Martin Fry, singer songwriter with ABC chats with Kevin Cooper about his dodgy dress sense, August Darnell of Kid Creole & The Coconuts, a new studio album next year and his forthcoming tour of the UK
Martin Fry is an English singer, songwriter, musician and record producer whose career spans more than 30 years. He came to prominence in the early 1980’s as the lead singer of the new wave band ABC.
Their 1982 debut album, The Lexicon Of Love was a UK number one and they achieved ten UK and five US top forty hit singles between 1981 and 1990. He is the only member who has been with ABC throughout its entire history and is currently its only original member. He continues to tour as ABC and in 2016 released his ninth studio album, The Lexicon Of Love II.
Last year he toured that album with the Southbank Symphonia Orchestra which was conducted by Anne Dudley, when he played too sold out venues.
Hi Martin how are you?
I’m very well Kevin thanks for asking. How are you?
I’m good thank you and let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.
It’s a pleasure as always.
And just how is life treating you today?
Life is very good, life is precious but I have got to say it’s a good thing.
Before we talk about your forthcoming tour I have to ask, The Lexicon Of Love II were you pleased with just how well the album was received?
Yes, I was in fact I was overjoyed really. The response to the album was phenomenal. I have to say that making the record was a challenge because I hadn’t made anything for a very long time. I didn’t really know how people would respond to new material and in particular The Lexicon Of Love II in 2016 when it came out. But the response has been fantastic. It feels good playing The Flames Of Desire and Viva Love alongside The Look Of Love, Poison Arrow and When Smokey Sings; the older hits.
You toured the album with the Southbank Sinfonia Orchestra who were conducted by Anne Dudley. Were you please with how well everything fitted together?
Yes I was. We recently played our final gig of the tour at the Royal Albert Hall which concluded a whole bunch of touring that we had done with the Southbank Sinfonia Orchestra with Anne Dudley conducting and I have to say that yes, it worked really well. It really did work well.
Will the Southbank Sinfonia Orchestra be with you on the forthcoming tour?
No they won’t because we have redesigned the whole show completely. Yes there will be violins and cellos but there won’t be a full orchestra. It’s going to be more like Roxy Music on steroids (laughter). The whole show is going to be polished.
And I hear that you will have a certain Mr August Darnell opening for you won’t you?
(Laughter) yes that’s right, we have invited Kid Creole & The Coconuts to open for us on this tour. As you rightly point out, Mr August Darnell who I believe lived not too far from you Kevin for a while (laughter).
That’s correct he did indeed (laughter).
I first fell in love with August’s work when I heard him singing with Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band, the band that he had way back and also when he was joined by The Coconuts throughout the 80s. I have run into August a number of times over the years and he truly is a brilliant lyricist and a great songwriter.
And like your good self he also wears a fine line in clothing.
(Laughter) that’s very kind of you to say. And yes you are perfectly correct, August really does have a few nice suits and he is always impeccably dressed whenever I have met him in recent years. To me it really does feel like a good fit. I will be bringing my tuxedo and I think that it is going to be a pretty elegant affair when we all go out on tour together on the XYZ Tour.
So what was it that drew you to Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band?
Back in the day I felt that they were a fusion of disco and new wave I think that you would call it back then. I have worked with some brilliant acts and artists on a number of stages but it will be a lot of fun with August and the guys.
You will be bringing the XYZ Tour to the Royal Concert Hall here in Nottingham on Sunday 12th November, just what can we expect?
It will give me the opportunity to put the spotlight on the ABC back catalogue in order to open things up. Playing with an orchestra is different to playing with a band. We are going to augment with some violins and cellos and play a really rocking show. It is going to be a really upbeat affair. It’s a fantastic venue and I always really do have a great time whenever we play there.
Will it cover the whole ABC back catalogue?
It’s going to be pretty jam packed yes. There will also be some new songs in there too, but believe me it is always a pleasure for me to get up onto the stage and sing All Of My Heart, Poison Arrow, Look Of Love and When Smokey Sings.
Will there be any surprises, any reinterpretations of old songs?
That’s what this tour gives us the chance to do really, to go back. The confidence that we have got from the reaction to The Lexicon Of Love II means that we can now push things forward most definitely.
You must be pleased with just how well the tickets are selling for the forthcoming tour?
It’s been fantastic having the momentum of touring, following on from last year’s tour that we did, building our reputation I suppose. Playing live is something that you never quite perfect but you do get better at it as the years roll by. I always want to put on a show that entertains. When you are on stage it has nothing to do with the past, it is all about that moment there and then, so I want to put on a great show for our audiences which is what I always try to do.
I have taken a look this morning and I have to tell you that the Royal Concert Hall is already fifty percent sold out for this year’s tour.
Oh is it, that’s great because the tickets for Nottingham only went on sale a few days ago now. That’s really great, that’s brilliant. I like playing live because it gives me the time and opportunity to sell more merchandise. Last year it was a handkerchief so this year I will have to think of something else just as sartorial (laughter). Let’s be honest, I have got Kid Creole breathing down my neck so I think that I have got to get myself down Saville Row haven’t I (laughter).
Is the Kid still wearing his hats?
Yes he is, in fact the last time that I saw him he was wearing a boater. However, we were in Henley by the river.
Is he trying to outdo your look when in the video for The Look Of Love you were wearing a boater and a striped blazer (laughter).
(Laughter) that’s right. The style police used to come round to my house back in the 90s and try to arrest me for crimes against fashion but I weathered the storm (laughter). Whenever you were making those videos you could pretty much wear whatever you wanted to wear. You are right; in the Look Of Love video I am wearing a candy-striped blazer and a boater. I also worked with puppets, animals and children and those are no-go areas for anyone in show business (laughter). What can I say but I survived, I survived those years (hysterical laughter). Let’s just put it down to being the MTV Years.
When we last spoke you mentioned that you were about to start working on a new studio album. At what stage are you at with that?
Well I have written six songs so I am currently writing and collaborating with a number of people. We have a couple of songs called Look Good Tonight and The Life And Times Of A Troubadour together with a few autobiographical songs which will be on the album. It is actually all starting to come together. I didn’t want to leave it ten years until the next album (laughter). I was actually trying to be a little more realistic this time.
Do you have a release date in mind?
It will most probably be released sometime in the early part of next year.
When did you feel most musically satisfied?
Thursday night at the Royal Albert Hall. We peaked when we played Flames Of Desire alongside The Look Of Love; that felt really good I have to say.
Whenever you perform at the Royal Albert Hall do you ever get nervous thinking of all the great acts that have played there before you?
It’s funny, at the Royal Albert Hall there are pictures of (Frank) Sinatra, David Bowie and The Beatles all over the walls of the dressing rooms. No it doesn’t make you nervous, in fact it makes you raise your game.
Who has musically inspired you?
In recent times I would have to say that Anne Dudley has been an inspiration. In the past it would have been Bowie, Roxy Music, Prince, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder. I do like a lot of old Motown. To be honest with you I am inspired all of the time by music. I really do love music.
What was the first record that you bought?
That was Voodoo Child (Slight Return) by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. That is still an incredible piece of music. It cost me a whole six shillings (laughter). Because it is a really long track they had to split it into parts one and two over Side A and Side B.
Who did you first see performing live in concert?
Funnily enough I can remember it vividly. It was Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel but opening up for them was a band called Sailor. I am going to be doing a show this summer with Steve Harley and I am hoping to be able to take a selfie of me with Steve. And let me tell you I intend to bore him with the story of my first ever live gig when I see him (laughter). So Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel were the first band that I ever saw but technically it was the support act Sailor. Its brilliant when you first go to a show, you sit down and spend the whole evening looking at the PA System and the dry ice thinking ‘wow, those speakers are big’ (laughter). It’s the best feeling ever. Of course a thousand shows later you tend to get a bit cynical but I just remember how exciting it was sitting in a theatre for your first gig.
What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?
That was Automaton by Jamiroquai. I really do love that record.
On that note Martin let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me. It’s been a pleasure once again and I will see you here in Nottingham.
Thanks Kevin you take care and The Kid and I will see you when we get to Nottingham. Bye for now.