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ALTERED IMAGES (CLARE GROGAN) INTERVIEW [2002]

HOW DID THE WHOLE 'HERE AND NOW' THING COME ABOUT?

Well, I was first approached by the promoter, Tony Denton, about a year ago, and at the same I have to say that I just thought 'No, that's not for me…' but I didn't really give it any thought at all at the time!

SORT OF A KNEE-JERK REACTION?

Yeah… I just sort of said thanks but no thanks, and he did actually say to me at the time 'You'll change your mind!' and I was thinking no way… and here I am today talking about it! I think the thing was that he asked me a couple of times and I mentioned it just to family and friends like you do, and I was just kind of having a laugh about it as well, and they were going 'Clare, you've got to do it! You cannot deny us the opportunity to hang out backstage with you one more time', and I kind of was quite touched by how enthusiastic everyone around me was, and I know some cynical people!

So everyone around me was going 'Go for it' and so I had a conversation with Kim Wilde, and I said to her 'Kim, the thing is, I'm forty… I'm not going to get up and sing 'Happy Birthday' at forty!', and she just said 'Clare, I'm up there singing 'Kids in America… why are you prejudicing yourself like that?' and I just though she was absolutely right, I'm not an ageist person so why was I being ageist to my own self?

So I kind of got over all that, and also I guess that my life now is so different – everyone's life moves on and my life has moved on considerably in the last twenty years and I was a wee bit worried about going back, and now I feel that I'm getting to revisit my youth on my own terms and I think that most people – if they could do this on this level – would choose to do it.

DOES IT MAKE YOU NERVOUS?

Yes! I know I'll be fine, because I'm such a terrible showoff and I really love performing, I really genuinely do! But it is daunting. I'm going to be singing at a benefit gig in Glasgow on Saturday and it's going to be the first time I've sung in Glasgow for eighteen years and I know I'll be OK I really do, but you never actually know until you're there, because it's not like I can really go out and get some experience of it this week, just get three thousand people together and I'll stand in front of them and sing a song! It's all quite challenging, and I like that aspect of it…

HOW DID IT FEEL TO START REVISITING ALTERED IMAGES MATERIAL AGAIN?

Well, that really only started in earnest this weekend, and I honestly don't want to sound coy about the whole thing, but I genuinely didn't own my own records any more, and I had to arrange for Sony to send them all to me so I could decide what songs to do! Obviously the hits are what people are coming to hear, and I know that and I'm only doing five songs, but I wanted to remind myself of them, and I had such a great afternoon listening to all the old records, and I was SO relieved that was the way I felt. It is hard to be objective, but I didn't feel any sense of… feeling 'oh my goodness', and I'm so glad that I didn't just think 'Well we're not as good as I remember us being!'. In fact I was thinking 'Gosh, we were better than I remember us being' and that was nice. Obviously I'm going to lean towards being a bit biased about the whole thing, but I am my biggest critic, and I was thinking 'Wow, we had some good tunes'!

FOR THE PURPOSES OF THE TOUR WILL ALTERED IMAGES BE YOURSELF, OR WILL IT INVOLVE THE ENTIRE ORIGINAL BAND?

It'll be just me, but obviously people have been asking me about that, and when Tony Denton first approached me I said that I can't imagine us reuniting, and has asked if I would do it if they put a backing band together. I did speak to the others about it, in terms of how they felt about it, and they're absolutely fine about it. I think they're slightly bemused but they're cool. It would be really nice to think we could get back together and do it, but from a purely practical point of view that was never going to happen, but obviously it makes sense to sell it on the band's name rather than just my name, because they're not just my songs…

SO GIVEN THAT THE BAND AREN'T AGAINST THE WHOLE IDEA, IS THERE ANY CHANCE OF NEW RECORDING OR ACTIVITY FROM ALTERED IMAGES?

You know, I'm honestly not thinking that far ahead with anything. I think that to a certain extent… I almost feel that if I had wanted this to happen to me it would never have happened, but I think that the fact that it's come to me and I've been drawn in and kind of coaxed into it a bit means that it kind of feels better because I don't have any expectation of it personally. I'm not doing it for any other reason than I think it'll be good fun, but saying that I'm a music fan, and I still write music for other people – not terribly successfully but I still do it – and I just kind of don't know where it'll lead to next but I'm not expecting anything, I'm just taking it as it comes.

NOW THAT THE WHOLE 'HERE & NOW' MACHINE IS IN ACTION AND TICKETS ARE ON SALE, AND YOU'RE DOING INTERVIEWS AS CLARE GROGAN FROM ALTERED IMAGES AGAIN, ARE YOU GETTING RECOGNISED MORE?

To a certain extent I've always had a certain level of recognition which has never gone away, and that does surprise me. It seems to go through wee periods where suddenly everybody seems to know who I am and I've had that quite consistently for the past twenty years, whether it's for 'Father Ted' or 'Eastenders'…

SNOGGING IAN BEALE!

That one seems to have really stuck in people's minds!

MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE NO-ONE CAN IMAGINE HAVING TO SNOG IAN BEALE!

I'm really amazed at the response that had! Honestly, men in white vans come up next to me in the car, and roll down their windows and shout 'Clare! How could you?'…and I'm just like 'It's only pretend and it's quite nice really!' so that's funny, it really is funny!

So I'm not trying to say that I always being pestered by people, but most days of the week someone will come up and have a chat, and I've gotten used to living like that…

DO YOU GET THE IMPRESSION THAT PEOPLE EXPECT YOU TO BE A CERTAIN SORT OF PERSON?

I think people do think of me as quite approachable, and that's why they still do it, but I have to say that I have to stop grinning like a fool, but I do always have this perma-grin on my face and it's regardless of what kind of mood I'm in…

WHICH IN ITSELF IS A FANTASTIC TALENT!

Yes! But I think that when people talk to me they see me as being this… as much as I always wanted to be this aloof, Siouxsie Sioux person it's just not my nature. I always wanted to be a girl with attitude, but I've never really been able to pull it off, and that's just the way it is!

HAVING SAID THAT, WAS IT A RELIEF TO YOU WHEN ALTERED IMAGES – WHO STARTED OUT AS A PRETTY CREDIBLE, LEFT OF CENTRE PUNK BAND AND TOURED WITH THE BANSHEES AND HAD STEVE SEVERIN PRODUCE YOUR FIRST ALBUM – STARTED TO BECOME MORE MAINSTREAM AND POPPY?

I think it was actually a natural response to what was happening and I honestly think that if we had tried to be a bit more calculated by it all we were so young and so overwhelmed by what was happening that we couldn't hide our joy in it. I think you can sort of over analyse these things, but at the time we were really genuinely quite young, and we didn't quite know who we were – every week we wanted to be a different person, and I think that's kind of what being young is all about… you don't quite know how to define yourself so you end up borrowing bits of other peoples personalities, and it just depended on who we were with that week!

HOW DID IT FEEL THAT PEOPLE THEN STARTED TO BORROW YOUR PERSONALITY FROM YOU – I REMEMBER LOADS OF GIRLS AT SCHOOL WHO WANTED TO BE YOU, AND DRESSED UP IN THE BOWS AND THE RA-RA SKIRTS AND EVERYTHING…

I think I was quite oblivious to it… I'm not saying I didn't notice it because I did notice it to an extent, but I think that because I was a fan as well I just saw it as a way of showing your appreciation to people. When I first met Siouxsie I was just this wee Siouxsie doppelganger, and that's just what you did! I can honestly say that it didn't go to my head too much because I just didn't know what I was getting into, and I didn't really understand the territory and naivety saves you from a lot of stuff.

I think I could have been a lot more unbearable than I was if I'd taken more of that on board, and I've said this so many times, but it's a true thing that I can say about the whole eighties, that for me I was ferried around a lot of the time in a limousine, and I'd get dropped at my mum and dad's house and I'd be straight into the kitchen to do the washing up, and neither thing seemed odd to me – that was how I lived! It certainly wasn't like I thought everyone at home should suddenly be anything else – I'd have been really freaked out if they had!

HOW FAR DO YOU IDENTIFY WITH CLARE GROGAN TWENTY YEARS AGO?

I don't know. It's so hard to see yourself in those terms… I remember when I was young, and I'd talk to my mum about being a grown-up like you do when you just can't wait to be older, and my mum used to say to me that it drags until you're twenty-one and then it just flies by but you never really feel any different, and I think that's true. I'm that same person but I've also got twenty years life experience attached to it, which I'm very grateful for. Quite often people ask me if I'd have done things differently, and I just say no, absolutely not because I think your life experience defines who you are and it's meant to be that way. So I am that same girl, but I'm a whole lot wiser… actually I'm not so sure if I am! I'm still full of contradictions!

OUTSIDE ALTERED IMAGES, ANOTHER DEFINING MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER WAS THE FILM 'GREGORY'S GIRL' – HAS THAT BECOME AN ALBATROSS AROUND YOUR NECK AT ALL?

I think that there was a wee moment in time when it kind of dragged me down, and I feel slightly ashamed of that now because I'm such good friends with Bill, and with John Gordon Sinclair – but it was because I couldn't escape it, no matter what I did it could never be bigger than 'Gregory's Girl'. For whatever reason it struck a huge chord with people and it's very hard to supercede that and I just can't do it, and that can be frustrating because quite often when people have a look at my biog or my cv they say 'Oh yes you did do that, oh I remember that…' and nobody retains anything else apart from 'Gregory's Girl'!

IT MUST BE VERY FRUSTRATING AS AN ACTRESS TO HAVE THAT CONSTANTLY HANGING OVER YOU…

Do you know what? I'm over it, I really am over it. I kind of think now that I was really really privileged to have been a part of such a significant moment in so many people's lives, and I'm not saying that to try to sound gracious or philosophical but I really do think that… to have been part of something that captured the mood of a whole generation of people is an amazing thing to have been involved in and I will never, ever knock it.

WAS THERE EVER THE OPPORTUNITY TO BECOME INVOLVED IN THE SECOND FILM, 'GREGORY'S TWO GIRLS'?

No, I mean it was never a part of the game plan. Bill was under pressure to do a follow-up to the film, but he wanted it to be a completely different type of film, and a big departure from the original one, and I think he felt the only way he could do that was to leave everyone else out of it, and I always knew that from the word go, so it was never a big deal for me… I was never losing sleep at home going 'I can't believe I'm not it!'… life's too short!

WHAT ARE YOU UP TO AT THE MOMENT, IN THE LEAD-UP TO THE TOUR?

Well I do film stuff for Sky which is really nice, and I had a part in a film that was made earlier this year which is coming out quite soon called 'Monday 10 AM', I'm singing in Glasgow at the weekend as I mentioned, but to a certain extent I suddenly became aware really recently that I could give myself the fright of my life if I waited til the twelfth of December to go on stage again, so I've kind of decided to set some time out, just to… and I don't mean this to sound… weird, but to go to singing lessons and to do some sort of low-key stuff. I just really want to feel prepared, rather than just thinking 'Oh my god, what am I doing!' and that really takes up the time, because of the level the tour's at it's quite a big thing, and as much as it's great fun, and people are really looking forward to doing it, I just want to get on there and feel really comfortable about what I'm doing, and the only way I can do that is by feeling really prepared for it.

HAVE YOU SEEN THE LAST COUPLE OF 'HERE AND NOW' TOURS, TO GET AN IDEA OF WHAT TO EXPECT?

I've been really unlucky – in recent times I've kind of split my time up between here and the states because my husband's been working there, so I've kept on missing them, but I have seen video footage… I have to say that when I saw that I thought 'OH MY GOD!'…

I HAVE TO SAY THAT I THINK YOU'LL FIND THE AUDIENCES INCREDIBLY SUPPORTIVE…

I know… I mean I've gone from thinking 'What am I doing?' to thinking 'I can't wait!' and that's me being honest about it. I mean I have had a couple of wobbly moments thinking I can't do this, but I've got over them now and I'm just thinking bring it on!

LAST YEAR TOYAH WAS ON THE TOUR, AND SHE WAS PARTLY THERE JUST BECAUSE IT WAS AN OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY THE ARENAS, TO PLAY WEMBLEY!

I know – it is, and it's a pure ego thing as well because I didn't get to do Wembley Arena the first time around, and so I'm actually getting to do something new with it and that's great. I think also that anyone who was in a band or not, was given the opportunity to do this then I think that anyone would!

DO YOU HAVE ANY PARTICULAR BONDS OR FRIENDSHIPS WITH ANY OF THE OTHER ARTISTS ON THE BILL? YOU MENTIONED YOU'D BEEN TALKING TO KIM WILDE…

I think that I've always had a sort of… I was going to say crush!… on Kim, ever since I was a wee Altered Images girl, and she always seemed so sophisticated, and she's so beautiful… and out paths crossed – we weren't pals or anything like that but she always seemed such a supportive girl, and she is! Now I'm getting to know her a bit better and it's really nice to get to know someone who's had a very, very similar experience in life, it's just nice to talk about it now and again, because at the time we were pretty blase about it and it's funny to look back with people who have had an equivalent experience you know? There's a sort of shared experience.

IS THERE ANYONE ON THE BILL YOU'RE A PARTICULAR FAN OF?

Human League. I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone I must admit, but I was always a big Human League fan, and they did the Dare album with Martin Rushent and we followed suit and did 'Pinky Blue' with Martin Rushent… we loved Martin because of his Buzzcocks days and everything, but when he worked with the Human League we knew he was the one for us, so we were quite influenced by that I suppose.

I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing people like 'Five Star' because I never saw them live…

WHAT SORT OF MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO NOW?

Well, I'm pretty diverse… my taste has always been very wide-ranging, I love The Strokes album – I know everyone does! – but they're great songwriters, just classic pop songs with attitude which has always been my bag. I love Badly Drawn Boy, and I have a real soft spot for all the girls in music, I think the Sugababes stuff is great, and I really like Destiny's Child and Missy Elliott – just girls with attitude! I don't like being rude about people, but I just find the whole boyband thing a big bore, and even though there are manufactured girl groups I still think they're presented in a much more interesting way…

YOU MENTIONED EARLIER THAT YOU WERE WRITING FOR PEOPLE, WOULD IT APPEAL TO YOU TO WRITE FOR SOME SORT OF GIRL GROUP?

I'd love to have the opportunity to write for someone like that. I have written for two sisters in Australia called Jackson Mondoza who aren't exactly the equivalent of the Sugababes over here, but they've had a couple of hits and I wrote some stuff for the album with my husband Stephen, and we wrote an album for a soap-star in America, a guy called Jacob Young who's in 'General Hospital', and that's been going all right although he hasn't had any big hits yet because it's quite early days for him… so it's kind of never a dull moment and I love that, I love the fact that to a certain extent it was out of necessity that I had to branch out… I mean I love acting, but I knew that if I didn't do some presenting there would be periods where I'd be twiddling my thumbs, and then out of the blue people ask for input into a song they're writing… it's not like I'm really casual about all this because I'm not, I work really hard, but I'm not chasing it all the time… only really because I don't know how to.

WOULD YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW TO?

Sometimes. Sometimes I wish I was a bit more… but I don't know how much of a difference it would have actually made really, because I was lucky enough to learn early on that I wasn't totally comfortable having that kind of exposure, and I know that's a really easy thing to say to a certain extent – and I'm not going to say that if Steven Spielberg called me tomorrow with an offer I'd go 'I'm just not sure if I'm comfortable with what goes with it Steven' – but I do know that it's not all it's made out to be.

As much as I hate moaning famous people – and I do! – I just think that they're getting to live their dream, so have some appreciation of that, and I kind of think that for me it is a double edged sword, it really is. I quite like having a life as well as a career, and being able to keep the two of them separate, and I know that it doesn't always seem like great guns in the grand scheme of things, but I've kept going for twenty years without hardly a break, and I've done practically everything there is to do – I've been in a big soap, I've made films, I've written songs for people, I've been in a band and it's enough, it's enough for me!

SO THE QUESTION THERE IS… WHAT'S NEXT?

I really don't know, and I don't mind! That's the way life is, and I think that I also learnt early on that as soon as I start planning things they have the habit of going awry, so I just go with the flow but I've always got my eye out for a wee opportunity. You have to be like that you know, because it's a tough business and you can't be halfhearted about it because there's too many people out there who really want it and you're almost abusing your position by not pursuing the avenues that are open to you!

AUGUST 2002

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