An Interview With Shovell | The After M People Years

An interview with Shovell about the M People 20th Anniversary Greatest Hits Tour 2013 from Shovell's website:

As well as continuing to be a great musician and world renowned percussionist who has performed with many top artists, Shovell is also a fully qualified Cranio-Sacral Therapist, a Buddhist, a massive fan of The Arsenal Football Club and a much more happier and focused being than in years gone by.

However, things were not always this rosy, and in writing this, Shovell wanted to be as honest as possible, so let’s start with the name.

Born Andrew Robert Lovell, the nickname “Shovell” first emerged during a lads holiday in Magaluf in 1985. At that time Shovell was a plumber on Lewisham Council in South East London, so as well as having the official cockney rhyming slang with Lovell, his occupation at that time also had a telling part in the naming ceremony.

So, after living the incredible dream of being part of M People since 1992, one of the biggest bands in the 90′s, being part of a band that was another family, creating music with some of the nicest people you could ever meet, touring the world, making hits, selling millions of records, what happened after the band took a sabbatical from the beginning of 2000?

“Well to be honest, I went a bit mad for a while” says Shovell, with no sense of irony. “I’d gone from plumber, to pop star for nigh on ten years, and then the carpet got pulled very firmly from under my feet, so I was falling through the air not knowing where to go next. There were other very challenging factors going on in my life at exactly the same time, so it all added to a big feeling of loss, fear and darkness.”

However, that saying “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” really rang true for Shovell “I was in a very dark place for a while there, but the situation forced me to take a deep look at my life in it’s entirety, and change what needed to change.”

This “change”, as Shovell puts it, began firstly in joining a boxing gym in April 2000 “I’d been used to playing drums 4-5 times a week on stage for ten years, so when that stopped, I was completely full of adrenaline, and I was desperate to use it in a positive way. I also wanted, and needed, to remove the dark cloud that was ever present then, so literally punching it out on a bag made complete sense to me.” So several times a week boxing, with the addition of running, yoga and a vegan diet, things really started to help turn things around for Shovell. “For the first time in a long while, the fog began to clear and I began to find out who I actually was.” The training culminated in Shovell taking part in a white collar boxing bout in London in 2001. “I had to train hard, stay fit, healthy, focused and above all disciplined.” He continues “Looking back, I can see that the whole experience brought another big positive change into my life. When you climb in the ring, and you know you’re going toe to toe with someone, you truly face so many of your own fears in the process, and this was the main thing I needed at that time.” The three round, two minute fight was declared a draw, but Shovell had beaten a lot more than any opponent could offer. A sum of money went to the charity Centrepoint – Shovell was unscathed, his army of friends and supporters were all happy, and a new approach to living his life had arrived.

“Within several weeks of the fight ending, I got accepted to attend a summer course at Webber Douglas Drama Academy. It was all very serious, not what i’d expected at all, as I hadn’t done any research, learning and reading Shakespeare, movement and dance classes – tights and ballet shoes – elocution lessons, improvisation classes, singing, and you know what…..I loved it“. In fact Shovell excelled at Webber Douglas, where he was the only one of seventy two applicants to be offered a post-graduate place. “It was amazingly flattering, as Webber Douglas was a very prestigious drama school, up there with RADA, but I’d already been offered a presenting job with the BBC on a football show so I declined the offer.”

That football show was called 45 Minutes, it went out on BBC3 and contained a section called “Shovell’s Travels” – “An absolute blinder of a job.” Shovell says“I was sent all over the world to interview some of the best footballers around.” Giggs, Rivaldo, Stamm, Henry, Baggio, Casillas, Larsson, Effenberg, Carlos, Davids, Figo they are just some of the world class footballers Shovell interviewed. “But something had changed in me, my spark hadn’t so much gone out, but it was only gently flickering, so I never felt I gave it my absolute all during that time.”

Even getting another presenting job again with the BBC on the long established Record Breakers show, Shovell felt he was missing something. “I was in an emotional no-mans land, i’d left a lot of my old pathways, but I hadn’t yet found out where the new path ways were, so I became a bit confused I suppose. However, I quickly realised that my passion for music was calling me once again. Yes I loved getting the TV opportunities, but being away from music for a while helped me realise how much I missed music, how much I LOVED music, and how much I wanted to be fully part of it again.”

After ten years of solid touring, and despite some good offers from some well established bands to join them on the road, Shovell declined, and instead went back to the clubs to play with DJ’s. “That’s really where it all began for me. Yes, I was playing with bands before, but it was playing at the new dance clubs of Acid House and House Music back in the late eighties and early nineties that really paved the way for me.” Indeed, Shovell started that journey back in the club “Shoom” in 1989, then with the dance/rock band Natural Life in 1990, before his first Top Of The Pops appearance with Kenny Thomas in the summer of 1990. “I resigned from my plumbing job in April 1990, and ended up playing at Pacha in Ibiza that same year with DJ Alfredo, so obviously 1990 was a pivotal year in my musical life. So it seemed a natural thing for me to start back in the clubs playing with DJ’s. I knew that touring couldn’t get any better than what I’d experienced with M People for all those years, so why try to chase those times again with any other band.”

By now it’s 2003, Shovell made a record called “Bulo” with Sam Holt and Gavin Mills from Copyright Productions, the record was a big hit on the dance floors the world over. “I was working in the studio next door, I popped my head in to say hello to the lads, and immediately got a vocal melody for the track they were working on. I sang it to them, and they said get in the vocal booth now and lay it down! One of the quickest sessions I’ve ever done, that had such an immediate impact.” The track was signed by Soulfuric Records from Miami, a video was made, and it became a BIG dance hit. The video is made even more striking by the tribal and ethnic clothes Shovell is wearing, not to mention the additional tribal face painting. “I’d been wearing the tribal gear for a while, but it went public in that video and Shovell The Drum Warrior title really caught on. Even now, nearly ten years on, people still ask me about “Bulo” in fact the American Dj Afrojack did a mix of it only last year. It’s ten years next year 2014 of it’s official release date, so i hope there will be some new celebratory mixes done.”

By 2004 Shovell was very much back to playing all over the world, except this time it was his amazing percussion along side some of the world’s biggest DJ’s that were taking him around the globe. Very soon Shovell teamed up with an old friend. "Simon Dunmore, the boss of Defected Records, and I met up one day, and Simon asked me about joining Defected on their Artist roster. It was a no brainer, Simon had been a big part of the Kenny Thomas track “Outstanding” that I had played on, and toured with back in 1990. So once again things had come full circle, it seemed very natural so i jumped at the chance.” Since then Shovell has released many records on the Defected Records label to great success, he has just completed his ninth consecutive summer in Ibiza, and continues to travel the world over, playing in the world’s best clubs and biggest festivals.

In 2005 Shovell set up Universal Rhythm – A creative concept of drumming workshops that aim to create positive and inspiring development in people of all ages, from all walks of life, in order to unlock their hidden potential. Shovell explains how the idea came about:

“I couldn’t stop wondering how a kid of fifteen, who was asked to leave their school, and did so with no qualifications, an ex South East London plumber, could turn it all around and actually live the musical dream they had longed for. I was certainly no different to anybody else. It was when i asked myself that question , that i realised that nearly all my life i had been playing music because it helped me feel great, it gave me joy, it gave me freedom to express myself and let my creative side come through. I never thought my musical dream would come true, i just played music because i loved it. So i realised that by simply finding the joy in something, and being given a chance to be creative, a person can pleasantly surprise themselves by creating something they thought they never could-no matter how small- so what else is then possible? The door has been opened, the fear of trying new things has been removed, which then makes it easier for that person to realise their true worth, and to do anything they truly want to do.”

Shovell has taken the Universal Rhythm workshops into various places over the years, such as prisons, addictive centre’s, schools, management weekends, team building courses, homeless centres, several TV shows have called on his services and many centres for children and young people where they are inspired to get into the music and creative industries. One of Shovell’s regular spots for the workshop is The Midi Music Company, A community charity based in Deptford. It is exactly the same building where Shovell himself started his musical journey as a fourteen year old- another circle completing itself- and he is very happy to be a patron of the MMC too.

There have been major changes to Shovell’s lifestyle as he explains. “In 2006 I went to visit a Cranio-Sacral Therapist due to suffering severe back pain from an accident which had occurred that same year. I hadn’t even heard of the therapy before, but the instant pain relief after the first session, and the subsequent physical and emotional benefits from the proceeding treatments, led me to become a student at The College of Cranio-Sacral Therapy situated in North London in 2007. My last lot of education ended at fifteen when I was asked to leave school, so the thought of actually learning something in my forties was daunting, but I knew it was something I had to do.” The three year course was a big commitment, but this was another road on the Shovell journey.

After successfully receiving his diploma in Cranio-Sacral Therapy In 2010, Shovell moved to Ibiza. “It was time for a definite change. I needed to be near nature, step back for a while out of London, I’d lived in London all my life so it felt good to have the opportunity to take a breath. So much had happened in my life, and I needed to take stock, Ibiza had been calling me from my first visit in 1990, so I answered that call and moved over. it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made. Working all nighters and flying all over the place, causes the odd sleepless night here and there, but things are made a whole lot sweeter knowing that I’m traveling back to the beautiful island of Ibiza.”

This past year Shovell has been writing and recording with people outside the genre of House music. He has a track entitled “Luna” on the current album of famed German Jazz drummer and musician Wolfgang Haffner, “Heart Of The Matter” which again not only displays Shovell’s percussion skills, but his vocal talents too. Also, the newly released Nightmares On Wax album called “Feeling Good” has Shovell’s vocals and wonderful percussion featured prominently throughout.

Shovell explains “Making music in Ibiza has it’s very own special qualities because it is impossible not to be influenced by the vastness of the natural beauty that surrounds us. The clarity of the stars and the constellations, the dusk and dawns of the Sun, the sea, the farmland and vegetation, all the elements. it’s all an incredible natural inspiration that is then fed back into the music. This inspiration has encouraged me to begin work on my own album, I’m really looking forward to getting deeper into that and releasing something of top quality.”

So all in all, it seems a remarkable journey so far in the life of Shovell, so what more can we expect? “Listen” he says firmly “I am living a blessed life, I feel incredibly fortunate. Every knock taught me something I needed to learn, so I now try to see the value in everything, even the not so good stuff. I have a wonderful family who love each other dearly, and I have a wonderful musical family who love each other dearly, it doesn’t get better than that. That’s one of the major things I’ve learnt from my journey so far, friends and family are what’s all important.”

On a professional note he continues “I’m back on tour with some of the loveliest people imaginable, playing some great songs more than twenty years after it all began, incredible really. I feel I’m in a much deeper relationship with music, with my drums and with life in general, so I’m in the flow and incredibly excited about what’s to come next.”

When asked about any regrets in life, Shovell was very clear. “Regrets are a waste of time, what’s done is done, learn from it and move on quickly. However, I do wish me and my mate Chris Dawson had played for The Arsenal for a few seasons, maybe that’s for another life.”

Any parting message for anyone out there Shovell? “Yes, a BIG thank you to everyone for coming out once again to support us, it really means a lot. Have as much fun as possible during the shows, and take the experience home with you.”