Thursday, 21 April 2016

INTERVIEW - Ali Campbell of UB40

WITH upwards of 70 million record sales under his belt, a string of top hits to his name not to mention eight kids and now becoming a granddad, Ali Campbell has plenty of reasons to be cheerful.
In fact, the frontman of UB40, one of the UK's most popular bands ever, tells me life has never been better.
We chat as he prepares for a UK arena tour in which he and bandmates Mickey Virtue and Astro will perform classic hits and gems from their seminal albums Labour Of Love Parts I & II.
The tour takes in the O2 Arena in Greenwich, a venue Ali tells me he can't wait to get into and start playing.
"I've never played at the 02 before but I did see Stevie Wonder there which was cool so we are going to make sure it's a good gig," he says in his West Midlands lilt.
"It's been a while since we were last in Greenwich so it will be brilliant to be back.
"I've got good memories of playing in South London - last time it was the Indig02 and it was brilliant - so I'm hoping we'll get a good crowd in who are all keen to hear our songs and party with us."
And he promises fans won't be disappointed as there will be a full set of hits from Red, Red Wine, Kingston Town and The Way You Do The Things You Do.
"I can't wait because it'll just be hit after hit after hit," he says cheerfully. "I've never sung the album in its entirety before so it'll be a load of fun.
"The songs just stand the test of time and we still get a kick out of playing them."
And he hints that as well as the golden oldies there will be some new material.
"There will be an encore so there may be some new stuff," he chuckles.
"The whole reason we started in the first place was to show people why we love reggae," he adds. "We knew these songs would be successful. It's emotional for me as ever since we started it's been about the music and promoting reggae to new audiences which is what we've always done."
They may be on a roll now but Ali admits the last few years have been tough, not least the split from his brothers who were part of the band's original line up.
Referring to them as the "Dark Side" he says the tensions are still there but says ultimately it's the fans who decide their fate.
And it's clear the fans are still there and loving the fact the band is back with their critically acclaimed 2014 album Sihouette and on tour - something Ali and the guys are delighted to be doing again since they reformed in 2013.
"We are in a great place and really happy," he says warmly. "It's better now and we are enjoying it more.
"It's been the greatest time for us - we are as strong as we ever were and so to do the big arena tour is exactly where we want to be.
"We've been to Hawaii and New Zealand and all over the place playing to both small and large audiences.
"In fact we've been in some quite luxurious and beautiful places and we feel very lucky to be able to do this.
"It makes a change from when we first started out all those years ago, slumming it in various shitholes and driving about in our Luton van with all our gear! Now we're like travelling troubadours," he adds laughing.
"It's a great life to be living in your 50s. It was great in our 20s and 30s but now it's even better.
"But it's about tenacity and refusing to go away and we kept on going because we believed in the music.
"At the time we started no one knew what dub and reggae was all about. When I first started UB40 in 1979 reggae had only been going since 1968 so it was tiny.
"Now it's got more interesting and people know much more about it which is fantastic - in fact reggae is the biggest influence in contemporary dance music. You hear it all around the world.
"There is a great scene in the West Coast of America and I love to go and visit and play with the likes of Rebelution and Slightly Stoopid who are making great music."
And he says he hopes to make an album and tour with some of them at some point in the future.
But for now his unplugged album which is being released by Warner Bros in July and the tour are uppermost in his mind.
He and Astro are writing "as we always do" and he promises there will be a new album at some point not to mention collaborations with some of his offspring.
"I'm a grandfather now and have eight kids and although I don't see enough of them, when I do it's great," he says warmly.
"One of my daughters supported us last year and my other daughter is also delving into the business."
But he says he draws the line at giving any of his kids advice.
"I can't because it's a different business these days," he says. "The one I grew up in was all about selling CDs and you can't do that now because it's all about downloads. It's all different.
"But we've always been lucky to have brilliant fans and a great reputation as a live band playing some of the best music in the world.
"UB40 gave us three million card carrying fans and the fact we play reggae means I'm still here today as people all over the world love it.
"We chose the right genre of music," he chuckles.

UB40 will be at the 02 in Greenwich with their Labour Of Love Tour on Friday, April 29. Visit for full listings.

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