They’ve been loved, hated, dismissed and revered. No strangers to controversy, The Stranglers can hold their heads high in the face of their harshest critics and prove their success and longevity as they celebrate 40 years together. Their Ruby Tour stops by South Yorkshire’s o2 Academy in Sheffield later this month on 15th March. Editor, Charlie Barker, talks to drummer Jet Black about the past, present and future of the group.
Charlie: You’re embarking on a 28-date tour with The Stranglers, what can the gig-goers expect from you guys this time?
Jet: Well, what we specialise in is excitement.
C: It’s 40 years you’re celebrating now and you’re still so enthusiastic about it, which is great.
J: It’s quite a fun thing to do. As we say in the trade, it’s better than cleaning windows!
C: In all the years that you’ve been gigging, can you think back to any time or any one show you’d love to do all over again?
J: It’s impossible to answer but since you’ve asked it; just to remember how bad it was in the early years.
C: What kind of struggles did you face as a band starting out?
J: When we started as a band, everyone really, really hated us and of course a lot still do but in the early days nobody liked us at all. We arrived at the end of Glam Rock and we didn’t look ‘Glam Rock’ and still don’t. People just didn’t understand the change and it took about 3 years before anybody at all showed a real excitement about what we were doing.
C: The band has evolved so much over 40 years; do you have a favourite era?
J: The end of the 70s was the most frantic period because when people started to get excited about what we did because we were so different to what other people were doing. That was memorable for that reason but all the different decades are memorable for different reasons and the audience has matured with us.
C: There are quite a lot of younger people following you. You’ve got quite a broad appeal.
J: We do indeed. A lot of people come independently and a lot of the young people are children of those who’ve been coming for decades. It really is all sorts, it is a cosmopolitan crowd that goes to a Stranglers gig!
C: Baz, the newest Strangler, joined you in 2000. I believe you’d already met in the mid-90s.
J: Yeah, he did a couple of tours with us playing in another band and we just thought he was a great player.
C: What was it about him that made you think he was the right guy for The Stranglers?
J: We did an audition and he was clearly the most exciting performer.
C: Coming into a band at that late stage he did, that must have been a tough knowing all the history you’d built up?
J: It was a daunting task, I don’t know if I could have carried it off as confidently as he did. It took a lot of our audience a while to get used to the new face but he’s such a self-confident person it wasn’t a problem for him.
C: Our reader’s question is from Russell in Derbyshire and he says, ‘Tell us about your life before The Stranglers and is it true you owned a fleet of ice cream vans?’
J: That is true, yes! Any reader you have who’d like to know about the band should log onto our website, there’s masses of information there especially about my pre-history it’s all there.
C: Were you an entrepreneurial guy?
J: I was a small-time businessman, I don’t claim to have been an entrepreneur but I did have my fingers in a number of pies! I did quite well but I reached a stage in my life where I just decided I wanted to do music.
C: As you’re coming up to 40 years in the business, you’ve got this tour. What’s in the future for the band?
J: As far as I can tell, more of the same. We plan to continue doing what we do as long as we’re capable of doing it and people want to come and see us.
C: Long may it continue!