Wheel keeps turning

Twisted Wheel
Twisted Wheel

IF Twisted Wheel’s Johnny Brown were to have a phoenix moment, it would be now. Brown - barely out of his mid-twenties - has picked up his punk / garage / rockabilly act, Twisted Wheel, dusted it off, rolled its sleeves up and started again.

After a two-year hiatus caused by manager fall-outs, band splits and label upheaval, Brown has resurrected Oldham’s grittiest threesome and is touring, with a show in Sheffield next week.

“It’s been tough,” he says. “I’m no longer with the original members of the band - the drummer left and then the bass player left. We went our separate ways but I’ve got new members now and they have learnt all the old material.”

But the band’s also been working on new songs. “We have a lot to give and I had to pull my finger out,” says Brown.

He did this with the help of Bromheads frontman and producer Tim Hampton, who also owns and runs Sheffield’s Crystal Ship Studios.

With Hampton’s help, Twisted Wheel produced Do It Again, a sophomore album that marks a new life for the band.

“In my head this is our first album because we’ve got a new line-up and we haven’t released anything for quite a while. The first album is an ‘introduction to...’, if you like.”

But it is a lot to live up to.

The band’s first album was heralded by industry critics for its sneering aggression and no-nonsense punk attitude. Songs from the first record such as You Stole the Sun display a lyrical prowess so fast, witty and acerbic that most writers would struggle to keep up.

But the new album is - according to Brown - his best material yet. “I really prefer it to the first album. It’s got 12 tracks and it lasts about 45 minutes and there’s a lot of Sixties sounds in it.”

And though the band’s steadfast influences - which includes the Stooges - can be heard on the album, Brown says it shows a more “mature” sound than previously heard on their material.

The sound of the album covers more of the musical spectrum than its predecessor too. Songs vary from short-and-sweet punk-style ditties to acoustic numbers based on real events, such as Double Yellow Lines.

“That’s about a kid called Jesse James, who was shot in Moss Side in Manchester, like the cowboy. He was shot by accident and in the song I put a Western sound on there - the chord progression is like what you’d hear accompanying a duel in a Western.”

Producing the album was a dream, according to Brown. “Tim was brilliant and such an ace guy. I think he gets our sound, which is short and sharp. He made many good creative points, which was brilliant. Going into a studio with a producer can be disastrous if you’re working with the wrong person.”

And while Twisted Wheel continues to toe its punk / rockabilly line, it’s still impossible to pigeon-hole its sound.

“It’s hard to say what we play but I find it insulting when people call it indie. I mean, what is indie? Even with the ‘punk’ label there are loads of types of punk.”

Eventually, he arrives at a conclusion. “I would say that we are slightly punk with a rock and roll edge.”

And now that edge has been sharpened, re-cast and ready to hit the road again.

“We’re back, we’re here,” says Brown. “We want to get bigger.”

Twisted Wheel play at the Leadmill next Friday, September 21.