Kevin Rowland: “I don’t think about strangling people”

Dave Woodhall talks to legendary Dexys frontman Kevin Rowland.

There are times when all your supposed professionalism goes straight out the wondow and you find it hard to focus on interviewing because of who you’re talking to. Kevin Rowland. Dexy’s. A bona fide legend and then some. Hit ‘record’ and try not to get tongue-tied.

You’re doing a few festivals, including Wychwood. Excuse the ignorance but have you done those gigs before?

“We did a few about ten years ago. We never did them back in the day because they weren’t really a big thing then.”

And they’re a long way removed from a sweaty club in ’68.

“They are. They are.”

Your recent sets have been in two parts – the new album and then classic Dexys. Will it be more of a festival crowdpleaser for these shows?

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a crowdpleaser but it’s a festival, it’s not a Dexys gig so it’s got to be a much broader appeal and doing songs people know.”

Do you get into the whole festival vibe? Will you be walking around, listening to music and enjoying the atmosphere or will it be straight in, do the set and out?

“In and out. I don’t really like festivals, I never go to them and I never understand them. You’re queuing for the toilet and when you get in there, they’re filthy. I want a nice shower and all that. I’m not really a festival guy.”

Is there much live music you would watch anywhere else?

“I’d like to but I just don’t get around to it. I’ve seen a lot of bands over the years but it takes a bit more to get me out these days. I’d watch Van, Al Green, I’d watch Roxy Music. All my favourites from back then really.”

It’s not like Barbarella’s is it? Then again I can’t imagine Al Green playing there.

“I don’t think he ever did. The Fatback Band played there.

At that time did you feel part of any Birmingham scene?

“We didn’t, actually. We purposely kept ourselves away from that. I’m not from Birmingham, I was born in Wolverhampton and at the age of eleven I moved to London so my formative years were there but when I was twenty I moved to Birmingham. We are very grateful to Birmingham because I think it was the only place where we could have formed. It allowed us to form there and rehearse and go un-noticed and then hit Lodon when we felt ready but we never felt part of a Birmingham scene. We never wanted to be part of a regional scene but we’re very grateful to Birmingham.”

Sadly, a few from that era have gone lately. How are you feeling?

“It’s incredible, but so far so good. Still breathing.”

Talking of breathing, would you like to strangle anyone who says ‘Eileen’ to you?

“No, not really. I don’t think about strangling people.”

In between the festivals this summer you’re doing some regular gigs during the summer. Will they be similar to the festival sets or will you be thinking about the two-parters?

“I don’t know about two parts but we’ll be doing a few songs off the new album and favourites as well but we’re mainly focusing on festivals. I think we’ve got maybe three other gigs as well. And we’ve got Moseley as well. I hope the weather’s nice. Is it in the middle of Moseley?”

Right in the centre. The Nightingales played there a couple of years ago.

“I like the Nightingales, I like Robert. Back in the day we saw them a few times, we never played with them but I saw them at Rebeccas’s, which was a sister club to Barbarella’s. It was owned by the same people, the famous Fewtrells. They were nice guys, they were good to us. We played the Cedar Club, which they also owned.”

For some reason Garry Bushell wrote in a book that you owned the Cedar.

“Nooo. I wouldn’t take it off them and I certainly wouldn’t have asked them for it. Chris Fewtrell was a nice bloke. Robert from the Nightingales, when they were the Prefects they wrote a song about Barbarella’s.”

So did the Photos.

“I can’t remember the Photos. I’m trying to remember them. Were they a local band? I saw a documentary about the Nightingales recently, that was interesting.”

Binging us back on track, you said the new album then. Is that the one from last year, The Feminine Divine, or is there more material waiting to come out?

“No, it’s the one from last year. I don’t know about recording, I’ve got some new songs and I might take a look this summer but the main focus is these gigs now. Then we’ll see where it’s at.”

Wychwood’s at the end of May. It seems the festival season really starts there.

“Does it? Let’s hope the weather’s alright.”

If it is, I can imagine Dexys being the stormers of the summer and everyone who sees them raving about the band.

“Well, we don’t know. Let’s see. As Alex Ferguson used to say, we’ll do the prepration and we’ve got a chance of doing well. But I’m not going to predict it because anything can happen.”

Dexys play the final day of Wychwood Festival at Cheltenham, which takes place from Friday 31st May-Sunday June 2nd. Tickets are available here. They also play the Moseley Folk & Arts festival, 30th August-1st September.