Take it back… I was raised in Broughton Astley, a village in south Leicestershire in middle England. Growing up in the 80’s and having Parents and Grandparents from way back, I was always surrounded by pianos, so it was natural to be tinkling away right from the off. My Brother and Sister had played a little but they never stuck at it, age five I started lessons.
During my childhood when I was playing the piano, Scott Joplin was my main man and that ragtime style always has been a firm favourite of mine. I’d been through loads of different listening phases, from classical such as Andrew Loyd Webber, rock bands like Queen and Aerosmith, Brit-Pop and the whole 90’s thing, then even onto Hip-Hop too. A pretty broad spectrum of tastes.
Fast forward to age 16, I got a few grades but nothing major. The big turning point was leaving school and going to music college. That is where I met people that turned me onto what would be the real start of my musical journey and direction. All of a sudden I had people my own age saying ” The Beatles are the best band ever” or ” You have to hear Led Zeppelin!” Which was odd to me at the time, someone talking about an old band in that way. However when I listened to these groups, I was completely in love by all this great music from the 60’s that was so unbelievably fresh to me. Then as soon as I heard The Doors, my keyboard playing changed forever. I’d never properly heard or at least noticed a band with a lead keyboard player before, this was my calling! Ray Manzarek, that organ tone and minor key solos blew me away, needless to say I was addicted. It was good that I had already reached a skill level where I could actually learn and play the organ part of Doors songs right away. After scouring through the local newspaper, I scored a second hand Hammond organ and shortly after my first proper band was formed.
The Undergrade 2001-2005
Humble beginnings... We started on a working mens club circuit after being spotted by a booking agent while rehearsing in a village pub skittle room. Which mainly resulted in gigs playing covers in ‘Clubland’ around the Midlands. Playing songs by The Beatles, Oasis, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Stranglers, to name a few. We went down quite well with the crowds generally, until once we got paid off to go home cause they expected a line dancing act and we came on playing Deep Purple! Anyway… long after the working men’s club days were behind us and a few line-up changes later, we were finding ourselves being watched by every major record label in the UK. No Joke. How did this happen you ask? Well….. We had become pretty good by now. That kind of rare exception where each member of the band clicked musically and we were playing the right sort of music at the time, all original by then. Heavily influenced by The Doors and similar to the Liverpool explosion of early 00’s bands like The Coral, The Zutons and The Bandits etc.
I was only 18 and I thought I’d arrived! From conversing with A&R in the head offices of Virgin Records and Universal records coming up from London on the train to see us practice in a dump in Leicester! To playing gigs in London, at festivals, sitting in meetings with music lawyers and having the same agent that got local Leicester boys Kasabian signed. How could this have gone wrong? Well only hindsight can say that we still weren’t fully there yet. Too much emphasis on getting big and being young and stupid caused the band to eventually get tired and break up. It seemed like pressure at the time I guess, but plenty of quality songs were written and I learned and experienced a whole lot. Creating music along side a great singer/songwriter and having top musicians in the band, I knew this is all I ever wanted to do. Here is where I got first hand experience of writing and arranging songs and kick-started my love of producing on cassette machines, as I recorded most of our output with a 4 track.
The Midbeats 2005-2009
Learning a new trick or two… The next venture started with the idea to get away from ‘GET SIGNED!’ mentality and go back to making music for pleasure. So three of us from The Undergrade eventually got together, packed up our cars and embarked upon a cottage in the middle of nowhere in the borders of Wales, armed with an 8 track portastudio. This turned out so well that for the next year we just focused on writing and recording.
Before this point my skill set was limited to just a keyboardist with the odd backing vocal, but now I had leaned how to play the guitar and sing. Influenced by vocal groups of the 60’s and the driving acoustic rhythm’s of The La’s, this was the direction and my current musical inspiration. I had again an excellent collaborator to work with which helped enormously. For the next few years I was honing my craft as a full on songwriter/multi-instrumentalist. We went through lots of line-up changes and eventually became a live band back at the same standard I had been used to previously. Notable highlights for me were playing on the Beatles stage at the Cavern club and recording a single in a 24 track tape studio up in Liverpool. During 2008 we landed a gig supporting the then popular London garage rockers The Draytones. This is where I struck up a friendship, and while following them closely on Myspace, around 6 months later this led to the opportunity of a lifetime……
The Draytones 2009-2015
Putting it all into practice… When the advert “Keyboard player/Acoustic guitarist/Vocalist wanted” was posted by The Draytones in about March 09, I couldn’t believe it! That was my exact skill set. I of course had to leave my own band The Midbeats to pursue this, but at that time I wasn’t happy as the inner workings had started to go south. Here was a recognised group with a super 60’s sound, who had been signed by Sony, had 2 albums out, toured with Paul Weller and been to Argentina and Japan. I was already a fan, playing their EP ‘Forever On’ quite a lot after gigging with them back in 08. It’s funny I always remember the moments after my meeting/audition with Gabriel the singer… I was back where I was staying in London that night and while sitting on the bed I was clutching a Draytones CD album I’d just been given, thinking “can I do this?!” and “how can I join a band in London when I live 100 miles away?” Needless to say I took the leap of faith and the doubts were buried.
The first project I was involved in was working on the album ‘Today’s Memories’ We went to the famous Sawmills studio in Cornwall to record, with Producer Stan Kybert. Who had been working with Oasis in previous years, me being a huge Oasis fan, that was amazing. I was lucky enough to be fully involved in the writing and arranging process leading up to the week we spent there. Immediately after recording we spent 5 weeks in Argentina, starting with playing at the Pepsi music festival. Suddenly I found myself in a world where I’m in a dressing room and on the bill next to The Prodigy and being driven around a huge festival on a golf cart while being interviewed on TV, pinching myself thinking “I’m actually in South America playing music!” The main reason for this tour was a trip to make a film of us playing in the Falkland islands. This ‘Friendship Tour’ was historic with us being the first Anglo-Argentine band to play there and caught the attention of all major TV, Radio, Newspaper and Magazines in the country. We were playing on prime time TV networks watched by millions! We had got quite popular with young music fans at this time and enjoyed some really great shows. I had only been in the band for 6 months.
There are way too many things to mention about my time in this band. If I was to briefly skim over the 7 years I was a Draytone… I was involved in recording 2 albums, played in Argentina 3 times, played in the Falklands, completed numerous tours of France and Spain and even played in Switzerland. As well as loads of TV/Radio appearances and of course many gigs and festivals in the UK. I was working alongside my best musical collaborator to date and learned so much. This was the best thing I ever did in my life and had some of the greatest times and experiences that anyone could wish for. It makes you realise you have to take these opportunities if you ever get them.
Andy Pickering 2010 – Still active
Going solo… Although being in The Draytones I had lots of musical input, it was still pretty much someone else’s thing. Which was cool, but I was starting to write a lot of songs. By now I had gained the skills and what I needed musically to be able to record everything myself, but I didn’t have a studio. There was no master plan here, just I wanted to be able to capture something. So a 4 track cassette recorder was purchased. The reason being is I always had so much fun back in the Undergrade/Midbeats days of how we used to record. This lo-fi and retro direction was the way things naturally went. While my studio piece by piece got better, so did my ability to write better songs and after a couple of years I had a lot of material just sitting around labelled ‘Demos’. It got to a point where I decided to do something with them and put these tracks into albums. I went back, remixed and reworked all the best stuff. A notable turning point was when I wrote and fully recorded a song in just 48 hours called ‘What She Knows’ All the elements aligned perfectly. I remember being so excited at what I’d just made.
I’ve had my studio setup in bedrooms, lounges, kitchens and even bathrooms! Depending on where I had been living at the time, it’s always gone with me. Throughout writing and recording at home so far I have produced 9 records. If you want to see more about how I make a record, I made a full length tutorial called “How to record a master on a 4 track cassette”
The Telmos 2017-Still active
A new chapter… Pretty much the entire time during my solo project, I still had The Draytones and this always fulfilled my live band life. When we split I needed to do something. I relocated to Sheffield and went about starting a live band based around the wealth of material I had built up. This was more difficult than I realised because I had never really played any of these songs live before. I found a couple of musicians, drummer Ed Evans and bassist Jim Keown (now left the group) We were playing under the guise of The Andy Pickering Band for a while until finally I found the name… The Telmos! This comes from the district in Buenos Aires ‘San Telmo’ It was perfect because I had a great connection to Argentina and we used a local artist to paint our logo in the traditional style.
What a first year it was I must say! As well as plenty of local shows, I produced the debut E.P in my home studio and we filmed 2 promo videos. We also did a tour in France and went out to play in Argentina where The Telmos in San Telmo video was filmed on super 8.
2018 saw us complete a full four piece lineup with Marco Tommaseo on Guitar/Vocals and Will Harrison playing Bass, replacing Jim. This journey began with two shows at the International Pop Overthrow festival at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. After a number of successful local shows in Sheffield we began work on the next EP, which was recorded at London’s famous vintage studio Toe Rag. Produced by Liam Watson (The White Stripes, The Zutons, Temples, Supergrass, Metronomy)
As well as my own projects I offer songwriting lessons and remote keyboard recording right from my studio!
Which almost brings us right up-to speed….
There you have it, my life in music so far. There will be plenty more from me, it’s just the beginning!