What’s the Story?
By David Hennessy and Lucy Hull
It is over 26 years now since the flame haired Scottish twin duo The Proclaimers released their first album, This is the Story. Since then, they have recorded nine studio albums and brought us hits that include the singalong anthems Letter From America, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) and King Of The Road: Raucous songs which still make an impact after so many years.
Although they have previously released a Best of.. compilation, the strikingly individual twin brothers from Leith, Edinburgh, Craig and Charlie Reid felt the time was right to compile a comprehensive collection that represents their entire career. Entitled The Very Best of The Proclaimers (1987- 2012), the new collection comes with a new track called Not Cynical and sleeve notes written by actor David Tennant who is one of the band’s biggest fans.
The Irish World catches up with Craig just days before their recent Glastonbury performance. Although they were playing the massive festival for the fifth time, he admits this one is extra special due to Mick Jagger and co headlining: “It’s exciting (but) it’s a pain we’re on about half past six in the acoustic tent, I think we’re gonna be off about eight o’clock because we’ve got a show in Poole in Dorset the next night and if we stayed to watch The Stones, we wouldn’t get out until about three o’clock in the morning so it’s a pain in the neck but I will watch them on TV when I get back to the hotel room.”
Can Craig believe that he and his brother have been in the music business for a quarter of a century now? “It’s strange,” the singer admits. “All we had in our minds when we started out was to try and get a record deal. We didn’t think about hits, we didn’t think we would have hits, we thought we could maybe get an independent deal and do an album or two and just make a living playing. We never really thought about having real commercial success but we did and it’s gone on and on. We had a Best of… out in 2002 but since then, there’s been five studio albums so we thought we needed a bigger overview of what we’ve done. The last dozen years have probably been the most productive and the busiest of the whole career. We’ve almost never stopped so we thought this was the right time to do a more comprehensive best of.”
With so much material to pull from, did this leave the brothers with some tough decisions when it came to thinking about what songs to keep in and which to leave out? “There’s a few that pick themselves, the bigger hits, but there’s not many of them so we wanted to get a representation of all the nine studio albums that we’ve done and we also wanted to have the running order more like a live show: Not necessarily putting the early ones first and the later ones last, we wanted to mix it up a bit and give it a kind of feel of a gig.”
A lot has changed in 25 years and the music scene is as good an example of this as anything with the demise of the record shops and the introduction of downloading: “It really hit me when we came back. We didn’t do anything between ‘94 and 2001. We came back in 2001 with an album, Persevere and then we started touring again and we’ve basically never stopped since then. But when we came back then, you could really see how much it had changed. Even since then, it gets smaller by the day. We’re doing this album on EMI and from this coming Monday (July 1), that part of EMI is controlled by Warner’s so they’re moving into the building. There’s people losing their jobs, there’s fewer and fewer people being employed. Obviously the digital thing is massive, the number of physical records sold now is a fraction of what it used to be and the the industry itself has shrunk. But funnily enough, the live thing, especially the festivals: That’s got bigger. When we first came out, there were very few festivals. Now there’s dozens and dozens of them so it has changed a lot.”
Would Craig agree that while years ago artists toured to promote their albums, it is now more like the other way around? “Pretty much, that is the case now yeah.”
The duo’s 1987 debut This is the Story was followed the very next year by Sunshine on Leith that made the album top ten thanks to singles like I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) and I’m on my Way. Their third album, released in 1994, also made the top ten of the charts. However, like Craig says, this was their last album before the millennium. Why did we hear nothing from The Proclaimers between 1994 and 2001? “We didn’t have real writer’s block, we were coming up with stuff but we weren’t coming up with enough good songs,” the musician reveals. “I think when you get in that situation, you think that writing is difficult, it becomes difficult and the longer you go on, the harder it becomes. We also had things like both our wives had children so it’s difficult to then say: ‘We’re gonna go on tour for the next 18 months’. But I think the main thing was that we seemed to find writing difficult but touch wood since then, there’s not been a problem. We recorded the album Persevere in 2000 and released it in 2001 and since then, it’s basically been: Do an album, tour it for a year or eighteen months and then take a break and write another one. It hasn’t really been a problem since then.”
It will soon be time for them to take another break but much shorter break. While they’re currently on an extensive tour of the UK that keeps them busy until October when they play Glasgow’s new venue, The Hydro, Craig expects they will not be seen on the live circuit again until 2015: “Hopefully it (The Hydro) will be ready, that’s the last show on October 12th and I think after that, we’ll take a break and next year we’ll be writing and recording. I don’t think we’ll do any live work next year.”
However, there will be relief for anyone suffering with Proclaimers withdrawal waiting for them to return. Their music has always lent itself to television and films, featuring in movies such as Shrek, and has been the inspiration for the award winning stage musical, Sunshine on Leith. The acclaimed drama which follows the highs and lows of two soldiers returning home from Afghanistan is being made into a film with Dexter Fletcher directing stars such as Peter Mullan, Jane Horrocks and Jason Flemyng.
“It is exciting,” enthuses Craig. “I think it’s pretty much done. They’re looking at October 4, that’s the release date. I think the original stage show was about two hours and 20 minutes and they had to get the film down to about an hour and a half so there was two or three songs and a couple of scenes that had to go but obviously you can do things with film that you can’t do on a stage. They were doing the majority of the filming late last year and we went down when we played two nights in Glasgow and when we went on to the set, you could just tell straight away it was a good feeling, there was a real good vibe on the set. From what I know, the people who have made the film like Peter Mullan, Jane Horrocks and Dexter Fletcher and all the producers: They’re very excited about it and have become more excited since they’ve been doing the editing. They shot the final scene about a month ago, a big dance number, so I think they’re very excited about it coming out and I think it’s fixed for October so looking forward to it.”
For the full interview, see the July 13 print edition of The Irish World.