Consett Music Project – Issue 4 1984


For those unhip people who don‘t know, Prefab sprout is a group, and since last October when they signed to Kitchenware Records in Newcastle they have received a lot of attention from the music papers and radio. During this time they had a drummer called Steve Dolder (who appears in the video of their single ‘Don’t Sing’) and who recently left them to join another group. Steve talked to us about what it was like to be part of the group which Elvis Costello said was his favourite of last year.

Did he find his time with the Sprouts useful ?

“Very, very useful. You get to see largely behind the business and it’s not all starry-eyed it ‘s really hard work. There was so much happening in such a short period of time. Every day when you walked into the office, it was oh you’ve got an interview  with the Daily mirror or Newsbeat or you’re making a video net week, things like that were happening one after the other. It’s really good for experience and playing alongside Elvis Costello was an experience in itself, he really likes the group and asked us to do his Christmas shows, one in Birmingham and two in Hammersmith Odeon. I’ve never played an indoor gig as big as that”

So, how did you come to join the group?

Well I was playing with the Eastside,Torpedoes and I went into a music shop in town and saw an advertisement for a band called The Kane Gang, who were looking for musicians. I’d heard of them so I rang up for curiosities sake. They said sorry but we’ve got a drummer but there’s a band called Prefab sprout looking for one. I thought Prefab Sprout?! er I don’t know I think I’m happy enough with the Torpedoes thanks very much. But he told me all about then and so I decided to audition. The day before they gave me a copy of the album ‘Swoon’, which isn’t released yet and told me to learn the first side. It took me six hours because it’s not exactly predictable music. Next day I auditioned and got the job.”

Prefab Sprout got a very mixed reaction to their music from the media, Kid Jensen played them a lot  and the music papers slagged then off. What do you think of this ?

“It’s the live gigs that are their weakness. That’s what the music papers have slagged them for. Live gigs haven’t gone well for then. I always thought they should put more into presentation – They got signed to CBS recently on the richness of the stuff on the album. It’s got five or six different guitars and keyboards and everything and I think if they want to do live gigs properly they’ll have to use a bigger band, at the moment they’re a three-piece.”

Maybe it’s because they haven’t got the experience of playing live?

Yes, I think that’s what it is. Prefab Sprout are dead original and the singer Wendy’s got a good original voice but I think she has a bit of trouble putting it over live. It’ll probably come in time but it’s a shame that all the ground work is happening now when they are so much in the public eye.”

So you think they’ve moved too fast ?

“I think so, unless they were a really good gigging band before and they could jump straight into all that but they aren’t. They’re getting there though.’

It was musical differences that split you up from them, then?

“Yes, it was totally musical differences. There was just three different styles of play within the band. It was live gigs as well, I wasn’t enjoying going from a really good gigging band to a bad one, there’s no satisfaction in it. I think live music is important, if it wasn’t people like me would be out of a job cos I’m not a songwriter. Paddy Would rather be at home writing, I’d rather be out gigging.”

Do you think it’s difficult for musicians in the north-east because there’s not a terrific number of venues available for gigs ?

“I think you’re right. I’ve been on the phone to all the old places we used to play and the main excuse was that they were booked up to April because they were only doing a few nights for bands. I think that if you’re just starting off and you haven’t got a reputation, it’s very difficult because people don’t want to know. It’s like a vicious circle, how are you supposed to get anywhere when you’re not given the chance in the first place?”

I read an interview in sounds with Paddy of the group and it was a really strange interview.

“Yeah. He’s a nutcase – Dave McCullough – he even started slagging himself off I think. A lot of people read it and said, well I just don’t understand it, you know. To the ordinary man on the street, they’d just read the first few lines and turn over the page.”

So what do you think of the music press ?

“I don’t know, I think a lot of them are tossers actually. I have very little respect for some of them because I mean they’re only young people like ourselves, they’re not amazingly experienced. They cane over as worldly figures but they’re not really. A lot of them slag bands, and they can’t see the creativity behind a band like Prefab Sprout.”

You think that could do a lot of damage?

“Yes, because a lot or people do read the music press and think, it’s in the paper, it must be true.

“I’m playing with a band called Tra La La now. It‘s a funny name for a group but they’re shit-hot, really commercial. Actually there are deep connotations behind the name Tra La La, it’s the name of a prostitute in a book. At the moment they’ve got a single coming out in Italy, there‘s some major companies interested and they‘re making a video. So fingers crossed.”