An Interview with Baz Warne
First emerging in 1974, The Stranglers have continued to remain a huge influence on the rock music scene, and they are back on tour this year with a focus on their 1978 album Black and White. We caught up with lead vocalist and guitarist Baz Warne to discuss the upcoming tour.
Hi Baz, so what is it really like being the front man of The Stranglers?
Well, it’s a real privilege, but you can also look at it from many different ways; it’s my job, it’s my passion, it’s my love, it pays the rent, but then I would do it for nothing if I was asked, so it’s just a part of my life now you know. I don’t really think about it as being in a band anymore, it’s just terrific. It’s really terrific.
So did you ever listen to The Stranglers when you were growing up?
Oh yes, Black and White was actually the first album that I bought. I was only fourteen when that one came out and now I’m on stage with them. In the early stages of being in the band I had to pinch myself a lot, but now it feels like it has always been this way, it’s been a long time: 16 years for me now.
Do you think fans reacted well to you becoming the lead vocalist of the band?
Yeah, I think they did in general. When I joined the band was a five-piece and we had a separate vocalist, but things were becoming a bit stale I think, and so it just seemed like a logical progression, although it was still a shock when Paul left. I mean there’s always going to be the old guard who want the original guy and I can imagine there are a lot of people who mourn him leaving the band, and I say that with all respect to him as he was a very good friend of mine. There’s always going to be the die-hard fans who won’t take to you because you’re not ‘the guy’, no matter how good you are, and frankly that’s just water off a duck’s back to me now. On the whole though, I’d say around 95% of the fans like it how it is now and how it was back then, so I think that they reacted to the change well.
So I saw the band perform last year when you were opening for Motorhead at the Eden Project; what was that like?
That was one of my top five Strangler’s shows that I’ve done since being in the band. I don’t quite know what it was for that one, I think it was just the weather and the sound, to the crowd and the location. We also had a great weekend running up to it as well. We only played for an hour, so we were able to keep it short and sharp, and it was just a really good show. I think we gave old Lemmy, God rest his soul, a run for his money there. We actually saw him backstage before the show and he didn’t look well, bless him, but I think it was still a big shock to everyone when we heard the news.
The world lost a good soul with his passing. So your 2016 tour is based on the 1978 Black and White album; what is it like revisiting the younger days of The Stranglers given that you joined the band in 2000?
Well, it’s a real privilege, to use that word again. A lot of people that we’ve been talking to in recent weeks are all talking about the CD, and I know there are a lot of extra tracks on there, but the original Black and White vinyl release had only twelve songs on it, and that’s what we’re doing, the actual original release. When we looked at the set list and started writing everything down, it became apparent that out of the twelve songs, there’s nine that we play quite regularly anyway, so there were only three tunes that we really needed to get our teeth into and learn, so to speak. But its great fun, they’re not songs that we play that often together as a piece, so it’s going to be a real joy and we’re all really looking forward to it.
I’m sure you’ve heard some interesting stories of how some of the band’s songs came about, so how did The Stranglers end up covering ‘Walk on by’?
We are actually going to play that one on the upcoming tour, given that it is also on the album. I think that when the band first started it was a real struggle just to get gigs, as it is for most new bands, so you would learn a big pile of covers, and some of them worked and some of them didn’t, and that’s been the case in a lot of other bands that I’ve been in. But ‘Walk on by’ definitely worked for The Stranglers!
Tickets for The Stranglers tour are still available on their website.