Peter Cox, one half of Go West, chats with Kevin Cooper about his admiration for Vintage Trouble, his latest album Damn The Brakes, his infamous white shirts and his forthcoming UK Together In Concert tour with Nick Kershaw and Carol Decker.
Peter Cox is an English singer-songwriter, and is best known as one half of the pop group Go West. Forming the band in 1982 with rhythm guitarist and backup vocalist Richard Drummie, they enjoyed their peak popularity between the mid 1980’s and early 1990’s. They were named Best British Newcomers at the 1986 Brit Awards.
Whilst preparing for their forthcoming UK Together In Concert Tour with Nik Kershaw and special guest Carol Decker, Peter Cox took time out from his busy schedule to have a chat with Kevin Cooper. This is what he had to say.
Mr Cox how are you?
I’m alright Kevin, how are you doing?
I’m good thank you. We will have to stop meeting like this (laughter).
(Hysterical laughter) do we really?
Yes, my wife is starting to think that there is something going on between us (laughter). It’s good to speak to you again.
Yes you too mate.
So how is life treating you?
Things are good Kevin. We are approaching the end of our Festival season but it has been a great summer for us. We have played some fantastic festivals with our 80’s contemporaries, and immediately before we tour the UK we are going off to Australia with Nik Kershaw, The Cutting Crew and Paul Young. That is going to be great and I am really looking forward to being in Australia. We will be able to hopefully iron out some of the potential rough spots before we hit the road in the UK.
The forthcoming UK Together In Concert Tour will see you out on the road with Nik Kershaw and Carol Decker; are you looking forward to you all being together?
Yes absolutely Kevin. You may or may not be aware of this but we as Go West, that is Richard Drummie and myself, are planning on being on the stage with Nik and we will be performing together. There will be a little Go West, a little Nik Kershaw obviously but we are also planning on being on stage together and we are currently in the planning stages (laughter) of which songs we might attempt to play together and how that is all going to work out.
Can the audiences expect any surprises?
Yes Kevin, we are planning on throwing a few surprises into the show so that it is not just about the hits, but something that a lot of people would not necessarily expect.
So Go West and Nik Kershaw are co-headlining this tour?
That’s right Kevin, just to clarify the situation, Go West are not the headlining act above Nik; we are doing it as a joint show. That is what is behind ‘together onstage’.
And have you had any say in who will be opening the show for you?
Well with regards to Carol Decker and T’Pau, we had some say yes, but obviously the promoter is looking at a combination of acts that will sell tickets and Carol has a fan base of fans that might not necessarily be the first people in line to buy a Go West ticket for example. It is nice to have a female voice on tour with us and of course, and something for the gentlemen to look at whilst she is on stage.
The reason I asked was because it doesn’t seem to matter who you tour with, for example last year it was Hue and Cry and The Christians; it always seems to work perfectly well. Everything just slots together.
That’s nice of you to say Kevin. Obviously that is what we are aiming for. It has been interesting meeting with Nik and discussing what we might do together. This whole Onstage Together Tour at least for Go West stems back to my involvement in a TV show called Reborn In The USA. I was on that show with my old mate Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet. There was a point at which I think that the UK audiences thought that Tony and I might be in the final together but unfortunately for me that didn’t quite pan out (laughter).
I remember it well. You blanked out and forgot your words didn’t you?
Yes I did Kevin, thanks for reminding me of that (laughter). It seemed like a good idea that we might give that audience in the UK what they might have liked to have seen on the TV. Tony is such an easy going, what you see is what you get kind of guy that in hindsight I now realise that how smoothly that whole tour went was because of the personalities involved. Whereas at the moment certainly with Nik’s musical influences and his history, he is coming from such a different place to Richard and myself. It is going to be interesting to see what we come up with. But at the moment we are still negotiating (laughter). That is where we are at the moment (laughter).
I was just thinking to myself that a concert involving Big Shouty Blokes one and two would be well worth paying to see.
(Hysterical laughter) yes big shouty blokes, yes (laughter).
I spoke to Carol (Decker) earlier and she tells me that she can’t wait to get out on the road with you.
To be honest with you Kevin I think that we all feel the same. It is the 30th Anniversary of the release of We Close Our Eyes this year which seems to have gone by on some level in a flash. But yes we are all absolutely looking forward to it; it is going to be a lot of fun, and yes I can’t wait.
You mentioned the 30th Anniversary of the release of We Close Our Eyes. Is there anything special planned either by way of a tour or a record release?
There are no current plans to release anything to commemorate the 30th year but there are a couple of things that we have done for other territories which may or may not see the light of day here. But we are so busy with the live thing; working that out and how we are going to make it happen, that we haven’t been writing, so there is no current plans on that level.
You have recently played The Rewind Festival at Henley-on-Thames again. Isn’t it nice that it is now regarded as a proper festival?
Listen Kevin the organisers are printing money; they had in excess of forty thousand people there over two days so I wouldn’t imagine that they would really care if people thought that it was a proper festival or not (laughter). Festivals are organised to attract a certain demographic and obviously Rewind is an 80’s festival and people come dressed accordingly expecting to hear songs that they remember from back then. It is not really a platform to introduce any new material but at the same time, if what you want is a live juke box of all of the 80’s hits that you can remember, then it is a fantastically successful day.
From a personal point of view I am disappointed to see that you are not performing at Clumber Park this year, but we will wait and see what happens next year.
That’s right Kevin. Obviously whilst there are a lot of 80’s bands out there, promoters need to change their line-ups otherwise people might decide that they saw certain bands last year and decide not to go. But yes, you are right, it is entirely possible that we might be there next year.
With all of the work that you as Go West are currently undertaking, will you find the time for a Peter Cox solo tour?
You are quite right Kevin, at the moment I am on the road in the UK with Go West for the majority of this year so I have to say that it won’t be this year. But yes there is always the possibility of more solo dates but as you will no doubt appreciate Kevin, it is much easier to string together some shows with a much more known brand although I do have some die-hard fans, god bless them, and my name doesn’t attract as many ticket sales as Go West. But having said all of that, I intend to play live again on my own I’m just not quite sure exactly when it will be (laughter).
I saw you two years ago at The Robin 2 in Bilston and you just blew me away.
That is very kind of you Kevin, thank you.
As I mentioned in a previous interview, I personally would love you to make another album of Motown covers but, as you pointed out to me, there simply isn’t the demand for it.
No, there isn’t the demand Kevin and part of the motivation for me to record Damn The Brakes and to actually call the album Damn The Brakes was that at that time I had been looking around at other contemporary artists and I was thinking about revisiting the music and some of the influences that I personally was passionate about. The kind of thing that I can’t get past Richard when we are writing together (laughter) and at the time I was looking at Joe Bonamassa as a contemporary blues artist. Now admittedly, Joe Bonamassa is even more a guitar player than he is a singer, but I was looking at what he was doing and he put out three albums in the course of a year without any real concern for whether he had written the material, or whether it was covers or whatever it was.
Joe Bonamassa has obviously got a huge audience who are all clambering for his next record but it changed my own thinking that perhaps it was not as important that I had written all of the material as it was that I made a record that felt authentic to me. So I have done that now with Damn The Brakes and now my view point has changed (laughter) and I am thinking that the next time that I put out any sort of recorded material I should write the material and it should come from me so that is my current thinking (laughter).
From a personal point of view I have always felt that Joe’s cover versions are unfortunately far better than his own original material.
Listen Kevin, I am trying to keep aware of contemporary stuff and what is going on. For example I get The Times on Sunday; I read the critic who I think talks out of his… but let’s not go there (laughter) and the reason that I do that is because I want to know what people are talking about right now. And perhaps it is inevitable because I am now of an age where I listen to contemporary music and a lot of the time I just don’t understand what the appeal is.
I watched a number of the highlights of the Glastonbury Festival because of course you can now on the BBC iPlayer, and the number of artists that I was watching who I hadn’t seen performing before who I thought yes I can see that, as opposed to the number of artists that I just couldn’t see the appeal of, well there were many, many more who I didn’t get than artists that I thought yes to me that’s the real thing. Buts that music isn’t it, it’s so subjective like you say Kevin. If you don’t get Joe Bonamassa’s original material then that doesn’t seem to be a problem for Joe (laughter).
He is obviously referencing the blues from all the way back, so in a way the genre in which he is working is obviously one where he has got a vast catalogue of material that he can chose from to play live. I suppose that it is different for a contemporary pop act Kevin.
My problem with Joe is that I don’t feel as though I am being entertained whenever I see him play live. I feel like I am being given a lesson in virtuoso guitar playing. I don’t want to see Joe changing his guitar 23 times in a concert. If I want to be entertained I will go to see Go West, I know what to expect and I always feel as though I have been entertained.
As I say Kevin, I think that Joe Bonamassa is as much a guitar player as he is a singer and his audience, generally speaking, do want to see him playing the guitar and certainly, although I have never seen Joe Bonamassa playing live, if I was watching him changing guitars from song to song I personally would love that. To me that is practically porn (laughter). But it sounds as though you are looking for something different Kevin from a live music performance. If we entertain you then obviously that’s great but when Go West choose the material that we play live, even when we play covers, we try to think of songs that if they aren’t immediately recognisable, they are for want of a better description, a first listen song where if you don’t necessarily know the song before you hear it, it’s got a chorus which makes you at least go yes I know this song rather than something that is more obscure.
Having said that I have a feeling that Nik Kershaw has in mind to play something obscure because he wants to do what he wants to do (laughter). In terms of songs outside of his own catalogue on the tour I think that his audience might be in for a surprise or two, we will see.
At least you and I agree on something and that is just how good Vintage Trouble are live. I have been fortunate enough to see them performing live twice now.
And so what do you think Kevin?
They blew me away both times. I think that they are fantastic.
Not only is it the kind of musical direction that I like, but each member of the band is playing and performing to the audience as if their lives depended on it. They work so hard. I saw them in a tiny pub in Brighton where there could only have been a hundred people in there. They had just returned after opening for Bon Jovi in Germany where they had played in a stadium to 50,000 people three days previously. They came out on stage in the pub in Brighton and they performed as though there were 50,000 people there in the pub. That is what it is about Kevin.
These are guys who are not eighteen years old but at the same time they realise that this is their moment and they are grabbing it with both hands. They are obviously having an absolute ball as well and that is the kind of energy that I personally want to see when I go to a live show. I don’t want to see five guys standing there with their heads down playing their instruments. Like you Kevin, I want to be entertained with energy; energy which I think is such an important element of live performance.
I know that it is a cliché but a very young James Brown sprang to mind.
Yes Kevin, Otis Redding; the whole thing. Vintage Trouble are so much greater than the sum of their parts. They are all super talented within their own individual fields, but put those four guys together and their commonality of course, they are all in it and they all know what they want to do. They are really committed to the cause and they are enjoying a lot of success playing vast gigs opening for AC/DC and I think that it is brilliant that they are doing so well as an act that with the best will in the world, and I could be completely wrong, but with the best will in the world it is hard to see them having a hit single. But why should it be about the hit single, if they are a fantastic live band and I do like their records but it is hard to see them in the charts next to, I don’t know, you name it, any contemporary artist, but that’s not stopping them. They are still doing fantastically well.
They are working really hard and I have particular admiration for Ty Taylor because I don’t know how he sings the way that he does without any apparent need to have a day off (laughter). I don’t know how he does that, but still.
Is there any new album from Go West on the horizon?
Not immediately no, although we are always knocking ideas around. So never say never but no, not immediately Kevin.
I hope that you won’t mind but I have been wanting to ask you this question for ages now. Where do you get the trademark Peter Cox white shirts from?
(Hysterical laughter) I tell you Kevin, it is becoming more and more difficult. The white shirt that I have been wearing lately is a Hugo Boss shirt. I have reached the size now where XXL is only just fitting. Going back to Vintage Trouble, I’m looking at their image, and thinking that I am going to have to have taylor-made clothes (laughter). I simply can’t find anything off the peg now that fits me. I am at the gym as much as I possibly can; I am working out until I am nearly dead, and I just seem to be getting bigger and bigger. The true answer to your question Kevin is that I get my shirts from wherever I can find one that fits me (laughter).
The crisp, fresh white shirt is Peter Cox.
That’s not true but thank you for saying so Kevin. Listen, what to wear on stage is difficult and I am sorry to go back again but the Vintage Trouble gig that I saw in Brighton was on a blazing hot summers evening. It really was like not only stepping back in time in terms of the band’s music, but also to a time when I was in my teens on the pub-rock circuit which has more or less disappeared. They all came out suited and booted and within three songs Ty looked like someone had thrown a bucket of water all over him. My process of singing on stage is not me standing there tapping my fingers on the mic like Whitney Houston, it is much more of a physical exertion and second row forward type of thing. I am going to be sweating (laughter).
So I don’t really envisage me wearing a suit jacket, and a waist coat and a suit jacket is like me wearing an underwater diving outfit and then going out on the stage; it is simply not practical. But I have only gravitated to wearing the white shirts on stage because it was the thing that looked the best out of a bad set of options (laughter).
Mr Cox on that note I will thank you for taking the time to speak to me and wish you all the very best with the forthcoming tour.
Ok Kevin, no problem. Thanks a lot, it’s been enjoyable. Hope to see you in Leicester.