Carol Decker, singer-songwriter chats with Kevin Cooper about writing again with Ronnie Rogers, forgetting her words, the new album Pleasure And Pain and being the very special guest of Go West and Nik Kershaw on their Together In Concert Tour.
Carol Decker is an English musician, best known as the singer and front woman for the band, T’Pau, which had international success in the late 1980s.
Their single, China In Your Hand, from the album Bridge Of Spies, spent five weeks at number one in the UK charts, and is arguably the song for which the group is best known for in Britain, although their debut single, Heart And Soul was a much bigger hit in the United States.
Writing the majority of the bands songs with fellow band member Ronnie Rogers, they are still collaborating having written together on the new album, Pleasure And Pain, which is released on Decker’s personal record label, Gnatfish.
As well as preparing for her rescheduled concerts, she is also very busy on the Festival circuit. Taking the time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper, this is what she had to say:
Ms Decker how are you today?
I’m very well Kevin, thanks for asking.
Firstly let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me.
That’s quite alright Kevin, it’s my pleasure.
So how is life treating you?
Life is treating me really well Kevin, yes very well thank you. I am very busy, not just as an artist but also as a full-time mum to kids who are now 17 and 12 years old. It is non-stop as Scarlet has just started her driving lessons. It is a new phase in the family as she is growing up a bit. And just handling a teenager is quite tricky and takes up a lot of my time (laughter). But having said all of that I am very well thank you.
You are the very special guest on the forthcoming Together In Concert Tour with Go West and Nik Kershaw. Are you looking forward to being on the road with the boys?
I am Kevin, I was absolutely delighted to be asked because I have known all of them for about 100 years now (laughter). One of the first huge opportunities of my career back in 1987 was for me to be Nik Kershaw’s opening act, which happened to be at the same time that Heart And Soul was just starting to climb the UK charts. It was really important to support our first single by being Nik’s opening act. It was a huge stepping stone for us. Pete (Cox) I have known for ages as we were both in the charts in America at the same time and we would always be bumping into each other. Pete and I have always had mutual friends in places and so we have always been friendly.
I was fortunate to photograph you two years ago here in Nottingham on the Flashback Tour, funnily enough with Go West, and what I was going to ask you was, is it as much fun for you as it is for the crowd?
The simple answer to that Kevin is yes it is (laughter). The thing about these 80’s Festivals for me personally is that I usually get to perform for around 30 minutes and I absolutely love the lack of pressure (laughter), I just love it (laughter). I just think to myself yes you can head the bill and take all of the money but I don’t care, I just don’t need that pressure (laughter). I do a lot of my own tours where I do have the pressure and responsibility but I just love getting up there singing a handful of my old hits. What’s not to like Kevin, it is just great fun and everybody is so pleased to see you. It brings back a lot of happy memories for a lot of people.
A few weeks ago I asked Toyah (Wilcox) the same question and she said that the Flashback Tours and the Re-Wind Tours are the highlight of her year.
Yes Kevin, that’s probably because it is an opportunity for us to get out onto a big stage because in our own working lives now the gigs are more modest, and that’s nice, but they are different. I play at a lot of the rock clubs. Next year I will be doing an acoustic Arts Centre Tour; in a few weeks I will be playing at The Jazz Café in Camden, and I will be playing municipal theatres, which are all more modest venues. So to be asked to perform at The Re-Wind Festival in Henley-on-Thames is amazing. It is a major Festival now and last year they had in excess of 40,000 people there over the 3 days. I think that it is a real opportunity to perform on a big stage with a big band together with a big crowd; it really is quite awesome.
The crowds absolutely love the events because not only can they can relive the memories but they can also enjoy the music once again.
Absolutely Kevin and as it is a hits based package, basically everyone has such a good time; it’s one huge party isn’t it (laughter).
It is especially when Rick Astley forgets his words (laughter).
(Hysterical laughter) what to Never Gonna Give You Up (laughter). Don’t laugh Kevin, I’ve done that, I have forgotten the words to China In Your Hand. As you can imagine I kind of sing it on automatic pilot now; the band start the opening bars of a song and I just go into China In Your Hand auto-mode (laughter). Then if I suddenly think where I in am the song and subsequently I will forget the words. I have had people write to me asking me why I sang the third verse where the second should be (laughter) and I think oh just fuck off, haven’t you got anything better to do (laughter) all because I have got momentarily mixed-up. You do get people who know the songs inside out and they will let you know if you get the words wrong.
You obviously didn’t hear that there was almost a riot when Tony (Hadley) sang a Duran Duran song. The crowd were going absolutely ballistic.
What, nice ballistic or bad ballistic?
Bad ballistic, they wanted to hang him from the nearest tree.
You are joking Kevin, I would have thought that the crowd would have thought that Tony was being really witty by singing a song by his closest rivals. I think that is a fun thing to do. After Gary Barlow slagged my singing off on The X Factor I went straight out and did a show with Christian O’Connell and David Tennant and I sang the Take That song Back For Good (laughter). And I have to tell you Kevin that it was much, much better than when he does it (laughter). I can see where Tony was going with that. He would see it as being quite witty doing a Duran song buts these fans Kevin do get a bit tribal at times. At the end of the day its only music.
Didn’t you once have to suffer a similar ordeal when you supported Status Quo in Germany?
Yes Kevin I did. When I toured with Status Quo in 1998, there were a handful of fans who came to every single show across Germany. They would make a point of holding either a newspaper or a magazine in front of their faces and they would read it when I was on stage, or they would turn their backs on me at the crash barrier and read their newspapers and magazines. I was wracking my brains to see if I had ever said anything about Status Quo and for the life of me I couldn’t think what I had said. They either just hated any opening act and it was their way of saying that they were not interested in you, thinking that somehow Francis (Rossi) and Ric (Parfitt) would like that, which they didn’t.
I know that I have got a big mouth Kevin and I talk first and think second, but I don’t think that I have ever said anything unpleasant about Status Quo. It was simply very odd; people can be very strange.
When you are back out on the road on the forthcoming Together In Concert Tour with Go West and Nik Kershaw, will the boys look after you being the only female?
Yes Kevin they will because on this tour I will absolutely be on my own. When I play the Festivals I take my own people with me; I have a little team that travels with me. But on the Together In Concert Tour I will be all on my own but yes, the boys will look after me. I have spent time at Nik’s house, I know his wife and his kids so it will be great.
You have a new album out Pleasure And Pain and I have to say that I think that it is fantastic.
Wow, thank you Kevin, we are very proud of it. We have been told that it is riddled with T’Pau DNA but that it stills sounds very contemporary.
Wasn’t the promotional tour cut short?
That’s right Kevin, we were working very hard to promote the album when I went down with bronchitis which meant that I had to come off the road which was really, really bad timing. As I am sure that you must know, you have to get out on the road to both promote and sell any new record.
Will you reschedule the shows that were cancelled?
Actually Kevin we have already rescheduled four of the shows for October; The Robin 2 at Bilston being one of them.
I love The Robin 2. How did you find playing there?
Well the stage is very high Kevin and so it gets very hot in there because you are very close to the lights. Back in 2013 when we did our 25th Anniversary Tour I actually suffered from heat exhaustion. I was wearing a big leather coat which I had had made for the tour and it was simply too hot for that gig. I felt really ill when I came off stage and I had to go and lie down for about 45 minutes which meant that I couldn’t do any signings which meant that everyone was pissed off with me but I genuinely was suffering from heat exhaustion.
Showing my age for one minute, I can remember seeing T’Pau play at Rock City here in Nottingham back in 1988.
Jesus Kevin Rock City has been going for a long time now (laughter). Funnily enough I have actually got a session of T’Pau at Rock City in 1988 recorded live. Back in the late 90’s I played the Brannaghans chain and god that was depressing (laughter). The worst thing was that my name was on the laminated menus. It had onion rings, salsa, skinny fries, T’Pau chicken wings, ribs; it was a real Spinal Tap moment Kevin (hysterical laughter).
Going back to the new album, did it get much air play from the radio stations?
Kevin I have to tell you that it is really difficult to get play listed. For people of our era and age, it is very difficult to get any sort of radio support. I managed to get spot plays with Ken Bruce, Terry Wogan, Graham Norton, and Vennasa Feltz. They all played the lead single Nowhere, once, but only once. But I couldn’t get play listed Kevin. It’s hard because all of the Classic channels are playing my stuff all of the time but they simply won’t play the new stuff either because their database only covers the 80’s, whilst the other stations won’t play you because you are not young and hot anymore. It is a very tricky situation to find yourself in.
I have been doing this a long time now and it was always difficult to get play listed. It has never been an easy task. It is very frustrating when you think that the album got five star reviews on iTunes and it was number one in the Amazon most wished for album chart. We were really excited and thought that we were in with a chance here but it kind of fizzled out.
From a personal point of view I feel that Nowhere is the stand-out track on the album. How did that come about?
Me and Ronnie (Rogers) wrote that with our guitarist and keyboard player. We knocked it out in about an hour (laughter). We were jamming one evening after we had spent the entire day laying down the rest of the album, and we just had a bit of a jam, and a song was born and it came together really, really quickly.
How did it feel to be writing with Ronnie once again?
Well Kevin, firstly I have to say that Ronnie and I are not very good musicians (laughter). And so when we used to start writing songs, we never knew how to transpose things so half of the T’Pau stuff was always really too high for me back then; I really had to take a run at some of the notes (laughter). Because we could never play well enough to transpose the notes I just used to sing them as we had written them (laughter). Ronnie and I have stayed the best of friends; we really have and our families socialise together. However we haven’t sat down together to write a T’Pau album since 1991 so it was great.
Ronnie is an incredibly talented man, and most of the time we are artistically simpatico, but he will tweak and tweak and tweak and drive me up the wall (laughter). I call him Columbo because he is always saying “just one more thing” (laughter). I have to shout at him, no stop its fine. I am a vibe merchant; I’m very keen to make sure that whatever we are writing and recording has got the vibe, the heart, and the passion in it and I know when we have captured it. But Ronnie will always want to refine it that little bit more. And it goes without saying that I will want to murder him occasionally (laughter).
I have to say that I think that your voice is sounding better now than it ever has.
Oh thank you Kevin, well that is heading in the right direction because we do worry about losing our voices (laughter).
Did it feel good to be back in the studio recording again?
Yes it was, it was fantastic. It is something that I haven’t done for a long time now. I have been very, very busy on the live circuit for over ten years now, in fact I did my first 80’s tour in 2001. That was a Here And Now Tour with Kim Wild, Heaven 17 and Paul Young so I have been doing that now for pushing fifteen years. It was very compatible with my children growing up. Also it did pay the rent and kept me busy but the downside to that is that it did keep me out of the recording studio. Sometimes I have to step back and remind myself that I am an Ivor Novello nominated songwriter; I had forgotten that (laughter).
I asked Tony (Hadley) about his Gold beer and he told me that he had studied to become a Master Brewer before they launched their beer. Did you go to those lengths before you launched your T’Pau Pleasure And Pain beer?
With my little beer I’m sorry to say that no I didn’t Kevin (laughter). There was a boutique brewing company who approached us and it is just a little bit of fun. They sent us about twelve different beers and Richard, my husband, who is a restaurateur and quite a connoisseur of both wines and beers picked out the three that he thought were very nice and palatable and that is what we went with.
Finally I have to ask you, Gnatfish records, where did the name come from?
That came from my then Manager and still very good friend Will Ashurst because he said that I have the attention span of a gnat and the memory of a goldfish (laughter).
On that note let me say Ms Decker, thank you for taking the time to speak to me.
It’s been a big pleasure, thank you Kevin.
T’Pau’s latest album Pleasure And Pain is available now at