Credit: John Latham Photography
A Tuesday night in the port of Liverpool finds Little Triggers’ frontman Tom Hamilton Hughes in buoyant mood. Earlier today, his ship had come in - well, his student loan, to be precise. With money burning a hole in his Sixties leather jacket pocket, he had already purchased a new amp that he had been eyeing up for ages.
After this interview, he was due to go out for a few celebratory jars. He’s also just had a three-date visit to China confirmed. Life is good, or will there be Big Trouble in Little China? Jane Davies went along to find out.
Life before Little Triggers
Tom, a Londoner by birth, was raised and schooled in Cumbria, where he formed a band, The 45, as a young teen. At 17, he moved to Liverpool to pursue his musical ambitions at Liverpool Musical Academy, which he describes as a "budget version of Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts".
Once there he set about forming a band and auditioned "lots of awful drummers'. Sam Gallacher was the last one he saw and the best. When not in Little Triggers he works as a sound technician in one of Liverpool’s Baltic Quarter venues. Bass player Chris Carragher was recommended by his brother. By day a customer support assistant, by night James Crawford becomes the maestro of the keyboards. Originally considered too mad to play in the band, until one day the madness overtook Tom’s better judgement and he invited him in.
Crawford - as he is more commonly known - was almost sacked twice in his first week as a band member. Three times he turned up drunk and late for rehearsals, but was hired on the condition that a fourth strike would mean curtains for him; the fourth time he turned up note perfect and knew every song.
Something of a modern day Rick Wakeman, able to play Hammond organ and piano, is a rarity in itself on the local circuit. As Tom explains, “the trouble with Crawford is that he does not have an off switch which can be a problem”. Crawford features heavily on the band’s Instagram, dancing and singing, trying to walk straight and drinking, of course.
Both he and Tom are in the second year of their courses. He confesses he has to do very little work. “I went in the other day and had a sleep for two hours and nobody noticed”.
I ask about the benefits of living in the centre of Liverpool’s China Town, the oldest in Europe. “Living in China Town is great if you are hung over and starving, cause there’s a yard walk to a take away," he proudly boasts. I remark that it is very apt that he likes Chinese food given that he is shortly embarking on a tour of China, and we both agree that the meals served in Beijing and Shanghai will bear little resemblance to the Cantonese fare served locally.
“Yeah, it will be scorpions and lizards. I shall stick to plain rice for the whole trip. I am actually looking forward to having a Chinese Maccies. They also serve mint tea Kit Kats over there”. I ask him what scares him most about China and he admits that he is scared of big insects.
Taking his responsibilities as an ambassador for UK music seriously, he has purchased a Pete Townshend Union Jack blazer for £99 which he will wear with pride whilst in China. The details of the full itinerary for China are as yet unclear. [scroll down to last picture.]
“I know I’m going to China but I’m not sure of the details. Our drummer does all the admin. I just turn up and do gigs. We shall be celebrating Chris’s birthday out there, which should be interesting. Apparently the alcohol out there can make you go blind. They make it out of rotting potatoes. My dad has told me about the laws over there and how you can get shot for stuff.”
He has been advised that Crawford stays in and sits on his hands. Tom is concerned that he will be an issue, recalling an evening en route to Bristol when he slammed his hand in the van door resulting in a trip to Chester A&E, blood pouring everywhere.
What about Little Triggers’ musical influences? He goes on to reel off a lengthy list. “We like anything from the 30s, Charlie Patten and Robert Johnson, Chicago blues, rock 'n' roll, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Merseybeat 60s, the London Blues boom like Small Faces, Rolling Stones, the Hollies; psychedelic stuff like Hendrix. I love glam too. I’m quite into Mud - a guilty pleasure - Bowie, Dr Feelgood, The New York Dolls, Sex Pistols, Jam, Oasis, Arctic Monkeys.”
Intrigued as to how such a young person acquired such wide musical tastes, he explains that he got into the film Quadrophenia and went to see a Beatles tribute band within two weeks of each other and then the whole Sixties thing kicked off. “That sparked my interest in music age 11. I got into blues and Dr Feelgood and all the glam stuff. My dad’s tastes influenced me.”
I comment that Little Triggers have a unique stand-out style. Tom takes credit for the bands late 60s to early 70s image. The majority of stage clothes are lent out by him. “I hate seeing bands all dressed the same in the black skinnys and leather jackets”. He confesses he does let himself go a bit scruffy sometimes though. “Oh yeah, I wear Addidas especially when I’m going to the bookies!”
The live Little Triggers experience is something to behold and something unique. I ask Tom to describe in one sentence what the audience can expect. “If I can coin one of Crawford’s quotes, it’s like a burlesque show with fireworks.” Who’s wearing the corset then? “Definitely me,” he laughs. “I do get told off sometimes for wearing out of the box clothing. I bought a pair of white Cuban heels. Chris will tell me off when he sees them. I walk in some days and he just goes, 'No!'”
Moving on to discuss their live set, the band currently do two cover versions - ‘What You Gonna Do About It’ and ‘Everybody Needs Somebody’. Are there plans to add any more into the live set? “It’s been talked about. We only do one cover per set to avoid making it a pastiche. ‘Rock On’ by T Rex and the Moody Blues' ‘Go Now’ are possible additions”.
The Cognac Experience
China will not be the band’s first trip abroad. Last year they played a festival in Cognac, France, supporting the legendary Iggy Pop.
“We turned up at 2 pm to sound check, then he took us to our dressing room, a tent with a fridge containing 50 Heinekens. By 5pm we had drank them and we asked if they had any more. We opened the tent to find two kegs of beer. By 9pm the cognac came out. It was a good gig, but the bass player was too pissed and was described as a fool in the gig review. We pulled it off though. It was like being on holiday in Magaluf. We weren’t going to say no. There will be no holidays this year though after buying that amp."
There is a fair bit of new material in the pipeline. “We’ve recorded a new single, ‘Silly Cigarettes’, which we will put out towards the end of April, then ‘Girl’ as the next single after that, then a whole EP.”
Speaking of cigarettes, Tom at this point indicates that he needs a smoke, so I bid him a fond farewell and wish him and Little Triggers a most successful tour free of any international diplomatic incidents.
Catch Little Triggers on April 17 at Studio 2, Liverpool supporting Kovic. Also lined up is Chester's Summer Jam on June 10.
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