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Jack Of All Trades: Steve Cradock Winding Down After A Frantic Year

Tuesday, 26 November 2013 Written by Graeme Marsh

As Christmas rears its head once again, we’re all starting to wind down in anticipation of some time away from the pressures of the day job, with quality family time top of the agenda and indulgence in the shape of food and drink a given.

For guitarist Steve Cradock, the run up to the festive season has been particularly busy this year. First there was a 10-date tour in October as part of mod legend Paul Weller’s backing band before a run of shows in support of his latest solo album, ‘Travel Wild-Travel Free’. Beginning just a week after Weller’s tour ended, the solo dates continued into November, culminating in a gig at Bristol’s unique live venue, Thekla – a cargo ship moored at East Mud Dock most famous for sporting Banksy’s take on The Silent Highwayman.

Cradock is now busy preparing for 18 ‘Marchin’ Already’ dates with Ocean Colour Scene, the band with whom he first made a name for himself almost a quarter of a century ago. Formed in 1989, Ocean Colour Scene got off to a slow start before 1996’s ‘Moseley Shoals’, their second album, catapulted them to number two in the UK album chart at the height of Britpop. This year, as well as celebrating ‘Marchin’ Already’, which topped the UK charts in 1997, the band released ‘Painting’, their 10th studio effort.

Reviews were mixed and Cradock has a similar view of the collection. “It’s not one of my favourite albums,” he said. “But there are good moments on it.” As for their immediate future post-tour, he admitted: “I don’t really know where it lies, but I think we will probably tour in 2015.”

Given his other endeavours, less focus is afforded to his own solo work than perhaps should be. Garnering much critical acclaim from reviewers, ‘Travel Wild-Travel Free’ built on the foundations laid by ‘The Kundalini Target’ and its follow up, ‘Peace City West’. Cradock’s own solo style leans towards the psychedelic and features the guitarist taking on a number of roles both in front of the mic and behind the mixing desk.

“I always like to pick at whatever instruments are around me, I collect them,” he said. “But I’m a jack of all trades and master of none. Live I stick to acoustic and electric guitars. I’ve actually produced all three solo records along with other people like Jan ‘Stan’ Kybert, Nick Lee, Charles Rees and Freddie Ansell. I love both playing and mixing.”

Cradock’s wife, Sally, is a regular collaborator and has featured on each of his solo releases to date - even appearing on horseback on the sleeve of the new record. “We are both fire signs,” Cradock said when asked if there have been any moments when he’s questioned the close working relationship. “So we both carry a few bottles of water to douse the flames!”

‘Peace City West’, meanwhile, showcased vocals and six string contributions from James Buckley, known to many as Jay, The Inbetweeners  foul-mouthed habitual exaggerator. “I loved the TV shows,” Cradock said. “He came to Deep Litter Studios in Devon when I was recording 'Peace City West' and played guitar and hung out, with his now wife Clair.”

The new offering also benefits from a couple of efforts written for others, including a song dedicated to nine-year-old Noah Amato, who was tragically killed in a car accident following the Giffstock festival in 2009. Cradock explained: “Street Fire I wrote as a postcard for my mum in heaven, explaining where we are and what’s going on on Earth. And Shark Finn Island was written for Noah Amato.”

Vocally, Cradock was driven to experiment on this record. The single Sheer Inertia features psychedelic vocal effects, with straight-up delivery not something that tickled his creative fancy. “I just like floaty vocals and 3D music – straightforward sounds bored me while making this record,” he said.

As well as his punishing tour schedule, Cradock found time to fit in a slot at the recent Bluesfest - alongside the likes of Robert Plant, Ronnie Wood, Bobby Womack and Van Morrison - at London’s Royal Albert Hall on the same day the Steve Cradock Band performed a Birmingham gig.

“And I drove the bus, unpacked the van four times in that day,” Cradock said. “We were all fucked to be honest. I couldn’t [see any other acts] as I was travelling up the M40 to Birmingham. I would have liked to have played with Van The Man though.”

When Ocean Colour Scene play the last show of their tour at Newcastle’s O2 Academy on December 21, Cradock will finally be able to kick back. Christmas will be most welcome in his household this year. “Oh yes,” he said. “Those sleigh bells I can hear a’comin’.”

Ocean Colour Scene UK & Ireland Tour Dates are as follows

Wed November 27th 2013 - NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Thu November 28th 2013 - NORWICH U.E.A (University Of East Anglia)
Sat November 30th 2013 - CARDIFF Great Hall
Sun December 1st 2013 - OXFORD O2 Academy Oxford
Mon December 2nd 2013 - BOURNEMOUTH O2 Academy Bournemouth
Fri December 6th 2013 - GLASGOW Barrowlands
Mon December 9th 2013 - ABERDEEN Music Hall
Tue December 10th 2013 - EDINBURGH The Picture House
Thu December 12th 2013 - LONDON O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire
Fri December 13th 2013 - LONDON O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire
Sat December 14th 2013 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Mon December 16th 2013 - BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Tue December 17th 2013 - LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Thu December 19th 2013 - LIVERPOOL O2 Academy Liverpool
Fri December 20th 2013 - MANCHESTER The Ritz
Sat December 21st 2013 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle

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