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An interview with Del Amitri singer Justin Currie PDF Print E-mail
Written by Connor Mullins   
19 01 2014
Image"It's been quite good fun rehearsing, the last few years I've just been touring as a solo artist so it's been really nice to get back into a room with a bunch of musicians again."

Back on the road for the first time in over a decade, Scottish band Del Amitri are playing 13 UK dates in January and February, beginning in Dublin on Wednesday. 

"It's 12 years since we toured so it's been really good fun, like the social side of it," said lead singer and songwriter, Justin Currie.

"That big sound of five musicians is really refreshing for me."

Included in that is a trip to the North East for a gig at Newcastle's City Hall.

"I've fond memories of the City Hall and Newcastle. I've always enjoyed playing in Newcastle; the solo stuff I've done there has been great. We used to play at a place called the Riverside there quite a lot and we always went down quite well there. I like the City Hall, in spite of the fact it's seated; it's got a good vibe to it."

Of course, Del Amitri never split up. After the 2002 effort Can You Do Me Good, Currie became involved in many other projects, including Jazz covers band Button Up, while releasing three solo albums. But how would he sum up his last 12 years away from Del Amitri?

"It's been quite interesting working with other musicians - I toured with a jazz band, which is really fascinating. I like being busy; I've had three solo records out in that time and not done nearly as much touring as I'd like. On the whole it's been good."

Indeed, Currie relished the freedom of the way his solo records were made, free of any interfering from music labels.

"The way I made those records, I paid for them myself and took them to the record company so they didn't have any control or any input to what was on the record. That's a really great position to be in, although it's high risk as you end up losing a lot of money, which I did on the first record. It's great not to have any corporate entity interfering on what you do."

The A to Z of Us tour will see Currie back on stage with Iain Harvie, Andy Alston, Ashley Soan and Kris Dollimore as the band play a collection of their greatest songs, including Always The Last To Know and Roll to Me. And it's the song writing partnership between Currie and Harvey that brought many of the group's best-known hits.

"We know what the other one does; when we write together Iain tends to write pieces of music he knows will suit my voice. He'll create spaces in the music where he knows I'll probably write a verse or a chorus. Most of the things he gives me, I find it pretty easy to come up with something; it's just an instinctive thing I think."

The tour sees Del Amitri head to Glasgow's Hydro venue, which saw the initial capacity sell out before more tickets were released. It would seem there is quite a demand for the much-loved band to deliver their hits in what will be a nostalgic affair for the fans. But was he expecting the immediate sell-out?

"No, I wasn't actually. Initially when we were mentioned for The Hydro, I thought the capacity was 12,000 people, which I was horrified at because I knew we wouldn't sell 12,000 tickets. But in fact, it's one of these modern venues, and it started at 5,000 and it's gone up to 7 or 8,000, so I was really over the moon about that."

Early on in Del Amitri's career, the group's early sound of being a quite Indie band changed with signing to a major label, and, the influence of their American experience, and manager, aided to the country sound that would come.

But would the plan have been to sign with a label like Rough Trade or Factory?

"That was always the plan for us," Currie explained. The first single was on a small independent Glasgow label but then what happened was we got offered a deal."

"It was essentially an indie label called Big Star, but it was owned by Chrysalis, which was a music label, and that was the only thing we were offered. I think if we were offered a deal by Factory, Rough Trade or Beggars Banquet or something, we'd have bit their hand off, definitely. It would have been better to go that way; I mean the music label experience when we were a young indie band was pretty unpleasant."

"The band musically changed before (Waking Hours) because we went to America in '86 and we were absolutely skint and just slept on fans floors and begged and borrowed and stole to some extent to get around America, and that really changed us as people because we thought if we can survive that we can survive anything. When we came back from America the music started to become quite influenced by a lot of the things we'd been through over there, and a lot of the things we'd heard. The music's weirdly became more mainstream without us really deciding to go in any direction, and we realized that we were really the kind of band that should be in the mainstream. I think the practical side of things first changed when we had our first hit in 1990, - everything changes when you have a hit."

"We ended up with a decent reputation in some cities. We did really well in Chicago because two of the big radio stations in Chicago used to play us to death over there. "

"We had an American manager in the 80's called Barbara Shores, who lived in London. She introduced to us a lot of things like Townes Van Zandt, so that was a bit of an influence and we were also formed a country and western band with some friends in Glasgow in the mid 80's."

And, ahead of the band's tour, Universal are re-releasing three of their classic albums - Waking Hours, Change Everything and Twisted - with sleeve notes by respected music journalist Terry Staunton, and rare photos.

"Well, Universal, who now owns our catalogue, heard that we were doing this tour so they just thought they would do this on the back of the tour. We had to kind of get involved with it to a certain extent, because they re-mastered the original cd, and then releasing another two cd's of material; the third cd of which was just a lot of rubbish. Talk about previously unreleased material - this was unlistenable material!"

"We ended up with a package that represents the band at that time."

And what does the future hold for Del Amitri beyond the UK tour?

"We kind of left the year fairly open to do other things.  Now we've done all the rehearsal stuff, and, I suppose if you look at that as an investment and it would be worth doing more work but I've not heard of any other offers at the moment."
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