By Dave Woodhall.
It may come as a surprise to learn that while Hugh Cornwell will always be associated with the Stranglers, it’s now more than twenty years since he walked away from the band. In the time since then he’s released 13 live and studio albums, written books and played live incessantly. He still managed, though, to find time to talk to The Birmingham Press ahead of the British leg of his latest tour.
“We’re just back from America. I’m feeling fine, not too tired. Rehearsals start tomorrow and we’ll be starting the British dates next week.”
I saw a lovely quote recently from one of the Undertones, about how their gigs have young kids at the front having the time of their lives, then behind them are the twentysomethings who’ve realised this is the best music ever, and at the back you have the guys who are over forty, overweight and over caring what people think about them. Is that what your audiences are like?
“It’s pretty accurate. People are rediscovering the joys of live music, and especially the era you’re talking about. If the songs are good enough people will always want to listen to them.”
During this tour you’re performing your Guilty album from 1997 in its entirety. How’s that sounding live?
“Interesting. We’ve played some of the tracks from the album before but there are about three I’ve never done live and we’ve had to rehearse them – the opener One Burning Desire, for example, I’ve been playing lately but I’d never done it before. The album’s been pressed up again and it’s sounding good so hopefully there’s a new audience listening to it.”
There’s also the encore which will be chosen via a vote on your website with the five most popular choices getting played. Can you tell us what they’ll be? “Not yet because the votes haven’t been added up. Once they are we’ll be rehearsing them and two or three of the five will be played at each gig.”
You’ve said you’re in favour of music being downloaded from the internet. Do you think we’re now beginning to expect everything free?
“Not quite. People expect things quickly now, so it’s good to deliver them via the internet, but they also want to collect physical items. The booklets, the colour covers, the sort of things that go with the music itself, will always be bought.
“Hooverdam, my last album, was given away free on online and it’s still available. It’s a gimmick, a way of stimulating interest. It’s a shop window where people can see what they like, then come in and buy something else.”
On the last tour you did Hooverdam and the first Stranglers album Rattus Norvegicus, this time it’s Guilty. Will there be any other albums played on future tours?
“I can’t see why not. I’d have to be careful re-interpreting the Stranglers stuff because of the big keyboard parts, putting guitar or bass work in their place, but that could be worked out.”
You’ve a new album, Totem and Taboo, in the pipeline. What’s the news on that?
“It’ll be out some time next year. We’re just finalising the details for recording. The songs are a continuation from Hooverdam, basic rock’n’roll. I’ve learned to keep things simple.”
I noticed that on the limited edition You’re Covered album you did some stuff you might not immediately be associated with – Bobby Darren and Johnny Burnette songs to name a couple.
“It’s what I was brought up with. Country, rock,n’roll, my brothers were jazz and rock’n’roll fans and that was what I was exposed to when I was a kid. That sort of thing never leaves you.”
Then comes the question you must get tired answering, but has to be asked. Is there any chance of you ever performing with the Stranglers again?
“There’s no point. I’ve moved forward, I’m independent of them now. I’m doing my solo stuff. I’ve got my first novel out in May, it’s a love story-cum-thriller called Window on the World. I’m touring with some great musicians, keeping fit and having some good creative times so there’s no reason to go back. I still do the old songs, and I always have, but I don’t depend on them. That’s reflected in this tour – I’ll do solo material in the first set and Stranglers in the second. Some of the bands from way back just run through their old songs and go through the motions. I don’t want to do that.”
Hugh Cornwell plays the Leamington Assembly on Wednesday 13th April and the Slade Rooms, Wolverhampton on Friday 15th April. For tickets and further information look at www.leamingtonassembley.com or www.wolvescivic.co.uk respectively. For news on Hugh’s other dates and details of the encore vote, visit www.hughcornwell.com