Chiswick’s FastLane Roogalator, comprising brothers Tom, Will and Syd Spencer, are keeping the memory of their old man, cult singer-songwriter and crime novelist John B Spencer, alive. Will Gore spoke to guitarist Tom ahead of the band’s latest gig at the George IV.
Will Gore: Tell us about how FastLane Roogalator came about?
Tom Spencer: When Dad died in 2002 it was out of the blue – even though he had had cancer before, he had managed to beat it. The following summer there was a gig booked at Trowbridge Festival and I put a band together with my younger brother, Syd, and musicians I’ve worked with and Dad worked with. It went down so well and, the next year, we put an album out and it has gone on from there, like a little Blues Brothers-style mission.
WG: How do you choose the tunes to play for the gigs?
TS: There are a few songs of Dad’s that always seem to go down well and we occassion- ally go through his back catalogue and choose new tunes to add to the set. Throughout his career, he changed styles and the weight of his band according to what he felt like writing so, to an extent, we can pick on any of his different moods, although we stay away from his darker political material. I also write a few new songs that I think will fit with the Roogalator’s sound
WG: To start with, were you nervous about playing your Dad’s songs?
TS: Definitely – there were times when we played certain songs and it was emotional, but it is a real luxury to have the band as an outlet. One of the songs we did for the album was one I wrote as a tribute to him – it’s called Johnny B Better. When I was playing it to my brothers, his picture fell off the wall. I’m not a spiritual person but perhaps he was giving his approval or maybe he didn’t like the chords!
WG: What is it like being in a band with your brothers?
TS: It’s great but it can also be a pain. It kind of makes and breaks it – we row but it is good to have that bit of tension.
WG: Is there another Roogalator album in the pipeline?
TS: We already recorded another album but had to shelve it – we wanted to put it out with an unreleased album of Dad’s called Blues Man. I get this angry vibe that this missing album of his should have come out by now and I think it is time to think about getting it out there again.
WG: You’ve also got an interesting job on the side too.
TS: I make stained glass rock ’n’ roll tattoo windows. It is my attempt at a proper job!
FastLane Roogalator, George IV, 185 Chiswick High Road, March 11, 8.30pm, £8 (in advance)/£10 (on the door). To book email firstname.lastname@example.org