Sice to see you…

This year is going to be a busy one for Simon ‘Sice’ Rowbottom, frontman/guitarist with ’90s indie-pop experimentalists, The Boo Radleys, who were signed to Alan McGee’s Creation Records, split in 1999, but reformed in 2021, albeit without chief songwriter, Martin Carr.

Following last year’s comeback album, Keep On With Falling, which Sice recorded with fellow band members, Tim Brown (bass) and Rob Cieka (drums), the Boos are back with a follow up, Eight – out in June – and in the summer will be touring the UK playing their 1993 masterpiece, Giant Steps, which turns 30 this year and is being reissued in the autumn.

Sice and Say It With Garage Flowers founder/editor, Sean Hannam – thanks to the Mad Squirrel in Amersham for the picture.

But, before all that, Sice, who is a chartered psychologist, is performing a series of solo shows in March under the banner An Appointment With Dr Sice, in which he’ll play songs from all eight of the Boos’ albums, plus his two records as Eggman and Paperlung, talk about his life and career and share some of his thoughts on psychology.

The solo tour is partly to promote a new book he has been involved with, Touring and Mental Health: The Music Industry Manual, which is published next month by Omnibus Press.

Written by health and performance professionals, the comprehensive manual will help musicians and those working in live music to identify and cope with the various physical and psychological difficulties that can occur during, or as a result of, touring.

Designed to be picked up, put down, read at length and passed around the tour bus, the book covers topics including mental health, peak performance and performance anxiety, addiction, group dynamics, relationship problems, dealing with the media, physical health, diversity and inclusion, crisis management and post-tour recovery.

To find out more about his hectic 2023, Say It With Garage Flowers spoke to Sice in an exclusive interview, which we did in a pub in the Buckinghamshire town of Amersham, near to where he lives and where Say It With Garage Flowers is based.

“I’m just about keeping on top of it and I enjoy it all,” he tells us. “It’s what keeps me motivated – I like the variety and the diversity.”


How has the solo tour and the mental health book come about?

Sice: I’m involved with the Music Industry Therapist Collective – (MITC) we’re all therapists who’ve worked in the music industry in some capacity or other. It was started by Tamsin Embleton – she got in touch with me a couple of years ago. The big thing that she’s been building up to is the Touring and Mental Health Music Industry Manual, which is a really important book – it’s massively comprehensive. I’ve been interviewed for it.

As I’ve got older, one of the things I’ve really enjoyed on stage is talking to the audience – I never used to do it back in the ‘90s. Suddenly there’s a lot I want to say. I was also kind of inspired a bit by [former Lush member] Miki Berenyi’s book [Fingers Crossed], which is absolutely brilliant. She’s a very good writer. I wanted to do something along the same lines but I didn’t want to go down the memoir route.

You’ve written a book already, Thimblerigger, which was a novel…

Sice: Yeah – it was fiction.

But it does have elements of psychology in it…

Sice: Absolutely.

So, you’ve never fancied writing an autobiography?

Sice: No. It’s crossed my mind, but that’s what An Appointment With Dr Sice is really – in a lot of respects, it’s autobiographical.

When the new Boos album comes out, it will be the tenth album I’ve made, including my solo stuff – Eggman and Paperlung. I want to do a song from every album chronologically – we’re talking 35 years.

Have you always been interested in psychology?

Sice: Yeah – it was always an area of fascination. I had a place at the University of Liverpool to study psychology back in 1990, just before The Boos started, but we got a Wedding Present support for six weeks, so I dropped out and got on with the music. It’s turned out alright and as my kids got older, in about 2007, I really didn’t know what to do with myself. Then, because I was feeling a bit lost, I went to therapy for the first time.

When the Boos made it big and got a Top 10 pop hit with Wake Up Boo! in 1995, you were 25. Was it hard for you to deal with the fame?

Sice: Oh God, yeah. I hated fame.

But, in the early days, didn’t you and Martin dream of being pop stars?

Sice: We did – we wanted it but when we got it, we didn’t enjoy it. It’s like when you see a photo shoot – you think it looks great and that the photographer just walks past you and takes a snap, but then you realise you’re spending two and a half hours in a freezing cold warehouse in the East End of London. It isn’t that much fun and I just realised that there was stuff I’d rather be doing with my time. It was great to do it the first time, but I didn’t want to continue doing it.

‘I hated fame. We wanted it but when we got it, we didn’t enjoy it’

Do you think a book like the Touring and Mental Health Music Industry Manual would’ve been useful for you back in the day? I guess the Boos couldn’t take a therapist on the road, as Creation’s budget didn’t stretch to that…

Sice: [Laughs]. It didn’t. Now, it’s OK for young people in the music industry to talk about mental health – that’s why it’s brilliant that the MITC has been set up. That’s what we deal with – people who come into the music industry and recognise that it’s difficult.

And now we have social media, which puts even more pressure on people…

Sice: There are lots of reasons. Everybody on Twitter can be aiming at you and saying stuff – it’s very difficult, but, that said, it’s also easier in a way, because it’s easier to communicate, with mobile phones. When we went away on tour, we were quite isolated.

When we were touring America, it was a fucking nightmare to phone home and it was really expensive, and when we were in Europe, it was the era of phone cards – you had to find somewhere that sold them.

Did you enjoy touring?

Sice: When I read Miki’s book, she said one thing that I’ve been saying for years – ‘I wish I had a door in my front room that allowed me to step onto the stage, play the gig and come back’. That’s exactly it. Being on stage is everything it’s about and I love the creativity bits – the recording and the singing. I love being on stage – everything else I can take it or leave it. Well, leave it, really.

Touring can be gruelling…

Sice: The gruelling nature of it is difficult. Part of the problem is that you start off with good intentions, like reading books, then something happens and you end up blankly staring out of the window for three or four hours. It just becomes unnatural. One of the things that I’m always interested in in psychology is what’s natural to us as humans – us as homo sapiens, who are 250,000 years old. The way that we live our lives now – musicians especially – is so unnatural to us. All we’re made for is three or four hours of hunter-gathering and the rest of the time sitting round the campfire.

So, what can we expect from An Appointment With Dr Sice? A few stories, some songs…

Sice: Yeah – basically that, but I’m also going to thread  some psychology through it. It’s a tale of where I came from, what I went through with the Boos – a few anecdotes – and then segueing into psychology. I guess it’s about what I consider to be important in psychology. The show will be about two hours – with an interval. It’s essentially a kind of theatre show – it builds and there’s a kind of narrative.

There are lots of threads – Catholicism, family and psychology. How our contextual influences and our experiences influence what we do. And there’s some stuff about male mental health. People say ‘men should talk more’ but men don’t know how. We don’t know what to say, we need to be given permission and we need to be taught about how to talk about emotions or name them. Nobody teaches us it – it’s believed to be inherent, but it isn’t. That’s what I’m doing – but it’s hopefully going to be fun too.

And there are some pop tunes, too… Will you be playing Wake Up Boo!?

Sice: Do you know what? I haven’t decided yet. I’ve got to do one off the Wake Up! album.

You don’t like that record, do you?

Sice: It’s not that I dislike it, but it’s the one I wouldn’t choose to listen to. We set out to write a 12-song pop album, but I don’t think it does that. There are two or three tracks that maybe do…but for it to work, it needed to be a 12-song pop album. It’s okay in its own right, but the second side is really quite melancholy and odd. It never really fitted together in the way in which Giant Steps, C’mon Kids and Kingsize did.

Let’s talk about the new Boos album, Eight. When we last spoke, in November 2021, ahead of the release of the last record, Keep On With Falling, which was released in March last year, you said you were more excited about the follow up, which was already written, and that you were already halfway through writing the album after that.

So, Eight’s coming out in June – you’ve already released the first single, Seeker, and the next song from it is called The Unconscious

Sice: The Unconscious is a story about my psychoanalysis – it details that. I did full-on psychoanalysis for two years when I was in training. It was interesting, but not a great experience. It was very messy. It’s not the sort of counselling where you’re sitting and chatting – it’s almost like you’re talking into the ether and someone’s whispering in your ear. You’re on the couch and they’re sat behind you – you’re trying to iron out what comes up from the unconscious to be spoken about and they interpret it. It was a bit weird and cult-like – it brings up lots of fears and early childhood stuff that’s slightly out of memory. I would be driving home from it sometimes and I’d burst into tears but have no idea why. It’s powerful, but it’s hard work.

That’s heavy, but you got a song out of it…

Sice: Every cloud…

Seeker is a brassy pop song and it’s about love – finding someone who can be with you and support you…

Sice: Totally.

‘I did full-on psychoanalysis for two years. It was very messy – a bit weird and cult-like’

Last year’s comeback single, A Full Syringe and Memories of You, was about euthanasia, so this one’s much lighter…

Sice: [Laughs] It’s bright and breezy. Lyrically, it’s Tim’s.

So, you’ve both written songs for this album?

Sice: It’s pretty much 50:50, but there are 13 songs on it, so there’s one extra of mine. Lyrically, Tim’s songs are about relationships whereas I tend to write about the self – the individual.

The Boo Radleys in 2023 – Left to right: Tim Brown, Simon ‘Sice’ Rowbottom and Rob Cieka.

Does Rob write?

Sice: We’re trying to encourage him to – he does pitch in with ideas. He has written a set of lyrics and I’ve written something to go along with them, so that will probably appear. We’ve decided we’re going to shove out everything we’ve got and for the next album start again by being in the same room – we’ve never ever done that.

So, what does Eight sound like? The album before was pretty pop, so is the new one more left-field?

Sice: I think it is. There’s a lot more electronica on there and we’ve embraced the trumpet again a lot more. But we are still quite poppy. I was thinking about this – what’s the difference with the writing and with Martin not being here? I think it’s clean versus dirty – me and Tim prefer clean. We’ve always liked a bit of cleanliness about stuff, whereas Martin was always about the dirtiness and the griminess.

‘There’s a lot more electronica on the new album and we’ve embraced the trumpet again’

This year, Giant Steps, turns 30. How do you feel about that?

Sice: It seems bizarre – I can remember that with Martin we did a mini-website for the 10-year anniversary and that didn’t seem like long ago…

So, Giant Steps is being reissued later this year?

Sice: Yeah there’s a vinyl reissue.

What are your memories of making the album? The band self-produced it at Protocol Studios in Holloway Road, London, and it was a conscious decision to move away from the shoegaze sound of your earlier records, wasn’t it?

Sice: Yeah – totally. My memories of making it are really good. It was an enjoyable process. It’s really strange – looking back, we didn’t really realise how precarious our position with Creation was. We assumed everything was going to be okay – we were always fairly optimistic, so we didn’t know that the pressure was on for us to have a successful record.

‘When we were recording Giant Steps, we could do what we wanted – we had a sense of freedom and the choice of not having a producer was because it allowed us to do bonkers things’

The strange thing with Creation was we thought that we were joining the label of The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine – completely underground bands – and then it shifted. I think Ride probably started it, when they started to get Top 10 singles – that was the expectation for every other band on the label.

When we were recording Giant Steps, we could do what we wanted – we had a sense of freedom and the choice of not having a producer was because it allowed us to do bonkers things.

Alan McGee wasn’t a big fan of Giant Steps, was he? 

Sice: McGee didn’t understand us  – he never got us as a band. I think we were too complex for him. He disappeared not long after Wake Up! came out  – he was shocked by the success of Giant Steps

So, this summer you’re doing some 30th anniversary live shows for the reissue of Giant Steps. Will you be playing the whole record?

Sice: Yeah – we’re going to do it all but there will be certain songs that we’ll put together in a bit of a medley. We’re going to be doing two sets – one will be a ‘greatest hits’ – so there’s a lot of work… 

Are you looking forward to it?

Sice: It’s going to be brilliant. There are people who discovered it after we split up, so they get the opportunity to see us do it live. I’m really looking forward to it.

‘McGee didn’t understand us  – he never got us. I think we were too complex for him. He was shocked by the success of Giant Steps’

Giant Steps is a classic ’90s album, isn’t it?

Sice: It stands the test of time. There’s a huge sense of originality about it. It’s all the influences that we had from an early age – The Byrds, jazz, The Beatles, The Beach Boys… Before that, we were influenced by what was around then – My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr., Spacemen 3, all those bands. With Giant Steps, it was, ‘Do you know what? We love all these ’60s bands and other stuff…’

Do you think it’s your masterpiece?

Sice: I prefer C’mon Kids – I think it’s that cleanliness and that it’s sticking up for the underdog. I think C’mon Kids is just as good an album – songs like Four Saints are very good and really intelligent…

Was C’mon Kids a deliberate reaction against the album before, which was Wake Up!?

Sice: It was seen as that but it’s so weird that anyone would think we would do that. It was a reaction only in the sense that we don’t what to do the same thing again.

And you never did. Kingsize is a very different album to C’mon Kids. I think Kingsize is an underrated album.

Sice: It is. I’ve always said Kingsize was Tim’s record. He was the only one with any enthusiasm at that point, which was a shame. Looking back, what we should’ve done is what bands do now – take a break.

What’s your favourite song on Giant Steps?

Sice: That’s a good question. I really like Best Lose The Fear and The White Noise Revisited and Lazarus is special – it always will be.

So, 2023 is going to a busy year for you – there’s the solo tour, the Boos, the day job and MITC…

Sice: I’m madly busy. I’ve got my finger in four pies. I’m just about keeping on top of it and I enjoy it all. It’s what keeps me motivated – I like the variety and the diversity.

Final question. On I’ve Lost The Reason, from Giant Steps, you sing: ‘I’m only 23my hair is thin, my size is large, what have I done to me?’  How will you feel singing that as a 53-year-old man?

Sice: I don’t know… It’s really weird because that’s the one song that I didn’t want to do, ‘cos I know it’s a very personal song to Martin. It was always weird singing that song but we’ll do it out of completeness. For a lot of people, that’s one of their favourites.


Tour dates for An Appointment With Doctor Sice:

Eight, the new album by The Boo Radleys, will be released on June 9 (Boostr)

You can preorder it here.

A remastered Giant Steps will be released on September 1 – vinyl, CD and digital.

The first Giant Steps Tour 2023 dates are as follows:

  • Tue June 13 – Reading, South Street Arts Centre
  • Wed June 14 – London, The Garage
  • Thu June 15 – Tunbridge Wells, The Forum
  • Fri June 16 – Birkenhead, Future Yard
  • Thu June 22 – Dublin, The Grand Social
  • Fri  June 23 – Belfast, The Limelight
  • Sun June 25 – Glasgow, Hug and Pint

Other dates

  • Sat October 28 – Manchester, Bread Shed w/Cud
  • Sun October 29 – Liverpool, O2 Academy 2 w/Cud
  • Mon October 30 – Sheffield, O2 Academy 2 w/Cud
  • Tue October 31 – Birmingham, O2 Institute 2 w/Cud
  • Thu  November 2 – Bristol, The Fleece w/Cud
  • Fri November 3 – Oxford, O2 Academy 2 w/Cud
  • Sat  November 4 – London, O2 Academy Islington w/Cud

Touring and Mental Health: The Music Industry Manual, is published on March 24 by Omnibus Press.

The Edwardian Era

Independent label Cherry Red Records has just released a three-CD anthology of the work of Edward Ball.

The 61-track collection, which is called It’s Kinda Lonely Where I Am – Anthology 1977-2010, spans his entire career, from the teenage DIY punk and power pop of ‘O’Level and Teenage Filmstars through the indie-mod of The Times, to Ball’s Britpop years on Alan McGee’s Creation label, where he recorded with Ride’s Andy Bell, Nick Heyward (Haircut 100), Swedish female singer-songwriter, Idha, and members of The Boo Radleys.

Also included are tracks from his dance and world music-influenced project Love Corporation, whose tunes were remixed by Andy Weatherall, Danny Rampling and Monkey Mafia.

There are plenty of highlights, like The Times’ quirky and infectious 1981 debut single, Red With Purple Flashes – Ball says it was their attempt to write the “saddest, most melancholic, contemplative mod pop record ever” – the sad-eyed, European-flavoured, Tears On A Rainy Sunday, which sounds like The Style Council doing Kraftwerk, and their 1982 fan favourite, I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape, inspired by cult TV series The Prisoner, and featuring some great, groovy ’60s-style organ and soul guitar.


Then there’s the irresistible and upbeat folky-pop of 1996 solo near-hit, The Mill Hill Self Hate Club, the pastoral Nick Drake-isms of the compilation’s title track, It’s Kinda Lonely Where I Am, the bold and brassy Trailblaze, the Motown-inspired gem, Controversial Girlfriend, and the introspective and rootsy ballad Docklands Blues, written with Tim Buckley’s The River as a starting point, according to Ball.

There’s also a previously unreleased track included, Song To The Lighthouse, which is an outtake from Ball’s soundtrack to the 2010 Carol Morley film The Edge, starring Maxine Peake. It’s short and sweet – a stripped-down, acoustic folk tune.

Moving away from the trad singer-songwriter material, there’s the epic full 10:35 version of Love Corporation’s Give Me Some Love, with production by Andy Weatherall from 1991.

Listening to many of these songs, you can’t help but think that they should’ve been massive hits, rather than simply condemned to obscurity. It’s great that Cherry Red has pulled all of these tracks together, and presented them in an attractive triple-CD package – here’s hoping a new audience will stumble across this eclectic, colourful and inventive collection of songs by an unsung indie hero.

Ball has approved the box set and contributed some insightful sleeve notes in collaboration with MOJO and Record Collector writer, Lois Wilson.

Here’s hoping a new audience will stumble across this eclectic, colourful and inventive collection of songs by an unsung indie hero’

To celebrate the release of the anthology, I revisited an interview I did with Ball back in the autumn of 1996, ahead of a gig supporting The Lightning Seeds at Portsmouth Guildhall. His new album, Catholic Guilt, was due out the following year, on Creation.

The original version of this article was published in South Coast listings magazine, Splash! in October 1996.

Edward Ball

“Don’t tell me you’re a Liverpool fan,” says Edward Ball. On the day that I’m interviewing the 36-year-old, bald tunesmith, he’s still reeling from his favourite football team Chelsea’s recent 5-1 defeat at the hands of Liverpool.

“It’s part of being a Chelsea fan,” he says. “There was I thinking that this was the season things were going to change because of our star cast and then we get whacked by Liverpool…”

Anyone who’s suffering from the blues, for whatever reason, should give Ball’s last two singles, The Mill Hill Self Hate Club and Trailblaze, a listen. Despite their self-loathing lyrics, they are both killer pop tunes, described by Ball as “broad and brassy”.

The former has a great, wailing harmonica riff and horns, while the latter is based around a big, bold brass arrangement. Sadly, both missed out on entering the Top 40 – The Mill Hill Self Hate Club stalled at number 57, while Trailblaze fared worse, managing a chart position of 98.

‘The Beatles are like your first girlfriend. Every time you put them on, they make you feel happy’

He may not have hit the big time yet, but Ball owes a debt to classic, quality songwriting by the likes of The Beatles and The Beach Boys. “The Beatles are like your first girlfriend,” he says. “Every time you put them on, they make you feel happy. They have great healing powers.”

Underneath Ball’s shiny pop veneer lurks a sad tale – a large amount of his songs have been inspired by one major breakup.

“They all stem from one particular relationship,” he says. “We all go through many different relationships, but I think we’re all answerable to one that grabs us by the throat. It was that one which I wrote nearly 50 songs about.”

So, does he have immense problems with relationships?

“I probably have no more problems than anyone else does. We’re all on the starting blocks and trying to make it to the other side with someone – it’s just that I look into relationships more. I don’t know what I expect from them,” he says.

‘We all go through many different relationships, but I think we’re all answerable to one that grabs us by the throat. It was that one which I wrote nearly 50 songs about’

Ball, who was born in 1959,  has been involved in music since 1977 and he’s recorded with ‘O’ Level, The Television Personalities, Teenage Filmstars, The Times and dance act Love Corporation.

Currently he’s settled into a singer-songwriter role, drawing on his own personal experiences. “It’s a lot easier now,” he says. “I spent so much time writing about stuff and getting into everything from food to drugs. You can do all this experimenting and messing about, but then you find the real self,  you write about it and everyone says, “Oh, I know what you mean.”

He composes a lot of his songs when he’s on the move. “Most of them are written in hotel rooms,” he says. “That’s where all the best songs come from – when you’re by yourself and in unfamiliar surroundings. It helps the cathartic side and brings out what needs to come out.”

Ball is scarily prolific – he never stops writing songs.

“I’m still writing one now,” he says. “I’ve got one in my head that I’m turning around and trying to make sense of. It’s called Controversial Girlfriend. I’ve got a guitar and an amp set up in my kitchen and I’ve been hammering away on it for the last couple of days.”

One of his recent inspirations was a train journey from Manchester to London. “I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “It was bloody early in the morning – about six o’clock. I set out from Manchester to London for an interview and when we came into Macclesfield the sun was coming up and it was utterly beautiful – a special moment. It was gorgeous. When you think of Macclesfield, you don’t expect that –  you expect smog.”

‘The need to make records ends up being the worst addiction of all. It’s the one you don’t expect. They’re always the worst, aren’t they?’

After all these years, is he frustrated that he still hasn’t had a hit record? “No,” he says. “I’d be more frustrated if I couldn’t actually make music at all. The need to make records ends up being the worst addiction of all. It’s the one you don’t expect. They’re always the worst, aren’t they?”

He adds: “I’m not looking for acceptance. There are only two of three people’s opinions I care about.”

Perhaps he’ll finally break through into the mainstream with his next single, which is highly likely to be a tune called Love Is Blue.

He shrugs it off as “just one of those songs,”, adding: “Maybe it will be the next one that does it. But if it gets into the Top 40, we still won’t have world peace, will we?”

Edward Ball’s It’s Kinda Lonely Where I AmAnthology 1977-2010 is out now on Cherry Red Records. You can order it here

Love Is Blue didn’t get into the Top 40 – it peaked at number 59.


‘I wanted to write some songs that would fit on a Chesterfields record – that was a good challenge’

The Chesterfields at The Black Sheep Bar, Ryde, Isle of Wight – Sept 2022. Andy Strickland is on the left.
Photo: Sean Hannam


I first met singer/guitarist Andy Strickland in 1987, on the Isle of Wight, at his family home in Ryde, when I was 13.

My dad, show business journalist, John Hannam, was interviewing him for a local newspaper article about his jangly indie-pop band The Caretaker Race, who’d just released their debut single, Somewhere On Sea. Prior to that, he’d been in Creation Records act The Loft.

I’d tagged along, because, like my dad, I loved the song, but I was also keen to meet Andy – as well as being in a band, he was a music journalist, which was my dream job.

This interview with The Caretaker Race, by John Hannam, originally appeared in the Isle of Wight Weekly Post, in 1987.

Now, on a late afternoon in July 2022 – 35 years after our first encounter – I’m interviewing Andy, and we’re somewhere on sea, in a Ryde hotel bar. But, rather than The Caretaker Race, who split in 1991, we’re actually here to talk about his latest project, playing guitar in Yeovil-based The Chesterfields – another indie-pop band who formed in the ‘80s, and who have just made a brand new album, New Modern Homes. Although this isn’t the first time Andy has been part of the group…

“I played with them a bit in the early days, after The Loft split,” he says, over a pint of Isle of Wight-brewed ale.

“I kind of knew them, because they’d come to a couple of gigs we’d done down in Bristol. I think they booked us for a gig, which was about a week after we’d split up. That was the first gig The Loft didn’t do – Simon [Barber – bass and vocals], who’s still in The Chesterfields, ran a little club in Sherborne, Dorset. It was by the railway station and was called The Electric Broom Cupboard.

“I’d also interviewed the band for Record Mirror. I’d started The Caretaker Race, but, in 1987, Simon rang me up and said, ‘This is a bit of a long shot, but we’ve just got rid of our guitarist – do you fancy standing in?’

‘We played on the second stage at Glastonbury in ’87. Halfway through the set, I realised my guitar lead wasn’t long enough – I’d never played on a stage that big’

“I didn’t know how it would work, as they were based a long way away from where I was, but then Simon said, ‘The first gig’s Glastonbury Festival and it’s in three weeks…’

“I said, ‘Oh – that’s interesting…’ He said the next night they were playing an Oxford ball with Desmond Dekker… so he kind of lured me in with the promise of decent gigs.”

And how were the shows? “They were great. We played on the second stage at Glastonbury in ’87. Halfway through the set, I realised my guitar lead wasn’t long enough – I’d never played on a stage that big. By the fourth song in, I was required to do some backing vocals and, as I marched to the microphone, I couldn’t get there – the roadie picked my amp up, charged towards me and plonked it down so I could do the final ‘bah-bah-bah’, or whatever it was.

“I did a little tour with them, but then they got Simon’s brother in, who was a really good guitar player. I didn’t play with them again until recent years.”

The Chesterfields


So, how did you end up rejoining The Chesterfields?

Andy Strickland: Simon, Helen [Stickland – guitar and vocals] and Rob [Parry – drums] were playing in bands around the West Country and they started doing a couple of Chesterfields songs, which went down really well. I saw them and said to Simon, ‘If there’s an appetite for it, you should do it’.

‘We played with The Primitives at The Knitting Factory, in Brooklyn, New York – it was sold out, it was hot and the crowd loved it. It was fantastic’

He was always reluctant to do it, because Davey [Dave Goldsworthy], the original singer and frontman, died in 2003 – he was killed in a hit and run. Simon didn’t want to do anything that might upset anyone, but, eventually, he asked the family and we did a little UK tour in 2019, which went really well.

Before that, in 2016, we got asked to go and play in New York, at the New York Pop Fest – that was brilliant. We played with The Primitives at The Knitting Factory, in Brooklyn – it was sold out, it was hot and the crowd loved it. It was fantastic. The crowd was a young one, which was really odd.

Chesterfield band member Helen’s surname is Stickland. That must be a bit confusing…

AS: Yes – it’s not a typo and we’re not related. Although her husband did used to live on the Isle of Wight, which is even more confusing.

So, now there’s a new Chesterfields album – New Modern Homes…

AS: After the 2019 tour, we thought there might be an appetite for a new record, and then while we were talking about it, lockdown happened, which gave us an opportunity to write some songs.

John Parish (PJ Harvey) co-produced it…

AS: Yes – he produced the first Chesterfields album, back in the day, and he also produced some of my early Caretaker Race records, so we all knew him. We talked about what we were going to do with this record – we knew we were going to record it in Somerset.

There’s a studio next to Wookey Hole called Axe and Trap, which is run by a great guy called Ben Turner. We started recording there last summer and John came down for a couple of days.

We were so relaxed and we thought we were doing demos, but John said they sounded great and that he would mix them at his place, with a few little overdubs. We went to John’s studio in Bristol in November last year. We were lucky to get a really good studio and great engineers. John had a two-week gap and we fitted into it.

The first single, Our Songbird Has Gone, came out on 7in vinyl…

AS: The first batch that went up on Bandcamp sold out in 10 hours.

‘Lindy Morrison from The Go-Betweens heard the song and got in touch. She said, ‘I love this! Who are you guys?’

Part of the lyrics feature a list of bands and acts that influenced The Chesterfields, including The Go-Betweens, The Smiths, The Fall, Orange Juice, The House of Love, Aztec Camera, Gang of Four…

AS: It’s an actual list – a few years after Davy died, his widow sent Simon some bits and pieces. One of the things she sent him was a little book that’s mentioned in the song. It had lyrics and drawings in it and a list of Davy’s favourite bands.

Lindy Morrison from The Go-Betweens heard the song and got in touch. She said, ‘I love this! Who are you guys?’ They were one of Davy’s absolute favourites. A few of the other bands who are mentioned in the song, like The Darling Buds and The June Brides, have also been in touch.

You’ve written three of the songs on the album: You’re Ace From Space, Mary’s Got A Gun and Postpone The Revolution. Were they all written for the new record?

AS: They were. I’m writing bits and pieces all the time, but I wanted to write some songs that would fit on a Chesterfields record. That was a good challenge and, to some extent, I think it’s worked. Certainly John thought they fitted well – he would’ve said if they didn’t.  It also gave me a chance to sing. Helen also wrote a song, so there’s three different writers and singers on the album, which is quite unusual these days.

What inspired You’re Ace From Space?

AS: I think it came from craving some freedom during lockdown – imagine just being up there, in space, on your own for a bit. It was a bit of space – literally.

‘Postpone The Revolution is a song about young people not really giving a shit. Why aren’t they out there, getting rid of this Government?

Mary’s Got A Gun is a story song, about two characters – Mary and Vinny…

AS: Yeah – I just started playing the guitar riff one day and I came up with the idea of Mary having a gun and thought, ‘Why would she have a gun?’ So I came up with a story about her buying it, from a book dealer in Hay-on-Wye, and hooking up with this guy who had a van, and they’ve got a secret hiding place…

I’ve always wanted to go to Hay-on-Wye and visit the bookshops…

AS: I’ve never been, but now I know you can buy an illicit firearm there, I’m very keen to go…

What about Postpone The Revolution?

AS: It’s a song about young people not really giving a shit. Why aren’t they out there, getting rid of this Government? I occasionally say to my son, ‘When I was your age, I was marching for X, Y and Z…’

It’s another of your songs that mentions the sea. I was listening to The Caretaker Race album, Hangover Square, recently. That has quite a few songs on it that mention the sea and seaside towns. That record still stands up today… 

AS: That’s very kind of you to say so. Stephen Street did it and we were a good band.

That album reminds me of The Smiths at times. I’ve Seen A Thing Or Two sounds like Back To The Old House – the guitar on it is very Johnny Marr… And so is the guitar on You Always Hurt (The One You Kick)…

AS: Yeah – that’s very Johnny Marr. Stephen Street didn’t say we’d gone too far… but he did play the album to Morrissey. The other guitarist in The Caretaker Race, Andy Deevey, used an Echoplex. I’ve Seen A Thing Or Two was written about a church in Ryde that you come past on the train. There’s a reverse echo on it – Stephen played it to Morrissey and he was like, ‘Oh, what’s that? How did you do that?’

I remember Stephen telling me that Morrissey was very much taken with Andy’s Echoplex. It sounds like a ghostly buzzsaw thing going on in the background.

The Chesterfields

Let’s go back to The Chesterfields. So, you’re pleased with the new album?

AS: Yeah – really pleased. It’s the first thing I’ve recorded for so many years, so to have three songs on it and for it to sound so good… There’s some lovely guitar playing on it – not just mine. Helen’s great – she plays very punk-rock, but writes these really beautiful little lines. It’s great fun playing with her.

One of my favourite songs on the album is Mr Wilson Goes To Norway...

AS: We’ve got a great video for it. Purely by coincidence, the lad called James [Harvey],who did the video for Our Songbird Has Gone, was going to Norway a few weeks later, so we got him to do some travelogue stuff for it, while we just larked around in a deserted high street in Sherborne, Dorset.

‘I’m thinking about doing a solo EP next year, but I need a kick up the arse…’

A couple of years ago, we had an idea about playing Indiefjord in Norway. Simon came up with that song and we said, ‘Well, if they’re not going to invite us to play after this video and this song, then we’re never going to get invited…’

Earlier you said that you write a lot of songs, so do you think you might put a solo record out?

AS: I think I will. I’m thinking about doing a solo EP next year. Given that there’s all this Chesterfields stuff going on and there’s also some Loft stuff coming out… I need a kick up the arse to make me finish stuff. I was watching Get Back – George Harrison is going on about how John and Paul are always telling him to finish stuff… I’m a bad finisher, unless I’ve got a deadline.

I’ve got lots of stuff. I pick up the guitar every day, play something and stick it on my phone. My partner gets a bit annoyed – especially if we’ve just gone to bed and I say, ‘Hang on – I’ll be back in five minutes…’ I’m just lying there and a middle eight pops into my head.

You said there’s some Loft stuff coming out…

AS: Yeah – Ghost Trains & Country Lanes is coming out on vinyl in January. It came out last summer on CD, on Cherry Red.

It’s everything, basically – all the singles, all the Creation stuff, all the Radio 1 Janice Long sessions, the Marc Riley and Gideon Coe sessions, the single that we put out on Static Caravan about 15 years ago and a whole live gig from The Living Room, back in the day.

I think it’s 30 tracks – on triple vinyl.  When we heard it was going to be a triple, we said, ‘We can’t have that – we’re not Yes!’ But the guy who’s doing it, Ian [Allcock], who runs Optic Nerve, said, ‘Trust me – it will be great’. He managed to get all the stuff signed off by the BBC. It’s a mighty tome – on coloured vinyl with a booklet. It will be quite a package. You can preorder it now.

‘I did start writing a book. I’ve got the title. It’s called And Then I Punched Tom Jones’

Have you ever thought about writing a book on your time in the music industry, as a musician, but also a journalist?

AS: I did start writing one and I’ve got the title. It’s called And Then I Punched Tom Jones.

Did you punch him?

AS: I didn’t, actually, but I thought about it. I was interviewing him for about the third time. He’s one of those people who, when you turn the recorder on, they just talk and you barely have to ask them a question.

I was in a hotel suite – it was just me and him, and I started to lose concentration, because he was just talking, and talking and talking. My head started going and I was looking at him and I thought, ‘Tom Jones is sitting there, if I hit him now, really hard, he’ll probably go over the edge of that sofa’. I couldn’t get that thought out of my head. My mind just started to wander.

A few years later, I was in the pub with a bunch of guys from Loaded magazine and I mentioned it. They said they’d had a similar thing – that it was quite common. I don’t know if it’s like a minor version of shooting John Lennon or something – having an impact on someone famous and leaving your imprint.

The Chesterfields at The Black Sheep Bar, Ryde, Isle of Wight – Sept 2022. Photo: Sean Hannam.


I don’t think I ever had it with anyone else – in my Record Mirror days, I sat down and interviewed some big stars.

‘The Loft were the first Creation band on TV. We did The Oxford Road Show with China Crisis, Ultravox, Thompson Twins and Bronski Beat’

Was being a music journalist and also in a band a help or a hindrance?

AS: I don’t think it was a help, particularly. When The Loft were taking off, we did get a bit of stick – some of the reviews said we were a band of journalists and people assumed we had some sort of inside track, but we didn’t. We didn’t have a manager, a roadie or a driver – it was just us four, plus our mate, Danny Kelly. We were the first Creation band on TV – The Oxford Road Show. We were Janice Long’s ‘band to watch’ and we were on with China Crisis, Ultravox and Thompson Twins and Bronski Beat.

You were the only act who didn’t have synths…

AS: Yeah – we were. When word got out that we were going to be on it, the manager of The June Brides, who had been on the cover of the NME, rang me up in my little studenty house and said, ‘I hear you’re going on the telly’. I said, ‘Yeah – it’s amazing.’ He said, ‘I’d love to get The June Brides on – who do I need to talk to?’ I said, ‘I dunno’. But he said, ‘Oh c’mon, Andy – we’re all in this together. Who did you tap up?’

I said, ‘They just rang us and asked if we could do it’. He couldn’t believe it could be that easy.

We were in the right place at the right time, and Janice loved the band. She was such a big deal and she was so lovely. She got overshadowed by John Peel, but she did huge amounts for so many bands – The Chesterfields did sessions for her. She wasn’t one of those DJs who just wanted to be famous – she was all about the music.

New Modern Homes by The Chesterfields is out now on Mr Mellow’s Music.

The triple vinyl version of The Loft’s Ghost Trains & Country Lanes is released on Optic Nerve Recordings on January 20 next year. You can preorder it here.