Provocateurs and ultimate purveyors of Brit-punk THE STRANGLERS are returning to Australia next month. Hailed for their highly original sound, combining a brilliant melodic touch with a genuine dark aggression and effortless cool, The Stranglers are now recognised as one of the most credible and influential bands to have emerged from the punk era. Now over forty five years on, with twenty four top 40 singles and eighteen top 40 albums under their belt and new music on the way this tour is shaping up to be a beauty. Hi Fi Way spoke to Jean-Jacques Burnel about the tour.
It is great that The Stranglers will be back in the country bringing some positive energy, great music and taking peoples minds off the tough times the country is going through at the moment?
We’re looking forward to it and coming back after the last few times as we have rediscovered an audience there. It is a wonderful, wonderful country and we’re looking forward to it.
2018 was a big tour for The Stranglers. Do you have a lot of great memories from that tour? Did that create pressure to come back sooner this time?
We were asked and we are in the middle of recording at the moment so we thought it was a great opportunity to come back, in the old days we were never asked back, and gives us a chance to road test a few new pieces before we go in to the studio and road test them, which is a fantastic opportunity nowadays for bands to be able to road test new stuff. If you are too precious about new material you’ll never road test it, sometimes when we play a new piece and by the time I get back to my hotel room it is already up on YouTube. I much prefer to road test new stuff, when we were a young band the first two albums we recorded in one session because we had that material for quite a few years. It is a shame as you go on and progress in a recording career you have less and less opportunity to accumulate new material and play it until you know it.
How do you fit an entire career in to a couple hours?
The thing is that we can change our set every night which is what we try to do so we don’t end up being a cabaret band or a karaoke band. We have to keep interested ourselves rather than going through the motions. I’ve seen bands who say the same bloody thing every night, at the same point and the same set. The audience picks up on that with a band going through the motions.
When you’re contemplating new material do you get frustrated with where the industry is at now?
It has always been fraught and looking at figures for the number of musicians who can make a living from music is really small. We have been very lucky, the whole thing has an inherent contradiction because you’re meant to be sensitive as an artist, you’re meant to be creative but on the other hand there are so many knock backs you have to be thick skinned. That’s the inherent contradiction being tough and sensitive at the same time, if you can work that out then you’ve got a chance of a bit of success.
Do you still enjoy being in the studio and being creative working on new songs?
I do, I enjoy the whole process, I love coming up with something I think is original, it isn’t necessarily so sometimes but I love that part. I love having something to write about and then getting it known by the rest of the guys. They develop their own angle on a new piece of music and then we rehearse it, rehearse it, rehearse it, play it live and then record it. The process is really enjoyable. Nothing is quite as enjoyable as playing live and having a responsive audience which is what musicians live for.
Do you find that these new songs take shape or a life of their own live?
Oh yeah absolutely, the more we play them before recording them the more they develop and you can breathe life in to a piece.
How much has The Stranglers sound evolved over the journey?
I hope it has evolved as I wouldn’t want to be doing the same thing as I was forty years ago because I’m a different person, we all are. Our music should reflect who we are, where we are and what we are otherwise it’s phoney.
Will we see the new album this year?
I don’t think so, the plan is to release it early next year. There’s a few ifs and buts involved in that provided that we are satisfied with the material. As we’re getting older we’re not as productive so it has to be right.
Is that a tough process working out which songs are in or out?
To a certain extent, most people instinctively know what works and what doesn’t.
It must be the biggest compliment playing these songs that mean so much to so many people live?
It is, certain songs trigger memories and that is a really powerful tool which represents a moment in your life or trigger memories of nostalgia. When you have been around for forty years you’re going to be involved in triggering memories for people. If you have success that is some form of communion, you’ve touched some other people.
What memories over forty years stick out most for you?
Some of those involve Australia when we got arrested by Joh Bjelke-Peterson’s people in Queensland years back, having punch ups, loads of memories… too many to mention which means I’ve still got my brain intact!
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch The Stranglers on the following dates, tickets through SBM Presents…