The Beat featuring Dave Wakeling | 15 June 2018 | Exeter Phoenix | Devon
ABOVE : The Beat featuring Dave Wakeling at Exeter Phoenix Devon 15th June 2018
In 1980 people did not routinely talk about mental illness. 'Mirror in the Bathroom' a song by The Beat did though, and did so in a decade you could say was defined by it's obsession over shiny surface level introspection and the shallow pursuit of wealth for it's own glittering quality...
It is telling that in 2018 even after an explanation by The Beat's Dave Wakeling himself that the song was written after a bit of self reflecting conversation with himself whilst working in construction, (triggering the idea of how dangerous the cycle of narcissism, isolation and self involvement could be), on an online forum the following posters all insisted that contrary to what the songwriter himself claimed, it was actually about Cocaine.
ABOVE : Dave Wakeling of The English Beat on stage in the UK 2018
One wonders if the 24 yr old midlands minstrel himself could see any glimpse in that steamy mirror of the world he would still be plying his musical trade in, 38 years later. Hot on the tail of the release of his new album 'Here We Go Love', a joyous and triumphant collection of songs that any talented musician worth their salt would be delighted to cover, The Beat featuring Dave Wakeling are on a tour to promote it, and I had the pleasure of talking to the man himself before they blew away an eager and expectant crowd, with a dazzling performance at Exeter's Phoenix on 15 June 2018.
BELOW : Dave Wakeling brings The Beat to Exeter Phoenix for a triumphant UK return
Welcome back to the UK it's fantastic to have you here in the westcountry again especially with a brand new 13 track album, how is the tour going?
Thank you very much. The tour is going great and picking up steam fantastically since the record came out, which has started to get some really great reviews.
ABOVE : King Schascha with The Beat featuring Dave Wakeling live at Exeter Phoenix
The new album has a bit of everything from Reggae to new wave, rock and Ska do you think your influences get even wider now as you get older?
I think yes, you have a wider appreciation for different styles of music and of course you get better at playing your instrument and so you end up being able to play a few different licks than when you started. There is also an appreciation for different tempos and the different place they might have in life, perhaps.
ABOVE : Dave Wakeling performing live on The Beat's 2018 UK tour
Do you think that some of the excitement of waiting for a new record to arrive at the local record store is lost with digital downloads?
No I don't think so, people are writing to us on facebook about how excited they were when they woke up and there it was. Like Christmas presents arriving overnight. So, there is still the same excitement of getting your first initial listen, even if it is not the same as going and buying your vinyl and rushing home with it and cleaning the needle and all of that. A lot of people have bought the vinyl as well and they are going to get that towards the end of the month, beginning of July.
ABOVE : Matt Morrish Saxophone player with The Beat rocks Exeter Phoenix in 2018
Was the crowdfunding of the album a way of trying to maintain that buzz of expectation?
Yes I think so, that's right.
Do you ever get nostalgic for the old days or does playing all those classics for many years make the chance to play new material more appealing?
I am amazed that there are any old days to hanker back for really, you know. I always longed to be in a group. I never guessed I would be. I never guessed anybody would be listening to songs that I wrote thirty or forty years ago. I never guessed that I would be singing them, or that anyone would want to hear them. So to be honest to have at least three groups now, My Beat, Roger's Beat and Everetts Beat, all singing my songs around the country, on a Saturday night, is, stunning to me. It's absolutely amazing, it's my dream come true. As a songwriter I don't care whether I'm singing it, so long as somebody is singing it, I think that's what matters.
ABOVE : King Schascha in 2018 on stage with The Beat featuring Dave Wakeling
I interviewed Don Letts last week and he was excited about hearing the new album.
Oh good, he is a lovely chap. I liked his work with Mick Jones, great stuff.
You have always cleverly managed to hide your political thoughts in plain sight, in the way you interweave your reflections so subtly through songs, are The English Beat still primarily about getting people to move their feet first?
Well it is a combination of things, you know, for me, when I was dancing, as a teenager, I felt that my mind was more wide open. I could think about things more clearly when my arms and legs were moving, like the world seemed, easier to translate when I was moving and that's why I started writing songs, that made you want to dance.
I usually walk when I am writing them. They have got a tempo and a beat to them, and an insistence. They are poems to start with. They are poems about something that has really moved me, either happy, sad or angry. And then I walk, and the rest of the song starts to arrive, and the metre of it, the tempo, even the key and then I have to rush and find a guitar and go (sings) “ Ah Whooa woo wubbly wheee...ah there it is ”
So the poem dictates the tune, and the ideas dictate the poem, and life is quite complicated so you can have sweet sounding words and quite harsh sounding words. You can have a sweet description of quite a harsh situation politically. You can have things were you can't really tell ,is it a personal line or is it a political line? Because our personal lives and our political lives get blurred as well. What is happening all around the world effects the way our personal relationships go and vice versa. So I like to try and mix that up and I do still like to 'hide it in plain sight' , very nicely put.
ABOVE : The Beat featuring Dave Wakeling on their 2018 UK 'Here we go love' tour
In a world of social media amplifying sometimes ill thought out things that in the past one would have kept to themselves, It never sounds like you are preaching and ranting in the songs. How do you manage to fit so many expletives into a verse and yet not hammer people around the head with rhetoric?
(Laughs) Well you have to your tongue in your cheek and a sense of humour. Words are very, very powerful and you can use them to great effect. I mean..
“Stand Down, Margaret, Stand down please”, people have said it's the politest protest song ever. “Please “ about twenty seven times. Didn't work though did it? She didn't stand down. Words though are very, very weighty and I like to play with them. It takes ten minutes to start a song and takes ten months to finish one. For me. Each word is like a punch, each one's either got to be a finisher, or a set up, and there is no spares, no faffing about. Each word's got to count, because now that you have got their attention, and you are connected to them, any word that is just a waster or a filler, they'll blink and you will lose their attention. So each word, now you are locked on, to their eyes and their heart, locked on and that's it now, the poem is going to go through, word after word after word and they get the full message.
ABOVE : Dave Wakeling of The Beat
Did you enjoy the Punk scene before the whole two tone and second wave of Ska hit Britain?
I did enjoy it, and it made me want to be in a group because in the middle seventies I did want to be in a group, but groups were playing massive big auditoriums and you had to have hundreds of buses just to get a show on. And then all of a sudden Buzzcocks and The Undertones turned up with three guitars, a drum kit and thirty great songs under two minutes. And I was like “ Oh I want some of that, I want to be in a group now ”. That was it for me.
ABOVE : Fans at Exeter Phoenix applaud The Beat featuring Dave Wakeling in 2018
Never Die is the first song to make me cry in a few years since The Selecter played 'Missing Words' in Plymouth a few years back. Do you think it is important for men in a world were mental illness is no longer a dirty word, to not be afraid to show their emotions?
Yes I think it is important. It is a shame isn't it ? Blokes have been trained not to cry.
(Dave Sings The Eden Kane song -Boys Cry (When No One Can See Them)
“ Boys cry when no-one can see them, no-one can hear them cry ”
I cry a fair bit, I cry a bit more now I am older, it does not seem embarrassing to me. Sometimes it is the best way to respond to something. It says it in 'Never Die'
“ Just sit right down and cry, Sometimes it's all that you can do ”
and in the first verse it says (sings)
“ no I won't never cry, cos I promised to”
and in the third verse it says
“ Sometimes it's all that you can do ”
So there is even a dichotomy about crying, but yes I think it is very important, because, men, we all have been trained for too long to pretend that everything is alright.
“How you doing?”
“I'm fine how are you?”
Talk another ten minutes and his Mum's got cancer, and his wife's leaving him, and the business isn't doing so great and in fact he is hanging by a thread, just like you are, but as blokes were meant to go
“I'm fine how are you?”
And I think that sometimes makes stuff go on that would probably be better off it it stopped. If people had the honesty to say
“Do you know what I feel really upset by this”
It's not a matter of being a snowflake, that is a stupid word really. It's just a Neanderthal word used to try and explain Homo Sapien behaviour.
Mind you with me, you've got to watch it. I start and I can't stop. (Laughs)
ABOVE : Live Ska from The Beat at Exeter Phoenix in June 2018
What do you think about the commodification of culture. The idea that it is some 'sector' in which people can make money. The rise of talent shows and managed , manufactured bands/ artists. Does it cheapen and remove some of the real value of things like music that might have otherwise evolved naturally through scenes?
Yes it certainly does. I think all of those talent shows where they get a fledgling singer who has got a great voice and then instead of giving them ten years preparation they give them ten weeks of hoopla, and two years later their career is over. And they were people with great voices that basically, their careers get used up by the TV presenters, for their money, instead of the artists. Which I think is dreadful.
You see people who have only got about 18 months experience and all of a sudden they are on a huge stage and they are not quite sure what to do, because, they haven't had to spend the first few years wondering, how to deal with a heckler, what to do if you get to a gig and there is nobody there, but ten people and you still have to get through. Those are the things that you learn that are useful then when you've got a full crowd in front of you.
I think it's a shame what they are doing to them. They are using their voices and their talent up in a cheap and quick tawdry way, to make money for somebody else. So I think that commodification is a rotten shame.
But they do it with everything. I mean it's a competition to go and buy bloody antiques and sell them for 10% more, so even an antique show now has become a competition, or cooking competitions, ..since when was cooking about how quickly you could do it? So there is a lot of it, it's not just in the entertainment world. It's commodification of everything.
And it's often done by people who have not got the creativity to come up with something fresh and new to enthral people. So they just try and monetise what somebody else is doing instead. We have great aspirations and then everybody goes for the lowest common denominator.
ABOVE : Dave Wakeling of The Beat at Live Music Venue Exeter Phoenix in June 2018
Any message for the fans ?
We are very grateful for the support. We have been aware that in some quarters people would like to start a battle of The Beats, or Beat wars as it has been called. We will have none of it. The Beat was built on love and unity. Inclusive behaviour. All of the various versions of the band still predominantly sing my songs and I take them very seriously and it's important for the bands to behave in the same sentiment as those songs were written. You can't have a love and unity competition. Right, but if you wanted one I'd win. ( Laughs)
I think that part of it is important, but we do have some outside influences at the moment, who think it might be quite funny in some ways to create a UB40 situation, they think that would be a way of commodifying, The Beat, I shall resist that. I like my friends in UB40, I feel sorry for their predicament. I feel really sorry for UB40 fans who feel so conflicted right now, they don't know whether to like anybody or not, and if it gets anywhere close to that with The Beat, I will pull the plug on the lot.
We will make sure the legacy of The Beat, remains with integrity, whatever else happens.
ABOVE : The Beat featuring Dave Wakeling after an amazing gig at the Exeter Phoenix
You can check The English Beat website here
More pictures from The Beat Featuring Dave Wakeling and the support act The Kingstons on facebook here
and more words and pictures from The English Beat's 2016 UK tour here
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