Q&A - China Crisis
Q: Hi Gary, I want to say welcome back, but you haven't really been away, China Crisis have been a constant for many years now. That must feel good, right?
A: Absolutely. Stuart Maconie played a song from our new album Autumn in the Neighbourhood and said how he'd always thought of us as Liverpool's Steely Dan, which isn't right, we are Liverpool's The Fall, honest to god, I very much doubt Eddie or myself could name everyone who's been in the Chinas, but we can honestly say they've contributed to our longevity . . . .
also it's down to Eddie's footy manager mentality, as in "never mind we've got a good group….we need a good squad"
Q: Liverpool music was in a great place when China Crisis formed back in the 80s. Similarly, the city's music scene is in rude health at the moment, what changes have you noticed over the years?
A: Well, it's forever evolving. The whole cityscape has changed dramatically and I'm afraid I'm one of those people what loves it...and I get the impression lots and lots of folk have adopted our town and integrated themselves, so posh fame school kids mixing it up with us Northern gifted types. But mostly, to be brutally honest, and being a man of a certain age it doesn't interest me a great deal, and never has. Don't get me wrong, I have absolutely loved some of the bands and artists, my absolute faves being OUTFIT, and I try and get to hear everyone that's being noticed and/or talked about. So everyone from Hooton Tennis Club to Tom Low. . .Bill Ryder Jones to DIALECT. But yeah, as i remember, Ed and meself being two Kirkby lads, we had very little time for the " the Liverpool scene", we was cool and we dominated their school.
Q: You're from Kirkby originally, do you ever get a chance to go back there? How has it changed?
A: Yes I do still get back to Kirkby almost once a week, I've two sisters what still live there, and Mrs Weir, my wife, still has her mum and family there, so yeah, still very much connected. In fact I went for a walk from the old Amazon recording studios, where we did our first album difficult shapes, everyone from Ken Dodd to the Bunnymen worked there, up on Stopgate Lane at the back of Kirkby, across Tower Hill. Sadly the studio is no more, and St Kevin's, the school where Ed and myself met has long gone, but it's still got a vibe to it. The whole place is very, very different from when we grew up there in the 60's and 70's, it's in transition at the moment with lots of redevelopment going on, both housing and the town centre. But back in the day we had shedloads of fields and farms surrounding us, which made a huge difference. I still love the place lots.
Q: China Crisis, like OMD, have always seemed to have positioned themselves outside of the whole 'Liverpool band' territory. Was that by accident or design?
A: Design on our part, but not because of any this, that, or the other. It was simply because we were so single-mindedly determined to just make music, we grew up in Kirkby loving music, and it certainly wasn't The Beatles/Liverpool. It was more prog rock, Bowie, Eno , Motown and all manner of pop, so when it came to being and making music, we was on our own, very much so, small town lads. Just us, our girlfriends, and mates…and that was more than enough.
Q; Back then, you were one of the first bands to embrace the new technology at the time, synths, drum machines etc. Is technology still something that interests you when it comes to making music?
A: No, not really. In fact, we've just recorded our first album in 20 years and a lot has changed. And I mean a super duper amount has changed, it was a huge learning curve. The digital domain is a myriad of possibilities, most of them elusive and complex. I'm not keen at all. But then again, why would I be? As a writer of some 30 plus years it's my job to write, and that's it. Twiddle a few knobs, yeah, if it's a classic synth, Korg Poly 6, Roland Jupiter 8, then yeah, I'll get involved a bit. But free downloads? Chaps with apps? Plug ins?Noooooooo...
Q; What drives you forward as artists?
A: Sometimes it's actually a driver, sometimes it's a 9 iron, haha, only messin. For me, bottom line, it's a job. No deffo pay, and a lot of the time theres no rhyme no reason, but it's thrilling work. It really is a gift to not want to do anything else, come what may, just music. Don't get me wrong, there's so much B.S. it's untrue, but yeah, most of the time I still feel like that readybrek kid, but the radiant glow is not the after effects of a good bowl of porridge. It's music.
Q: You and Eddie have worked closely together for such a long time, there's many strengths to that, obviously, but are there any drawbacks?
A: Yes, we've known each other for some 40 years now, and that's heavy salad to say the least. I can't really think of any drawbacks really, none that I would relate to the fact that we've been together so long, no regrets, I had a few, but then again, too few to mention……
Q: What music are you listening to at the moment?
A: Outfit, Owen Pallett, Dialect, John Grant, Philip Glass, Sufjan Stevens, Brian Eno, Rufus Wainwright, Nina Simone, and a mountain of classical historical recordings, everything from Ravel's Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte, to John Alden Carpenter's Adventures In A Perambulator
Q: Playing live has always been important to you, you've a US tour coming up. Exciting times?
A: Yeah, we've been mad busy rehearsing for our shows. Our North American dates will be our sixth time over in the last three years, amazing. We did tour there a lot in the 80's and had a little success, but then a 27 year gap and whoosh! it's 2016 and it's 'hello New York, we're China Crisis, great to see you. This songs called African and White…..
Q: Is there any new material in the pipeline?
A: We released our first album in over 20 years last year with pledge music. It's called Autumn in the Neighbourhood…basically it was crowdfunded, and has been very well received by fans and critics alike. .
Q: Art and music go hand in hand, and you're also known for your art. How do these two creative aspects relate to each other for you?
A: I started drawing almost 30 years ago, and now it's something I do everyday. I listen to music every time I draw, it's one of my listening times. Proper intent listening, all the time zone-ing in on what I'm drawing, the two very much like some mad celtic knot. And then I'll up and to the piano, play, and back to the drawing. Then up again, piano. I don't see any difference at all in the activity, other than I can hear I'm more gifted or connected with the music. I'm not saying that in some highfalutin way. It's just the way I feel about the two things. The music is much deeper, what was it The The called his album? Soul Mining. That's it. That's it exactly.
Q: You have a distinctive sense of calmness in your voice. Ever thought of working more acoustically? Stripping it back to vocal and guitar, maybe?
A: Not really, no. I'm always surprised when people say stuff like that about my voice. Honestly, the last thing in my head when I'm writing or recording is calm. And funnily enough, I've just recorded a new song called Anger and/or Rage, which deals with blokes being full of it a lot of the time. And as for vocal and guitar, I do like a vocal/guitar song thing, but I'm not a massive fan. For me, for it to work the song has to be immense. There's a vocal and guitar song on the new Chinas album, Wonderful New World, and yes, it's only on there because it is in fact….immense!
Q: Finally, Gary, I used to read Smash Hits when I was a kid. I've always wanted to ask someone this in an interview....what's your favourite colour?