With just two months to go before the Rewind Festival South kicks into action in Henley-on-Thames, I have been asked to interview some of the acts in the lead up to this years festival which takes place on the weekend of 21st to 23rd August 2015. So far I have spoken to Andy McCluskey of OMD, Carol Decker from T’Pau and Nik Kershaw.
This time it is the turn of Peter Cox from Go West. Peter is no stranger to me. I have loved Go West’s music since they first hit the charts back in 1985 with ‘We Close Our Eyes’ and I have been a huge fan ever since.
I have met Go West a couple of times now having interviewed them at Rewind two years ago, and also seeing Peter’s solo gig at High Barn celebrating the release of his album ‘Riding the Blinds‘. Peter also recently released a duet with the talented Rosabella Gregory.
What do you love about Rewind?
From our point of view it is one of the biggest gigs we do in the year and it is nice to reach such a large audience. The production is very professional so, from my point of view, the work environment is about as good as it gets. That makes my job a lot more pleasurable than it can sometimes be. The atmosphere and the spirit of the crowd is very positive so there is nothing not to like really. As ever we pray for sunshine!
What happens if it does rain?
The crowd is fantastic – umbrellas up and away we go! No one dives for shelter and everyone is determined to make the absolute best of the day. I remember on our very first tour we played at Yokohama baseball stadium in Japan and originally there were going to be two performances but a typhoon came in. They cancelled the first of the two shows but I guess the promoter felt he couldn’t afford to cancel the second one and someone made an absolute fortune selling transparent umbrellas so that the audience could see – to some extent – what was happening on the stage. That was quite a surreal experience.
What would you have done differently back in the ’80s?
I would have agonised less over the second Go West album ‘Dancing on the Couch’ because as we now know, from bitter experience, the attention span of the public is comparatively short when it comes to popular music. I think we were unnecessarily concerned about how we had been marketed. Very naive in the first place and then realising after the fact that we had been marketed in a glossy pop star kind of way which wasn’t how we saw ourselves. So I attempted to make a ‘more serious’ second album working with some fantastic artists but the long and the short of it is, we took too long, didn’t make a very commercial album and the rest is history! The 9 songs on the first Go West album were the product of years of writing and experimentation with no pressure then we had to follow it up, and we had to follow it up really quickly, but we didn’t do that well.
What do you miss about the ’80s and what would you have done differently?
I miss my hair! You know though, I have to be honest, in very general terms I think I was quite uncomfortable with the level of attention that we got for those 15 minutes and a lot of the ’80s is something of a blur to me – not for any other reason than it was all happening so fast and I didn’t embrace the experience the way I wish now I had been able to. But we are all different people and I certainly wasn’t of the psychological make-up where I believe I was so confident to have felt that I totally deserved it. I was all a bit ‘oh, I wasn’t expecting this to happen’. I think there was also a fear of the reality of me letting people down. We are all different though. As you know for yourself, Richard is a very different animal and he wasn’t having this experience!
What do you remember fondly about the ’80s?
I remember buying my first flat with some of the money I earned, it was nice having big cheques dropping through the letter box. I didn’t have to worry about money for a while so I travelled a lot in the context of work and outside of it too. I might never have dreamed that I would go to Japan and it was the first place that we went to. I went to America and spent a long time there. Los Angeles is very different to anywhere else and was very strange to start with but eventually I came to really love it and moved and lived there on my own for some time later on.
Did you prefer America or was it a completely different culture that you enjoyed?
Well, people have asked me often what was it that I liked and what did you miss. Amongst a hundred other things I preferred the long days and the light which is why the movie industry at the turn of the century started there – because the days were long and the light was reliable and beautiful. I am the captain of the complaining club when it comes to the British weather! A terribly British thing to do!
Who would you have play you in the story of you life?
I can’t imagine that would ever be made! But in the spirit of the question, on the basis of appearance, I would have to say Bruce Willis.
Why haven’t you ever written a biography?
Funnily enough, there was a ghost writer in the entourage when Tony Hadley and I did ‘Reborn in the USA’ and she did ghost-write Tony’s autobiography. She came to me with the same idea and we sketched out a proposal but publishers weren’t interested. I think you have to be prepared, to some extent, to kiss and tell even then and I think in today’s celebrity culture you have to be in a position to do that even more. There wasn’t even much to kiss and tell in my case and even if there had been I am not built that way, I am not that kind of person. It’s funny. I am a wannabe guitarist and in that journey I had been invited to the Academy of Contemporary Music in Guildford to talk about my experience of the music industry in return for guitar lessons. But I would have found it difficult to put enough of a positive spin on it to a classroom of hopefuls as I think my basic message would be make sure you are doing it for the love of doing it and not because you expect to be famous or rich because if either of those two things come along, you have been lucky. There are thousands of fantastically talented people out there who are, to all intents and purposes, invisible. From my grumpy perspective, lessor people do appear to achieve success!
Tell me about your experience with self-publishing.
YouTube is a useful tool to self-publish your work and to have it available for a potential public is perhaps easier but then, the problem is letting the public know that it is there. The good thing is that you can find a budget somehow, even out of your own pocket. Kids today are making music in their bedrooms across the country so that part is simpler but what use is 200 views? I did a pledge campaign to make ‘Riding the Blinds’ and spent the money I made making the record, a DVD and so on and so on. On paper that looks fine but what I would have done differently is that I would have set at least half of any income aside for a promotional budget. You can make the best record in the world but if no one knows it’s there then you’ve done it as a hobby.
Nik Kershaw was telling me on your forthcoming joint tour that you were going to perform each others songs. Have you agreed on that yet?
We haven’t got that far yet. It is going to be very similar to the one we did with Tony Hadley back in 2004. We did a slightly different kind of show in that we didn’t play and then Tony came on and played. We were on stage together, we would play some songs, we would go off and Tony would come on and then we would have our turn. That is what we are going to do with Nik. Carol and T’Pau are going to open the show and then Nik and Go West are going to play one long set together. We are still very much in the swapping notes stage.
What is your favourite song lyrically?
I am going to choose ‘Ain’t Gonna Cry Again’ from one of my solo albums. The reason I am choosing a song that I didn’t write with Richard is because, as a writing partnership, we are both determinedly controlling, lets say, and the result of the songs that we write together have been a long, head-banging experience where we are arguing about what we think a good lyric or a good guitar part should be. In the case of my solo album, I wrote the lyrics on my own so in that sense it is slightly easier to make it what you want it to be – for better or for worse. I am not necessarily saying that it is better, I am just saying that I got to express myself lyrically individually for the first time. Also, a lot of people – women particularly – seem to identify with the theme of the song. When you are writing something, you can’t anticipate how an audience is going to respond and the fact that people can associate with it is very satisfying. It was, what they once used to call, a turntable hit. It was played a lot on the radio and I got some decent support but it didn’t transfer into sales.
Finally, which of your songs is your hidden gem?
From the same solo album, I like the song ‘Change’. It was a song whose lyric I feel good about and which became much larger in the studio during the recording process. It turned into something I am very proud of still.
Go West play Rewind South 80s Music Festival on Saturday August 22nd at Temple Island Meadows, Henley-on-Thames. Ticket info:www.rewindfestival.com.