“Big Peter Talks to Uncle Leon”
From The Bluesbunny – Glasgow, Scotland[NOTE: For a brief period in 2008, Leon took a hiatus from the band. This interview was conducted during that time.]
Recently our intrepid reporter, Big Peter McGee had the opportunity to interview a hero of the Bluesbunny who goes by the name of Uncle Leon, of Uncle Leon and the Alibis. Topics covered included Rollergirls and the greatest song ever written.
BIG PETER MCGEE: When did you first pick up a guitar?
LEON: I got one when I was 13 years old, but I wouldn’t say I got any better at it. I’m not being hard on myself, I mean, if you’re coming to see me play guitar you’re kinda missing the point. I was one of those kids who had a guitar around and learned to play three chords and that’s pretty much as far as it ever went.
BIG PETER MCGEE: Your song, “Bartender”. What drove you to write such a thing?
LEON: Do you really want the Bartender story?
BIG PETER MCGEE: Oh yeah. It’s very much a favourite with Bluesbunny!
LEON: Not a lot of people bring that one up. I’ll be honest. I had a crush on a bartender
BIG PETER MCGEE: I think we’ve all been there.
LEON: You’re right, we’ve all been there. It’s very easy to idealise the woman whose getting you drunk. I really did. I had a thing for this woman who worked in a bar for a while, then I looked around and realised that everyone else was looking at her in that way and realised ‘You don’t want to be that guy!’ I wrote that and it turned into that long story and I actually gave her a copy. It didn’t work out, but that’s okay – I got another song out of that.
BIG PETER MCGEE: The Alibis recently broke up. Was there anything behind that? [See note above.]
LEON: I don’t wanna disappoint everybody, but we’re still on speaking terms, we’re still friends, but to be honest, I’m the kind of person, when I take something on, I just do every facet of it. I made that band, and I was running that band, I was the front of that band, I was the guy designing the posters, I was the guy making the phone calls, and collecting the money and booking the tours. I just kinda burnt myself out a little. You take on a second job, and if you’re not making a lot of money, and you don’t absolutely love every minute of it, at that point you ask why you’re doing it. If I ever want to get it back together, maybe we will. We’re on pretty friendly terms.
BIG PETER MCGEE: The editor at Bluesbunny was devastated. He’s still not quite recovered. If you have a passport and you’re willing to travel, he’s willing to fork out.
LEON: I did travel for one solo show recently, because those are easy to do. When we need the band, it’s tough. I have to admit I’m one of those Americans who has never been out of the country. I would love to do it. I’ve got the passport; I just haven’t gone anywhere yet. If I can get the time and the money to travel I would absolutely love it, so I’ll take him up on that!
BIG PETER MCGEE: I understand that in your time with the Alibis, you did a circuit of the Roller Derby. How did that come about?
LEON: I know it as a fan, I know some people who have been involved. I’d been to the one in Texas, where it all started, and then met some people from the New York team. I guy I knew was shooting videos for them, just footage of the team and stuff. He was talking about doing a documentary, and I said “Well you’re going to need music, right?” So I just got the band together, we went into the studio and I said “Let’s just do this for this guy,” just for fun. Something different, a little more rock ‘n’ roll than what we were doing. I just posted it online – it’s the miracle of MySpace. I just started searching teams. You just do a search. One person knows another person, knows another person. Within two months I had 100 teams in contact with me, so when it came time to travel it was just a matter of saying “Who wants to help us out?” and we actually booked the tour around it.
BIG PETER MCGEE: I take it that you’re quite impressed by how the song has got about? There are bands in Glasgow that play it as part of their live shows now. I’m heading to see the Glasgow Rollergirls face the London Rollergirls and it should be interesting to hear your song in an arena.
LEON: That would be pretty strange for me. It really has been a happy accident. The funny thing is that we were really a testament to the online phenomenon, because I get a lot of mail from people saying “when are you gonna come to our town?”, people in California, people in England, stuff like that. I have to tell them I’m not rich off this! I’m not complaining, but that song’s free. I don’t exactly get a big fat cheque from that. That’s the hardest part to explain.