Liz Nicholls chats to Barry “Baz” Warne of The Stranglers
Q. You’re just about to jet off to Oz – how do you feel about touring these days?
“Confident and excited! We had a great French tour in November that loosened up all the cogs and ironed out all the creases. I know we’re all getting on, but a five- or six-week rest over Christmas was enough before we started wanting to get back on it! We’ve spent the past two weeks in the West Country turning it up loud and blowing away the cobwebs. We’re ready to roll!”
Q. You mention ‘getting old’ which happens to us all! How do you stay sharp?
“I eat well; me and my girlfriend love to cook. She’s trying to get me into yoga, actually, but she’s quite a bit younger than me – I’m just a 53-year-old fart who’s trying his best to get his legs behind his head in the living room… but it helps! I played football as a kid but my shock absorbers are knackered so I can’t play with my grandchildren any more, which pisses me off. We go out on motorbikes, in Yorkshire where we live, for fresh air. When you get older you have to take care of yourself. All of us have burnt the candle at many ends over the years. While we still like that – we’re not monks – things slow down a bit!”
Q. You have Stranglers fans of all ages, don’t you?
“Aye; we get the die-hard fans who’ve seen us 50-plus times, and their kids and their grandkids’ generation, which is great.
If the kids like the Stranglers, or any band from before their time, they can find it at the touch of a button. In my day you had to stay up late to watch The Old Grey Whistle Test.”
Q. When did you first hear No More Heroes?
“It came out in 1977 when I was 13. I can’t remember the impact it had on me but it must have been profound. When it comes on the radio nowadays, it still sounds glorious and fresh.”
Q. Do you listen to much music?
“Not really. These tours are so frenetic and you’re living in this musical bubble for weeks and weeks, so it can be hard… I can almost hear your readers saying ‘bless him, poor lad; you wanna try working a nine-to-five like the rest of us!’ But working as we do, our whole raisin d’etre is to stay mellow for 22 hours before each gig, basically, to save ourselves for your two hours of nuts stuff! Putting on music can feel a bit like a busman’s holiday. I tend to have the radio on in the background with classical music on and crank it up now and again!”
Q. It’s your birthday on March 25th isn’t it?
“Aye! I was lucky enough to spend my 50th playing in Guildford – I had 2,500 people sing Happy Birthday to us, which was very sweet. This year I’ll be between Guildford and London.”
Q. Who’s your favourite guitarist?
“Ahh, that’s a toughie! I love everyone from Chet Atkins to Angus Young to James Honeyman Scott who was the original guitar player in The Pretenders and just sublime. But, while I do appreciate virtuosos who can make a guitar ‘sing’, I’ve always been more about serving the song which is the Stranglers way. Without rowing my own boat, I am a good guitar player; I can play a cracking guitar solo along with the best of them but I’d rather lock in with the group.”
Q. What’s on your rider? When I asked JJ that a couple of years ago, he was very amusing!
“Well yes, we do request some Filipino boys with palm leaves full of… no, only joking! We don’t even have big bowls of blue Smarties or any madness like that. We are partial these days to a good Bloody Mary – which I’ve become very adept at making – so we have vodka, some wine, beer, some cold cuts, a few sarnies… Really, you just want things like nice, clean dry towels! Some water and a lot of space. It’s nice to kick around the dressing room after we’ve finished playing and toast our roaring success. The usual crap, really.”