pic credit Christine Sugary Staple
HE may not be able to run and jump about on stage as much as he'd like to - or as much as he used to - but Neville Staple still likes to give his audiences a "wicked".
The 60-year-old Jamaican-born former member of The Specials is still writing and making music as well as touring all over the place entertaining his legion of fans.
And just so that there is no doubt about his continued passion for performing he is about to embark on a lengthy tour with his band which includes a date at the The Prince Of Wales in Brixton Road on February 5.
We chat not long after his return to his home in Coventry from a three-week holiday in Jamaica and it's clear his general demeanour is as sunny as the weather he has left behind.
"It was lovely and hot out there," he tells me cheerfully in his soft Coventry burr. "But it's bloody freezing here!
"But I'm all rested and geared up for my visit to Brixton.
"The Brixton gig is part of a tour which goes on all year. I love touring - I can’t help myself,” he adds chuckling away.
And this good humoured bonhomie extends throughout our chat in which he tells me stories about how fellow Specials band member Jerry Dammers “saved” him from "sinking into hell", how Ghost Town is still as relevant as ever and how he still gets a kick out of touring.
“I love it,” he says. “I’ve played Brixton loads of times before and have some great memories. It’s a special place for me because audiences are great there and always up for a good time so I'm looking forward to being back.
"It will be a real party with a bit of a mix of new songs and the old favourites.”
And despite having left the Specials, the band that made his name, Neville assures me he doesn’t mind performing their songs.
“You can’t go on stage and not expect to sing them,” he says warmly. “People want to hear the classics of course and it’s great because I’ll look out and see everyone joining in as they know all the words.
“However everything will have my own personal take on it. They will be played in a different way, and if the audience wants lots of long solos within the songs, then that’s what I’ll give them.”
And then he reels off a long set list – including Gangsters, Monkey Man, Too Much Too Young, Message To You Rudy, Ghost Town, and some of the songs from his latest album Ska Crazy plus a few from his yet to be released and un-named album.
“It will be great entertainment – I like to entertain, converse with the audience and chat to them although there won’t be any long speeches,” he jokes. “The audience will get into the music and we’ll have some fun."
And fun is what he seems to have had by and large during his 35-year career. Affectionately known as The Original Rude Boy, a term coined originally by his father when he was growing up, Neville led the 2Tone scene of the 1970s and 80s first with Coventry band the Specials and later as co-founder of Fun Boy Three with bandmates and fellow Coventrians Terry Hall and Lynval Golding.
They had a string of hits which Neville says still have relevance today – Ghost Town being an obvious example set as it was against a background of rising unemployment and social unrest – and they were never afraid of singing about issues affecting people at the time.
“Ghost Town still has meaning and relevance, even more so in fact,” he says. “It was about depression, recession, kids getting into trouble, that they have no manners – there are still so many social problems. It’s still all about society.
“We just sang about stuff people could identify with. But all our songs had meaning – ‘stop you messing around’ was all about getting kids to stop fighting otherwise you’ll get in trouble.
“I used to get into trouble but I stopped all that when I got into the Specials – in fact they saved me,” he adds.
“I’d done borstal but when I came out I ended up meeting Jerry and he gave me a chance in the Specials and from there it was amazing.”
And he says he’s really proud of their legacy.
“One aspect of being involved in the 2Tone scene I’m really proud of is the way we were a band with black and white musicians and we brought black and white communities together,” he says.
“There was a lot of racism in the 70s and we helped bring people together through music. We blended ska with white music and were telling people that they could get on, they could stop fighting.
“Next thing there would be punks dancing in the street and people stopped fighting so much.
“We still have racism but it changed then so we definitely had an impact and I’m proud of that.”
Although they have now all gone their separate ways Neville has remained active and despite his dodgy knees, a result of jumping off speakers on stage, and a slight hearing problem, due to said speakers, his charisma and enthusiasm are there is spades and he says he’s in good nick.
He tours relentlessly, playing venues across the world, including festivals such as Glastonbury, gigs and even private house parties.
He has also performed and worked with many great names in the business over the years, and during our conversation drops these names like confetti, while admitting he still has to pinch himself when he thinks about all the musicians he used to listen to growing up and who he now counts as friends.
“People like Dandy Livingstone and Derek Morgan, I used to listen to their records and now they are on the same stage as me,” he says genuinely in awe. “It’s amazing and a real privilege.”
“Working with Joe Strummer was wicked and meeting and working with people like Boy George was amazing. I met [music mogul] Pete Waterman at his club in Coventry – and then worked with him.
“In fact I’ve had so many highlights – meeting Amy Winehouse was incredible. She was gorgeous inside and out, such a nice girl and the way she sang was amazing. Her singing with us at a gig, that was a real highlight.”
Fortunately for his many fans, he has no plans to slow down saying it’s not in his nature to sit still.
He talks warmly of his wife Christine too, to whom he has been married for two and a half years.
“She does a lot for me,” he says. “She’s great – she looks after me, writes things down in my diary and is always with me on tour.”
And she’ll be with him in Brixton where he is expecting a good crowd.
“I can’t wait,” he chuckles. “Brixton, we are going to have a good time.”
Neville Staple and his band will be at the Prince of Wales in Brixton Road on Friday, February 5. Tickets cost 15. Call the box office on 020 7095 1978.