Tees

Eighteen years on the Teesside music scene with Phil Saunders

Image caption Phil in his new guise as a solo artist, singing songs about his life on the scene

If you are part of the music scene in Teesside then chances are you have heard of, worked with or watched Phil Saunders.

He has played in bands for 18 years and his day job is putting others on stage as events promoter for Middlesbrough company Ten Feet Tall.

His first solo album, Hardcore Folklore, is a musical trip through those years, working as a sober man in a nightclub of revellers, putting on gigs and getting his music heard.

'A timeline of my life'

He said: "In some respects the album is quite one dimensional. My life is 'bands bands bands' and my hobby has always been 'bands bands bands'... so the songs are mainly about vans, sound checks and bands.

"When I look through the songs I see them as little snapshots of bands I was in, gigs that I did or shows that I worked on. Like a timeline of my life."

Image caption Phil, as bass player in Helter Skelter, with Stu Hannah, Kev Ellison and Ian Thomas

Phil saw some success with previous bands Burnout in The Capital, Exit By Name, No School Reunion, Alsatian and his first band Helter Skelter who were later known as Skeat.

He said: "There's a cover of a Helter Skelter song and there's three or four tracks that were based on old Alsatian songs.

"It seems like whatever I'm doing musically - there's just tonnes of songs just piling up all over the place.

"Sometimes I kick myself because I'll write a song, people will hear and go 'that's great' and I think, well, it took me about 20 minutes to write. If I'd have spent all day on it maybe it would be a world wide hit!"

He tries to write about his life working the scene in Teesside and says songs Gin & Milk and Working Saturday Night describe the life of a 'sober man surrounded by 1,000 drunks in Middlesbrough's clubs' - a life he has known for quite some time.

Constant struggle

"Doing it solo is different," he said, "But I'd rather be rolling round on the floor fronting a metal or punk band, screaming nonsense.

"Instead, I have to stand alone, write words that make sense, try not to swear and attempt to be in tune vocally. It's kind of hard work, but I do enjoy it.

"It means I can play all the parts in the new album - just for pure selfish, self-indulgence.

"I recorded it at music producer James McCue's studio in his spare bedroom. It's 10ft x 8ft and a bit of a squeeze.

Image caption Phil screaming in Exit By Name, and showing support to fellow Teesside band Dartz! with a t-shirt

"He is scarily fast and he's also a talented musician that can play most instruments so it was helpful having him to bounce ideas off as well as control the recording."

Having been part of the Teesside scene for so long Phil said there is a constant struggle all bands from small towns face.

His songs Ninety Nine Songs and Riff of The Year tell the story of bands with talent failing to break through.

He said: "Despite writing really good music, as plenty of us do, you can't seem to get a break unless you hail from, or live in, the capital. Or Wales. Or Liverpool. Or somewhere else deemed as a buzz town.

"Having said that, over the past few years bands like The Chapman Family, Young Rebel Set, Das Wanderlust and The Hitchers are all making their mark on a national or even international level. Maybe there's hope yet. Middlesbrough: The new Seattle, perhaps?"

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