I’M NOT THE MAN I USED TO BE
A CONVERSATION WITH ROLAND GIFT
Roland Gift fronted The Fine Young Cannibals who rose to fame in the late 1980’s has decided to go out on a solo tour to promote his current release. He has been working on a musical for which the songs were written prior to the creation of the musical itself.
When creating a solo project you may have to adopt a different mindset or focus. Roland explained how he was able to collaborate effectively with other writers. He did admit however to actually finding that difficult, especially when he was signed to a record company and they had suggested to him that he should go and work with other writers.
”I found that process quite depressing.” I would imagine that as an artist that would have been particularly difficult as it’s basically a suggestion that we think you are not good enough to write on your own. It’s certainly not supportive and can lead to an artist being influenced by others. Roland however gave an example that on one occasion his label EMI had suggested a joint writing project with somebody else and it had worked. However in his long career, “It’s only happened once where it’s really worked out.”
The Fine Young Cannibals came from an era which has endured musically. Many of those acts are still producing new music and touring regularly. Roland stated that when the Fine Young Cannibals first got together they were listening to music that was twenty five years old. They had set out with the objective to create music “that would be listened to 25 years in the future.” It was not essentially created as a mission statement, however it was one of the things that they had wanted to achieve. At that time in the eighties there were not that many tv shows with music in them. That changed and it became overkill. There were fewer musical outlets in the eighties. Even radio stations were not that prevalent he felt. When people were experiencing bands those bands became larger in people’s consciousness. Roland also illustrated that the music at that time was similar to television viewing with fewer TV channels. When programs were viewed, they were seen by a large audience thus programs were more popular. They became widely discussed on an evening out, both music and television programs.
The nucleus of the touring band this time around has probably been together for a year. It is based around the band he played with when he and Jools Holland toured three to four years ago. Holland was the singer and this served as a catalyst for Gift personally to perform music again. They have been playing gigs over the summer-festivals .Gift felt though that it’s also quite nice to do a tour when there is a run of shows.”It just makes it a slightly different experience”
Gift had also forged another career in tandem with his music – acting. However he was particularly keen to explain that there was no danger of it replacing music.
”I’m not really a jobbing actor. I don’t really go out looking for roles. I’m more interested in writing. ”He shared that there would be a film called Brakes to be released in late November. His involvement came purely through a friend asking him. He also knew a lot of the cast and it seemed like it would be a fun project to get involved with.
He first became involved in acting as he did drama when he was a kid. He was approached directly for his first movie role. He initially considered becoming an actor but then his music took off. Like many actors he didn’t like the auditioning process. It’s a lot of rejection so instead he favoured music.
”What I like about being in a group is that you create your own work.” He also saw a similarity with writing drama, stating that it’s about creating your stuff and then you take it out. He was more interested in writing stuff for himself to perform rather than performing something that somebody else has written. I questioned Roland about creating a film score as that would be something that would allow him to combine his two interests effectively. He shared that he had only previously done that once properly. It had actually come about because Barry Levinson had previously used some of the Cannibals music as temporary music in a film. Usually the film is shot and the director has an idea of what he wants. He stated that again writing film scores was not an area that appealed to him.
”Because I think again,you’re sort of fulfilling somebody else’s vision.The Return to Vegas stage musical presented a fresh challenge creatively to him.He felt that if he was going to put a record out it would be good if it was with something else. At present he had written the music, it features FYC songs along with songs that he has been playing live. He knows that the songs work and are catchy and that people like them.
At present he is directing because nobody else is. He was also realistic in terms of its expectations. He was not approaching it like they were expecting it to go straight into the West End. He would rather play in places that were not normally associated with theatres. It’s actually set in a nightclub so he expressed an idea to perform it in nightclubs. The process he outlined was called “Immersive” The audience are not really like characters in the piece but they are there.The first half is a wake and the second half it’s the club open for business as usual.
Was writing a book an idea which Gift had ever thought about? Surprisingly he had considered actually feeling an urge,and a compulsion to write about stuff that was going on when he was a kid. He felt that he needed to get it down and make sense of life now. He did feel however that his life in the music business was the least interesting if he was talking about recalling memories. As he accepted things as a kid he felt now that as an adult he has started to question it. Having kids of his own has started him questioning things. He explained that he felt like doing it as a drama rather than a factual thing.He stated that he felt like doing it as a drama, “Because it’s never the truth anyway, it’s always your definition of what’s happened.” He gave an example of once he had made a short film for the Hull Fare. He was doing a film course and some documentary makers were brought in. That led him to draw the conclusion that documentaries are not really factual in a sense because it’s just what the director chooses to say. That made Roland decide that he would rather just make a fiction piece then nobody could get upset about how they are depicted. You can thus still get the imagery and the sense of the story.
At the height of Fine Young Cannibals success and fame how had Roland taken that on-board, had fame come at a price?. Was it difficult to accept and deal with? Roland was easily recognizable in his own small community as a punk and from his first group had a couple of singles out so in a sense he already achieved a small level of fame and recognition. It was just taken up several notches when the Cannibals became successful. “It was just kind of a similar but just more. ”The Cannibals had long gaps between albums so it wasn’t a long sustained period of success. He explained that, “You just get used to it very quickly.” There were steps on the wave really, it wasn’t like overnight and I think that helped”. In a way he had felt that kept his feet on the ground. That was something that made him disciplined.
In the modern era bands are always reuniting, given that current atmosphere I was curious and motivated to ask Roland if he had considered pursuing that with regard to his former band. His response was actually quite surprising when he revealed that he “Had a chat with Andy today.”. This had been triggered by the meeting of David and Andy at the funeral of the saxophone player Saxa, formerly of the Beat who had also played on some Cannibals stuff. Gift concluded with the cryptic comment, ”So you never know” and that was quickly followed up with, “I mean I don’t want to say never.” Watch this space on developments then. However Roland did actually state that he was more interested in being creative and doing new things rather than revisiting things that he had achieved previously.
Gift’s musical influences have been widely reported so I decided to pursue a different line of questioning by asking him who his acting influences were. He identified Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay as being two that had particularly stood out to him. Their films like Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and Saturday Night,Sunday Morning were ones that he could identify with due to the environments in which they were set.
In conclusion Roland shared that the forthcoming set of tour dates would be similar to previous sets from last Christmas but would actually consist of more new stuff than old stuff. A bit of a mixture but he felt that, “Anybody that likes Cannibals seems to like the new stuff.” I am certainly looking forward to catching him on the road when it hits Manchester because after all you can never have too much of a “Good Thing”.
Tickets for December 2017 – UK Tour Dates are available from:
Wednesday 6th December 2017
NORWICH – Waterfront
Box Office No: 01603 508050
Website – https://thewaterfront.ticketabc.com/venues/thewaterfront/
Tickets – £22.50
Doors – 7.30pm