The Stranglers head out on their UK March On Tour in March 2015, with what must be one of their most successful years ever in 2014, with the ‘Giants And Gems: An Album Collection’ box-set and the extensive tours to celebrate the band’s 40th Anniversary and what a celebration it was seeing brighter more immediate band in good form for the successful Ruby Tour. The 21-date UK leg alone shone, while the rest saw The Strangler’s considerable musical swagger across the majority of Festivals, here in the UK and internationally, winning many new fans and friends in the process.
Since forming in 1974, The Stranglers have enjoyed huge success worldwide including 23 Top 40 hits singles and 17 Top 40 studio albums in the UK alone. ‘Giants And Gems: An Album Collection’ contains many of the greatest milestones in the band’s career such as their notorious debut album ‘Rattus Norvegicus’, and the legendary hits ‘Peaches’, ‘Hanging Around’, ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’, ‘Something Better Change’, ‘No More Heroes’, ‘Nice ‘N’ Sleazy’, ‘Walk On By’, ‘Duchess’, ‘Nuclear Device’, ‘Golden Brown’, ‘La Folie’ and ‘Strange Little Girl’ and shed loads of other crowd favourites to boot.
Luckily this is not the first time I’ve talked with JJ Burnell, in past publications, the last time I remember was vocalist Paul Roberts last album, ‘Norfolk Coast in 2002, when no less than John Robb interviewed the band for my Bullit magazine in 2002. there was a great atmospheric set of photos I recall aside their impressive return back then, something I put to the band engine room that is JJ. “We filmed the shots near where I spent several months trying to resurrect the band.”
But to more recent events for the moment as talk turns to last year’s Ruby UK Tour.
”Did you see us?”
Bit of a busman’s holiday, I saw you at T in The Park festival, and it was brilliant.
“It wasn’t quite the set we normally play. We assumed that T In The Park not everyone’s gonna know us, probably the right attitude to have. Glad you made it, that was good, T In The Park”
Not saying it was just the Tenants that made the response for The Stranglers…
“We’ve been getting that for about 10 tears now, since Norfolk Coast changed people’s perceptions of the band, there’s definitely been a renaissance.”
How’s it been last year with the ‘Giants & Gems’ boxset release as well as Ruby Anniversary Tour helping fuel things?
“I don’t think it does, it certainly fields interest and if people want to see us live, then great. i think for 2015 Tour we will try a completely different set of stuff, that we haven’t played for ages. When you play something like T In the Park you don’t think people are just there to see you, of course not, so I think people are paying their money to hear music they’re more familiar with. Maybe that will interest them in our greater body of work. So when people come to see strangler specify they might want some stiff they are not so familiar with. We played an experiment this summer, we played a small club, between festivals, the smallest show we played in ages, about 600 people, it was hot and sweaty. Half way through the set we asked them what do you want to hear ‘Golden Brown’ or ‘La Follie’ the audience booed ‘Golden Brown’ and cheered for ‘La Follie’ – which was just what we wanted.”
Presume Baz Warne’s French is getting better these days – not.
Sorry I knew Baz from Sunderland that’s where I’m from
“Are you a mackem?”
Yes, there’s two of us in the world
“(laughter) His French is getting better, He’s been spent so much time with me, he actually knows what grapes go with certain wines. He’s been accused back home in Sunderland of turning native.”
I remember Baz from the 1990’s in a band called Smalltown Heroes…
“That’s where i first saw him, Smalltown Heroes supported us on a couple of tours one in the UK and in Europe, he had something even back then.”
We’ve talked a little about Paul Roberts and Baz Warne, not trying to compare vocalists that would be unfair, but is the band dynamic much different?
“The Stranglers are now back to being a four-piece, we should have always been A four-piece, but needs must, we needed a singer, I lost complete faith in myself after Hugh left, I just wanted to change the format, there was some good times with Paul. but I think The stranglers is a four-piece. So the dynamic has returned to how it should be for The Stranglers. i think it’s been a breath of fresh air, we needed it. The result has been three albums that have that have gone increasingly better received worldwide, which has changed the fortunes of the band. People are now considering everything our whole back catalogue as a whole, everything we’ve done.
The bands dynamic is at the moment is thriving, we have a guy from the north east that adds his own spice to writing, he has enriched The stranglers.!
After the mammoth sized tour last year to hear of the upcoming tour, the band are so must be on Duracell or something
“We must be on something. the last three albums ‘Norfolk Coast’, ‘Suite XVI’ and ‘Giants’ have changed everything for The Stranglers, worldwide. We went to America for the first time for donkeys of years, last year and we old out everywhere, think the two Chicago shows sold out within four minutes. The band feels durable and not manufactured.”
Remember an old video where you were telling a German TV crew to F-off on the staircase outside your 1977 rehearsal room, seems a far cry to ‘Golden Brown’ being a big hit for the Proms last year! I know that the main melody is harpsichord that may lend itself to a more classical approach…
“We were quite shocked that the BBC to be one of the first bands to be involved in the Proms, we made history.”
Didn’t the BBC try and ban the ‘Golden Brown’ single first time around?
“When they found out what they thought it meant, but it was overlooked as it was a big hit, it won an Ivor novella award,. the song is delivered in an such an enigmatic style, they looked the other way. Unlike certain other sings that did get banned..”
thinking ‘Nice & Sleazy’ (remembering the video)
“No it was ‘Duchess’ apparently you can’t say the word clitoris which is a scientific term anyways!
Got to ask what fans new and older can expect from the March 2015 UK Tour Dates?
“We are going to play stuff we haven’t played for ages.”
Talking Giants, the title track video which is a set of photo/stills before the live footage at the end with girl pushing the swings a little…
“Some things I’m not going to spoon feed yer, as for the narrative of the girl and the swings and the four hanging men, I can’t tell you, if I do I will have to kill you…”
Fair enough, i know you van (nervous laugh) black belts and…
“(Quietly) Just been to Japan for a month to learn just how to do that.”
Just getting scared again, Remember a flashback to the K9 people with you at the top of the stairs…
“That’s from a German film called ‘Punks In London’.”
Yeah, featured X-ray Spex, Subway Sect and Arturo Bassik from the Lurkers while he was having his tea watching Top of the Pops. Remember seeing the Lurkers as recently as 2011 at Guilfest, with two of the Hi-Fi Spitfires, now that Esso has left, Author has been living close to Sunderland in Houghton (since moved)…
“Arthur is a good lad, he was one of our first fans, even before he started his own band.”
Told me that he can’t tour any more as he drinks too much cider
“If you see him, give him my best regards, should give Baz a ring he loves playing with other musicians.”
Could we expect any more studio time or will it be more hours in rehearsal rooms perfecting some favourites and rarer classics?
“Well both,myself and Baz have got to get together, I’ve got abbot 100 ideas, Baz has got loads over the next months we will work on new and older songs when we are rehearsing and sound checking, there’s no rush, no need or pressure to rush another album,we will just throw a few ideas around, trying to get something of more quality.
So every night won;t be the same, shows will become more fluid.
“You want to have a relationship with the audience, no point in racing through the greatest hits just for commercial reasons, there has to be a bit more of a communion.”
must have lost an eardrum to ‘Something Better Change’ back in the day, Great now to see the band come full circle to all the fans
“Old and new alike, the youngsters can’t believe the old geezers can out perform the youngers can produce.”
And with such intensity. Looking at your blizzard of touring commitments, I noticed you played Electric Picnic, one of Ireland’s biggest festivals…
“We had an incredible turnout, we did not expect anything anywhere really, there was about 2-m—people watching us out of the 30,00 festival capacity. It was lovely crowd, we really well received”
You must be having a good time now, these days, touring must be down to a fine art for you guys?
“Well we’ve done it enough times to learn hoe to deal with it, If Scotty could just beam me down to the stage every day it would be better, we don’t mind driving around UK and Europe, but flying is not fun, so unglamorous with the security and delays especially with festival is a pain. wish I could just use my motorcycle to every festival.”
“Talking of of my home city, remember down to some graffiti in white paint of a rat crossing a branch, where i was playing football in a car park known to us as the konky next to Roker Park football ground aged 7, decided then i had to hear this band The Stranglers back then.
“Do you go up to the stadium Of Light then?”
I make it now and then
“Baz goes virtually very week.”
It’s not quite a religion, a lot safer than religion come to think of it
“I’ve never understood why there’s so much animosity between the magpies and the mackems…”
I know how you can bore Baz silly, got a friend called frank who’s a history buff apparently it all springs from the Civil War. apparently Newcastle royalists head north to face Scottish roundheads, The Sunderland roundhead regiments then marched on Newcastle, that’s why Newcastle has lost most of it’s walls. Newcastle royalists then march on Sunderland and are defeated at Panns bank near the river Wear, there is even a blue disc, that according to Frank sowed the seed of distrust. Hopefully these days we’re both a lot wiser.
Tuesday 03 Brighton Dome
Thursday 05 Guildford G Live
Friday 06 London Roundhouse
Saturday 07 Sheffield O2 Academy
Monday 09 Liverpool O2 Academy 1
Tuesday 10 Cardiff University
Thursday 12 Newcastle O2 Academy
Friday 13 Southend Cliffs Pavilion
Saturday 14 Birmingham O2 Academy 1
Monday 16 Portsmouth Guildhall
Tuesday 17 Leeds O2 Academy
Thursday 19 Bristol O2 Academy
Friday 20 Cambridge Corn Exchange
Saturday 21 Manchester Academy 1
Monday 23 Oxford O2 Academy 1
Thursday 26 Aberdeen Beach Ballroom
Friday 27 Kilmarnock Grand Hall
Saturday 28 Glasgow O2 Academy
Tickets available from www.gigsandtours.com / 0844 811 0051