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If you have a chance to get down to Abu Dhabi, I would say, get your backsides there this weekend at Heroes in the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
As you step down the marble staircase the beat gets louder, the conversation gets a little more coherent, and you hear what is a great band on stage.
The Pub Grubs are an everyman kind of band, relaxed and easy to talk to, the difference being that all four of the members are phenomenally technical musicians.
At first I thought that it was a reference to Pub food using the typical UK slang word. It later transpired after I had played with them for a while that it meant the state that flies and insects such like go through in the early stages of their life cycle. “The Pub Maggots” though more apt, was less poetic so I am told! It’s a kind of fun, friendly, come and have a good ol’ cockney knees up with the Pub Grubs type of image, no pretence whatsoever.
GW pulled up a chair and got out their dusty notepads and Batman pens to chat with Steve Mackrill about poetic presence, séance requests and the rare recipe of three Brits and a Filipina...
Tell us about the band?
We play everything except Rap/Hip Hop/R&B in the modern sense. Original R&B we do some of. So we’d never get a gig in Rock Bottom! Dan and Jeremy are brothers though you’d never tell by looking at them. They are both from King’s Lynn in Norfolk. We have played as that trio for a few years on and off with several singers. Belinda is a Filipina and the newcomer as she’s only been in the band for a few weeks. A Filipina mixed with three Brits has got to be rare in this country. I spotted her last year just before Ramadan and wanted to give her a job in a band that I was running. Alas that didn’t happen but I kept her number. So when Scot our last lead singer left in March and Crowne Plaza management wanted for us to find a replacement, I thought of her and pushed it to the rest of all concerned to check her out. She impressed everyone and so was given the job.
How long have you been in the Gulf?
Well, I came out here to rejoin them after a year of absence in 2003, but Dan and Jem were here since 2002 with a slightly different line up. We were also called “What if?” in them days. That lasted until end of 2004 where we split up at Ramadan. We reformed for six weeks as a trio to cover for the band I had put together in early 2005. Dan and Jem became a trio with an Australian guy called Scot in Heroes some months after. The band I formed broke up at Ramadan last year and that’s where I rejoined Dan and Jem and joined with Scott under the banner “The Pub Grubs” in November 2005: So off and on, two-and-a-half years for me, and three-and-a-half-years for Dan and Jem. Belinda however has been over here for years and years.
Tell us about the place you play in?
Heroes diner is in the basement of Crowne Plaza Hotel – Abu Dhabi. It seems to have gone through a few image changes in people’s minds though the decor is much the same as it’s always been. When I first came out here there was no DJ or band playing and it was known as the place to go for food in the day or if there was a sporting event on, but not a night time place at all. But since last year, it has become one of the most lively bars in the town. It is a great bar and has a regular fun-loving clientele who seem to love what we do, so yeah, we love playing there. And the management is really supportive, unlike in other places.
Would you say you lived a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle?
Other than getting drunk and relatively stupid (which means trying to do the Macarena or something) not these days, but I have done before when I was in rock bands at home and in Spain. When I was working with bands on holiday parks, I did some really dumb stuff, like crash my car into the caravan I was living in, hitting it off the blocks three feet to the left. A bass player smashed up his van while 30 people were inside having a party, one security guard who was on the loo at the time ended up covered in his own bodily fluids! Yeah, UK holiday parks can be more rock and roll than you think. But acting like that in these circles tends to get you a stinking reputation or worse, fired. So you have be adult and professional, or at least try your best to be.
What is the strangest request you have ever received from a fan?
Some years ago playing down in West Wales, a girl asked me to come back to her house for a seance! Needless to say, I declined her offer. Song titles are usually funny. eg Paranoid by Black Sabbath is often requested as “Finished with my woman” or better, Smoke on the Water has been requested as “Slow Walking Walter, The Fire Engine Guy!” So we sometimes sing that for a laugh!
Who would you say gets the most girls/guys in the band?
None of the guys as we are all spoken for, and despite the reputation of band members, we are all faithful. Though some years ago, Dan and Jem were...how shall I put it...less so. Myself, before when I was single I never got any interest off girls that saw me play, not even a sniff on account of looking like Frodo Baggins and having a dull accent I presume. Belinda, I am not too sure about. I don’t know much about her to know her social life as that is her business.
When it comes to having partners in bands, most people admit to having to appear single.
How do girlfriends/boyfriends take this?
Well I suppose if I pretended to be living a single life, I would be after being dumped for such behaviour. I am sure the same applies to Dan and Jem as their partners would not tolerate that for a second. I know of at least one band that fired a guitarist because he was too preoccupied with adding notches to his bed posts.
If someone offered you $10 million but said you could never play an instrument or sing again, would you take it?
Man, I am not sure to be truthful, that’s a tough one! If you have asked this of any other musician and they have said “no,” I would say they are lying. I reckon everyone would say “yes” but the ones that do it for the love as well as a way of earning a living would become miserable and frustrated pretty quickly.
What advice can you offer to anyone who wants to become a musician?
Don’t do it to get girls! Always keep an open mind about music, always listen to others in the band and don’t compare yourselves to anyone else, band or player. There is always someone better and worse than yourself.
Check out the Pub Grubs at Heroes in the Crowne Plaza Hotel with DJ Gary at the decks between sets.
· Olivia Middleton