Haircut 100 blazed into the early 1980s with a string of hits including Love Plus One and Nobody’s Fool. Now on their first tour in 40 years, Billy Edwards speaks to frontman Nick Heyward and bassist Les Nemes on their revived fortune.
The shows back in May to mark the 40th anniversary of your debut album Pelican West sold out in 20 minutes. There must have been some nerves – how was that?
Nick Heyward, vocals: It was a total surprise. We didn’t know what we were doing. It’s great management – the people behind the Manics. They thought, “Haircut back together – great,” so now we’re able to stay together.
Did it take a lot of persuasion to reunite?
Les Nemes, bass: I think it was an easy transition. Haircut 100 is something that we will always make time for. It was as though the universe said, “I’m going to put everything in place for you, and all you have to do is turn up.”
Nick: Things seemed to be more fortuitous this time. Even the BBC got involved: “do you want to do the Piano Room for Radio 2?” I’d always wanted to do it. Les was crying because of the string treatments! I can’t remember Les crying last time!
Les: I was so proud of our little band and what it had become after all these years, and how relevant and amazing it still was.
What can fans expect from the shows yet to come?
Les: All of Pelican West. Also, songs that weren’t released, like my favourite I Believe In Sundays. We’re chucking around some ideas for new ones.
Nick: Yeah, when the band visited last year, I played a song called Soul Bird that I worked on during COVID. It only had funky loops because there was no one else to play with. As a group, we ‘Haircut’ it!
Have you tried to sort of recreate the magic of the original songs, or have you gone for something completely new?
Nick: We do whatever comes naturally. You’ll never get rid of your musical conditioning. I will never forget seeing Count Basie, Ray Charles, and Oscar Peterson on one bill with my dad. Les can never unhear Shalamar!
Les: Yeah, and Earth, Wind & Fire.
Nick: When we were an art school band, funking around in rehearsals, we had a goal of playing like [E,W&F’s] September. We thought, this is wizardry.
Have your feelings about the original iteration of the group changed?
Nick: More respect. More adulation. It was happening in real-time, so you didn’t get time to appreciate it. Now you can look in hindsight and be appreciative, thankful, grateful… bewildered sometimes!
Les: Especially the time around the second album [Paint And Paint, 1984]. We’d done so much touring that we were at our peak. God, we were really good players.
Nick: We didn’t realise it at the time. We were really insecure.
Have either of you thought about writing memoirs, a documentary, or a film?
Nick: You know, I think so. I can see a film – something like Blinded By The Light. Not too serious. Maybe a musical! Three pop stars in a room and a kitchen, a dream. Then it all happens.
Les: I’d quite like to do a documentary – a film crew on this tour. It’s such a shame that there’s no actual live video from then.
Nick: I watched the Wham! documentary last night; they have lots of film. But it’s never too late.
Any memories of supporting Wham?!
Nick: “Les, say something on the mic,” so he told everybody the rent on his flat. 60,000 people were cheering for £156 a month.
Les: Nick was stuck on his guitar. I couldn’t think of what to say. There was a record company guy from America. He said, “Who the hell is that guy?” I tend to keep off the mic nowadays.
Nick: Not for this tour, you’re not!
Haircut 100, Tramshed, Cardiff, Thurs 2 Nov
Tickets: £32.50/£100 VIP. Info: here
words BILLY EDWARDS