The Stranglers bring their golden greats to Wickham Festival
Their ruby anniversary may be receding in the rearview mirror, but The Stranglers are still going strong.
This year the rock veterans are hitting the festival scene hard, before there’s a hint that new material may be on the horizon.
Singer Baz Warne told WOW247: ‘We’re right in the middle of a load of festivals right now. This year we’re concentrating on smaller but still ‘‘name’’ festivals, and there’s lots of them around the UK.
‘Traditionally we do all the V and Isle of Wight and Glastonbury and all that sort of thing and it’s been great. But we’ve been enjoying it, and we’re looking forward to Wickham.’
While the band may have such mighty hits as Golden Brown, No More Heroes and Peaches under their belts, they’ve never been ones to rest on their laurels. Two years ago they marked 40 years together with a series of rereleases and a major tour, but it’s been four years since their last studio album, Giants.
‘Funnily enough we were talking about this on Saturday night,’ says Baz of a new album. ‘The world of recording has vastly and significantly changed, so we’re not under any constraints to do anything with record labels or anything, so we can pretty much please ourselves.
‘It is getting to critical mass now though – it’s like putting lightning in a bottle, the cork is starting to shake and it’s time to get together and do something.’
‘(Founder and bassist) JJ Burnel, the principal songwriter lives in the south of France and I live in Yorkshire, so getting together is one thing, but there’s talks. Once we get these festivals done, from September there’s a few months spare, and I suspect that’s when we’ll do something.
‘I suspect we’d make the album and then look for someone to put it out, as there’s never a shortage of people wanting to put our records out. It’s a nice, free sort of position to be in, so that means we can record it in our own time.
‘It is four years, so it’s about time we started to get some new stuff together.’
And although they marked 40 years together, too much looking back’s just not their style. They play the hits, but refuse to wallow in nostalgia.
‘Obviously with the back catalogue and the legacy this band has, we can’t avoid it. But even at festival sets this summer we drop a few of the new songs in there and people love them as much as the old, so it’s never really been a concern of ours.’
But Baz, who joined the band in 2000, is enjoying the moment: ‘I never lose sight of the fact that we’re all privileged to still do this. I’m getting close to 700 gigs with the band now and we’ve had this incarnation of the band going back to 2006 which is a decade, which is frightening to think.
‘In the early days I always had to nip myself and think, Jesus Christ I’m in the Stranglers, but now I’ve been here for more than a third of the band’s history.
‘Now those songs are as much a part of me as well. Without sounding disrespectful, I never think about their origin anymore, they’re our songs – I just do them.’
On the nostalgia front, have The Stranglers been caught up in any of the events going on to mark the 40th anniversary of punk?
‘People seem to have this romantic idea about 1977. To my mind, in 1977 I was 13, I was a fan and listening and even then I never really classed the Stranglers as a punk band.
‘They came through at the same sort of time, but by then they’d already been together three years and had a bewildering number of gigs under their belt.
‘There’s been a smattering of interest and people mentioning things, and we’re indifferent to that.
‘If something comes along that we think: “Oh yeah, that’s interesting”, we might do it, but so far that hasn’t happened.
‘One of the things about The Stranglers is that they’ve never split, they’ve been together since 1974, but there’s a lot of bands reforming for the money and the nostalgia and I know nostalgia plays a big part in everyone’s lives, but it’s,’ he sighs, ‘it’s not the be all and end all.
‘We haven’t really thought about it – it doesn’t interest us.’
Sadly though, the group are no longer joined by original drummer Jet Black on tour, his health prevents him from getting behind the stool.
‘He doesn’t play now,’ says Baz. ‘He’s 78, he’s steaming towards 80.
‘I spoke to him last week, I speak to him at least once a fortnight because he’s my pal, and when I joined the band he was very helpful to me and looked after me – I was just a kid in those terms.
‘He’s fine but it’s got to the point where he can’t play any more, he’s our elder statesman, he’s our totem, our touchstone, and we consult him and talk to him about lots of things, he always takes an interest.
‘He’s philosophical, like I did my 40 years. He was as bewildered as the other boys that it’s lasted this long.
‘Overall he’s very satisfied, and left an incredible legacy, which is what any musician ultimately wants.
‘Without sounding complacent, there’s a certain contentment that comes, and I think he’s reached that point.’
But for now, it’s on with the live shows, and the band enjoy surprising people with what they still have to offer: ‘We get people who come out now who can’t believe how much energy there is and how much energy we have.
‘That’s what I love hearing about, they’re open-mouthed, almost.
‘We’re in a healthy place, and I think everyone appreciates that. Obviously at some point it will have to come to an end, but right now, it’s a healthy ongoing concern.’
Friday, August 5