Live Dates

2017
FRANCE
22 November Chateau Rouge, Annemasse Tickets
23 November Ninkasi, Lyon Tickets
25 November La Cigale, Paris Tickets
27 November Le Tetris, Le Havre Tickets
28 November La Carenne, Brest Tickets
29 November Stereolux, Nantes Tickets
30 November Yves Renault, Tours Tickets
2 December Krakatoa, Bordeaux Tickets
3 December Maison de la Musique, Blaye Tickets
2018
NEW ZEALAND
2 February Town Hall, Auckland Tickets
3 February Opera House, Wellington Tickets
AUSTRALIA
6 February Forum, Melbourne Tickets
7 February Tivoli, Brisbane Tickets
8 February Enmore Theatre, Sydney Tickets
10 February Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide Tickets
12 February Astor Theatre, Perth Tickets
UK
6 March O2 Academy, Liverpool Tickets
8 March O2 Academy, Glasgow Tickets
9 March Ironworks, Inverness Tickets
10 March Grand Hall, Kilmarnock Tickets
12 March Rock City, Nottingham Tickets
13 March Guildhall, Portsmouth Tickets
15 March O2 Academy, Bristol Tickets
16 March Tramshed, Cardiff Tickets
17 March O2 Academy, Birmingham Tickets
19 March Nick Rayns LCR, Norwich Tickets
20 March Cliffs Pavilion, Southend Tickets
22 March O2 Academy, Leeds Tickets
23 March Engine Shed, Lincoln Tickets
24 March O2 Academy, Brixton Tickets
26 March GLive, Guildford Tickets
27 March Hexagon, Reading Tickets
29 March O2 Academy, Newcastle Tickets
30 March Corn Exchange, Cambridge Tickets
31 March O2 Apollo, Manchester Tickets

Features

Catching up with Baz...

The band have had a break since the Lessines gig so we thought we’d grab Baz for an interview before their summer schedule kicks off. It’s been a busy year so far and we wanted to quiz him about the Ruby dates as well as looking back to his debut album with the band Norfolk Coast which has recently celebrated it’s tenth anniversary…

We’re only in early May and you have already played 38 gigs this year! How glad are you to have a rest after two solid months of touring and travel?

It was actually good to get home yeah…It was the band’s longest tour for many a year and, with most shows touching two hours long, also the longest set ever played. We all agreed that with maybe a week between the UK and Europe would have eased things a little and we could have gone on for quite a while longer than we did, but with that said, once you’re out and into the swing of it you always feel deflated when it’s over, because it’s such an enjoyable and satisfying thing to be able to do… The clichés have always come thick and fast about this part of it, and to coin the biggest one of them all…it’s what we do and we love it…and there’s quite a bit more to do this year too…

The British Ruby tour seems so long ago now. There was a real air of celebration surrounding the whole thing and the vast majority of the gigs were packed to capacity. Did the frantic clamour for tickets surprise you?

I have to say it did to a degree…the attendances have incrementally gone up very steadily since 2006 but it did surprise me a little bit if I’m honest… I think there were a few reasons for that, not least among them the fact that people didn’t know where, when, or even if, they’d see Jet again…and that included us too sometimes. The fact that the band has grown even more in terms of dynamics, power and confidence over the last few years , and that the shows can still be unpredictable…and that we mix it up and play pretty much what we want…well, that’s attractive…and people want to see it…

The added ‘frame’ backdrop visuals onstage brought an extra dimension (and poignancy) to many of the songs such as Never To Look Back. What input did the band have into the visual content shown on the screens?

We had a lot of input in it…right from the start… The basic ideas were sketched out months before and it was left to our editors to piece them all together and send us works in progress…which we got to see more and more of as we were rehearsing and the tour got closer…we tweaked quite a bit during the early shows as one of us maybe noticed something else or had suggestions about stuff that we thought should be there and wasn’t…so stuff was tracked down and implemented…and of course the band have our backs to it when we’re performing, so road crew, management, and even the odd suggestion from audience members were all listened to…it turned out really well and we were all pleased with the end result…the elevators descending at the beginning was interesting too and shot against a solid green backdrop at rehearsals one afternoon…

The Ruby setlist covered all 17 of the band’s studio albums from Rattus to Giants. How difficult was selecting the set for the band’s 40th anniversary tour?

Its difficult to pick the songs for a tour…always has been. You have to strike the balance between the theme of the tour, if any, what we as the band want to play, and the songs we know we pretty much have to play. We knew that we wanted to do a song from each album…but often those albums had hit singles on them too which you also think about playing…so right away there’s more than one song being played from a particular one…but we tried to stick as close to it as we could for the most part…and because we mixed it up probably more on this tour than we have before, we ended up with a pot of nearly forty songs which we could call on whenever we wanted to…which would sometimes happen in a sound check…You just fancy playing something, so you do…

After a flying start on the first four shows on the tour, Jet was taken ill and sadly only managed to appear at half the British dates in total. That must have been a great disappointment for you all when the tour was meant to be a group celebration of the last 40 years?

Yes it was…not least to Jet I’m sure…but he was totally adamant that he’d turn up and do what he could when he could…and he did…you can’t say fairer than that. We had his full backing and support to make things work how and when we had to…and so we did too… Jet is a very proud, philosophical and intelligent man…he knows what’s what…

As with the Feel It Live tour, Jim was to share drumming duties with Jet but he ended up playing the majority of the British dates and all of Europe. Does it impress you how Jim seems to rise to any challenges that present themselves?

It impresses all of us. Jim is a phenomenal drummer…and has a look and style that’s very appealing. He gives 100% to every single gig and has done close to 100 now…he works really closely with the crew to make sure everything’s just the way he wants it sound wise…and with the band to get his parts down and the arrangements right…and he’s no shrinking violet either…he’ll get vocal about things if he needs to…and you’ve got to respect that…He’s voracious when it comes to learning the songs and we’ve never thrown anything at him he couldn’t play…he seems to get better with each tour…plus he’s a mad as a shithouse rat, can drink like a fish and is as camp as Christmas when called upon…I’ve laughed myself into a stupor listening to him prattle on…he’s also the possessor of the scariest Kate Bush impersonation I’ve ever heard and it’s quite unsettling to hear that little squeaky voice come out of a hairy ginger man with a quiff…he fits right in…

Yet again, as has become tradition in recent years, you celebrated your birthday on the UK tour. The Guildford gig saw you celebrate the big 50 where you were inundated with gifts from fans. That must be quite touching for you?

Well I think it’s become a bit of a standing joke over the years hasn’t it? But with the half century it was different…I’ve had a lot of memorable birthdays on the road but that was indeed special yeah…the gifts and best wishes bowled me over actually…lovely…and 1700 people singing happy birthday to you is quite something… (Watch Youtube video of the Guildford birthday celebration here)

After a brief respite, you headed straight out to Europe for a whistle stop tour of six countries. How were the gigs out there for you?

They were great…all shapes and sizes…we hadn’t really done too much in Spain in recent years so doing four shows there was fun…and the Italian gigs surprised us too…very well attended…we didn’t really have much time off but what we did have we made the most of…and some of the French and Dutch gigs were insane…

You tweaked the set again for Europe with Toiler On The Sea, La Folie, Relentless and others making a welcome return. How important is shuffling the set to keeping things fresh for you?

Well I’ve said it before…it’s paramount…keeps us all on our toes…

The two-hour live webcast of the Olympia gig was absolutely stunning to witness for those watching at home and it showed the band on fine form.  Does being filmed add extra pressure to your live performance?

It can in its way…the only way to do it is to try and forget the cameras are there…which is not so easy sometimes. The French crew were excellent because for such a large ensemble they were very unobtrusive and it was quite easy to relax into it as they’d set things up in a very specific way for live broadcast…a very different proposition to a few days earlier when we filmed the Manchester show for DVD and it wasn’t quite so good for us…the crowd and vibe were tremendous but we lacked a spark I think…so you never can tell…

Fans travelled from across the globe for both the British and European tours. What do the band feel about the levels of dedication shown by their fans around the world?

They’re unbelievable. Some of the true die hards are becoming friends and we know a lot of them by name now. There’s a couple in particular I can think of who literally do turn up all over the world…I looked down into the crowd on the last Japanese tour and there they were, I saw them in Italy recently, they came to the U.S. last year…JJ even bumped into them in the Blue Lagoon one time in Iceland…I don’t know what they do for a living but they seem to have quite a bit of disposable income…and it seems they like to spend it on coming to see us all over the world…and they’re not the only ones by far… Then there’s the dozens that stand in the rain for hours to get things signed and are just happy to see you…heart warming…and the Wonky Bus lot who seem to grow in number year after year and take holidays around tours…the list is endless actually…

The band’s summer itinerary is filling up nicely with some large festivals like Electric Picnic, T in the Park and both Vs as well as some more intimate, smaller scale ones. Which type of festivals do you prefer to play?

We like them all…some are bigger and more established than others as you say, but the common thread they share is that people come out en masse to hear live music wherever they may be…and just because a festival is enormous and slick doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any better to play…we’ve done some smaller ones over the years which have been incredible…We like enthusiastic organisers who’ve got soul and put their festivals on for the right reasons, big or small…and there are quite a few of them about…they do it for the music…

During the summer itinerary, you also have a run of six gigs in a week including four headline dates  in some less visited places like Hull and St. Albans. Do you enjoy gigs in seldom played towns?

It’s nice to go off the beaten track and play somewhere different…provincial club dates are great fun…why should we just go to the established places all the time? People love music everywhere…

Incredibly, February saw the tenth anniversary of the release of Norfolk Coast, your studio debut with the band, back in 2004. Thinking back, as the new boy of the band at the time, was it nice to finally get your input to The Stranglers committed to tape in the studio?

Well when I think about the Norfolk Coast time, I think about a lot of things. It was the time when we bonded properly, particularly me, JJ and Dave. I was commuting between the west country and the north east every week…going home on weekends and coming down on Monday mornings to work…and I did that for 8 solid months…I knew all the air crews almost by name! We’d started working around some ideas and it soon became apparent who worked better in particular situations and who liked to be left alone…We’d sit long into the night, after dinner and visiting Tuckers Grave, just playing guitars & keyboards, and drinking…and we were amassing piles of stuff…hours of snippets of riffs, melodies, chord patterns for choruses…all kinds of stuff…

I quickly learned to record absolutely everything onto minidisc, which was the medium of the day, as things could move so fast and stuff could easily be forgotten. When we felt we’d had enough we’d just sit and play each other some of our personal musical favourites long into the night…and that’s when we became tight, fast friends. I’d get up the next morning before everyone else and would edit and delete the crap out, the laughing and farting around, and then play them what we had…and an idea would begin to form more solidly…I’ve got a box full of tapes from those sessions at home with some whacky shit on them that’ll never see the light of day…and at the time we played them all live too to work them out as complete songs…and I’ve got some blistering versions of the five of us really going for it in the old rehearsal space we used to have…and I also kept some of the funny stuff of course…

When we finally started demoing the stuff properly, and realised it was taking a harder, driving more rocking direction again, we embraced it and started working towards a real kick arse sound…and the title track epitomises that I think…We recorded that as a one off in a small studio just outside of Bath in two days…I particularly remember we turned the guitar amps up full, four Marshall heads linked together…and I had to stand two rooms away because it was so loud…and when I hit a chord you could see the windows in the partitioning doors move in and out…it was deafening…we wanted the guitar to squeal and howl and feedback in an instant…and we got it…hearing that track back in all its glory for the first time was a defining moment…and I think marked the shift back towards being a ‘proper’ rock band again…and once we’d decided how things were going to go we decamped to London and recorded the rest of the album there in about a month…a great time…we’re all still very proud of that record.

In hindsight, are there any songs that particularly stand out for you on the album or any whose potential wasn’t fully realised?

Well the title track is a bit special I think…when that bass comes in at the top you know who you’re listening to…but it sounds very modern too in its way…I like Dutch Moon as it was the first song I wrote for the band…Mine All Mine was a great live track but may have had a bit too much production on it…bleeps and sound effects etc…Tuckers Grave I love with its atmospherics, and a great performance from Paul…I Don’t Agree, I’ve been Wild, Long Black Veil…all good songs…in fact I think the only song we never played live from the album was Into the Fire which suffered from one too many overdubs and was difficult to replicate onstage…

The album marked the beginning of your collaborative songwriting partnership with JJ. How has this relationship developed since then?

We’re very comfortable with each other now…when you’re writing with somebody else you have to be honest and tell them exactly what you think…and we’re very good at that. We’ve literally spent years together now, just the two of us sitting opposite each other with guitars and reams of paper and a little recording machine hashing stuff out…and we know each other’s working methods very well…and in recent years Dave’s come back into the writing side of things more too and comes armed with ideas and input when we need him to…it works very well these days…

Norfolk Coast was also the last album to feature Paul Roberts before he departed and you & JJ took shared vocal responsibilities. How do you remember that period as a five piece?

Well at that time it was all I knew and it seems to me that we were touring a lot more then… We had some great times and some not so great times like any other band…There was a lot of camaraderie in the beginning too I remember, and we were always playing somewhere a lot of the time…there were spats of course, and you learned how prickly some people could be, and what made them react in certain ways, but all in all I have good memories of that line up…until about six months from the end of it…which was horrible…

2004 was a whirlwind of frantic touring around the world in support of the album, including visits to Canada & Australia, huge French & British tours and many other dates. How does playing that many gigs in a year affect you?

When you know you’ve got a good album to promote you want as many people to hear it as you can…and that year saw the band do the most gigs since the early 80’s I think and we were really fired up. It was a new beginning in a lot of ways, and we were keen to exploit the good form we’d found ourselves in…it felt like a new and rejuvenated band…which is pretty much what it was. We had some nice offers to go further abroad and we pounced on them. Of course we’ve toured without ‘product’ too and at those times we try to develop a really exciting and fresh set to keep ourselves interested…but it’s never a chore doing a gig…no matter how many you’ve done…because it’s where we can be who we are…

The album was critcally acclaimed and widely heralded as a major return to form for the band. Are you proud with the major part you played in the change in the band’s fortunes?

Yes I am…It still sits uncomfortably with me to a degree when people say that but after all the years of people telling me that, including the band, I’m getting more used to it. When I listen to the album now, as I sometimes still do, I can hear us really feeding off each other and making things rawer again, and I like that. I remember what we went through to make the songs as good as we could get them, how much demoing and tweaking we did, and that we were very aware that it’d be under the microscope what with the line up change and all…it was new and fresh and we revelled in it. On a personal level it was a big chance for me to show what I could do in the studio and in a song writing capacity…and I threw myself into it…and ended up with 4 songs I’d written on my debut Stranglers album…I was pretty pleased now that I think about it… I think in any profession where a team is involved things can invariably get stale after a time…that’s a natural thing… and new blood is very welcome…whether it’s a sports team or a legal team in an office…whatever…and I was that new blood…and it worked very well. As well as musically we got on very well together too which is vital…you can’t be in a band with someone you fucking hate…well, not for long anyway…

Finally, you must have been elated when your beloved Sunderland, against all odds, escaped relegation from the Premiership in the last days of this season. How did they pull it off?

Ahaha…I knew you’d ask me about football…Yeah it was an amazing recovery considering the near whole season underachieving that had gone on. The run of games starting with Man City, on paper, looked to be an impossible job, but a draw against them when we really should have won started an amazing comeback with victories away to both Man Utd and Chelsea, and great wins at home against Cardiff and West Brom, both of which I was at, hauled them out of it, with even a possible mid table finish in the offing…heady stuff! And they could have done it too but for the woeful home defeat on the last day of the season to Swansea, which I wasn’t at, but I heard most of the team had already gone on holiday and just switched off knowing they were safe…pissed me off when I heard that…but then as a Sunderland supporter nothing surprises me any more… Still…we took all six points off the Mags (Newcastle United) this year so if we had gone down there’d still have been smiles on our faces…

Thanks to Baz for his time in answering our questions.

Cheers too to David Boni for his photos and Andy Miller for his Guildford video

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