Interviews

Interview: Hoss Thompson of THIRTEEN STARS

Charm, swagger, talent, confidence, style in spades. If you were asked to describe the band Thirteen Stars, then any or all the above would apply. Armed with killer songs, killer moves, and killer presence, Thirteen Stars’ live performances are at the pinnacle of their arsenal. Grinding out shows relentlessly over the last decade, they have risen to the task of satisfying large audiences all over the UK and Europe, they have amassed a strong and loyal following and since signing with Off Yer Rocka records, their popularity has soared as they were welcomed with open arms by the ever-loyal, ever-loving, HRH community. Andy, Ryan, Jax, and Hoss are Thirteen Stars, they live and breathe this, and if you are in any doubt at all then do yourself the biggest favor you can and get to a show. It’s honest, it’s real, it’s raw, and it’s as good as it gets. Thirteen Stars are here for the duration, downright dirty, downright dangerous, and downright awesome. Ahead of their forthcoming co-headlining tour with the King Lot, we were fortunate to be able to sit down with singer/guitarist Hoss Thompson for a chat.


ANTIHERO: Can you please tell me the origins of your Christian name? It’s unusual. Obviously, it’s not a Cumbrian or English name.

Hoss Thompson: It’s just a nickname I’ve had for a long time, so… I’d go into details, but it’s not a very interesting story, so it’s much better to keep it a mystery.

ANTIHERO: What about your musical origins, then. They seem to dip a bit further than Cumbria.

Hoss Thompson: Yeah. Absolutely. Obviously, I’m from Yorkshire originally anyway, but I guess, you know, we’re all sort of products of our upbringing. My parents listened to a lot of 60s music. You know, Motown, as well as the heavy rock and that sort of thing. For some reason, I’ve really gravitated towards a more Southern style of thing. You know? It kind of has everything, doesn’t it? You know. It has these moments where it makes you want to cry, and it has these moments where it makes you want to boogie. What more can you ask from a musical form really?

ANTIHERO: It does seem to be a musical genre that seems to be embraced more by a rock fan base these days.

Hoss Thompson: What Southern rock?  Yeah. Well, I guess at its heart, any good music, whether it’s rock or pop or classical or whatever, I guess if it’s got a good tune and it’s well-written and it’s well put together, then people will like it, you know?  People like good melodies and harmonies and all those sorts of things. You give somebody a catchy tune, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a guy walking down the street whistling it or whether it’s a 200-piece orchestra, you know it’s a good tune.  

I think Southern rock, not to say that any other genre rock doesn’t have this, but I think Southern rock does have a very, very catchy melody, song structures. I mean the fact that it draws its influences from country and blues and all things so, you know, when you’re talking the south of America, you’re talking the Irish influences and the Scottish and all those influences mixed together with the blues, creating this real kind of tapestry of different … creating ultimately a new form, but drawing strong influences from previous musical forms, if that makes sense.

ANTIHERO:  Your band’s Facebook page indicates that a new album has already been recorded, is that the case?

Hoss Thompson: Well, we’re in the process of recording it. So, we’ve tracked it, and we’re in the process of recording all the little bits and bolts, but we actually want to go and do some more tracking anyway because since we done the original tracking, we’ve got a lot of new stuff, as well, that we’d like to get down. I mean, we’re not in any hurry to get it done. The last album, we kind of did it in a very quick-paced time. I think on this one we wanted to take our time and get it right. I’m not saying that we got the last one wrong. I mean, it’s a good record. I’m happy with it, but I think we all kind of felt with this one if we took our time with it, then it might be closer to our original intentions. Does that make sense?

ANTIHERO: Is that maybe why you decided to bridge the gap between the next album with a live EP? I actually was privy enough and lucky enough to receive a link today to the live EP. Is that maybe as to say what prompted your decision to go with an EP in between the release of the next album?

Hoss Thompson: Yeah. I mean, the live EP, I think any rock band is kind of at their best when you see them live, right?

ANTIHERO: Certainly, I would agree with that

Hoss Thompson: It kind of doesn’t matter whether it’s Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin or I don’t know, the Kooks. You know what I mean? Any good rock band worth their salt is going to be at their best in a live situation. You know, we have a lot of followers as live performers. You know, they always pick up the albums, as well, but there’s a sort of an energy and a freedom that comes from a live performance and an immediacy that comes from a live performance that you don’t get with an album. When I think of the people that I have some of their live albums like How the West Was Won, by Led Zeppelin or Queen, Live at the Rainbow ‘74, or you know, those have got a great sense of energy and urgency and immediacy and spontaneity. When we got the opportunity to record some live shows, we jumped at it. We didn’t necessarily know what we were going to do with it, but we knew that we would want to record it and, if nothing else, have a listen back and see what we were actually doing. As it came off, I think there was a great energy about a lot of the recordings. They’re not all from one place. They’re from a few different gigs. Some of those songs will be appearing on the next album, so I guess they’re a precursor if you like. But yeah, we wanted to get that live sound down and then, as you said, bridge the gap between the last album and the next one.

ANTIHERO: And, of course, there’s a cover version on there, as well?

Hoss Thompson: Yes, there is. Yeah. There’s Remedy, yeah. I mean, we’ve been playing Remedy for a long time, actually, since before … was it since before The Raven? I’m not sure. Yeah, but either way, we’ve been playing it for a good few years. We love The Black Crowes. Actually, as a band favorite… I can never remember which way around it is. Is it Before the Frost, After the Freeze or is it After the Frost, Before the Freeze? Whichever one it is, the live album that they did where they did it at Levon Helms’ like band studio with an audience, that’s one of our big, sort of, the band in the van going to a gig favorites. I’ve always thought Remedy had a great – Remedy is an awesome album, but I’ve also thought Remedy had a great, sort of, groove to it and a great energy to it, which I thought that we could do it justice – If that makes sense. It’s always difficult with covers, we don’t do that many of them. Primarily because the ones you’d want to do, you don’t want to pick on a Picasso, do you? You know what I mean? cause nobody’s going to do it like Zeppelin; difficult to cover Queen because nobody can do it like Queen. Actually, with my voice and with the way the band works, I thought even though we don’t have a keys player, I thought we could get away with Remedy.  Just on sheer ball-busting guitars. You know what I mean?

ANTIHERO: The band’s career has been on an upward curve pretty much since you first signed with Off Your Rocka. I just wondered has the band’s success been a surprise to you or basically, you feel you deserve it for what you’ve put in?

Hoss Thompson: That’s a really difficult question to answer. I think we work hard. We’ve always worked hard, and we’ll continue to work hard. Prior to getting signed with Off Your Rocka, we were together as a band, albeit with a different bassist who left for personal reasons. He wanted to get married, settled down, work in the family business, so I can’t blame him for that but that’s not necessarily the choice that I want to make in my life. We have been together for a long time prior to that, so we’ve kind of done the one man and his dog shows and the slog if you like. We still continue to do the slog and we still enjoy doing the slog, if you like.

That was a surprise because, I mean, Southern rock is certainly increasing in terms of popularity Last time that was big was what 76? Around that sort of time anyway. When you had Bob Harris going to Nashville and all that kind of stuff. In terms of the success that we’ve achieved, if you work hard –  

ANTIHERO: That’s what comes along.

Hoss Thompson: Well, hopefully. You could only try, right? I mean, we do things slightly different to the way a lot of bands will do, which we try to road test all of our material before we record it because we want to know: a) how it’s going to go down; b) by the time you’ve taken in the studio, if you’ve heard it around on the road, then you’re not far off it. I guess in that sense, we have a pretty good idea that the songs that we record should be reasonably popular. Then, it’s just up to us to let them live up to the live experience if that makes sense.

ANTIHERO: What about the role of PR companies these days? Do you let them do their job and you do yours? Or is there any sort leaving things up to them largely?Do you kind of guide them on what you want? How does that work that whole relationship?

Hoss Thompson: All right, well, we’re very, very lucky in the sense that we have a great manager in Terri Chapman, who we’ve known for a long time. We used to work with her when she worked Off Your Rocka. You know, things weren’t working out with our last manager, and she approached us and we were really happy to go with her. She’s done a great job for us. She’s very good at kicking us in the ass when we haven’t posted anything on social media for a while, which we need because, you know, sometimes – As a musician, you can quite easily disappear up your own ass and not notice that you haven’t posted anything on social media for a week or two. Usually, it’s either us or Terri that’s posting on social media. Usually, it’s us, but Terri does post, obviously.

In terms of PR beyond that, I think it’s important to trust people to do the job that you’re asking them to do. If you don’t think that they’re doing the job correctly, then it’s time to either change or at least to ask them why they’re doing it the way they’re doing it. Beyond that, everybody should be professionals, right? Terri does a good job for us. I don’t feel the need to question everything she does – Because I think she does a great job.

ANTIHERO: Are you guys able to earn a full-time living being musicians, solely?

Hoss Thompson: No.

ANTIHERO: Yeah, yeah. I find a lot of bands, even bands up and around a helluva long time are still having to do part-time jobs on the side to supplement this for you to live.

Hoss Thompson: Yeah, well that’s it … bills, eating … you know.  Quite a few in the band to go and do a gig. The way that we run the band is everything we earn goes into a pot and then that pays for other things. We don’t take money out of the band at this stage. That’s the way we’ve always done it, so you know. A gig may pay for getting to the next gig, or it’ll pay for a recording session or whatever – So, you’re kind of constantly investing in that. I mean, we put in money, as well, anyway, but we all have either full-time or part-time jobs. And very understanding bosses, which is quite handy.

ANTIHERO: I was going to say … because you’re off again on tour with The King Lot shortly. So, you need to have understanding bosses to allow you all that time off to tour.

Hoss Thompson: Absolutely. Well, our boss is very, very, very supportive and, in some ways, they’re kind of patrons to us, actually. They really help us out, and they want to see us succeed, so that’s a really nice place to be. I don’t think any band can operate without the support of the people that are around them and the people they work for and all of those different threads that come in and out of your life. I don’t think anybody can … no man is an island.

ANTIHERO: The tour itself is billed, Outlaws and Angels. How do you see Thirteen Stars? Somewhere between the two or … Outlaws or Angels?

Hoss Thompson: Well, that depends on what night you catch us on, you know? How good the journey is to get to the gig. Yeah, somewhere between the two. I guess we have elements of outlaws, and we have elements of angels, just like everybody else.

ANTIHERO: The gigs are described in the billing as “Co-headline”. How long are you guys playing? How long is The King Lot playing?

Hoss Thompson: You know, I’m not actually sure. That’s bad isn’t is, but I’m not actually sure. That is a discussion I need to have and figure that one out.

ANTIHERO: Obviously, you’ve got to put together a set so you’re going to have to know what sort of length a set you have.

Hoss Thompson: That’s fine. We can do anything from two and a half hours to 45 minutes. It doesn’t matter to us. By a certain point, it becomes what are the big hitters? What absolutely has to be in there? What do we really want to play today? We rarely play two shows exactly the same.

ANTIHERO: That’s nice. Keeps it fresh as well for audience members who maybe want to take in a couple of shows on the tour, as well as for yourselves.

Hoss Thompson: Well, exactly. There are some songs that you want to particularly want to play one night that you maybe don’t want to play another night. I know it’s a bit arbitrary but, at the same time, I think that keeps it fresh for us, as well. Luckily, we have that level of material that we can do that quite easily. We try to be reasonably disciplined in terms of … as much as I love bands that jam and do that kind of thing, in the back of my head I’ve always got Tom Petty going “Don’t bore us; get to the chorus,” right? We try to be reasonably disciplined in terms of the way we put songs together. So, keeping the sets different kind of keeps it fresh for us as well as everybody else, hopefully.

ANTIHERO: What would have been your very first introduction to music? Was it a gig? Maybe a song on the radio? Parents’ record collection?

Hoss Thompson: My very first introduction to music … wow, I don’t know. Probably listening to sounds of the 60s in a Fiat Panda when I was a kid, traveling to Scotland or wherever, seeing my mom’s family I guess. All sorts of stuff. The Small Faces were on there, I remember that Gene Pitney and all sorts of people, yeah, The Who. That would probably be my first introduction. Then, I got very into The Beatles when I was a kid when I was about 12. I’ve always been very into Queen because my parents got me a record player when I was about 8, and the first two LPs they got me were the first Queen albums. 

ANTIHERO: Do you have any interests or hobbies outside music or is music just everything to you? Is music your hobby?

Hoss Thompson: Music is my life. It’s not a hobby. It’s something that you have to live your life by, really. Do I have any hobbies outside of music? I like to read. I’ve got a large interest in history, all sorts of history from all over the world. You’ve got to know where you come from to know where you’re going to. But, no, really music and film are pretty all-consuming, I’m afraid.

ANTIHERO: What ambitions and hopes do you have for this year coming, 2018? What do you see the band going, doing?

Hoss Thompson: Well, we’ve got the U.K. tour. And then we have a Spanish tour in April, which I’m very much looking forward to … as a history buff, I’m kind of looking forward to seeing some of the places where the Peninsula War was fought. We’re in talks to go back to Germany again, which we love Germany, so hopefully, that will happen. Beyond that, I’d like us to get out the next album and, hopefully, it will be successful.

ANTIHERO: Do you see that being released this year for definite?

Hoss Thompson: Yeah, I think so.

ANTIHERO: Who would you personally like to interview, not maybe even a musician … somebody that has inspired you? A personal hero?

Hoss Thompson: Wow, that’s an interesting question. Who would I like to interview? I don’t know. I’d love to interview John Lennon. I think that would be fascinating, but that’s probably a fairly obvious one, isn’t it? I’d actually really like to interview the Duke of Wellington, Sir Arthur Wellesley. That’d be an interesting one … or Churchill. Churchill would be cool as well.

ANTIHERO: I’m looking forward to seeing you guys in Manchester. Thanks very much for chatting.

Hoss Thompson: Oh no. Thank you. Come over to us and say hello.

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Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time.Photo: Mark Dean with Jeff Kendrick of Devildriver - Photography by Olga Kuzmenko

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