Music News

Stranglers spell it out for SupaJam

By Nic Howden
With just three weeks between the last show in Perth and the first Definitive Tour UK date, at the O2 Academy Liverpool last night, set shaken up between the hemispheres, the Stranglers’ work ethic is remarkable. 
“Too much time off gives us all itchy feet,” frontman Baz Warne says, on a very short break from the road.  
The tour coincides with a(nother) reissue of the band’s United Artists/Liberty releases, a peerless 1977-82 collection including Rattus Norvegicus, No More Heroes, Black & White and The Raven. 
However, this is not a band to roll over for a record label. In 1979 they famously sent A&M a ‘Get fucked, love The Stranglers’ message after learning about its ‘disrespectful’ plans for a sampler LP Stateside, so don’t expect rereleases to call the Definitive shots.
“We’re doing songs we’ve never played, others that haven’t been in the set for 30 years and, possibly, something brand new,” Warne says. “There are 50 people videoing everything so the surprise element is lost very quickly, but YouTube is no substitute for seeing it live.”
Warne dropped the needle back on the record for the Stranglers when he joined the band 18 years ago, as guitarist initially then frontman, bringing a telling new dynamic to the stage and to the studio. Contemporary Stranglers’ classic, Relentless, sure to be in the tour mix, is one of his.
Baz Warne is a perfect foil for bass bastion Jean Jacques Burnel too. Beyond a creative fallow in the 1990s, Burnel has rescued the Stranglers’ edge from the bright commercial lights courted by the latter part of the Hugh Cornwell-era and with Warne stage left, menace and vitality is restored. 
“As I always say, we have to count our lucky stars. It’s fantastic to be doing this and, while there were blips during the ‘90s, there has been no trace of resting on our laurels since,” Warne nods. 
The Definitive tour finishes at the Big Top in Limerick on April 8, Irish dates beaten from front to back of the calendar by the beast from the east, then it’s on to the next Stranglers album.
“We are staying away from festivals this summer. I think we’re doing one in the UK and three in France, but that’s it.  We did a lot in the last two years, they’re a fantastic opportunity to play your songs to a huge, diverse crowd, which is the ultimate quest for any band, but we’ve hired a little farmhouse, which has recording equipment and a rehearsal space, and I’m really looking forward to it. Me and JJ spend an awful lot of time noodling into our mobile phones, collecting and collating stuff, so there’s plenty to do. 
“Dave Greenfield is a wonderful person to work with too, the guitar and keyboards are the melodic side of the band, and when a recording sounds fantastic we all still bounce around the studio like 18 year olds.” 
Recalling Warne’s post-Euro 2016/post-EU referendum quip, ‘knocked out of Europe twice in a week, once by Iceland, once by people who shop at Iceland’, I ask him how much of an impact the crazy political climate will have on the sessions.
“There was a mixed reaction to that joke,” he chuckles. “I think Brexit is a very bad thing for the country. Certainly it will have an influence on our songwriting, Along with the man running the show across the Atlantic.
“There has been talk about [using] Pledge Music,” Warne says. “It used to seem a bit too needy, like putting your begging bowl out, but that stigma’s not there any more so we’ll see. The record business is going around in decreasing circles and new ways have to emerge.”  
The next Stranglers album could be out ahead of a tour in March 2019 and expectations are high. It’s been more than five years since Giants and a mix of wry reportage and reaction riding the best rhythm section in rock ‘n’ roll will definitely make the world seem a better place.   
The Definitive tour is pretty much a sell out but if you can get tickets, go and see the Stranglers…

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