Paul Roberts perhaps is best know for fronted The Stranglers from 1990 to 2006. Since leaving the band Paul has gone to form Soulsec and tour all over the country.He is now set to appear at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Richard 'Rocky Horror Show O'Brien's new play Mephistopheles Smith. In between rehersals Paul talked to me about his twenty five year career and what is yet to come.
How did your part in the play Mephistopheles Smith come about?It was my PR man who brought it to my attention it seemed like quite a fitting thing to do actually.
It's with Richard O'Brien isn't it?It's his production he wrote this thing, it was based on three songs that he peformed at a venue where he was doing something to do with Rocky Horror, I believe. I have experience, in the past, in the world of acting and musical theatre and I just though yeah this is a really good idea actually. And ever since I got the part people have been saying things like 'talk of the devil' and stuff like that.
So you have done musical theatre work prior to this?Well I did Fringey stuff years ago and experimental stuff, (laughs) you wouldn't want to see it, it doesn't go hello we are this, we are that and we do this and that's the end it's a bit more wierd.
Have you started rehersals?
Rehersals are really good it's just been a bit of a squeeze sometimes because I have got other things going on. We have changed the female members of the cast so they got to get shaped up. It's quite intese because I have got a hell of a lot of reading to do you know. It's basically a one man show with two assistants, it's like Paul Daniels with a pair of girls assisting him as opposed to Debbie Mcgee.
When does the run start?
We did a couple of shortened, bridged version, as it were, at Guilfest a couple of weeks ago. And we start on 6th August at Edinburgh, and we do six days a week. But then we bring it back to Guilford for I think two days and then it goes to reading for something like four days and that's it. Unless, of course, we meet a Cameron Mackintosh who wants to take it on the road. Which would be a good thing actually.
You would be up for that?
I think so yeah, it's a great thing, but it has to pay.
You were the lead singer of The Stranglers for sixteen years was music and singing what you always wanted to do?
Yeah, pretty much so, since I was a child. I had a paper drum st when I was a kid and my brother had a Beatles guitar, singing was a big thing for me I used to listen to Billy Holiday, Nat King Cole, Helen Ward, Tony Bennett, and people of that ilk, Boddy Darin. I do do alot of swing singing as well, I have got a sort of Bobby Darin thing, I just think apart from Sinatra and Matt Munroe, as men anyway, Bobby Darin was an incredible talent who sadly died at the age of 37. I just love that sort of music and I have found as I have got older lyrically they are incredible clever and intense and woderful, meaningful things.
What made you decide enough was enough with The Stranglers?
I had just had enough really of working with people who didn't really share my interests and weren't that intersted in working with me. The fact of the matter was they started to do work without me, a couple of the members, and i found that incredibly insensitive and offensive and I just decided that enough was enough.
I felt like Julius Caeser I was aware something was a foot but it certainly wasn't twelve inches and I thought the best thing I can do is hang on in here and eventually I had to go, I had a massive car accident as well.
Weren't you unharmed
Totally, except psychologically, which is pretty hard to get over took me about a year to get over that. I certainly don't drive, if I find myself going fast any more I just go woooow. But that was after the last show I did with the band andit's quite indicative of my state of mind at that time, imagine being in a bad marriage for sixteen years you know. It was grand and we had a good relationship for some years but when you are in a five person democracy, that isn't a democracy, then it's not worth being there is it?
You went on to form Soulsec how do your experiences with Soulsec differ from your expeiences prior to that?
Well it's A. something I have a certain amount of input in, certainly not control, but I write all of the songs, I suppose if you want to call that control then yeah. Generally I write songs and give them to the musicians that I'm with because they are so able to create what I want to hear.
But certainly if you have a singular project like that then you have to dictate to a certain degree but if you gather good people then you can create something worth while. The people that I have worked with are very gifted musicians. My bass playing partner, a guy called Brad Waissman, he has just put an album together as the Joff Winks Band with this very talented guy from Oxfordshire. I was working with Richard Nay, who went on to work with The Waterboys he's still with them.
It's enjoyable,it's fun, we like each other, we appreciate music and enjoy what we are doing. I just the love of playing and music that keeps us together. So maybe I'm writing some decent songs.
What gives you the inspiration to write?
Everything really it could be looking at a box of frogs, or a stepladder or a tree, something that occurs you know. Something that is very dear to me is madness, love andall sorts of addictions,they fascinate me, because everybody's got them but people think that they have't but then they start talking and you say 'oh you love that don't you' and they go 'yeah' and you say 'you couldn't live without that' and they are like no, well there you go then. Just hopefully it's not heroin, cocaine and alcohol and cigarettes.
Have you plans for a solo album?
I have done four I'm on my fifth. But unfortunately due to a duff Apple MAC I'm currently sitting waiting twiddling my thumbs to get my machine fixed. I have got quite a vast studio that I work with but I can't touch it at the moment because it won't work. My father dying inspired my quite alot at one point as well, he was a hard working, conscientious man, that was quite a serious time in my life, I lost my best friend in the same year.
You have entertained the troops a fair few times whay have you done it so often?
I think it's very interesting, I don't think as musicians other people get the opportunity to see these different worlds, I have been priviledged to see so many different things. It was very exciting when we went to the Falklands, the first time that we went, because it was post war and everything was still fired up people were expecting the odd incursion. The second time I went it was a bit more chilled, we had an incredible time. I had a fly past especially for me from a tonado bomber, which was pretty exciting, when your a bloke, sadly, we like trains, boats and plane you know. I did Bosnia and Belfast three times, Cyprus, Kosovo, that was quite scary, and very very big upset in Bosnia.
When you meet British troops that are very very conscientious people, and alot of people don't really understand them and they get alot of bad press and they get blamed for things that are the faults of governments, they are wonderful people who don't want to kill people, they don't want to hurt people, they want to put things right if they can. Generally speaking on the street the British are just amazingly friendly and they have this soft approach to the local people whereas the Americans are always at war.
Jesus Christ they drive around as if someone's going to blow them up any second of the day, in fact they sit with their hands on their machine guns in their tanks. They are totally paranoid, it's mind blowing, their behaviour is not up to what I would consider professional and when you meet them in the mess, and stuff like that, they are very mouthy. They piss a lot of people off with that, and that's not a generalisation it's just the guys that I met behaved very poorly. British guys were able to have a drink but they certainly get themselves together when the time came to stand up straight. Not that I don't know if the Americans did that. I didn't spend a lot of time with them, but when you see a load of moody guys in hard helmets peering through slits, pointing machine guns at chickens you think what's the point in that.
Then you have got the Brits and they carry their guns across their arms, so they can't get to the gun quickly, but to me that's the mode they work in non threatening you know. Wonderful people! They sort of look after us but you always get in a fight with people when you talk about soilders. My dad was in the ar and he got blown up but he never talks about it.
Have you any plans to go to Iraq?
Currently they are not doing bigger thing there apparently it's not easy to travel across theland with the sort of equipment you need when you do that sort of thing. So I think that they are just having individual speakers and performers. In a way I would like to but, to me, the whole thing about Iraq is a problem I wouldn't want to get involved.
You have been in the music industry for 25 years what is the secret to your longevity and why have you done it for so long?
Stupidity, desperation and massive ego. No it's not like that, I'm certainly not an ego tripper, it's better than delivering letters and putting milk on people's doorsteps, I have done all that. I enjoy it and I hope that I have given some people some pleasure so I guess it's nice to keep getting paid for it. I'm currently having a bash at auditioning for We Will Rock You but we are not really sure what is going on with that yet, I may or may not be recalled, so fingers crossed for that.
I guess I would like to get out of rock and roll if I could having been through the experiences that I have been through for a long long time it perhaps would be nice to do a bit of theatre. Or even a little film work. I did a little bit, I did a few scenes on the Cranford Chronicles which is coming out at Christmas, I don't know if they will be kept in they changed director I think. But that was big big costume drama, victorian costume drama with Judi Dench and Martin Shaw.
Was it a good experience?
It was fantastic,that really was fun. It was that good week of weather we had but unfortunately I was dressed as a wealthy victorian I was surrounded in velvet, big boots and a top hat. But I also did a little party scene, in a nightclub, in a film called Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, that was just fun because it was set in the thirties so for four days we were all stuck in the thirties, it was amazing.
Paul can be seen starring in Richard O'Brien's play Mephistopheles Smith at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from 6 - 26 August.
Helen Earnshaw FemaleFirst