Chris Difford of Squeeze is thrilled to be playing Ipswich Regent again as he prepares for performance on Monday, October 19

Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook of Squeeze. Photo: Danny Clifford

Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook of Squeeze. Photo: Danny Clifford - Credit: Danny Clifford

It’s been a while since Squeeze have played the Ipswich Regent, says Chris Difford, heading this way as part of the band’s first UK tour for three years.

Dr John Cooper Clarke, supporting Squeeze on tour

Dr John Cooper Clarke, supporting Squeeze on tour - Credit: Archant

“It’s going to be nice to come back and perform to people who haven’t seen us for a while. It’s always good to play live; we’ve been in the studio for six months so to get some fresh air it’s going to be a bonus.”

Difford has nothing but good things to say about The Cradle To The Grave, their first album of new material for 17 years which has a starring role in the new BBC comedy Cradle To Grave, based on the life of their old friend Danny Baker.

“Studios can be quite claustrophobic, but on this record it’s not been like that. We recorded it in two chunks, we’ve got a really good band so it was very easy to record. Some of the songs we’d already been playing live so we had a bit of a sketch about how they were going to go.... It didn’t take long to get the songs down, they were there or thereabouts.”

Still in rehearsals when I call, he admits he’s nervous when he thinks about the shows. The butterflies quickly disappear when he gets on stage.

Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook of Squeeze.

Chris Difford and Glenn Tillbrook of Squeeze. - Credit: Archant

“You can’t change it, you’re either going to get it right or... I’m really fortunate, to come back to Ipswich after such a long time is going to be a thrill.”

Difford can’t explain why it’s taken so long for him and Glenn Tilbrook to lay down new tracks, simply saying when the time’s right it’s right. The important thing is not to force it, music is a natural process for a band like Squeeze. They take the time getting the songs right.

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Tenderly and wittily chronicling life and love across four decades, the group formed in 1974, shortly after the Ivor Novello Award-winning duo had begun their songwriting partnership, brought together by an ad in a sweetshop window. By 1977 they had made their recording debut and enjoyed a string of hits.

Splitting in 1998 after the release of Domino, Tilbrook says he and Difford were not getting on so well and needed a break to follow their own paths for a bit. Slowly but surely coming back together as people, Squeeze reformed in 2007. It was meant to be a short reunion, but things went so well eight years later they’re still together. They agreed if they were to carry on, they really needed to work on new material.

Difford says of the fresh songs: “We’ve grown up a lot in the last few years, musically. For the first five years back together, we were saying ‘this is where we came from’. Now, this is where we are. We still love and own our past, but as musicians we needed to grow. You’re getting to an age where you’ve got all that stuff behind you, the knowledge you have, so it was just the right time really.”

He and Tilbrook are particularly happy for them to feature so prominently in Cradle To Grave. Baker was brought up in Deptford, the band’s old stomping ground, and they were asked to become involved at an early stage.

“It’s a great joy to read the scripts and to be involved. It’s turned out magnificently. They were inspiring; hugely funny. It tapped into a period that lyrically I was very familiar with as I grew up in the same neighbourhood as Danny.

”We have been on location to see how it is going. It gave us a spring in our step to see the quality of filming and the direction and the attention to detail. It was very heartening and we are grateful to be involved in something that is so refreshing and also represents our past – we went to the same school, wore the same uniform, fell in love with same art teacher. I loved my youth so going back there was a nice journey.”

On the subject on age, does he find the years slide away when they’re on stage?

“I don’t know if it has changed, you’re still trying to do the same thing; you’re trying to perform, to entertain and enjoy yourself at the same time. I think there’s just more clarity around it the older you get because you’ve got more knowledge about how you feel on stage, what it means to you. When you’re young you go on, running around like headless chickens,” he laughs, “trying to be one thing when you’re clearly something else so... It changes, it evolves; your metabolism slows down...”

Support comes from poet and punk godfather Dr John Cooper Clarke, the bard of Salford.

He shot to fame in the 1970s for his quickfire delivery of dry, biting and hilarious satirical verse, touring with the likes of The Clash and Sex Pistols. The tousled, raven-haired creator of (I Married A) Monster From Outer Space, Evidently Chickentown and Beasley Street has gone on to collaborate with the likes of Arctic Monkeys and recently recorded a new version of 1960s hit MacArthur Park with Hugh Cornwell and Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson.

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