Chris Park interviews China Crisis
China Crisis are from a time in the 80s when iconic bands seemed to appear at the drop of a hat. Like others before and after them, they were formed in Merseyside and took the world by storm with hits such as Wishful Thinking, King in a Catholic Style and Black Man Ray.
They are in our area supporting another hero from that time, Paul Young. Vocalist Gary Daly took time out of his schedule to speak to Canal St’s Chris Park about touring, 80s music and why bandmate Eddie Lundon is a god in the Philippines.
Tell us about the forthcoming tour
We played with Paul Young last year as part of an 80s thing with Toyah and Martika. In September we were asked to support him. It’s only 8 to 10 dates. He’s a lovely guy, we’ve known him for a long time. He’s a very conscientious performer and has been in it since the 70s. It’s a nice experience.
What is the best thing about performing live?
That we enjoy our job. There are plenty of people who don’t.
Kim, one of our management team, was with us on Sunday after we’d done three gigs, a big one in Liverpool on Friday and Norwich on Saturday and then we were performing in London on Sunday and it’s a Sunday night, you’d don’t even want to be at a gig let alone perform in one. She was like “I don’t know how you do it?” But once you get up on stage, it’s like athletes in their trackies, when they go in the blocks, they go into a zone. I’m very fortunate in my job. I just have to thoroughly enjoy myself up there as much as I can and let people know that.
Why do you think so many iconic groups came out of Liverpool in the late 70s/early 80s?
Music has always resonated well in the city, The Beatles and Mersey Beat and the Mersey poets and artists all had a resonating effect in the 70s. I can remember growing up as a kid with Liverpool Express, The Real Thing, The Yachts, The Bunnymen, OMD it was always music. Even when me and Ed were young kids in Kirkby, we’d go to Woolworths and they’d have guitars in there. Our local shops that sold TVs and washing machines would have record players with a selection of albums. Music was everywhere.
Why do you think the early 80s music scene is looked back on so fondly and is so enduring?
The bands were defining the future and not sounding like the past, we didn’t feel we had to sound like Sergeant Peppers or The Who. We’d listen to contemporary bands who were Bowie influenced and imagine ourselves sounding new. What we didn’t realise at the time, we were working with people like Mike Howlett, the producer who was defining the sound at the time like Flock of Seagulls, Tears for Fears, OMD, ourselves, Martha and the Muffins. It was the last great innovative pop period.
What is the biggest difference to the music scene now than when you started out?
Music is more processed. The sound can sometimes be inappropriate, it doesn’t feel that original emotion is being expressed. It’s almost like the song is unreal because they are over emoting with vocal techniques. Look at a Joni Mitchell album from the 70s, you get the impression that she’s lived this life. There are exceptions, Adele of course, she has conveyed some real things that have happened in her life.
The process is too easy to make music, it’s too prolific. These sounds are available to everyone. When I grew up we only had a few records, our brothers and sisters would have some, maybe 30 albums in the house max, now I have about 11400 songs on my iPod but I play the same ones over and over again.
I quite like the way it’s different, it’s not saying anything to me but it is to a lot of people.
Where did the name come from?
It was from the communist era, Russia and China and the Far East, that was all exotic and it’s visually so engaging. In the 70s everyone was wearing black slippers bought from Chinatown, we’d wear them on stage with our kecks tucked in our socks. We liked the imagery. We were in the pub one night in Kirby, I think it was The Fantail and friends said things like Russian Crisis or China East and we just put the two together.
You’ve had a lot of line-up changes, how do you two stay so solid?
We’re like Mark E Smith and The Fall, we’ve had about 120 people in the band (laughs). I said to a friend the other day that we met at 14 and Ed said I’ve been bugging him ever since and I thought, you’re not that wrong.
To go as long as we have, you have to have a yin and yang, Ed is a half full kind of guy and I’m half empty, he will say yes to everything and I say no but we get a good balance.
Of course we have made each other laugh, our favourite time is on stage, not in an art gallery or a coffee shop. I was watching Ed playing guitar at a sound check the other day and thought that there are not that many 80s guitarists today who still produce that sound. He even uses his original red Roland guitar, Ed’s sound has not changed in all this time.
Why do you think you have been so successful in the Far East?
I don’t know. In the Philippines Ed is a small god, they do worship him. They have a special dance to Wishful Thinking. We didn’t go in the 80s, so we only went there about 10 years ago. We were in the van and there were all these people looking in and we were saying, “They will think Gary and Ed brought their Dads”, we’re not the people from the 80s anymore.
What music do you listen to?
My last album was a classical, Tedesco guitar concertos. The last pop one was Remote Control by The Tubes produced by Todd Rundgren, it has the single Prime Time on it.
I’ve been doing all the demos for some re-releases we’re doing, deluxe editions of our albums. The album before that is Best of Disney from 1977 and I wanted to hear Tears for Fears first records so they’re on there. Fela Cuti as well, Best of the Black President 2, Tears and Blood is amazing.
Spotify or CDs?
I don’t have Spotify. I like records and CDs, my favourite are Oxfam buys. I love finding obscure classical CDs for a few pounds. It’s great finding them.
What continues to inspire you to write?
Artists like John Grant, they drive me wild. Then I find out they all like us, John played Working with Fire and Steel on his radio programme and gave us a big hug when I saw him. I was like “Do you know China Crisis” and he was like “Yeah man, me and all my friends, we’re mad China Crisis fans.”
Do you have any backstage rituals?
I try not to see audiences. I’m not interested in who’s in the crowd or how many. Peter Hooten from the Farm came to our gig in New York. I didn’t know he was there. I like it to be a blank page and then it’s for everyone.
China Crisis will be supporting Paul Young at Manchester Academy 2 on Tuesday 20th March, for tickets please go to www.ticketmaster.co.uk.
By Chris Park for Canal St Online