Special Feature
Ocean Colour Scene frontman hopes for happy return

By Ian Dipple 05/06 Updated: 05/06 16:10

THE LAST time Simon Fowler visited Redditch's Palace Theatre it was not a happy experience.

The Ocean Colour Scene frontman was working as a journalist carrying out a theatre review of what he recalls was an 'horrific production' of Abigail's Party.

On Monday (June 11) he returns to the Alcester Street venue with new band Merrymouth and is hoping for a better reception than the one he gave the performance he witnessed some 25 years ago.

Having taken a break from OCS while new material is put together for a planned album early next year, Simon's latest project saw him team-up with award winning folk musicians John McCusker and Andy Cutting and it represents a significant departure from the music fans of OCS will be used to.

"It is more folk based. John McCusker plays violin on the album and that gives it much more of a folk element but it's not the sort of folk you would have morris dancers with," he said.

"We haven't played a great deal but the gigs we have done have been great. We enjoyed them and the crowd seem to."

Named after Simon's nickname as a child due to his constant moaning while travelling in the car on holiday, Merrymouth consists of lifelong Redditch resident and OCS bandmate Dan Sealey, long-time associate Mike McNamara and Adam Barry, another borough resident.

Recorded at Gospel Oak Studio in Lapworth, the quartet are currently promoting the new album on their debut UK tour and are set to play in front of an estimated 40,000 people at Chris Evans' Car Fest event. But despite this and past successes they have a relaxed attitude to their new project.

"The idea we must try and see if we can chase this radio station or this press we have done that for 20 odd years so we didn't really want to do that. We are too old in terms of thinking we should try to be popular just for the sake of being popular," Simon said.

Dan added: "We never had a massive grand plan we just went in the studio and it's just unfolding. We have got an agent now, we are going to make another record possibly and we are playing Moseley Folk Festival (in September) and there's a lot of other stuff going on. It might take off, it might not, we'll see what happens.

"Your influence shouldn't be to create stuff to be popular. If you happen to create something which is popular then that's the way to go about it. We're starting to find an audience with this and it will be placed different to Ocean Colour Scene."

Although the new album, released via Pledge Music, is available now to download on iTunes Simon admits he has never downloaded a track and is not convinced the freedom the internet and technology has brought to the music industry is a positive step forward.

"I've never used a computer and I don't associate making albums with something which is in the ether. I just remember the actual record was almost what inspired you as a kid. I don't know how people will be inspired by clicking a button," he said.

"It's almost like the punk ideal has come to fruition but in a way no-one foresaw. Now anyone can put out a record. When we signed to a record label the percentage share was you got 14 per cent and they got 86 which is ludicrous but that did give them the money to invest into bands so you could be brought on.

"If they spent a lot of money your record would be in the shop window, you have got more clout and they have got people who will get you onto television and radio shows but it's all broken down now. Videos, artwork, every single aspect of it can be done in a bedroom or an office on a computer."

Dan added: "Music is at a bit of an all time low I think. There are no venues, no good bands, there is an outlet but it is too small and people haven't quite cottoned on how to use the internet to work in their favour, it's going through a transitional period with the record companies and bands are having to learn how to do things themselves.

"I think there will be more older bands come through because younger bands can't manage themselves. You need a bit of experience of getting screwed over to know what you are doing."

Merrymouth will be supported on the night by Redditch based New Killer Shoes and the Emma Skipp Band. The show starts at 7.30pm and tickets cost £10. Book online at www.redditchpalacetheatre.org.uk or call the box office on 01527 65203.

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