‘Not very rock ‘n’ roll’: Martin Sharman tells the story of Gateshead band Ten Degrees of Pitch
Ten Degrees of Pitch are a Gateshead-based rock band who draw influence from many sub-genres, including alternative, grunge, American Country and British Blues.
After playing the circuit in the North East for almost three years, the band have released their EP, entitled ‘Shed These Skins’, and frontman Martin Sharman was keen to speak about Pitch’s origins.
Q. What inspired you to form the band?
All three of us have been in bands for most of our adult lives. Ben and Jon were in a band together before, and I had a few songs I wanted to try with a full band, after I’d been playing solo acoustic for a few years. It’s the first time I’ve been a proper frontman playing my own stuff rather than guitarist in someone else’s band, which makes things much simpler because we don’t have to deal with singers’ egos. I met Jon because our kids are a similar age and our wives knew each other first. Not very rock ‘n’ roll, but from such humble beginnings doth the rock emerge!
Q. Who are your primary influences?
Let’s count the decades. I’m a sucker for 70s singer-songwriters, so Billy Joel and Elton John’s 70s stuff is in there somewhere. Pink Floyd features heavily. I’m into R.E.M.’s 80s stuff, in fact everything they did up to and including Monster. The 90s was when I got properly into guitar, just catching the end of the hair metal period, studying Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Slash. But Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme is my number one influence. I don’t think Extreme have ever been cool, but he’s a genius guitarist and composer. Of course a year later came Nirvana’s Nevermind, which changed the world and is an inescapable influence for any rock band – we use the classic quiet-loud song structure quite a bit, so thanks Kurt. And then came Britpop, the better bits of which are timeless – loads of Blur stuff is brilliant, and Suede’s Dog Man Star is on my desert island list. I don’t think you can be influenced by anything released after your 21st birthday – that’s just copying.
As for the others, bassist Jon is also an analogue synth nut, he’s worked in computer gaming for years and has made loads of noise on soundtracks for stuff like Grand Theft Auto. his hero is Edgar Froese, from Tangerine Dream, which might explain one or two of our more proggy moments. And drummer Ben likes – and plays – pretty much anything. Good lad.
Q. What is it like being an originals band in the North East?
The great thing about Newcastle and Gateshead is there’s a lot of venues out there that put on live music. Without them the scene would be dead. The venues in the Ouseburn Valley are a great resource, and there’s loads of pubs in both in the city and the suburbs that put on busker’s nights for those who are just starting out. It does take some effort to break into the scene, and I think Ten Degrees are still close to the beginning of that process, but nobody is going to make it happen except you so you just have to keep plugging away. Guys like Phil at Insangel are quite happy to take risks on new acts, giving them a platform right at the beginning of their careers which is a huge help. I’ve previously played in bands in Leeds, and I don’t think there’s anywhere near as many venues in total there, never mind those that are willing to put on young bands. Not to mention the help that’s available round here from people like Generator, and also the local music magazines like NARC and NE Volume are always willing to publicise new music. So if you put the effort in, and seek out those who can help you, the North East is a great place to start a band.
Q. Has there been anything happen during a gig / practice that was ‘rock n roll’ / crazy?
At an early gig at the Three Tuns in Gateshead, we got talking to another band on the bill, who called themselves “crust punks” all the way from Redcar. They seemed like normal lads until they got up on stage wearing balaclavas and women’s underwear and made an almighty racket. They were very merry all through our set, and quite happy to shout our band name, except they got it wrong. I’ll never forget the chants of “Ten Degrees Of Bitch! Ten Degrees Of Bitch!” Thankfully the name change didn’t stick.
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