Interview: Stuart Adamson, Big Country


DIE HARD


It's been a long time coming but it seems that Big Country have finally delivered an album that compares favourably with their hugely successful and stirring debut The Crossing, which came out all of a decade ago. The Buffalo Skinners is the band on full throttle. Mark Brezicki is now back in the drum saddle (top session man Simon Phillips played on the LP), completing the band's original line-up, which is crackling with a renewed sense of zest and purpose.

It would be ignorant or churlish to dismiss Big Country as a 'has been' band, following a jaded rock formula as they've developed a generally heavier, perhaps more American-orientated, flavour. Additionally, Stuart Adamson's lyrics display a sense of awareness and biting clarity that's all too easy to overlook.

PRECONCEPTIONS


This established idea of what Big Country are is something that the very affable Adamson was keen to address when I met him at the offices of the band's new record company, Compulsion.

"If I want anything from this record it's for people to come to it without too many preconceptions. I would agree with anybody who said the last two albums weren't happening. We were in a situation that I was completely fuckin' disillusioned with. i joined a band to be in a band, not to be a businessman! A change had to come. So we left Phonogram."

The band may have gone up a cul-de-sac, but the signs are that they have rediscovered their desire and their direction.


"It feels like a new beginning to me," he enthuses. "It feels like a different group. I'm really pleased with the record. It's what we should have been doing a long time ago."

Time then to talk about the new record. Consisting of ten new songs and two improved reworkings of Ships and Kansas from their last LP No Place Like Home. Many may not consider it to be on the cutting edge amongst the grunge and techno, but it's an assured, powerful work highlighted by a strong melodic punch.

DRIVEN


Adamson, although not the world's most natural singer, has never sounded better. I get the distinct impression Big Country enjoyed making this one together. But moreover that they were driven.

"I think it is fuckin' driven. I love writing songs, and I think you can make intelligent rock music that does have loud guitars and does have passion behind it. I'm not this kind of fuckin' bland old character that people seem to think I've become."

His last comment leads him to return to the topic of this entrenched idea of Big Country = Cliche.

"I think people have always identified us with the Celtic rock and twin guitar thing - people think of that as being a formula for us. How come it's not a formula when it's some guy from the ghetto singing rap or some guy from the deep south in America playing boogie woogie? To me that's just fuckin' nonsense verging on racism to be quite honest."

A deeply felt and valid point. But let's talk a little about some of the pivotal songs on The Buffalo Skinners such as Chester's Farm for example.

"I wanted to write a song about AIDS and about how it's been completely fuckin' ignored by Western governments. I wanted to write a song that asked a few questions rather than just described the situation."

His last comment sparks off a discussion about the situation in the Balkans. Long Way Home could have been written with the Baltic crisis in mind.

"I wrote that song about how it was possible to be a refugee in your own country. You kind of feel like you belong somewhere but it's not how you expected it to be."

The psychedelically-titled Pink Marshmallow Moon, by contrast, is more off-beat and perhaps a little tongue-in-cheek.

"Aye, it is a bit," confirms Adamson. "I wanted to write a song about how you feel when you first start a relationship with somebody, y'know, how you'll do absolutely anything to be involved with somebody, and about seeing all the possibilities for the relationship."

Adamson tells me that All Go Together is tied into the album's title and theme.


"It's just about how we're poisoning ourselves. I mean, the Industrial Revolution was only 200 years ago and we're just gonna peg ourselves out quite shortly with it. There's some little part of the brain that is self-destructive, how's it's inevitable that we will eventually destroy ourselves."

Still, Big Country aren't about to self-destruct. And, you know what they say, 'While there's life...'


Mark Liddell

Riff Raff
June 1993
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