East 17 have ridden more highs and lows than many bands combined and were literally on top of the world in the nineties before it all came crumbling down. Main stays John Hendy and Terry Coldwell have been joined by Robbie Craig who have built the band back up again playing the hits all around the world as well as releasing a new album in Australia on the eve of their tour. Terry Coldwell spoke to Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles about the past and the future including whether the door is still open for Tony Mortimer and Brian Harvey.
Australia isn’t that far off now?
I’m looking forward to it. We were last in Australia about four and a half years ago.
Touring with B*Witched, Atomic Kitten, Liberty X and S Club 3 must make for a great tour experience. Have you known all those bands for quite a while?
I think along the way we have met the bands and said hello. The last three years we have been on a lot of nineties festivals in Europe. It would be nice to see them and say hello definitely.
Are you astounded by people’s interest in nostalgia with all the eighties and nineties bands making big comebacks?
The last three years have been about the nineties reunion stuff and before that was the eighties with the reunions going on. I think it is great, it is great for us and it brings people back to their youth before they had families, kids and serious jobs. They can go to a concert with all their friends and it gets a little bit harder when you get older and have responsibilities to do that. It takes people back to some good times and memories. It definitely is a good thing.
So is it true that good songs will never die and survive the test of time?
Definitely, especially with East 17 as it was something a little bit different. There was the rap elements, soul and a little bit of R&B, a bit of dance and it there was lots of genres of music in East 17 that we covered on the albums. It gives it a lot more longevity because even on the albums there was some drum and bass tracks. Drum and bass is still hitting it hard nowadays. Luckily we had done it that way.
Do you have fond memories of when East 17 took Australia by storm and the first to Adelaide being mobbed by women everywhere?
I think Australia was the craziest time I can remember. The first time we came was the beginning of the very first tour that we had ever done. We started in Australia and I remember walking through the airport and all the Customs people were saying you can’t go through the main airport because the whole airport is packed out with fans. We had to go all the way around the back way and it was the first time that we saw a proper tour bus, like a double Decker bus, but this was for us! Woah! There are only five of us and we have this great big double Decker coach all blacked out. It was such a crazy time over there, absolutely mental!
Are they the sorts of things that will always stick out the most for you?
Definitely, there are other things like one of our concerts was sponsored by Pepsi Cola in Russia and we played a gig to a million people in Red Square. We also did a special gig when Romania came in to the EU where the Prime Minister was watching us and playing in Mongolia staying in the President’s Winter House. There are so many crazy things that you just feel lucky that you’ve done things like this because the average person wouldn’t do that in their life.
The way I see it that if you’re lucky you live eighty years on this Earth and to fulfill all the things that I have done up to now and I’m only half way through my life is amazing. That’s the only thing I can really say about it. In life all you want is memories from the things you’ve done. When you go on holidays you do this, that’s what you want, memories! I’ve had some absolutely amazing memories.
Have you ever documented these things so you wouldn’t forget?
It’s quite weird really, there’s never been a book out. May be you’ve just given me an idea! A positive book! Ha! Ha! Ha! A positive book of experiences and what happened when we were having these experiences if you know what I mean on that day. Sounds like a plan!
Is East 17’s relationship with the media in the UK a frustrating one? Seems like you get kicked a lot when you’re down…
Yeah! It used when I was younger with all the negative press we used to get. There is a newspaper in London called The Sun and this guy Piers Morgan, we never met the guy, he always used to slag us off all the time. We found out years later he had a rift with our first manager Tom Watkins who was managing Bros. The way that got back at Tom was too basically to slag the band off and write bad press about the band. It was nothing to do with us but just his way at getting back at our manager over this argument they had in the Bros years in the eighties. It is frustrating but as you get older you just think mate it’s only some of the media and they only do that to sell stories. Unfortunately that’s the way it is.
Nowadays if you respond you fuel the fire and just escalate. It’s better to go, you know what? A lot of the time they don’t know what is going on and they don’t know the truth behind things and stuff like that. They are just speculating all the time, there’s not a lot you can do about it. The best is to take it on the chin and don’t let it bother you as it just brings negativity in to your world. They think that, I know it is rubbish and if a lot of people know it is rubbish, and certain papers in London write lots of rubbish, I’m not going to let it bother me but yeah we did get a lot of crap in the nineties.
Do you think that made things harder for Tony and Brian or were there other factors that come in to play?
Nah, do you know what? John got a lot of stick as well and what did the other two do? Did people know that I wrote songs on the old albums as well? There were songs on those albums that I wrote that did really well in other countries that didn’t come out as a single like I Remember. It went like top five because people kept requesting it and radio stations played. People don’t know that, we always got slagged off as just dancing in the background. I can write, sing and rap but my choice at the time was that because Tony got the band together to not tread on his feet and let him decide what to do. He would let me creep in every now and then writing for the second and third albums.
We are about to release an album when we come to Australia, new album ,new music video and Australia is the first place we are releasing it. The new album is amazing and is so current I think it is the best album we have done. It is really good and I can’t wait to be able to bring it. Just wait until to see the music video, we’ve got one of the baddies from the James Bond films in it. I hope people like it and the first single is called Strip. We’ve built up the last three years from strength to strength and just shows you that with hard work and determination you can build things back up again.
Everywhere we go, the three of us are having such a good time and I think that is so important. We have a laugh everywhere we go, it doesn’t feel like work but just going away with your mates. That’s the way it should be and to keep the positivity in your life I think has helped to build it up stronger and stronger each time. It is amazing and the fans have been brilliant and we have Robbie in the band now who is an amazing singer and person who does a lot for the band himself. We manage ourselves and it runs smoothly and there is no manager in the way trying to pull people apart. The best times are now. We are the creators of our own destiny and as long as no one messes up in the band it will keep getting stronger and stronger and stronger. There are no problems, no one talking behind anyone’s back, it’s peaceful which is great.
If only you had that ten years ago?
I enjoyed everything and everything has been an experience. I’ve embraced it all but sometimes you have to take other routes to get there.
Is the door always open for Tony and Brian to come back?
Do you know what? At the moment, when you have peace of mind and you don’t have to worry about nothing or worry about whether people are going to turn up for work everyone is on the same page. That’s what you keep! There are no egos in the band and everyone is on the same page, mate it is working! Why change it…
Interview by Rob Lyon
B*Witched, Atomic Kitten, S Club 3, East 17 – 2017 Australian Tour Dates:
Wednesday 8th February – Adelaide – Thebarton Theatre
Thursday 9th February – Melbourne – Festival Hall
Friday 10th February – Melbourne – 170 Russell – SOLD OUT
Saturday 11th February – Sydney – Big Top
Sunday 12th February – Sydney – Big Top
Tuesday 14th February – Newcastle – NEX Wests City
Wednesday 15th February – Hobart – Wrest Point
Friday 17th February – Gold Coast – Jupiters Theatre
Saturday 18th February – Brisbane – Eatons Hill