AC: UB40 IS COMING TO PARTY & EXPECT KL TO COME PARTY WITH THEM
Interviewed, Trancribed & Edited By: Dragon Supported By: Anastasia & Md Redzuan (Selebriti Online)
Rentak Sejuta had the opportunity to speak over the phone to Ali Campbell, founding member and lead singer of chart topping British reggae outfit UB40, last Monday (31/3/14), ahead of the bands live concert here in Kuala Lumpur tonight. Here is a transcript of our session with the iconic star.
Ali Campbell: Hi, this is Ali Campbell. How are you doing?
Rentak Sejuta: Hi Ali. Thank you for taking this call. We can’t wait to see you here in Malaysia.
AC: Well, I can’t wait to bring the band lads there. You know Astro (Wilson) recently joined us and we just started our World Tour. And we played in Nigeria a couple of weeks ago. And we kinda’ been to Dubai, South Africa, and now heading to Kuala Lumpur, and all around. It’s all started now and we are all very excited about it.
RS: Is this your first trip to Malaysia? With UB40?
AC: No, I have been there before, yeah, with UB40, back in the day. It’s quite a while ago now, I can’t exactly remember the precise date.
RS: How many of you will be coming to Malaysia as UB40. We understand it is Astro , Mickey (Virtue) & yourself, plus will there be others?
AC: We are in the band. There are 11 of us on stage. We got a 3 piece brass section. Fantastic drum and bass. Wicked drum & bass. And you know, …so basically it’s the same size as the old UB40, you know, and it’s the same line up basically.
RS: So it’s still a big band. Malaysia knows you as the frontman of UB40, and will recognise you as UB40, but will be expecting a big band.
AC: Yeah, I think everybody is the same. We have been playing all over the world and have been flying the flag for reggae. Do remember, I started UB40 back in the day in 1979 and our mission was to promote reggae and only reggae. We love reggae music. And the old UB40 started playing Country & Western music (laughs), that’s why Astro left and joined me, and Mickey. We are coming to play a set of greatest hits and everybody will know all the songs.
RS: So it will be a real UB40 set?
AC: Yeah, absolutely. We were very lucky in eighties & nineties that we had 40 Top Twenty hits, so we have lots of hits to draw from, and that’s what we will be giving the people of Kuala Lumpur. It will be a greatest hits show.
RS: You have new material coming out. You have a new album coming out. Tell us a little bit about the new album. Is it a UB40 album now?
AC: Yeah! Its 100% reggae music, of course. We released one of the tracks as a little taster, called “Reggae Music”, and that’s gone down very well. And I am convinced that the fans are going to love this new album, actually. It was completed 6 months ago, but because Astro came back into the fold, we have put him on few of the tracks now and it will be out imminently on Cooking Vinyl.
RS: When will be available exactly?
AC: I am not sure. At some point during our world tour, I am sure, it will get released (laughs).
RS: What can Malaysian audiences expect to see during your performance here?
AC: Like I said, we have big energetic 11 piece band, and we do a set of greatest hits. We are coming to party, and I am hoping the Kuala Lumpur audience are coming to party with us.
RS: Kuala Lumpur audience are big party people.
AC: Yeah, mon! Well that is what I am looking forward too.
RS: And there are a lot of Reggae fans in Malaysia.
AC: That’s good to know. Good to know. I remember we had a great time the last time we were out there. I am sure it will be the same.
RS: Will we also be able to hear “Ali Campbell” singles as well? Your own songs? Your solo projects?
AC: Oh yeah. There will be a few of those in, but like I said, the majority of the numbers will be UB40 hits from The Labour of Love I, II & III Series, and Astro’s, obviously, some of the songs he is famous for, like Rat In The Kitchen and such. It’s a UB40’s show that you would expect.
RS: What has happened to the old UB40. Are they still running?
AC: They have left their direction, and their last album was a country album, and I feel very strongly that they let their fans down, and they let themselves down. They didn’t do much for the legacy of UB40 and basically they betrayed their fan base. I think so anyway. Like I said, I was a founder member of UB40. We started out in the band to promote reggae and for them to have done a country album was absurd, and it was a disaster. It didn’t sell anything, didn’t make the charts or anything. So I think the fans have voted with their feet. They (fans) are coming to see our band and not really going to see them.
RS: How many countries are you visiting during your world tour? This is the first one together as the brand new UB40, or the original UB40 if you want to say i?
AC: The first show we did was actually before Christmas, when Astro rejoined me, that was at the O2 (Arena), in London. And then we started the tour three weeks ago in Nigeria. Then I have been back to do a recording. There is also a single coming out which I have done with the Fun Lovin Criminals. It’s a version of Prince’s Purple Rain. And it’s a reggae version, on Fun Lovin Criminal’s new album which is called Purple Reggae. So they have done Purple Rain in reggae with lots of different guests, and I was lucky enough to get the Purple Rain track. And it’s great that we opened it up a little bit.
RS: That sounds fantastic. We are big fans of Prince.
AC: We will do a version of it when we are in Kuala Lumpur as well. I have played it live and it goes down pretty well.
RS: Any other new tracks that you will be playing in Kuala Lumpur?
AC: Yeah. We will be playing a couple of tracks of the new album that features Astro. We will be palying “We Love Reggae Music” and “Silhouette”. Yeah, mon. It’s got something for everybody.
RS What are you looking forward to in Malaysia?
AC: Just, you know, I am looking forward to having a happy crowd and a successful gig. With this line up we haven’t had a bad gig, and I have played all over the world with this band. We played in Africa, and we were in Angola and Mozambique at the end of last year, and we were in Australia and New Zealand, Soloman Islands, and we are going to all of these places this year. We are going to Fiji, and that way, and Hawaii, and we are also all over Africa, and Asia. It’s a World Tour, a big World Tour, probably about 40 dates at the moment and we are still adding dates.
RS: What are the other projects you are working on at the moment other than the UB40 project? Any solo projects as well?
AC: Well, there’s the new album that will be released soon. I suppose we will be doing videos for that. I just did the video for Purple Rain a couple a days ago with Frank (Benbini) from Fun Lovin Criminals, but we got a new album, and we got a World Tour, and I think that will keep us busy for the next 18 months. And then I will be back in recording a new album. I think we might make a live album of this tour, which would be a double album, I think that would be interesting. I will just do what I have always done, which is touring and recording (laughs). If I am not in the studio recording, I am out on the road touring and that’s my life, and I live and I grow around reggae music.
RS: What has been the best thing that you have done in your musical career?
AC: I think the fact that we are still going after 30 years, I think that is the best thing I have done (laughs), through tenacity. You sort of gain legendary status just by hanging around (laughs) and refusing to go away, I think that’s what we have done.
RS: Is chart success important to you? You have a new album coming up.
AC: Not really. No. No. When in the eighties and the nineties, we were chart rounded. In the eighties we sold more records than any other act in Britain, and things have changed now with downloads and stuff. Your gigs used to be an advert for your album, your CD. Now your CD is an advert for your gigs. So things have changed and you have to adapt to changes, and in the music business everything changes like every 10 years. I remember when we started everything was on vinyl still. We were doing picture discs, and then this brand new thing called CDs came in. Those CDs have been killed off now by downloads, and sure enough another format will come along and we will all have to adapt to it, if we still want to play the game.
RS: Is there anything you wished you had done, and haven’t done as yet or are looking forward to doing?
AC: Well, we haven’t played mainland China yet. We have played more or else every other country in the world. We were the most toured band in the world. UB40 did the most world tours.
RS: How come you haven’t played China?
AC: We have been to Hong Kong. We haven’t been invited basically. We don’t go in barging into people’s country (laughs). We have to be invited before we go. We haven’t been invited to mainland China yet. It is still very much in the pioneer stages. UB40 is famous for going to new places, like the Soloman Islands, and Vanuatu, and Fiji, and places like that, and hopefully in a couple of years, when there is more of an infrastructure, I like to go to China. It’s a massive market, of course, and most of the world lives in China (laughs), so it will be crazy to not to try and get there.
RS: We are quite surprised because we are sure there a lot of fans in China who would like to see UB40.
AC: Let’s hope somebody invites us and we shall go.
RS: Perhaps we should shout it out to China and see what they say.
AC: Yeah. Good idea.
RS: Last question from our publisher Anastasia. What do you do when you are not on tour or in the studio, or for leisure?
AC: Well I have 8 children, Anastasia (laughs).
RS: Thank you Ali. Thank you for your time. We really appreciate it. We can’t wait to see you in Kuala Lumpur.
AC: Ok. Well, I just like to say big love to everybody in Kuala Lumpur. And remember we are coming to party, so you come out and party with us.