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Interview with Tim Owens

Article 27th June 2024

Earth, Wind & Fire Experience by Al McKay

Headline Haydock Park Racecourse on Friday 9th August

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Interview with Tim Owens

What can someone expect from an Earth, Wind & Fire Experience by Al McKay gig?

TO: If you don't mind, I'll take a moment and explain the origins of the band! So, Al McKay put this band together when he left Earth, Wind & Fire, and the band, a lot of people don't know, actually ceased during that time. I believe it was like ‘83 and all the guys still wanted to play the music, so Al McKay put the band back together and started doing shows as the LA All Stars. He had most of the original guys in his band at that time, which was the early stages of this current band.  So, after a couple of years, Maurice White - the original founder - decided to start Earth, Wind & Fire back up, so that split them in half.  Maurice owned the name so Al couldn't really compete with, you know, the demand of what they can get as Earth, Wind & Fire. So he kept the LA All Stars name for a long time and did shows a few times a year. We would play Japan and a couple of big conventions and special shows in LA and I came in during the end of that phase. 

When I came in we had more original members of Earth, Wind & Fire than Maurice White did. Then we started playing more and more and it grew into to what it is now.  We started doing tours throughout Europe. So what they can expect is Al's vision, which was to continue to play the music as it was recorded. That's why the band is so large, because he wanted to have that original sound of the music and not allow technology to take over it and have it become more about a visual show than the sound.

So that's what they can expect, they can expect all the energy and the sound of the original records.

You've been performing with the band for over 25 years now. How has it been working with Al to continue the Earth, Wind & Fire legacy?

TO: Oh, it's something I never could have dreamed. I mean, I grew up on this music and I don't say that half-heartedly. I literally grew up on the music. I'm the youngest of four, my brothers were super fans of Earth, Wind & Fire and I grew up knowing every niche and every nuance on the records. When I got into the band, Al was really surprised that I knew the records so well at my age. It's been a dream for me.

Over those 25 years has there been any moment that stands out for you that either you're most proud of, or a gig that you've played that you're just like “that is why I'm here, that's why it's all worth it”?

TO: Oh my god, they happen every year. The most recent was we opened for Lionel Richie and for some reason it was just one of the best shows we've had in years. I mean, the experiences are just amazing. The memory that sticks out the most is we were in South Africa, this was some years ago, and we're in the lobby of the hotel trying to check in and all of a sudden, they told us no one could move and they asked us to line up against the wall and we're thinking what in the world is going on? Suddenly Mandela walks in. At the time I had long, long locks. So when he came in he came around the corner, and when he got near me, he looked up and our eyes met and he said, “I like your hairstyle”. I almost fainted. Of all the years that's probably my most memorable moment. Oh my god, I felt like a schoolgirl at The Beatles concert.

You mentioned South Africa and you mentioned Japan, you’ve spent a lot of time touring internationally and this summer you're going to be spending a lot of time in Europe. What is it that you particularly like performing over here?

TO: All of Europe and the UK, it's a much more honest audience. When I say honest, I mean, the appreciation for talent is not so dependent on a big name, a familiar face, technology on stage and dancers and stuff blowing up. It's more about the music. It's more honestly about the communication through music and how it makes the people feel and they react to that.  So that's what I appreciate the most. I don't feel the same judgement of “who is this” and “I never heard of him". There are some audiences in some places where the act can be terrible, but because they're well-known people are going crazy. Then an act can be really good, but because people don't know their face or whatever they treat it like it's nothing. I just find throughout Europe if you’re good you're appreciated. I think that goes even way back in time and is why a lot of the American jazz musicians would come to Europe so often for the same reason.

Do you find that different tracks from the setlist go down differently in different countries?  Is there any songs that you know when you play it in the UK that atmosphere is going to be incredible?

TO: Absolutely. We kind of take bets on that sometimes, it’s really funny to watch.  Well, ‘September’ just goes over everywhere. It's just one of those songs that has an infectious energy to it. ‘After The Love Is Gone’ usually goes off pretty well in the UK and of course, because we did The Beatles cover ‘Got To Get you Into My Life’ that goes off really well in the UK.

You mentioned that you sometimes take bets on which track is going to go down the best.  That is a perfect segue into the fact that you're playing Haydock Park, which is a racecourse.  So you know, rather than a support act you're going to have a six card horse race during the day. So do you think that you're going to head down a little bit earlier and have a bit of a flutter on the horses?

TO: You know what I would absolutely love to. I've never seen a horse race. Wow, we've seen it on television. I'm really going to try and make that happen. It's usually kind of hard for us to do that because of our tour schedule we usually try to get as much rest as we can get between shows, but I think I'm going to have to try and see a race.  I think I'm going to have to make that happen!

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