Interview with Dave Wakeling of The English Beat

Dave Wakeling of The English Beat was recently in town and even though he was coming down with the flu he graciously granted us an interview. I sat down with him for about thirty minutes and we chatted about a variety of topics. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting experience as Wakeling is a well-spoken, intelligent and funny individual.

Orcasound: What do you think about cell phones being used at concerts to take pictures?

Dave: They are taking pictures of you. They are letting their friends have a listen to you. Sometime I'll make a big deal of it and reach in and sing a verse to their phones. Actually, I haven't done it yet but I'd really like to get a point in the set where everybody has to switch their ringer on. Cause I'd imagine if you got a few hundred or a few thousand ringers all going at the same time you could build the song on top of that.

Orcasound: While U2 was playing a show here recently in Vancouver Bono flashed up the Prime Minister's phone number onto the screen and got everyone in the audience to phone him at once.

Dave: Well, Bono has almost made up for what turned out to be one of my worst New Year's Eves on stage ever. I was working for Greenpeace at the time and we were going to have a big contest. It was before the wall had come down in Europe. The notion, I suppose, was that 10 winners from Eastern European countries and 10 winners from America would all meet in Dublin to see a New Year's Eve concert by U2. U2 had donated this block of tickets for us to do it. We gathered all the winners from around the world. Fabulous. Very exciting. Very exciting. We got to the venue and no beer. Are you kidding me?! I had to explain to Russians and Latvians that there was no beer. Of course at 12 o'clock Bono swaggers onto the stage and says "cheers" to everybody with a bottle of beer in his hand. Rubbing salt into the wounds. I was disgusted. I was like, you have been too long away from the pub.

Orcasound: So you would not put that down as one of your better experiences?

Dave: Well, it was memorable. Then I got a tape of that concert as soon as the concert was finished. Luckily I was sober. By one or two o'clock in the morning I was on the train with the tapes from Dublin to Cork, on the west coast of Ireland. So at 6 o'clock on the 1st of January, I met with a co-pilot and stewardess from Aeroflot and had to surreptitiously give them these tapes which they smuggled back to Russia and gave to a pirate radio station and played them bang on the New Year by the time it got to Moscow. It was all beautifully cloak and dagger. It almost made up for it. At least we got a drink on the train. I can get a drink anytime on a train in Ireland, but not at a U2 concert.

Orcasound: You had more fun with bands like The Clash or The Police?

Dave: The Clash is my favourite. Although they were somewhat like The Grateful Dead, if in the first three songs it caught it was like an inferno and if it didn't catch within the first three songs it could take a long while. They like having The Beat open for them because they would catch on fire within the first three songs if we opened for them because the crowd were already sweating and dancing even when there was no music. Lots of bands told us that. We did Talking Heads a lot. We did The Police a lot. But to be playing onstage and to be hanging backstage with your heroes The Clash that was really something.

Orcasound: Was that one of your first opening gigs?

Dave: The Pretenders were the first. Our first tour of America was opening for The Pretenders.

Orcasound: Are you still in touch with these people from years ago?

Dave: Those that are still alive. Yeah. I don't know any of The Talking Heads right now. Me and Mick Jones (The Clash) stayed in touch for a while. That was good. A few of The Pretenders are not alive. Within 6 months of us finishing that tour two members, bassist Pete Farndon and guitarist James Honeyman-Scott, of The Pretenders were dead. Youngsters. They were just two years older than us.

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