The Stranglers will be hitting the road again in March 2018, this time with The Definitive Tour. With the vast catalogue of material that the Stranglers have in their recorded arsenal, it is never easy to decide exactly which songs to bring together on record or perform live on tour but, in March 2018, the band will present their “Definitive” collection. The Definitive Tour is set to coincide with the planned re-release of their first seven albums (six studio and one live) originally issued on the UA and EMI/Liberty labels. Evie Kissack speaks to founding member of The Stranglers, Jean-Jacques Burnel, about punching through the punk rock era, getting arrested, starting riots, and the band's longevity.

As always, audiences can expect to be swept up high on the wave of the Stranglers’ powerful sound during what is always an exhilarating live experience; pounding rhythms, soaring melodies, quirky humour and thrillingly daring musicianship will come together again this March.

One of the UK’s most exciting, credible and influential British groups, the Stranglers are riding high on the crest of a resurgent wave of popularity. They continue to thrive on the live circuit and their existing large and loyal fan base has swelled in recent years as new converts join the ranks. With record-breaking, sell-out shows and festival appearances throughout the UK and the rest of the world, public demand to hear and see the group has never been so high; true testament to their considerable musical talent and the enduring quality of their songs.


Interview by Evie Kissack

Thanks for chatting to me today, how’s your day going so far?

It’s been a bit hectic! I’ve had to learn music that I haven’t played for a few years. [Laughs]


The Stranglers’ new tour coincides with the re-release of your first seven albums entitled the ‘Definitive Collection’ – how did you decide the set list for the shows and the songs to feature?

That’s a great question Evie, because that’s exactly what I’ve been struggling with today. We’ve got to go to Australasia and I’ve realised I’ve got to learn three set lists, plus the fact that I have to impose on the rest of the boys two completely new songs that I want to introduce to the British set list. So, we have our work cut out [for us] because we have to create an Australian set list, and then we are doing a full production in the UK, plus three huge shows in Ireland, we have to do a set list for Ireland and include new songs from the new album too!

 

Extremely busy times! Can you reveal anything about the new tracks?

I mean I’m not going to hum it to you [Laughs]. It’s just material that we’ve accumulated over the last few years and the songs cover things like the Arab Spring from five to six years ago and what’s happened since. It’s all turned quite nasty. The Stranglers tend not to write about ourselves too much – we have done in the past but we often tend to take a look at the world and see how small we are in it. And, yeah we do write about girls. [Laughs]

 

[Laughs] You’re reaching new audiences and generations all the time, as well as holding a very strong and loyal fan base that have been there from the beginning. What is it about The Stranglers that you think appeals to such a wide audience, and is constantly reaching a younger demographic?

I’ve been asked this a few times before; I don’t know exactly, actually. I think it’s a combination of a few things. In the past we got into a lot of trouble…we got arrested, got busted, had punch ups, we started riots, we got escorted out of countries at machine gun point, during the war in former Yugoslavia, we’ve done all kinds of things. [Laughs] A lot of bands from our generation were quite embarrassed to be associated with us. But, we also had quite a lot of success record-wise, so although we were kind of the enemy for everyone - the press and all the other bands – that’s now like a badge of honour because nowadays a lot of people don’t have a lot to say. Sometimes it can be a bit sterile. So I think a lot of ‘hip’ kids have started checking us out because they can now access our older songs. So, actually they think, ‘Well The Stranglers are a real band!’ (sic) and we have a few songs that are still around and get played quite a lot. I think the younger fans associate our ‘badness’ with something that is actually honest. 

 

I agree completely.

Good. I think that [honesty] will always attract young people. 

 

Do you still enjoy playing classics like ‘Golden Brown’ and ‘Always the Sun’?

I do yes, definitely. We don’t want to become a cabaret or karaoke. So when we get really f***** off with a song (excuse my language), we don’t want to play it to death. It would just kill it for us. We have had times, for instance, with songs like ‘Peaches’, that we chose not to play for ten years! Another hit was ‘Something Better Change’ and we didn’t play that for ages too…we have other songs fortunately.

 

[Laughs]

Well, I think you have to be honest to yourself. And if you’re going through the motions the audience will suss that and feel it. I think the best thing for The Stranglers is to be honest with ourselves. Some of the older songs we can almost play blindfold. The reaction you get from people when you play a song they really want to hear acts as a kind of compensation. You might think, ‘Oh not this song again’ but the joy and the pleasure that comes from audiences’ reactions – that’s what music is about. It’s a communion of people, coming together. 

 

How does new music come about for The Stranglers?

It isn’t completely collaborative at first, but it becomes collaborative. Usually, the music stems from Baz (the guitarist) or myself, and once we have identified something and it makes sense, it has melody, intelligence, and it’s saying something, then we start to offer something for the band. Once we have that we can build rhythms around it, and get different angles, and it becomes everyone’s song then. It’s never one or two people’s credits; it’s the whole band, always. 


Unfortunately due to Jet’s health he is unable to join you on tour. How have you found working with Jim and adapting to his musical style? 

It’s been fantastic. It has been a shot in the arm because Jet was starting to get very tired playing. He’s had health issues forever – I mean he’s done everything rock and roll could offer, so to speak. [Laughs] I won’t go into any details…

Jet’s much older than the rest of us, he’s had health issues and it’s physical being a drummer. Jet really approves of Jim, and has mentored him and given him advice. But, Jim is his own man and has brought some ‘younger’ ideas to the band – he knows more of what’s happening now [within music]. It’s refreshing for the rest of us to be honest. He has that ‘Black Country outlook’, which is deadpan and very funny.

 

The Stranglers emerged via the punk rock scene back in the 70s and punctured the whole cultural atmosphere. Have you noticed any current movements in the industry that seem to have a similar significance?

I don’t know, I think you’d probably be better placed to comment upon that than me. I don’t see too much of a ‘movement’ as such, more little sub-movements. If younger people are starting to get interested in the world they live in…that’s got to be a positive though.

 

Did you always want to be a musician?

No. [Laughs] From the age of eleven I became a musician because I started to play classical guitar. I was going to concerts, I was going to see John Williams in classical concerts…and as I was growing up as a teenager music just coincided with what was going on. My interest was pricked at the age of about twelve or thirteen – because I could play a few chords on the guitar I started copying what I was hearing. I was very lucky to get in with much older boys who would sneak me into the back of pubs. It was bad, you know. [Laughs] But I never wanted to make a career out of it. I could just play, yeah.

 

Are there any musicians that have inspired you throughout your career?

Yeah, there are musicians that continue to inspire me. John Entwistle from the Who; when I first heard his music I thought, ‘Wow!’ [Laughs] He was pretty brilliant. Billy Corgan is fantastic. I think John McLaughlin (a guitarist that played with Miles Davis once) is awesome absolutely f****** awesome. Actually, John was one of the first white boys to be appreciated by Miles Davis; he was from Birmingham! I think he was a Black Country boy. There’s a track on Bitches Brew - the seminal jazz/rock fusion album that created a new genre of music - called John McLaughlin. 

  

 
For the 2018 UK tour, the Stranglers are also pleased to announce that Therapy? will be their special guests. One of the most uncompromising, creative and individualistic bands of their generation, Therapy? made a spectacular breakthrough in 1994 with their multi hit-spawning album, Troublegum, which clocked up a cool million sales worldwide.The group are expecting to release their 15th album in early 2018 and have spent much of the past year performing a series of critically-acclaimed acoustic dates.

03  BELFAST Ulster Hall

06  LIVERPOOL  O2 Academy 

08  GLASGOW  O2 Academy 

09  INVERNESS  Ironworks 

10  KILMARNOCK  Grand Hall 

12  NOTTINGHAM  Rock City 

13  PORTSMOUTH  Guildhall 

15  BRISTOL  O2 Academy  

16  CARDIFF  Tramshed

17  BIRMINGHAM  O2 Academy  

19  NORWICH  The Nick Rayns LCR 

20  SOUTHEND  Cliffs Pavilion

22  LEEDS  O2 Academy

23  LINCOLN  Engine Shed

24  LONDON  O2 Brixton Academy

26  GUILDFORD  G Live

27  READING  Hexagon

29  NEWCASTLE  O2 Academy

30  CAMBRIDGE  Corn Exchange

31  MANCHESTER  O2 Apollo 

 

Tickets on sale and available from www.gigsandtours.com / 0844 811 0051.

      

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