Scots heroes’ ‘live it live’ plea
Big Country guitarist Bruce Watson tells of his frustration with the YouTube generation as his band prepares to visit Preston for the first time
Big Country guitarist Bruce Watson is looking forward to his – and his band’s – first ever visit to Preston.
The Scottish rockers, who made their name in the 1980s with hits like Wonderland, play 53 Degrees on October 22.
Bruce admits he knows little about the city, but is ready to put that right ahead of the gig.
Speaking from the United States during a day-long commute to Kentucky, he says he always welcomes the chance to explore new places.
There hasn’t always been time to do that during the band’s marathon three-month tour Stateside given the long distances involved. “I can’t wait to get back to the UK,” says Watson. “We wanted to have a bit of fun on this autumn tour and play lots of places bands wouldn’t normally play, places off the beaten track.
“I’ve been through Preston on my way to play at places like Darwen Library and in Blackburn, but I’ve never stopped off.
“But I do love to get off the tour bus while the road crew are setting up, follow my nose and see what’s there and I’ll definitely do that in Preston.”
The band have a great reputation live and have twice been asked to support the Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts are both fans.
Watson admits that playing live is now crucial for all but the very biggest acts to pay their way.
He says he still loves playing live and making music in its purest form. But he cannot hide his frustration with an age of free, sometimes illegal, downloading and fans who spend gigs filming on their mobile phones.
And he was not even aware that US mash-up master Girl Talk had sampled his band’s hit In A Big Country.
“We won’t see any money from it,” he says. “EMI have the rights to all but our last three albums and I doubt we will get them back.
“A band like ours can only earn money by going on tour and through merchandise, you just don’t earn money through record sales.
“The easy availability of free music possibly makes live performance more important.
“Even then you have people trying to film at your gigs so they can post it on YouTube.
“But you’re not going to get the quality that way, you have to be there to experience it.
“People are standing there with their phones and I’m thinking ‘this is crazy, put your phones away and enjoy it’!”
Big Country’s first album proper in 14 years, the critically acclaimed The Journey, features former Alarm vocalist Mike Peters.
The death of original singer, Stuart Adamson, who hanged himself in 2001, helps explain the long hiatus, although the remaining members did re-unite to celebrate their 25th anniversary in 2007.
They had split before Adamson’s death and had already spoken to Peters about coming on board. “Mike had supported us on our last tour and Stuart was moving to the States and was going to start a solo career,” explains Watson.
“We felt that the band should continue and that Mike would be the perfect man.”
It took 10 years before Peters eventually joined up and the line up also features Watson’s son Jamie, with whom he has made a solo record.
But Watson reassures fans that the new line up “still sounds the same”.
Now 52, he does not rule out following in he footsteps of the Stones and touring into his seventies.
“I don’t like to think that far ahead,” he admits.
And, given the changes he has witnessed both personally and professionally over the last 20 years, who can blame him?