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INTERVIEW: Peter Cox – An 80s Icon!

Ray A-J March 10, 2018

“I earn money sitting in a people carrier at two in the morning”- Go West’s Peter Cox

The King of wishful thinking, is on the phone with Ray A-J, and wants a word (or two)….. about his upcoming tour and appearance at the Brighton Centre.

Friday morning. Sitting by the phone. Waiting. Then…. Ring!

None other than half of rock/pop eighties duo, Go West’s Peter Cox is on the other end. He’s cool, calm, and coming to Brighton for his latest tour – no, not in a people carrier.

Ray: Hello, how are you this morning?

Peter: I’m good thanks, and yourself?

R: Doing good, cheers. So I understand you’re touring, and playing in Brighton soon?

P: Yes, alongside Nik Kershaw and Cutting Crew.

R: What’s it like touring with them?

P:¬†It’s good performing with Nik Kershaw. You know, in the eighties I didn’t know him very well, but I’ve got to know him more recently and he’s funny. He’s quite a dry individual and quite generous. We have performed together a lot, Go West and Nik, we’ve done some duets and played on stage together. The crowd probably come out to hear Nik do his songs, but he lets me have a verse or two which is great.

We talk over his past performances with Cutting Crew and Nik, and throughout he’s engaging and reminiscent – it genuinely sounded like a hoot to perform with the artists, rather than just touring alongside them. Remembering the early days and previous gigs with Richard Drummie (other half of Go West), Peter continues:

P:¬†We’re the core of the band, him and I, we’re more of the songwriters. Our current and previous live band members are great, they do a good job and they are part of the band too. We’re the songwriters so we spent a lot of time together during our fifteen minutes of fame. We were in each others pockets. We had to compromise on songs, which could be difficult at times. Then we were touring and I fell in love with California, and Richard didn’t want to move.

“My record company said: can’t you get in bed with somebody famous?”

R: After Go West, you had a solo career, how was that?

P: Yeah I did, my solo album ‘Ain’t gonna cry again’ made a little noise. It was something I needed to do….for my soul. As I said before, collaboration is a compromise, and it’s great but you may not have the song you originally set out with. It’s the age-old story of the typical singer of the band that leaves to have a solo career; I wanted to try my own thing and make my own music. The album sounds of its time I suppose, it was made about 1997. It’s a Pop record really.

R: You recently had the Damn the Breaks album I believe, how different was it making that album versus the Go West albums?

P:¬†Well, as I said with the previous album, it was different. It was slightly easier because I can make decisions without running ideas past someone else. It’s great collaborating but you don’t always agree, you may have a line you really like but they may not like it.

“Compared to Beyonce, I’m essentially invisible. ”

Making a record was dramatically different back then, you would write the song then do gigs to promote it and eventually send demos in to record labels. It was hard to get noticed which was part of the challenge. Go West were signed to a publicist for three years before we put anything out; we were focused on writing a good track. We would have funding from record labels to make songs, and perhaps spent too long on them in the second album, that’s why it wasn’t as good as the first. For this album I actually went through crowd funding and pledge music to create it, because there wasn’t a record company budget.

R: Well the first songs you did were very successful. We close our eyes was it?

P: Yeah it was our first song, I wouldn’t say it was that successful though. We had about 4 UK chart singles in 1985 for over a year, but then the second album didn’t do as well.

At this point Peter explains at length the difference between songs and their production now, and in the eighties. He seems very appreciative of the record companies and his time with Go West, and in his own words he is perpetually “over critical” perhaps, of the music they made.

P:¬†The second album took too long to create, which meant we were too late when we released it – we were too precious with the songs and wanted to write something different from the first album. As Rich would say, “the best songs come quickly”; you would have them written in maybe a few hours or a day. But we took too long. The first album was made up of mainly love songs because that topic is universal – everybody experiences love and can relate. We were so naive back then, we didn’t really think about the music too much. But for the second album we wanted to write something different, something more serious, and it just didn’t work – it wasn’t well received.

” I spent most of 85 in terror”

R: You were still pretty famous though, what was it like?

P:¬† We were never really famous. I mean, compared to Beyonce, I’m essentially invisible. We had a few hits, we were a so-called overnight sensation but we weren’t really celebrities. We were probably most popular during the mid eighties (but we still weren’t famous). We did manage to tour with Culture Club which was exciting for us, it was a bit of a blur.

To be honest, I spent most of 85 in terror. I was never really comfortable with being a ‘popstar’ anyway back then. We didn’t really like the popstar image, which was bad for our record company. I remember they said to me “can’t you get in bed with somebody famous?” (laughs).

We didn’t really think about how we looked, for us it was more about the music; we’re serious musicians and we wanted to be seen like that – we wanted audiences to listen to our music. I remember we did do a cover for Smash hits, and we went to the photo shoot not knowing what would happen. Before then I’d never worn makeup and we weren’t happy when we saw the pictures because it didn’t look like us. But as a so-called “popstar”, you would be expected to feature in those magazines, so we did it.

Now, It’s a celebrity driven world. Everybody has social media and you can put your music on there, you don’t necessarily have to have a record deal. But that makes getting noticed harder because there is so much out there. Anybody can make a record now, in their room with their laptop. And this generation expect their film, music etc for free. So making a living from music is hard. The live event is the only thing you can’t steal.

R: How is performing live now, verses back then?

P:¬†“Well our audience is older now, so it’s very different. I love making music and performing live. I don’t see performing as work, If you ask me what my job is, I earn money sitting in a people carrier at two in the morning (laughs). Music is more of a hobby now, and I’m grateful that I can carry on doing what I love. I’m proud to be a part of this tour.”

R:¬†Yeah definitely, like live is where musicians can really grow. Like Imperfections are key, they’re what makes live great and fun.

P: Ha ha, yeah definitely. But with my performances, I want it to be as close to perfect as possible. At a gig, I was told we sound like we do on the records, and I take pride in the fact we sound like we did back then. That’s an achievement for us because it’s so hard for bands to still sound like they used to and to carry on doing music. We’re busier this year then we ever have been, which is great.

R: So what’s your favourite venue you’ve played in?

P:¬†I look forward to all gigs. There are pockets where we are popular in UK. In the past we’ve not done as well on south coast. I don’t know why that is. But I love Brighton, if I could afford to live in Brighton I’d move there.

R: For you, what’s the best thing about touring?

P: Oh tough question…..Being on stage and getting the positive reactions. I love seeing people enjoying our music and I love performing it. I was with a band called Manfred Man for a year, and we went to Europe and Japan, and saw some bands I really love, but we were disappointed by their live performance. They were really good but were… lacking energy. So my aim really is to be energetic and entertain when performing.

Sometimes bands say they’re the best, to get people to listen to them but it’s nonsense to say you’re the best. I’m not going to try to sell myself as the biggest and best musician, or that’s what you’re going to see. If you like our music and have a good time at our gigs then that’s great. Even if you don’t know our music, I hope we are an exciting live act.

R:¬†So what’s your favourite song to perform?

P: I like to do covers. Bruce Springsteen has amazing songs of his own, but he plays some songs by other people live. It keeps it interesting. Lots of our fans are older, so they know our songs, it’s nice to surprise them sometimes with a cover. I don’t know if you know them but there’s this band called Birds that do a song ‘Wings that I love’. We’ve done a version of that as a surprise to audiences. I think we did a pretty good version of it. We’ve performed some AC/DC songs and a good range of rock.

R: That sounds cool, like that’s such a good idea. I can imagine you doing like a heavy metal version of some songs.

P: Haha no, that’s not something I think my voice could do.

R: So we won’t expect any Guns and Roses then?

P:¬†Haha no, I’d like to but it doesn’t suit my voice. I don’t think I can go that high.

R: (laughs). So you like covering rock live, but who inspired your music?

P:¬†Oh…good question. I take inspiration from a lot of 70s reggae, like early Bob Marley and that sort of sound. I also really like Motown and soul – older stuff. With our album Futurenow, we took a lot from that sound as our inspiration. It had a reggae feel, and we tried to create something different from our other albums, with some R&B inspiration too, but women didn’t relate to it and it didn’t work. That album took forever to finish…. We should have taken ourselves less seriously with that one, but that’s easy to say now what we should have done.

R: Hindsight is always a good thing.

P: Yes, Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Looking back there was a lot we could have done.

R: But Sometimes looking back with regret….it’s not worth it, like if you didn’t do what you did you might not be on the tour now and stuff.

P:¬†You’re being very understanding, that’s generous of you to say.

 

P: That was a long answer! But with our inspiration, I also love a band called Free and their song Alright now. I think Paul Rodgers is the best male singer this country’s produced. Rich loved them too. It’s actually how we met, because we were both members of different local bands and I had read a review of his gig and thought he sounded cool. Then we met each other at a gig we were both doing, and we just spoke about Free. Because we both liked them, we based our sound around them – we were inspired, so the compromise was easier.

R: So on the topic of collaboration, who would you collaborate with now?

P: Oh…I like some newer artists like Donna Missal. Her music is fantastic live. I’d like to maybe collaborate with her if I had to choose. But she’s quite young and I’m older so she may not know my music, or want to collab.

R: Maybe her parents might have listened to your work and maybe she’d be like, “yeah I’d love to”

P:¬†Haha yeah maybe. There are all kinds of people I’d love to collaborate with. I’d love to work with contemporary soul producers like Max Martin. I think his work is great, so yeah… I’d love to collab with him and Donna.

R:¬†Cool, so a lot of new music with them maybe coming soon? But, a bit of a weird question….what’s your favourite movie, and if you were a movie what would you be?

P: Bladerunner. I liked the newest one actually, I like the older ones but the newer one is really good. Or Alien, anything sci-fi. I recite the dialogue to Alien when i watch it, alone of course that would be annoying otherwise. I love film.¬† I’m interested in the geeky part of it – what’s behind the camera. I could talk about it all day, but I’m not going to (laughs).

R: (laughs) That’s ok, the longest answers are the best.

So after our chat, and my relentless questioning, eighties icon and pop legend Peter Cox says:

P: Maybe you could come to our show, get a ticket.

If you want to see a proper eighties legend play some absolute slammers of songs, go see Go West reunited, with Nik Kershaw and Cutting Crew, at the Icons of the 80s tour at the Brighton centre (March 22). Tickets still available and I will definitely be there to see Peter Cox rock it out, and witness the energy live.

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