20 January 2016
A multi-million selling musician, who was a member of one of the UK’s biggest bands, is forging a whole new career as an academic in Wales.
As bass player of Britpop stars Ocean Colour Scene for 14 years, Damon Minchella toured the world, scoring five top five albums and 15 top 20 singles.
For 12 years he was also a member of modfather Paul Weller’s band, racking up equally impressive chart stats.
At the same time his place as one of the UK’s most talented bassists saw him in much in demand - playing live or in the studio with such rock ’n’ roll greats as Paul McCartney, The Who, Jimmy Page, Doctor John, Paolo Nutini, Amy Winehouse, Richard Ashcroft and Oasis.
Now he’s determined to enhance his reputation in the world of higher education after being appointed as the course leader of the BA Popular and Commercial Music degree at the University of South Wales.
It was in 2009, after returning home from Japan after playing a gig with one of his side projects Trio Valore - a band that included Style Council and Paul Weller drummer Steve White - that his life took a new path after a horrifying accident.
“I got into the academic world thanks to a very big scar on my wrist,” said Damon, who is originally from the Midlands.
“I’d just done a gig in Tokyo with Trio Valore, and the day I got back it was Halloween, and we were hosting a kids’ Halloween party.
“All my kids’ friends were coming over and we were decorating the house. My wife said, ‘go to bed there’s no point you doing this because you’ve got jet lag’.
“I said, ‘no I’ll help’.
He added: “I was putting a spider with a suction cap, of all things, on the window of the front door. It fell off so I thought I’d push it a bit harder, but unfortunately I put my hand straight through the window.
“I pulled my hand out, and the next thing I know I’m in an ambulance, and there’s blood everywhere.”
The 46-year-old was taken to hospital where he was rushed into emergency surgery.
“Surgeons severed my tendons and cut through nerves to my fingers,” recalled the musician, who had already suffered tendonitis in his wrists for years.
For someone whose livelihood revolves around using his hands - he thought he would never play again.
“I thought my career was over,” he said. “For six months I wasn’t allowed to pick up a guitar.“
Contemplating life away from the stage, Damon - who had previously taken masterclasses at BIMM (British and Irish Modern Music Institute), was offered a job teaching.
“I found that was I good at interacting with students and explaining music, while I enjoyed the challenges of the academic world,” he said. “Although at first I had to teach without playing.
“Then I was given the all clear to start playing again, so I carried on with BIMM for several years and then the University of South Wales job came up.”
Situated at the Atrium creative industries building in Cardiff, next to Cardiff live music venue the Motorpoint Arena, Damon said he thought - ‘that job has got my name written all over it’.
One of those interviewing Damon was Richard Parfitt, the University of South Wales’ academic manager for music and sound and formerly the frontman of much-loved Newport firebrands The 60ft Dolls.
“I met Richard last when The 60ft Dolls were on the bill with Ocean Colour Scene and Oasis on the Live Forever tour in the mid ‘90s,” he said. “So I remembered him and we hit it off straight away.”
There was further rock ’n’ roll synergy when he looked out the window during his interview.
“I mentioned to the people interviewing me how I had played the Motorpoint Arena several times with Ocean Colour Scene and Paul Weller - I must have played there about five or six times.
“They said they’d let me know in a week,” said Damon. “About an hour after I got in my car to drive home they phoned and said we’re very pleased to offer you the job.”
Taking up his new position in autumn last year, the platinum-selling bass player has grand plans for the popular music degree course, which is quickly gaining something of a sizeable reputation.
“I’d been teaching at the BIMM group for six years but felt like I had a hit a ceiling with them,” said the musician turned lecturer, who has recently released his debut album with new project The Family Silver, which features Steve White and former Mother Earth frontman Matt Deighton. “I wanted to do a Phd and I wanted to take my academic career a lot further.
“That’s why University of South Wales is such a great fit as they’re very supportive of what I want to do.
“I’ve wholly embraced the academic world and have lots of exciting plans for the course.
“Along with Richard, we want to heighten the awareness of the course and make it THE place to be if you want to study popular music.
He added: “When the BA in popular music started I think people thought it was a bit weird, but then BIMM really went for it and started to embrace it.
“Now the music industry is actually paying attention to what we are doing.
“Cardiff is such an exciting place to be and there are so many opportunities here. I’m thrilled by the prospect of what’s to come.”
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