Following 2014’s spectacular, sell-out ruby anniversary tour and accompanying celebratory box set album release, Giants and Gems, the Stranglers are back on the road as they mark their 41st year in the business.
They play Portsmouth Guildhall on Monday, March 16.
For the past 15 years, Baz Warne has been at the heart of it all, delighted to join a band he’d idolised: “I was in another band in the north-east,” Baz explains, “and we supported The Stranglers on two separate tours, the UK tour in 1995 and the European tour in 1997. When Hugh Cornwell left in 1990, they replaced him with two guys, a singer and a guitarist. When the guitarist quit in 2000, I got the call to go and audition.”
The invitation went out to a select few: “Rather than advertise it, they kept it shtummm. It would have been an incredible waste of everyone’s time to open it up like some kind of X Factor. You would have had massive queues. But you wouldn’t have got the quality. So they limited it to just seven or eight people, seven or eight guys they knew, and I was one of them.”
It meant a trip to London from Newcastle, and Baz remembers he even had to borrow his fare. But it was a good investment: “It really was the proverbial Dick Whittington going off to London, a keen guy going on the road from the north.”
Subsequently, Baz has been told – tongue in cheek – he got the job because he was the only one who could play the solo properly on Golden Brown: “But it was also about attitude and about swagger. And I had also done my homework.”
Helping in that respect was that this was the music he had grown up with: “In 1976, when they first were breaking through, I was 12, just turning into a teenage sponge, the optimum time for absorbing everything.”
But as he says, the swagger was crucial too: “It’s part of the big rock ‘n’ roll pie. You have to have all the ingredients. For the audition, there was a nice little bit of friction between me and the band, just what we needed. They just asked me to join then and there. Everybody just gave me the thumbs-up. The first show we did was in Kosovo. Once it was over, I didn’t (mess) it up too badly, and I was part of it. It was intimidating all told for about three or four months. There were times when I was looking across the stage at Jean-Jacques Burnel and thinking ‘Jeez, is that really Jean-Jacques Burnel?’”