The last time Towers of London meant anything to anyone was in 2009, just prior to their last single ‘Go Sister Go’, and just before the band effectively decided to call it a day before exiting the music scene. Whilst officially not declaring that they’d split up, the intervening years saw Donny Tourette, Dirk Tourette and Tommy Brunette do various odd jobs that failed to give them the same sense of passion and fulfillment that they used to enjoy whilst being in their main band. It also didn’t help that once The Rev (guitar) and Snell (drums) left, Towers of London found it difficult to maintain any semblance of what could be considered a stable and cohesive lineup, with various band fill-ins and replacements leaving on an almost weekly basis. Now, and almost six years later, Towers of London have re-emerged with a new lineup and a renewed emphasis on wanting to rock out and give the Simon Cowell-approved Pop Scene a taste of its own medicine.
On 28 September 2015 at The Sanctum Hotel, I was lucky enough to attend Towers of London’s launch party and video premiere for their come back single ‘Shake It’. With the band played a rousing set soon afterwards that encompassed old classics as well as an arsenal of new songs (for which you can find photographs of the concert below), Donny and co really did imply that they meant business and were intent on making up for lost time. And it was with this in mind that I sat down with Dirk Tourette on the rooftop of The Sanctum Hotel and got to implore him about his band, its place within the music industry, whether there would ever be a reconciliation with Rev and Snell, and where he thought Towers of London would go from here. Enjoy!
The Towers of London formed in 2004. Your first album came out in 2006, the second album came out in 2008, you effectively went silent in 2009… It’s now 2015, what is it with the six-year absence and where have you been?
The six year absence is pretty simple in that some people wanted to do it, and some people didn’t. I think that I’m the last remaining member of the band who never left. Everybody else left the party apart from me. So it’s just a matter of proving to them that there’s juice left in the tank, a new tank, and something to believe in. I had to get my brother and Tommy, my main partners to believe in me again, and then when they did, we got to go. But it took a while honestly.
I know that Rev and Snell left in 2007 because, to put it politely, they no longer felt that they had a future within the band. I think that was exasperated by certain things such as Donny’s appearance on television etc. But since then, you’ve had considerable difficulty in finding suitable replacements…
Rev and Snell left because they thought they were on to a better gig with The Prodigy, which didn’t turn out
I assume that’s Rocco and Stevie Lawrence?
That’s right, yes.
Ultimately it’s about the chemistry and dynamics. People talk about how the drummer is the driving force of the band. How do you think the band chemistry has changed in terms of dynamics and what do you think Rocco and Stevie Lawrence bring to the table?
Dynamics haven’t changed at all and I would totally disagree that the drummer is the driving force of the band. Maybe if you’re Dave Grohl, yes, I would agree with that. But the driving force of the band is the songwriter and it always will be, in any band. Like if you’re a drummer, or lead guitarist, or bass player, who doesn’t write, you’re at the mercy of the songwriter. If we go back to Snell and Rev, they didn’t write songs. They couldn’t write songs. I’m a songwriter, so is my brother, so is Tommy. So the driving force of the band is the songwriter. Even if I was just a session musician, then that’s the way it would be. The drummer is an important person who keeps the beat, but if you’re a good songwriter, you know how beats go anyway.
You guys effectively fell silent 2009, and it’s been a six year gap since you guys decided to re-emerge. How do you think the music industry and the music scene has changed since you effectively went away. Where do you think Towers of London fits in now?
To be honest, I don’t know really. I’ve got to be honest. I really don’t know where we fit in. I haven’t followed it that much. All I’ve done is study. Since 2011 to now, I studied music. I classically trained myself, I learned everything, I learned how to read and write music. I studied my favorite bands on how they write music, like The Beatles, and certain other bands. I don’t know how we fit in or how we don’t, and I don’t really care. All I know is that I just wanted… like, if we think it’s a good song, and then it’s a good song. And we’ll fit in somewhere. When I write a song, it’s not about what anyone will like, it’s about whether I like it or not. Whether it makes me move and that’s it. I mainly listen to older tunes, going back throughout the years. That’s my main thing, you know, listening to older tunes. The classics. If your song’s not standing up there with a good production, then it’s not worth anything.
When Towers of London first formed, critics and music fans tended to label your sound and attitude as harking back to the early days of the Sex Pistols and Guns N Roses…
Without a doubt, yeah. They were right. We did.
We all change as we grow older. We change because of changing environments, circumstances, musical influences etc. I know that you, Tommy and Donny have remained consistent within the band. For somebody that doesn’t know about Towers of London, or somebody that dismissed you as somebody who was a pastiche, how would you describe yourself now?
I just think that if we were dismissed as a pastiche the first time, they were wrong, because we weren’t. There were definite influences. Our influences range nowhere near as wide as other bands… but Beastie Boys were an influence. Even stuff like Dogtown Z-Boys who are just out there skateboarding, doing their moves and just being a little bit radical, totally influenced us. As far as pastiche music-wise? Sex Pistols, they were an influence on us, but we didn’t really care about that too much because if it rocks your boat at the time, it’s good. I can write many songs which just sound like other people. I can do it right now, like I could write Rod Stewart songs. I’ll write all that shit. But with Towers of London, there’s definitely something different. There’s always a little twist, and that can’t be bought. It’s not easy to do. And this time around, it took me a while to get into writing Tower of London songs again. Even though I’d studied music for so long. I think the Towers is just something a little bit different. It’s just something a little bit different. That’s what makes Towers. Because if we were exactly the same and a pastiche, we wouldn’t get into NME, Classic Rock wouldn’t put us on their site. It’s easy for listeners to go “ooh, it’s this and that”, but if it was this and that, well these magazines wouldn’t put us in [their publication]. I think it’s easy to label something. It’s like judging a book by its cover. If you actually get into the vibe of things, it’s close to things but it’s a little bit different. At the end of the day, I think one of the things with Towers of London, it’s easy to dismiss, but what is actually… without burning ourselves up, it’s very hard to be a band like us. It’s hard to be a rock and roll band who’s out there. Because all them bands have been before. I see what people are saying, it’s like “they’re nothing different”, but when you actually look a bit closer, we are. When I look at other bands, I’m not saying that they all they want to be is a rock and roll band. A lot of people who are influenced by me go “I want to be like Guns N Roses”, and they’re influenced by big bands. And then they find their level and go “I can’t do that. I can’t be like Guns N Roses, I can’t be like Oasis, I can’t be like this band”. Then they find their niche. We’re actually a band who dared to be like one of them, but have just a slightly different twist. Our job is actually a lot harder than the likes of Bloc Party… Bloc Party who can be like an unknown band and come up. I’m not dismissing Bloc Party, they’re a really great band. But to try and be a band like your influences is much harder. it’s much, much fucking harder than to try to be something different. Any day of the week. If you’re into Rod Stewart, try to be like the Stones and the Pistols… how many bands can do that? No one. No fucking bands can do that. But going somewhere leftfield is easy to do. I actually think our job, even though we get taken down and people go “oh yeah, it’s easy”… it’s not easy. It’s actually a lot harder.
You just talked about Bloc Party and to be fair, you did say “no disrespect to them”. But let’s refer to Towers of London “phase 1” – 2004 to 2009. Without trying to mince words, you created a lot of enemies within the music industry and a lot of people hated you. We’re talking about My Chemical Romance as an example…
Yes. Well, My Chemical Romance don’t write their own songs anyway.
Download also banned you…
Download banned us, yeah… Well, I’ll tell you this, when we joined the music industry in 2004/2005, the whole truth of it is, we were good boys but we weren’t accepted. There was one particular night I remember that the group within the Camden Libertines side just told us, literally, “you will never get anywhere, fuck off”. We were just like “what? Because we don’t suck the Libertines arse? Because we’re not one of them little bands like The Others? Or we’re not like The Paddingtons or “who could be the next “trying to be The Libertines band” but aren’t”. We were like, “No we’re gonna walk our own fucking line” and they hated us. And we were abused rotten at their house-party by some girls called Queens of Noize. Abused by them. Drinks thrown over us, because we wanted to walk our own line. Once that happened, we were effectively ejected from the scene. I said to the boys “let’s go to town, fuck them. Fuck this scene, and let’s do it. Walk our own walk. I don’t care if anyone likes us. Let’s fucking turn up at a gig and play the fucking gig”. We turned up at Pete Doherty’s gig one night, it was a Babyshambles gig which I heard about on the radio, and it was like 6pm evenings. I’m like, “we’re playing. Boys get your guitars, get in the van, we’re playing. We’re not invited, but we’re playing”. So we did it, turned up, turned up with our guitars, and they were like, “You’re on”?!?! We were playing a gig there, but two weeks later. They were like, “You’re on, but in two weeks”. “No, we’re playing tonight”, so they let us in. So after we got ejected out of the scene, and we were friendly enough to people, we were very friendly… But after they went “fuck you” to us… It’s like a footballer who’s on screen and will be really nice, and behind screen is a fucking asshole. That’s the same for the music industry. Beautiful people in front and to your face, but they’re fucking assholes in real life. We’re made to look like assholes, but we’re actually decent people. So they fucked us off our scene and you know, I said to the guys, “You know what? Fuck them. If they want to give it to us, we’d give some back. Let’s walk our own walk and don’t ask for any favors. Don’t be nice because they aren’t nice to us. The music industry is full of cunts. Full of cunts.” So being nice got us nowhere, and they treated us like cunts. After that particular night, if that’s what you’re talking about, I said to the guys, “Fuck them all. We’ll fucking doing what the fuck we want”. Yeah, it backfired. Actually… it front-fired. They didn’t like us, but then we were like, “Oh fuck you too”. So the music industry did hate us, and a lot of it comes from the industry. But you know what? There’s enough hate from us back. And essentially, it broke us… it did break us.
This is 2009?
We were broken before 2009. Well broken before 2009. 2009 doesn’t even exist for me.
2007? Yeah. By the time our first album come out, the party had already left. We were our best between 2004-2005. 2006… the party left town and it was what it was. Everyone in the band knows this, before my brother went into the Big Brother house, and that’s why he went into the Big Brother House. To try and get the likes of Rev, who would go, “I’ll go to the Big Brother House, I’ll go in”, because he’s a fucking egotistical maniac who rates himself and can’t write songs. My brother said “no, I’ll go in and I’ll share the money with all you guys”… even though when Rev and Snell left, “it’s because he went into the Big Brother House”. Bullshitters. Fucking bullshitters, you know what I mean. My brother went in, and whatever money he got, he jumped out of the wall… he shared with us guys. My brother went into Big Brother to save the band. Money… Not save the “band”. Save the band’s personal lives, because the band had no money. He did it for us guys with no money…
The Rev has spoken about this in his own interviews, when he’s promoted The Howling. He’s talked about how you guys essentially snorted the money… But I won’t focus on this as people can make up their own minds. Anyway, during the first phase of Towers of London’s existence, trouble followed you. With Phase 2 being September 2015 onwards, how has the music industry and its scenesters been treating you since?
I don’t know. I’ve been out of the game for so long, I just don’t care.
Do you think there’s a level of acceptance?
I think there might be actually. I think there’s a level of acceptance. I think if you create a stir like we did, and then you’re gone, I think the acceptance does get easier from people. Actually, there is a level of acceptance because it’s the old phrase… You don’t miss what you’ve got until it’s gone. And with someone like the website Drowned In Sound, who we used to have wars with… They hated us. Gave us a lot of shit. We were having our own TV show and we were like, “Fucking yeah, Drowned in Sound… giving us so much shit”. And we’re just fucking stoned, and I said, “Let’s send them a turd in a box”.
Oh I remember that…
You remember that? And that was that. But years later, we got messages from people in Drowned in Sound, who became friends of ours, saying “You know what, we hated you. But when you left the scene, it became so boring and we actually realized… it’s a love-hate thing. Actually, we loved you. We loved to write about you because you gave people something to write about and when you were gone, there’s nothing to write about”. We’re even friends with people like the editor of Drowned in Sound – who hated us. I think it’s easy to ridicule something when it’s in front of your face, and when it’s gone, maybe you miss that. If it was shit, it was shit, but i know that we weren’t shit. I know that we’re good lads. Everything we’ve done was in good heart, good spirit and good fun. Now that we’re back, it’ll be the same again. You learn from your mistakes, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to kiss anyone’s ass. One thing I would say about our band is that I feel that now that we’re here, where we are right now, we feel… without blaming any music industry, any manager, anything. We didn’t do our best ourselves. That’s the most important thing.
I think Rev talked about this. He said that towards the end, the band suffered from bad management and there were a lot of missed opportunities…
That’s bullshit man. What you realize when you’ve been out of the game, and you’re really honest with yourself… Bad management? Yeah, there is such a thing. But being a bad artist, being an artist that doesn’t create, that doesn’t come up with great things. You’ve got to come out as an artist with a great song, a great idea for a video that gives the manager something to sell. It’s not about bad management. It’s all about the artist. Looking back, I think that we were no one near as good as we could be. I think that this time around, that’s the difference. Heads on the music, heads on ideas. We were too stoned to come up with that, and I think that’s the difference this time around, is that we’re on it. We didn’t give it our best shot. There’s no blame on anybody. Not Rev and Snell, not any management, not any record company. Even if you got a little independent label, if your product is “product”, and your song is good or great, and your idea for a video is good, well then, it’s good. And if someone sees that, they’ll recognize that it’s good… I think we undersold ourselves. We weren’t on it enough. That’s the difference this time. It’s that we want to show that we could be the best we could be. Because we weren’t before and that’s the honest truth.
Earlier on you talked about how you, not so much as stepping into the shoes of Guns N Roses and The Sex Pistols, but you wanted to be just as great as them. Or at least you implied that…
Maybe. I don’t give a shit about being just as great as them or not. I just give a shit about being the best we can be. The best that Towers of London can be. It’s not about being as good as anybody else. It’s just… what I feel is before, we weren’t the best that Towers of London could be. That’s all we want to do is be the best that we can be. I know that we… I did the percentages and the maths, and I think that we weren’t even 50% as good as we could be. That’s the most important part. If 100% is as good as this band or that band, then that’s great. Or if it’s less or it’s more, that’s fine. Just be the best we can be, that’s the most important thing.
How would you rate your first two albums retrospectively?
The second one was pretty shit. It was a nothing album. When we recorded it, there was nothing put into it. The first one, obviously, because it’s our first one, we had a buildup. I think it was decent. I would like to think the third one would be a lot better. But the first one, you can’t always say that… when you look back and go “that was rubbish”, because there is some good stuff about the first album. It wasn’t thought about, and it wasn’t pre-planned. We just went with the way we rolled back in the day. I’ll say that Tommy, Donny, Rev and Snell… the way we rolled during them days, it was fucking incredible. To be fair to all of them guys, I’ll never look back on it and regret it. But I look at myself as the main songwriter, and I could have been a lot cleverer, and pulled myself back from the parties and figured out what could have been a great album. If there’s anyone to blame, for why we didn’t create the “classic” first album, on the first one, it’s my fault. I totally take the blame. But that’s good, because those guys just did what I came up with. But this time around, I think it’ll be good to really have my head on.
What can we expect from the third album, and when do you think it’s out?
I would like to think it’s due out Spring next year. I’ve got a lot of songs written, and I’m only just hitting my peak as a songwriter. It’s difficult to say… I’d like to think it would be an album where it would be the best Towers of London album. I can’t say for sure it will be, because it’s not finished yet. But I’d like to come out with an album that I’m really proud of and go “This is my best work”, and at the moment I’m still not there. I don’t really know the answer but I know that we’re going to give it our best shot, and I know that a couple of the tunes are hitting on my favorite tunes from other bands. I go, “Wow, it’s like being in this band”. I love Supergrass, I love Guns N Roses. It’s like that song, it makes me feel amazing and I get that feeling. I like all the songs to be like that. There’s still some way to go, but if we can hit those peaks for all the songs and keep the consistency up… The consistency is the main thing. At the moment, I’m not consistent enough but I’ve got feeling I’m getting there. If I can do that then I’ll be happy. I’d be really happy to put on a party and go, “Yeah I’m proud of it”. I’ve got to be proud of it myself. Like I put on my favorite Supergrass tune ‘Richard III’. Or Guns N Roses’ ‘Welcome to the Jungle’. I want an album where I’m going to go “Yeah, everyone likes it”. It’s got to reach my own high standards, whereas the other ones haven’t.
I know that Snell has moved away from the music scene, but in recent interviews Rev has talked about how he’s… maybe not so much as being remorseful, but he regrets how things ended between the Towers and him. If there’s a way for some form of reconciliation, or maybe for him to again be part of the Towers of London family, even in the capacity of him touring with you, what’s the likelihood of that happening?
Nothing. I don’t think anything to that, really. I asked Rev about four years ago… three years ago, and he blew me out the water and that was me being as honest as I can. We’ve moved on. I asked Snell… I did ask Snell, and this is the honest truth. I asked them both to rejoin, and they both didn’t want to, and then we moved on. Then at the beginning of this year, when we already had a band, they both wanted to rejoin. I got a text… a long, long text from Rev wanting to join. And from Snell… wanting to rejoin about seven months ago. But I asked them, and they didn’t want to take us up on the offer, so we moved on. And that’s the truth. It’s not going to happen now because we’ve got new guys. To be honest, because they weren’t writers, and they were just players, to me it’s not important. I’ve got players in the band who are equally as good, if not better. Me, Tommy and my brother are the writers anyway, so it’s not important to have them in the band. I will never say never, but the guys who are in our band now, I have my allegiance to them because they’re just playing. Like the same as Rev and Snell were just playing our tunes. So it’s not important. I wish them the best, but I really do think that this “Frankenstein resurrection of Towers of London”, to quote Rev from his Facebook, I don’t know where he gets that from.
I guess he probably means [what happened with] Guns N Roses – from back in the day to what the band’s morphed into now…
I just think he doesn’t like other people being in the band. It could be any “Frankenstein” version as long as me, my brother and Tommy are in. But the guys we’ve got in now, we have allegiance to. They’ve been to rehearsals for a year and a half. So Stevie is our lead guitarist and he’s fucking wicked. It makes no difference. I’d rather have Stevie because I like him and he’s put effort in when there was nothing. And Rocco put his effort when there was nothing. Rev and Snell… only when they thought there was something going on did they want to do it. The fact that they don’t write songs, it means they’re irrelevant to the band. Towers of London is only relevant if me, my brother and Tommy are on form and it’s not about anybody else. But the guys who are in the band now, they’re with us. I have nothing bad to say about the other guys and I wish them luck but they’re irrelevant. Completely irrelevant.
Thank you. Any last things to say?
Shake it. Oh, and get the fuck out of here!
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