One of the UK’s most exciting and influential British groups, The Stranglers have announced an extensive full production UK tour, which, they say, will be the last time they play together in this way.
Thursday, 3rd February 2022,
The band promise a set that will be covering tracks from their extensive catalogue spanning over 45 years.
The Stranglers have undergone changes in recent years with the retirement of founder member and drummer Jet Black, who is still involved behind the scenes, and the death of keyboard player Dave Greenfield – a victim of Covid.
The band now comprises Jean Jacques Burnel on bass and vocals, Baz Warne on guitar and vocals, drummer Jim Macaulay and keyboard player Toby Hounsham.
They had just returned from a French tour when I spoke to Burnel. “It was much more successful than I expected,” he says. “Sadly, we had to cancel most of the European dates due to Covid restrictions and we had to keep our road crew safe.”
“But the shows were fantastic, I didn’t expect so many people to turn up so we definitely won the gamble. And it also gave us the chance to run in our new keyboard player, Toby Hounsham.”
Originally in the 90s band Rialto, Hounsham has been a professional musician for over 30 years and plays regularly with Ray Dorset of Mungo Jerry fame, as well as Go West and Katrina (of Katrina and the Waves).
A proponent of ‘boogie woogie’ piano, Somerset-born he joined The Stranglers in mid-2021 and the French tour were his first dates with the band.
“Dave [Greenfield] passing away was a big shock to us all and it’s a big emptiness after the 45 years we’ve played together,” Burnel says, “but Toby has fitted in well and he’s been accepted by the fans.
“He treats everything Dave played with great respect, and he keeps saying ‘I can’t believe I’m playing with the best band in the world’”.
The band released the album Dark Matters in last September with eight of the 11 tracks featuring Greenfield; it was the first album not to feature the legendary Jet Black, who retired in 2015.
The album was a great success, getting to number four in the charts.
“These days, the charts don’t mean so much to us,” Burnel says. “However, it gives us some bragging rights and is a ‘finger up’ to those who said that we couldn’t do anything fresh. It proves that there’s no age limit to musical ability.”
Burnel has quite a few favourites on the album. “My favourite one to play is White Stallion, but there’s also This Song, Water, and The Lines which has brought tears to the eyes to members of the audience due to its subject: why are so afraid of getting old?”
While this is to be The Stranglers’ last full tour, they hope to carry on.
“It’s our last full tour, but we hope to keep on playing one-offs,” Burnel says. “In fact, some are already planned into 2023. You see, in the last few years, we’ve played so much (Covid notwithstanding) and it’s not really creative. I can’t write if I’m stuck in a hotel.”
But he is looking forward to touring the UK again.
“I’m particularly looking forward to the tour, to be honest,” he says laughing, “I think anyone who’s been cooped up for 21 months will be.”
He is, though, keeping quiet about the set list.
“It’s a different set list every night – we do that because we can,” he grins. “I’ve no idea how many songs from the new album we’ll be playing. In France we did five.”
However, he hints that the set will be dominated by Stranglers’ classics, as he says: “I don’t think audiences go to see bands to see them plugging their latest album.”
And we may even get new Stranglers’ music in the future, but it might not be for a while, Burnel admits.
“No, there won’t be a new album just yet. I’ve got about 300 songs to complete.”
The Stranglers, with special guests Ruts DC, will be appearing at the O2 Academy, Leeds on February 12. For details and to book tickets visit thestranglers.co.uk