An Exclusive Pre-LA Show Interview with Well Known Reggae Band UB40 All About Their Newest and 19th Album and Much More!
Posted On 09 Sep 2019
World-famous reggae stars UB40 are currently celebrating their 40th anniversary with a world-wide tour. They are bringing their fans the timeless hits they’ve loved over the last four decades. They will play many of their seventeen Top 10 hit singles, including ‘Kingston Town’, ‘Food For Thought’, ‘One In Ten’, ‘I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You’, ‘Don’t Break My Heart’ and ‘Sing Our Own Song’ and, of course, ‘Red, Red Wine’, amongst many other fan favorites.
This tour features five of UB40’s six founding members, Robin Campbell, Brian Travers, Jimmy Brown, Earl Falconer and Norman Hassan, and long-time members Duncan Campbell, Martin Meredith, Lawrence Parry and Tony Mullings. These shows follow the release of the band’s first new studio album in over four years, which came out in May 2018 called “For The Many.” This collection is their 19th album.
The band will be releasing two companion versions of ‘For The Many’, as Brian Travers explains, “We have really enjoyed making this album, a huge amount of work went into it. It became a massive piece of work so, in addition to the regular version of the album, there will be a dub version and a collaboration version, featuring guest artists from all around the world.”
Co-vocalist and guitarist Robin Campbell added, “‘For The Many’ is a great mix of reggae styles, while the different artists we have collaborated with will appeal to more fans and tastes in reggae – it really is an album for the many. The 2019 tour is a continuation of our 40th year celebrations, as well as sharing tracks from our latest album. Xx dates around the US instead of a few arenas means that our fans from all over the USA can get to see us much more locally and up close – truly a tour for the many.”
UB40 have sold over 100 million records and have had dozens of chart-topping singles including “Red Red Wine” and “(I Can’t Help) Falling in Love With You.” They have had over 50 singles on the UK single chart and has been nominated for the Grammy Award for the Best Reggae Album.
All Access recently had the pleasure to check out UB40 on their Los Angeles stop at the downtown venue, Novo. From start to finish, the reggae outfit gave the crowd exactly what they wanted- a night of musical nostalgia. They belted out all the beloved UB40 favorites. They also introduced the LA crowd to a few of their newest tunes from their most recent album, “For The Many.” Most of the audience spent the show standing or rather dancing through the show. Each member of the band was energetic and danced their way around the stage and seemed to truly love being there.
Remaining UB4o Tour Dates:
9/11/19 Calgary, AB Grey Eagle Event Centre
9/12/19 Regina, SK Casino Regina
9/13/19 Winnipeg, Manitoba Burton Cummings Theatre
9/14/19 Minneapolis, MN The Cabooze
9/16/19 Lincoln, NE Royal Grove
9/17/19 Des Moines, IA 7 Flags Event Center
9/19/19 Louisville, KY The Mercury Ballroom
9/20/19 Waukegan, IL Genesee Theatre
9/22/19 Montreal, Quebec The Olympia
9/23/19 Augusta, ME Augusta Civic Center
9/26/19 New York City, NY Sony Hall
9/27/19 Virginia Beach, VA The Neptune Festival
9/28/19 Schenectady, NY Rivers Casino Resort Schenectady
9/29/19 Sandusky, OH Sandusky State Theatre
Connect With UB40 Online Here:
Learn more about UB40 in the following All Access interview with Ub40 member Jimmy Brown (drummer) and Duncan Campbell (lead singer)-
Thanks for sitting down with me before your show begins tonight! So have you performed here before?
Not this venue, no.
Yeah, I think it wasn’t open when we were here last.
So how have these shows been going so far? It’s a pretty rigorous tour schedule. So what has that been like?
It’s been great. They’ve been really good. We’ve had some really fantastic ones. We did one show where it was a dry show, where there was no alcohol allowed on the campus. And it was like, really? Are we supposed to have a dance party when nobody’s allowed to drink? So that was a little bit weird. And you can tell when they’re not allowed to drink. It’s a lot quieter.
The show’s are the good bit, you know. It’s the traveling in between that makes it hard work.
Yeah, how’s the tour bus?
Cramped. There’s a lot of us on it.
And your families, I’m assuming you can’t bring your families all with you, right? So that’s hard. You must miss everybody.
Well, I brought my family with me at times. I was talking to my kids the other day and they came with me years ago to L.A. stayed at the Sunset Marquis, they met Kurt Cobain and Brad Pitt. Dumbledore and all kinds of things. So we were reminiscing about that so they’ve done all that.
They’re all grown up now so you know, they’re used to it. We’ve been doing it for 40 years. My oldest daughter is 40 so her whole life she’s known.
Do you think you could you do this forever? Could you just keep touring?
Well, we haven’t done a tour like this for a while. I mean it’s a bit heavy going. I mean I’m not getting any younger.
But you know, it beats working for a living. It’s not that hard. We do two hours a night and the rest of the time just hanging around, really. As long you’ve got the right frame of mind.
Do you think that some of you prefer recording in a studio, working on new material as opposed to performing live?
I’m definitely a live performer. I prefer live. I like the studio. I enjoy it. I like to lock me-self away for hours on end in the studio, and smoking a lot of weed and coming out in the early hours when it’s light. They are very different experiences there. But I think we come into our own life. That’s what we do. And we write music it means more to us than computers or sequences or whatever. You can do all this stuff in the studio, but then you have to really produce it on stage. So you get to turn it back into music again.
So whose idea was it to go on this 40th anniversary tour? Who really sparked the idea, and then you guys decided to do it?
Well, it’s 40 years, it’s an unavoidable thing! We just did 40 gigs for 40 years in Britain, so we’re over here…
We did 42 here, I think. It might’ve been 43, but anyway, it’s really rare. So we started celebrating the 40th year, because that’s when we all got together, and started to play music as a group.
Is it hard to believe that you’re still here and you’re still touring?
Of course. You know, you could never have predicted it in the beginning, but we’re still doing it! We got up on stage one day 40 years ago and we did good, the audience enjoyed it, and they’ve been enjoying it ever since. When they’re not enjoying it, I suppose we’ll give it up.
How do you think this tour represents where UB40 is right now, in 2019?
Absolutely, 100 percent, where we are now. For start, half the set is going to be fairly unknown, for the audience, because it’s going to be a lot of new material. And a lot of very old material, before we had the hits with Labour of Love and all that. Because we had two careers, really. We started up in 1980, but we had hits… We had a massive hits. We had a hit in 1980, a couple hits, but then we had another massive hit in about 1985. And that kicked us in again.
This is like a retro album, you know. That’s what we’re going for We’re trying to get back to original UB40 vibe. Basically, most of our fans agree, you know, this is like the follow-up to Present Arms.
But Labor of Love were the love songs, but our other material tends to be more, kind of, dubby, a little bit heavier, more political. But we’ve gone back to that, really.
So what was it like getting in the studio and creating this album?
Good. It’s always good. Well, long. Long process. But you know, a lot of musicians they really want a chance to record and they don’t always get that opportunity. Maybe they have got the opportunity but they don’t have the budget.
You’ve got to pay for it. Because you don’t make anything from making records. You pay for it yourself, that’s why it takes so long, really. Because you’re on the road all the time, getting us all together. Obviously, when you get home, after a lot of touring, the last thing you want to do is all get together and do it in a studio the next day, so it’s pretty hard to get a project to its end. It’s taken two and a half years, or whatever, to produce the last album, but it’s not two and a half years in the studio, it’s two and a half years touring and snatching a day here and there when you can.
I mean, we’ve got four days when we get home, and then we’re off again. Amsterdam or something. Kind of busy… We remained busy for 40 years.
What do you do in your down time on this big tour? How do you relax?
We don’t get any.
There’s no down time. We have no down time on this tour. Tomorrow is the very first day off. It’s a genuine day off tomorrow. We’re not going anywhere, we’re staying here for a whole day. And not doing a gig.
First one since we left a month ago.
So what are you going to do? Sleep?
That’s the intention.
Maybe we’ll go out to different parties, going off, doing different things. There’s a lot of us here.
There is a lot of us. All the crew as well. I’m sure some will go off and see the city, and some will do other things. We might sit by the pool all day. Probably a bar somewhere.
What are your meet and greets like with fans?
We don’t do them. Well, we do them, but we don’t like doing them. I just don’t approve of charging people to meet me. I’ll talk to anybody anytime, and I don’t really approve of that sort of thing.
We spend a lot of time with our fans after the gig. We’re in touch with a lot of our fans online. They get backstage passes, and we like to meet people, but I don’t like the whole process of charging them.
I think meet and greets are demeaning to everybody. It absolutely amazes me that incredibly successful people still sell their time for money, when they’re making millions. I find the whole thing icky.
One of the things that seems to happen, is that they’re expensive, the VIP tickets, and the meet and greet tickets, and in the end, it’s the people who’ve got money, not necessarily great fans of the band… They might do it every week. Meet and greet different people. Different bands and different acts. Whereas your own real fans don’t.
It’s like the same sort of thing as having, you know, these things happen, but I’d rather they didn’t, when you’ve got different graded tickets within a venue. All your best fans might be at the back because they can’t afford the expensive tickets. And all you’ve got in front are the ones supping champagne, who don’t give a shit. Money means nothing to them. [crosstalk 00:09:05]
We did the one the other day where the fans were all in the back, riled up, trying to have a good time, but they can’t get close enough. They’re like 100 yards away and it’s all packed. Then you’ve got this VIP area. They’re not the real genuine fans so we’re not really into that kind of stuff.
One of my favorite gigs was when we did Samoa and I think we were told about 20% of the population bought a ticket, because they were only three quid a ticket or something, because it was all sponsored by the government. But then on the night, so many people came who hadn’t got three dollars for a ticket that they just opened the doors and let anyone in. That’s my kind of gig.
We like fixing the prices down, you know because in the end when they’re really sold on the secondary ticket market, it’s not the band that makes money out of it. Not at all. It’s all the leeches. Freeloaders all over the place.
We’re kind of old fashioned.
We have a big meeting and decide we that can’t do anything about it, we’ve got to put up the tickets by another dollar or whatever, to make the expenses. Then you do that, and then you realize that we keep meeting people who’ve paid four times that price to get their ticket. It’s got nothing to do with us at all.
So when you do get to talk to fans, what’s been some favorite things that they’ve been able to tell you? Like, what has the music done for them?
We’ve got some that are life long fans, you know. Two, three generations. This one’s going to be 20, and who got married to that one or, their first dance at their wedding.
When we do a version of a well-known song, we kind of turn it on its head, and completely redefine the song, which I think makes it worth doing.
Because there were covers of Jamaican hits. They weren’t known in England, that was the point. They were known to us, in our community, because we lived in a inner-city, multi-racial community, with Jamaicans all around us, and we were familiar with all of them. We wanted to… The band wanted to record them, to play them English people. These are those Jamaican… That’s why we play reggae. And then of course, as you say, people didn’t realize they were covers. Because they were originals to them.
I know there’s a second CD of dub mixes of this album. Where did that come about? When did you decide to do that?
We did it before, years ago. Present Arms, the second album, the third album was actually Present Arms in dub.
So again, you know, this follows as the next album, with a dub version, and collaboration album as well.
When I was a teenager, I bought the very first dub album I could ever remember being released, which was King Tubby Meets the Upsetter at the Grassroots of Dub, which is Lee Perry and King Tubby, and it was about 1973, or something like that. And of course I was a teenager and I was into music, so dub has always meant a lot to me personally. It doesn’t mean so much to the singers.
Nope. Don’t mean a thing to me.
It always has to me. So, we like to do dub versions, when we can. I mean, and also, it fits in with all the post-dance thing, where you’ve got your chill out and you’ve got your MDMA, and just freak out to it. And there’s a space inside the music that’s designed for people who are stoned. It makes sense when you’ve got a spliff in your hand, you know.
My final question is, at the end of the day, what do you hope you’re still giving the fans today, that you did 40 years ago?
I hope they go home in a better mood than they came. I think is your intention in the end. It’s not [crosstalk 00:13:37]. It’s only entertainment, you know. The idea is you have a great couple of hours, and remember it for a while.
Sing along and have a dance!
And maybe want to come again. There’s a lot of people who are having nostalgia trips. I spoke to outside the hotel. I’m quite sure he was a few years older than me and he said, “That’s the best night out I’ve had for a very long time.” And all the rest of it, and what memories it brings back and all that.
People don’t realize… Yeah, we’re getting on a bit, but don’t bring your knitting when you come to one of our gigs. In fact, don’t even wear high heels because you’re going to be dancing. You’ve got to be prepared to sing and join in and have a good time. I think people enjoy that.
Especially with everything that’s going on in the world, these nights, like tonight, are so important for all of us. With all the drama, and political and everything.
As a side, we throw in a bit of political comment, just to keep things going.
But that’s not what the focus is. It’s an entertainment. So that is the intention, so make people go out happier than they came.
Well, thank you so much for your time. This has been a pleasure!
You’re very welcome.
It’s been so nice to talk to you guys. So what do you need to do before the show starts? How do you get revved up and ready and energized for the show?
We don’t even sound check. Most of us do have a drink on side but not over the top.
We do a knuckle touch. You know, that’s what bros do.
There is a fair amount of competition, you know. You’re waiting for one of your band-mates to make a mistake. So we can all turn around to them and take the mickey out of them and laugh at them. Just generally make them feel ashamed of themselves, really. It’s just what lads do. (laughter) To make it awful for you. We hope and pray someone’s going make a big, big mistake so that we can all have a good laugh.
Well have a great show tonight! Thanks again so much for your time! I will be out there dancing and singing along to all your songs!