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GO WEST (PETER COX) INTERVIEW [2004]

ACCORDING TO MY NOTES YOU'RE A VERY BUSY MAN... LAST YEAR SAW 'REBORN IN THE USA', A LOAD OF GO WEST GIGS INCLUDING THE HERE & NOW TOUR IN AUSTRALIA FINISHING WITH A HUGE HUGE NEW YEAR GIG IN COVENTRY, AND COMING UP YOU HAVE A THREE MONTH UK TOUR WITH TONY HADLEY, THE RELEASE OF A NEW SOLO ALBUM, MORE GO WEST DATES, A GO WEST DVD, A COX & HADLEY DVD, AND A GO WEST BEST OF CD... I'M AMAZED YOU'VE HAD THE TIME TO TALK TO ME!

It has been pretty hectic over the last few weeks I must say!

ARE YOU ENJOYING IT ALL?

Yes very much, the deadlines for the various albums and the DVD have been fierce because obviously it makes sense to have those items available when we go out on the road, so over the last few weeks I've had very little time off, but then again I'm still doing this and making some sort of living off it after twenty years so I really can't complain - I've just got to get on with it and bite the bullet.

ABSOLUTELY, IT'S VERY MUCH SUCCESS ON YOUR OWN TERMS ISN'T IT?

To some extent, I wouldn't say that was entirely accurate! (laughs)

LET'S START OFF WITH GO WEST... MY IMPRESSION OF THE BAND IS THAT YOU KIND OF DISAPPEARED AFTER THE 'ACES & KINGS' ALBUM IN THE EARLY NINETIES, AND THEN REAPPEARED ON THE FIRST HERE & NOW TOUR BACK IN 2001, BUT I'M NOT ENTIRELY SURE WHAT HAPPENED IN BETWEEN... HAD YOU BROKEN UP OR WAS IT JUST A CASE OF KEEPING A LOW PROFILE?

No, I left the band... I wanted to relocate to Los Angeles in the first case - where I lived for six years... Richard was always more of an Anglophile than I, plus I think that Richard was also just starting his family around about that time. So I left band, and because the project was as much Richard's as it was mine I couldn't take the name with me but I still had the idea that I wanted to go on writing and recording.

In a partnership compromises have to be reached on every decision and I thought it would be nice to have a little bit more freedom that that... plus there was the pressures of trying to maintain some level of success and the pressure we were getting from our record label was not having a great effect on our relationship, so I went to LA, lived there for six years, made a solo album, and eventually moved to Chicago because I was trying to get some work in the advertising industry.

Then my erstwhile manager called me to say he was representing Tony, that Tony was working hard and that there was work around in the UK and I should consider it... the first couple of times he called me I turned it down... it didn't sound like the kind of work I wanted to do from the point of view of the work itself but the third time he called me I couldn't afford to turn it down again! Plus unfortunately at that time my dad was ill so I came back to England partly to spend some time with my dad and partly to investigate what John was talking about... Richard and I started working together again and then the first 'Here & Now' thing came up which brings us up to the time you were asking about!

HAD YOU AND RICHARD BEEN IN TOUCH OVER THOSE YEARS THAT YOU WERE IN THE US?

On and off, not very much - obviously I don't think Richard was thrilled with me when I left the band as you can probably imagine, and our lives at that time moved in very different directions - Richard's got two kids and I think he's quite comfortable where he is and clearly there was a part of him that wanted to establish himself separately from me as a songwriter and a producer and he's been working towards that goal, but a trademark is a trademark and I think that it was as good for him as it was for me to reinvestigate Go West and see if there were still people out there who wanted to see us doing our thing, and apparently there are...

THE FIRST TIME THAT YOU STEPPED BACK OUT ON STAGE AS GO WEST WAS IT VERY STRANGE, OR WAS IT A CASE OF THE SEEMING THAT THE INTERVENING YEARS NEVER HAPPENED?

No not entirely, it was a little bit strange... for a start it was the first time that he and I had done this sort of PA where Richard plays guitar and I sing live but there's no band, the music's all on CD, so that element of playing live was unfamiliar, and frankly it had been a long time since I had done any live work so like any other muscle it takes a bit of warming up and I wasn't that match-fit at the time, so it was a little odd...

To be honest, even though it's better financially to do PA's without a band where you have less logistics, less wages, less overheads, I still much prefer to play with a band so that when we reach the instrumental break or the guitar solo I can step back rather than feeling like a lemon at the front of the stage waiting for the vocals to come back in! At the risk of stating the obvious it's a lot more real, we've got a great band and it's an entirely more comfortable feeling to be doing it for real as it were...

GO WEST ARE VERY OBVIOUSLY VERY MUCH BACK ON THE LIVE SCENE, BUT WILL THERE BE OTHER GO WEST ACTIVITY? ARE YOU RECORDING TOGETHER AT ALL FOR EXAMPLE?

Well, I've just completed a solo album, and there's a song on that album that I've written with Richard, and he and I have co-produced it, but as I've said Richard has two kids now and he knows from experience how long it would take to make a Go West album... as you probably know we're not the most prolific and certainly not the quickest band to make albums...

WELL IT'S QUALITY RATHER THAN QUANTITY ISN'T IT?

Well... that was always our argument but I have to be realistic now and say that while that might have always been the aim it wasn't always the result!

The reality is that I think Richard has strong reservations about what the appeal of a Go West album would be - if we could make an album in two weeks then he might possibly consider it, but the prospect of spending six months banging heads with me - as we have always done in the process of making an album - with what might be very limited sales at the end of it isn't as appealing to him as it is to me as someone who is still single and able to pursue my dream of being a recording artist... however unrealistic that might be!

HAVE YOU CONSIDERED WORKING TOGETHER WITHOUT USING THE GO WEST BANNER - KIND OF GIVING YOU THE CHANCE TO REINVENT YOUR PARTNERSHIP?

Yes, I suppose so... Richard and I haven't always agreed - clearly - on the direction the band should take and Richard's taste in music is quite different from mine so it might well be interesting to not feel confined by the parameters of what either of us thought Go West ought to be and just do something different.

The thing is though that whatever the content is inside the can, the label has look appealing to the public and record buyers these days - the record buyers that labels are trying to market their artists to are very young, so Richard and I might feasibly be able to write together for a younger artist... from Richard's point of view I can understand his asking why would he want to work with me if he can maintain more control over what he was writing using a younger artist as a vehicle for the songs...

That's a very long winded answer to your question!

I'VE BEEN LISTENING TO THE NEW 'BEST OF' GO WEST ALBUM THAT EMI ARE PUTTING OUT, AND YOU JUST MENTIONED WRITING FOR YOUNGER ARTISTS AND ONE OF THE TRACKS ON THAT ALBUM STRUCK ME AS SOUNDING EXACTLY LIKE THE KIND OF POP/R&B THAT IS ALL OVER THE RADIO AT THE MOMENT FROM PEOPLE LIKE JUSTIN TIMERLAKE, AND THAT'S THE TRACK 'NEVER LET THEM SEE YOU SWEAT'...

Well that's kind of you to say although I can't take the credit for writing that particular tune! It was used in the soundtrack to the film 'White Men Can't Jump' - the movie was very successful although unfortunately the soundtrack sank without trace!

The background to that was that the director of the film, or possibly the musical director, decided that he didn't want any white artists on the album - he wanted it to be an all-urban affair and the record company bullied him into incorporating us, but the only way we could make it work was to record a song that had been written by an urban writer, so that's probably why it sounds like that!

AND I THOUGHT I WAS BEING SO CLEVER YOU KNOW, DRAWING THOSE PARALLELS!

Well, without knowing the background it was still an insightful observation!

THANK YOU FOR THAT! NOW TO CHANGE THE SUBJECT COMPLETELY... YOUR PROFILE ROCKETED AGAIN LAST YEAR AS A RESULT OF YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN THE 'REBORN IN THE USA' TV SHOW, HOW WAS THAT EXPERIENCE FOR YOU?

Well, I don't know that I would use the term 'rocketed' although certainly it's been good for me - one of the problems I think that the record company always had with Go West was that Richard and I never really played the publicity game so we were difficult for them to market because we in our naivety continued to try to make it be about the music when one would have to acknowledge that it's about a bit more than just that. So although people might be very familiar with the songs because they've heard them on the radio they might have no idea about the people behind them, so doing 'Reborn' was good idea for me in terms of the fact that people have started to know me...

Even now I get people coming up and saying 'You're that bloke off the telly' but they still don't know my name - that happens to me a lot... or they think I'm Tony! I think that's the nature of being on the TV, people don't always get all the details, but unquestionably it's been good for me and I'm looking forward to this tour and it's nice to be acknowledged as an individual and I hope that this will lead onto bigger and better things.

PUBLIC PERCEPTION AFTER 'REBORN' IS THAT TONY AND YOURSELF MET AND BECAME FRIENDS AS PART OF THAT EXPERIENCE, BUT YOU MENTIONED EARLIER THAT YOU SHARE MANAGEMENT, SO I ASSUME YOU'VE KNOWN EACH OTHER A LONG TIME?

We've only shared management more recently, but my first conversation with Tony was, I think, at the Princes Trust Concert in 1985 and Spandau Ballet and Go West were labelmates at Chrysalis, so we've been in touch over the years on and off, but certainly seven days a week for eight weeks on 'Reborn' cemented the friendship as closely as it's ever been - we spent a lot of time together and in the context of the other artists on that show we had a fair amount in common...

YOU SAY THAT, BUT YOU REALLY COME ACROSS AS VERY DIFFERENT TYPES OF PEOPLE - TONY COMES ACROSS AS A BIT OF A LAD WHEREAS YOU SEEM A BIT MORE RESERVED...

Well it's Tony's world and we just live in it - to steal Dean Martin's comment about Frank Sinatra!

As you say Tony is the more gregarious of the two of us - in the context of 'Reborn' and this is less directly about Tony, but when the camera is pointed at nine or ten individuals who, whether they acknowledge it or not, are all there for exposure and to increase their profile some people will be more prepared to fill the air than others... and in that sort of environment it's in my nature to keep a low profile.

HOW DOES IT FEEL RIGHT NOW TO BE RIGHT ON THE BRINK OF WHAT IS A PRETTY GRUELLING THREE-MONTH TOUR OF THE UK?

I'm looking forward to it, it's going to be great... the upside of not having a record deal is that I'm very relaxed and I'm enjoying the live performing more than ever I think, so I'm going to try and keep myself in some sort of shape and hope that my voice will hold out because I've never done such an intense period of touring before... but the nature of the show is that it's not me on stage for an hour and then Tony onstage for an hour, we're actually on together for a good proportion of the time so we're sharing the vocal workload so it isn't a question of screaming at the top of my lungs for an hour and a half as it would be if it was a Go West live show. I hope that will make it all a little bit easier on me vocally, but there's no question that it's going to be hard going and we both like a glass of wine so I'll have to be careful about that but I'm looking forward to it very much.

HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT CHOOSING THE MATERIAL YOU'RE GOING TO PERFORM?

Obviously there are some Go West tunes in there, Tony will be singing some Spandau songs, but the process of choosing songs that two guys can sing as duets without the unwanted double entendre has been a tricky one actually - we can't really sing a love song together without being seen to be fluttering our eyelashes at each other which is not what we're trying to achieve...

I CAN'T EVEN PICTURE IT!

You don't want to! Overall we've gone for high energy, guitar orientated material - there's a couple of Robert Palmer songs in there because those songs lend themselves to two singers who are exchanging lines and choruses, so it has been interesting.

Also we wanted all the material to be instantly recognisable to the audience so in a way there's a greatest hits element to it even though some of the songs won't be hits you immediately associate with Tony or myself. People will know the songs and there will be a singalong element... if that's what you want to do!

IS IT POSSIBLE THAT YOU AND TONY WILL WRITE TOGETHER?

Well he's never asked me, but if I was invited then sure, always.

YOUR NEW SOLO ALBUM 'DESERT BLOOMS' IS SIMILAR ISN'T IT, IN THAT IT'S A COMBINATION OF ORIGINAL MATERIAL OF YOUR OWN ALONGSIDE SOME COVER VERSIONS?

Yes it's basically what I've managed to record over the last two years by calling in favours from friends and supportive players, and people with studios who have helped me out - it's a compilation almost of bits and pieces - some of the songs have already had a limited release but there are half a dozen previously unreleased songs on the album...

WHERE DOES THE TITLE 'DESERT BLOOMS' COME FROM?

Well, it's difficult to make things happen without record company support and I was hoping that the title would suggest that in an arid environment this is what I've still managed to do...

DO YOU HAVE ANY PARTICULAR EXPECTATIONS FOR THE ALBUM?

No. I really don't actually - because some of the songs are previously released and I realise that there is a small hardcore of fans I'm anxious that they know what the album involves so that no-one feels taken advantage of - but in a sense it illustrates how I've managed to embrace my current reality... it's my album, it's out there right now, it would be unrealistic to expect it to get on the radio so we will see how many people coming to the shows on this tour are interested enough to want to see what I'm doing...

IS IT FRUSTRATING NOT TO HAVE THAT RECORD COMPANY BACKING, OR IS IT MORE A CASE OF IT BEING LIBERATING?

It's both! On one hand it would be great to have a record company budget that would allow you to spend more time, and make the mistakes that I think are part of the creative process, exploring directions and so on, but on the other hand there's no interference and as it's unlikely that I'm going to get any radio play then theoretically I'm free to do what the hell I like and be as arty and self-indulgent (laughs) as I wish! Having said that, this is not that kind of record - I haven't recorded covers in any unrecognisable self- indulgent way, I've just tried to bring something of myself to them.

DO YOU ENJOY RECORDING, THE ACTUAL BEING IN THE STUDIO AND PUTTING EVERYTHING TOGETHER?

Yes I do... I think, although I've not said it in the past, that the live performance is preferable - even though the two experiences are completely different I don't find that ideas in the studio flow as freely for me as a writer as they do for many other writers, whereas the live thing is very immediate - the lights go down, hopefully the audience cheers and you just have to get on with it and what will be will be and you just have to go on the audience's reaction - most of the time thankfully that's positive and if everybody's happy then your job is done!

I SUPPOSE THAT BELIEF IN LIVE PERFORMANCE IS REFLECTED IN THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE TWO LIVE DVDs COMING OUT - ONE FROM GO WEST AND ONE FROM COX & HADLEY...

Yes... it's frightening really!

DO YOU CONSIDER THEM A SET - TWO DIFFERENT SIDES OF WHAT YOU DO?

I think they're quite different really, in my world, because I'm responsible for writing most of the material we play in the Go West show and by necessity it's mostly covers in the show that Tony and I have put together, so I would say that they are two different things.

I'VE ALREADY MENTIONED MOST OF THE HUGE NUMBER OF ACTIVITIES THAT YOU ARE CURRENTLY INVOLVED IN, BUT HAVE YOU ALREADY STARTED THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE?

I went to Australia with Richard as part of the Australian 'Here & Now' tour at the end of last year, and although we were the lowest profile of the European bands on the bill the reaction to us was very positive and there is talk of Tony and myself or Tony and Go West going back to Australia later in the year - we'd obviously both like to be playing in America and although there's nothing concrete yet we're hoping something will come out of that...

Live work is pretty busy until June which is a nice state of affairs, and then there's the on-going writing and recording process - the fact that I didn't have an entire album of previously unreleased material this time round has made me realise that if I'm unlikely to have any substantial budgets then it's in my interest to continue writing and recording all the time in the hope that I can reach a point where I can put out another album of original material... I'm just keeping on doing what I'm doing really!

January 2004

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