Tuesday, 16 February 2016

INTERVIEW Wet Wet Wet, ahead of their 02 gig on Sunday, March 6

IT’S nearly 30 years since Wet Wet Wet burst onto the music scene. With their catchy pop tunes and good looks the four lads from Glasgow - Graeme Clark, Tommy Cunningham, Neil Mitchell, and Marti Pellow - were an instant hit and went on to be one of the successful bands in British pop history.
In the three decades since they established themselves firmly within the British pop scene, they have sold an incredible 15 million singles and albums and have a more than impressive back catalogue of songs including three UK number ones – With A Little Help From My Friends, Goodnight Girl and of course Love Is All Around which spent an astonishing 15 weeks at the top of the charts.
Despite their success, the guys had their ups and downs and split in 2001, each going their separate ways with lead singer Marti Pellow finding a new lease of life in musical theatre.
However, much to their fans’ delight, they reformed in 2004 and released a greatest hits album in 2013.
They are currently wowing their legions of fans again with a 17-date tour – The Big Picture – which includes a night at the O2 in Greenwich on Sunday, March 6.
For band member Neil Mitchell it marks a welcome return to London and a venue they have – somewhat surprisingly – only played once before.
“We always used to play Wembley so I’m looking forward to the O2,” he tells me. “It’s such a beautiful venue, the atmosphere is amazing and it’s great that it’s still there.
“I hear that you can walk across the top of the Dome which sounds quite scary but might be something good to do while we are there.
“But I’m just so pleased that we are still selling tickets. We’ve been around for a while so it’s great that people still want to come and see us – there is a lot of competition out there these days!” he adds chuckling.
The tour coincides with the 20th anniversary of their huge number one album Picture This which included the hits Julia Says, Don’t Want to Forgive Me Now, Somewhere Somehow, She’s All On My Mind, Morning and of course Love Is All Around.
It is Picture This that has provided the inspiration for the latest tour and a digitally remastered version of the album is being released as part of it.
And at the 02 Neil promises a set list full of the songs that made their name plus a smattering of new material.
“It feels exciting to be doing these 17 dates,” says Neil. “We have always enjoyed playing live and we are really looking forward to coming to the O2.
“We have got more than 30 years of good songs under our belts so we’ll be playing most of them.
“I don’t really have a favourite – they are all meaningful and I like them all and in different ways - Angel Eyes, Wishing I Was Lucky, Love Is All Around, people like to hear those songs.
“There will be some new songs too – we need to keep doing new things otherwise we can get a bit stale. I understand the audience will want to hear the old stuff though - I would do the same if I was going!” he says warmly.
“It’s not really where we play though but who’s there,” he adds. “The reaction we get from the audience, that’s the best feeling.”
Wet Wet Wet formed in 1982 when the guys were at school and their music was influenced by a mix of all the bands and artists that they were listening to at the time.
For Neil it was the music his mum and dad liked – artists such as Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, Elvis and Burt Bacharach as well as Motown songs – and he himself was a big fan of bands such as The Clash and David Bowie.
He admits that looking back it was the best time to get the group together, not least because he says the industry is much more competitive these days.
“It’s incredible the changes that have happened over the last 30 years,” he says. “When we started it was just after punk rock had happened and we realised that anyone could write and play.
“That was our inspiration really. We got a manager, did an album and it went on from there.
“Now it’s completely different as technology has changed things beyond recognition. We are lucky as it’s so difficult for acts starting out now although YouTube gives them a platform which is something we never had.
“We have to live with the times but what I do miss are the album covers – it was great to buy an album with all the artwork that went into the cover – but it’s a different generation now. You have to embrace it or you get left behind.
“I feel like I’m starting to sound like my parents!” he adds chuckling.
Softly spoken but full of good humour throughout our chat, Neil comes across as feeling genuinely surprised that the band still commands box office greatness.
But when I remind him of their success he says it’s as much to do with the band and their long term friendships with each other as it is the music.
“What makes it work and continue to work is that we know each other very well and when things get hard for one of us we support each other,” he says.
“We have that affinity with each other. It’s a relationship where you have ups and downs just like anyone else. We do have to pinch ourselves that we are still here - even more so as we get older as there is so much more competition.
“You either want to do it or you don’t and we really want to and I think at this stage we really appreciate it now.
"I turned 50 last year so I'm delighted we are still able to play and draw in the crowds.
“We are more sensible now though - we are not spring chickens and don't go drinking anymore. I've a four year old son and hate hangovers!
"But we all still get a real kick out of recording and playing and to see people dancing and singing your songs from a long time ago, there really is no better feeling."

Wet Wet Wet brings The Big Picture Tour to London's O2 Arena in Greenwich on Sunday, March 6. Visit axs.com for tickets.

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