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About the new album and not only - 2
Chris Norman's interviews digest. Germany, autumn 2013.
 

How long did you work on the album?

— I started thinking about the songs, I guess, early last year, about February-March and then working on the songs, writing them. And then went in the studio about September and we recorded it very quickly, in a couple of weeks. Then I had to mix it and everything else. So, I guess, the process from start to finish was probably about 6-7 months.

“Gypsy Queen” is a great pop music, sounds like Smokie. Didn't you initially want to make a harder, rock music?

— I just make the music that comes out. When I did that album the idea was just to come up with a good collection of songs. And there are some hard rock songs on there, there's a couple of songs which are fairly heavy. But also there are some ballady things and other kind of stuff. The main theme of the album is that it's real and it's live and we recorded it as a band, sitting and looking to each other. And that was the main idea. Whether it was hard rock or soft rock, ballady or whatever, doesn't matter.

Did you intend to do anything in particular beforehand, or did you just wait and see where the journey takes you?

— The main thing was to get it back to being how it used to be in the old days, to play it like we used to in the Smokie times, when we go to the studio and record as a band. And so I took my touring band into the studio. I already had the songs, Iíd done little demos of them, and so everybody knew all the material. We went in the studio and just sat looking on each other in a room, like in the old days, and played the songs. Somebody would come with a good idea, weíd say, great, letís leave that or letís put that one out. And when we got it right we recorded it. Pretty much it was nearly there then, you know.

Why have you called the album in such a way?

— Iíve called it “There and back” just because I have been in the music business for such a long time. Somebody said to me, you know, it's 45 years since you were starting being a professional musician. So I thought about the fact that I have been starting from that position. I went a long way with Smokie, I travelled the world, I did a lot of things, the solo stuff, the Smokie stuff and different projects like working with other people. So I have been “there” like I had hoped to. And now it's like I'm “back”, because this album is very rootsy, it's going back to where I started from.

And also my grandma – I used to say, grandma, where have you been and she was saying, there and back and just see how far it is. And I thought, well, I call the album that, “There and back and see how far it is”. But that was too long, so I just changed it to just “There and back”, it was a bit shorterÖ

Which one is your favourite on the album?

— Well, I like all of them really. Itís difficult to pick one out when youíve just done it. It usually takes me a year or two before I go back and listen to it again, and then I think, oh, that one I like. And sometimes itís one I didnít think of before. At the moment, I think I like “Wish You Well” a lot, because I like the atmosphere of the way it was recorded. I think itís very very laid back and calming. Itís great to listen to late at night, if you turn the stereo quite loud and just, you know, turn the lights down – itís a nice one to listen to.

I thought of Davey Arthur and The Fureys, of that kind of Irish folk stuff, you know.

—Well, you know, Iíve got Irish background. My grandparents were Irish and I like that kind of Celtic thing anyway. I have that sort of in me, I think. Because if you go somewhere and then an Irish jig comes on, I always want to get up and dance, you know, so Iíve got that kind of thing inside me, that I want to do that. So I guess, when I record stuff, itís a mixture of that. Plus all the things Iíve ever listened to throughout my life including folk music from Bob Dylan, country music from Hank Williams or whoever it might be, plus the Beatles area and rock and everything. Itís all in there somewhere. And so when I write a song, I guess thatís what happens. It all kind of filters through and comes out as whatever it is.

There was one of us thinking, you might have heard Sweet on “My Jenny”...

— Sweet? Do you think it was like Sweet? OK, I never thought... I think, it reminds me of Thin Lizzy more because it has got that kind of “Whiskey In The Jar” thing going for it. And when we wrote that song, the first demo was kind of trying to get away from that. And the more I tried to get away from it, the more it sounded worse, so I just brought it back. And I thought, God, you know, whatís wrong with it if it sounds a bit like “Whiskey In The Jar”? Itís a different song, itís a different melody, itís a different theme. If the actual acoustic sound and the feel of the song is similar, then so what, you know? And in actual fact then, when we came to do the solo, I said – you know, letís just go that way. And we actually pinched a little bit of the solo (sings), that thing. We didnít use that bit, but thereís a bit in the solo which is a bit like “Whiskey In The Jar”. And I thought itís like a little salute to Phil Lynott really.

Talking about the lyrics, I ask myself, when someone is that long in the business and he has a very quiet private life, talking about love and hate and things like this must be a little bit complicated?

— Well, you know, Iíve got experience of 62 years of life. Everything pretty much that can happen to somebody has happened to me, more or less. Not everything, but a lot of things. So I do have experience of life. And also Iíve got kids and I see their ups and downs. So you draw on that and you draw on just things that you know about or feelings that youíve had before, or feelings of somebody you know. So itís not that difficult really. Anyway, when you write lyrics for song, itís kind of like writing a story or a book, only very short, a 2 or 3 minutes book. And if youíve got like a theme or an idea for what youíre writing about, then itís quite easy to expand on that just from things you know or whatever. So itís not really difficult, no.

Most of the time itís about love. And I think, itís interesting to create new stories about it. Leaving, getting together and love between 2 or 3 persons...

— ...or 5 or 6... (laughs)

How do you start to develop the songs? On your own, and then the band will come to the whole thing when you are producing it?

— Yeah. I mean, basically with this album, I started thinking about writing songs, because itís been a while since I did an album full of brand new songs. The last one, “Time Traveller”, was like a covers thing, the one before that was a compilation hits album. So the last time I did it was in 2007. So it was time and I just started to feel like I could write. Because the last few years, I didnít really think there was much to write about, or I didnít have any inspiration for writing songs. And now I did again, Iím talking of the beginning of last year when I started thinking about writing songs for this album. So then I get in the songwriting mode, and that means that all the time, whatever Iím doing, Iím thinking about that, and for that reason you get ideas pop into your head. And if Iím not doing anything, I pick up a guitar or sit on a piano, whatever is an instrument around. The way I write songs, is usually music first, so I come up with a riff or a melody. Generally speaking, when I come up with something which feels like it has come from nowhere, which is the best way to write a song, because if you feel like you are struggling and “what can I write this about” or “what sort of song am I going to write”, it doesnít work. Itís when you sit down, and you just start playing, and you are not looking for anything that something comes. And when that happens, I usually have a few words that go with it, for some reason. They just sort of come out, you know. And then youíve got an idea what the song is about, youíve already got like a little template to see what the song is gonna be about. With “Gypsy Queen”, which was the first single, it was me just sitting, doodling on an acoustic guitar, and I came up with this riff, this guitar feel which was kind of like a Russian wedding or a Gypsy wedding or something, you know. So that suggested what it might be about. And when I started singing, I started straight away singing: “Raven hair and auburn eyes, have you ever seen my beauty queen”. As I went into it and started again with the lyrics, I thought, well, she could be a Gypsy queen. And thatís then sets the things out because you think, “Oh, thatís what Iím gonna write it about”.

I love this song, I played it already.

— You did? Thank you! Do it again :).

I play it every week now :).

— Great! Play it every week, thatís it. Every week, for the rest of your life! (laughs)

Years ago this would have been a brilliant radio hit all over Europe, but today itís a little bit harder, it has changed a little bit. But I think, itís a real good single for the start of the album. And it was really amazing to see the photo that you did, I mean the single cover. It was totally different to all the things Iíve seen before, in the last years, about Chris Norman. What has happened?

— Well, it was just part of a session you start for making an album cover. Then I thought where am I gonna do it, should we do it in London? And then, thereís a photographer that I have used before and that I liked, the pictures heís done, so we asked him to do the session. And heís here in Berlin, so it was easy for me to come to Berlin. The idea with the album title was already “There And Back”, I had that in mind. So we sort of worked on that theme, that I was walking somewhere or driving somewhere or whatever, and we worked on that. Then we hired an old Ford Mustang, which was actually the car I always wished I could have bought before I had any money, but I never did. So it just came together naturally like that. I wanted the pictures to look normal and straight, not studiofied and not glitzified, just like I was walking around, which is how we did it.

Was it taken in Berlin?

— Yes. The front cover of the album is on the street where the Kempinski is. So I was just walking along the street there. And then we just had to black out the title and everything. The one that is in the car – we were going towards the Brandenburg Gate. I was driving, and there was a car in front of me, taking pictures as I was just driving along all the traffic, you know. And then we did a couple where there was a park nearby. It was a quite easy and simple session, it wasnít one of those where you spend 2 or 3 days in the studio, forcing it. It was done simply and naturally.

Itís the normal Chris Norman way to do it.

— Well, thatís the way I prefer, everything as easy as possible, you know (laughs).

Thereís one political song on the album and you wrote it together with your drummer. Is he writing songs normally?

— No, he doesnít normally. Actually, Geoff, the lead guitarist, does and Axel, the bass player, does, but the others donít really. But I wanted them to. I started off the album and Iíd got 7 songs which Iíd written completely. And I wanted more than that obviously. So the next thing I did, was that I was at Pete Spencerís house. Pete is not involved in the band at all and he hasnít been for years. But I still see him a lot, and we are close friends. And I was over his house, and we were talking about the new album, and I played him a couple of demos that Iíd done. The first song that I wrote for the album was “Iím Gone”, which is the first track. And that was the first song, and I played it to him, and he said, it sounds good. You know, it was only a demo, but I liked it, and I played him something else. And I said, well, we havenít written together for years, why donít we write something? If you are fancy, and you want to get a song on this album, we could do something together. He had a couple of ideas and played me a few bits, some pieces, and I straight away picked the song which is now “My Jenny”, and I liked that a lot. And I liked the other one, “Lovers And Friends”, a lot. So we started working on them. So that was that.

And then I went to the Band. I wanted to use my touring band in the studio, because the last album I did in Denmark – Geoff played on it, but I used different musicians. But this time, I wanted my band on it. So I flew them all over to England, and we stayed in the studio with accommodation and did that. So I said to them all, I'd like you to be involved in the album in some way, can you write something? And they all went, ugh, donít know. And I said, well, just anything you come up with, just send me a little mp3 file or whatever. And thatís what they all did. So Dorino, who had never really written a song before, as far as I know, because heís a drummer, he plays with me in a certain style, but he likes sort of funky jazz as well. So he had this groove, you know, this... (sings).. going, with these chords... (sings).. And this groove, thatís all he had. I liked it and I thought, it has got a cool feel about it. So the challenge was then to try to write a melody and just expand the whole thing a bit. So thatís what I did. And as I was writing the melody, the whole idea came about – from Moscow to Manhattan, from the east to the west, you know, people are making decisions without considering what we think about it. And the expression “Did the monkeys take over the zoo?” is an old one. And I thought, thatís what the song is about. And at that particular time, which was last year, there was stuff going on, I mean, there always this stuff is going on, but there was an awful lot on TV about the financial crisis and austerity, you know, we must take austerity measures and da-da-da... And then at the same time, you hear about people spending billions on nonsense, you know. And then the other things, wars and everything... So I just concentrated on the fact that the people, who are running the world, the prime ministers and the presidents of different countries, they seem like they just have come out of school. A lot of them. They donít know what they are doing sometimes, you know :). So the expression “had the monkeys taken over the zoo?” just seems appropriate. So I wrote like a little story about all the different things that are going wrong and then said, “what do you think, did the monkeys take over the zoo?”

I think, that nobody really expected over the years a political statement like this from Chris Norman?

— No, they donít usually :). I have written songs before that had slightly political tendencies. I wrote a song called “Hold On” on an album years ago, which was all about seeing the blood running in the streets of China, which was during the Chinese problems that they had with the students, remember, years ago. And I wrote a song which had that in it and about some other stuff in it.

But itís just because a lot of people donít really know what Iím saying, especially in Germany. They donít follow the lyrics. They either like the song for its sound and its catchiness or they donít really know what itís about anyway, you know. So sometimes itís a bit wasted. But thatís alright, it doesnít matter. But this one just seemed to come out and it fitted with the way the track was and the groove and the feel of it and everything. I was going to call the album that at one point, but the record company didnít think it was a good idea (laughs). I really thought, why donít I just call the album “Did the monkeys take over the Zoo?”, you know...

“Lovers And Friends” could be a really nice next single, in the tradition of the old thing.

— Well, itís funny you should say that, because we put out “Gypsy Queen” in England round about the same time as it came out here. “Gypsy Queen” was getting played on some commercial stations throughout the country, but the BBC didnít want to put it on their playlist because they didnít think it was right for them. So that made it a bit of a problem. Because, if you are not getting on the main playlists and stuff, people arenít getting to know about it. So they sort of gave us a feeling that they would have considered one of the other tracks, which was “Lovers And Friends”. So we are just on a remix, to make it sound on the radio a bit more. Because the mix I did was an album mix. So that actually is coming out at the moment as the next single in England. And we are actually talking about whether we should use that now to sort of re-launch the album, too, which we may do.

When itís coming into the direction of the old harmonies of Smokie and things like that, there was a time when you didnít like it very much...

— I just think, at the beginning, I was really sort of worried that people would be going to say, well, heís just doing the same old stuff, heís not doing anything different, you know. So I felt like I had to try not to do that. But now I donít care, I think. Because it restricts me a bit as well. I write different songs and sometimes they do sound like the same sort of song because itís the same person :). And especially the ones I wrote with Pete. You know, we wrote all those songs like “Mexican Girl” and “San Francisco Bay” and a lot of the stuff that was on the albums and everything else we wrote together. And so if now we come and write something together, it just automatically seems to come out that way. And I donít care. I think, why not? I mean, “Gypsy Queen” wasnít one I wrote with Pete, but that kind of could have been a Smokie track, too.

Werenít you sure whether the single ”Gypsy Queen” fits on the album or not?

— When I wrote that, Iíd done the rest of the stuff and I thought, shall I put this on the album or what? I thought, well, that doesnít really fit with what Iíve been doing, that doesnít fit with the idea for the album. Then I thought, no, maybe not. For a bit I thought, it would have been good for Eurovision thing and maybe I can give it to somebody to do it there, because, you know, itís got a bit of the everything in it. Itís got a bit of the Eastern Europe and a bit of this and that. And itís very catchy, itís very memorable. So, I thought, Iíll do a demo of it anyway. Then, when I did the demo, I thought, well, I quite like the way it sounds with me singing it, so why not record it. And I thought, the way to get it to sound like the rest of the album, is to keep it fairly sort of rootsy. You know, donít put anything fancy on it, just keep it rootsy which was like acoustic guitars, a bit of accordion, just keep it like that. So thatís how I did it and then it came out. And it fits OK, you know.

And then that was the thing for the whole album. Whatever it is: if I like it, and I can sing it, and we can play it as a band – and that was the advantage of having my own band playing on it because I could see straight away that it worked – then why it shouldnít be on the album? I mean, you know, Iím a Beatles fan. And if you listen to all the Beatles albums, you get everything from “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” to “Yesterday” on the same album, you know. So theyíve always done it, and I always loved it. I loved that, when you get like “For No One” and then it goes into “Iím Only Sleeping” or whatever it might be. Itís brilliant for me.

The last one on the album is just for Paul, I think :).

— Well, could be :).

Is there a difference, still today, between pop music coming from the US and pop music coming from the UK?

— No, not really. The girl that is in the band now, sheís from Atlanta and she spent an awful lot of time in Nashville doing the “Grand Ole Opry”, she was involved in that thing. Iím into that, you know, I like that. I love Hank Williams and George Jones and Johnny Cash and some of those guys, I love all that. I mean, thatís where Elvis came from, remember. So itís part of my roots, too, because I listened to that stuff.

And you are doing stuff like this on this album.

— Well, thereís one track called “Hound Dog Blues”, which started off more like electric, a bit heavier, a bit rockier. And in the studio I said, let's strip it back, letís make it rockabilly. And letís think of it in studios, I said to the engineer, Neil, whom Iíve known for years and who is a great engineer, by the way. So I said, letís make it like that. Geoff, the guitar player, and me started to play in that way, and it suddenly sounded like “Thatís All Right, Mama”, and we actually played that for a bit to get into the mood. And then the track just came from that, you know.

So, you know, itís part of my likes and roots from where I came from. I have an American in the Band, whoís come up and grown up with that, too. And of course she has listened to all kinds of pop music as well. So itís no problem.

Itís a beautiful duet you did with her.

— Yeah, thank you. Originally that was the song I just wrote for me, I wasnít gonna do a duet, I had no intentions to do a duet on the album. But it just seemed to lend itself to boy-girl singing, I sing one line, she sings another line and vice versa. It just seemed to go right for that. So yeah, I like it, itís nice. And the idea of that song, when I first started writing it, was to do it sort of a bluesy, soul thing, like an Otis Redding track or something, thatís what I came from.

Most of all you are doing the things on your own now. Is that better than it was when the others did it for you?

— Itís like the best of both worlds now. Because one of the things that I found difficult when I left Smokie, was that, being a solo artist, you had the responsibility completely on your own shoulders, whereas with Smokie you always had the other guys to lean on, you know. For instance, if you were ever doing a show that was really important and you were a bit nervous, you were all nervous. I remember being on stage sometimes, thinking “Oh God, we are playing this huge arena!” But with a look to each other you had that feeling that you were with your mates. And when I went solo suddenly that wasnít there anymore. But then, over the years, Iíve got my own band together and now the touring band that is with me, has been with me for years. Geoff Carline, the guitar player, started working with me in 1991, so heís been around for ages. And the rest of them has been around for quite a while, too. So itís kind of the best of both worlds, because Iíve got the feeling of the camaraderie I have in the group with me and being a frontman of a group, which is what I am. Iím not like a solo artist like Barry Manilow or Cliff Richard or something. Iím a guy that is the frontman of a band. And so Iíve got that feeling back. And I still have the control of what I want to do and what I donít want to do, without having to go to a “committee meeting”, you know. So itís kind of the best of both.

Two years ago, we presented the last concert of Chris Norman. You give everything you've got for 2 hours. Is it an illusion or are you in fact still having a whale of a time?

— I would say probably more than ever. More for now than it has ever been in my life. I figure, after all this time I should have an idea of what Iím doing and I think I know better now than I did, say, 20-30 years ago. And so that makes it more comfortable for me. I know how to be on stage, I know how to talk to an audience, I donít have to pretend, to be anything Iím not... And Iíve got a great band. I love to play, I love the reaction from a live audience. So itís better than ever, yeah.

Did you ever think of a reunion of Smokie?

— Well, itís been talked about often, but it never happened. The last time we really seriously talked about it, was about 1998 which is a while back, 15 years ago. We all sat around and we discussed it, we had a meeting. But it didnít happen. Thereís always somebody that doesnít want to do it, you know. Thereís always somebody goes, “well, yeah, Iíd like to do it”, while somebody else says, “mmm, I donít think I do”. And so, no, I donít really think thatís gonna happen. Itís a bit like going to visit a place you used to go when you were a kid and then finding out it wasnít as big as you thought it was. You know what I mean? Iím not sure whether it would work or not.

Yes. But I think I saw the name of a band called Smokie on posters recently...

— Yeah. Well, there is still... Terry Uttley, who was the bass player of the original Smokie, still in the new Smokie. They work, you know, they still go around, they make albums. Itís not the original guys, itís just Terry with some other people now.

Isnít it strange or unnerving for you, they sing your songs...

— Well, it was a bit, at the beginning, I think, more. You know, at the beginning, we did have a few ideas, it was a bit strange. But Iím kind of used to it now. And Iím not Smokie, Iím Chris Norman, you know, ex-Smokie. The songs that we did with Smokie are still part of my career and part of my life, so when I do tours, I still sing those songs or some of them. But I mix them up with my songs and new songs and everything as well, so I donít have to stick with that one area because Iíve got a lot of other stuff to do as well... And the main thing for me is to make sure Iíve got new material to mix in, otherwise it just gets boring, you know.

Are you still in touch with Suzi Quatro?

— Well, weíve never been like really in touch, itís not like we live near each other. I think she still has a place in Hamburg and she also lives in Essex. So weíve never been near. Weíd see each other mostly when we were at the same record label which was RAK Records in London, and weíd see each other a lot then because we were at the same campus kind of thing. But I donít see her now unless we just happen to be on the same festivals somewhere, which doesnít happen very often either.

There was a revival of the two of you in 1992, totally missed, I must admit. “I Need Your Love”...

— That was just the song Iíd written for me to do on the album “The Growing Years”. And Iíd actually recorded a version with just me singing the whole thing. And a record company just signed Suzi for a singles deal, I think. They rang me up and said, this would be a great duet, would you do this duet with Suzi? And so we said, fine, letís try that. So I just gave them the whole thing and they did her vocal separately. Whereas with “StumbliníIn”, for instance, when we did that, it was a completely different story. We were both in the same studio singing on the same microphone to the vocal on “StumbliníIn”, both singing at the same time. When we did the vocal on “I Need Your Love”, mine was already done and she did hers later.

Youíve done a record with Cynthia Lennon. I think, this must have been a really amazing thing for you, working with the wife of John Lennon.

— Yeah, it was great. I was working with a guy who had a label in the UK. And they wanted to do a song, she wanted to do something. So I went round to her house for dinner with my wife and this guy, I was talking about, with his wife and her and her boyfriend at that time. And we sat and had a dinner and got on fantastic. And for me it was a thrill, you know, to go and have dinner that she made. She cooked, you know. So she made this all dinner and we sat and had this food and chatted and had some wine and so on and talked about what we could do. And I said, Iíve this song called “Walking In The Rain” which I think would suit you, and also why not re-record “Those Were The Days”? Because if anybody can say, those were the days, surely it must be you, you know. So thatís what we agreed. And then I went in the studio, my studio, and she came down to my place and we recorded it. It was great and it was a great experience for me, just having met her and work with her. Because sheís a lovely person, sheís a very down-to-earth and nice person. Sheís just nice and very easy to work with. She said to me that Iíve never done this before, you gonna have to walk me through it, you gonna have to direct me, and I did. So it was fabulous to do that. The only problem was, when the record came out and she went to do things to promote the record, nobody wanted to talk about the record at all, they just wanted to talk about what is was like living with John Lennon :). Obviously. But still, it was good fun.

“Midnight Lady” was produced by Dieter Bohlen. Are you still in contact with him?

— No, not at all. I mean, itís a strange thing because people mention it in Germany, because it was there only in Germany that the Dieter Bohlen record came out, but they mention it quite a lot. But actually Iíve been in the business for 45 years and I spent 3 weeks making an album with Dieter Bohlen. 3 weeks and 45 years, and people still talk about it! And it was like 26 years ago, you know.

You even seem to have fun when the audience is screaming “Who the fÖk is Alice”. This wasn't coined by you.

— (laughs) Well, to be honest, I hated that record. I just disliked it intensely. And I had nothing to do with it, whatsoever I have to saying for that on the record, first of all. It was just a piece of nonsense, as far as I was concerned. But, you know, itís a party thing. People have a few beers and they go: “Oh, I like this one!” Fine! Fine, I donít care. But when I do concerts, if itís a festival and itís an open crowd, then may shout it out, if itís a concert of mine, they donít, which is great. They know that itís not me that did that, so donít shout it out.

Do you still listen to 70s music at home?

— Not really, no. I listen to 60s music quite often. Because the 60s was my era really. The 70s I was part of it, you know, all the groups and the acts that were successful then were my contemporaries. So they were the competition kind of, you know. In the 60s I was a teenager, so I was listening to stuff like a fan. So The Beatles and The Stones, and the Kinks, and The Animals, and Hollies – everybody that was around then – were my heroes, you know. They were the people I listened to, I was excited by them. And itís the same now. People say, you must meet loads of people. Of course you do, when you're doing this music business, doing TV shows and everything. “Arenít you excited when you meet people?” Well, really Iím not. Iím not interested in meeting anybody much :). But, if I come across somebody from the 60s, even though they might be long forgotten by a lot of people, to me itís like – wow, you know, itís the guy from 1965 or whatever! I get more excited by meeting them. And I find they are really nicer people, I donít know, thereís something about the 60s acts that... They are just nicer.

Do you still play vinyl records?

— Sometimes, yeah. Iíve got some LPs that I pull out every now and again. Iíve got loads of LPs actually, but most of them just stay where they are. But occasionally I listen to them. Iíve only got one record player left, itís in the studio. Thereís no record player anywhere else in the house, so I have to go in the studio to listen to vinyl.

You are travelling a lot. I read you had been to Russia. Why did you play the Kremlin?

— Well, because I was asked, you know (laughs). Itís like everywhere, I was asked. The first time I went to Russia was about 1994. And before that I didnít even know they knew anything about me or Smokie. Because you donít know, you know, we werenít informed back in the days when we were doing it. But apparently we were very, very popular in Russia during the 70s and afterwards. So I got asked in 1994 to go to play to Russia, and the first gig, I was ever asked to do, was in the Kremlin Palace theatre. And first of all I thought it would be great fun to go to Russia. Second of all, to play in the Kremlin, that's something, you know. And so I did and we sold it out, and it was a great show, and people went crazy for it, you know. Since then, Iíve been going back to Russia every now and again. But I go everywhere, all kinds of places, so I travel a lot.

To play?

— To play. Always to play, yeah. I donít like travelling, to be honest. I mean, travelling is the nuisance part of the job, because you are always sitting around in airports, driving in cars etc. Thatís the bit you have to put up with to be able to go on playing places. But playing I like a lot. So, you know, you have to do the travelling to play, so...

Do you feel homesick from time to time? I listened to “Northern Star” on your album. “...lead me to my home”

— Yes, sometimes. Sometimes, if you stuck in somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and you are thinking... Yeah, that was written because, I think, I was in some far off place like... Kazakhstan, I think, I was or somewhere like that. And I looked at the sky, I was in my room and I looked out the window, and I could see the stars in the sky, and I thought, funny, those same stars Iíve been seeing at home too, you know. The Northern star, I could see it, you know. And thatís what the idea of that song was really. Wherever you are, you can see the same sun, the same moon. So I wrote this song, it was just a little tiny thing that I wrote very quickly, and it wasnít really a full song. And I wasnít going to do it on the album, it was just a little thing Iíd written, and it only lasts like a minute and a half. I actually didnít record that in the studio with the Band, I recorded that as a demo, just for me. And at the end I thought, well, why not, Iíll just stick that demo as it is onto the end of the album. Itís like an epilogue for the album, you know.

Weíve been talking about travelling and being far away from home. Is that the reason why you love to live on the Isle of Man? So you get away from it all after work.

— Yeah, I spend a lot of time in major cities and it is all kind of showbiz blah-blah-blah. And Iím not really a big fan of showbiz, the celebrity thing, I donít like that really. I like to play and I like to be on stage, but this sort of... the atmosphere that goes with it, I find a little bit false. So Iím not keen on that. So when Iím done, itís nice to go back to somewhere thatís like normal and peaceful, where thereís none of that going on. You know, the Isle of Man is great because it is surrounded by the ocean, so you can be on the beach within – from where I live – in about 2-3 minutes. And I also like Yorkshire, I spend time in Yorkshire, which is where I am from, because again, especially in the Yorkshire Dales area, itís very peaceful. I mean, if I was there all the time and I didnít get a chance to go anywhere else, then it would probably drive me crazy, but itís nice to go back to.

And you are a family person, arenít you?

— Yeah, well, Iíve got a big family, Iíve got lots of kids. They are into music, too, you know. My daughter is just been doing gigs and stuff with another guy that sheís been working with, a guitar player. They just do like acoustics and she sings. Sheís got a really great voice. I mean, sheís fantastic, Iím very proud of her. And I didnít even know she could sing until she was about 15. Suddenly I heard her singing in a bedroom, and I thought it was a record. But it was her and I thought – wow! Sheís got a great voice, sheís got this little kind of catchy thing in her voice which is very appealing. Sheís been doing gigs and people are going crazy. Wherever she plays, they all think sheís really great, so... I want to help, trying to see if I can do something more, because I think she deserves to be heard by people because sheís great. And sheís just this little girl, sheís not very big, sheís just this little thing that comes on stage. And then she starts singing and people go – what? This is great, you know, fantastic. And my sons can play guitars and drums. Everybody plays something because they grew up with it. It was always musical instruments lying around. A guitar on a sofa or a keyboard in the studio, whatever. They all play something.

Are you a religious person?

— No, Iím not really. Itís not that I donít believe in spiritual things, I believe in God or a god. The God with the big beard – Iím not sure about that. But I believe in this something, I believe that we are spiritual people. And I believe that there is something more than just this life that weíre doing now. But I donít believe in religion. You know, I was brought up as a catholic, but I donít believe in religion as a thing because itís organized, and I think itís man-made. You know, people decide – you donít do this and you have to go to church on a Sunday, and you must not eat meat on a Friday, this used to be like that. And if you donít do this, youíre a bad person, you get a sin, I donít get that, I donít think thatís right. So religion is not for me, but certainly thereís a spiritual thing, yeah.

Was there a situation where you felt especially close to that God, whatever it is?

— There have been times in my life where I felt, there was something helping me sometimes, yeah.

This show is always on a Saturday afternoon, so thatís why this question. Whatís your favourite Saturday afternoon occupation, if you are not on stage?

— Well, it couldnít happen all the time, but an ideal Saturday for me would be... I donít get up early because I go to bed quite late, so getting up about 10, going out for a walk or a run, coming back and having a nice meal. Then putting the TV on and it's the FA Cup final. And then sitting in front of a big television and watching all the preamble and the things coming up to it, and getting it in the mood of the day, and then watching... probably Manchester United play Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup final. Watching that and having a good day, and then maybe having a nice dinner and going to bed. That would be a great day. Or maybe then watching an old fashioned movie in the evening, like an old black-and-white movie. I guess, thatíd be a pretty much perfect kind of day.

And who will win? :)

— Well, thatís the trouble :). Because when I was a kid I used to support Tottenham Hotspur. And then I didnít like the colour of the shirts, you know. And then I changed because I wanted to wear a red shirt to Manchester United (smiles). And also the people that were playing at that time, Iím talking of 60s. You know, when I first started watching Spurs, there were people like Jimmy Greaves and Bobby Smith. And then later on with Manchester United, there was Bobby Charlton and Denis Law and all these fantastic players of the day. So thatís how I got into those 2 teams. So now, if they would be playing together, it would be great because I love those 2 teams, the way they play. And who would win?.. Ahh, God... Well, probably Manchester United would win. But you never know, you never know. And thatís the excitement of it, you know. Thatís why itíd be so great to watch those 2 teams because whoever won, I would be still quite happy, you know.

 

© Sources: “radioBERLIN 88,8”, “Antenne Brandenburg”, “NDR 90,3”, “domradio.de” (Germany)
  Texts prepared by Stranger & Annie
© 2013  www.chris-norman.ru