THE STRANGLERS | MUSIC INTERVIEW
Carl Marsh speaks to The Stranglers frontman and guitarist Baz Warne as the British rock veterans embark on their upcoming UK tour.
You’ve got such a huge back catalogue of records. How on earth did you decide what to leave out or include on this forthcoming tour? Did it lead to any disagreements amongst yourselves?
That’s the 64,000-dollar question! We have a pretty good, predetermined idea of how it’s going to go. There are certain songs we just can’t possibly leave out, bearing in mind that not necessarily everyone who comes is a Stranglers fan – a lot are just music fans. But also, it’s important we please ourselves. The minute you stop enjoying it, that’s when you gotta start thinking about stopping. We always like to look at songs that we haven’t played for years. And songs we’ve never really played live.
Why do you think that your fanbase now covers all age groups?
It’s the sheer longevity of the band – this is a band that’s been around for 44 years. The band has never stopped, it’s never broken up. The band’s always been a going concern. The hardcore fans will bring their kids or in some cases, grandkids. People hear the songs and they like the music, and they’ll hear things their brothers or sisters or parents are playing, and can go and investigate it online. It’s very heartwarming. We always appreciate it.
The tour has practically sold out. Did you all choose to play at mostly intimate venues, to give something back to the fans?
We’re always aware of going to places that can get everyone in and be up close and personal – the atmosphere reminds some of us of the really early days. Every night’s a party. I think it’s important we play places where the people and the band feel comfortable in.
When you joined the band in 2000, what did you want to bring to the group? How long was it until you could put your stamp on things, as you are now the Stranglers’ longest lead singer in-situ?
To be honest with you, nobody has asked me this question before but I think looking back on it, what I wanted to try and do was impose a little bit more of my personal preference, which was the more hard-hitting earlier Stranglers records. I just wanted to do the songs justice and hopefully impose myself a little bit more on the songwriting side of things; ironically the first song that I offered into the band was a song called Dutch Moon which isn’t in your face punk rock!
When we came to record Norfolk Coast, the first album I was on, I had four of my compositions on there, which was a real ego boost for me. But the whole idea of The Stranglers is that you’re a team player. I know that there are certain sounds that identify the band but at the end of the day, it’s always a team effort.
How did it compare being in The Stranglers in the early days to when you were in Toy Dolls, Sunderland punks of Nellie The Elephant 80s novelty hit fame?
In the Toy Dolls I was the bass player. I was 19 but one thing that band did do was show me that a living or a career could be made, it was obtainable, and wasn’t something to be sneered at. I was from a very working class background in the north-east of England, and I had toured the USA twice before I was even out of my teens! That was a real eye opener for me but by the time I was in The Stranglers, which was an established band and a real step up, they just welcomed me with open arms, and six months into the band I felt like I had always been there.
The Stranglers, Tramshed, Cardiff, Fri 16 Mar. Tickets: £30 [sold out – check box office for returns]. Info: 029 2023 5555 / www.tramshedcardiff.com
Photo: Warren Meadows