EMQ’s With Star Circus
Hi everyone! Welcome to another EMQs interview, this time with UK 70s/80s inspired Rock band, Star Circus. Huge thanks to Vocalist/Guitarist, Dave Winkler, for taking part.
What is your name, what do you play, and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?
Hi! I’m Dave Winkler. I sing and play guitar in Star Circus. I guess I’m the Ringleader.
Star Circus really started off as an album project rather than a band. I had accumulated a load of songs over the years, a couple were played in previous bands, but most were just demos that hadn’t worked out or been put forward any other projects. Towards the end of 2017 I sent producer Tony Wilson (TotalRock / Mia Klose / Scardust) a bunch of MP3’s and he really took a liking to them. A few awesome musicians got onboard, and 5 years later, after getting distracted with tribute bands US tours with signed artists, a pandemic, laptop malfunctions, we finally have “Separate Sides”!
Running parallel to that, over the last couple of years we have released 4 singles that feature on the album. The first one was ‘Love Is The Enemy’ back in February 2020. I put a band together and we did a single launch show, then we all know what happened shortly after! However, during lockdown it became clear that Star Circus needed to be a band. After a few line-up changes, we now have a great bunch of players completed by Sophie Aurélia Young (Bass / Backing Vocals), Jon Crampton (Guitar / Backing Vocals), Alex McArov (Drums) and William Robertson (Keyboards / Guitar / Backing Vocals).
How did you come up with your band name?
As I mentioned, it started as a solo project that evolved into a band. I had previously been in a lot of bands where everything we did was a group decision and I found that a lot of tours and international shows would fall through because life got in the way. I’ve been fortunate to work with some awesome musicians over the years, so the idea was that if we got offered some great opportunities, I would take them and whoever was available would do the shows, so it would be a cool bunch of songs with a revolving cast of people, a ‘Star Circus’. That concept has now changed, but it’s a cool name so we kept it.
What Country/Region are you from and what is the Metal/Rock scene like there?
We are based in London, where I was fortunate enough to grow up. I’m sure you and many of your readers will be aware that there has been a thriving music scene in London for many decades. It takes some dips, old places close and old friends disappear, but it never really dies. There are always great gigs, club nights, bars and events to go to on the rock and metal scene particularly in the Camden and Holloway area where we’re based. There are some new places opening, but great venues like the Underworld, the Electric Ballroom and the Forum have survived.
What is your latest release? (Album, EP, Single, Video)
Our previous single, ‘Bridges’ came out on the 26th August. The debut album, “Separate Sides” will be released on 2nd December. It will be preceded by one more single and an accompanying video, a live-in-the-studio version of ’Times Get Tough’. So, look out for that!
Who have been your greatest influences?
Watching the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert on TV that got me into rock music when I was 11 was huge. So, Queen, Extreme, Metallica, Def Leppard and Guns ‘N’ Roses were early influences. Later I would pass a second-hand record shop on my way home from school and grab anything from Iron Maiden to Bowie, Black Sabbath to the Police and try and absorb it all.
What first got you into music?
As a kid in the 80’s I really liked a lot of radio pop music, back when people wrote real songs… I was obsessed with Top of the Pops as a toddler! This was before I’d heard a lot of heavier rock music, as my parents weren’t really into it. I like to think some of the hooks and anthemic ideas in my songs are rooted in that stuff. Everything from Duran Duran, Nik Kershaw, Level 42, Belinda Carlisle, stuff with great melodies. Not very Metal! That came later on.
If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?
There are a lot of people I’d love to work with, but if I had to choose one it would be Brian May. He’s such a distinctive guitar player, a great songwriter and a lovely guy.
If you could play any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?
I really love Sweden Rock Festival, I fly over there every year (pretty much for the last 20 years) to meet up with friends and see great bands. There are some bigger international festivals like Wacken and HellFest which we would obviously be thrilled to do, but Sweden Rock is my home-from-home.
What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?
Many years ago, I got a Playboy Bunny-shaped cushion handed to me at a show at the Underworld, think it was supposed to be an early Christmas Present.
More recently our former guitarist got a Valentines card sent to his place of work from a fan in Holland. He wasn’t too happy about it – we still don’t know how she got the address!
If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?
Have… a good time… all the time.
If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?
I’m gonna go for David Bowie. A Bowie-less world really sucks, he had so many amazing ideas, I just thought he’d live forever.
Though Eddie Van Halen would be a close second. Luckily, I got to see Van Halen support Bon Jovi at Wembley when I was 15, then never again. Would have been great if he’d made it over to the UK in the last 25 years, but it wasn’t to be.
What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?
I really love touring, playing shows night after night and becoming an unstoppable rock n’ roll machine, it’s one big adventure. I also equally love writing and recording, putting songs together piece by piece. What I don’t enjoy so much is the social media promo stuff – sometimes upwards of 20 takes talking to a phone screen, Facebook glitches, fiddly little Instagram stories, all that. Sophie’s (bassist) much better at that stuff than me. I’m old, I’d rather just hand out flyers or talk to people on the phone!
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
I feel, since the advent of emails being the primary form of communication, along with social media private messages, the lack of response frustrates me. I’d rather hear ’No, sorry. We’re not interested’ than… just nothing. In my experience it’s more often labels, agents, venue promoters and management that don’t respond. Bands tend to be a little better at it, but often can’t be of much help! Since we can’t rewind the clock to a time when people answered the phone, maybe it would be better if musicians took more control and responsibility of different aspects instead of such a big team of middlemen. We would have better and more direct communication and more power. And now half my friends in the industry are gonna hate me, ha ha!
Name one of your all-time favourite albums?
Thanks for saying ‘one of’, it gives me a chance to give a different answer! I’m gonna go for Megadeth – “Countdown To Extinction”. Many of my friends would go for “Rust In Peace” which is also great, but for me ‘Countdown…’ was where Mustaine really hit his stride with the songwriting. There’s just a perfect mix of great playing and big anthems. So there you go, some metal, finally! Next interview it will probably be something by Rick Springfield, Bryan Adams or Belinda Carlisle!
What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?
That’s a hard one to answer. All of them have different place in my life. I guess I don’t download many albums anymore. Digitally I tend to stream stuff, so downloads probably come last. My car has a radio and CD player, so CD’s are still very integral to me. I grew up with cassette tapes, so there’s a lot of nostalgia attached to them, much like CD’s. Taking the shrink wrap off, unfolding the sleeve and checking out the photos and lyrics, putting it in the tape deck and hearing songs for the first time, long before YouTube and Spotify existed. It was all so exciting! Vinyl is amazing, but it’s a luxury purchase for people nowadays, in that sense it’s the best format. But it’s impractical, sadly I don’t get many opportunities to listen to proper records nowadays.
What’s the best gig that you have played to date?
That’s a really tough one. My old band opened for Skid Row at the Electric Ballroom many years ago, that felt like a great show, even though I broke my guitar strap 4 songs in!
I’m hoping the best shows are to come with Star Circus. Maybe it will be our album launch at the Camden Underworld on 26th November, come down and find out!
If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing?
Not a lot probably! I discovered I make pretty awesome vegetable soup during lockdown. Maybe I could open a soup kitchen?
Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?
The original line up of KISS in full makeup and my 95-year-old grandma. Just to create all kinds of confusion and awkwardness.
What’s next for the band?
The album launch gig is at the Underworld on 26th November, we’re pretty excited about that one, and we’ve put together a killer bill. The album comes out 6 days later, we’re feeling pretty positive thanks to the reactions from the press so far! Next year we have a tour and a couple of festivals lined up for the Summer, can’t say too much yet so watch this space for announcements.
What Social Media/Website links do you use to get your music out to people?
We have a website and are on all social media platforms. Check out the links below:
Jaffa Cakes! Are they a cake or a biscuit?
I personally believe they are very small cakes. Micro-cakes.
Thank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Hope to see everyone reading this at the launch, or at some shows next year. We won’t disappoint you! Keep the rock rollin’!
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