Ocean Colour Scene has notched up nine albums, three of which went Top 5 – 1996’s Moseley Shoals, 1997’s Marchin’ Already and 1999’s One From The Modern – and a run of nine successive Top 20 hit singles commencing with 1996’s The Riverboat Song. They supported Oasis at their massive Knebworth shows that same year, and two years later helmed the biggest arena tour of any UK band to date. Their achievements have been nothing short of phenomenal.
From their days as Breton-shirt wearing disciples of The Stone Roses (debut million selling Britpop superstars (‘Marchin’ Already’ bumped Oasis’ ‘What the Story’ from the top spot in 1997) to long-term touring allies with Paul Weller, they have always stood shoulder to shoulder with the greats of modern British rock.
2016 was a triumphant year for the band that included sold-out shows at The SSE Hydro in Glasgow, 2 nights at the Millennium Square in Leeds to 12,000 people, a night at Times Square in Newcastle, 2 nights at Moseley Park in Birmingham and a night at the Manchester Apollo. Unforgettable nights for everyone who was there.
Due to huge demand, they will return at the end of this year to play a series of Christmas shows with very special guests Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. They are two of the best live bands around and these are nights not to be missed! Mark Millar caught up with Ocean Colour Scene frontman Simon Fowler to talk about the upcoming Christmas shows and new EP.
At the end of this year, Ocean Colour Scene will play a series of Christmas shows with very special guests Martha Reeves & the Vandellas. Are you looking forward to the shows?
S.Fowler: Yeah, we always look forward to the Christmas shows.
How did Martha Reeves & The Vandellas get involved with the shows?
S.Fowler: You know what I've got no idea it's hilarious, isn't it? I really do not understand how on earth that happened – it does seem strange (laughs) I think maybe Diana Ross was busy. It's incredible really, I don't know what magic was worked there.
Would you like to perform a song, with Martha Reeves on the tour?
S.Fowler: Yes, that would be exciting.
What drives the band to keep playing live and writing songs after all these years?
S.Fowler: I don’t know we can’t really do anything else. (laughs) I don't know what else to do, but we have remained friends. We are going to do some recording soon and maybe put out an EP to coincide with the tour. That would be the first time we have done new recordings in quite a few years. So that should be quite good.
Ocean Colour Scenes last album Painting was released in 2013. Are there any plans for a new album after the EP?
S.Fowler: Yes we will start off with the EP, and I will carry on writing, and hopefully, we can do an album next year. That would be the plan I think.
Do you often write these days?
S.Fowler: No, I don't not anymore when I was a youngster I used to write all the time but I have been recently and so has Steve (Cradock), so we are going to record four tracks for the EP down at his studio in Devon.
What is the songwriting process between you and Steve?
S.Fowler: I tend to write the songs, and then I take them to Steve and Oscar, and they turn them into Ocean Colour Scene.
What are the songs for the new EP sounding like?
S.Fowler: There are two by me and two by Steve. Steve’s are up-tempo guitar tracks and I’ve got a balled and a mid-paced sort of nice song (laughs) I don’t know how to explain them really but we are in the very early stages with the songs.
What changes about how you work together as a band from tour to tour?
S.Fowler: Nothing much its hotel, travel, gig. We will probably play the same set although we might change around a few songs if we are doing two nights in one place as we have a lot of songs to choose from.
Will you be playing Belfast on tour?
S.Fowler: I'm not sure I think we are playing in Dublin. We haven't played Belfast enough in my opinion, but we have played Dublin a lot. We have played Belfast a number of times but haven't played there for a while. I will lobby to play Belfast.
You have written many great songs. Are there songs that always have to be in the set list for the live shows?
S.Fowler: Yes, there is. We wouldn't be allowed to leave without playing The Day We Caught the Train or Hundred Mile High City and The Circle - those songs are our staple diet.
Do you notice nowadays there are people from all generations watching the band live?
S.Fowler: People now are coming to see us with their children. They were fifteen when they first saw us, and now they are coming along with their kids – it's definitely a generational thing now.
Ocean Colour Scene have had many hit albums over your career but Is there an album or songs in your catalogue that you thought should have charted higher and maybe received more credit than it did?
S.Fowler: No not really I think everything has got a fair crack of the whip. I think we probably should have released the song One for the Road as a single, but we had already released four singles from that album which was enough. My favourite album we released was B-sides, Seasides, and Freerides just after we released Moseley Shoals.
Ocean Colour Scene always released superb singles with great B-sides.
S.Fowler: That has always been part of our tradition – look at the Beatles B-sides they were important. And also you can do stuff with B-sides that you're not expected to do. You can experiment a little bit more regarding perhaps what radio is looking for in terms of A-sides.
Do you worry about trying to stay relevant in today’s music environment?
S.Fowler: No, I don't think we ever have been (laughs) we have always been ourselves.
Ocean Colour Scene has been doing this for over 20 years now. Looking back do you have a particular highlight?
S.Fowler: Yeah, I guess Knebworth supporting Oasis was pretty good and the first time we played the Albert Hall under our own steam was a real highlight. I walked out into the Albert Hall, and I thought; "Blimey O'Reilly it happened.”
Do you have a record that you always return to?
S.Fowler: My two favourite albums that I can never separate are The White Album by The Beatles and Decade which is a Neil Young compilation – that album changed my life.
What have you been listening to recently that you could recommend?
S.Fowler: To be honest, at the moment I'm listening to a lot of classical music - I love it. It's an area that I don’t really know anything about particularly - it's quite enjoyable coming to something and getting into it a bit later in life. I listen in the car mainly on Radio Three and a station called Classic. The variety is incredible and I’m learning every day – it’s amazing.
Could we hear a classical influence seep into future Ocean Colour Scene music?
S.Fowler: We have always used strings so maybe it might feature. Maybe I might get something from it I normally do. Things normally perculate and end up coming out maybe in a different manner but it could take several months for that to happen.
What are you most grateful for about being able to be a musician every day?
S.Fowler: (Laughs) Basically, it's not like having a job, is it? And I think if I can earn a living without having a job that’s mission accomplished.
The Christmas Shows 2018
Friday 30 November – Albert Hall, Manchester SOLD OUT
Saturday 1 December – Albert Hall, Manchester SOLD OUT
Wednesday 5 December – O2 Academy, Leeds*
Saturday 8 December – The SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Sunday 9 December – O2 Academy, Newcastle* SOLD OUT
Monday 10 December – O2 Academy, Newcastle* EXTRA DATE
Thursday 13 December – O2 Academy Birmingham* EXTRA DATE
Friday 14 December – O2 Academy, Birmingham* SOLD OUT