Interview: Ali Campbell

By on Tuesday, 19th October 2010 at 2:00 pm
 

Ali Campbell, the legendary voice of UB40, just released his fourth solo album on the 18th of October. ‘Great British Songs’ is a stunning new album of ‘reggaefied’ versions of 12 British pop and rock classics, from such bands as the Rolling Stones to the Kinks. After having recently collapsed at the end of recording the album, Ali was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus. But he has recovered well and was kind enough to answer several probing questions for us at TGTF:

How and when did you come up with the idea to put out an album covering other British artists’ songs?
A while ago I recorded a cover of ‘Purple Rain’ by Prince for an album that Fun Loving Criminals are doing and it turned out so well, I thought how far could I take this, and I had been approached to do a great British songs album a few years ago so it developed from there really.

The track listing is quite an eclectic mix of artists, ranging from the Hollies to Roxy Music. Do you consider all the artists you cover in this album to be an influence on your life and music?
The music that influenced me was all reggae really from being a small so my music and life were influenced by reggae artists predominately, but the artists that I have covered on the album are all iconic artists with brilliant and timeless classic songs. So that’s how I chose the track list. The artists and songs that made an impression on the era and the songs that made an impression on the era and the songs that were still great songs 30 or 40 years later.

Was it a challenge to select what artists and their songs you wanted to cover? Or are they all your personal favourites?
No. There were a lot of great artists and songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s, so you could never cover all of them on one album. But I liked the challenges of taking songs that most people would not put in the same sentence as reggae, as that seemed more interesting that people couldn’t imagine how it would sound beforehand.

For many, putting a reggae sound on songs by the Rolling Stones and the Beatles may seem nearly impossible. How are you able to do it so well?
Well Sly (Dunbar) and Robbie (Shakespeare, both of Sly and Robbie, a legendary reggae production team) on bass and drums helps. They are the best drum and bass duo in the world, but it was relatively easy for me to arrange the songs with reggae and dance hall beats, and I’m really pleased with the results so I hope other people like them too.

Being a well-known and legendary artist, you have probably circled the globe numerous times throughout your career. Are there any places left on the map that you want to play live, and in particular, play this latest batch of songs?
When I was in UB40, we were one of the most toured bands on the planet, and now with my new band and the Dep Band we are touring everywhere too. This year we have toured in Hawaii, Florida, Panama, South America, Dubai, all over Europe, and we’re going back to Africa and Australia next year too. There are so many beautiful place you could live, like Maui in Hawaii for instance.

On the road and touring everywhere in 2011. We are planning dates in most countries for the next 12 months.

Finally, how are you feeling since your hospitalisation? How’s recuperation going and when can fans expect see you gracing the stages?
The recuperation is going well, thanks. I have followed doctor’s orders and rested up and am feeling much better than I did. So although we had to reschedule the gigs, we start again in December. I’m going to Mauritius and Reunion Islands, so a lovely place to start the tour circuit again. I am greatly looking forward to it. After that we will be touring all next year starting in January. So tour dates will be posted soon for 2011 on my official Web site.

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