Newmarket: Mum’s no longer the word for T’Pau’s Carol Decker, plus Curiosity Killed the Cat’s Ben Volpeliere-Pierrot on stepping back into the spotlight
- Credit: Archant
Growing up in the 1980s, entertainment writer Wayne Savage admits to being biased when it comes to his favourite musical decade. He chats to T’Pau’s Carol Decker and Curiosity Killed the Cat’s Ben Volpelierre-Pierot ahead of their visit to Newmarket Racecourse.
With a new album on the way, Decker says it’s nice to make new music again; admitting it’s something she’s not been very good at in recent years.
“I’ve just found it difficult... I found the creative part of my brain kind of died for a while while I got lost in family life,” laughs the singer, whose daughter Scarlett turned 16 the previous day and whose son Dylan is 11.
She’s spent the last 14-plus years focusing on live work either standalone T’Pau gigs or retro tours like 80s Here and Now, coming to Newmarket Racecourse on June 20.
“I can do that so easily, all the hits are established... that’s been a great outlet for me, I’ve been able to get my rocks off performing and singing songs everybody knows but I haven’t really applied myself to doing anything new, I just didn’t feel up to it.”
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Being a very busy working mum and wondering where she fits in today’s very different music industry, Decker didn’t know how to work her way back in. With the days of having big record companies and all that includes behind her, she laughs it took her a long time to realise she just had to get on and do it herself.
“I didn’t really know what to do... when I realised I could actually do it with social media, sell records myself (via her own label GnatFish, iTunes, at gigs) it inspired me to just get my finger out and do it.
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“I feel more confident now and I’ve got lots of people very happy to help me,” says Decker, who aside from email and using a computer admits to not really getting modern technology or being savvy with social media.
An American fan runs the website, another runs the offical T’Pau Facebook.
“I hate Facebook, you sit down and three hours of your life disappear looking at other people’s b****y holiday photos, that’s why I like Twitter, it’s immediate. I’m getting there, getting used to the new ways,” laughs the China in Your Hand singer.
Next on the to-do list is a YouTube channel.
“We want to do some little semi-acoustic concerts, which we can do in my flipping living room,” she laughs again. “Just keep the dialogue going. I’m very lucky because I did have such success with T’Pau - that’s there for me to tap back into.”
As her children get older, they’re becoming more independent; which makes life easier. Scarlett is off to college in September, Dylan has his own house key so can walk home from school and let himself in.
“Now I can say ‘I won’t be back until seven kids, I’m in London, make yourself some beans on toast, I’ll call you’. I can get on with stuff, take meetings, move things forward.”
No more excuses then?
“Not really... maybe I used the kids as an excuse, I like to think I’m more noble than that. I was a very hands-on mum, I’m a control freak,” she laughs. “I’m still trying to brush my daughter’s hair and clean her teeth and she’s 16. Now I can relax a little and re-focus myself.”
New album Pleasure and Pain is out in October and will be followed by a tour - full details of both can be found at www.tpau.co.uk or by following @caroldecker on Twitter - but Decker says there’s no point in thinking in terms of charts any more.
“My very dear friend Kim Wilde has a thriving career in Germany where she does chart. In the UK, her recent album tickled the iTunes lower chart which she was really thrilled about. You have to free your mind of that.
“She and I were talking about it... just know if you reach out to your fans they’re all out there for you, you’ve just got to do it through social media. Our generation is accustomed to having that push from record companies, to being in the charts. It takes a little while for your ego to get over the fact you probably won’t be in the chart but you will sell records. That’s the pitfall, that’s the stumbling block.”
It’s never been an easy business. When she was a kid you joined a band, wrote some songs, sent your demo tapes off to all the record companies.
“You played every s****y pub in the land hoping one of them would turn up and watch you. A thousand bands fell by the wayside for every band that did get an A+R man to turn up and give them a deal. It’s not even just talent, I know loads of talented people who don’t quite make it.
“I can’t put my finger on it. I see people who do make it and think how did anybody put you on to make it? It’s not scientific, I’ve had massive hits then for longer and I have written other songs I thought were great and I just never hit that button again... I don’t why.”
Decker says party in the paddock gigs, as she calls them, are great fun. She’s become really good friends with the other acts.
“I always say it’s bit like an 1980s popstar school trip,” laughs Decker, who’ll be joined at Newmarket by Bananarama, The Real Thing, Curiosity Killed the Cat and Kid Creole and The Coconuts.
The 1980s were a very strong, powerful decade, agrees Curiosity Killed the Cat singer Volpeliere-Pierrot; full of in your face tracks and a real mix of different genres. No wonder it’s still as popular now.
“I think every decade people tend to revert... I see a 30-year cycle, in the 1980s people were into their 1950s music hence The Specials, Madness, stuff like that. It’s probably a bit to do with getting bored of the current music... I tend to find when something’s popular you can’t help but get overloaded with it in one way or another. So it’s inevitable you want to be a bit different or want something fresh to listen to,” he laughs.
Known for hits like Down To Earth, I felt the band deserved more success than they got.
“It’s not like we were anti-fame or whatever, but we didn’t really push ourselves to be a big success as it were. We just wanted to have fun, write music, play concerts and go out and party really,” he laughs.
“We didn’t really have a business head on us so I think it was a combination of our management, the record companies and the lack of business drive the band had. We definitely had fun, I think that had something to do with the popularity.
“The music standing the test of time, I think, was because we didn’t want to sound like anyone basically. We were influenced by past music, we just wanted it to sound quality really. When I listen to it nowadays I think it does stand the test of time.”
While Volpelierre-Pierot will be performing old favourites at Newmarket, he reveals he’s currently working on new tracks after stepping out of the music scene for a while.
“I’ve really only re-emerged into the music last year. I took a break for a bit... when I had the facility to make music maybe I got into a bit of a rut, especially with technology; it’s such a different way of working to how we used to work as a band.
“I lived in the music business for quite a lot of years, even though I maybe wasn’t in the public eye; I was making music myself. Then I just reverted a bit. Where my teenage years were all taken care off - I had a tour manager and stuff - I decided to learn a bit about real life myself I guess,” he laughs, “and just be a citizen.”
In the process of rebuilding his studio after getting rid of everything, he’s recorded a couple of club and pop numbers.
“I’m hoping one way or another I’m going to get back on the road really, I’ve become hungry again.”