‘If it’s sunny and you’ve got reggae, then you can’t fail’

UB40's Ali Campbell. Astro and Mickey Virtue bring their unique reggae sound to the Isle of Wight.
UB40's Ali Campbell. Astro and Mickey Virtue bring their unique reggae sound to the Isle of Wight.
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As Ali Campbell speaks to The Guide, it’s a grey and rainy day outside.

Considering he is currently gearing up to perform at this year’s Isle of Wight Festival alongside UB40’s Astro and Mickey Virtue, miserable weather is not something he wants on the agenda.

‘The thought of this happening at the festival you’re playing is a bit of a downer. The weather is the difference between a successful festival and a downer at the end of the day.’

There’s no doubt that the dub/reggae band have become an iconic fixture, selling over 70 million records with hits such as Red, Red Wine and their cover of Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love.

With an impressive 24 albums under their belt, how do the band choose which hits will make for a crowd-pleasing set list?

Ali says: ‘We’re not self- indulgent. We don’t go out and do the whole new album that people aren’t familiar with yet.

‘I think that’s a big mistake that a lot of bands make and I’ve seen it happen lots of times.

‘Great bands can die at festivals because they go out and play stuff that the crowd doesn’t know.

‘That’s why we’re a good festival band because we do play a set that the majority of people are going to know at least half of.’

Throughout Ali’s long career with UB40 spanning nearly 40 years, he feels there has been a festival renaissance.

‘Festivals used to be for music fans and now it’s just for young kids.

‘It’s like a gap year, everybody has to have a festival, a couple of years where they go to Glastonbury, etc. It went a bit mental a couple of years ago, there were like 500 festivals in one year.

‘They’re not as miserable as they used to be, believe me. All the tents and stuff are better nowadays and the facilities are better, there’s more of them

‘You can’t smoke at festivals any more though and that’s terrible for reggae gigs.’

It’s hard to avoid discussing the band’s turbulent time over recent years, which has seen Ali part ways with some of the original members, including his brothers Robin and Duncan Campbell.

Ali, Astro and Mickey can no longer go by the original UB40 name following a lengthy legal dispute between the two camps.

When asked if losing the UB40 title bothers him, Ali says: ‘ I’m trying to distance myself from the old guys because quite frankly, I think that they’re a disaster.

‘They did a country album as the last album they made so I want people to know that it’s not that old UB40 that they’re going to see.

He adds: ‘It’s UB40’s Ali, Astro and Mickey and we’ve always made that clear everywhere we’ve played.

‘That’s what goes on the posters so that people know it’s not the dud UB40.’

With three of the original members back together and touring the world together once more, Ali explains that audiences have been responding well.

‘You can feel that the audiences are more emotional and they’re really happy that me and Astro are back together again and it seems like a conclusion.

‘It’s been lovely doing these big smash sell-out tours with really lovely audiences giving us a lot of love.

‘We’re having some really nice gigs at the moment and hopefully we can add Isle of Wight to that list.

‘But o­f course if it’s sunny and then you’ve got reggae as well, you can’t fail.’

UB40’s Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue play The Big Top on Thursday, June 11. Visit isleofwightfestival.com


This year’s Isle of Wight Festival will be something special. With a UK festival exclusive headline set from Fleetwood Mac, the weekend will also see Britpop legends Blur headline on Saturday and dance titans The Prodigy and rockers The Black Keys rule the roost on Friday.

For a chance to win one of two pairs of tickets to the festival, which takes place on June 11 to 14, answer this question: Which legendary guitarist performed his last UK show at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival?

Simply e-mail your answer to features@thenews.co.uk with your full name, address and daytime telephone number, or send your entry to: Isle of Wight Festival Competition, The News, 1000 Lakeside, North Harbour, Western Road, Portsmouth, PO6 3EN. Entries must be received by 5.30pm on Thursday, June 4, 2015. Normal News competition rules apply.