Garry Christian, (seen here at the front), founder member and lead singer with The Christians, chats with Kevin Cooper about the 30th Anniversary of their debut album The Christians, touring with Hue And Cry and Go West, their latest album We and performing at the Flashpoint Festival.

Garry Christian, is the founder member and lead vocalist with The Christians. He formed the group with his two brothers, Roger and Russell and Henry Priestman, none of whom are in the current line up.

Their debut album, The Christians was released in 1987 and entered the UK album chart at number two. It eventually sold over a million copies. There were five singles released from that album, all of which made the top forty, with the highest placed single being Ideal World.

In 1988, they released a cover of The Isley Brothers’ Harvest For The World, with all of the proceeds going to charity. 1989 saw another charity single success, this time as performers on a version of Ferry Cross The Mersey, released in aid of those affected by the Hillsborough disaster. The single stayed at number one for several weeks.

2012 was the 25th anniversary for the band, who celebrated with a re-release of The Christians and Colour. A new album called Speed of Life was also released that year. Between September 2013 and January 2014, The Christians toured with Go West and Hue And Cry on a 32 date tour of the UK.

They released their latest album, We, in January 2017 which involved their loyal fans crowd funding the album in advance and the band themselves covering all of the production duties.

Whilst having some very rare down time he took some time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Garry how are you today?

I’m very well thank you Kevin, how are you mate?

I’m good thanks and let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

It’s no problem, I have a day off so I am just doing a spot of gardening, and the sun is blazing down so it’s great (laughter).

So other than having fun in the sun, how is life treating you?

Life is treating me very well actually. Everyone goes through rough patches in life don’t they; we all have ups and downs and I am on an up at the moment. I have been feeling good now for the last six years or so but it has to end soon doesn’t it (laughter). Joking aside, I am honestly doing fine, I feel really happy, we are playing lots of gigs, we are making new music and everything is really fine.

That really is great to hear. However, I have to say that you have made me feel old this morning.

Really, how have I managed to do that?

I was trying to work out when I first saw The Christians and it was back in 1994.

Oh my god, and where was that?

It was here in Nottingham at the Heineken Music Festival which at that time was held in the grounds of Wollaton Park.

I remember those festivals really well. We actually played quite a few of the Heineken Festivals and one of them was with Shakin’ Stevens and let me tell you that was mad.

Shaky is currently touring to promote his latest album.

Is he, I didn’t know, I haven’t heard anything.

Yes he is and I have to say that his new album Echoes Of Our Times is really good.

That really is fantastic. I always say that if you can still do it then get out there and do it. This business is not a young sport, I actually think that it’s an old sport. The more experienced that you are then the more relaxed you are on stage and you can give yourself to the audience. It’s great.

With the exception of the odd one or two like Ed Sheeran for example, the artists who are selling out concert after concert here in the UK are the likes of The Who, The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Bruce Springsteen to name but a few. Artists who know what the industry is all about and can deliver just what the audiences want to hear.

(Laughter) I’m sorry but who was that you said, Ed, Ed who (laughter). What really did frighten me was when I saw that Ed Sheeran’s songs were at number one in the charts all the way down to number ten. I mean come on what’s that all about.

Well it has taken the critics some time to realise but they are now openly saying that Ed Sheeran is actually killing off the music industry here in the UK.

I totally agree. For god’s sake move over and give someone else a chance. Don’t get me wrong I don’t blame Ed, it’s not his fault. I think that it is just the way that it is. The media and the radio simply don’t play any new music. I don’t know why but it all sounds ridiculous to me.

That always annoys me because that is peculiar to the UK. When you go to Europe or the USA the DJ’s all seem to have so much more freedom to play what they want to play.

Maybe that’s the problem. Here in the UK it is all about advertising in the media and on the radio and they dictate what gets played I suppose.

Plus the good old BBC will always want to pigeon hole everyone.

(Laughter) that’s exactly right. They like to do that don’t they, they love to pigeon hole people. With The Christians they didn’t know where to put us (laughter). They couldn’t decide if we were pop, soul or whatever. I hated that because we were just a bunch of musicians who made music. If you like it play it (laughter).

That’s right and hopefully good music will always rise to the top.

Anyway back to 1994 and the Heineken Music Festival, who was on with us?

There was Aimee Mann who is still recording and touring over in the States, Stiff Little Fingers who just seem to go from strength to strength, Ribbon Tears who I have absolutely no idea as to what they are currently doing and a small up and coming band called The Christians.

(Laughter) that’s actually not a bad line-up. Who did you say, The Christians, I wonder just what happened to them (laughter).

Coming up to date the last time that I saw you was at The Royal Concert Hall here in Nottingham when you were on tour with Hue and Cry and Go West.

Well you know how it is, we like to give bands a helping hand you see, so we put a tour together with those guys (laughter). We had a great time actually, I love those guys. Back in the day you would never meet people and you would never meet the groups. They probably hated us and we most probably hated them back in the day and that was the way that it was. But when you eventually meet them and you talk to them, you really do have a great time. And then you think, what was all that about. To me all that kind of rivalry simply doesn’t make sense. But on that tour we really did have a great time and I am so glad that we did it.

I see that you are once again part of a ‘triple header’ tour later this year when you will be touring with Midge Ure and Altered Images featuring Clare Grogan.

We are, yes we are. I don’t know they seem to wheel us out for these things; maybe it’s to get ticket sales up (laughter). I am really looking forward to the tour, and I have to tell you that most of The Christians musicians are going to back Altered Images. So they will have a triple, double, quadruple header. They will be doing all kinds of things on the tour (laughter).

Well we really should talk about The Flashpoint Festival shouldn’t we?

Yes we should (laughter).

Just who thinks up these names for the festivals, Flashpoint, Flashback, Rewind and the like?

(Laughter) I know exactly what you mean but I have always thought that Rewind was the best one because I think that it really says it all. Flashpoint, I really have no idea about that because all that I think about is the movie Flashdance (laughter). Is there a point in the set where you flash, I just don’t know. It is ridiculous (laughter).

Now that you are established on these tours, does it offend you being regarded as a retro band?

No, I don’t really think so because I think that all of this retro stuff is still under the radar. In the middle of all of these festivals we will be doing a proper tour to promote our latest album so for us to do something like that at the end of the year, I don’t know, I suppose that there is always a danger that we could get type cast as a retro band. But to be perfectly honest with you I really don’t care at my age (laughter). I’m not looking for any kind of stardom, or anything like that again, I’ve done all of that. I’m fine where I am and I am really well in my shoes. For us to go out on tour with the likes of Midge Ure who is an icon in the music industry is great. We get time to sit down and have a chat, and together with Clare Grogan I think that it is great. I have no qualms or problems with it at all.

I will let you into a secret now. I recently spoke to Steve Harley and he told me that he is really looking forward to watching you guys play.

Really, he said that? Wow, Steve Harley that’s great man. I once met Steve many years ago now over in Germany and I have to say that he is a great guy. I’m so looking forward to getting there early so that I can listen to his set especially that famous guitar intro to Make Me Smile (Come Up And See me). I can’t wait for him to sing that.

I have to say that I think that it is a great line up on the Sunday. Is there anyone else that you will be watching?

I will be backstage the whole day meeting the guys and watching them play. I will no doubt have myself a nice little drink. I just hope that the weather is good and we see the sun. I’m sure that it will be because the jet stream has gone up the side of the country so it should be great. Whereas if it goes below the country then you get rainy horrible weather. I have been looking at the long range forecasts and the jet stream is most definitely going up between Ireland and the UK and that will then bring in the Southern weather and the hot days so hopefully, fingers crossed, it will be great (laughter).

(Laughter) for a minute then I thought that I was speaking to Michael Fish (laughter).

You cheeky git (laughter).

So Michael (laughter) what can we expect from your set, a mixture of old songs and new?

With this being Flashpoint, whatever that means (laughter) it will mostly be the hits that we have had in the past I suppose, like Ideal World, Forgotten Town, Born Again, but thinking about it maybe we will put the odd new one in there. It depends how the land lies really.

You are again making me feel really old, it’s the thirtieth anniversary of the album The Christians. Where did those thirty years go?

(Laughter) its thirty years isn’t it and thirty years is a long time. However, I have to say that to me it feels like nothing, I feel just the same as I did back then. It’s a strange dichotomy when you feel just the same and yet thirty years have passed. People are now starting to call me Highlander, because whilst a lot of people are getting old around me I am just staying the same, its weird (laughter).

It’s easy for you to say that because you still look like you did thirty years ago (laughter).

That’s what I mean and it’s kind of frightening (laughter). I want to get old now, relax and take it easy. To be honest I am just thankful that I am still doing it all these years later, it’s great.

I have been playing the album recently and I have to say that in my opinion it still sounds as fresh today as it did thirty years ago. Would you agree with that?

Really, is that what you think?

Yes I do.

That’s great that you think that. There is a lot of reverb snare drum on there isn’t there. That was a bit of an 80s thing. Plus don’t forget that back in the 80s whenever there was a new keyboard released onto the market you would have to put it on your album (laughter). So I would have to say that personally I think that the album is of its time.

Okay I totally understand what you are saying regarding the instrumentation but listening to the lyrics you would have to agree that the sentiment contained on the album is as poignant today as it was thirty years ago?

Yes it is and yes, I would totally agree with you on that. To me the songs really do stand-up today lyrically, especially songs like Ideal World. When we recorded that we were talking about what was going on in South Africa, the Berlin wall still being up and things like that. It was a bad scene. But now things are twenty times worse; the world seems to have gone into freefall and into nonsense and we need to get ourselves out of that somehow. I am really happy about the French elections. I am really happy about that as we all know the French will always come to our rescue (laughter).

We have mentioned the fact that it is the thirtieth anniversary of your debut album The Christians so I have to ask, will you be doing anything special with the album; remixing, repackaging that kind of thing?

There is talk about us redoing all of the songs on the album with strings, a Gospel choir and just a piano, no bass, no drums. So that is in the air but again, we will just have to wait and see how it goes. Maybe that is something that we can look into setting up later in the year.

I loved your version of Harvest For The World. Did you ever get any feedback from The Isley Brothers camp?

Yes we did, we got a message through to us which said ‘great job lads. We love what you have done with the song and if you are ever over here in Philadelphia come over and see us’. So as you can see they were really happy with our version of the song and that really pleased me a lot. When UNICEF originally approached us to record the song we asked them why they didn’t just use the original version by The Isley Brothers which I thought was great. They said that they specifically wanted to use us and so we thought about it and you really cannot say no to UNICEF can you. They are such a large organisation and we really didn’t want to let them down. So we did our best and that is what came out the other end of it and thankfully The Isley’s were very pleased with it. Some people even say that our version is better than The Isley’s (laughter). So that will do me.

Coming right up to date, in January this year you released your seventh studio album We. Are you pleased with how well it has been received?

That’s right, We is our latest studio album and basically because we no longer have a record company behind us we are like a cottage industry. We write, record and master the records and then we send them out to the fans and to be honest I really love it. The records are not flying out like they did years ago but it is steady and people are just calling up and buying the things. We tend to sell most copies of our albums at our live shows out the back of a car (laughter). It reminds me of the time that Chris Blackwell came over to the UK and started up Island Records. It’s great and yes, I have to say that I really was pleased with how the fans took to the album; we have had some really nice reviews and long may it continue (laughter).

Who has musically inspired you?

Vocally that would have to be Ray Charles and John Lennon.

What was the first record that you bought?

That was a song called In The Heat Of The Night by Ray Charles. In fact I was twelve years old when I bought it.

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

My first ever concert was back in 1972 and I saw Stevie Wonder at The Empire here in Liverpool.

That’s not too dissimilar to my very first gig. I saw Jr Walker & The All Stars at The Palais here in Nottingham back in 1974.

God, wow I would have loved to have seen him. I always thought that he was great. Was it good?

It was absolutely brilliant and I have been collecting Motown and Tamla records ever since that day.

The people that I regret ever not seeing are The Beatles, David Bowie, The Kinks, in fact there are so many groups that I wish that I had seen live.

I actually managed to get to see David Bowie twice. The first time was on The Serious Moonlight Tour at Milton Keynes Bowl and that was fantastic. The second time however was not so good (laughter). It was on The Glass Spider Tour at Wembley Stadium and I have to say it was probably the worst concert that I have ever been to; it was awful (laughter).

(Laughter) wasn’t The Glass Spider Tour where he had that contraption on stage with him?

Yes it was. There were dancers all over the stage including Toni Basil, and both Peter Frampton and Carmine Rojas trying their very best to keep people interested. It was a train crash (laughter).

I remember hearing Bowie on the radio saying that was the worst period of his musical life.

Somewhere I remember reading that he said that the best day of his life was the last day of the tour in New Zealand when he took the Glass Spider out into the middle of a field and set fire to it.

That’s brilliant (laughter).

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

That was when I was listening back to a song that I had written about my Mother which was called Mother. That’s the truth because we had just mixed it and I played it back in the studio when I was on my own and I just wept. I was I suppose weeping for my mother really but yes, that’s the last song that has made me cry.

I recently told a photographer friend of mine that I was going to be speaking to you. He is a huge fan of both The Christians and Liverpool FC. I asked him what one question he would like me to ask you and he said “ask Garry if it was Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan or Ian Rush who was the best striker that he saw playing for Liverpool”.

God, that’s a tough one. You know what I think that I would have to go for Keegan even though Dalglish would come a close second. But then again there is Ian Rush but no, I will go for Keegan.

Do you still find the time to get down to Anfield?

I do now and again because I have got a thirteen year old you see and he is really into football. And so the odd occasion that I am here I take him to the match.

We have had some fantastic games against Liverpool over the years.

We have haven’t we. So just what is happening to Forest. Forest are a Premiership club; it is a big club so what’s gone wrong?

How long have we got (laughter). We have had problems with owners, which have simply not worked out. We are being told that we will have a new Greek owner within the next couple of weeks so we will just have to sit tight and wait and see just what happens.

You’re joking, it sounds like it is going from bad to worse. I remember the good old days when Cloughie was there and Forest were great. Let’s hope that there are good times ahead.

On that note Garry let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today it’s been great. You take care and I will see you at Rockingham and also The Royal Concert Hall later in the year.

Thanks Kevin, cheers for that. I will look out for you and we will get a pint together okay. You take care and I will see you soon.