Who said Nothing Ever Happens? Del Amitri, one of Scotland’s finest exports, start their long-awaited return tonight. Not seen on our shores since the heady days of the 1990s, Del Amitri, will play theatres in Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney through February 2023.
Often described as alternative/country-rock, Del Amitri formed in Glasgow in the early 1980s, releasing their eponymous debut in 1985. Back in the spotlight after the 2021 release of their first studio album since 2002, Fatal Mistakes’ 13-tracks (distributed through Cooking Vinyl Australia) follow in the footsteps of earlier UK Top 10 albums: Waking Hours, Change Everything, Twisted, Some Other Sucker’s Parade. Del Amitri’s 2023 Australian tour will see founding members and songwriters Justin Currie (vocals/bass) and Ian Harvie (guitar) reunited with Andrew Alston (keyboards/accordion) and Kris Dillimore (guitar), and joined by James McDermott (drums). Justin Currie talks to Hi Fi Way about the tour.
Can you believe how much the world has actually changed in this amount of time since you were last year, particularly after the last couple of years anyway?
I mean just enormously, I mean, just in terms of politically, in terms of technology, in terms of the music business, the media business, everything is completely completely different. It’s like the late eighties and early nineties are complete foreign country now.
Has an Australian tour always been on the cards or is that just the planets not aligning?
Well, we never had any offers after 1990 because we had a hit, Nothing Ever Happens was a hit in 1990. Then we had real trouble getting radio play in 92 on the second record. We ended up effectively getting stuck in America for five or six years after that because we had a big pop radio hit. I don’t remember us getting offers to go down there because we would’ve gone down there in a flash if we’d had offers.
What are you looking forward to most about touring Australia again?
Just the people. When we first got there in 1990, we’d been touring the States for about three or four months. We were starting to get a bit tired of being stuck in the middle of nowhere outside on the peripheries of major and minor cities. It all became a bit alienating and as soon as we landed in Australia, everybody was just so, I know it’s a cliche, but everybody was just so down to earth and kind of bullshit free, we’re just looking forward to meeting Australians again to be honest.
Do you think the Australian tour will be focused on the greatest hits or will we get to hear some new songs from Fatal Mistakes as well?
It’s going to be radically experimental free from start to finish. Since ‘98 the set kind of picks itself. We pretty much played everything because our songs are quite short. I don’t think we miss anything out that anybody might particularly want to hear. I mean, there’s always a B side or something or other that people will shout for that we haven’t rehearsed. We can do most of it.
Did the band feel rejuvenated bringing out the new album in 2021?
Yeah. We got together for a reunion to in 2014, so that was the first shows we’d done for thirteen years. We enjoyed, just physically enjoyed doing those shows much more than anything we’d done before. That gave us a bit of an impetus to come back in 2018. We actually played a new song Can’t Go Back from the current album in 2018, so it just became a natural thing. It’s been a joy and a surprise to go out there and play new songs as well as the catalogue.
Twenty years between albums was that hard working out what you wanted to do musically or was that like having a clean slate to go with wherever the music took the band?
We thought about it quite carefully before we even wrote the songs. Ian Harvey and I sat down and decided, we tried to define what a Del Amitri record is and we wrote a bunch of songs that we thought would fit that format to guitars, bass, drums, piano and organ, and fit those musicians. We knew who the band members were before we wrote anything. It was quite deliberately made in that way. I don’t imagine we would do that again, but we actually really enjoyed doing that this time because it was like a little project, how do you make a Del Amitri record? At the end of the day, it was much easier than we thought it would be because we wrote a bunch of songs and then once we started arranging them, it became obvious what really suited us and what was not really right for Del Amitri.
After that album experience are you more receptive to possibly doing another album?
We were signed to Kicking Vinyl, the record label for two albums. We were always thinking about second album when we were making the first. I don’t imagine we’ll probably write another album this year, but I don’t imagine we’ll release anything until 2024.
What was the energy like in the recording sessions for Fatal Mistakes?
It was very enjoyable, because we did it reasonably quickly or certainly a lot quicker than the albums we made in the nineties, which took months and months to make. This took a couple years to write, but we recorded it all three weeks and we did a lot of it live. It was a joy to do, I have to say, partly because we didn’t have a record company breathing down our neck saying where’s the hit or that kind of stuff. We just got to make our own decisions and behind a really affable, easy going producer called Dan Austin, who’s a bit younger than us and was in full of energy and enthusiasm. Those three weeks were probably the happiest three weeks I’ve ever spent in the recording studio. There was very little stress.
Was there a lot more fun knowing that you didn’t really have to prove anything this time and that you could just go in there and make the best record that you could?
I think so, there was certainly no pressure that we had to come up with radio hits, which is not a bad pressure to be under, but it can lead to arguments between the band and the producer sometimes. Sometimes you can get into situations where the producer feels like they’re working for the record company, not for the band. Whereas in this situation, because we didn’t have a record, we were paying for all ourselves. The producer was working for directly for us. That made it much easier. We’re sort of experienced enough, long enough in the tooth to have confidence that we know what we’re doing, so we didn’t make any major mistakes. I think we made all the mistakes in the past.
Was it a real humbling experience listening to an album back that you had full control over?
Well, not really, because the one problem we had was the day we finished the album the UK went in to lock down. We had to mix it remotely, mix it via email, which was really, really difficult. We spent four months wrestling with mixes. By the time we’d sequenced the album, we’d listened to it an awful lot. There wasn’t like a day when we sort sat down and went, oh great, we’ve made a great album. I think the first time I listened to it was on vinyl. I got a really nice impression on it.
Do you reflect much on the nineties and do any particular memories stand out?
Well, just a combination of being very young, very busy and very drunk, which is not a bad thing. I mean, most young adults have the sort of formative experiences putting a backpack on and travelling around the world or something. Whereas our formative experiences were sleeping in the back of a van in the Arizona desert and begging for change to pay for gas money and that kind of thing. They were very much our formative years, by the time we got into our mid-twenties and we had a really good major record company working behind the scenes. Apart from the stress of having to do a lot of promo work, it all became a bit of a breeze because we’d spent ten years slogging around Europe in tiny little vans and then all of a sudden we were getting cars picking us up from airports and things. We kind of took the whole thing with a pinch of salt and just tried to enjoy it.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch Del Amitri on the following dates, tickets from Live Nation…