The Stranglers frontman on the ups and downs of being a Sunderland fan and hitting the road again

The Stranglers
The Stranglers

Ahead of The Stranglers tour date in Newcastle next week, Mick Burgess caught up with Sunderland frontman Baz Warne and Jean Jacques-Burnel

Q: You have 19 shows throughout March. That’s a pretty heavy schedule. How do you pace yourself on the road?

Baz: As the years have rolled on and we’ve got older we naturally learn what our limits are. We’ve never been massive party animals, although we have had our moments, but we pace ourselves and the tour is nicely routed and we tend to do no more than three shows in a row and then have a day off. On those days off we just take care of ourselves and relax when we can.

Q: In this day and age where many bands seem to think a show in London, Birmingham and Glasgow constitutes a tour, it’s refreshing to see a band actually do a proper tour. Is it important to you to get out and play in as many places and to as many people as possible?

JJ: That’s part of the pleasure. I think we should come to people and it’s different every night. There’s a different mix of people at each show.

Q. You get a right mixed bag of people coming to your gigs these days, from your old original fans to kids who weren’t even born when you first started. Seeing new fans coming to your shows must help to keep things fresh for you?

Baz: It’s the kids and in some cases the grandkids of the original fans.

Now with the internet everything is immediately accessible and on hand and you can spend hours going back and finding where the band came from. Now we can see them down at the front and it’s staggering that they know all of the words. They are buying the new albums as well as the old ones, which is always very heartening.

JJ: The demographics of our audience has definitely changed over the years. It has got considerably younger. There’s still people who’ve grown up with us and grown older, fatter and balder with us, but now there’s a lot of younger people who think we’re pretty cool as a lot of the contemporary stuff is pretty sterile, safe and meaningless.

I think the music back then was a bit more real and savvy kids now are reacting against X Factor and that sort of stuff. Now that they can access the past through You Tube and everything they can check out old stuff that we couldn’t do. In 1977 none of us could celebrate 40 years in the business, not even The Stones or The Shadows, so for us to be around that long and people who were not even born when we started now coming to our shows is incredible.

Q: It’s now 40 years since Rattus Norvegicus and No More Heroes was released. Are you planning on basing your tour around those albums?

Baz: We have a 17 album history and it’s not a nostalgia trip. We always play new material too and keep it fresh and we write all the time. Both of those albums were recorded around the same time. They had so much material which is why they were able to split it and release two albums so close together. We will be playing songs from both of those albums as they are both great records and No More Heroes was actually the first album I ever heard by The Stranglers when I was a kid when someone brought it into school and I worked my way back from there. We try and please ourselves as well as our fans so we’ll try hard to play some stuff that we haven’t played before and some songs that haven’t been played for over 30 years as well as some new songs too.

JJ: It’s crazy to think they are 40 years old. We are entering unchartered territory. Those albums will feature a fair bit in the set. We’ll be playing a few newer ones too.

Q: As a band you change your set list from night to night on tour. Does this keep the tour fresh for you?

JJ: We do that as we want to keep our interest in the music we play and also we rehearse much more material that we need so we can do that. As we are playing live we don’t need to follow the same routine every night. A lot of bands these days play with back up discs but we are entirely live so we can change things at any time while on tour. Every night is different.

You’re playing in Newcastle on March 16. You always get a great reception up North. With Baz being from Sunderland, it must make this date a bit special?

Baz: It does and we always get a great turn out when we play in Newcastle.

JJ: I know Baz is from Sunderland and there’s a little bit of animosity between Newcastle and Sunderland but it’s all good fun. Sunderland are having it a bit rough this year aren’t they?

Q: Baz, Being a Sunderland lad you must enjoy a bit of banter with Newcastle fans?

Baz: Oh yes, it’s all in good fun though. When I called the O2 Academy the O3 Academy after we won 3-0 at St James’ Park I even chuckled at my own joke and I don’t do that very often. I try and fly the flag where I can and for me it’s only ever banter and it’s meant in good spirit. At this juncture it looks as though the tables are turned and we are going down and they are coming back up.

I actually saw David Moyes on Christmas Eve in the Hilton Hotel next to the Stadium of Light having a meal by himself and looking like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Who’d want the life of a football manager, especially when things aren’t going well.

Q: Do you get to many games these days?

Baz: I was fortunate to get to the opening game of the season and I say fortunate as I went with my son and my father. My father suddenly passed away at the end of October so I was very lucky to get there and get to one last game with him. I’ve been to a couple since then including the one where Everton put three past us. I did something I had never done before and that was to leave before the end and my father instilled in me from an early age, never to leave before the end.

Q: Back to your upcoming tour. Many of the shows are sold out already, which must be great to see?

Baz: We were just talking about that. It’s always great to see shows sold out, especially after all this time.

•The Stranglers play the O2 Academy, Newcastle, on March 16 with Ruts DC in support.