China Crisis talk to Mill Magazine
Ahead of the legendary synth-pop outfit’s show in July 2022 at The Bungalow in Paisley, Gary Daly from China Crisis talks to Mill about being a “working band”, recreating their iconic tracks, Scottish ties and more.
After all this time, China Crisis remain as busy as ever. Has your love of performing stayed intact?
We’re one of those bands who have to work to generate work, we don’t just turn up once every year and it’s all big theatres.
It was about twenty years ago when we realised that, even though we’d had hit records, we didn’t really have a following. So we had to go out and play every gig we could.
It’s really quite nice actually, we turn up in so many towns where people are amazed to see us playing their local village hall or arts centre. We’re able to do it, whereas other people are a bit too work-shy.
They’d rather just be in the pub and tell their David Bowie stories. Get to work you f****s! (laughs)
We’re coming up on the 40 year anniversary of Working With Fire & Steel. How does it feel to have made records such as that which have stood the test of time?
Mike Howlett, who produced the album and was the bassist in Gong, is actually going to join us in London for a few tracks and that’s what the 40th has been like really. Our old manager Bruce Findlay came out to see us in Edinburgh too. So, it’s nice hooking up with everybody and just appreciating that you got through it.
It is quite a thing to survive, really. We were basically out of school and the next thing you know, we were in this mad business. So, to have music to accompany that story is great.
Even though you’ve got a massive discography to draw from, it seems like you’re still driven to make new music. Is this the case?
Yeah, I’ve done about three albums in the last seven years. The last China Crisis album [Autumn in the Neighbourhood] was 2015 and then I did Gone From Here and Lunar Landings. China Crisis would’ve had an album out a year back in the day (laughs), so it’s not that much. Having said that, it is always about the quality.
At the end of the day, we enjoy travelling and performing. We go to America for the whole of June and go back to places that we haven’t been for 25, 30 years. I fully expect excitement in these towns and we’ve worked hard to do that. It’s still special for us. I think it’s in us and there’s things to be sung, it’s just about finding the right voice.
- Anise Indian Kitchen at The River Inn dinner review
- Café 77 owner Scott McFarlane reflects on 1 year in business
- The Grumpy Monkey Paisley: a Q&A with Lynsay McWilliams
Although your sound has changed over the years, it seems like youhave always rigidly stuck to your vision for China Crisis. Was this a conscious decision?
I think that vision is a collective thing, it all comes down to the people we work with. For Eddie Lundon [founding member of China Crisis] and I, we wanted to get people who could come in and interpret our very naive chord-making or synth basslines. They could tell us what was around that. Gazza Johnson (bassist) was great at that, so was Brian McNeill (keyboard) and Walter Becker [Steely Dan].
It’s always about following the song as it encounters new people and ideas. See how it blooms and blossoms and if it doesn’t, it’s in the f****g trash (laughs).
Have you always had an affinity for playing Scotland?
God, yeah, we were managed out of Edinburgh and had a Glaswegian keyboard player. We’re still very much still connected to Scotland, Oran Mor is always our biggest Christmas show. Honest to god, you’d think we were in Liverpool.
We have always had ties to Glasgow since the very beginning, we would’ve been in Tiffany’s in 1982 with Simple Minds when they were finishing the New Gold Dream tour.
What can those at The Bungalow expect from your set?
Jack, our keyboardist, has been in charge of programming a lot of the early electronics, so now we get to play a lot of the songs that we never got to do as a full band. So, we really can go back to the first album and play four or five off it, same with Fire & Steel and Flaunt [The Imperfection].
We talked him through, gear wise, exactly what it is that we used, then he basically researched it over the past few years. When you hear the early stuff now, it actually sounds better than it did back then.
After four decades of working together, how have you and fellow founding member Eddie Lundon retained your dynamic, both on and offstage?
Do you know what? We make each other laugh. We’re the total opposites. He’s football, I’m opera. But, I’ve always managed to make him properly laugh to the point where he’s like crying on-stage. That’s the bit we enjoy.
You’ve got to have a laugh at work because if you didn’t, you couldn’t possibly clock in (laughs). We still know that we’re so lucky to be onstage at all, so we properly enjoy it. It’s the best bit of the day.