Seth Leppard is a guitarist & noisemaker extraordinaire. Affectionately nicknamed as the “Rock God” and lead guitarist for Black Grape – one of Manchester’s most loved bands. Black Grape was formed by Happy Monday’s frontman Shaun Ryder and Ruthless Rap Assassin Kermit Leveridge. Black Grape went to number one in 1995. with their first album “It’s great when you’re straight, yeah” and shortly after their acclaimed follow-up album they went into a hiatus. In 2015 they reformed in celebration of it being 20 years since they topped the charts. Leppard joined at the point of the reformation of the band which was originally supposed to be a “one night only” concert which turned into several tours and a new album “Pop Voodoo” released in 2017., which reached number 14. in the UK Charts and touring continues as we speak.
BR: Besides your work, how often and in which ways are music present in your everyday life?
SL: Music is part of my daily routine in every way and every day, from when I wake up until I fall asleep. I do stick the odd podcast on here and there because I find that also massages my mind in a way, but If I’m not playing music, I’m definitely listening to it.
BR: Which albums had the most effect on you and your progress as a musician?
SL: My mum and dad were really into music. Dad was into his 50’s Rock n’ Roll stuff and Johnny Cash, my mum was a 60’s chick so it was The Beatles and everything in between with her, so I was raised listening to some real good stuff.
I used to get my kicks listening to Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and Jerry Lee Lewis early on. Then Oasis happened when I was about 14 and that took me all over the place from there. With that in mind, I’d say “Definitely Maybe” by Oasis inspired me to think bigger than playing guitar in my bedroom.
Then, after that, I went deep in the direction of Nirvana. Kurt Cobain had already gone, which made it all the more mythical, but on first hearing “Nevermind” in its entirety it gave me a feeling inside I’d never felt before. He really did know how to bare his soul with his songwriting and performances. His guitar playing really inspired me to remember it’s not all about technical ability, it’s a lot about energy and expression of emotion. If you can capture what you’re feeling with your instrument, then you’re onto something real good.
Then from there, I went on a full Beatles voyage, through their entire back catalogue. I guess anything by the Beatles inspired me, but specifically the “White Album” – With it offering so many tracks with such a diverse range of songs on it, it’s just really opened my eyes to what music really is. It’s art, expression of one’s soul without boundaries or parameters. All music is good music, to someone. Creative freedom allows exploration and expression and judging art with a chart is unfortunately causing musicians to filter their ideals to further their careers. The “White Album” is the antithesis of trying to “fit in” and for that reason really influenced my creative thinking.
Then, for me there was Hendrix – the best guitarist there ever was. Then, Led Zepellin, the best rock band there ever was. Then, The Pixies, The Eagles, The Doors, Black Sabbath, Bob Marley, Elvis, Abba, Neil Young, Rage Against the Machine, The Cramps, The Sex Pistols… The list goes on. You know, I love all of it. Whatever it is. Everything I’ve ever heard has been used in some way to help me grow as a musician.
BR: What’s the latest album that left an intense impression on you?
SL: I guess there’s been two really. Firstly, one by a band called Violent Femmes. It’s not new so-to-speak, but it’s new to me and that’s what counts. They’re obviously a big influence on another band I love The Pixies, but hearing them just, again, sounded real. Like real people making music about stuff that means something to them. I’m really into that.
Secondly, I’m really into “Sleaford Mods” at the moment too. Just for saying it how it is, the lyrical content is so unlike the “norm” and that really connects with me. I’ve lived the life they’re talking about, but no-one’s ever bothered to voice it like they do. Everything they are is exactly what you’re not supposed to be to “make it” in the music business. Which is what I love most. It’s like modern punk, street poetry, something real. I really dig that.
BR: What song always motivates you to make progress in various areas of your life? Do you have that sort of song for every occasion?
SL: I guess it’s hard to say this song does this and that song does that, but I can definitely say that I use music as a form of meditation, I seem to disappear into a trance when I’m listening to music and from that comes improvements in all aspects of my life. Career-wise, relationships, general health & well-being. There’s always a soundtrack to a decision. Music helps me reflect. Reflection is the mother of progress.
BR: Did any specific music piece ever directly inspired you to create your music?
SL: All music and sound inspire me in some way. Of course, when you hear a good song, it makes you want to go and write a good song. For me, it’s usually a collection of things that inspire me to go and write. I’m at the point now where I’m so tuned into the musical side of my mind that whether it’s a piece of music, a traffic jam, an argument, an accident or a funny situation, I can turn whatever it is I’m feeling into a sound. I try to write as much as I can at the moment, and, sometimes, when the planets align, something wonderful comes out of me that feels special. Like some kind of explainable magic from somewhere else.
BR: How often do you go to the live shows, and what’s the last one you’ve attended? Do you have a favourite one?
SL: I get to a few when they catch my eye. I’ve got Prophets of Rage coming up. Just seen Foo Fighters at the Coliseum in Pula, which was great. There’s loads I want to see at the moment. The Pixies are coming up soon too.
It’s hard to pick an all-time favourite gig, but one that immediately comes to mind was The Strokes at the Manchester Apollo. It was probably about 10 years ago. I was totally into them at the time, they were an incredible force that night, so tight, so cool, so relevant to me in that moment. Some things just stay with you. That show was one of them.
BR: Who’s the one musician you’d love to collaborate with? Or maybe just hang out and grab a beer with?
SL: I’ll collaborate with most people. I see music as a conversation, and there’s nothing more interesting than talking with other people, you never know what’s gonna happen or where it might go. That’s why I love jamming, the musical conversation, collaborating, creating moments, that’s what its all about, no ones better than anyone else, just different. In life different people bring different sides out of you, it’s much the same in music.
I’ve always admired Jack White. I find his ethics on creativity sit well with mine. I’d like a beer and a chat with him.
BR: Have you ever played a show in Croatia (or in our region of Europe) and do you have that in the plan for your future shows? If not, do you have any expectations or assumptions about how it would turn out?
SL: I have played only one show in Croatia when I was in a band called AAAK (As Able As Kane). We played in Zagreb when we were touring with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I think 2Cellos were on too. It was a beautiful hot night in a great city. The Croatian crowds know how to have a party. I’ll certainly be over at some point. I’ve got some exciting new things on the go at the moment and the plan is to take them everywhere.
BR: I know from reliable sources that you’re dating a Croatian girl (haha). Has she introduced you to our music scene? If she did, can you tell us what bands or musicians left the best impression on you?
SL: I am indeed dating one of your finest exports. Although she is a massive music fan, she’s mostly into the same music as me. I can’t speak for everyone but many of the people I’ve met from Croatia seem to be into bands from the U.S and the U.K. I’m sure there’s many great bands out there on the scene. There are great musicians everywhere.
BR: UK is well known for its great and massive music festivals. Have you ever attended concerts or music festivals here in Croatia (or in our region of Europe)? Can you compare the experience?
SL: I’ve attended two concerts in Croatia. The Red Hot Chili Peppers gig in Zagreb and the Foo Fighters in Pula. I think the main difference (apart from the weather) is that people seem to be more focused on enjoying the show in Croatia. It’s not that often big bands play in your country, and, because of that, everyone seems to be there to experience the moment. UK is more like – get drunk, jump about a bit then wake up with a hangover in an alleyway the morning after. Having experienced the two, I’d say both are pretty cool.