INTERVIEW: Del Amitri frontman Justin Currie
Celebrated Glaswegian band Del Amitri return for a UK tour this year with their first run of dates since 2014.
The July 2018 tour includes original band members – Justin Currie (vocals, guitar), Iain Harvie (lead guitar), Andy Alston (keys), Kris Dollimore (guitar) and Ashley Soan (drums). The tour stops off at Birmingham Symphony Hall on 23rd July and frontman Justin Currie talks more about what fans can expect.
Del Amitri went on hiatus for thirteen years between 2002 and 2014. What brings you back to the stage now?
Well, after we reformed for a few weeks of gigs in 2014 we enjoyed the experience so much (after initially being very sceptical and trepidatious) that we always thought we’d do it again someday. An offer to do Edinburgh Castle came in, and having made such an arse of it in the nineties we thought it might be good to try and make amends. And four years felt like a decent enough period of time to stay out of people’s faces. So we’re just doing a week of shows, finishing at Glasgow Barrowlands Ballroom, a venue we’ve been desperate to get back to for seventeen years.
Will the band be playing any new material on this tour?
We deliberately avoided that in 2014, we just wanted to do a comprehensive review of our output between 1985 and 2002. We called it “The A to Z of Us” and we felt new stuff would have fogged the glass. Besides which, we were so paranoid about trying to attain the same standards of our heyday that we feared the whole audience might sod off to the bogs as soon as we played something unfamiliar. This time we have given ourselves a little more leeway so we’ll try some new things and see if we can make them fit.
Is there any sign of a new Del Amitri album on the horizon?
We snuck out a couple of tracks in 2014 in a far flung corner of the web. They’re still fluttering there, uneaten husks. We are discussing what might be justifiable. We have songs. We just don’t quite have a raison d’être. Which is French for excuse.
You say you “made an arse of” playing Edinburgh Castle in the nineties. How so?
We stormed the stage three seconds after being warned by some police chief that we’d be held criminally responsible if we didn’t tell standing folk to sit down and proceeded to play the opening riff of The Ones That You Love Lead You Nowhere for three minutes due to a catastrophic bit of bass guitar tuning which meant I couldn’t cue the song. This shredded our nerves. We were playing to 8,000 people – by far the biggest headline show we’d done at that point. We never regained equilibrium. And I was wearing a kilt. I’m almost tempted to do the exact same thing again just to blot out that particular nightmare with a new version. This time deliberate.
A great many bands of the eighties and nineties have re-formed to milk the “heritage” circuit. How do you view your own place within the contemporary live scene?
We’ll milk any teat proffered. We’re too old for this game so are grateful for any opportunity to make fools of ourselves – wouldn’t you be? As for the heritage tag, we were heritage before we were thirty. We gave up trying to be modern in 1986. We grew moustaches and sideburns in a sarcastic nod to the grim, unhip man-rock that clogged the seventies. If we had stuck to being chirpy, angst-riddled indie boys then this sort of thing might be harder to pull off. We always sold ourselves as a working band; plodders, drinkers and grouches. We just about still qualify as men, although it won’t be long before we turn into old ladies, as all men are destined to do. By that point we might actually be a decent group.
Some of Del Amitri’s extensive repertoire of B-sides have become favourites with fans. Will any of these be getting an airing in July?
On the last tour we threw in a B-side called In The Meantime which we’d never done live. We’ll find something similar – there are a few options. I’ll ask folk on Twitter what they fancy and then completely ignore all of them. All seven people. B-sides don’t exist anymore, do they? I find that quite awful. They’re like short stories to the album’s novel. They give you a chance to do things outside the remit, relax a little bit. We’re casting about for a new cover too but we’ve not had much inspiration. Maybe we’ll do a Haircut 100 medley?
There is to be a Del Amitri book published this summer. Is this a cynical commercial tie-in?
It’s nowt to do with us. An Australian lunatic called Charles Rawlings-Way decided to write the whole sorry tale down a few years ago. It felt rude not to help him out with a few interviews and photos. He’s a lovely man and I enjoyed waffling on to him on Skype with a glass of red wine while he was having his breakfast in Adelaide. I’ve read a proof and it’s remarkably comprehensive. It’s a non-stop romp through twenty years of sex, drugs and quality biscuits. It’s a bit embarrassing, really – we don’t merit that sort of scrutiny – but I’m overjoyed that Mr. Rawlings-Way saw fit to attempt such an onerous task. I do come out of it looking like a bit of an arsehole which goes to show that not everything is fake news.
You formed Del Amitri in your teens and are now touring in your fifties. How have things changed for you as a performer?
The further you travel from your youth the less bloody vital every aspect of the project becomes. It goes from being a do-or-die obsession, heartbreaking and ecstatic in equal measure, to a warmly pleasurable bit of mild exertion. You can’t hit the frenzy of yore but you can nail things with a little more solidity and authority perhaps. The angst ebbs and the confidence flows. Not that you’re not still besides yourself with nerves every time you step into the light. But it’s a mission and it’s unfinished. There’s always something more to say.