This interview was originally printed in the Glasgow Journal in February 2012.
It was with a sense of some trepidation then that I received the news that I was to interview Baz Warne, the band’s current lead singer and guitarist. Imagine my relief when I uncovered that he’d briefly been a member of the Toy Dolls, a punk outfit from Sunderland who had been responsible for my favourite song as a four year old – a novelty cover of Nellie the Elephant.
There’s a slight edge of embarrassment to Baz’s laugh when I bring this up: “I was 19 years of age so you’ve got to cut me a bit of slack with that one, y’kna?
“In actual fact it’s me that’s on the record. So whenever you hear that fantastic song it’s me playing bass and singing, but I’d left the band by the time it was released, mercifully! Although, it did get to number 4, I think, and it made them a few quid I believe.”
With Nellie long since dispatched along the road to Mandalay, Baz is now playing the role in the Stranglers that Hugh Cornwell occupied until he left in 1990. Relations between Cornwell and the rest of the band had become increasingly frayed in the eighties. Karate black belt bassist J J Burnel famously once punched him through a wall.
The relationship between Baz and Burnel seems a lot more chummy, with the pair forming an effective song-writing partnership: “What J J and I tend to do is we’ll collect ideas, some have been left over from previous projects, other things are brand spanking new.
“Lots of la la la da da da singing down into your mobile phone as you’re walking the dog. Inspiration comes from many different areas at different times. Then we get together, we put everything on the table and we thrash it through.”
The end result is the soon to be released new album Giants. The album has been deliberately stripped back so that it sounds like “four guys in a room” playing live, as Baz puts it. Early press reaction has been uniformly positive.
When asked about their upcoming gig in Glasgow to promote the new album Baz is enthusiastic: “We played there I think maybe two, maybe even three tours ago and JJ and myself went on stage for the encores in black kilts.
“Totally commando of course, because you’ve got to go commando when you’re up there. They’ll never forgive you if you don’t. So we showed our arses to the audience and the gig was stopped and there was all manner of other things that went on and it was a good old Glasgow night out!”
Horrified by this prospect I thank Baz for his time and draw the interview to a close.
As songwriters and musicians the Stranglers were head and shoulders above their contemporaries from the British punk explosion. I’m grateful that it’s still possible to see them and look forward to hearing their new material.
The Stranglers play the Glasgow O2 Academy on Saturday 3rd March.