Headline Maniac is the outstanding new project from long-serving Eddie and The Hot Rods members Ian ‘Dipster’ Dean (bass/lead vocals), Chris Taylor (guitar/vocals) and Simon Bowley (drums/vocals). A classic power trio, who deal in solid, blues-based rock ‘n’ roll, served with a contemporary punk gloss, and earworm pop sensibilities, Headline Maniac were, somewhat ironically, first conceived of as a support act. When the original Hot Rods line-up, of Steve Nicol, Barrie Masters, Paul Gray and Graeme Douglas, reunited for a series of 40th anniversary shows in mid-2015, Dipster, Chris and Simon put a band together to open for them, basing their setlist around a batch of new material, which Dipster had recently presented to the contemporary Hot Rods. Although jamming the songs had revealed they weren’t quite right for that band, it also led Dipster and co to realize they were far too good to give up on.
Encouraged by a phenomenal response at the anniversary gigs, Headline Maniac have swiftly grown into their name. Taking another prestigious support with Big Country, and playing their own well-received high-energy club shows throughout the Rochford-to-Canvey ‘Thames Delta’ swathe of Essex they call home, the trio had the opportunity to tighten and hone the tracks, before entering the studio in autumn 2015. The result of those sessions is their accomplished, punchy, and massively hook-laden self-titled debut album, which is set for release on 8th July, via Rod Hot Records.
Headline Maniac’s roots in the area which gave rise to Dr Feelgood, The Kursaal Flyers, The Hot Rods, and other pub rockers who paved the way for punk, are undeniably worn with pride on their debut. However, the band also add elements of blues, classic rock and pop punk into the mix, to create a distinct, engagingly fresh sound. Simon comments “the three of us have quite a different range of musical influences. Chris was hugely influenced by Thin Lizzy and is a real rock-head. Dipster was more into his R ‘n’ B bands, like Dr Feelgood and the Pirates. I was into punk, but also love the classic rock sound of Bad Company and The Who. Headline Maniac has all those influences in its sound”.
Indeed, listeners will hear all of these and more in the band’s dynamic debut album. Numbers like ‘You’re The One For Me’ and ‘Bad’, which throb with Chris’s relentless, grooving riffs, evoke Zeppelin’s classic 70s blues rock power, while ’14 Days’s bounding pace and unabashedly poppy hook married to a punk rock bite calls to mind Green Day’s modern punk. Elsewhere, ‘Give Me One More Chance’ hums with coiled energy, in its twitchy, jumpy guitar runs, while Simon and Chris’s backing vocals perfectly complement Dipster’s gravelly yet melodious lead on an instant singalong chorus. Getting his hands on an advance copy of the album, Vive le Rock magazine’s Mark Chadderton was quick to pick up on the intuitive chemistry between the band members, stating in a 9/10 review, “this debut album exudes a superbly meshed mix of classic quality rock, punk and new wave swagger. Chris Taylor's ear grabbing guitar, Simon Bowley's dominant drums and Dipster's booming bass are as tight as you'd surmise, pumping out an almighty edgy, tuneful racket... the energising quality never lets up".
That impressive chemistry stems from the fact the trio have already been playing together for more than a decade, as three fifths of the most enduring Hot Rods line-up to date. Drummer Simon was the first to get the call when Barrie Masters resurrected the Rods in 2000, although, as the nephew of original drummer Steve Nicol (who inspired Simon to pick up his instrument at the age of six!), he’d been around their music a lot longer. Simon then recruited Chis and Dipster, having been impressed by their work in local Essex bands.
The sort of tightness and camaraderie that arises only from intensive, tireless touring (the Hot Rods UK comeback run consisted of no less than 76 dates, and they’ve not stopped touring Europe, Asia and North America since) is strongly apparent on the trio’s debut as Headline Maniac, but along with it you also sense the energy, freshness and excitement that accompanies and brand new venture. That kind of sheer, infectious enjoyment of playing music is exactly what Headline Maniac is all about, according to Simon. “We aren’t kids anymore and we aren’t looking for rock stardom anymore, we just want people to enjoy the live shows, rock out to the album, and we will continue doing what we love doing”, he says, adding “we’re having fun, and that’s exactly the way it should be”.