Interview With The Stranglers - 1st March 2011
Photo Of The StranglersBen caught up with Baz Warne from The Stranglers for a chat about his time in the band, plans for the future and so much more.

You’re UK tour starts on Friday, how has the preparation been going so far?
Baz Warne (Guitar/Vocals): It’s been going very well, we’ve had probably about a month to six weeks of intense rehearsals. Because this tour isn’t actually promoting anything per se, we’re just touring because we want to, it’s been a bit more exciting, we’ve pulled some old chestnuts out of the fire so to speak. The set list is going to be a bit broader than perhaps it’s been for the past couple of years.

So do you feel more relaxed about this tour seeing as you’re not actually promoting anything?
Baz: There possibly is an element of that, yeah. With the first two or three gigs of any tour you’re always trying to find your feet, whether it’s trying to find out whether the set is working or whether some songs need to be moved or replaced, but once you get into your stride and relax a bit it’s fine. But with this tour we’re just going to be playing a lot of songs just for fun, I think it’s going to be fun and we’re really looking forward to it.

Does the band find it more difficult to prepare for a month of shows now, seeing as you do have a drummer over 70 years old?br> Baz: I’m only 46, so I’m just a boy really! Yeah, I guess it does. The older everyone gets, the more constraints it puts on things and the more time you have to spend getting everything right. Once you hit the road and you’re out there you’d be amazed how sprightly a 70 year old drummer can be! For a lot of the songs we play it’s muscle memories, you run through it a few times and you think, ‘Ahh, that’s how it goes!’ So yeah, it takes a little longer, but hopefully the results will be worth it.

What’s the touring lifestyle like now for The Stranglers?
Baz: In bed by ten with a warm mug of cocoa! Just kidding, we travel around in relatively nice vehicles, we have to eat at specific times because when you’re singing full-blown at nine o’clock it takes four to five hours to digest, so sometimes we need to meet mid-afternoon. So we generally find somewhere to eat, relax for a few hours, go and do a sound check, relax some more and then we play! All the gigs on this tour are selling out, so it’s going to be really exciting. I read a lot about bands who fracture mid-tour and fight and argue and everything, If you can’t keep yourself together for two hours of every day then there’s something wrong. You’ve got 22 hours to look after yourself, to relax and make sure you’re well fed, and if you can’t keep yourself straight to play for two hours to play to two and a half thousand people who have all paid good money, then there’s something wrong. So I think that the real ethos of what we do is just to look after ourselves. If you’re talking about sex, drugs and rock and roll…then we have our moments, don’t you worry!

What kinds of people come to see The Stranglers now? Is it still the same old faces, or are there a lot of new fans?
Baz: It’s a very, very healthy mixture of both. We see all the old faces, The Stranglers fans are very loyal, very partisan and have been for thirty five years. What you do see now is the old fans who are now parents bring their kids along, they still listen to The Stranglers at home and it rubs off on their kids. To be honest it’s a massive cross section, there are a lot of lads of about sixteen down at the front watching my fingers, just like I used to do. Obviously you’ve still got the healthy turn out of women, but it’s right across the board. There’s a lot of old punks, people from the mid to late 70s, who come for the nostalgia, but we play a lot of new material, so we still feel like we’ve got something relative to say and that’s probably why we get a lot of youngsters. It’s very heartening to look out and see all of these different cross sections of age groups and people.

Do you think that the popularity of current guitar bands has inspired younger generations to get into The Stranglers?
Baz: I think there’s some element of truth to that, when you’ve been involved in music as long as we have then you definitely see trends going in circles. Guitar bands were the thing in the mid to late 70s with the punk explosion, in the 80s you couldn’t seen anybody playing them, then in the early 90s you’ve obviously got the grunge thing and Sub Pop with Nirvana and Mudhoney and all of those bands. It kind of hasn’t gone away since then, I think that you have to turn over more rocks and look a little bit deeper to find really great music makers now, because there’s a lot of sanitised dross. Even guitar bands are being accused of being manufactured pop-puppets, we don’t need to name names, but you know who these people are. There are hundreds and hundreds of bands out there, you just have to look a lot harder to find the good stuff. We’ve never gone away, people respect the music. When people come and see us live, they see four old guys who really can give some of the younger boys a run for their money! You stand and you look to the side of the stage at Glastonbury or V Festival and you see some of the younger bands, The Feeling, the Kaiser Chiefs and the Stereophonics, all stood with their chins on their chests as they’re watching us, that’s very gratifying!

Does the band still get the same buzz from playing live after all these years?
Baz: Absolutely, playing live is where it’s at. I know a lot of bands in the past have recorded before they’ve actually even done a gig, but I wouldn’t say that’s lucky. You need to go and play live, that’s why you’re in a band in the first place, that’s what you do it for. We still get a massive kick out of it, if we didn’t then we wouldn’t do it anymore. Obviously you get more excited about different songs, there are certain songs that we have to play and we play them every single night, but we count ourselves very lucky to still be doing it.

How do people react when they hear you play songs like ‘Peaches’ or ‘Golden Brown’?
Baz: The roof comes off! ‘Golden Brown’ is the biggest radio hit the band ever had, so you get your Joe Punter, who isn’t necessarily the biggest Stranglers fan, but they’ll know that song. People still love it, which we’re very grateful for.

So you’ve been in the band for over a decade now, how did it feel entering a band with such a huge legacy as The Stranglers?
Baz: It all happened very quickly, the guitarist that they had at the time left under a cloud and they had gigs and tours coming up. If they’d have advertised publicly then hundreds of people would have turned up, many of which probably couldn’t play very well, so that would have been a huge waste of time and money. What they did was get in touch with seven or eight people that they knew, one of which was me. I was on the dole, I had to get my backside from Newcastle to London, so I borrowed one hundred quid off a mate of mine and went down on the train and I got the gig on the spot. My feet never really touched the ground, it was only after we’d finished the tours and got into the festival season when I became aware of huge legions of travelling fans wanting to see who the new guy was! I remember at one gig going out to the front to watch Shane MacGowan or someone like that thinking, ‘nobody’s going to know me’, and I got mobbed! It was very quick, I didn’t really have time to think about it and by the time I did pause for reflection, I’d already been in the band a year. It just felt like the most natural thing in the world and it still does.

Do you still see the friend who gave you that £100?
Baz: Yes I do! He’s emigrated over to New Zealand now, but he’s still my best pal and I speak to him very, very regularly. He only lent it to me under the condition that he could come to London as well, so it’s nice that he’s been a part of it too!

You played several festivals last summer, including Glastonbury, do you have anything planned for this summer?
Baz: Late February to early March is generally when the festival offers start coming through. We’re doing two or three smaller ones in the UK, but to be honest with you I can’t even remember where they are! I know there’s one in the North East, which I’m quite pleased about. We’ve got festivals in Spain, Greece and we’re going to Dubai, so I think it’s going to be a busy year.

I’ve read that you’ve been working on a new album, how are you finding the process?
Baz: We’re actually starting to get a picture of how the album’s going to look, there are a lot of songs in the pot now. JJ (Jean- Jacques Burnel, Bass/Vocals) and myself have been down in the West Country, in Bath for the past two months in a house writing and demo-ing; it’s a slow, gradual process. With a band like this it would be very easy to rehash and retrace, but we want to progress whilst staying within the framework if that makes sense? We know a thing or two about writing records, we’ll be recording around May and June, so all the songs are just in demo form at the moment, but we consider them to be bonafide Stranglers classics, so we’re very pleased.

You’re often described as the last remaining band of the punk rock movement, what do you think it is that gives The Stranglers the longevity to outlive so many other bands?
Baz: I think it’s simply fantastic songs and very original as well, The Stranglers come on the radio and within the first five seconds you’re in no doubt as to who it is. There’s so many bands around today that you couldn’t say that about, but The Stranglers have always had that very strange, growling bass guitar, bubbling keyboards and great melodies. Back in the day they were bad boys as well, and that never hurts. They were all pretty good looking and a little bit older, frankly they didn’t give a damn and I think there’s something in that which people find endearing. As a consequence, 35 years later, maybe with the exception of The Damned, The Stranglers are the only band that I can think of that never actually broke up. The Stranglers formed in 1974 and have been together ever since, didn’t break up and get back together for money. There are plenty of bands from back then that were timeless classics, but got attracted by the lure of the dirty dollar, The Stranglers have never done that, it’s a way of life.

In the time you’ve been with the band can you name any highlights that you’ve had?
Baz: In recent times one will certainly have to be last years Glastonbury, I don’t think any of us were expecting 80,000 people to come and watch us! And in a lot of the reviews I read of the festival, we were cited as one of the top three bands to have seen across the weekend, that’s very pleasing. I believe that the same time slot the year before was taken by Lady Gaga, and she apparently had half of what we had. I’ve played some very, very big festivals before, sometimes to 150 to 175,000 people, but this was special because it was a warm, sunny day in England. The only downside was that we had to go to Poland for a gig the next day, so I didn’t get to stick around. Other highlights would be the two albums that the band have written, recorded and released with me as a member. I suppose getting the gig in the first place is a major highlight, I remember sitting in the back of a taxi in London going back to King’s Cross to get the train home and ringing my wife and telling her that our lives had changed forever.

What does the future hold in store for The Stranglers?
Baz: The rest of this year will be taken up with the tour, then we’ve got some acoustic shows which we love doing, we augment the line up with a percussion player, so that’s in Belgium and Holland in April. May and June will be taken up with recording. June, July and August will hopefully be festival time and then we’ve got this huge convention taking place in London in November which we need to prepare for. Then in the new year, when the album’s out there will be a huge worldwide tour, so we’re looking for the next year to eighteen months to be really busy, but that’s what you want isn’t it?

Interview By Ben Connell
 Band Members

Jean-Jacques Burnel
Baz Warne
Jet Black
Dave Greenfield
 Latest Releases
The Stranglers - Decades Apart

Disc 1
1. Retro Rockets
2. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
3. Peaches
4. Go Buddy Go
5. Something Better Change
6. No More Heroes
7. 5 Minutes
8. Nice 'N' Sleazy
9. Walk On By
10. Duchess
11. Nuclear Device
12. Waltzinblack
13. Golden Brown
14. La Folie
15. Strange Little Girl
16. European Female
17. Skin Deep
18. No Mercy

Disc 2
1. Always The Sun
2. Nice In Nice
3. All Day And All Of The Night
4. 96 Tears
5. Heaven Or Hell
6. Sugar Bullets
7. Time To Die
8. Golden Boy
9. Lies And Deception
10. In Heaven She Walks
11. Coup De Grace
12. Norfolk Coast
13. Big Thing Coming
14. Long Black Veil
15. Unbroken
16. Spectre Of Love
17. I Don't See The World Like You Do

 Band Related Links
The Stranglers Myspace