Articles/Interviews

Kevin Rowland interview March 2010

'Close Up' Interview

‘Close Up’ is a series of public events featuring musicians, writers, artists and actors in-conversation with Dave Haslam. The esteemed guest on 11th March 2010 was the ex-frontman of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Kevin Rowland. The event took place at the Green Room in front of a sell-out audience, and it was wonderful to have Kevin there, he was somewhat nervous but he was also honest and inspiring, and wonderfully dressed…

Kevin I wanted to talk about what you’re up to now and what Keven Rowland in 2010 is doing, are you writing, what are you up to?

I’m getting ready to record an album, to make a record; the songs have been written for a long time and I’ve written some new ones, co written with a various people that I’ve been involved with over the last few years but there’s been a lot of hold ups and admittedly it’s taken longer than it should but we’re just talking about booking the studios to start recording a Dexy’s album.

What’s a day in the life of KR? Do you live in London?

I live in East London

Do you do a lot of shopping?

Not that much, here we go, I know what’s coming next (laughs).

Do you go around vintage shops looking for cool clothes and wonderful shoes?

Sometimes; not cool clothes, interesting clothes

Since the Dexy’s 2003 tour have you picked up a label, are you looking for a deal?

We’re just doing it ourselves right now, that’s what we’re doing, we’re sorting it ourselves. We know exactly what we want to do; we’ve had loads of time to plan it

When you say “we”, have you got the gang together, is it a unit, people you’ve worked with before?

The nucleus, yeah, Mick Talbot’s involved, Pete Williams, Neil Hubbards and a couple of others

Some of the bands that emerged at the time, bands like ABC who do these big nostalgia tours, would you do them, have you been offered them?

Definitely not, well it’s tempting obviously, I can see why they do it and good luck to anyone who does those things but I wouldn’t be interested in doing them because I’m not interested in “remember me” and going back and “we’re just like we were” because we’re not and I’m completely different and that has to be reflected in what I’m doing.

The 2003 tour was a long time ago now but I think we just about got the balance right. It wasn’t the greatest hits show; obviously you can’t mess with memories too much, but I think we changed them around enough to make them relevant now, to us certainly, and it seems the audience too. We could have played more after that but there would be no point – it went well, there were good reviews – there would be no point playing those old songs, no matter how much you change them around, and reinterpret them we change the lyrics and the melodies and the arrangements. You can only do that for so long without a new record. It really is about the new record, it’s about doing that and once we’ve done that I want to play new shows, I really do but we’re going to get that record done first.

Before you got that tour together in 2003 was the My Beauty album on Creation; was that meant to be part of a trilogy?

It was. We were planning two Dexy’s albums, we got signed on that basis but I said to Alan McGee before we do that I’d really like to do this record of cover versions of songs that I really like that mean a lot to me at this time. And he said “Yeah, great idea” so we did that and that took I think two years and it came out. And then three months later Creation went down and that was the end of that one. Good record…

One of the issues around that record when the press photos and the album cover came out and you played at Reading was that you were wearing a dress; people reacted in a very savage way to that. Was that something that you’d imagine they would do?

Not all people did, some did, and I don’t know where to begin with that one really. I can’t answer their thinking; I don’t know what their thinking is. I mean what’s the big deal? Of all the things to get worked up about, the things that they get worked up about, a dress, an item of clothing. It’s amazing really but it did obviously hit a nerve.

But what was your thinking when you decided you were going to put on a dress?

Basically I always liked clothes and I’ve always liked looking for new ideas. About 1995 I bought a sarong, two years before David Beckham (laughs), and wore it and it was great, and it looked good and then I bought a leather kilt, it was kind of a Roman look, it was really good. So in 1995 I was developing all that and it was progressing.

So what were you working towards?

Nothing, I liked that look and I liked the sarong. I can understand that some people were a bit shocked; I was quite pleased about that really because Dexy’s had a phoney macho image which wasn’t that much about us so I think it did freak some people given the history. I’d been away a long time and moved on, gone somewhere else completely; the fact that people hadn’t seen me, they didn’t see any of the stages of development, they just saw that. I think that was it really.

I’m guessing you’re not the kind of person that regrets stuff…

Well, I am, but I don’t regret that; I’ve got much more important things to regret than that!

OK! (laughs). So what are your regrets?

I regret hurting Kevin Archer who was in my band, I regret that. Other personal regrets, you know (pause).

Were you in a musical family? Where did your music interests come from?

I think I was in a musical family, although no-one played instruments, though as time went on my older brother Pete was playing bass and guitar. My mum was definitely musical, a lovely singer even though she wasn’t playing an instrument. The only reason they didn’t probably play instruments because they didn’t have time you know, Irish immigrants working really hard

At what point did you become the person who was into music enough to decided that this was the arena you wanted to make a life in, what triggered that?

I was really interested in it from a really young age, 6 or 7 at primary school. When I was in secondary school I became less confident inwardly and I didn’t think I would be able to do it and the environment I was in, it was not even an option to consider and I believed that it wouldn’t be possible. My dad, who’s a big influence on me, he couldn’t see that as any kind of viable future. I put it to the back of my mind, then my older brother Pete – who is 6 years older than me, and like a mentor to me and more like a father to me as my dad worked long hours – Pete was in a band and I hadn’t learnt how to play a guitar properly, I could only play a couple of chords, but the guitarist in Pete’s band gave him six months notice and Pete said I could play in the band if I learnt all the songs in that time. That was my incentive.

In that period when you’d grown into a teenager you moved around a lot, you were born in Wolverhampton, you then moved to Ireland, then back to Wolverhampton then on to North West London. Did you feel unsettled at that point in your life? By the time you were at secondary school you were the only Black Country accent in a cockney school. Did they understand what you were saying?

That was a very strange experience. They kinda understood and a couple of things became catch phrases. When I started there I had a broad accent; if I could have learnt cockney quicker I would have, it was merciless. It was ’64 and the General Election was about to take place and we had a drama class, I never even knew what drama was! A posh, arty teacher asked us who we’d be voting for and I said “I’d be voting Labour”, she was quite charmed and said “That’s lovely, and now say what your name is and where you come from” and I said the only way I knew how (adopts broad black country accent) “My name is Kevin Rowland and I come from Wolverhampton” and they all descended into uproar and it became a catch phrase with kids coming up to me in useless accents. It wasn’t easy that…

But when you started Lucy and the Lovers you were back in the Midlands?

I grew up there and my formative years were in North West London – Harrow, Wembley – until I was about 19 and then I did a year in Liverpool, then I went to Birmingham where my brother was. After Pete’s band I formed Lucy and the Lovers.

Was it your band; is every band that you’ve been in “your” band?

I don’t think it really was, that one, no; I tried to make it my band but it wasn’t really working out. I don’t think they’ve all been my bands, although I suppose they have in a way. I’m certainly a lot better with people than on my own. I need to work with people. I have to have the vision, I can’t seem to follow any one else’s vision; it’s hard enough trying to follow my own!

You were quite a flamboyant dresser in Lucy & the Lovers, I didn’t see the band, but I believe there was pink satin going on, well it was the mid 70′s…

Well, it was just before Punk. I don’t know if you know a band called Deaf School? They were a big influence on us, they were a great group; I’m surprised they weren’t more successful, they deserved to be. It was sort of in between that Roxy Music and punk thing really.

Then it was the Killjoys; that was ‘proper’ punk?

I don’t think it was proper punk, it wasn’t great punk really. Lucy and the Lovers was an interesting idea; before we’d even heard punk we had bits of song that were quite fast and there was a lots of energy in it and there happened, coincidentally, to be lots of swearing in our lyrics as there was in a lot of punk records. Punk just kinda happened while we were getting the band ready and so by the time we started to do gigs there were punks in the audience. They were accepting of the faster songs but not the slower ones, so we just kind of morphed into the Killjoys…

When The Killjoys split and you and Kevin Archer formed Dexy’s; was your idea from the start to bring the soul music in and bring it to the fore?

Definitely.

By mid ’78 there were still people jumping on the punk band wagon and there was post punk but it was a very idiosyncratic thing to do, that; no one else was doing that. Where did the idea come from?

I don’t know where a lot of my ideas come from; I do know it was earlier than that when I was still in the Killjoys and I was really thinking this is going nowhere, we’ve got to find our own thing but I didn’t know what that was. Everyone just seemed to like these punk songs so I thought let’s just be punks but I very quickly learnt that I can’t follow someone else’s thing but I didn’t know what my own thing was so we were trying to get as far as we could with the Killjoys, but that was a ridiculous plan. What became really obvious was that there wasn’t that much emotion in music at that time, there was anger or softer-anger or pity-anger there wasn’t too much else. To me it seemed a glaringly obvious thing, like a bolt from the blue that it was a really good thing to do.

They did me a favour by leaving, those guys, the other three leaving me and Kevin Archer to it. It was the day of the gig and we had a record company coming to see us, I thought “Oh God”; we were still slaving under the idea that we were might do well but I’m sure we never would have done, we’d be just third division punks really. I was upset for a while but now I could do what I really wanted to do…

Were you a soul music fan at that time, were you going to soul nights?

It was something that never left me, I’d always liked it, I’d grown up listening to it, loads of black music. It spoke to me from the off in the 60s; Tamla, Stax and even stuff before that when I was really young. I was in clubs ’73, ’74, ’75 hearing all that funk.

Your vocal style is brilliant and memorable, did that come naturally or was it part of the Dexy’s vision that you were going to sing in a certain way?

I thought it was important to have a vocal style and before long we got involved with Bernard Rhodes, who used to manage the Clash. He said “I don’t think your vocal style sounds very original”. We’d done some demos and he thought that the band were good but didn’t like my vocals. I was really annoyed at first but when I went away and thought about it, I realized he was right so I started to think what could I do differently and I came up with the idea of putting that ‘crying’ voice on, for want of a better word.

To get across the emotion?

Initially just to find a style; I was mad on Roxy Music, and Bryan Ferry had the best voice, when I heard that I thought “Where did that come from?”. I was trying a few things; I was definitely influenced by General Johnson of Chairman of the Board. I went round to Jim Patterson’s, the trombone player, and asked him what he thought and we changed the keys to suit the vocals more.

In terms of the first Dexy’s look, the Italian Docker, no-one else was jumping on that band wagon, you were unique in how you presented yourselves. Was it something you were conscious of, wanting to look like a complete package?

Definitely, we saw that the look was part of it. Roxy were like that, they looked great and we were into that from the off.

The donkey jackets and the hats, where did that come from?

Jim Patterson was at a rehearsal one cold day when we were rehearsing in a squat. We used to find old warehouses and break in, take the gear and set up and practice. Jim had a dark polo neck on and a woolly hat; it was freezing and he was playing his trombone, you could see his breath and I remember thinking what a great look it was. Before we had that look we were more flamboyant. The Specials were local and came to our gigs, they invited us on their tour and we had to find something that their audience were accepting of but that wouldn’t be the same as them.

In terms of that Birmingham, Coventry scene, I had a conversation with Lesley Woods from the Au Pairs, she remembered a party in Moseley and she said that the look that you had and the way that you were was intimidating and felt like you were in a gang. There was a party that you and she were at and it all kicked off, and doors were off the hinges, usual sort of a late ’70s party. A ring was stolen and everyone thought it was one of Dexy’s; she phoned you up and you said you’d see what you could find out. You found the ring and you went around to see her and you sat down and had a three hour conversation about violence. Is that a true story?

It’s something like that (laughs). She came around to mine, I was shocked, we didn’t know those people, they were from the other side of town; Moseley, middle classy, studenty, CND, different kind of thing to us completely. We did want that separate thing, we didn’t want to be like them, they went to each other’s gigs. I was quite surprised, she came around unannounced with another guy, she was going on to me (middle classy, studenty, CND voice) “What is this Dexy’s against the world thing Kevin, what is it?” and I said (laughs) “I dunno”.

I think she found it quite intriguing that you’d gone from someone that she thought was quite intimidating to someone who actually would sit down and talk about stuff.

I don’t think I had a lot of choice with her (laughs)! She must have pricked my conscience because she was coming at us from a different angle. Most of those other lot would see that we were a bit hostile so they’d be hostile. I think I felt guilty; it was easy with all that bravado, you know when you’re that age. We liked that the fact that everyone hated us in Birmingham, we wanted that and enjoyed that reputation, it was a little bit silly and she had a point.

In those early days with the first single and right through your career you’ve talked about Irish identity, has your view of that and being an Irish person living in England changed as you’ve got older?

Oh man it’s changed loads of times; I think this is true of immigrant children generally where they go though a stage where they rebel against it, which I probably did as a kid, or embrace it, possibly because the Irish were so under siege. A lot of Irish people that I come into contact with are “everything Irish is great, everybody Irish is great and everything English is shit” which I bought when I was younger 9 or 10, but by the time I was a teenager and I got a kicking off some bouncers, who all happened to be Irish, I knew that wasn’t the case so I resisted that. But then when I was in my twenties it hit me that the Troubles were going on, that you couldn’t really say much about Ireland, people didn’t want to hear about it really. In Birmingham as well, they’d had the pub bombings in ’74, Irish jokes were everywhere on telly etc. I knew then that that perception around was equally untrue, I knew that deeply and I felt forced to say something, I just couldn’t not say anything. I was hearing stupid people say that Irish people were thick, people that couldn’t barely string a sentence together…

In the introduction this evening before you came on I mentioned that as a 17 year old it was fantastic to have a band that made you jump around but to make you think as well and ‘Burn It Down’ that’s a prime example of that. But I want us to talk about ‘Geno’, Geno Washington being the inspiration. When it reached number one and you were on ‘Top of the Pops’ did you feel like a star at that point and was it a good thing.

I never did feel like a star. I was always uptight about something and uncomfortable and not very good. It was a surprise; initially as it was going up the chart I felt it and pretty quickly I didn’t. I remember the drummer Stoker saying (Brummie accent) “You’re a star Kev”. I felt weighed down by it, the pressure. It’s terrible I should have enjoyed it but I didn’t; I was thinking about what we should do all the time, I wasn’t able to run with it.

In the brilliant song ‘Young Man’ which comes later in your career, it’s obviously you addressing yourself as that young person. Was part of the point of the song that you should have enjoyed what you do and not taken it so seriously?

It was, absolutely; the last line is “I wish someone said that to me”. I was reaching an age, maybe 35; I was maybe starting to get a perspective on how I’d been. My brother had a son, John, who was growing up and I dedicated it to him, I suppose he was the nearest young person to me.

Your relationship with the press wasn’t good at this point. As a fan it was ironic, I thought it was brilliant, I would open the NME and there’d be a manifesto from Dexy’s saying deadpan “This is the new record, there are no interviews”. What was it that made you to decide to do that, did you have bad experiences?

We didn’t have great experiences to get it into perspective. The first interview that ‘NME’ did with us, they didn’t take it seriously, they sent a nice guy called Roy Carr but he was really old at that time; they didn’t see us in any way as relevant and contemporary. He was telling us on the road stories about bands that he knew like Geno Washington but I could see that they weren’t really taking us seriously…

For you was that still part of Fuck You I’m still going to do what I want to do?

It wasn’t really, to be completely honest, we wanted to think that to create that impression, we wanted the world to think that, but it wasn’t really. When ‘Geno’ did well I remember thinking “Is this it, is that all there is?” I was losing control of the group, they were all going their own way and I didn’t have anything left to barter with anymore; now that ‘Geno’ had done well, I suspect everyone felt it, things weren’t immeasurably different. I thought everything was going to change but you’re still the same person except now you’ve got all this to deal with. I think it was an attempt to unite it all again and get control; similarly the fights with the record company which was all a bit stupid.

I can remember about eight years later being in the Wag Club in London and Chris Sullivan introduced me to a guy who was as off his head as I was, he said “You used to be in Dexy’s didn’t ya? Good group man, why didn’t you just do it, do all the music without all the other stuff?” and I thought “Yeah, why didn’t I?! It would have been so much simpler!”. We were just making rods for our own backs everywhere, making everything difficult you know…

I read an interview with Big Jim Patterson who remembers you saying around that time “flaunt your insecurities”. It’s like you knew that the emotion and honesty that fuelled your writing to make the songs great was also the issues destroying your life…

It’s true; it’s just how it was. (pause)

As Dexy’s progressed, the look changed, where did that influence come from?

I was always looking, thinking about clothes. It’s an instinct, I notice them, I don’t obsess about them. I was already thinking about it before the first Dexy’s Midnight Runners broke up, to change the look, thinking no-one has ponytails it would look brilliant. I went up to Liverpool around 1980 and I saw some scallies with wedge haircuts and reversible anoraks with yachting shoes and tight trousers but I didn’t take all of that. And Kevin Archer was wearing boxing boots when he was in a punk band in ’77 and that was it…

That particular line-up, although you toured you never made an album.

It was a real shame, they were a good group.

A band like Dexy’s could pull in a lot of different type of people and in the ’70s early ’80s they didn’t all get on. I remember feeling a lot of rawness in the audience. What were those gigs like in terms as a performer?

They were really good generally, really successful, we felt we had it right. The year before we supported the Specials, which was tough but we learned a lot. After ‘Geno’ was number one we held the tapes back for the album from the record company to negotiate a deal, which was daft. We ended up doing a tour without the album having been released. Six months earlier we’d done the Straight to the Heart tour when ‘Dance Stance’ was out and that audience was smaller and more open minded but this time we were playing bigger venues like Locarnos and Top Ranks – the venues at the time – but the audience only knew ‘Geno’. You’d go on last about midnight and the crowd were half paralytic and they would spend the whole time shouting ‘Geno’ and we were trying to do a mix of songs and it wasn’t worth it for us. We found it really difficult and soul destroying because they didn’t want to hear what we were doing.

One night on that tour we arrived at a theatre in Oxford, it was all seats and felt weird because we came on earlier and everyone was sat down but it was a big stage which we had to use in a different way; entertain them, project yourself. For the first few songs I didn’t think they were into it, but half way through I had a revelation and realized they were just enjoying it in a different way. It made me realise we can be completely different, similar line up to the first one and a similar approach but in the live show very different; it’s more like a film or a play, we’re not giving it direct to you, we’re performing, projecting to the whole audience instead of just the first six rows.

The fact that you recorded singles at this time but never recorded an album, was it a situation where you were losing control of what was going on?

I think it was that we didn’t have enough songs to make an album. I had a feeling that those old Vic shows were going to be good before we did them. I remember wanting to say to the record company that it would be really good if you recorded the shows but our stock at the record company at that point wasn’t that high; the single ‘Lies from A to E’ was just flopping. I can’t remember why we didn’t make an album at that time…

The next album was Too-Rye-Ay, who was ‘Eileen’?

(laughs) It wasn’t anybody really, it was probably a composite of a couple of people, from those teenage years, growing up, second generation Irish Catholic

I haven’t had much experience, but do Catholic girls need a bit more coaxing?

(laughs) They probably need a lot less coaxing. I think I was of the view they were saints and virgins and you can’t touch them

Oh, there was a look in your eye then (audience laughs). It’s an odd song isn’t it? It was such a huge hit in the UK and America; you have described it as being “light in a light way” which seems quite dismissive. How do you look back on that record?

I don’t remember saying that. I don’t look back much; it was so long ago, like a different person. I don’t like to watch the video, I feel quite uncomfortable watching that, I’m grateful for the royalties! I hate it when I’m out and that record gets played because a lot of people look at me and just watch me for my reaction. One time I was on a date and she said to me “Do you wanna come to my Christmas party?” and as we walked in it was playing. It was quite interesting for me as a fly on the wall watching people dancing to it.

Hearing it now in the context of 2010 people still love it.

I heard it yesterday when I walked into a Chinese restaurant and they were playing it

When you started on your third album Don’t Stand Me Down it did seem that you were conscious that you’d had a ‘pop’ moment that you didn’t want to go back to, was part of your vision that this wasn’t going to be a pop album?

Completely. I thought that having that success at that time would make me happy or something. The writing of the song was brilliant and hard and working with the band and getting so that it sounded good. A lot of that album I wasn’t happy with but that one did sound good. I ended up working for the record company promoting it.

I am conscious that I may sound ungrateful and that I should have enjoyed it at the time; getting on a plane to Holland, going to studios to do an interview, miming to ‘Come on Eileen’, doing more interviews, meet the record company, go home, get up and do it all over again the next day; at first it is glamorous but it’s exhausting and there’s nothing creative about it, I wasn’t writing any songs. I had a very inexperienced manager who never said “No” to anything. I got completely burnt out doing that for over a year.

I’m at peace with it now but I wasn’t then. I now understand that that is what I’m supposed to do, my job is to make records and to sing and perform and do that well which I’ve not maybe done consistently over the years; the other stuff is not my forte. My relationship with the audience is to make a good record or do a good show, that’s the important thing. My reaction to that was to stay in and focus completely on the music instead. It was only for a few months, nothing like today’s artists have to put up with, but it gave me a taste of that and that is a whole other job in itself.

There was a little bit of me that felt like I was just working for the management, whose politics I didn’t agree with and who wasn’t really interested in what I wanted to say musically and their want of money, money, money. I came into this to be creative and it was the opposite to that so part of me was thinking “Well, put this in your pipe and smoke it”. There are songs on the album that are uncommercial like ‘This is what she’s like’, and ‘Listen to This’; I think if people had heard them they’d have liked them but I wasn’t prepared to play that game anymore.

What were musical influences that went in to Don’t Stand Me Down?

I felt empty and had a shallow role and felt uncomfortable in that pop singer skin. Around that time Culture Club had the same kind of profile; we were both in a restaurant and I was covering up and disguising myself but George O’Dowd was thriving on it with his hat on, happily signing autographs, he loved it. At that point it was too intense for me, I didn’t feel I was good enough for that.

We didn’t have any songs when I’d finished Too Rye Ay. It’s always a mystery to me at the beginning. I started to go to political rallies and Trade Union marches and meetings about Ireland and to read more about it.

The influences were more social than about music? It was a brave decision because no one else, none of the ‘indie’ bands around at the time, were doing anything like that, so it stood out…

I didn’t think it was brave, I got the impression from the record company that they wanted the same again but I didn’t want to do that. When I played him the demo of ‘This is What She’s Like’ he pursed his lips and said “You can blow it all you know” but that wasn’t what it was all about; I’m not ungrateful, I had money and a nice flat but without meaning there’s no point.

Re. the musical influences; I remember going into a record shop in ’83 and I bought Blonde on Blonde by Dylan and the Beach Boys Greatest Hits and the guy in the shop recognized me and said “Oooh, interesting!” like it was going to be my new direction and I remember thinking don’t be ridiculous but as I look back it actually wasn’t that far off the mark.

After two years of working on that record (Don’t Stand Me Down), when it was delivered the label didn’t like it; did you have an inkling that you were going to go through that process and not get that support?

It was a tough period. I was lucky that I had Helen and Billy with me, it was an exhausting obsession like directing a film but when we did finish it I thought it does sound good and I was pleased with it. It didn’t dawn on me for a minute that it wouldn’t do well.

And the decision not to release a single to promote the album?

More stupidity! The original idea was to release the whole version of ‘This is What She’s Like’ and then the manager said “Or maybe not” and I thought it would be like Led Zeppelin or Yes in the 70s and that seemed appealing to have that kind of audience and relationship…

It also meant that people would have to buy the whole album and hear it in its totality?

Yes, I was reluctant to say anything was representing this album.

How would a Radio One DJ talk over the beginning of ‘This is What She’s Like’? There’s that conversation going on. Where did that idea come from?

We were going to cut that bit off and come in when Billy starts singing. It was an idea I really liked with the conversation over the song. We even went to acting lessons. (pause) It was a long time ago and it doesn’t really matter now.

The period around 88/89 after The Wanderer had come out Jon Marsh from the Beloved tells me he remembers seeing you at Shoom listening to House music. This never seemed to be an influence on your own music though. Was that an important era for you?

It was a great time for me, brilliant. Me and a couple of mates were taking ecstasy before acid house and just going to bars or whatever and I just found they made me feel more comfortable, and talking to people easier, at ease. And then someone told me about Shoom, this club where everybody’s on E’s and I thought “What’s the point of going somewhere where everyone’s on E?” (audience laughs) I didn’t go down straightaway but maybe two months later I went down and it was amazing, brilliant. It was an amazing thing that happened there. There were football hooligans mixed in with fashion designers…

Did you ever get to a point where you were making House Music?

Yes, sorry, that was the question wasn’t it! We did, we did; that album was going to be house, not all house but if not house maybe a bit ethereal-sounding, maybe more Italo house, as this was around 1990

So there’s some demos that exist?

Yes, yes, definitely, but we didn’t get it together. For my part, some substances took over.

What happened that led you to lose those years, the drug use or whatever was going on?

(pause) The drug use was a factor and I became more and more unreasonable really. We took those demos to various labels and they were interested but I was arguing with them before they’d even signed us! Go Discs were keen. The cocaine I think made me more unreasonable; I think they hadn’t called me back in the time that I thought was appropriate so I rang them and ranted down the phone and that was the end of that one. Another time we were at Virgin meeting the A&R man and I was there with my manager and he said that my foot was tapping and he always knew that my foot tapping was a sign I was going to explode and apparently I turned to the A&R man and said “Look, mate, do you even like music?” so that was the end of that.

How did you get yourself out of that, when your life wasn’t on track

I got help with the drugs from the most obvious of places.

Then you met Alan McGee from Creation around ’96, and as we know, he’s also talked about going through a similar phase.

Signing to Creation was a mistake, it was definitely a mistake. I know later Alan portrayed it that he’d found me and I wasn’t in a great way, and I wasn’t in a fantastic way but I was OK. Warner Bros and Rough Trade were interested in us but I chose Creation because Alan was enthusing about us and they were a happening label at that time which was a shame because within a few years they were gone.

Which kind of takes us back to where we started, so just to end with I guess a slightly flippant question; what is your stand out good memory of your career and your work to date?

Honestly and truly it would be my most recent memory, working most recently with Mick Talbot; if I look back over those years then those Old Vic shows were really good, I felt at one; Don’t Stand Me Down where I knew I’d done something good; Searching for the Young Soul Rebels I felt it too. In my mind now, I don’t think about those times; these days I focus on the now.

There’s a demo of some unreleased stuff that you’re working on. It’s a song called ‘It’s OK Johanna’. Can I read some lyrics from that? “I don’t show much of myself in life. But in my music I reveal all. I can’t be all things to everyone and neither can you. I’m learning to operate in this world, I’m just learning and so can you. I’m learning about how to be true to an idea. It’s a beautiful thing. I’m gonna do it Johanna, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna spread beauty to the best of my ability. That’s my job. That’s why God put me here.”

Thank you so much, Kevin Rowland.