The Isolation Sessions - Summer 2020
Danny Stoakes is head of Stoakes Media and a prominent figure in today’s every evolving world of PR and radio. However, in an interesting departure from his day-to-day role of interviewing artists and broadcasting their songs, he has picked up the guitar and, along with a bunch of his friends who represent some of the most talented artists on the current music scene, he has created The Isolation Sessions, an album of reimagined tracks from a variety of guitar-based styles – and the results are magnificent! Lead track Whole Lotta Rosie is a collaboration with Burnt Out Wreck front man Gary Moat and it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard before. It’s a brave person that dares to suggest there is another way to present this song but this acoustic version is simply outstanding! The opening riff is replaced by anticipation-building rhythms yet it has all the power of the original electric version. We catch up with Danny to understand how the whole project came together.
The Isolation Sessions is an inspired project. How did the idea come about?
Right at the beginning of the lockdown I was sat here I was thinking to myself "we’re all going to be sat around doing nothing", I’ve got lots of musician friends and following a chat with one of them we agreed to try and learn a song a day throughout this lockdown. So we learned a new song and sent recordings to each other as a bit of fun. Obviously the song a day idea never happened because you can never learn a song in a day. We ended up with maybe 3 or 4 a week. So I was getting this library of songs together and I started seeing lots of different bands doing live streaming gigs from their living room. The likes of Verity White – she does amazing live stream gigs - and people like Danny Vaughan. A few of these I’d interviewed and talked to about them doing these live-stream gigs, and I just felt that all this artistic engagement in this lockdown period is brilliant. What’s the next thing we can do? So I thought with all the songs that I’ve got together, why not try and get some of them recorded and ask a couple of people if they are up for collaborating on them. Whole Lotta Rosie, for example, I sent this over to Gary Moat of Burnt Out Wreck and he absolutely loved it and straight away agreed to do some vocals. So that’s how it was born really!
You are a prominent PR and radio figure. How comfortable was it to make the transition to artist?
Well, I’ve been singing since I was about 4. I’ve done lots of little gigs, I’ve had a couple of cover bands and I’ve done lots of theatre work as well. So I have done lots of performances over the years and it’s something I really enjoy as well. Obviously it was quite daunting approaching the professionals: Gary has supported Ozzy Osbourne and here he is singing on something I’ve done. How amazing is that!
The lead track Whole Lotta Rosie was an ambitious undertaking but you’ve pulled it off brilliantly and it’s wonderful to see how this track can be so effective in such a different format. You’ve given us a little bit of a hint about how your collaboration with Gary Moat came about but tell us a bit more about how this developed.
I interviewed him a few months ago for Stoakes Media and we just hit it off. He’s such a nice approachable guy and since the interview he got involved with the Christmas advent calendar I did and he also did something for Burns Night as well. I heard him on Instagram doing a cover of Highway To Hell and his voice with AC/DC, he just absolutely nailed it. I’ve been playing Whole Lotta Rosie that way for donkeys years and I thought let’s just give this ago and see if it works. In fact I was driving back from a gig a few years back listening to AC/DC’s Live at River Plate. It was about 2 o’clock in the morning, a long drive down an empty motorway listening to their version of Whole Lotta Rosie and I wondered what this would sound like if someone like Oasis did it. I got home and got the guitar out and tried some Oasis-style chords. I was thinking of that sort of song feel and that version was born. It’s just such a huge honour and an amazing feat that I’ve got someone like Gary singing on it with me. I’m so grateful and Burnt Out Wreck are just a real powerhouse and I love the stuff that they do as a band.
You’ve given the album are very appropriate title because these quite literally were the isolation sessions. How much of a challenge was it to create this album remotely?
Well I’ve got Cubase set up on my computer so I recorded my bits and then sent them off to all these different people and then they sent me their, quite literally, isolated vocal parts. I then spliced everything together on Cubase and got the complete song out.
What started off as an idea to try and do something positive in what is a very difficult time resulted in some incredible artists actually sending you their contributions. It must have been very exciting to see the project build in this way.
Oh, amazing! In fact I’ve got another song on the album called Gypsy. Gypsy is a song written by a guy called Michael Armstrong who is another incredibly talented singer songwriter. This is an album of my versions of my favourite song and I wanted to do a version of Gypsy, and again I’ve got quite friendly with Mike over the years. I sent my version of Gypsy over to him and said "I’m doing these Isolation Sessions, how do you feel about me using this song?". He said he thought it was a really nice version and that I’d done a great job on it. I thought I would try and be a bit cheeky and I said "look, I’m getting all these other bands and artists involved and collaborating with me, it would be such an honour if you would lend me some of your vocals or piano playing", and he loved the idea! To have all these artists performing on other people songs is amazing but especially with Gypsy to have the guy who wrote the song singing on my version is just so incredibly special! And it’s all to raise money to help fight this horrendous ordeal the world is facing. Everybody is raising money for the NHS at the moment and our fundraising will contribute to this but I’m in the process at the moment of finding the little charities as well. So it’s not just for the NHS but for some of the other COVID 19 response charities. This will include the National Emergencies Trust.
Clearly intent on giving is the very best, the full track listing is yet to be decided so there are some secrets yet to be unveiled but overall what are you trying to create in this record in terms of the tracks that you’ve picked?
A good cross-section of tracks and a good cross-section of musical genres as well. So I don’t just want it to be all rock or all heavy-metal or folk. There is a little bit of everything in this. That’s reflective of the artists I’ve chosen as well because they aren’t just all hard rock artists but an entire cross-section of the musical geniuses I’m working with.
What else can you tell us about any other tracks that may feature?
The tracks all have some meeting and some significance going through this period of deep unrest. There is another song by a band called The Alarm, Declare Yourself An Unsafe Building, and when my friend and I were doing this song a day challenge that was actually the second song I learned. I just thought the words was so significant and resonated so much with the current situation.
As our conversation draws to a close we reflect on what a fantastic and inspirational project this really is. It’s a fine example of musicians and industry figures coming together to not only do something something positive in the face of current world events but also to create what is quite simply great music! To find out more, head over to www.stoakesmedia.co.uk. Also, to make a donation and to get the Whole Lotta Rosie single straight away, visit the Just Giving page at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/theisolationsessions.
In the meantime, check out the track Whole Lotta Rosie below.