MARCH is upon us and that can mean only one thing – the annual UK tour by The Stranglers.
The foursome, which still has founder-member Jean-Jacques Burnel on bass and vocals, Dave Greenfield on keyboards, Baz Warne on guitar and vocals and Ian McCauley on drums, are set to take the country by storm.
With hits such as Peaches, Always The Sun, No More Heroes and of course Golden Brown, the band – who celebrate 43 years as a working band this year – have an impressive catalogue of music to select from for their set list.
But, as guitarist and singer Baz Warne tells me, it might not be what we expect.
“No,” he says. “It’s not a greatest hits tour. In our terms, it’s a collection of Stranglers’ classics to us.
“The choices might be different to ‘the man in the street’ and there will be some more obscure stuff.
“Some of the songs sometimes get overlooked and we can always bring them back. For instance, we might be playing Dagenham Dave which is one we haven’t done for ten years. When we played it at rehearsals we all had big grins on our faces.”
But there will be the hits, though.
“Oh, yes,” he affirms. “The usual suspects will be in there, but there’s loads of stuff that we haven’t played before or for years, at any rate. We’ve decided to freshen things up.”
And all appears to be well in the camp.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Walk On By. I taught one of my first girlfriends to play it on the guitar back in the Seventies.Baz Warne
“Things are very positive, and we’re working hard at the rehearsals, and it’s great fun as we’re all mates and get on, and we’re all close.”
One thing that is noticeable is that founder member Jet Black is not on the tour promotional flyers and new drummer Ian McCauley is featured.
“Well, Jet is still very much involved with everything we do, he’s become our touchstone,” says 52-year-old Warne.
“I speak with him very often and he always knows what’s going on. He just doesn’t play live any more, and he’s happy with that.”
Last year’s tour, where they performed the post-punk classic album Black And White in its entirety, was very successful, with nearly every show sold out.
“It was exhausting though,” Warne admits. “It was the hardest tour for many a year as there were a few challenges. But there’s no pressure to do a full album this time.”
After over 40 years the band is as popular as ever, and I ask Baz why he thinks this is.
“I would probably say because we’re really f****** good,” he laughs.
“It’s those classic songs which are evocative of a golden time in British music.”
And also the band’s ethic.
“Yeah, it’s the enduring quality of the music, the songs and the attitude. We never short-change anyone.”
He continues: “We pay a lot of attention and care to the production as there are standards to maintain. Of course we pay attention to the past, but also to the present.”
The tours are planned to the nth degree.
“That’s right, we start emailing each other around September about set ideas and we get together in January and thrash it out.
“We then play the songs relentlessly over and over so that we get it right. We work very hard at it,” he says simply.
Warne has a few personal favourites amongst the band’s canon.
“I’ve always had a soft spot for Walk On By. I taught one of my first girlfriends to play it on the guitar back in the Seventies and the BBC voted it the third greatest cover version ever.
“Goodbye Toulouse is my favourite traditional Stranglers track – it has everything. European Female is pretty good and of the newer tracks I always love playing Relentless.”
As to the future, the band will never rest on their laurels, as Warne explains.
“We are doing some festivals in the summer, but not masses as we are purposely setting aside time to record and we have to all live together to do it. There’s plenty of song ideas going around.
“And,” he adds enigmatically. “We have a few things in the pipeline which I can’t talk about yet.”
For now, Warne and his band mates are looking forward to getting out on the road.
“This could be one of the most successful tours we’ve done as a lot of the shows are sold out or nearly sold out,” he says. “We’re all looking forward to getting out there again.”
The Stranglers Classic Collection 2017 Tour will be coming to the O2 Academy, Leeds on Friday March 17. For further details visit hwww.thestranglers.net