Ipswich: Railway-bound rock stars Big Country interviewed

Big Country play The Railyway, Ipswich, this week

Big Country play The Railyway, Ipswich, this week - Credit: Archant

Just as you sow you shall reap says a line from Big Country’s first ever single, Harvest Home; it’s an idea that’s stood them in good stead this past 30 years.

Formed in Dunfermline in 1981, they became one of the most celebrated British rock bands of a generation; selling more than 10million albums worldwide and touring with the likes of The Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Queen.

With the highs came the lows, specifically the tragic loss of Stuart Adamson in 2001 which saw the band stay dormant until New Years Eve 2010.

Since then they’ve played all the major UK and European Festivals. Hot on the heels of a successful campaign throughout Europe and the UK, they’re hitting the road again with the Land’s End To John O’Groats Tour 2013, celebrating the release of The Journey - their first album in 14 years.

“It’s great; it’s hard work but it’s fun as well,” says drummer Mark Brzezicki when I caught up with during the band’s North America tour. “We’re blessed we’re able to play our music all around the world. We haven’t played America for a long time... it’s seriously well over due. If you’ll excuse the pun, for such a big country, it’s really a shame we haven’t spent more time over here, that’s my regret.”

The band built their audience through non-stop gigging. They love playing live, with their performances renowned the world over.

“We’re a great live band, we love recording as well, putting new products out, which is why we’re touring The Journey,” says Brzezicki.

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The album, praised by fans and critics alike, harkens back to the band’s Scottish roots and lays down a marker for what the future holds for a group that collected itself out of a deep sense of love, brotherhood and respect for original vocalist Adamson.

Brzezicki admits they had to dig deep to make the record but it’s given them a new lease of life.

“I can’t tell you how great it feels to see and hear the fans welcoming our new music alongside the old, especially after all that has happened since we lost Stuart,” he says. “The past is the past and it is safe where it is. It’s now time for some new memories.”

Returning to the studio after so long, you’d think there’d be nerves. Not so.

“We don’t have any of that in the band. We’re a family that’s been evolving and we’re very comfortable with each other. Stuart left the planet God bless him, we couldn’t ask for him back... The Jam could reform should Paul want to do it, Marillion could reform should Fish want to. There are people around lucky enough to have the original artist around.”

Bands, says Brzezicki, are like families. There are divorces, deaths, personality clashes. Don’t take your favourite bands for granted because they’re fragile things and may not be around for ever.

“Stuart is no longer with us so we had to deal with that and we dealt with that by stepping out from being Big Country for an unforeseen time until the time felt right to get back together again. That time felt right when we invited Mike Peters (The Alarm) to come back and sing for us. So there’s no nerves involved at all, in actual fact it’s stress-free when you’re playing your music because it doesn’t matter what happened before it what’s happening now that’s important.”

Excitement aside, recording The Journey was business as usual. Having had some time away from the band they went into the studio with loads of songs, loads of ideas; recording in Brzezicki’s eyes a fantastic album that joins the dots up from the last record to now.

“The people who come see us, this young generation, not trivialising anything to do with our past, we still have a massive rich history with Stuart, but some people don’t know any difference, they’ll take it on face value. The album being taken on face value has been tremendous... the old fans who would’ve been perhaps cynical about seeing the band continue without Stuart... I was pleasantly surprised at how they took it.

“There are some die-hards who say no Stuart Adamson no Big Country. We say to them well good luck and thank you for being with us, it’s just a shame you didn’t embrace the new thing. The majority of the people have gone ‘we understand, it’s a journey’ which is why it’s called The Journey, this is a snapshot of Big Country in 2013.

“Some of the reviews were building themselves up to be cynical... ‘I wanted to not like it but I actually really love it’. That’s been the general tone of the reviews. It’s like any relationship; if your girlfriend or partner doesn’t want to stay with you, you can’t beg them to stay, you stay friends and move on. It’s been a joy to play and see the wonderful reaction it’s got.”

Big Country always had an archetypal, identifiable sound; not just because of what Adamson brought because what he brought to the table can’t be under-rated, he says.

“There were four members of that band with two guitarists carrying the sound, Stuart and Bruce (Watson). Bruce has been able to blend in with creating that sound with Jamie, his son, carrying on the baton (he had with) Stuart. The sound continues through the bloodline.”

The band was always been about soaring vocals, something Peters delivers in spades, meaningful words, passion and Brzezicki’s unique drums - all still present - with former Simple Minds member Derek Forbes on bass duties.

“We’ve maintained that energy and resonance, so it (the new album) should be seamless because it still is Big Country. We have to stay true to ourselves and if you do that and don’t think about it too hard... we realised we were good at sounding like Big Country, that keeps (a) steady focus on what we’re doing.

“We’ll put in some more rarities for the British tour, it’s going to be a fantastic set.”

Don’t miss Big Country’s Land’s End To John O’Groats Tour when it visits The Railway, Foxhall Road, Ipswich, on Tuesday, November 5.