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KAJAGOOGOO (NICK BEGGS) INTERVIEW [2004]

NICK BEGGS, YOU ARE A MUSICIAN, PRODUCER, JOURNALIST, MANAGER, MUSICAL DIRECTOR, HUBAND, AND FATHER, YOU'RE ALSO WORKING ON RELAUNCHING KAJAGOOGOO AFTER TWENTY YEARS... HOW DO YOU FIT IT ALL IN?

The way it always to work is that either everything happens at once or nothing happens at all - at the moment everything is happening at once!

SINCE REFORMING KAJAGOOGOO FOR VH-1's 'BANDS REUNITED' YOU'VE DECIDED TO CONTINUE WORKING TOGETHER, ALBEIT AS A THREE-PIECE... WHERE ARE YOU AT WITH THAT WHOLE PROJECT?

There's a story there, because after the VH-1 show we were offered a tremendous amount of work touring, and I said to the guys that we should meet up and talk about it all because there was so much interest...

MONEY TO BE MADE, AND FUN TO BE HAD!

Exactly! Anyway, a lot of water has passed under the bridge and the VH-1 thing was very good spirited and we thought OK, let's give this a go... so we sat down and had dinner and I explained the various offers... this in Europe, this in America, this in the far East... and unfortunately - and this is the sad part of the story - Limahl pulled out a list of conditions that we kind of felt was unfair...

WASN'T THAT KIND OF THE SAME SCENARIO AS WHEN LIMAHL LEFT THE BAND TWENTY YEARS AGO?

Yes it is, they accused us of learning nothing from life - my experience is don't make the same mistake twice... we are still very happy to work with Jez and Limahl but it cannot be on the same footing as we left off twenty years ago.

SURELY THAT WAS WHY YOU LEFT OFF TWENTY YEARS AGO...

Exactly. We are more than happy to have them come back with us and tour with us and be part of the project, but just to turn the clock back twenty years as if it never happened and wipeout a whole lot of business and financial ramifications that we have had to deal with but they haven't - therefore it has become... I wouldn't say acrimonious because I don't feel acrimonious to them, but I think that Limahl feels very acrimonious about it all and I'm really sorry he feels that way...

HOW DID YOU ALL GET ON FOR THE ACTUAL VH-1 SHOW - FOR ALL THE REHEARSALS AND EVERYTHING, WERE YOU TOGETHER A LOT?

We weren't really, but Steve, Stu and I are still company directors and we're still best mates and we wouldn't be doing any of this if we didn't get along and like each other, and with Steve and I being neighbours and working together practically every day that's really the proof of the pudding, and Stuart is part of that too...

GIVEN HOW WELL THAT TRIO GETS ON, WOULD KAJAGOOGOO EVER HAVE REVIVED EVEN IF THE VH-1 SHOW HADN'T HAPPENED?

The thing is, to be honest with you, I had implemented certain pre-cursive measures that facilitated the VH-1 thing because over the years different people have approached us about reforming and each time we've evaluated it we felt that something bigger was around the corner, and in preparation for that we even went out and bought an analogue 8-track Tascam machine to transfer the backing tapes onto digital so that if and when we were ever in a situation where we had to play live very quickly we would have a backing track situation and that's why the VH-1 thing came together so quickly because when it did happen we had already done over a week's worth of preparation expecting something to come along at some point in the future, so I think there was a certain inevitability to it all. I think that's one of the reasons that the VH-1 thing turned out so well!

WAS IT A FUN THING TO DO?

It was just great... it was totally fantastic and genuinely real... the only thing I will say - the one thing I wasn't happy about was the way in which Limahl's reasons for being expelled from the band were broadcast. The idea that he was too pop and we wanted to be more rock. That was a little bit too saccharine for my liking and there were a tremendous amount of subtexts to the reason why he left the band. I suppose, because we thought if we're going to do this we're going to do it with the right spirit, nobody did the big slag off and nobody got the knives out and we're still not going to do that, but that whole idea... you start to get a bit of backlash, people going 'Oh you shouldn't have sacked Limahl, you guys would have been more successful with him' and that's all based on people only seeing the tip of the iceberg...

I IMAGINE THAT OVER A TWENTY-YEAR PERIOD IT MUST BE VERY EASY TO DILUTE DOWN A DIFFICULT SITUATION INTO SOMETHING THAT'S REALLY NOTHING MORE THAN A SOUNDBITE...

And of course America loves its Disney endings... often what you mean and what you say are left on the cutting room floor, so it was a little saccharine, but other than that it was a very good bit of TV... probably the best of the series!

SO ARE KAJAGOOGOO WRITING NEW STUFF AT THE MOMENT?

Yes, we've written a new track called 'Tears' which is a very ambient kind of sound... we're listening to a lot of stuff like Air and I think that's the kind of direction - if it's going to translate - that the band's going to go in...

I don't think we're going to be looking a major record sales or anything like that. If we're lucky we'll get a release through EMI but failing that we'll do something through the website. But I love the track, even if the vocals haven't been mixed properly yet... but as you can tell I can be very analytical over everything and I like to take time over every little aspect of what we do, or whatever I do because basically I don't have to rush at all!

I WAS ABOUT TO SAY THAT SOUNDS LIKE THE WAY IT SHOULD BE, BUT I SUPPOSE IT'S ALSO A DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD WHERE YOU DON'T REALLY HAVE AN INCENTIVE TO EVER FINISH SOMETHING?

I think particularly in this case - because it's the first thing we've released in twenty years - we want people to go 'That's really Kajagoogoo, but I can hear a new sound in there'... so I want to be happy with it you know?

SO WILL 'TEARS' BE A SINGLE?

We did think about it as a single because it's the first thing we've done, but we actually have so much material that we could record... we could probably do three albums but the thing is the time aspect; Steve and I have to get Industrial Salt done and we have also been working with EMI to remaster all the Kajagoogoo albums...

YOU HAVE SOME US APPEARANCES COMING UP - WHICH I ASSUME WILL BE PA-TYPE PERFORMANCES, BUT WILL THERE BE MORE THAN THAT SORT OF LIVE SHOW IN THE FUTURE?

Well last night we were offered another bunch of shows in America...

FANTASTIC!

Well it is and it isn't... what we have here is an embarrassment of riches - we have a lot of work coming up, and possibly more that we're actually capable of doing, but I do want us to do shows - I see it as a sort of personal challenge now, at 42, to go out and make a statement, live and valid and for the fans to say 'God those guys sound great' - I take that very personally where before it was a very daunting thing.

SO THE WHOLE THING HAS SORT OF FLIPPED OVER FOR YOU?

Yeah... when we went out as Kajagoogoo without Limahl I was the lead singer but I didn't play very much bass because we took a bass player with us, but now I'm going to be playing the bass parts and sing and that's a lot of work to get under my fingers and honestly I don't think I would do it if it hadn't been for the time that I worked with John Paul Jones... he taught me that you can do anything if you put your mind to it, and he showed me that I was capable of doing anything that I put my mind to because he pushed me to such a limit, beyond my physical abilities, that it was like doing a University degree!

WORKING WITH SOMEONE LIKE THAT MUST HAVE BEEN INCREDIBLE...

It was truly an honour... it was like the thumbprint of God on my back and that's the way I still feel it was, because those records - every one of those Led Zeppelin records that he made - resonate for me and are among the most influential music ever made, and I listened to that while I was growing up; John Paul Jones and Chris Squires from Yes, Geezer Butler from Black Sabbath and really totally absorbed what they were saying through their instruments. It was almost like somebody speaking in a really crowded room and no-one could hear this voice except me, and when I put these records on there were bass-lines that were so intelligent and eloquent they told you so much about the person who made them, they just seduced me and that became the thing that I had to do.

YOU WORK WITH A HUGE NUMBER OF EIGHTIES ARTISTS TOO, MANY OF THEM THROUGH YOUR MUSICAL DIRECTOR WORK FOR THE 'HERE & NOW' TOURS... IS THE 'HERE & NOW' TYPE CIRCUIT SOMETHING YOU'D LIKE TO DO WITH KAJAGOOGOO THIS TIME AROUND?

No, I don't think we'll be doing any 'Here & Now' type stuff, the reason being that I don't know whether there's enough interest in the UK - in America there is which is ironic, but I think in the UK without Limahl there's not enough interest. If we had Limahl on board I think we would get some interest for things like that...

I MIGHT BE PROJECTING HERE, BUT I IMAGINE THAT SITUATION COULD BE QUITE REFRESHING IN THAT IT ALLOWS YOU, THE NEW KAJAGOOGOO, TO BE WHATEVER YOU WANT TO BE?

Yes, I think it does actually free us up to be more contemporary in our thinking because in a lot of respects we can experiment a lot more with the things that Steve, Stu and I are passionate about, whereas if we went out with the original five-piece as an 'eighties' act I think it would have to be more retrospective... going out as we are we will be playing the hits but when we make the next record we will be able to be more experimental and take some risks...

WHICH I IMAGINE WILL BE MORE EXCITING...

Personally it is, but there's less money in it!

HOW IMPORTANT IS THE MONEY?

I think money is very important to everybody; I try to live my life as though it doesn't matter but I'm a very careful person with money. I make sure that we live well within our means and I don't let my wife have a credit card! (loud laughter) We've all been in debt and we all understand the burden of debt, but I'm afraid society is spiralling towards a place where it untenable to continue the way we are. Environmentally and financially we cannot live in a world where we have to better last year's figures from an industrial level on a global scale to a personal home economic level you just can't live like that...

Having said all that there are times when I will turn work down because I don't want to work with that person, or because I just don't feel I should be doing it...

AFTER KAJAGOOGOO ORIGINALLY SPLIT YOU WORKED IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY AS AN A&R MAN FOR A WHILE DIDN'T YOU? I DON'T SUPPOSE YOU MISS THOSE DAYS...

I'd do it all again in a heartbeat, I really would... I loved it - it was really great and I pissed a lot of people off, but I really enjoyed it... not the pissing people off but genuinely making records from an artistic point of view rather from the headspace of commerce, and coming across people who genuinely had a lot of ability but the record company just couldn't see it and could only see them in terms of a potential sales-sheet. Then seeing what's happened to a lot of people since, people like Skunk Anansie who in those early days weren't ready to be signed and it took another good year, more than that, and even Oasis who sent me stuff and was talking to them and then I got made redundant!

ALTHOUGH I SUPPOSE ALL THOSE GOOD THINGS ARE STILL A BIG PART OF YOUR LIFE IN THAT YOU CAN MAKE RECORDS FROM AN EMOTIONAL AND CREATIVE POINT OF VIEW RATHER THAN FROM A COMMERCIAL STANDPOINT...

Um, yes... although I am trying to apply both with Industrial Salt and I'm very much trying to be a business manager as well as a musician and writer. I heard Simon Cowell say something - and I don't very often listen to what he says - and he said something that I thought was very interesting, he said 'I Want to make records that I like, and I know that if I like it somebody else will', and I look back at some of the records I've made and I think 'no that's just too cringe worthy' or 'that's just daft, what was I thinking', but some of the later stuff I've just made from the solar plexus and it's just kind of got more... staying power, and I hope that will be the case with Industrial Salt.

WHAT EXACTLY IS THE 'INDUSTRIAL SALT' PROJECT?

It's two girls - they're very young, only seventeen, which I think is probably too old for the music industry in this day and age... they seem to like pre-pubescent's now don't they? But I'm going to go out on a limb here and stick with it because they're really great. The thing about them is that they're just really unassuming young kids who are very bright and have a lot of ideas and attitude about music and life, but also hate so much... I don't mean that they hate everything but there is so much in the music industry and the world that they just detest, and I identify with that I really do, because I get so angry about things. I think my wife despairs of me (in the background there is a muffled 'Yes' from Nick's wife Ann) and thinks I should go on 'Grumpy Old Men' because I can't watch television, and I can't go out, and I can't listen to the radio - apart from radio 4 - there are just SO many things that just make me seethe!

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Long story, but what happened was that one of my colleagues - Steve Askew from Kajagoogoo, who is virtually my neighbour and lives over the road - has a studio and has some students and one day about a year ago he said 'I've been teaching this girl since she was thirteen and now we're doing a piece of music for her music A-level and she's brought her mate in to sing it while she plays guitar, and what do you think of this song?' and I listened to it and I said that it was a hit record... so we started working on some other stuff over the past year and it's gone really well.

We've sent stuff off to various places and we've got Japanese investment and a couple of labels over here are showing some interest, and they keep on calling to see if the girls are ready to see live yet, and I keep saying not yet, not yet because I want it all to be right first. Stylistically I'd put it between Garbage and Shampoo...

SO WHAT EXACTLY IS YOUR ROLE IN ALL OF THIS?

Writer, musician, A&R man, producer manager and cat juggler! Along with my partner Steve Askew... but I think it will be at least another year because we're still embryonic and we have to put the right band together around them - at the moment Steve and I are playing for them, and I don't know if we will continue to play for them or get a younger band in - I don't want it to look like two girls with a couple of crusty old men in the background. But it's all coming together and we've got David Stopps Management coming in to help us, who look after Howard Jones...

SO, WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU... THERE'S LOADS ON THE HORIZON FOR KAJAGOOGOO AND FOR ALL YOUR OTHER PROJECTS, HOW DO YOU SEE IT ALL UNFOLDING?

Well the first thing I need to do it to buy ant powder because the house has been overrun with ants! Then I have to practise the Kajagoogoo music and vocals, I have to rehearse with the band and tweak the live set, I've got to start production on the Industrial Salt album because the money has come through from japan, I have to set up contracts between my production company and Industrial Salt and the management company, I've also got a few gigs with other people... ABC have quite a lot of shows coming up, last week I did a couple of shows with Nick Heyward, Toyah and Ben from Curiosity... corporate shows, and I'm off to Nick's birthday party tonight... funnily enough Nik Kershaw came over last week and Ann said we should do a tour... 'The Three Nicks' so maybe we'll do that too!

Oh, and I'm going to interview Chris Squire - I'm going to one of the Yes concerts in Exeter and I'm going to interview him for my bass magazine and it's going to be a cover story as well...

But first I have to buy ant powder!

MAY 2004

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