By Rob Lyon
Thirty five years and still going strong! Big Country are making their way to Australia & New Zealand for their much awaited an anticipated tour celebrating all the greatest hits from albums such as The Crossing, Steeltown and The Seer. Across The Ocean spoke to original member Bruce Watson ahead of the tour talking about everything that a fan would want to know about Big Country.
Good news after all this time Big Country is heading to Australia for their first tour, did you ever think it would happen?
I’m looking forward to this one, we did some filming there and that is as far as we got. We never though an Australian tour would eventuate. I think we’ve dreamt it many times but never in a million years did we think we would be coming down to the southern hemisphere. It is absolutely fantastic that we have been given a second chance to go down there. I’m looking forward to a day off but with our schedule I don’t think that is going to happen. We have two shows in New Zealand then a flying day then it will basically be get up early, go to sound check, get a bite to eat, go to the gig, go to the hotel, get up really early the next day and repeat the process. I don’t think we’ll get to see too much of Australia apart from airports, hotels and the land below.
Sorry about the loss of Stuart Adamson twelve years ago but was it a difficult thing getting the band back together?
Basically it was down to fan pressure and the internet. We used to do these convention gigs after Stuart passed away. Tony, Mark and I would do these one off weekenders for fans in the UK and it went on from there.
Do you believe things happening for a reason?
Yeah, I gave up on the fact that Big Country would do anything again so it was a pleasant surprise that there was a lot of interest and still is. As long as we’re healthy we’ll keep doing it.
Do you find it amazing the level of interest in nostalgia and bands that were big in the eighties making a resurgence now?
Everybody has the right to work and the fact that a lot of these bands are from the seventies and eighties that are still doing it is fantastic because there’s a chance for the younger generation to see them in some sort of form. To be honest with you I see it as the songs as far as anywhere and people want to see the songs performed by some of musicians that were on the actual original recordings.
Being in the business as long as you have can you believe how much things have changed?
It is different now, obviously there’s not so much records being sold these days compared to the old days. There’s not even that many record labels out there but I find for Big Country and a lot of bands from that era it’s just a touring thing now. I love touring but the only thing I don’t like about touring is getting there. I think it’s an age thing you know whereas when you were younger your body is more up to the task. Nowadays you have to watch what you are doing.
Do you see Big Country as a new band with the same name and was it a challenge winning over some of the diehard fans who in their own mind have an image of what Big Country was?
I think everyone has been quite supportive but I don’t think you will find any band apart from maybe U2 that have had the same line up for the past thirty five years. Even The Rolling Stones and The Who that are still out there doing it don’t have original line ups. When we first got back together we were kind of wary about that obviously. I would say in general that most of the people who liked the band are still coming out to see us. For me, the song always comes first and then what we do is go out and perform them.
It must be a huge buzz having your son Jamie play in the band as well?
It is quite interesting. It’s weird because Jamie is married now and has his own place and stuff like that, he doesn’t live with me anymore but just a mile down the road but when he is at home he’s my son and when we’re on the road he’s a band member.
Is there a friendly rivalry there to keep you on your toes?
Oh yes completely! It’s great because I look around and give him a wink like he’s made a mistake. Well, that’s my excuse!
Did you think you would be in a position to record a new album like Journey a couple of years ago?
Jamie and I certainly had a backlog of musical ideas that we wanted to embellish and we had been writing our own songs as well because Jamie and I would play as an acoustic duo. When we first put the band back together we got in touch with a Mike Peters from Alarm and he had a collection of stuff he wanted to record as well. We got a record deal through Cherry Red Records and recorded it quite quick, we put the album out and toured it around Europe, America and the UK. That was our first experience going back out on the road for a long, long, long time. It was good. It was interesting and you do things different nowadays the way you tour. We’re kind of a cottage industry, there are no labels or anything and you’re looking after yourself, which is a bit of a learning curve.
How was the process of recording the album?
For me the processes are essentially identical compared to how we did it in the early days. I think it is because it is the only way that I know. Every musician has their own way of working and there is no right way or wrong way as long as you get the end result that you want.
Are you planning to record more albums? Is there plenty of material left?
There’s always material kicking about, these days though promoters want something to hang their hat on and our first three album came out in quick succession so we’re basically doing thirtieth anniversary tours to support those albums because the old label Universal re-released stuff as well. So, you go out and play that album in their entirety along with some of the other songs that were successful takes up most of our time at the moment. That’s not to say we won’t record a few songs in the future, these days you put them up on YouTube or Facebook, you just can’t sell records.
Will the first three albums – The Crossing, Steeltown and The Seer – get re-released in Australia ahead of the tour?
Not really sure, I think Universal plan to re-release some stuff this year which is basically remastered versions of stuff which we don’t have any control over. I don’t think there will be any releases in Australia.
What can Australian fans expect on this tour?
It is billed as a greatest hits package so it makes given that we haven’t played Australia before. Obviously the songs that are successful and a selection of songs from our back catalogue will be the focus.
What is the plan for Big Country beyond Australia?
After Australia we’ll be back in the UK for the festival season and there will be a few festivals up and down the country. Then when we hit September that’s when we start the thirtieth anniversary of The Seer, we did the second album Steeltown last year and that worked out quite well. We’ll do The Seer and that will take us in to next year and from there we haven’t thought that far ahead.
When you look back at over thirty years with Big Country what do you think?
I think we always took a lot of care writing the songs and recording them. Sometimes the albums didn’t come out quite as we wanted them but we have a huge back catalogue of songs and I’m quite proud of them. I tend not to delve to far back in to photos and stuff and I only watch footage if I need to learn a guitar part or part of a song that I haven’t done in thirty years. I tend to not look at all that stuff too much.
Big Country NZ & Australia
Saturday 11TH June – AUCKLAND – The Kings Arms – SOLD OUT
Sunday 12TH June – AUCKLAND – The Kings Arms
Tuesday 14TH June – BRISBANE – The Triffid
Wednesday 15TH June – MELBOURNE – The Corner Hotel
Thursday 16TH June – ADELAIDE – The Gov
Friday 17TH June – SYDNEY – The Factory Theatre
Saturday 18TH June – PERTH – The Rosemount Hotel
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