. They had to give me a Valium to calm me down. So that’s what happened. It’s been nearly a year ago now. I was only gone for 32 seconds but it felt like a lifetime.
Alan McGee really supported you during your illness and he was very instrumental in the band reforming.
We would keep in touch, me and Alan are really good buddies. I might not speak to Alan for 9 months and he would phone me and say, “Come down to see me”, and I would go down. He’s always been there for me. He phoned me about 7 in the morning about a year ago and got me out of my bed. I was just after my operation I was really sore and I could hardly walk. All he said on the phone was, “Alex reform Hurricane, I’ll speak to you later,” and then he put the phone down.
I was like, “Did I just dream that”? He phoned back later on and said, “Are you going to do it”? I said, “No!”. And Alan said, “Do it mate, the time is right. There’s hardly anyone doing rock n roll now. Do it”. So I said, “Right, okay”. I asked the original line up, but Gaz and Will were too set in their ways. Will works in a library now and Gaz works with homeless people. I spoke to Andy Bell on the phone he said, “ I would love to do it, but I’ve got Ride back together, but please do it”. He said, “I’ll play on the albums and stuff and if you have any shows I will make a guest appearance but it’s your band now so just do it.”
I had these other guys in the wings who were there anyway, so we said let’s get together and call it Hurricane #1. Alan McGee said, “You were the singer and the front-man anyway, people will remember you or Andy as Hurricane #1 so it doesn’t matter.” So we got together and started rehearsing and never looked back.
Hurricane #1 came through during the whole Britpop era. It must have been an exciting time for a new band. Do you have many good memories from then?
Oh yeah, that was a really mad time. It was just unbelievable. I come from a small town in Scotland and everybody used to ask me what I wanted to be when I leave school and I used to say, “I want to be a rock-star.” and they used to say, “No, no, what do you really want to be? Nobody does that if you’re from a small town.” I said, “No, I want to be in a band and I want to be on Top of the Pops and do tours”. So when I did got signed to Creation I thought, “Bloody hell this is fantastic”. The best memories I have is when we were in Creation headquarters. It was madness in there, it was total mayhem. Alan McGee was trying to sober himself up then when Hurricane #1 came on the scene he was a little bit straighter then, but he was still mad. There were parties all the time at the Creation offices. It wasn’t like a business. You would walk in and someone would hand you a bottle of Jack Daniels. Another memorable thing was meeting all the bands that I loved before I was signed.
I could never afford to go to festivals, I was broke. I was living in a caravan before I got signed. I was staying in a caravan with absolutely nothing. Then I got the phone call to come to London and sign for Creation. I was meeting all these people like Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream, the guys from Teenage Fan Club and Noel Gallagher, and I thought, “Six months ago I was picking raspberries for a living and now here I am signing a million-pound record deal”.
The band received a lot of stick back in the 90s for letting the Sun newspaper use one of your songs ‘Only the Strongest Will Survive’ in an advertisement.
Yeah, the thing is because I come from a small town I never see politics in stuff. I don’t get the politics with music. You should keep politics totally separate from music there's enough shit in the world without putting music and politics together. Fuck the politics, I don't give a shit about it, it doesn't bother me. I got handed £25.000 for singing on that. Now if somebody comes to you and says we want to use your piece in the Daily Record or The Sun and we are going to give you 25 grand. Would you take it? Of coarse you would. Well, we got 25 grand each. And the people who said blah blah blah you shouldn't have done it. Are they going to pay us 25 grand? I don't think so, and I'm like, “I'll take the 25 grand thank you very much”.
Lemmy said to me years ago, “Never think about the selling out bullshit, ‘cos all these people who say you sell out they haven't got 2 pennies to rub together". If you don't want to sell out then sit in your bedroom and play the guitar and don't go out. Bands are always complaining you hear about all these bands saying, “We have been on the road for two weeks, we can't take it any more” – then don't do it then! Don't complain about it, Just sit in your bedroom and play the guitar. I don't get that double standards shit. I love being on the road if I could be on the road 365 days of the year I would. You get all these bands who just complain about the stupidest stuff and they don't know how lucky they are to get paid for something they enjoy doing. There are guys stacking shelves in Tesco for 8 quid an hour.
You get these bands who try to be all cool and artistic who say, “We don't sell out our music man”. – well don't fuckin play then. Why would you not want a helicopter and a chauffeur to drive you about? Why would you want to sit in a transit van all your life in the back sleeping in the freezing cold going to gigs? Because everything you do to get to that point where you want to be famous – you’re selling out! Every single band that's famous like the Libertines, for instance, they have sold out a hundred times. They don't think they have but of course, they have, and I don't blame them, go for it and get as much out of it as you can.
It's a great thing if you can get in the side of the press. Years ago the first time around with Hurricane I tried to be so nice to the press. I was really good with everyone but it did us no favours. You get some people who contact you that don't like your music they just want to fuck you up. Nobody reads NME anymore it's went down the pan. I think they get about 7000 readers a week now but in our day it was like 250.000 readers a week. I told NME if they review our latest album I'll come down and knock-in their door because the last album of ours they reviewed they gave it zero out of ten (laughs). They are just stupid little boys. We had a big band meeting and we said – we do what we do and that's it. If nobody likes it, then they don't like it, but somebody will like it somewhere. We're not trying to be anybody or trying to prove anything. We just want to play rock and roll.
That's why I put the statement out with our last album, I said - don't try and look into the songs too much, they are just songs. It's just an album I wrote when I was ill with cancer. Just like the songs and if you don't like them I'm not fussed, but everybody seems to like it. Q magazine gave it a great review and so did Rolling Stone. All the big magazines have really liked it and I'm so chuffed about that.
What kind of music influences you?
I’m a massive Beatles fan. If it wasn't for the Beatles I would never have picked a guitar up. I really love stuff like AC/DC and Motörhead. I'm really into a lot of American bands, too. To be honest with you when Britpop came out when The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays were around, I hated all at stuff. I never listened to any of it. I never knew who Oasis were until I signed to Creation, ‘cos I never listened to anything like that. The only British band I really listened to from that time was Primal Scream because I thought they were American (laughs). Being from a little town I was so naïve about British music but I really loved American music. I loved the Black Crowes, I loved Tom Petty, Wilco and Americana stuff. Crowded House is one of my favourite bands as well. I love songwriters, I love good hooks and melodies and choruses that I will always remember. That's how I write songs. I'm sitting in the middle of writing songs now. I have about 20 songs here on paper. I always try and write choruses that people will remember.
The next album is going to be a real rock and roll album. A real hard-edged rock and roll album it’s going to be called ‘Melodic Rainbows’. I have already written the song ‘Melodic Rainbows’ it's actually about Lemmy from Motörhead and the album is going to be dedicated to Lemmy. I knew Lemmy. I stayed with him for 2 weeks when I was over in LA and I got to know him quite well. He was a gentleman a really lovely guy. He used to hang out at the Rainbow on Sunset Boulevard. That's where we had our party when we signed to Warner Bros in America and that's when I met Lemmy. So I've written the album and it's dedicated to Lemmy. That’s why it's going to be a real hard-edged rock and roll album this time. It's going to be quite AC/DC quite Motörhead (laughs). There's going to be no ballads on this album it's going to be all rock and roll. I just love straightforward rock and roll. You've got 2 types of rock and roll. You've got Oasis type rock and roll and you've got AC/DC rock and roll and I know what I'd rather see.
When will the album be released?
In the summertime. Maybe in July. We will probably have it all done within 2 weeks. It only took us 18 hours to record the whole album. And it took me three days to write.
Why did you record it so quick?
I have always done that since I was a kid. I could never afford studio time and I always got into the routine of recording quick. I've been doing it so long now that it's a natural thing like walking or talking.
Why did the original line up decide to split after recording the second album?
We actually split up in Finland before we played a festival. Andy Bell got us together in the hotel and he said, “Look guys, I'm leaving the band”. I was like, “What? Why?” He said, “I can't write songs anymore”. I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “I have come to a brick wall and I can't write any more”. I was like "what the fuck?" So I went away to my room that night wondering what the hell was going on. That night we had a gig in Helsinki. I said to Andy, “Let me write the next album, I don’t care about the publishing or anything. Just keep the band together and let me write the next album, I’ve got 20 songs here we can do it.” I think because there was that much politics involved Andy didn’t want me to write the album to be honest. I was really disappointed we were at the height of our career.
We were about to tour Japan. The album went top five and we were playing massive venues and he fucking just ruined it. I was really angry at that time I thought, “What the fuck am I going to do now?” Then Andy joined Gay Dad and I thought, “What the fuck?” and that was it. We kind of lost touch for a while then Andy phoned me up and said, “Noel Gallagher has asked me to join Oasis." I said, “Do what you want, it’s nothing to do with me”. It was a shame the way Hurricane ended the way it did. I was so gutted.
I'm glad we have a new line up now ‘cos these guys have got my back and I've got their back. We are so close. Carlos and Lucas the two brothers are phenomenal players. These guys know exactly what they are doing and Chris is just a joker all he wants to do is shake people’s hands, smile, and play gigs. That’s what this band is about.
I remember hearing that Andy Bell didn’t want you to use the name Hurricane #1 with the new line up.
Yes, that’s right. I had just got out of hospital after my operation and I was really ill and Alan McGee phoned me and said, “Look I have spoken to Andy Bell. You can’t use the name”. I was like, “What? Why?” and he said, “He doesn’t want you to use the name. It’s stupid”. So Alan went onto Facebook and put up a nasty post about Andy Bell. Then Andy phoned me about half an hour later asking how I was and he said, “Look mate just use the name. I want you to use it.” He said, “I don’t know what I was thinking about.” He said, “It’s your band. Go for it”. If Andy wanted to come back to Hurricane #1 tomorrow the door is always open for him.
So what is next for Hurricane #1?
We have been in the studio working on the new album. We are also arranging a European tour and a UK tour. We will be looking to do festivals, too. Just the usual stuff. We have set up our own label. The label is called "Bourbon Sleaze Records" and it’s going to be releasing all of Hurricane #1 stuff. We won’t be signing anyone for a long time ‘cause we aren't sure how it’s going to work out yet. But we have distribution for the label in place and PR. That's it really.