1974 saw four lads from Guildford come together and form The Stranglers. Forty years later the band has toured the world, produced a colossal 17 albums and has had some major line-up changes. First and foremost however, they are still going strong. LSi caught up with Baz Warne, the punk rock frontman of 14years, to talk anniversaries, brawls and the big 4o.
So tell me a little bit about the big 40th anniversary tour? Am i right in saying that it kicks off in the UK on the 27th February?
Yeah, it’s up in sunny Inverness.
How are you feeling about it?
Everybody’s really up for it, you know forty years is a long time and I think it deserves to be celebrated in its own way. I mean obviously I’m not an original member of the band but I have been in the band for fourteen years which is kind of over a third of it. So, everyone’s just looking forward to a really busy year. The gigs are flying in thick and fast, and we’re just down here now in the West Country where we’re based rehearsing and preparing for it. So, umm, yeah, forty, god, I think they all thought it would probably last forty days never mind forty years. So, yeah, we’re all up for it, it’s moving along nicely.
It must all be pretty exciting, where are you most looking forward to playing?
Well, if I say one thing then… Well you’re based in Leeds aren’t ya?
The Leeds o2Academy is always fantastic, I mean apart from the fact it’s a really interesting old building, it’s always packed in there, and it’s always been a great reception in Leeds, the Northern cities, umm, I think people tend to be, and this is in no way trying to be sort of North/South divide thing, but I think the Northern cities tend to go for it a bit more, you know Newcastle, Sheffield, especially when you get up into Scotland like Glasgow, and then you know Leeds, Manchester, places like that. So yeah, I mean all in all I look forward to doing it all but there are certain ones where you think it’s gonna kick off for ya and Leeds has always been one of them, so I look forward to that one.
You guys have maintained a steady flow of tour dates over your career. Why have you carried on?
Because…We enjoy it! It’s to us, one side of a very important coin, you know, you’ve got to make records, that’s one way of getting your music across, but people always love to see a good, kicking, live band, and this band has always been that. I mean I’ve done well over five hundred gigs since I joined the band. And travelling the world and getting to play in a famous rock band surely has to be one of the great joys of life. And we just still enjoy it, I mean I was just saying to a chap before you, the moment we don’t enjoy it, that’s when we stop. It’s not just for the crowds, and the business, it’s for us as well and that’s a vital part of it. And the moment that we don’t get a vibe or a buzz out of it then we won’t do it anymore. It’s quite simple really.
When you play to your finds, are there certain songs that cause different reaction in the crowd? Which is your favourite to play?
There are songs that I certainly don’t like to play. Thinking of my most favourite ones, from a fan’s point of view, I know the real diehard fans get heartily sick of ‘Golden Brown’, but I love that song. It’s got a great guitar solo in it, I don’t have to play any guitar apart from that, and I can just put my head back and sing. There’s another one that we do which isn’t actually a Stranglers song, but they did a version of the old Burt Bacharach and Hal David classic ‘Walk On By’, which you should check out if you get the time, It’s sort of a seven-minute thing that they did release as a single, but it goes off in the middle into this manic guitar and keyboard solo, it was recorded live, and if you listen to it, it is probably one of the best Stranglers recordings I think, even though it’s not one of their songs. So when we do that one, I really get off on that one, because I can walk away from the mike for five minutes and truly play guitar, you know, because I am a guitarist first and foremost. I mean, I am a singer with the band but I started out as guitar player and that’s where me heart lies. So, I have to say the more guitar orientated stuff is what I enjoy.
You’ve been in the band a solid fourteen years now then, and since then The Stranglers have made three albums, which one would you say that you were most involved in? And which did you enjoy making the most?
Probably the last one ‘Giants’. When I first joined the band we didn’t really get round to recording ‘Norfolk Coast’ until the middle of 2003 for a 2004 release. So we had a bit of time. I was involved in that one quite heavily. I wrote four songs, on my first Stranglers album, which I had written at home in Sunderland. We were kind of trying to find…as a new band, new blood, new millennium, new everything, a new record deal, so we tried to come up with a slightly different spin on the traditional Stranglers sound, though we didn’t want to water it too much.
The one after that ‘Suite XVI’ was quite interesting in that there was a lot of personal turmoil in the band at that time, and the singer ended up leaving, which put us back down to a four piece again, which the band originally was in the day. And we thought to ourselves, well what do we do? Do we get a new singer, or do we try it with the four of us, with me singing and the base player singing, like they used to do in the early line up. So, we plumped for that, we had a quite a low key festival gig down in the West Country, and we turned up to do that and didn’t tell anyone that there was just going to be the four of us and it was like a baptism of fire. And the recording was the same, I mean he left right in the middle of the recording so we had to get really hands on with that record to make it work. And then the last album ‘Giants’ there really was just the four of us, and we rented a house down in Bath, West Country, and we lived there for nearly two and a half years. I would probably say the one I’m most closest to is the last one because there was a lot of turmoil throughout that record but also there’s some really good songs on it, and it came out pretty much the way we wanted it to you know, which doesn’t always happen.
Can you foresee what will come next for the band?
Well, for the foreseeable future, certainly the next year, it’s just touring. Obviously the 40thanniversary is a thing that captured a lot of people’s imagination and they want to be apart of it. So we’re hopeful of some major UK tours. There are several on the table, they just haven’t been confirmed yet, so I can’t say too much about that, but we are hopeful of doing a lot of British festivals and also out to the Far East and Australia and stuff like that, but these things are all sort of ongoing, but you know we’ve got a huge British tour to think about which takes us to the beginning of April, then we’ve got the same again in Europe which takes us to the beginning of May. I’m hopeful that there’s gonna be another album in the band, you know you never can tell these things, sort of peoples health, you know how it goes, just different things like that. At this moment in time we’re all strong and optimistic and hoping that things will just progress… I mean it’s hard knowing where to take a band that’s been around for so long but we always seem to come up with something new and fresh, so fingers crossed.
It sounds like you’ve got a busy year ahead.
Yeah it’s gonna be busy, we’re really looking forward to it. We thrive on it.
photos: Laura Patterson, rocktransmission & thetimes