Interview: 'Dreaming big' pays off for famous Harrogate rock band

Harrogate's Jay Apperley on stage with the UK Foo Fighters. (Photograph by Edyta Krzesak)
Harrogate's Jay Apperley on stage with the UK Foo Fighters. (Photograph by Edyta Krzesak)

The Harrogate man behind the biggest charity rock gig for years has been talking about how the now world famous band he created went from the town’s small bars to the big venues.

Jay Apperley, lead singer and guitarist of the UK Foo Fighters who play a special homecoming gig at Harrogate Theatre next week, Friday, May 17, said he didn’t see the band’s phenomenal success coming at all.

Part of the poster for the UK Foo Fighters big gig at Harrogate Theatre.

Part of the poster for the UK Foo Fighters big gig at Harrogate Theatre.

Jay said: “It wasn’t like this in the beginning but we now sellout our own headline tours nationwide. We’ve become world famous amongst the Foos’ fan community and were heralded as THE tribute to the Foos in a BBC documentary in 2017 which profiled us alongside the real Foos.”

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Incredibly, Jay, who once filled in for the real Dave Grohl on stage, has done all this while working at Stratstone BMW Motors at Pannal in Harrogate after starting humble on the town’s bar scene.

Jay and his fellow UK Foo members Arron Warner (bass), Jamie Valentine (guitar/vocals), Nick Wright (keyboards) and Alex Bailey (drums/vocals) will be raising funds for Harrogate Hospital’s Cardiac Unit and Harrogate Theatre’s restoration, as suggested by Harrogate Theatre's associate director, P hil Lowe who is a massive hard rock and metal fan.

The show is presented by Speedsta Promotions.

The show will be followed by an after-show party at Monteys Rock Cafe.

The organisers are grateful to Jonathan and Tom at KV2 Audio for their technical support.

The event's MC will be Graham Chalmers of the Harrogate Advertiser.

The Harrogate Advertiser asked Jay to tell the story of the UK Foo Fighters rise in his own words.

1. What's it like to be coming back home to play your biggest ever gig in Harrogate?

Jay: It is nearly 12 years since UK Foo Fighters’ first shows in Harrogate and Knaresborough. To think this all started as a local covers band called Speedsta in 2004.

A band I was invited to front and name, my first ever band at 37 years old. Late to the party eh?! (laugh)

Speedsta gained popularity locally playing tracks from some of my favourite bands. Such as Nirvana, Green Day, RHCP, White Stripes, QOTSA and Stereophonics but in particular, it was our covers of Foo Fighters that resonated somehow.

I wanted to travel and play further afield, I’d never been on tour and I had rock’n’roll dreams to fulfil (laugh) but there was very little venue interest in nearby cities (Leeds/York/Newcastle/Manchester/Liverpool) for a touring covers band. These places already had many of their own.

It was a call from a local festival promoter and a conversation with Loz Shirley (landlord at the then Rat & Parrot) that triggered talk of tribute bands. Tribute bands did travel!

So 12 years on, we’re now World-Famous amongst the Foos’ fan community, heralded as THE tribute to the Foos in a BBC documentary celebrating ‘Tribute’, profiling us alongside the Foo’s on their road to headlining Glastonbury in 2017 as we celebrated 10 years and they 20.

We have literally played the length and breadth of this country, to just a few hundred and to as many as 15,000 and everything in between.

Extensively to England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland, also Belgium and The Netherlands. So coming back to Harrogate, it feels almost like we are nearing the end of this journey.

And yet, this Theatre Special ‘The Ultimate Foo Fighters Experience’ could be the beginning of something completely new.

2. Why have you decided to do a special format for the Harrogate Theatrre gig?

Jay: I have always talked about doing an acoustic Foo Fighters’ set or incorporating more acoustic tunes into our show but it’s not what people want to listen to at the rock venues. They want to sing along, mosh and rock out.

In 2006, Foo Fighters released their fifth and only studio double album to date, ‘In Your Honor’, it’s one half acoustic and one half rock.

This led to a number of acoustic tour dates and the release of their ‘live’ acoustic album ‘Skin And Bones’ filmed at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles.

‘Skin And Bones’ is the reason we also have a keyboard player in this band. Rami Jaffee (Foos’ keyboard player) joined Foo Fighters for this album.

I recall going to see my friend Laurie Hopkins and his band ‘Citizen Smith’ play Montey’s Rock Bar some 5 years or more ago. I didn’t know that a certain Nick Wight played keys for ‘Citizen Smith’. I’d found OUR Rami Jaffee!

So this show is over five years in the making. No pressure Nick! (laugh)

3. Why do the charities who will benefit mean so much to you?

Jay: In 2017 we were celebrating 10 years as a tribute to the mighty Foo’s. I wanted to give something back, to support my local music scene but the opportunity just never presented itself.

Earlier this year Graham Chalmers (a local hero when it comes to supporting the live music scene here in Harrogate) mentioned to me that Phil Lowe (Harrogate Theatre) might be interested in a collaborative fundraiser. Phil owes his life to the Harrogate Hospital Cardiology Unit and I never knew that the Harrogate Theatre was also run as a charity.

The Harrogate Theatre Restoration Fund is constantly raising funds for the upkeep of the building.

Finally, I’d found the opportunity I was seeking, I get to do something to help my local community and support my local music scene.

4. When you used to play the Blues Bar did you ever think you and the band would reach this point?

Jay: The Tribute phenomenon has come a long way in the last decade but even today there is still a certain snobbery surrounding it.

Hey! Even I had my reservations, I recall saying way back when, isn’t Tribute just about Working Men’s Clubs and wigs? It’s become so much more these days.

Honestly, I’m just proof that if you dream big and set your sights on being the best that you can possibly be, anything is possible.

As for the Blues Bar, Sharon and Simon have been very supportive, hopefully they will have me back when I retire from touring, to play once again in my own back yard?!

I’d like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to my long-time bass man and friend Mr Arron Warner.

Arron has been with me on this journey from the beginning but has recently decided to call it a day. Juggling life, day jobs/careers and long weekends away from family and friends is hard.

Our Harrogate Theatre show will be one of his last with UK Foo Fighters. I wouldn’t have made it this far without him. Thanks amigo!

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