Music interview – Stereophonics: ‘When Stuart Cable passed it was a massive shock for us’

Stereophonics. Picture: Andrew Whitton
Stereophonics. Picture: Andrew Whitton
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The release of your tenth studio album, a full two decades on from your debut longplayer, might feel like an achievement in itself for many bands.

But for Stereophonics bassist Richard Jones, the imminent arrival of his group’s new record, Scream Above The Sounds, signals business as usual.

“We always wanted to be a band that stuck around, you know like stand the test of time,” says the 43-year-old from Cwmaman, South Wales. “We never wanted to be the type of band that were one hit wonders, we wanted to have a catalogue of work.

“It’s our 20th year since Word Gets Around and it would be quite easy to bring out a Greatest Hits but we wanted to celebrate by keeping on pushing forward and keep showing people all these new things that we’re finding that we can do in the studio.”

Jones, who formed Stereophonics in 1992 with longtime friends Kelly Jones and Stuart Cable, feels the band have been “fortunate” to retain their original audience while continuing to gain new fans. “We go to festivals where all the kids go to see the up and coming bands then they stick around for the other acts and then they come back and watch us when we’re doing our own headline shows. We’re lucky to have an audience that ranges from teenagers to middle-aged people.”

Singer and guitarist Kelly Jones said he wanted to write “anthems that were rallying against the anxieties that have flooded through cities” in recent times. Richard Jones sees Scream Above The Sounds as “not so much a response” to the political climate as “finding the positives about what you do and where you are within society”.

Stereophonics. Picture: Andrew Whitton

Stereophonics. Picture: Andrew Whitton

“We are entertainers,” he recognises. “If people think they’ve got a mundane life entertainment is that release for people. When people come to see concerts we are the ones performing there to make people have a good time.

“When you’re writing usually one or two songs pave the way for the whole feel and sound of the album. For this album it was Caught By The Wind, it had got the essence of all the bad stuff that’s happening – it’s always been out there but we haven’t always had 24-hour news and social media ramming stuff down your throat– but you’ve got to find the good things and celebrate them.

“[In] All in One Night Kelly wanted to write about people’s lives can change over the course of 24 hours for the positive. There are a lot of situations in that song but the positives come out at the end.”

The latter song was written after watching the German film Victoria. “It shows you how different things happen to a couple in the course of 24 hours and he took inspiration from that film,” Jones says.

There’s never a day that goes by either in the studio or on the road when we don’t talk about Stuart or the situation being in with him. When he passed it was a massive shock for us.

Richard Jones

The song Before Anyone Knew Our Name is about Stuart Cable, the band’s first drummer. His tragically early death in 2010 at the age of 40 remains hard for Richard and Kelly Jones to comprehend.

“Stuart was such a big part of the band. He played on the first three or four albums and every time we play the songs we think of Stuart. There’s never a day that goes by either in the studio or on the road when we don’t talk about Stuart or the situation being in with him.

“When Stuart passed it was a massive shock for us. You think when you’re so close to somebody – even though he wasn’t in the band for quite a few years we were still really good friends – it doesn’t really hit you for any one time, it comes out in different ways. With that song Kelly said it just kind of fell out of him. He didn’t sit down and write specifically about that, it all just came out. As soon as he played it to myself it was exactly how I felt as well, all the sentiment that Kelly put into the lyrics was spot-on. When anybody heard it, it made them notice the relationship that was within the band.”

More than 20 years into Stereophonics’ career, Jones says he still gets a buzz from performing in front of big crowds. “There’s nothing quite like it. When you’re a kid dreaming of being a musician finding you can sustain it as a career is the dream come true. Second then is meeting all your heroes and realising that they’re really nice people and down to earth.”

Touring with David Bowie was a particular pleasure. “It was not surprising but he introduced himself to us, he walked into our dressing room the first day we were touring with him. Tony [Kirkham], the keyboard player, he’s a massive Bowie fan. Myself, Tony and Scott [James], the guitarist we had at the time, [were there] when he came in and said ‘thank you very much for joining me on this tour and we’re going to have a good time , we’re going to see some things playing in different places’. We kept bumping into him when we were doing a soundcheck and he said ‘Some of the songs you’re doing they’d be really good if you just lengthened them’. When we’d sit down in the canteen he’d come over and join us at our table and we had a mini five-a-side tournament and he was there heckling us by the side. He was a genuinely down to earth guy when he was in that environment.”

Scream Above The Sounds is out tomorrow. Stereophonics play at First Direct Arena, Leeds on Saturday March 10, 2018. stereophonics.com