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Interview

Hugh Cornwall (former Stranglers frontman)
25/10/2002



So what are you up to these days and what keeps you involved in music?

At the moment I am busy with the 'Mayday' album, which was released on 7th October. We started the tour last night in Sheffield - it went well.

The album was recorded back in 1998 in Manchester at Saucy Soaps Studio. It was originally just available through the website, but due to demand it has now had an official release.All the tracks have been remastered. It is partly a reflection. It includes a preview from the album of 'The Big Sleep'. I like to think of the album as grown-up. The line-up on Mayday is different to the musicians touring, who are different to the last tour. It is similar to a jazz-band, people come and go. It is whoever is available for the current project. It is good to infuse new blood. I worked with the bassist 5-6 years ago and the drummer is only 19!. It is a four piece on the album and 3 piece touring. One of the main reasons I left the Stranglers was to be more flexible - it suits me better.

With the tour we are also previewing some new tracks, which are likely to appear on the next album. They are just at the acoustic stage. We are also doing more Stranglers songs than ever in the live set.

You started your tour last night, how did it go? In your long career, which gigs, spring to mind as the most memorable?

You always feel hesitation and intrepidation before the first tour date, wondering at the reception, how the new set will go down etc.

There has been many, many memorable shows. One that springs to mind was the Stranglers supporting 'The Who' at Wembly Stadium. Another was a festival in Switzerland which I did after leaving the band. It was on top of a mountain, and all around there was a totally awesome view. The strangest gig has to have been in France. We (the Stranglers) played at a 24-hour bike race. The bikes were doing the circuit as we played. All you could here were the bikes engines'.

I see that you featured in 'Never Mind The Horlicks' on BBC2 in July and over the last 12 months you have been in mainstream publications such as Mojo and Q - do you feel like a freak who is wheeled out on special occasion or that there is a general interest in this genre of music again? Is it still relevant today?

Like everyone I was expecting a renewed interest this year with it being 25 years of punk. It is not just this year when such publications have been interested. The longer your career in music the more areas you fit into. I sometimes get approached when people are researching the mid 70s, before punk hit. Again I sometimes get asked about the 80's and 90's which I think is great. I wouldn't continue if it was not challenging. I will continue creating interesting music, and not rehashing the past.

You can see the effect of punk on culture more and more as the years go on. You can see the influence everywhere in TV, film making etc. There has not been another musical force since punk, you cannot really count Brit pop. Until there is something new the interest will remain.

What have been your main musical influences, and which bands can you hear your influence in?

My Dad was a huge classical music fan so a grew up surrounded by that. My older brother, who I shared a bedroom with was a big Jazz fan, so that was around me all the time. And my other brother was into Cream and Hendrix. It was the Beatles happening when I was growing up n the 60's.

I can hear the Stranglers sound in Elastica. I approached Justine to duet 'Golden Brown' with me, but sadly she declined.

What is the best and worst Hugh Cornwall / Strangers cover you have heard, and who would you feel privileged to cover one of your songs?

I have heard some really bad Golden Brown covers. But the best I have heard was also a Golden Brown cover by Omar. It is really beautiful. I wrote and submitted a song for the latest Bond movie. The track is 'Hola Cadiz'. It would have been sung by Madonna which would have been amazing.

Tell me about how Sons Of Shiva came about and how do you find this different to your solo work, different to Stranglers?

Again the Sons Of Shiva album was only originally available over the net. Because of popularity it has now been released officially. I was approached by 'We Love You' Record label who have really eclectic tastes. They put together the poet Sex W Johnston, me, Chris Goulstone and the sculpturer Barry Flanagan. I provided the music. This came out with a £50.00 art book!

Sons Of Shiva started as a side project, which I really enjoy. I met the poet after recording one song, and then wrote the rest of the music on my pc in the studio. I picked the music that best went with each poem. Myself and the producer Chris put it all together at Chris's studio. We got the idea of having a sphinx like cat on the cover from Chris's cat. The cat would come and listen in the studio each day (it is not Chris's cat on the cover).

We may do another album, possibly 'Return To The Sons Of Shiva'. We played live four weeks ago with a bassist and drummer and Chris on Keyboards.

Do you prefer to play live or studio work and has it always been this way?

When I was in the Stranglers I preferred studio work, these days I prefer the live stuff. Writing is becoming easier and easier. It is like falling off a log. The studio is not as challenging as playing live.


With the Stranglers and yourself touring at more or less the same time, would you ever to appear on a bill with them and who would headline and why?

I would happily appear on the same bill as the Stranglers. Four years ago we were asked to appear on the same bill at a European weekend festival. They were headlining. The promoters wanted to put me on another day, which fine by me. But sadly the Stranglers said they would pull if it were to happen. So I never played.

Tell the readers 5 facts about yourself that they will not know?

1) I listen to a lot of classical music
2) I love going from a sauna into a plunge pool
3) Spanish food is my favourite
4) I admire the author Philip K Dick
5) I love films

Plans, gigs and releases planned for 2002/03.

There is the tour. We Italy and Croatia at the end of the year. I would love to play South America and the far East - so offers welcome. There is a new album planned, plus a film and autobiography for next year. And possibly more Sons of Shiva.

Any final comments?

Thank you, it has been very pleasant. If we tour the far east, you must come with us as the journalist and cover the tour.


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Please note that the opinions expressed by band members does not necessarily reflect the views of this website. Punk & Oi in the UK Limited are in no way liable for comments made by interviewees.