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17th June 2010
METAL DISCOVERY: Do you read much about yourselves on the internet?
CRAIG: I never read reviews. I will read reviews but it’ll be months after. If something’s there I’ll read it but I don’t seek it out. I think honestly, now, we’ve been doing this for so many years that I don’t think reviews matter so much for an established act, I really don’t.
(Charlie Reid on 'I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)')
"There is a downside to it; definitely there’s a downside to it, but that’s life. On balance, it was better that it happened, but we’ll always be remembered for that tune."
Charlie & Craig Reid backstage at The Engine Shed, Lincoln, 17th June 2010
Photograph copyright © 2010 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
The Proclaimers Official Website:
The Proclaimers Official MySpace:
This is the Story (1987)
Sunshine on Leith (1988)
Hit the Highway (1994)
Persevere (2001)
The Best of The Proclaimers (2002)
And a big cheers to Charlie and Craig for taking time out to be interviewed.
Thanks to Kenny MacDonald for arranging the interview.
MD: Well, I took a look on YouTube at some of the comments people have posted under your videos, and I’ve listed a few if I can run these by you. One guy said - “Thank you ‘Family Guy’ for introducing me to one of the coolest bands in the whole world.” Are you aware if your appearance on ‘Family Guy’ has boosted your fan base at all from any feedback you’ve had?
CHARLIE: Yeah, it did, you know. We met Seth MacFarlane and met guys that did it, and it was fantastic. It was great to do it. That’s shown round the world all the time and it’s as funny as fuck.
MD: Yeah, and you got beaten up by Peter Griffin!
MD: Somebody else said in a YouTube comment - “I reckon you could mosh to this”. That was a comment under the ‘I’m Gonna Be…’ video. Have you ever had that kind of audience reaction?
CHARLIE: We’ve had some fairly boisterous people at the front over the years. I think it’s evened off a bit. In Scotland for a while there was a slightly Pogues-type audience, even back in 2001/2/3/4 but, again, that’s evened off a bit and thankfully there’s a lot more women there. We’re very lucky with it; you get a good balance.
MD: Somebody else said - “Facial hair would suit them”. Have you ever thought about growing beards?!
CRAIG: No! Our dad had a beard for most of his adult life but it’s never appealed to me at all.
CHARLIE: I think if I wanted to disappear for a while I definitely would do it.
MD: The last one here, somebody said - “Those glasses are legendary”. Have you ever considered abandoning them for contacts onstage or do you always have to have them as part of the act?
CHARLIE: I wear contact lenses generally when I’m out and about in Edinburgh, and I would certainly consider getting the laser thing done but, even if I did, these of course you’d keep them onstage.
MD: So you’d have a fake pair of glasses onstage.
CHARLIE: That’s what people recognise us for and that’s what we’ve always been.
MD: They’re part of your costume, I guess.
CHARLIE: That’s it. It’s a good disguise if you don’t use it apart from being onstage!
MD: Of course! I read an interesting product description of your ‘Best Of…’ compilation on Amazon and there’s a very interesting comment in there - “What is clear from this 20-track retrospective is that The Proclaimers have not developed at all since they first picked up guitars. Craig and Charlie Reid seem to believe they got it right the first time, and it's difficult to argue otherwise.”
MD: Is that a statement you agree with because I would argue otherwise in that you have progressed? There’s kind of a compliment in there though.
CRAIG: It’s a fair enough comment. I think we’ve progressed but I think we’ve progressed song by song and I think if you listen to the lyrics on the last two albums compared to lyrics on the first album, I think they’ve matured.
CHARLIE: Of course, the best of was released originally in 2002 so it only includes ‘Persevere’, the first sort of comeback record after we’d been away for a number of years.
CRAIG: It’s fair enough in a sense that our ambition has always been just to try and get a better song every time. It’s not about making major changes every time. So it’s fair comment. I think we are progressing, but…
MD: I think so, but that comment disacknowledges innovation which most musicians surely want to be acknowledged for.
CRAIG: We’re certainly pursuing the same thing which is three minute songs with lyrics that mean something…heavily melodic, and relying on the voices and harmonies.
MD: Some bands have a defining song for which they’re forever associated with like Europe and ‘The Final Countdown’ or Ocean Colour Scene with ‘The Riverboat Song’, and yours seems to be ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’. Do you see that as a blessing and a burden in the sense that it can overshadow all the other great music you write?
CHARLIE: It’s both because without it we wouldn’t be able to do the tours that we do, play to the number of people that we play…so in that respect, but there are people around the world who will never learn anything else about us but they will always know that one song. There is a downside to it; definitely there’s a downside to it, but that’s life. On balance, it was better that it happened, but we’ll always be remembered for that tune. No matter what we do, we’ll always be remembered for that tune.
MD: Have you ever played a live set without it?…or dare you ever play a live set without it?!
CRAIG: Since we’ve recorded it, no, I don’t think we have.
CHARLIE: We might have done a couple, like where we’ve showcased three or four new songs, stuff like that, but when it’s been an actual gig then no.
MD: Do you get heckles from the crowd and shouts of ‘500 Miles’ throughout gigs?
CHARLIE: You do, and there are other songs that they also do that with but those other three or four songs we nearly always play them as well. Some people say “you didn’t play it”, but we’ve played it and they were drunk or went to the toilet or something! That happens all the time!
MD: What’s the best cover you’ve ever heard of one of your own songs? I quite like The Toy Dolls’ version of ‘…(500 Miles)’.
CRAIG: I’ve not heard that. There’s a band called Down By Law in America and they did a version of it was quite good. Also, Glasvegas doing ‘Sunshine On Leith’.
MD: Did I read something about Pink doing one of your songs recently?
CRAIG: Yeah, she’s supposed to be going round doing a song from each country she’s in. In Glasgow, the paper reported that she was gonna do ‘I’m Gonna Be…’, so I hope she does, it would be great. I don’t believe it if she doesn’t!
CHARLIE: We won’t hold her to it!
MD: Who would you most like to see cover one of your songs?
CRAIG: It would be someone like Springsteen or Merle Haggard….Van Morrison. I think there’s a lot of people who could do our stuff justice because I think the songs can be done in different ways.
MD: Yeah, I think they have the potential to be so flexible and could cross genres.
CHARLIE: Yeah, again, any kind of musical style and I think if you get something new out of it then that’s worthwhile.
MD: The ‘Sunshine on Leith’ musical is returning to the stage in September with Billy Boyd in a lead role.
CRAIG: Yeah, it is, yeah.
MD: Did you have any creative input in its inception?
CRAIG: No, we just gave them permission to use the songs and that was it. We left it to them and they did a very good job of it.
MD: Have you had cameos in the musical at all?
CRAIG: No, we haven’t. You never know, we might have in the future but, no, not so far.
MD: Are you gonna go and see it again?
CHARLIE: Yeah, I’m definitely gonna see it again. It does sound like they’re putting a fair bit of money into the production, so…
MD: Billy Boyd’s a big name to have in it, I guess.
CHARLIE: Obviously, using someone like that will sell seats, which is great, fantastic.
MD: Even though the songs are very fitting for a musical in one sense, you obviously didn’t originally write them for such but did you ever envisage or hope that one day your music would end up in such a production?
CHARLIE: Never. The thought never crossed our mind. I think the most you ever hope for is that someone covers your song.
MD: You recently launched an iPhone App, and to quote from your website - “It allows you to be either Craig or Charlie with realistic blinking action”. What the fuck is that all about?!
CHARLIE: The guy who does our internet stuff, Colin, came up to us with the idea…hey look, people love it. Apparently, this is what young people like to do.
MD: So people might sing your songs at a karaoke and hold their phone up in front of their eyes?!
CHARLIE: Yeah, basically. I don’t understand it but they love it, so…
MD: Do you have iPhones; are you gonna have it on your own iPhones?!
CHARLIE: I think I’ve got better things to do! A mobile phone’s enough for me!
MD: Your last gig of the year has been announced as playing in the Czech Republic in July and that’s the first time you would have played in that country…do you plan of spending the rest of the year writing new material?
CRAIG: The last year was the biggest year we’ve ever had…maybe not the biggest gigs, but writing and recording a new album, travelling, promotion. We never stopped last year and I think this year, this is gonna end in five weeks time, and we’re looking forward to the end of it. We’re definitely gonna spend the rest of this year writing and then more performances after that.
MD: Do you have a concentrated period of writing or is it ongoing between albums?
CRAIG: We kind of set ourselves small targets…one every two weeks, one a month, or whatever…if you can get one every two weeks you’ll be okay. A lot of people write an album in two weeks be we just couldn’t do it. So you kind of set yourself a flexible target and you just see how it goes from there.
MD: Finally, what do you hope to be best remembered for in fifty years time when people look back at The Proclaimers’ music, like when people hear you on the radio or whatever in fifty years?
CHARLIE: If the songs are still played and the sound of our voices still moves somebody in fifty years time then that’s as good as it could be.
CRAIG: Exactly. Hopefully people will remember the live performances as I think the live performances are a pivotal thing of what we do and hopefully they’ll remember them fondly, but the only thing that stands is the recordings that you made so hopefully a handful of them people will still like.
CHARLIE: Yeah, hopefully people will still listen to it and get something out of it. We were given the gift by other people before us so you hope that you’re one of the people that someone listens to and you mean something to them. That’s the best you could ever get.
MD: Right, thank you so much for your time.
CHARLIE: You’re very welcome.
CRAIG: Yeah, thank you Mark.
Born Innocent (2003)
Restless Soul (2005)
Life With You (2007)
Notes & Rhymes (2009)