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GO WEST (PETER COX) INTERVIEW [2010]

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE LOOKING BACK ON TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF GO WEST?

Well… it does feel like it's gone by very quickly but I guess that's a fairly predictable thing for me to say, but in some ways it really does seem like yesterday.

WHAT DID YOU SET OUT TO ACHIEVE WITH GO WEST? WAS IT THE MONEY? THE FAME? THE GIRLS?

None of the above actually, as unfashionable as it sounds to say it, it was all about the music. Richard and I have said many times that we understand now that it's to our cost that we never really had a master plan. I remember reading about Duran Duran who were working towards world domination from day one… I'm not sure how much of PR thing that was to say, but maybe the guys really did have world domination in mind!

Richard and I got together because we both loved music and we had similar musical tastes. We spent a long time drinking beer and cheap wine, and listening to music because we didn't really have very much money, and we spent what we had on buying new albums and pouring over the liner notes to see which musicians were playing on which albums, and eventually that led to us trying to write some songs together.

One thing led to another but ultimately, though a mutual friend, we stumbled across a publishing deal with ATV Music and they saw us as writers for ourselves, rather than writers for other artists, and they stuck with us for three years while we failed - well, they failed I suppose - to get anywhere… but to be turned down by every record label in the country is a very familiar story. We got very tired of people saying 'but we don't hear a single', the record company mantra of the day, so we set out to write something that we thought was really commercial. That song was 'Call Me' and that was the song that finally got us through the door!

AND TO BRING THINGS FULL CIRCLE YOU'VE DONE A NEW VERSION OF 'CALL ME' FOR RELEASE THIS YEAR HAVEN'T YOU?

We have re-recorded the song. It was an interesting challenge, certainly for me as a singer, to address something that I sang nearly thirty years ago with all the changes to my voice as I've got older… I think I've been pretty successful, Richard has been very complimentary about my vocal on the song, but certainly the backing vocals - that I also did on the original single - they were a lot more challenging, I find those high falsetto notes a real challenge! The re-recording of 'Call Me' - and also of 'King Of Wishful Thinking' and 'We Close Our Eyes' - those three songs are bonus tracks for a new album we're working on at the moment. I think perhaps too much attention has been given to the re-recordings, although I can understand why that would be!

WHICH IS MY CUE TO ASK ABOUT THE NEW SONG, 'SKIN DEEP', WHICH IS COMING OUT AT THE SAME TIME AS THE A-SIDE OF YOUR NEW DIGITAL SINGLE WITH THE NEW 'CALL ME' ON THE B-SIDE AS IT WERE…

'Skin Deep' is a brand new track and that one came about because we share management with Tony Hadley and there was a joint project mooted that didn't really come to fruition, but at that time we were working with Tony and he brought in the beginnings of a song to Richard and I and we kind of took the ball and ran with it, the idea being that Tony might record the song - and there's still a possibility that Tony might record a version of the song - but as I say the project we were working on fell by the wayside but the reaction we got to the song, from our management and from potential publishers, was so positive that we thought we'd just put it out.

FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH I THINK IT'S A GREAT SONG, IS IT REPRESENTATIVE OF WHAT YOUR NEW MATERIAL SOUNDS LIKE?

Well, as I say, we did try to tailor that song to the project we were working on at that time… so, in that I'm singing it and Richard is playing on it then I suppose that it is representative. But also, particularly from a personal standpoint, when we were making the first Go West album I was really keen to make sure that the album had real continuity, that all the music on it sounded as if it was recorded and played by the same band… but in this day and age I have discovered that lots of albums I enjoy are because the things on them are so different.

An artist like Lewis Taylor for instance, I've bought pretty much everything he's done because I'm a huge fan and one of the things I like about what he does is that when one track finishes and the next one starts you really have no idea what you're about to hear, and I kind of like that. So we are now allowing each new song to take shape and be whatever it's going to be rather than trying to shape it into any sort of a big picture… we have a couple of more guitar-oriented rock songs already in the can, 'Skin Deep' and a cover of another gentle acoustic thing… the new album will be eclectic.

I'M SLIGHTLY CONFUSED ABOUT THE NEW ALBUM… THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT SOMETHING CALLED 'BOX 25' WHICH I THINK IS AN ANNIVERSARY BOXSET OF SOME SORT, BUT I HAVE ALSO HEARD ABOUT A RELEASE CALLED '3D'… DO THESE THINGS OVERLAP AT ALL OR ARE THEY COMPLETELY DIFFERENT?

Well they are kind of the same thing. The new album is called '3D' and it's part of the content that will make up 'Box 25'… the first part of those releases is an EP called '3D Part 1' which includes the 'Skin Deep' single, and 'Call Me' and three other tracks and the plan is to release two more EPs later this year to make up the full album.

DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO REISSUE ANY OF THE BACK CATALOGUE TO MARK THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY? PERHAPS IN EXPANDED EDITIONS WITH B-SIDES AND REMIXES AND EVERYTHING?

Well that would be great and I would certainly be very supportive of it, but that is completely in the hands of the record label because they own those masters. I know the first Go West album has been re-released on a budget label - something my manager was absolutely fuming over - but in terms of 'Bangs & Crashes', well there are no plans that I know about but I wouldn't mind having a copy myself! It would be great if it were to happen but I guess these decisions are down to what the record company thinks the profit margin might be so I'm afraid that's all outside my control.

YOU HAVE YOUR TWENTY-FIFTH ANNIVERSARY TOUR COMING UP VERY SOON, IS THAT SOMETHING YOU'RE LOOKING FORWARD TO?

Absolutely. It's always great to get out an play and we do have great fans you know? They are always really supportive and we're looking forward very much to seeing all those familiar faces again. We're often asked what people can expect from the shows… there are of course certain songs that people expect to hear and we will be playing all of those tunes, plus there will be some material from the 'Futurenow' album which came out last year and a little bit of material from '3D'.

We've also got into the habit of playing covers by contemporary artists that people might not necessarily expect a band like ourselves to be playing because there is a preconception about Go West that we are a certain kind of thing. We are that thing, but we are also more than that and when we've gone out and played in the past for example we've done a version of 'Crazy In Love', and even I thought that was a risk! But we played it at Shepherds Bush Empire and it went down really, really well and you can almost sense people thinking 'blimey, I wasn't expecting that'! So we are currently brainstorming on what those covers might be on this tour, but there will be some.

IS THERE A CHANCE OF ANY SPECIAL GUESTS ONSTAGE AT ANY OF THE SHOWS?

There aren't any definite plans but I'd say it's a distinct possibility. When we played at Birmingham Symphony Hall on our twenty-first anniversary tour Tony Hadley joined us on stage… so it's a possibility but no definite plans yet!

DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO TAKE THE TOUR OUTSIDE THE UK THIS YEAR AT ALL?

At the moment it's just the UK, but this year is shaping up to be one of the busiest we've had. Aside from the tour we're playing a number of summer festivals - including the Henley Rewind Festival again which was absolutely fantastic last time - and then some more Go West club dates in the Autumn and then there's the possibility of an arena tour running up to Christmas. So there's a lot going on and the reason I say all that is that I think next year everyone is going to see a bit less of us in the UK and hopefully we'll have the opportunity then to take the show elsewhere.

We've been dying to get to America but the trick is making that financially viable. We might not be able to take our regular Go West band but as soon as we find ourselves with a workable offer we'd love to play America… we continued to have success into the nineties, particularly in America, with 'King Of Wishful Thinking' and 'Faithful' which was the follow up to that, and both were top ten singles in the US so I'd like to think there's an audience out there for us! We've also had wonderful times in Australia and we'd seize any opportunity to go back there with both hands…

AND SOMETHING ELSE THAT'S KEEPING YOU BUSY IS THE FACT THAT YOU HAVE A NEW SOLO ALBUM OUT TOO DON'T YOU?

Well… initially that wasn't presented to me as a project that was going to see the light of day as an album but it turned out well… I was given a CD of eighteen songs from which I had to choose eleven, so I did have something to do with the choice of material, but the reason the album is called 'The S1 Sessions' is that all the material is published by S1 songs… so I didn't really choose the material, and I obviously didn't write any of the material, which is quite a different proposition from records I've made in the past where generally

I have been one of the writers and certainly I have been instrumental in the direction and as controlling as I possibly can be! Having said that, once the songs for 'The S1 Sessions' were chosen I had a completely free hand in how I wanted to approach them and record them, and in actual fact there was less record company interference than I was used to in the past! Anyway, it came out well enough that everybody agreed that it was something that we should make available so we've brought it out in time to have it available on the tour.

WELL I'VE BEEN ENJOYING IT AND I THINK IT'S PARTICULARLY GOOD FOR PLAYING IN THE CAR, IT'S A GOOD DRIVING RECORD!

Well I'm glad you like it. As I said there were some songs that were presented to me, like 'Little Rachel' which I thought was an Eric Clapton song but it wasn't written by him, and I'm really pleased with my version because it kind of harks back to the kind of seventies blues-rock bands that I was listening to when I met Richard, although I realise that it's quite different from something we might do with Go West… Richard would run a hundred miles in the opposite direction if we started sounding like that! So it comes with a certain amount of trepidation in putting it out and making Go West fans aware of it…

IT'S FUNNY BECAUSE WHEN I FIRST PICKED IT UP AND LOOKED AT THE TITLES OF ALL THE TRACKS I DIDN'T KNOW A LOT OF THEM, BUT WHEN I HEARD THE SONGS THEMSELVES I RECOGNISED MOST OF THEM…

Well I'm not really a fan of country music, and there are a couple of ballads on the record that I'm pretty sure came out of Nashville, and the original versions of those songs had a strong country flavour and while they might not have been so successful in the UK I think a couple of them have been absolutely gigantic in the USA which is what led the publishing company to want new versions of those songs for possible use in movie soundtracks and sync licenses and things…

IT'S QUITE AN EXUBERANT ALBUM ISN'T IT? IT KIND OF FEELS LIKE YOU'VE JUST GONE IN AND HAD FUN, IT HAS A VERY 'LIVE' FEEL TO IT FOR ME, WAS THAT A DELIBERATE THING?

Listen, your words are music to my ears! Making a record with Richard - in the best possible way - is the product of two different tastes with an equal say in what goes on and this album was made without Richard so in that sense I was free to do some things that I might not have got away with working with Richard! It is really great that you use these words about the album because yes, there is some freedom in a way to be able to express those rather more retro influences that I have, to play some more bluesy things.

I'm a big fan of John Mayer's, he's obviously a very smart guy, even if he does say daft things in the press, but he is very smart in the sense that he has two separate careers going on; kind of a pop career with things like 'Your Body Is A Wonderland' which won a Grammy, and on the other hand he has the trio where he seems to be single-handedly trying to introduce the blues to a whole new generation of people. Even though I'm lower middle-class from Twickenham the blues just speaks to me, I don't know why, I mean I've never worked down a coal mine or on a chain-gang or anything but I love that kind of music and it was great to do… so perhaps that's what you're hearing, the excitement and the freedom to be able to put a little bit of that into what's going on.

IS IT POSSIBLE THAT ANY OF THESE SONGS WILL CROSS INTO THE LIVE SHOWS FOR GO WEST, OR IS IT A CASE OF THE TWO SHALL NEVER MEET?

They're pretty separate. As I say Richard is… we got together initially because we have similar tastes in music, but Richard is very wary of the blues thing, he has an expression for it which is 'ginger whiskers'… I don't really know what he means by that! He uses it for anything that he thinks is a bit 'elderly' sounding, and certainly those blues things - although not the treatment we have given them on this record - don't appeal to him in the way they do to me, so I don't think any of them will be surfacing at a Go West show any time soon!

SOMETHING ELSE THAT SEEMS TO BE KEEPING YOU BUSY IS YOUR NEW ROLE AS SINGER FOR MANFRED MANN'S EARTH BAND, YET ANOTHER PART OF YOUR LIFE…

For one reason and another Richard and I weren't on the same page about making another album in the middle of last year, and after not being very lucky with radio support for the 'Futurenow' album Richard was a little demoralised while I was wanting to be immediately writing songs and recording another album. So it seemed that we weren't going to be making another record any time soon and I then got a call from Jimmy Copley who played in the second incarnation of the Go West live band, and who was playing drums for Manfred, because a situation had arisen and he wanted to know if I'd be interested. At the time it seemed that the Go West train had pulled into a station for the time being so I thought I'd try and see if I could make these two things work concurrently.

I had a few meetings with Manfred, during the course of which I auditioned for the band, and I explained that Go West was my project and I needed that to be my priority but that if he felt I could do those two things at the same time then I'd love to be involved, that's how that all came about.

IS IT QUITE NICE FOR YOU TO WORK WITH ANOTHER GROUP IN THAT SUDDENLY YOU DON'T HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE SONGS, THE HISTORY THE BUSINESS, AND YOU CAN JUST SING?

Well that was one of the things that attracted me to it, because for the most part throughout my career I've been the boss, or one of the bosses, and in this instance I'm just a soldier in the army so like you say it's a totally different experience. Also the Go West show is, I suppose, a situation where Richard and I work very much with a pop sensibility, the structures of the arrangements are very concise and to the point. The structures of the songs are for the most part the same as the original singles or they refer to elements from the 'Bangs & Crashes' album where there was a 12" arrangement of the song. Manfred's approach is very much more improvisational which is an approach I haven't worked in for a really long time. On one level I was quite nervous about it but obviously it's good to step out of your comfort zone and hopefully something good will come of it…

THERE'S A LOT OF MANFRED MAN DATES COMING UP AREN'T THERE?

There are a lot of dates but Manfred has been very flexible and - certainly in the summer when I'm doing the festival dates with Richard - there will actually be another singer working with Manfred Mann… I'm not going to be working with the Earth Band through the summer, there's pretty much three months when any dates they do will feature another singer. As I said, right from the start I had to be very clear that the two things had to be able to work concurrently, and so far so good, it does seem to be working!

MARCH 2010

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