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Dodgy Characters: The Return Of Britpop's Lovable Rogues

Tuesday, 22 October 2013 Written by Graeme Marsh

With the Britpop era now just a distant, hazy memory, it’s easy to forget that beyond its two most obvious reference points there were many more protagonists – rightly or wrongly labelled with the same tag – that made a considerable contribution to its presence.

While Blur and Oasis publicly ‘duelled’ over territory not entirely restricted to the charts, bands such as Gene, Menswear and Sleeper walked a less heralded path behind middleweights Shed Seven, Suede and Supergrass.

Sitting somewhere among the better bands were a trio from Hounslow via the midlands: Dodgy. During their heyday they were never far from the news as they made the most of the success that had come along with their happy-go-lucky hits Staying Out For The Summer, In A Room and UK #4 single Good Enough. When things first started kicking off, it was actually Oasis supporting them.

For those who lost track of the lovable rogues after their mid-90s peak, it may come as a surprise to hear that following lead singer Nigel Clark’s decision to quit the band in 1998, a new line-up helped see the Dodgy name continue. One album was released during that period – 2001’s ‘Real Estate’ – before the spark went out.

An unlikely reunion of the original three-piece occurred in 2007, unfortunately under tragic circumstances, and in 2012 an album of new material emerged, some 20 years after they first teamed up. ‘Stand Upright In A Cold Place’ drew much critical acclaim and their recent Back To Back tour saw the trio perform both the new album and 1993’s debut effort, ‘The Dodgy Album’, in their entirety.

With a new live album, which captures some of the best moments from that recent tour, set for imminent release, a special launch night at the Jazz Café in London on November 23 will see them play a selection of tracks from the album along with some of their greatest hits. Stereoboard recently managed to muscle in on their busy schedule to pin down drummer Mathew Priest for a catch-up on their latest movements and a trip down memory lane.

When the original line-up split in 1998, Nigel's desire to release solo material and spend more time with the family were cited as major reasons, but other reports suggest it was a little more acrimonious. What actually happened?

Nige had two kids in quick succession in the mid ‘90s and neither the management, Andy or me had any idea what that must have been like, there was a lot of pressure on Nige. Also, after gigging and recording hard for four years and then finally properly breaking through with Good Enough in '96, I think he thought, "Is this it? This is shite!". You've got to understand how fucking crazy it got in '96. Me and [Andy] Miller were getting in the tabloids every other week - looking back, it was weird.

The band carried on without Nigel for years. When the three of you reformed in 2007, following the illness of Andy Moore, your lighting guy, what did you tell the other members of the band that weren't going to be involved anymore?

Dodgy Mk II, or Pantomime Dodgy as I call it, had fizzled out by 2001 so we didn't have a problem with making anyone redundant when the proper line-up reformed in 2007. We loved Andy, he was our lighting tech from the beginning - one funny fucker. He had a brain tumour and was dying and he had a testimonial in about 2006 to raise money for his kids and he got me and Nige to go separately and practically banged our heads together. Bless him, there's nothing like seeing your mate die to make you realise that life is very fucking fleeting.

It's now over 20 years since the debut Dodgy album - produced by Ian Broudie of the Lightning Seeds - what memories do you have of that period and the recording?

It was a special time. We were young, full of spunk, boundless energy. Everything was new and generally the times were good, there was money about in the record industry and they wanted to spend it on young bands. They foolishly gave us a bar tab and I think we ran up a £300 bar bill in two nights. They soon stopped that. Liverpool was buzzing, there were bands like Cast, the Real People and Rain about and through Broudie we got to hang out with a lot of the older generation of Liverpool musicians like Ian McNabb of the Icicle Works. I haven't been able to shake him since.

‘Stand Upright In A Cool Place’ received considerable acclaim - were the songs recorded in the Malvern Hills all new or was there a residue of older material that you incorporated as well? And where did that title come from?

I think a few ideas were about four years old but none of them dated back to the ‘90s, we hit a real purple patch around the time of recording the album. Nige had written all these amazing songs. And he’s written even better since.

I love radio, in fact I took a Masters degree in Radio Production in 2010 before we started recording the album, so I was listening to a lot of radio documentaries and podcasts around that time and one was about a chap travelling around the world trying to find different people's secret to happiness. You know, rich, poor, religious, atheist, people from all walks of life, and my favourite was this druid who said he took his secret to life from the side of a bottle of bleach - stand upright in a cool place. I thought - ‘I'm having that’. It fitted the songs perfectly.

Is there any specific track on the new album that you are most pleased with?

I always come back to Did It Have To Be This Way. Nige had recorded a great demo of this for another project he was doing, called Empty Paintings with a lyric writer called Colin Forman. I just kept listening to it and suggested we do it as well as it's such an amazing song.

The challenge for me and Andy was to see what we could add to it without ruining its simple charm and I think we both showed a real lightness of touch that was symptomatic of the band's playing throughout the album. Very happy with that, and I think Matt Pence's mix really brought out its majesty. Don't worry, I'll take myself out of my own arse soon.

Are there plans afoot for any further albums?

Absolutely, we’re dying to get into the studio. The new stuff is even better than the last album and that was amazing. We had a day in a studio in the Perthshire hills last month with no real plan and we jammed for two hours straight – luckily we recorded it all. There's some crazy stuff there, we might release it. I'm very proud to say that we didn't go near the blues once. Too easy.

Whose idea was Back To Back and what's this 'Hall Of Fame'?

Well, 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of ‘The Dodgy Album’, which was our debut, and we wanted to celebrate this but we also didn't want to stop playing songs from our most recent....ahem....critically acclaimed album, so we hatched a plan to take a show on the road that included both albums played in their entirety, back to back. The 'then' and 'now' of the band as it were. Can't remember whose idea it was originally.

The tour was called The Back to Back tour and took in a total of nine shows from Brecon to Bideford during May and June. The dates brought out some amazing performances from the band and luckily there was a recording device on hand at most of the shows to document the tour so we are releasing a live album from the tour.

"The idea of the Hall Of Fame is essentially that we thought it would be a great idea to give fans the opportunity to get their names on the artwork of the album, it makes the CD a little bit more special, especially if you came to one of the dates...also it might, just might give folk an added incentive to buy the album. Go on, you know you want to."

You've been involved with social issues and charity work in the past - anything like that going on at the moment?

Yeah, Nige was asked to record a Christmas song for a compilation album called the Festivus Music project, all the other artists were doing covers but Nige being Nige, he wrote and recorded a song in a day and it turned out to be rather touching and lovely. It’s called Christmas At The Foodbank. So we're going to be doing something with the Trussell Trust. It's fucking disgusting that half a million people have to rely on foodbanks in this country while there are people earning a million pounds a day.

The official merchandise on your website includes tea cosies. Which of you is most likely to settle down for a nice cuppa with one of those delightful cosies for company?

Life is always a little better when you can think of an unusual merchandising idea - even though none of them ever really sell! This came out of Andy's lyric in Cold Tea from the first album "there's nothing worse than cold tea", and seeing as it's the 20th anniversary of that album this year and we took the album on the road, we thought it would be quite sweet. Andy likes a nice cuppa. Certainly not Nige, he likes his instant coffee, the shitter the better. Mellow Birds and shit.

When you took your goldfish David Wilkie on tour, how long did he last and was it the excesses that eventually finished him off or the lack of sleep due to all that travelling?

He was sacrificed to the gods off Worthing pier when we were all on acid.

When Oasis supported you, did you have any idea of how big they would become?  And what did you think of them?

I didn't see them, I was across the road having a pint and a pie. Typical really. When we played just before Radiohead at Glastonbury '97, their iconic performance, was I watching from the side of the stage? Was I bollocks, I was getting twatted in a field somewhere.

Dodgy UK & Ireland Tour Dates are as follows

Sat November 9th 2013 - SALISBURY The Rainbow On The Lake
Mon November 14th 2013 - DARLINGTON The Forum
Sat November 23rd 2013 - LONDON Jazz Cafe
Sat December 7th 2013 - EBBW VALE Institute

Click Here to Compare & Buy Dodgy Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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