Steve Cradock Interview
I never saw it as the start it’s more a change of heart.
Next up in the series of ‘Met The Hype’ interviews is something special. I caught up with the legendary guitarist, mod legend, and all-round top bloke, Steve Cradock.
His guitar playing has helped supply some of the main anthems to my life, so having the chance to have a friendly chat was quite a buzz. I first discovered OCS in ’96 when they played the legendary music venue, The Forum in my old home town of Tunbridge Wells.
This was a memorable night for several reasons. One of which was helping to make one of Paul Weller’s dreams come true by letting him hang out with me backstage, as you can see.
During the chat with Steve Cradock, I got to find out more about what inspires him, being a dad on the road, what it’s like to audition with Paul Weller, OCS and his new project ‘The Songbook Collective’.
Steve’s career goes back, way back and shows no signs of stopping. From helping to provide the soundtrack to the 90s with ‘Ocean Colour Scene’, releasing 21 albums over 21 years and two of those being number #1 in the charts (you can check out the interview I did with fellow OCS member and lead singer Simon ‘Foxy’ Fowler here) to playing in Paul Weller’s band for the last twenty years.
He’s released three solo albums and joined Terry Hall in ‘The Specials’. Not content with that, he’s been busy being a dad, producing albums for Soul legend PP Arnold and more recently hitting the road with the other members of the Paul Weller band, under the moniker of ‘The Songbook Collective’.
The Collective is made up of Steve Cradock, drummer Andy Crofts (The Moons), singer Steve Pilgrim (The Stands and Cast), bass player and ace face, Andy Lewis (Blow Up) & drummer/samples man Ben Gordelier.
So sit back, roll a ‘number’ (A ‘number’ being slang for getting a cup of tea in case you imagine I mean anything else, hmmm..) and read on.
WHEN STEVE CRADOCK MET THE HYPE.
So Steve, how old were you when you first picked a guitar and who inspired you?
“Around 11 years old, I was visiting Liverpool, and a friend gave me a beaten-up old guitar. The same old story like so many others I varnished it and made it look good. My favourite album was “Signing Off” by UB40. I remember picking up Robin Campbell’s 81-82 year. I was a bass player for quite a few years so I started playing bass in a band when I was 13 at school”.
What do you remember about that time? And do you think bands today miss out on those experiences?
“I wouldn’t say they miss out. For me it was a great way of doing something on a weekend”.
A bit of pocket money?
“Haha, not really. Lots of free beer!”
“Maybe can’t remember. It was a great release from the boredom of school. We would go up to the drummer’s dad’s house, practice for a few hours and play the pubs before getting into the youth club circuit around the Cheshire area. Playing in a band with your mates was fun we had great camaraderie”.
Do you think that bands today just go onto Youtube and don’t really have these experiences?
“Not really, we had fun and even though they were shit holes we ended up playing 3-4 nights a week and we probably moaned a lot at the time about it. Kind of gets your “chops in”. An overnight Youtube sensation would have been quicker and financially successful.”
Did the Mod look come about at that time?
“Yeah, it was at the time of the mod revival, so I remember kids in school with Parkas on which I really liked. You had The Jam also which I was really into as well as others all around my area of Birmingham”.
Quadrophenia was around at that time too but to be honest, I just loved The Jam
What in particular drew you to them?
“They encapsulated everything I loved even though I was too young to go and see them at the time. I was also into the Mamas and Papas, Otis Redding’s greatest hits, Booker T and the MG’s, Aretha Franklin’s greatest hits. They were my favourite records then. I think there were a lot of good bands in the late 70s and early 80s. I really loved Blondie, Soft Cell a lot of good singles about then, before 83 anyway”.
Read The Hype’s interview with a bandmate of Steve Cradock – Simon Fowler.
As you said you were a huge Jam fan, your hero becomes your mate. I read about your first meeting when you got the call for the audition what was it like? It must have been terrifying! Or were your game for it?
“Both of those things, I was shitting myself! Haha! I swallowed a load of dope thinking that might help. It was a nerve-racking afternoon but also beyond amazing really!”
How did it come around, were you recording at the time?
“Yeah, I saw Paul around and he needed another guitarist so decided to call me up. I was such a shit guitarist then. I even said that at the time.
He just said ‘look just listen to what I’m saying and it will work out'”.
It must have helped you having had a similar background playing the working men’s clubs, a common bond?
“It might have been but I didn’t think that had anything to do with it, he just needed a guitar player so we had to get our heads down. I don’t think the past is really important it’s more about the future!”
It’s 20 years since ‘Moseley Shoals’, what do you remember about those days? And you’ve just come back from the Australia, how was that?
“It was really good! It was our first time there playing four sold-out shows; it took us 26 years to get there! Which is a lifetime isn’t it?”
Are the fans as fanatical, because they have been waiting so long?
“They were amazing and strangely there was a lot of Glaswegians there. We always seem to do well in Scotland. We put the Leeds show on, and it sold out in something like 10 minutes! We were like, ‘what the fuck!’
We put up Newcastle and the Hydro in Scotland which goes up to 14.000 people which I think sold out 8000 tickets by 3 pm on the first day”.
Wow! that must have been a bit of a head f*ck?
“It’s amazing yeah, especially after so long, not that that matters but we’ve been so contemporary for so long. I’m just glad that it means a lot to a lot of people”.
When did you think ‘we’ve made it now’ I’m going to do this for life.
“We were always ‘lifers’ but I guess I would say when we did Top of the Pops, whether it was a great or a shit show I don’t know really but in those days, it was an important show with good viewing figures”.
It meant a lot to people watching every Thursday night.
“Yeah, it hadn’t stopped then I guess it was ‘something is happening here’. The first time we got to #14 in the charts, so I guess we became a big contemporary band for a while”.
You put those years in and struggled when a lot of people would’ve called it a day, sold out and got a ‘9-5’…
“I couldn’t imagine it, as I said we were all ‘lifers’. We weren’t going to do it for a while to see how we got on. Which I know is easy for us to say ‘cos if we hadn’t got anywhere how would we have continued, that we don’t know”.
I know you’re a family man, how do you combine that with life on the road? You have a couple of kids, do they go on the road with you?
“They’ve spent their whole life on the road yeah, ever since they were born. They would be babies on the side of the stage with Cast at Glastonbury and on top of the amplifiers playing the tambourine on ‘A Town called Malice’. My son’s 11, my daughter is 13 I don’t think they know any different really”.
You’re known for being a bit of a snazzy dresser, how does that work now we’re all getting a bit older. Any tips for not looking a bit mutton?
“Don’t get fat! I think everyone dresses the same too much. If you’re overweight, your health is more important than how you look obviously but if you’re looking flabby then I don’t think it will suit you”.
So going on to the Songbook Collective, whose idea was it? How did it come about?
“I think it was Steve’s. Paul’s then going to have a year off to work on a new album. I’m not sure with everyone else; we haven’t got much work on. I’ve got my solo stuff ‘The Moons’ at some point, so it was worth giving it a go.
We start next year, and I think fans would really enjoy this. Three different bands going on, quite eclectic, including the same musicians as Paul Weller’s backing band. If you’re a Weller fan you’d enjoy it. All our stuff together, all of us going out on the road should be enjoyable for everyone”.
Thanks Steve Cradock
Judging by the reviews so far, that is more than true as the band have been going down a storm around the country.
If you enjoyed this Steve Craddock interview, take a look at more interviews with music royalty in the Funk section.