Tuesday, 23rd October 2018

Two musicians whose talents have lit up some of the biggest names in modern rock and pop, have inspired students through masterclasses at South Tyneside College.


Drummer Steve White’s polished playing powered Paul Weller’s success over 25 years with both The Style Council and his solo albums and tours.

He has also toured with Oasis and Jon Lord, the late keyboardist in rock band Deep Purple.

And Aziz Ibrahim’s superb rhythmic guitar playing has embellished the songs of The Stone Roses, Simply Red and Hot Chocolate.

Other playing credits include Paul Weller, Steven Wilson, guitarist and songwriter in Porcupine Tree, and Steve Hogarth, vocalist in Marillion.

Both spent around two hours performing in Studio 5 and delivering advice based on their own long and successful careers in the industry.

Studio 5 is a purpose-built facility with 39 audience seats and the latest high-tech recording and performance wizardry that gives students hands-on experience of gigging and studio techniques.

It is fitted with state-of-the-art analogue and digital sound and lighting suites for instruction of the widest possible skills set.

Music lecturer Graham Thompson said the sessions - Aziz delivered his masterclass on Wednesday, October 17, and Steve two days later - showed the respect in which the college’s music department was held.

He added: “Getting musicians of their calibre to perform to our students shows just how well thought of we are.

“They are quite exceptional musicians who are remarkably generous and giving with their time and talents.

“Being able to see perform them close up, and hearing them talk about their experiences, is greatly inspiring to our students.”

Manchester-born Aziz, 54, played for Simply Red in the late 1980s, between the release of the band’s Men and Women and A New Flame albums.

He also performed with The Stone Roses in the mid-1990s, following the departure of original guitarist John Squire.

He told students: “I never take music for granted. There’s not a day that I don’t celebrate this.

“I’ve got a guitar. It’s a beautiful day every day. You must have something inside you that picks you up.”

Aziz revealed how he had gone from living on a council estate to suddenly performing to 150,000 with Simply Red in Brazil.

But he added: “Still, the Roses have always been the most mind-blowing experience because of the kind of awe that people hold the band in.

“It was something I’d never seen. I looked at it as an observer from the inside watching bands pay homage, big bands.

“An unbelievable experience. That brings bittersweet memories.”

Steve’s advice was grounded a world away from the pop stardom he enjoyed, revealing he would play up to eight hours-a-day while still at secondary school.

In a break from his kit, Steve, 53, said: “Practise requires time management. It’s really important to change your approach and attitude to practise.

“Being at college, these are the golden times. I tell the students I teach to utilise their time.

“These skills will never go away from you, but you have to practise. A little and often is what I advise.”

Of being a professional musician, he added: “I’m kind of still here, which is quite amazing. I still pinch myself that I’m able to do this as a career.

“The enthusiasm of that 11-year-old has never diminished.”

London-born Steve, who played with The Style Council at Live Aid in 1985 and with The Who at Live 8 in 2005, told how he was plucked from obscurity aged just 17 by Weller.

After an unsuccessful audition for another band, word of his skills and jazz-influenced playing style reached the former Jam singer and guitarists ears.

A day after meeting Weller, he was invited to play with The Style Council on Radio 1’s Kid Jensen show, which enjoyed a huge audience in the early 1980s.

He impressed, and was invited to record and tour overseas – the start of a musical relationship that lasted until he quit Weller’s band over two decades later.

Steve described his time with Weller as a “beautiful period”, and said he was treated fantastically well and had been lucky to have that kind of long-lasting relationship.

But he admitted Weller was not always easy to tour with, his anxiety before concerts often spreading to other band members, making it a “tense and intense” experience.

His favourite on-the-road gigs came soon after going it alone, when Jon Lord, the former keyboardist with rock band Deep Purple, asked him to perform with him.

Within weeks, he was playing with Lord and a full orchestra for the Luxemburg royal family, and stayed musically close to him for four years until his death in 2012.

He also enjoyed the four months he spent touring the US with Oasis in 2001, alongside rockers The Black Crowes.

Steve said he had expected hard work and temper tantrums from the Gallagher brothers Liam and Noel – but the opposite happened.

And he added: “It was quite meek. We had to be in bed by two o’clock, there wasn’t a lot of partying but there was a lot of laughing.

“Liam was a fun guy to be around, but the moment there were people there he that didn’t know, he turned into Liam.

“Oasis and Jon Lord were the most enjoyable times.”

Previous college music students include Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwell and Field Music’s David and Peter Brewis.

The college runs a range of music courses, including a two-year foundation degree.

Students also get the opportunity to record at Abbey Road studios in London, made famous by The Beatles.