Norwich band’s Vegas gamble pays off
A twist of fate and a lucky hand has delivered a Norwich band enough money to make their debut album – and a world-renowned music producer to boot.
When Norwich musicians Al Rapp and Pete Lee flew to Las Vegas they had a simple, though risky, plan – to win enough money to record the first album of their band, the Black Sharks, pictured.
Having lost most of their cash within 24 hours, the drummer and singer took to busking on the Vegas Strip – and not only earned back some stake money, but also impressed the watching producer Nick Brine, who has worked with Oasis, Arctic Monkeys and The Stone Roses.
At the end of their trip to Vegas they returned to Norfolk with a healthy $10,000 profit.
Al, 46, from the Golden Triangle. said: 'We laughed about winning enough money to make the album – you always go to Vegas with a dream.'
At first the dream turned sour, with the pair virtually broke after Sin City's dice, roulette wheels and blackjack cards failed to fall in their favour.
'We were just doing some reckless gambling and indulging in too many cocktails,' said Al, who is a professional poker player.
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'The alcohol is free, and it's not uncommon to blow your whole lot in one night, and that's basically what we did. I'm used to the swings, but Pete was a bit depressed and said 'what are we going to do'?'
They had a guitar in their hand luggage and decided to busk. 'I thought at first it was madness,' said Al. 'But once we'd had a few cocktails it seemed like a good idea, and we'd been wondering how we were going to pay the hotel bill.
'So we went downtown and, after being moved on a couple of times, we ended up outside the Rockhouse bar on the strip.
'We made about $175 and thought we could always come back and do it again if we were completely broke.'
But their night was about to get even better, thanks to the presence in the crowd of Nick Brine.
'I was asked to give an opinion on a band in Vegas by a record company friend,' said Nick, who has also worked with The Darkness and Bruce Springsteen. 'I was feeling flat as the band were a disappointment. I stepped outside to get some fresh air and I heard Pete and Al busking outside.
'I soon knew that I had stumbled on something special. I loved the delivery, energy and song quality. I knew I had to get them into my studio at Leeders Farm. I gave them my phone number and told them to call when they got back to England.'
Al added: 'He was very enthusiastic about Pete's song (the new single Lose Control), so we went and had a few drinks and he said he'd like to record the song.
'Nick's an incredible engineer and producer, with an amazing ear for guitars and songs. He's brought in a lot more interest in the band, and changed our sound completely. We thought it was amazing.'
And after that chance meeting, their luck turned on the poker tables. Al said: 'After six hours I was up about $500 and Pete wanted me to leave the game. He could see I was tired and needed a rest after all the busking and playing, but I would have been mad to leave because the game was just too good.
'Pete went off to get some rest and when he came back at about 4am, to his amazement, I was still there, but he couldn't see me for the chips.'
'The whole thing was amazing, and now we're hoping our luck holds and people love the music,' added Al.
The first product of the chance meeting with Brine, and the remarkable change of fortune at the card tables, is Lose Control, the Black Sharks' debut single released on November 1.
Shot at Waxham and directed by Norwich-based Guy Myhill, the video includes a cameo from Sean Harris, who played Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis in hit film 24 Hour Party People.
The Black Sharks are Al, Pete, 41, Paul Smith, 42, Jay Benstead, 45, and Giles Davis, 42. They all live in the Golden Triangle, apart from harmonica player Giles, from Hingham.
Lose Control is available from iTunes, Amazon and HMV, and the video can be viewed at theblacksharks.com. An album is due for release in spring 2011.