JBR Profile: Warren Ringham – The Man Behind Q The Music Show

Warren Ringham is known to most JBR podcast listeners as the Trumpeter and manager of the James Bond tribute band, Q The Music Show.  The band is set to perform at an exclusive Oct 25th London event hosted by Martijn Mulder, author of On the Tracks of 007, the day before the premiere of SPECTRE.  I thought it might be a good idea to take the opportunity to get to know Warren a little better, find out a little about his background, and of course ask some Bond music questions that he is uniquely qualified to answer.

Warren Ringham

Warren Ringham

Warren is from “a little place in Surrey called Shepperton.” His father, Paul Ringham, was an accomplished Trumpeter who played in the Royal Philharmonic and BBC Symphony Orchestras while also playing on some notable film soundtracks including Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.  Encouraged by his father, Warren began playing the trumpet at age 9.  Years later Warren went on to study at the prestigious Royal College of Music in London where he earned a Bachelor of Music degree and also won the David Mason Trumpet Award. He has since went on to follow in his father’s footsteps by playing with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. 12 years ago, Warren joined the Royal Air Force as a musician, which has allowed him the freedom to concentrate on music as a full time career.

Sadly, Warren’s father Paul passed away in 1999.  To this day, Warren regards his father as the primary musical influence and inspiration of his life. Warren has this to say about his father, “He was an exceptional Trumpeter and musician, and 16 years on I still meet people all the time who just cannot say enough about how good he was.”

Paul Ringham

Paul Ringham

When it comes to film score composers, Warren admires John Williams and most definitely John Barry.  I decided to ask Warren some questions about the music of James Bond as well what it’s like to perform in Q The Music Show, one of the most sought after musical experiences.

JL: Tell us a little about the origins of Q the Music.  What made you come up with the idea for a James Bond tribute band?

WR: Well, first and foremost, I am a MASSIVE fan of the films and music, so as a performing, working musician who runs bands (and had done for several years) – it was sort of inevitable!  I remember being sat in traffic with a Bond CD blasting out and thinking “No one has ever done a James Bond Tribute Band!  Why not?  That is what I will do.”  I set about transcribing the tracks, but for me it was always from a FAN’S perspective.  I wanted to be a fan creating a show/performance for the fans – one I would want to see as a 007 fan.  Of course, this had to be combined into a workable sized group that could take these epic songs/scores and reproduce them on a smaller scale to a smaller setting than a concert hall, but deliver an authentic, exciting performance.  I think and hope we have achieved that – at least all the “Bond” fans that have seen the show seem to think so, and they are the opinions and compliments I treasure the most!

Of course, the band is a business – all my musicians are top full time professionals, and expect to be paid (well!), so the corporate and private market for us is very important and makes up the bulk of the work we do here in the UK and abroad.  That said, my passion is doing the theatres and public performances, where we can share this Bond love-in with 007 and even just music fans.

JL: Can you describe the process involved in reconstructing the songs for your band to perform? Does someone transcribe the pieces for each instrument?  I imagine that you’re dealing with some complex orchestrations that may not always be easy to pull off.

WR: I do nearly all the transcribing for all the instruments and all the songs.  The arrangements are so key.  We have a six piece brass section and two keyboards – and it is this that allows me to keep the sound so authentic.  The strings on keyboards are massively important, but also, having 6 brass allows me to keep the richness of Barry’s orchestrations.  Barry has an amazing knack of using the low brass to create that thick sound – and indeed even the non-Barry songs are very low end heavy (Live And Let Die, Licence To Kill etc).  Our Brass section consists of 2 Trumpets, French Horn, 2 Trombones (including Bass Trom) and Saxophone doubling Flute.  I really can cover all the bases with those – the French Horn can become a quasi-Trombone or quasi 3rd Trumpet, whilst 2nd Trumpet (me), can pick up a Flugal Horn and be another “French Horn” and then the Flute can be on the Violin line, or she can pick up a Baritone Sax (Bass Sax) and give me even more low end wallop…  So there is lots of flexibility.

It initially took me about 2 years to really get the arrangements to where I wanted to take them out publicly – I used to do them on bus journeys to other concerts!  That said, I’m still tweaking them now – 11 years on.

I’m a lot faster now, especially after I have found the winning formula for the lineup.  It takes me a few hours to do, then tweaks can go on and on for months – I’m a perfectionist with a bit of OCD!  Once the arrangement is finished, I get it registered and paid for with the copyright holders (mostly Sony/EMI) and then we are good to go.

Q The Music Show's Brass section takes center stage

Q The Music Show’s Brass section takes center stage

JL: How often does the band rehearse? Once the band has mastered a song, is there a need to practice the songs before each gig?

WR: We never rehearse.  We might “top and tail” bits in a sound check, but we haven’t called a “rehearsal” in 11 years – and I’ve used around 110 musicians for our band (it’s a 13 piece band).  The musicians I book are from the very top of the industry – so they are expected (and are used to doing so) to turn up knowing their parts (I send them through in advance).  We have a fairly settled line-up at the moment, so it’s fairly easy to turn up, get the sound levels right and the music takes care of itself.  That said, a new song (Writing’s On The Wall) will mean we will run it through in the sound check maybe a few times on first gig – but then that’s it.

JL: What is your favorite Bond song and section of that song to perform at your gigs?

WR: I have so many “moments” in the show (when we do the full show), it’s hard to single them out.  I love performing all the songs so much, and the people I have around me are so good, it gives me goosebumps all over the place.  The one song that hits me hard every time is Kerry singing Licence To Kill, in particular after the key change:  It makes my eyes water!

My favourite Bond song is Diamonds Are Forever though.  Amazing.

JL: Which Bond theme song presented you with the biggest technical challenge from a performance standpoint?

WR: Hmmm.  This is a tough question, but a really cool one that no-one ever asks – it’s got me thinking!

I think the technical challenge of performing the song takes care of itself if the arrangement is right, and musician on the chair is right.  I don’t think there is any one thing that any of us find particularly taxing if I’m honest.  The hardest chairs to fill in the band – and these are key members – are Drums, Guitar & Lead Trumpet…but of course, Kerry is just irreplaceable as the focal point of the band.  It is her voice that sets the band apart.  I think the most difficult technical thing (musically) would be singing those songs, but she is so naturally talented it never seems to bother her!

From a technical point of view – on the delivery of the show – the sound team and equipment is massively important.  You may or may not mean this when you talk about “performance”, but seriously it is so important.  Our tech team take such a long time to set up as there is such an important role to play.  For example – all the rhythm section play on In-Ear monitors as I insist on us playing to “click track” – so every single song at every single performance is the exact right speed, every single time – as per the originals.  So this involves having each song on a laptop, which the drummer starts, and then counts the band in, playing the track with a continual click in his ear. That is level of detail we go to – and in fact, that is probably the answer to your question…the biggest challenge is getting the technical side to the show correct, then the music and talent takes care of the rest I think.

JL: I know you have 2 male vocalists and one female vocalist.  Can you tell me a little about them and which Bond songs do you think they execute the best at every gig?

WR: So we have Kerry Schultz, Matthew Walker, and David D’Andrade. David is the Guitarist, but also has a superb rock/metal/soul voice so he covers Chris Cornell’s You Know My Name.  That is the only song he does, so it is his best!  To be fair, he always gets one of the biggest cheers of the night when he does that song.

David D'Andrade performs vocals for "You KNow My Name>"

David D’Andrade performs vocals for “You Know My Name”

Matt sings the male songs; Russia, Thunderball, We Have All the Time in the World, and also duets with Kerry on Living Daylights and David on You Know My Name.

Matthew Walker performs most of the Bond songs by male singers

Matthew Walker performs most of the Bond songs by male singers

Kerry takes the rest…It’s hard to do Kerry justice in an interview.  There just are not the words to describe what an incredible talent she is.  Why she has never been snapped up and selling millions of records is beyond all of us, but that is the music industry now sadly.  What you can’t say, or see in the videos, is the electric atmosphere she creates when she sings this stuff.  She leaves nothing on stage, and when she is out there, she draws you in totally – a performance that is full of emotion and power, tone and beauty, light and dark, rock and ballad.  Every single time we do the show – she is the star, and everyone who is there is just blown away.

Kerry Schultz takes center stage for many of Q The Music Show's numbers

Kerry Schultz takes center stage for many of Q The Music Show’s numbers

I cannot wait to share the talents of these incredible singers with all the Bond fans at the On the Tracks Of 007 20th Anniversary next month.  I think people are going to love them.

JL:  When you play a private gig, which Bond song other than the main theme gets the most requests? Which Bond song gets the least requests?  Has a client ever told you to avoid playing a particular Bond song they didn’t like?

WR: On private (corporate) gigs we tend to do an hour “highlight package” as I call it – so all of the title songs from Dr. No, through to Spy, then a few dotted throughout the rest of the franchise (Licence To Kill, Goldeneye, You Know My Name, Skyfall).  No one ever wants Die Another Day!

There has been all sorts of bizarre choices and omissions from gigs over the years for the client – I can’t think of any specific, but I was gutted when Mr. Terry Bamber [2nd unit production manager on several Bond films including Casino Royale] asked us to play at his parent’s Wedding Anniversary but not to play Another Way to Die.

On the theatre/public shows, we play ALL the songs in chronological order.  Of course, this means some of the older generation LOVE the early stuff and aren’t so keen on the modern songs.  At the last theatre show we had someone filming reaction to the show in the foyer afterwards, and one dear old couple came out and were asked what they thought:  “First half; amazing.  Second half; waste of time.”

I still chuckle every time I think about it.  But actually, the second half gets a way better reception than the first on those gigs, as the songs are much harder hitting – in your face – songs than the first half.

JL:  Is there a Bond song that you feel is underrated?

WR: Another Way to Die for me.  I think it had potential to be great but two things spoilt it.  First was the over-produced, almost artificial sound to a lot of it.  With a Bond song, you need REAL instruments and unaffected sound for a hit.  Secondly, I think the feel would have been better with a 12/8 feel, in fact that is how we perform it.  Not that I am saying ours is a better way to do it at all, but I think it has more of a kick-ass feel to it than the squared off original.

We really go to town with it – with our Guitarist being a real showman, and it always gets a tremendous reaction.  I enjoy performing that song probably the most – though it is no way my favourite Bond song.

JL: Which Bond film soundtrack contains your favorite musical score?  What are your favorite musical sections from this soundtrack?

WR: John Barry is the king for me. Thunderball, Moonraker, OHMSS, and The Living Daylights are my favourites.  The Living Daylights is probably his best; ironic that it was also his last.  Proof to me he stopped doing them far too early.

I love a score though where you can take the film off the screen and still know what is happening by the music, and JB is just amazing at that.  His underwater and space music is just lush.

Honourable mention also for The Spy Who Loved Me – some terrific cues in there by Marvin Hamlisch.

JL: The JBR podcast has done a great job of highlighting the many great music cues from the scores Bond films. In addition to the episode on the musical scores of Bond, they play the “Guess the Music Cue” game each episode.  Does Q the Music play any instrumental medleys of music cues from the films?

WR: We do mostly chase music – so Bond 77, Moby Remix of the James Bond Theme & The 007 Theme.  We have on occasion also done Flight Into Space, Capsule in Space, Submarine, Runaway & Take Me Home, and a few others – but as I mentioned, mostly our work is private/corporate James Bond themed parties, and we have to cater for that.  We also have to think about the run time.  The show is quite long if you just play all the theme songs, add in a couple of extras and there really isn’t room for much more.

We have also done things like “Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” “If There Was a Man,” “Where Has Everybody Gone,” and “Surrender” on gigs as special requests.

One track I desperately want to get down is “Backseat Driver” – it would be an epic encore!

JL:  The release of Sam Smith’s new song for SPECTRE “Writing’s on the Wall” has garnered many different reactions from the Bond fan community. What do you think of it?

WR: I loved it.  From a selfish point of view firstly, it is a song that really suits our band and will work well.  As much a fan as I am, the first thought when a new song comes out, for me, is what will I do with it.

It’s the first Bond song in a while that I have instantly loved, as I listen to it more, I think I like it a lot, rather than love, but I think in time I will love it again.  That said – it has received a huge amount of criticism so I will try to give my thoughts on why.

From a fan point of view, I think it is going to work brilliantly within the context of the film.  I’ve only seen trailers and listened to Tom & Chris’ “Spectrelation,” but I was saying to them today, I can see the film being quite dark and emotional for Bond and his backstory, and the song evokes those kind of feelings.  It is a shame that maybe some Drums didn’t kick in for the second half and I think it lacks a really good up-lifting Bridge section like Skyfall has.  The “bridge” in WOTW is really just the intro (plus a few extra chords- Db & C)  and could do with a contrasting chord sequence, with some big scoring.  That would have given the rest of it much more impact I think – especially the last chorus which is just an extended version of the first two.

The song is basically comprised of 5 chords; Fm Abmaj7, C or Csus4, Dbmaj7 & Eb6.  This is a bit of musical “geekery”, but it is very basic.  Although Skyfall also uses quite repetitive chords, it has a really contrasting bridge and rise into the last chorus – so even though the last chorus is the same as the others, it feels like you are “lifted” when you get there.  Skyfall has (to me) a tremendous sense of direction and you really feel like you are taken to the climax towards the end of the song.  WOTW lacks that I think.

I also think the ending was a poor choice – the almost unaccompanied “Wall” – with just open octave “F” in the accompaniment – which is quite quiet.  They’ve obviously gone for a very sparse sound throughout to allow room for Sam Smith’s voice in that upper register he uses almost exclusively in his songs – and thick scores with Drums would bury his vocal in sound I think, but even so, I would have gone for more of the Paul Epworth Skyfall vibe with his Minor 9 Chord for the last note.  For me the Bond scores and songs are all about colour – Barry’s colour, which he created with his incredible use of chord and orchestration, and this song lacks that colour, colour that Skyfall so brilliantly recognised and utilised.

Like most, I thought following the 15 second clip, we were going to get a very Barry/Arnold sounding track, but it isn’t really at all in the end.  I did actually comment and post on Facebook about the similarity to [Michael Jackson’s] “Earth Song” before I read that apparently quite a few others have said that too, but that comparison/reminiscence doesn’t offend me.  Look, it’s so hard to write ANYTHING without it having a vibe of something else somewhere in it.  There are only 12 notes in a scale – and whilst the combinations are almost seemingly endless, there are millions of songs and scores out there and everything is going to have a vibe of something else in it really.

The falsetto range is one that polarises opinion.  As soon as he was officially announced, people commented that his voice wasn’t right.  But then, who is the powerhouse they could call upon, bearing in mind EON/Danjaq are always going to go to the artists who are currently riding the crest of the industry?  If anyone thinks we would have got a better performance from Ellie Goulding, I personally disagree.  And Radiohead are not the vocalists that Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Gladys Knight or even Adele are.  Therein lies the problem – everyone compares the latest song and artist to the back catalogue, but we are not producing those kind of big vocal artists anymore – or certainly not in quantity that we were.  If you take away the power aspect, and park the range of a male vocal for a second, vocally in my opinion it is a very polished, musical and gifted delivery by any singer’s standards.  Bringing the range back in – put it up there for a man, and it is never going to be all sung from the “chest” so it won’t have the raw power I think people want in a Bond song.

From a musical/technique point of view, what highlights the falsetto is how often he is switching between “chest” and “falsetto” – even with a line from the song.  It is unsettling; even to someone who doesn’t understand the technique of what he is doing.  If you want to know what I mean, try humming or singing from low, gradually scaling up to high.  At some point you will find you go over the “break” in your voice where you will have to switch from producing the sound from your chest to more of a head voice – and the sound is quite different (thinner).  If you listen to the chorus he sings “Tell me is this where I give it all up?” in falsetto, then switches to chest “for you”, then back to falsetto “I have to risk it all”, then chest “Cause the”, back to falsetto “writing’s on the wall” (though even the very last “Wall” is switched to chest).  It’s a lot of back and forth – and I think that is an issue for people listening (sub-consciously).

It doesn’t faze me personally hearing a man sing up there.  It is a skill and I appreciate that as a musician, and he is undeniably good at it even if it is not your bag.

Overall:  I think it is a great song, and I am one of those who says “It’s a grower!”

Warren is currently preparing "Writing's on the Wall" for the band to perform.

Warren is currently preparing “Writing’s on the Wall” for the band to perform.

JL:  Do you think Q the Music will need to make any changes to the Sam Smith song to facilitate performing it? I imagine that falsetto may be quite difficult to nail.

WR: I was hopeful we could keep female songs female and male songs male, but actually, the instant I heard this, it just smacked of Kerry.  I think she will do this song so proud, and I think the fact it is not a man singing it will not bother anyone as soon as they hear her sing it.

I intend to thicken out the scoring a little in the second half of the song, as Kerry will be a little more powerful in her delivery, but changes will be very minimal as we always try to be as true to the original as we can – even in Die Another Day!  I just hope people will like our performance of it.

JL:  Lastly, I know Tom and Chris like to ask their guests what they would do if given the keys to the kingdom to make any Bond film they’d like. I’d like to take that question and put it in a musical context for you. If you found yourself in charge of the music for the next Bond film, what would you do? Who would you choose as the musical artist for the theme song? Who would you choose as the composer for the soundtrack?

WR: Cool question.  The obvious answer is to bring JB [John Barry] back from the dead??  I would love to see David Arnold return personally, but another good choice for me would be Michael Giacchino; but with the mandate to write a score that is Barry sounding.  I think he did a fabulous job in Jurassic World paying homage to [John] Williams and being a traditionalist (with Bond) I’d like to see a return to the classic sound of Bond scores. With regards to [Thomas] Newman, I know everyone thinks/hopes we are going to get an OHMSS sounding soundtrack for Spectre after the trailer, but I don’t think (based on Skyfall) he is going to go in for that.  I hope I am wrong.

Artist wise – I’d love to see Muse do a song, but that ship has probably sailed now (bearing in mind another 3 years will pass), [Michael] Bublé would be interesting, but he is not mainstream or current enough for EON I suspect.  I don’t know, I’m one of those who still hopes Shirley Bassey will come back for a fourth time…

 

For more information about Q The Music Show, visit their website

To watch more of their spellbinding performances visit Warren’s YouTube channel

Article and Interview by Jack Lugo

Jack-Lugo