Audience is a cult British art rock band which existed between 1969 and 1972, and reformed in 2004.
The original band consisted of Howard Werth on nylon-strung electric acoustic guitar and vocals, Keith Gemmell on tenor and alto sax, flute and clarinet, bass guitarist and vocalist Trevor Williams and drummer/vocalist Tony Connor.
In 2004, Howard Werth, Keith Gemmell and Trevor Williams performed in Germany, Italy, Canada and the UK, replacing Tony Connor with drummer/vocalist John Fisher.
Following the death of John Fisher from pancreatic cancer on 27 September 2008, Audience recruited drummer Simon Jeffrey. Williams joined Jeffrey’s own band, Blue Pulse, releasing an album titled Trams in 2012. Howard Werth also performs on a few of the tracks.
For a full history of Audience check out Wikipedia
Bernard Law chats with Howard Werth of Audience and Andy Young of Rhythm of Blues about their collaboration
Howard Werth is an interesting musical character. Beginning back in the Sixties, he was the main stay of Audience, achieving some cult following and much high praise before folding. Then Ray Manzarak approached him with a view to his replacing Jim Morrison in the Doors. Nothing came of that, and Howard released solo material working in collaboration with Gus Dudgeon, Ray Manzarak, and Jake Riviera. Throughout his music has been really diverse. There may be hints of something bluesy, some fine pop, a little rock, and no little art rock too. But throughout it all, there’s a sort of under current of something rootsy.
“I’ve tended to change as time goes on actually,” Howard explains. He’s a really approachable man, and there are lots of quiet chuckles as we chatted on the phone one afternoon. “For me, without sounding at all pompous, it is an art. It’s not to fit in to some particular market. I just try to go on creating if I can, be it good or bad. I like to try new things all the time. Generally I like to do new stuff if possible, I like to stretch myself a bit and open up a little both lyrically and musically. Underneath it all, despite what I just said, there is a rootsy feel. My early influences were early R&B stuff, rock and roll basically. There are always elements of that in there somehow. I can’t get away from it; it’s in the blood!”
Howard feels that his writing has changed again and that at the moment the material is much more focussed. “Some of the first album is good, but some of it I cringe at,” he laughs. “The attitude at the time was having a nice tune and putting some lyrics to it quickly as I was recording the next week. Some of them came out interesting, but some of them! For me I’m getting into some interesting areas. The imagery of it, and the direction. They’re not soul searching but more futuristic poetic I suppose. I’m exploring, trying very hard not to be pretentious. It is a very thin line, that!”
At the moment there seems to be a growing momentum behind Howard’s work. His solo music didn’t have an airing live, which is about to change, and he is working with Audience again after thirty-two years of silence. “It was interesting that it just gelled together,” he says of the reformation. “It just worked. It is very difficult to reproduce that. You need that chemistry and it has been going really well.
You can look back now at some of the disagreements we had and it’s all pretty juvenile really. We’re in a different era and a different age. Any problems are of no importance really.”
Rhythm of Blues is a band that has played for CRS on a couple of occasions, and the Society has been indirectly responsible for bringing Howard and the band together. As Rhythm and Blues guitarist and vocalist Andy Young explains: We supported Wishbone Ash at the CRS And I overheard the drummer mention Christchurch University and Hythe, which is my neck of the woods. I picked up on this, mentioned it to him and we got chatting and stayed in touch. He said he played with Audience, and I’d loved them! He said that Howard lived in Deal and so I went to see him. Pretty soon he was at our studio and we were really like young kids enjoying the music. There are songs falling out everywhere.
We’re working both on a Howard Werth and the Moonbeams album and a Rhythm Of Blues album at the minute. Howard has been like a young boy again. He’s got a new guitar, and he’s really motivated with it all with lots of new songs. We’re a fairly prolific band anyway as we all write. It is quite a hot bed of industry at the minute.”
Howard continued: “It is a tentative step out there. I’ve done a few solo things over the last few years and I’ve been able to cherry pick tracks and it would be really good to do with a full band. We’ve just been rehearsing really, ready to get out there.”
Bringing the two sides together might have meant some musical adjustments, but the collaboration is going well. “We haven’t had to make too many musical compromises really as Rhythm of Blues are such a great bunch,” Howard says. “The guitarist is really excellent, a great drummer who plays with Letz Zep, and a very versatile keyboard player, as is the bass player. They seem to be able to cover all the areas of music, plus there’s myself on electric nylon strung guitar. It is working well so far; we’ve just got to play in front of some people now!” “It has all fallen together quickly really,” Andy agrees. “Howard said to me the music’s easy, it’s all the other bits that go with it!”
Howard had been thinking that it would be much easier if a band already existed that could play his solo material rather than having to search for individual players. “That was really the trigger point really. They were enthusiastic, and I was, and that’s how it all set up really.
“I’ve been doing some words to some tracks that Andy has written, and I’ve a bunch of new material as well that I want to record as soon as possible,” Howard continues.
“I’m fairly prolific as a writer, but I’m at my best when there are possibilities at the end of the line. If there’s not a way to get it out there I do tend to write half a song and then come back again to it the next year. It is the first time for a long time that I have been champing at the bit to get some things recorded.”
So the collaboration appears to be leading towards two bands. When Rhythm of Blues play live it is hoped that Howard will be able to guest at some of the dates, whilst when Howard is the main man they will go out as Howard Werth and The Moonbeams. (You can check their websites for dates!) So both Howard and Andy are positive about working together and are looking forward to playing live. Once again the UK seems a little more difficult a place to find dates, but both men have noticed a few hopeful changes.
“There is a stratum of a young audience that is interested again,” Howard says. “It is all down to numbers – are there enough people to keep it going? A lot of the bands of the classic rock era are working in more than just one country to keep playing live.
“There seems to be a bit of resurgence in people wanting to listen to blues-rock again,” Andy believes. “I’m not sure that we ever got it in this country though. A company that do hand built guitars, The Painted Player, have told me that they are doing more and more business. There does seem to be resurgence in guitars. There are certainly more kids on the street carrying their guitars down to the rehearsal place or wherever.”