M8 May 1994 Issue 62
Why is Ricky Ross photographed in compromising positions with a woman other than his wife? why is he being greedy and wanting to make money from deacon blues latest album? and why is he sporting a haircut last seen on tintin? is he being controversial just to promote the greatest hits compilation or have the probing questions of Craig Winn loosened his tongue? you re just gonnie huv tae read on...
The modern school of music journalism is particular to the point of pedantry; basically, among M8's wunderbrats if an act's not cred they might as well be dead. Thus M8’s resident ~‘ among MB’s antique, yours truly, is dusted down from the attic and sent off to tackle (again) Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross.
The informal bohemian ambience of our previous meeting place, a well-kent Glasgow hostelry, is replaced by the salubrious surroundings of Glasgow’s Devonshire Hotel. The plush Victorian interior resembles the set of The House Of Elliot and I half-expect (and secretly hope) Miss Evie will emerge from an antechamber brandishing her latest creation.
I wait in the hallway while my presence is conveyed, before being ushered
into the drawing room and the presence of the arch-Deacon himself. He’s again
casually though trendily attired, his tight troos failing to obscure a
pair of black Cats, but sports a haircut I last saw on Tintin. Seated cozily
around a crackling fire in all-consuming armchairs, we chat about things old and
new, borrowed though most definitely Deacon Blue, namely their forthcoming
Greatest Hits collection, Your Town, which conveniently coincides with a
British-wide tour postponed from last year. So the first question’s easy
why a Greatest to Hits album and why now?
“To be honest I didn’t really want to go in and do an album. I think an album every two years is realistic, it just takes that length of time to write... Having done four albums the opportunity is to do something and not go album-tour-write-album-tour, which is what everyone ends up doing. The idea of doing a compilation album and giving ourselves a little bit of a rest was quite attractive. It’s not going to be artistically too demanding.” Do you find touring invigorating or an increasing chore? Ricky moans. of “I think the honest answer to that...(brief pause)...sales demand it. I think on a very personal note it’s something I got into because I had to do it, and as a spin-off from that I found it very enjoyable. It’s like actors talk about being in the theatre, you find yourself face to face with your audience, the people who buy your records, and that brings a whole interesting relationship; you have to either sink or swim, and my feeling was let’s swim, let’s make it a forte and do it well. And in the early days, when you cant get arrested on the radio, there's no Other way to get an audience than get out and play.
That was the process that gave Deacon Blue a basic following. But for me writing us and recording is the sum total (of being in a band) and it, everything else is peripheral.” If you have a back catalogue of hits a Greatest Hits album is a natural best seller... “We hope it is,” he quips. The critics would say it’s a money-making exercise; Yes’.,’ he interjects laughingly before I finish my question. or it’s to gain time because the band are not gong to come up with another album for a while; “Yes!” or it’s an indication that they've reached the nadir of their creative processes... “That might be true!” he laughs again. ‘As for the first two, if they say that, that’s fine, I’m sure it’s perfectly true. As I said before, I don’t think we would have done an album this year, and to be honest most bands can’t do a Greatest Hits record, it’s something you can only do if you’ve got some; we had about 17 or 18 and we put 16 on and I think for a single CD that’s value for money I’ve got no qualms about that. Certainly we want to make some money from it and I’m certain the record company do and I hope it’s up there between the TV ads for M&Ms and Daz.”
Does the impetus for a hits compilation come from the record company or the band? ‘I think it was a bit of both, it was a coming together of minds. We did want to do something, we wanted some material out, there wasn’t a context for it We were committed to going on tour, in a perfect world we would have probably continued promoting last year’s album. “It’s an interesting position to look back on there was a project which I was very happy with; I think it’s our best record.. .yet it wasn’t something that was bought hugely by people. Maybe that was partly because people thought they wanted something familiar, which is fair enough... “I think inevitably we would have had a Greatest Hits record at some point and I think from the public’s point of view I’m not particularly bothered about critics because they have no commitment either way - from people who've spent money on Deacon Blue’s point of view who want to buy it then at least they know that it’s value for money and it’s been done by us with some care and attention."
We slipped into the subject of the American market which Ricky describes as “a complete and utter mystery,” citing the surprise success of The Cranberries and the failure of Suede. Though Your Town brought the band Top 5 success in the US dance charts, the huge sell-out stadium tour did not materalise I suggest that this year could be their best opportunity for cracking the American market. You’ve got a couple of songs soundtracking a couple of films, you’ve got a Greatest Hits album, there’s a possibility... “I’m too old to believe these things,” says Ricky rapidly puncturing my over optimistic scenario in its infancy. “I’ve been on too many trips, sat in too many horrible hotel rooms, been bored by too Americans. I used to be diplomatic about it, but I have never.. Someday I will do an interview and tell all the American stories... It’s just bullshit up to here.”
Whatever You Say, Say Nothing marked a departure for the band in direction, even though the dance-inclined Your Town came about by sneer chance. It was suggested that you wished to attract a younger audience, and certainly the image at the time was pseudo-U2 with the gold lame suit and the dark specs The marketing manager of Columbia recently told M8 that the youth angle had failed and he now wished to market Deacon Blue to an older audience and make them ‘the thinking person’s band!”. He’s just full of shit,” Ricky shot back in partial disbelief - ‘and you can tell I him that! There are people at the record company who think it was a disastrous mistake an album with a complete leftfield curve. We didn’t do anything to attract any new audience, we just did things we wanted to do. People at the record company don’t go to our gigs and a lot of them haven’t worked with us for any length of time so I don’t know anyone there who in any way speaks for us. That’s a very revealing comment you made but it doesn’t surprise me.’
While on the subject of image, Ricky whips out 3 sheets of transparencies taken during the video shoot for their latest single, exclaiming “You want glamour, you want sex!’ as he does so, which portray him in various states of intimacy and undress with a Spanish model. So realistic are they that I suggest as a publicity stunt taking them to the Sun and claiming to have evidence of Ricky in flagrante with a woman other than his wife. He laughs loudly and suggests it might be quite funny, adopting the Cockney accent of a grateful hack, “you beauty, we’ve fackin’ got ‘im, the bastard. He was knockin’ up some burd on the fly’. After 90 minutes the pressing demands of another interview, this time with The Big Issue, and househunting with wife Lorraine bring our confab to an end. The freelancer doing the interview enquires afterwards of Columbia Press Officer Amanda whether it would be possible at a later date to do a My Favourite Shop feature with Ricky for The Sunday Express, (Ricky says it’s a fish shop in Byres Road, near his home!) Such are the petty and unceasing demands of an increasingly Intrusive media on the modern pop star, and we wonder why Kurt Cobain committed suicide... Craig Winn