Patrick Olive (seen here second from the right), bassist with Hot Chocolate, chats with Kevin Cooper about his fondness for Nottingham, his first appearance on Top Of The Pops, working with producer Mickie Most and his forthcoming appearance at the Flashback Festival at Clumber Park with Hot Chocolate.

Patrick Olive, born in Grenada, is the bassist in the British soul band Hot Chocolate. Popular during the 1970s and 1980s, and formed by the late Errol Brown they had at least one hit every year between 1970 and 1984 inclusive, and their song You Sexy Thing made the top ten in three decades.

When Errol Brown left the band to pursue a solo career, the role of lead singer was originally taken over by Greg Bannis, but he was replaced by Kennie Simon, who took over lead vocals in 2010 and Hot Chocolate continue to make live appearances in the UK and Europe.

On 6 May 2015, founding member Errol Brown passed away from liver cancer.

Busy preparing for the Festival season, he took the time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.


Good morning Patrick how are you today?

I’m fine thank you Kevin, how the devil are you?

I am very well thank you, and let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me.

It’s a very big pleasure Kevin especially as you are from my absolute favourite part of England. I love Nottingham Kevin I really, really do.

So you like our fair city do you Patrick?

I remember that whenever Hot Chocolate played in Nottingham we always had a really good time up there. I haven’t been back for a few years now but way back in the day it was always a pleasure to play in Nottingham and all of the band really looked forward to being able to spend time there. It really is a wonderful place Kevin.

That is always nice to hear Patrick and you have played here at Clumber Park twice before haven’t you?

Yes that’s right Kevin and I have to tell you that both occasions were truly fantastic.

It is a truly glorious setting Patrick, wouldn’t you agree?

Fantastic place; it really is fantastic. Robin Hood couldn’t have chosen a better place in which to live Kevin (laughter).

So tell me how is life treating Patrick Olive today?

Life is pretty good, in fact life is very, very good you know. When the sun shines there is nowhere better than England. It is a bit rainy at the moment Kevin but life is still really, really good. I am enjoying the music, I am enjoying being alive, and I am enjoying talking to people like yourself.

That is very kind of you Patrick, thank you. And let’s just hope that the weather will be good for you up at Clumber Park on the 21st August.

It will be Kevin, it will be (laughter). We always take the sunshine with us and in fact I was thinking of renaming Hot Chocolate the Sunshine Boys (laughter). We were recently playing in Southampton and they had absolutely dire weather there but come Saturday when we were due to go out onto the stage, the sun came out. It was great; the jumpers were coming off, the picnic hampers were coming out, and everyone had a really good time so we took the sunshine with us down there and we are going to bring it with us to Clumber Park.

On the subject of Clumber Park, is there anyone playing who you are particularly looking forward to meeting up with?

Well Kevin I have worked with a lot of the guys before but it is always a pleasure to see all of those guys again especially The Real Thing. Hot Chocolate and The Real Thing have been friends for years and years now because we always found ourselves on Top Of The Pops together. All of the musicians and the bands who were working together then, are much happier now than they were in the years gone by. Everyone is so glad to see each other again. Whenever we play at these Festivals it is just one big family, it is simply happiness personified.

That’s great to hear Patrick because back in the day there was so much rivalry and pressure between you all wasn’t there?

Yes there was Kevin, and every band was thinking that they were better than the other bands but now we are all so happy that we have been given a second chance. So now we all think let’s just go out there, enjoy it and smell the coffee.

You have mentioned Top Of The Pops and I always ask the artists who I am interviewing, what was your first appearance on the show like?

It was absolutely nerve-wracking (laughter). It was a funny old feeling. You were happy to be on Top Of The Pops but at the same time it was nerve-wracking Kevin. When you were told to stand in an area that was no bigger than a postage stamp and not to move from there because the camera was on you, you would think to yourself, ‘oh my god what can I do, can I dance’, but if you danced you would go out of the little box (laughter) and wouldn’t be on camera. We all wanted to be on camera because we all wanted our friends and families to see us performing on Top Of The Pops (laughter).

I have to ask you Patrick, you were originally the percussionist in Hot Chocolate from 1968 to 1975 but then in 1975 you moved onto the bass. How did that change come about?

Well Kevin as a young boy I always sang in the choir and my part was the bass part. I could always figure out a bass line which was going boom, boom, boom in my head. Even though Tony Wilson was playing the bass guitar at the time I would always be telling him what to play (laughter). After a while Errol (Brown) said to me, you seem to be coming up with all of the bass lines and riffs so why don’t you play the bass instead of Tony. I came up with the bass line in both Brother Louie and Emma and that came to me simply because I always sang the bass lines in the choir.

You are currently the longest serving member in Hot Chocolate. Did you know Errol (Brown) before you joined the band?

Indeed yes Kevin; I had known Errol for many, many years. Errol and I used to go out and watch bands together. Before he became a singer Errol used to fancy himself as an actor (laughter). I knew Errol for a very long time.

When Errol sadly passed away, were there any thoughts of calling it a day and Hot Chocolate ceasing to exist?

I will tell you what I have been telling our audiences since Errol’s passing Kevin. If Errol were still here he would have been happy for us to be carrying on. We decided that we would carry on simply because of the music because if you have good music it doesn’t matter who is singing the songs. Once that person sings the songs with feeling; singing the songs as they were written, and sings them with the feeling that was intended to be there, then those songs are very, very powerful songs. We all agreed that it would be a shame to stop performing and to leave those songs unsung and unperformed.

Since Errol’s passing do you feel under any added pressure to keep his legacy alive and well?

We are doing what comes naturally; people still want us to play and so we go there and perform. We perform the songs as Errol would have expected them to be done. We still make sure that the audiences have a really good time and that they understand that we are all doing our best and so far everyone seems to be very, very happy Kevin. We have not had any negative feedback at all. We have played a number of shows since he passed away and we haven’t had any negative feedback or any disgruntled people.

Back in the day Hot Chocolate were signed to RAK Records. What was it like working with Mickie Most?

He is a very good guy Kevin, very inspiring. He could sniff out a hit record from ten thousand metres (laughter). He just had this knack about him. It didn’t take him long to realise that the records that we were giving him, were going to be hits. Lyrically, they were all about life and people. You listen to Emma and you think that is a hit; you listen to Sexy Thing and that is a hit because it is all about people being sexy in different ways, sexy looking, and sexy in the way that they dressed, so it wasn’t very difficult for Mickie Most to select the songs for Hot Chocolate.

I have to ask you Patrick, do you have a favourite Hot Chocolate song?

I do indeed Kevin. It’s the song Changing World.

That was the 1974 follow-up to Emma if my memory serves me correctly?

You are absolutely correct Kevin. I love that song because it is all about just how people look at you when you are nobody. And then when you become somebody they look at you in a different light. You suddenly become everybody’s friend when you are somebody. But you are nobody’s friend when you are nobody. Changing World is all about that especially the lines, ‘for eyes that once stared at me, now begin to smile at me, making me feel at home in a world when nothing matters but the man’. When you hear poignant lyrics like that Kevin that is what makes that song my favourite song.

Well I have to tell you Patrick that I feel like a bit of a fraud. I have been a fan for many, many years now but I have never actually seen you perform live.

Oh my goodness gracious Kevin (laughter). What a big miss-out that is. Shame on you (laughter). But hopefully your big chance will be coming at Clumber Park. You had better be there because honestly Hot Chocolate are second to none when it comes to life performances.

I promise you that I will be there Patrick because I am coming up to Clumber Park to photograph the show. I will give you a wave from the pit.

I don’t just want you to wave to me Kevin, I want to see you at the front singing along.

(Laughter) I would love you to see me singing but I would hate you to hear me singing (laughter).

Listen Kevin, you won’t be any worse than I am, believe you me (hysterical laughter). I am in Hot Chocolate because I was in the right place at the right time (laughter). It doesn’t mean that I am a better singer than you are Kevin.

Let’s move on Patrick (laughter). Coming right up to date you have a new lead singer, Kennie Simon. How did you find him?

I have seen Kennie perform many times now Kevin. He performed at The Marina in Brighton and somebody asked me if Hot Chocolate were appearing there. When I told them that we weren’t they said yes you are, there is a picture of Errol Brown outside the theatre. I informed them that if there was a picture of Errol outside it would be a picture of him with the band. So I thought that I had better go and have a look for myself and when I got there I found that it was a picture of Kennie and low and behold, Kennie’s resemblance to Errol is uncanny and his singing is really good too. He sings the songs with meaningful lyrics just like Errol used to sing them.

When I got talking to Kennie he reminded me that some years ago in Gulliver’s, a club in London, I had gone over to him and tapped him on the shoulder and said to him, “Errol I thought that you were going on your holidays” (laughter). Errol and I were at the club and at 3am Errol said to me that he had better go and get some rest because he was going to fly out to see his family in Mauritius later that day. Around 30 minutes later;, having no one to talk to, I decided to go home and as I was leaving the club I saw the back of this person standing at the bar with a bald head, the same shape and everything, so I went over to him and tapped him on the shoulder and said “Errol I thought that you had said that you were going home”, and he turned around and it was Kennie (laughter). I was totally gobsmacked Kevin.

I told Kennie that he looked so much like Errol and he said that he hadn’t tried to look like him but that was just who he was and how he was. He said that he hadn’t shaved his head in order to look like Errol; his hair had simply fallen out. However, it is a good thing and a bad thing Kevin. Some of the people believe that he is Errol and we have to correct them and tell them that it is not him, it is Kennie Simon.

What is it like performing with Kennie, is it like having Errol on stage with you?

I have to be honest with you Kevin and tell you that they have very similar traits, he is very forgetful. We were in Belgium last week and Kennie forgot his passport (laughter). He had left it back in his hotel room and that is something which which Errol would always be doing. He would be sitting drinking and talking with you at the bar in the hotel and then walk away leaving his wallet on the bar. So they do have similar traits. They are so similar Kevin that I do refer to Kennie as Errol Brown’s love child (laughter). He is even clumsy like Errol. Kennie knocks things over like a glass of beer and that is something that Errol would do all of the time so they are very, very similar in that way. Having said all of that he is very much a gentleman.

And Kennie was a booking agent wasn’t he; he never wanted to be a singer.

That’s right Kevin, Kennie was an agent and spent most of his time booking bands. He was never a singer. He told me that some people asked him to sing a few of Errol’s songs and then he got asked to do a few voice-overs, one of them being Sexy Thing for a TV advertisement. After that he got asked to perform on cruise liners but it was never his intention to become a singer; he was happy being a booking agent. When Hot Chocolate’s agent was looking for someone who could perhaps replace Errol I told him about Kennie, and they decided to give him a trial and there you go Kevin. The rest, as they say, is history.

Who were you listening to whilst you were growing up?

I was listening to all of the stars; Sam Cooke, Sly and The Family Stone, and Nat King Cole. I love Country and Western, but I was never a Rock and Roll fan. I love Country and Western, Blues, anything Kevin with nice lyrics and is melodically nice. I love Pat Boone, Brook Benton, all of those sort of guys. Then there are the big boys, Stevie Wonder, The Four Tops, Wilson Pickett and all those guys. These are my favourite people that I listen to Kevin. I listened to, and still do, a wide variety of music but it was just Rock and Roll that I couldn’t get into. To this day I cannot rock and I cannot Jive; when it comes to jiving I have two left feet (laughter).

Funnily enough I interviewed Burt Bacharach a few weeks ago and when I asked him what we could expect from his show he said I will tell you what you won’t get, you won’t be getting any Rock and Roll because I can’t write it.

(Hysterical laughter) well there you go Kevin. Thank god that I am not the only one. I didn’t dislike it, it was just that I didn’t understand it. My wife can dance the jive, she loves that kind of music but, I simply can’t jive (laughter).

I used to be a bit of a music snob Patrick but now I simply say that there is music out there that I like and there is music out there that I don’t like as much.

Well Kevin let me say that I echo that sentiment entirely. Some music I don’t understand and we all can’t like the same thing can we.

Who would you say has influenced you along the way Patrick?

That would have to be Sly and The Family Stone Kevin because I am always singing their great song Stand; ‘there’s a midget standing tall and a giant beside him about to fall, so stand’. I also used to sing a lot of Sam Cooke songs so people like that; all of the soul people. My all-time hero is Sly Stone, the man is a genius Kevin. People like Sly are responsible for me being in show business.

Do you have any ambitions left to achieve?

No Kevin, we have done it all. We are just all very happy to have been given the chance and the opportunity to play all of these Festivals and to be accepted despite Errol’s passing away. It is wonderful that we are accepted as warmly as we have been. Hot Chocolate hadn’t been over to Australia for twenty years but we have recently been back and we came away with an award for being the best touring band. We have also come away from Germany and Russia with awards. We were invited to play at Buckingham Palace as Lady Diana was a huge fan of the band. We feel very fortunate to have been invited to play at Buckingham Palace. I wish that I had a million years to live, to enjoy what has been happening to Hot Chocolate now.

Are there any plans for Hot Chocolate to record again?

I am always touting for a publisher to come forward because we have got songs that we would love to be out there for the public to hear. And believe you me Kevin, they are on par with Sexy Thing and the rest of the big hits that Hot Chocolate had. We don’t want to put things out there on iTunes, we are looking for a proper publishing company or a producer to come along and listen to what we have got to offer, and to do something with the songs. What I will say Kevin is if the songs get the chance to be heard out there then the people will love them.

On that note Patrick let me say thank you for taking the time to speak to me.

It has been my pleasure indeed Kevin. And like I said I look forward to seeing you there at Clumber Park, singing your heart out. So that I spot you, are you like me; tall, dark and handsome Kevin because believe you me I will be watching out for you (laughter). I have a way of exposing people and getting shy people who can’t sing to relax and sing their hearts out.

Just make sure that you look for someone wearing glasses, holding a camera who has dodgy hair.

(Hysterical laughter) well at least we have the dodgy hair in common Kevin (laughter).

All that I will say is that I assume that at some point in your life you must have read The Beano? I am regularly told that I look like Dennis the Menace. I will let you make your own mind up Patrick.

(Laughter) I certainly do hope to bump into you at Clumber Park Kevin. You take care and bye for now.