Monday, 16 February 2015

INTERVIEW - Ocean Colour Scene

IT hardly seems possible that it is 20 years since Ocean Colour Scene were riding high in the charts wowing their fans with sell out shows and a succession of hit songs.
Hailing from Moseley in Birmingham they fused blues, rock, folk indie and Britpop and, along with Blur and Oasis, were one of the bands of the 90s.
Since those heady days they’ve headlined stadiums around the world and amassed a mantelpiece full of awards, not to mention five Top 10 albums and six Top 10 singles. These included perhaps their crowning glory, the seminal The Riverboat Song from their 1996 album Moseley Shoals which was propelled further into the nation’s psyche when DJ Chris Evans chose it as the music to introduce the guests on his hit show TFI Friday.
And in an age when bands come and go OCS have weathered the industry storms, various line up changes and are still very much together.
Indeed they continue to tour and are currently preparing for a special show at the Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday, February 18.
It will be the first time the band has played on its stage and in another first they are doing so complete with a string orchestra.
“We are very excited,” guitarist Steve Craddock tells me cheerfully. “It’s a great venue – the ideal space. It looks perfect and suits what we are doing.”
What they – Steve, Oscar Harrison and Simon Fowler – will be doing is playing a selection of their hits in a stripped back acoustic set accompanied by the orchestra. And Steve promises this will include some material never heard before.
“It’s going to be a real mix,” he says. “We are going to revisit albums such as One From The Modern and Mechanical Wonder and some of the singles – it’s about going back to basics.
“However, it will only be those tunes that are less rocky 'cause we are giving them an acoustic twist.
“There will definitely be stuff we’ve not played before too which I hope the crowd will like.”
What they won’t be doing is The Riverboat Song – I suggest that might not go down too well with the crowd but Steve disagrees.
“It’s an acoustic set with an orchestra and that song just wouldn’t sound right if we did it,” he says. “It’s a bit too rock n roll really and not what this show is about.
“Songs like The Circle and The Day We Caught the Train – they will sound great but not all our stuff will so we have to leave those that don't out.
"We have kind of done acoustic before but it’s a first to do it like this. I think it will sound beautiful though – it’s not going to be a rock n roll gig!"
Maybe not, but then they’ve been there and done that – most notably the now infamous Knebworth gig in 1996 in which they supported Oasis at the height of the Britpop era.
“It was incredible, unreal and surreal,” he says. “We had a number 4 single in the charts and were supporting Oasis who were just amazing.
"It was amazing, extraordinary but it was a bit like a day out at the zoo. Knebworth wasn’t really us.”
And although they were at times labelled as a Britpop band alongside Oasis and Blur, for Steve this never sat easily.
“We were around at the same time as the others but I don’t think we were really Britpop,” he says. “I mean it was nice that we were added to that group because these were big bands and I’ve got a lot of time for Noel [Gallager of Oasis].
“Also we never felt part of Britpop because we were from Birmingham – not Manchester.
“Mind you we were called all sorts - 'baggy' and 'moon gazers' – loads! But you can call us anything you want really, we’re just us and still the same as we ever were.
“We are still doing what we have always done, are a bit older and a bit wiser, that’s all. And we still have the same passion and buzz and being out on the road is great.
“I think it’s amazing to still be here though,” he adds cheerfully. “It’s 25 years since we started out – that’s something.
“Bands should really only last six years and then go but we kind of stuck around, kept working and here we are.”
So how have they stood the test of time? What keeps them when others fall by the wayside?
“Oil of Ulay!” he jokes. “Seriously though, we are not in each other’s pockets. It always seems quite fresh when we are together. But ultimately we are just a little folk band like we were when we first started out and things haven’t really changed.
“I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing,” he adds. “But it’s just how it is.”
But he concedes that time away from each other to do separate projects helps keep that fresh feel. For Steve, breaks from the band have given him a chance to pursue solo projects as well as collaborate with other artists.
“I did a tour playing guitar with the Specials and I have worked with Paul Weller which was amazing.
“We supported him a couple of times in 1992 and recorded in his studio and kind of got to know him then and he asked me to come down for an audition. It was terrifying! I swallowed a lot of dope before I went in so my guitar looked like an anaconda,” he chuckles at the memory.
“I also did a single with Liam [Gallagher]. I like him - he’s got a great and very original voice. And I did a single with KP Arnold which was a dream. I have just found an old song we did together and I’m going to put it on my next solo record.”
Sadly despite their continuing appeal Steve says there are no plans for new OCS material.
“Maybe in a couple of year’s time,” he says when pushed. “It’s just sitting down and getting it done.
“We are still going to be touring though and I am recording some solo stuff this year. I would also like to get an album with a few guys – Paul [Weller], Terry Hall. That would be fun."

Ocean Colour Scene are at the Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday, February 18. Tickets from £20. Visit or call the box office on 020 7960 4200.

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