Interview : The Stranglers are back and heading for Montpellier
Audio version www.lesun.fr/AUDIO/stranglers.mp3
The forthcoming 2012 tour which supports the Stranglers new stunning 17th studio album Giants is going to be really demanding. Sunny Leeds is the ﬁrst of 18 dates in the UK, and the tour continues into Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, Germany and the Czech Republic and completing back in Belgium some 27 dates later. Fans here in the South of France will have the chance to see this 'cult' band in Montpellier on 9th April, an event which will help to celebrate the 25th birthday of Montpellier’s equally 'cult' Rockstore!
Robin, a life long Stranglers fan, catches up with lead singer JJ Burnel.
Forty six European dates in 2 months to promote Giants and touch base with your fans. What is your secret to get through them all?
The intensity of touring – I prefer it. Yes, you are worn out by the end but it’s rewarding because during the tour we interact with people, our fans - it’s dynamic. And we don’t play machines so, in fact, depending on the night, we could play differently, each show is unique, the energy and intensity are different.
Of course being a fan myself, I’m really looking forward to Giants. But for those who remember the Stranglers for the timeless epics such as Always the Sun; Golden Brown and No More Heros, what will they find in your new album? Is there an element of going back to the roots? What can we find in the new album?
We had written 30/40 songs and we reduced it down to 10 for the album. On the album, the very ﬁrst note will blow you away, we cranked up my bass as far as we bass as far as we could go. Of course you will hear the 'surf guitar' sound of the Stranglers, and recognize some bits, we have also gone into places that we hadn’t been before such as Adios which is a tango, with Spanish lyrics which I’m particularly proud of.
The album tries to reﬂect and represent the world that we live in: so the title song Giants is about social deprivation and the copycat looting that occurred last summer, people were rioting to get themselves material things, TV’s, trainers — these days the youngsters don’t have anyone great to look up to.
"Last summer I enjoyed riding my motorbike from Arles up into the Cévennes"
Freedom is Insane, is a story about how a Robinson Crusoe character back from Iraq, ﬁnds himself with his girlfriend on a dessert island and prevents rescue attempts, because he doesn’t want to be freed from his situation. It’s all about how the western world has imposed our values on others and it simply doesn’t work!
Another Camden Afternoon, the ﬁrst track, is the ﬁrst instrumental we have done for a long while, but originally I was to write words and sing over it but, with all the work that Dave and Baz put into it, I just wouldn’t have done it justice, so we have left it, as a really powerful instrumental.
The Stranglers have been through all the main technical advances in music, from vinyl to mp3. What is your preferred format?
Although I like mp3 as it’s very practical, I prefer vinyl. I prefer the rich quality of the analogue sound (as long as it isn’t scratched of course!). There has been a mini-revival of vinyl recently; will the Stranglers release a vinyl version of Giants? Yeah, you’re right, in the UK the youngsters are really going back to vinyl. For me, I like the feel of holding the larger vinyl format — it’s easier to read the text and information contained. It’s important to know where and how music is made and you don’t seem to ﬁnd this on the CD booklets. In fact it’s a real treat for the Stranglers fans because we will be releasing Giants on Vinyl.
You were born in England to French parents, and brought up in Caen.
Yes I was born in Chelsea in St Mary Abbots hospital, where Jim Hendrix died (that’s a claim to fame!!). Dad was a French chef in London. I stayed each of my summer holidays in Normandy, with my grandparents until the age of 17.
How French/English do you feel you are?
Well I have been called by journalists: “le plus français des anglais” or the most English of the French! When I’m in France I feel more English than French but when playing with the band in France, I’m deﬁnitely more French. But in London I’m a Londoner.
Do you have the urge to go to live from time to time in France?
Actually I have a house near Grasse, but I also like Normandy for its wetness and greenness. France is one of the richest countries with such a diversity of food, people and countryside. Last summer I enjoyed riding my motorbike from Arles up into the Cévennes. Life is too short — you must enjoy it.
In the past you produced the music of bands such as Taxi Girl, Polyphonic Size, Dani. Are there any French bands these days that you would like to get involved in?
Yes that’s right you remember those? Actually I will be working soon with a French female singer who has won a number of awards over the last few years.
Oh that’s a scoop! Can you tell us who that is?
The Stranglers are really coming back strong in 2012, with Jet Black, Dave Greenfield and of course Baz, you really come across confident and a real force together. For you what are the main motivations behind this?
Well we simply enjoy playing together. And there is plenty of fuel, so much to write about, each album we make becomes une autre étape for us all. We enjoy exploring new material and that 'hits the nail on the head' for us.
Have you or the Stranglers been contacted for any forthcoming projects in the cinema?
It’s true that our music has been used in various ﬁlms in the past, such as Sexy Beast, with Ben Kingsley and right now in the UK the Carphone Warehouse is using our Waltzinblack you can’t get away from it!
In the past I have been asked to write the music for a hit Japanese Manga series called Gankutsuou. Yes I’m always open to new ideas, of course why not!
If you want to ﬁnd out more about the Stranglers, visit their ofﬁcial website: www.stranglers.net
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The sun is out, bank holidays are in, we all want to go and explore, although this can sometimes be ruined by the dreaded mistral (p14). But let’s not spoil things. How about a visit to St Jean du Fos (p20) or if you’re feeling more urban, a nice shopping day in Avignon with a healthy tea break (p23) or a visit to an art gallery in Nîmes? (p17) If you’re feeling extra energetic like me, how about entering the Pont du Gard race on 30 June to raise money for a fantastic local charity? Also in this issue, the remarkable story of a simulated space mission by Claire (p18) and a very funny article by Bernice on her pathological inability (or so she says) to learn languages (p22).