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ABC (MARTIN FRY) INTERVIEW [2009]

YOU'VE GOT THE LEXICON OF LOVE CONCERT COMING UP AT THE ROYAL ALBERT IN APRIL, WHICH IS FANTASTIC NEWS…

It's all shaping up really well, it's selling well, and there's lots of people flying in from all parts of the world for it so it is going to be an auspicious occasion indeed!

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PLANNING IT?

Peter Brennan from Jeans 'N Classics was the guy who started the whole thing really. About a year ago I played in Canada with an orchestra and He put the whole thing together and from that it just kind of snowballed! In that show we performed ABC songs, some of them I had never never really performed, like before like 'Forever Together', certainly not with an orchestra, and things like 'S.O.S.' and 'Vanity Kills', all with orchestral arrangements, and some of the songs – like 'One Better World' – took on this whole different, almost West Side Story, quality. The show worked out great so that kind of inspired me, and so that's where the idea really started.

Then back in the UK Simon Moran from SJM, who has always been a fan, called up and asked if I fancied doing the whole 'Lexicon Of Love' album in a show. He was involved in 'The Steel City Tour' last year and we had a conversation there and had talked about the idea. Then we marched down to see Trevor Horn and called Gary Langan and Anne Dudley, who both worked on 'The Lexicon Of Love', and David Palmer who was in ABC way back then to see if he could get some time off from his day job with Rod Stewart and it all came together from there… it's come together really well!

SO DAVE PALMER IS DOING IT WITH YOU, WILL ANYONE ELSE FROM THAT ORIGINAL ABC LINE-UP BE INVOLVED IN THIS SHOW AT ALL?

No, its the VH-1 'Bands Reunited' line-up!

HAVE YOU KEPT IN THE LOOP WITH ALL THOSE PEOPLE TREVOR HORN AND ANNE DUDLEY AND EVERYONE? I KNOW YOU DID THE TREVOR HORN TRIBUTE SHOW AT WEMBLEY A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO…

Yeah, it was a joy performing at that concert, it was a Prince's Trust concert, 'Produced By Trevor Horn', and it was a great show with Pet Shop Boys and Grace Jones and a lot of people who Trevor had worked with, ABC included. Anne Dudley was there too, and she was very instrumental in 'The Lexicon Of Love' when we recorded it originally – she arranged all the orchestration and she played piano on some of the tracks – and these days she just seems to do everything, there's no-one quite like her really! So Anne has the baton for the show and Trevor is going to come along to introduce it all…

HAVE YOU GOT ANY IDEA WHAT HE'S GOING TO SAY?

I have no idea! But I'm sure he can remember some good stories!

IT'LL BE LIKE A WEDDING SPEECH OR SOMETHING…

Don't say that! No, it'll be better… although when I got married twenty years ago my dad stood up and asked when I was going to get a day job! Let's hope it's not like that!

IF THERE WAS EVER A SHOW THAT CALLED FOR THE RETURN OF THE FAMOUS GOLD SUIT THIS MUST BE IT…

I don't know… I've got a bit of an Ozwald Boateng thing going now and I don't know about the gold suit. I like to think of myself as a pretty sartorially elegant guy but I'm less obsessed with clothing now, although I'm watching the world going a bit 80s, seing the Ting Tings walking up the red carpet at The Brits, it could have been Strawberry Switchblade or someone you know?

WILL YOU BE RECORDING THE SHOW FOR A LIVE CD OR A DVD OR SOMETHING?

We need to work that out but I would like to yeah… I don't know right now but that's something we're just trying to work out at the moment.

IS THIS GOING TO BE A ONE-OFF OR WILL YOU TRY AND DO IT AGAIN, PERHAPS ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD?

I don't know… it was interesting flying into Canada last year, rehearsing very briefly and then just performing it, so yeah it would be great! I would like to do it elsewhere.

WILL THE LONDON SHOW BE SIMILAR? A VERY BRIEF REHEARSAL AND THEN THE SHOW OR WILL YOU BE ABLE TO TAKE A BIT MORE TIME?

I think we'll have one day with the orchestra to rehearse, so far less rehearsing than you'd expect actually!

I IMAGINE IT'S PRETTY EXPENSIVE GETTING A WHOLE ORCHESTRA IN FOR A LOT OF REHEARSALS?

Yeah, it's the cheese sandwiches, you have to make a lot of cheese sandwiches and provide a lot of orange squash!

HOW IS THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE OF LOOKING BACK ON 'THE LEXICON OF LOVE' IN SUCH DETAILS FOR THIS SHOW? ESPECIALLY I SUPPOSE FOR THOSE SONGS THAT YOU DON'T PLAY LIVE VERY OFTEN?

This whole process really does breathe new life into the material. In Canada 'The Look Of Love' with an orchestra was something else – I have performed that song many, many times over the years, but it's just a totally different way of performing. It's going to be a very interesting occasion. Very different… there's a song that wasn't on Lexicon Of Love called 'Vanity Kills', that I had never played live and never wanted to play live, but when I was in Canada Peter Brennan said he'd put together an arrangement for it because he wanted to perform it, and I did perform it – kind of begrudgingly – and I really enjoyed it! I think that with the joy of the music you kind of forget all the heartache of your record not getting to number one and enjoy it again just purely as a piece of music. It really came alive as a piece with the full orchestra. It was kind of like Leonard Bernstein. I was in West Side Story for a moment, and this show feels like 'Quadrophenia' and 'Tommy' all rolled into one!

YOU'VE PLAYED AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL BEFORE HAVEN'T YOU?

I played it with Tony Hadley on the 'Tony Hadley vs Martin Fry' tour, so that was a few years ago… but The Albert Hall is such a prestigious place to play, and I think any artist who plays there looks at the pictures of Frank Sinatra on the wall, the pictures of The Doors and Bowie and The Beatles and everyone and just buzzes off them!

WHAT ELSE WILL BE IN THE SET AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL BECAUSE I ASSUME THERE WILL BE MORE THAN JUST THE ALBUM…

That's the same question my brother in law just asked me… it's not going to be very good value if the concert's just 43 minutes long! I have got arrangements for other songs, songs like 'Ocean Blue' and 'When Smokey Sings' and they work really well in the context of the orchestra. What was amazing in Canada as that it came together so well, I mean we played for two hours or something, performing different stuff from the catalogue

DO YOU HAVE FAVOURITE SONGS FROM 'THE LEXICON OF LOVE'?

Yeah, 'All Of My Heart'. It's kind of bulletproof that song, you can perform it in front of 80,000 people opening up for Robbie Williams, or you can perform it on a cardboard box in the middle of Covent Garden and you always get a great response!

YOU HAVE A LOT OF SONGS LIKE THAT I THINK, REAL TIMELESS CLASSICS. ACTUALLY I'M SURPRISED THAT ABC HASN'T REALLY BEEN COVERED BY PEOPLE, OR SAMPLED OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT, IS THAT SOMETHING YOU ACTIVELY BLOCK?

No, not at all, I wish they would cover us… I'm waIting for The Killers to climb on board or for the Arctic Monkeys to have a go, I'd love it! Lady Ga Ga, somebody like that. People have covered the songs in the past though, not massively, but they've done it…

ANY VERSIONS OF ANYTHING THAT STAND OUT FOR YOU?

There was this guy in Hong Kong, I forget his name right now but I've got the record here somewhere, and he was number one in Hong Kong, years ago, with 'The Night You Murdered Love' for some reason. But yeah, I think you need to start a campaign for more people to cover ABC songs!

WHAT SORT OF THINGS ARE YOU LISTENING TO AT THE MOMENT? WHAT'S ON YOUR iPOD?

I've been listening to a lot of Goldfrapp recently, I really like them. What else? I can never remember… a lot of Dylan, The Killers, MGMT… I think I'm going to get the Coldplay album because nobody seems to like them anymore. I really like Flight Of The Concords, I've got that album and I listen to that a lot. I don't know, there's tons of great stuff but I can't remember any of it now! The new Mercury Rev album, that's great…

ARE YOU WRITING NEW STUFF YOURSELF AT THE MOMENT?

Yeah, I've just started writing again. We brought 'Traffic' out which kind of opened the door a little bit, but we will release some new material, definitely.

ANY TIMESCALE ON THAT?

Too early to say, I'm just getting rolling to be honest.

AND AFTER THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL YOU'RE OFF TO AMERICA AGAIN AREN'T YOU? DOING THE REGENERATION TOUR?

Yeah, that worked out really well last year, travelling through America, it worked out really well. It's interesting who goes down well over there from a UK perspective because it's not always the ones you think will do well. It was great going coast to coast last year, really interesting… apart from that I'm playing some of the Here And Now shows at stately homes through the summer, bits and pieces, business as usual!

MARCH 2009

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