Norwich: Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross talks 25 years of getting away with it

Deacon Blue play Norwich Theatre Royal later this month

Deacon Blue play Norwich Theatre Royal later this month - Credit: Archant

“I don’t think we had a great plan (when we first came down to London), I think our plan was to survive, ‘can we make a record, can we make a living doing this or will we get found out’,” says Deacon Blue’s Ricky Ross.

Twenty-five years since the release of debut album Raintown, they haven’t been yet.

“I think we had a slight arrogance about us, you have to. You’re putting yourself up against all the other artists that are good, all the records being made and saying ‘our record is as important, if not more important’. (There was) also that confident youth we had when we started... ‘oh we can do this’. I think all these things were going through our minds in those early days.”

Even now, he seems surprised they’ve reached such a milestone.

“How can you possibly have a career of 25 years? If someone said that to you when you started you couldn’t have taken it in, it wouldn’t have made any sense. Looking back on it, it does seem possible you can,” he laughs. “I think one of the most incredible things for us is the fact people have cherished and are still listening to those original songs {after} all that time. For us that’s been wonderful.”

Following a sell-out tour in 2012 celebrating their anniversary, the legendary Scottish band bring their biggest tour in over a decade to the Norwich Theatre Royal on September 15.

“I’m not someone who wants to be out every night of the week playing, I don’t see myself as a troubadour; but I really like putting on a good show. Very often I’m amazed at what passes for a show and I think ‘okay, is that it’ because to me it’s like life and death.

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“You really sweat blood for a show (and) it’s tough times out there, people don’t have a lot of disposable income and they’re committing a night of their life to come see you. You’ve got a great responsibility to give them something that makes it all worthwhile.

“Every night we go on stage is the most important night we have. You’ve got to approach every gig as if it’s your first and your last and it’s got to be the best night of the audience’s lives, you’ve got to make them feel as if they’re going to be talking about that night come the end of the year, next year and hopefully a few years to come. That’s what I want, that’s the level of expectation I have for any gig.”

Gig-goers can expect classic hits like Real Gone Kid, Dignity and Chocolate Girl as well as newer material, including tracks from The Hipsters, Deacon Blue’s first studio album since Homesick in 2001.

“Too right yeah, we’ll be playing it all,” Ross laughs.

With four of the latest singles making Radio 2’s A-list, the band are pleased with how the new material has gone down with listeners. They were nervous about releasing new material after so long.

“We all felt good about the album, felt good about making it. The happiest time is when you’re making the record but there’s always a moment, maybe about a week before it’s coming out, you think ‘well, here we go’. You just don’t know, it can be over in a whisper. You can put it out, no one reacts strongly to it and there are so many other things out there that people move on.

“The worst thing is indifference, I think we were very nervous about how it would all be perceived because you’ve got a body of work there that people quite like and you’re interfering with that and you think ‘well, maybe you should have just left it alone’.”

Life, admits Ross, wasn’t always straight forward first time around but the band were massive, selling a lot of records they’re still proud of today.

“We made four studio albums which we liked very much but we ran out of steam and I think it was good we stopped when we did and not do things we didn’t want to do. I think that made it better for us, more able for us to come back and do stuff now because we didn’t flog it to death at that point... and we’d established we were friends.”

Reuniting for a charity gig in 1999 proved they were still in demand.

“I was surprised at the reaction and speed in which people came to buy tickets... we put a tour on the back of that (and thought) ‘it’s quite fun playing live, let’s just keep doing that and see what happens’ and that’s basically how it has been since. We’ve enjoyed the creativity of a new record too.”

The Hipsters is pretty much Deacon Blue’s life story, Ross himself describes as an open love letter to the band.

“That only occurred to me when we were making it, when I was reflecting on the songs. A lot of the spirit was like... come in, let’s play together, these are my songs but you come into them and let’s make them together, let’s make it happen.”

It may’ve been a new album, but it was recorded in an old-school way, with the whole band set up and all playing and singing together in the studio – the first time they had worked like that since recording Fellow Hoodlums in Paris in 1991.

“It was one of the things we wanted to do, that’s how we like working the best. (It was) absolute fun, there’s occasional times (when it’s) tense and difficult but that’s exactly as it should be, you need to question, to probe, to demand a lot of each other you know; that’s part of the challenge, part of being in a band.”

There’s more than a little tongue in cheek when it comes to the album’s title.

Ross remembers saying when they first got back together “we must be the un-coolest band in the world.... but people still love us despite all that”.

“I still think that,” he says. “I kind of like that, that’s not always a bad start and I hate people who assume things, I hate assumptions about what is good and what is bad. Pop music is about opinions and there is no set rule about it, we all have things we think is good, what is cool to someone is naff to someone else. I think that’s one of the things we were trying to establish, you’ve got to be open.”

The singer-songwriter admits the band were never press darlings, which was part of their “un-coolness”; they were and still are quite happy with how they. But Deacon Blue were never about what’s on the cusp of fashion.

“We were about having songs that entered people’s lives, were important to them. That was the thing that was most important to us, having songs that moved people, infected them, that they could relate to and we tried.”