Mikey Craig, (seen here on the left), an English musician and bassist with Culture Club chats with Kevin Cooper about his hopes to play Glastonbury, how Shakin’ Stevens cold got Culture Club on Top Of The Pops, Culture Club’s latest album Life and their forthcoming tour of the UK.

Mikey Craig is an English musician and DJ and is best known as the bassist of the 1980s pop group Culture Club.

Craig continues to tour with Culture Club and its original members, Boy George, Roy Hay, and Jon Moss, who are an English new wave band that formed in 1981. They are considered one of the most representative and influential groups of the 1980s as the band have sold more than 150 million records worldwide. In the UK they amassed twelve top forty hit singles between 1982 and 1999, including the number ones Do You Really Want To Hurt Me and Karma Chameleon, the latter being the biggest selling single of 1983, and topped the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1984. Time (Clock Of The Heart) is included on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of 500 songs that shaped rock and roll.

As the first multi-racial band with an openly gay front man, Culture Club set many records and established themselves as icons of British musical history and popular culture. Looking ahead, 2018 marks a new era for Boy George and Culture Club, as they are set to commence a global tour throughout the summer and release a new album later this year.

Whilst busy rehearsing for Culture Club’s first tour of the UK in sixteen years, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Mikey how are you?

I’m good Kevin thanks, how are you doing?

I have to say that I am very well thank you.

I’m so glad that you called me Mikey and not Mickey (laughter).

You should always do your homework prior to the interview (laughter).

(Laughter) that’s very true, I wish that a lot of people would learn by your example.

Anyway before we go on let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

Thank you, it’s not a problem.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Well as you know Culture Club have been very busy for the past few years. We have done an extensive tour of both America and Canada; we have been down to Australia four times, so I have been away from home quite a lot. In fact I have just taken delivery of some food which you cook yourself. It has arrived in a box and I have no idea who has been ordering this kind of thing whilst I have been away from home (laughter). But being away from home I have to say has been fun; everything has been good, the tours have been received really well and so hopefully the forthcoming UK tour will continue with that trend. If you remember we had to cancel our last UK tour a couple of years ago now which I have to say was very disappointing, so it is nice to be back home playing on our own turf so to speak.

You have mentioned America. You have recently played sixty odd shows over there. How have the fans reacted to seeing Culture Club once again; have the shows gone down well?

They went down superbly well. We were supported by the Thompson Twins and The B-52’s so it really was a three band package and the audiences were really good. We played in front of some really good crowds and even if I say so myself, the shows were amazing. A lot of the reviews that we got were from people who were all saying that it was “refreshing to hear” and on the whole all of the reviews have been absolutely tremendous. Sometimes you will hear bands nowadays who will go out on the road as a four or five piece and they will perform along to backing tapes which will fill out the rest. Culture Club fill out the rest with top quality live musicians. Whenever you come along to a show you will see all of these live musicians playing and the crowds totally love it. They notice it and they welcome it.

You have got a new album, Life, about to be released on Friday 26th October. Have you been playing much of the album on the tour?

Well, in America we didn’t play too much of it but don’t worry, we are intending to play a bit more of it on the UK tour. Had we played it in America it would have felt like we were giving the songs away before the album had been released if that makes sense? However, now that we are getting closer to the album release we can afford to play a few more tracks now which is really exciting for us. This is what we have been waiting for the past god knows how long (laughter).

Now correct me if I am wrong but didn’t the new album Life first start out as an album entitled Tribes back in 2014?

(Laughter) I can see that you know your stuff. Yes, you are perfectly correct. The album began its journey as one version of an album and then it morphed into another version of an album (laughter). In fact we have been pregnant with this album for the past four years. In truth it did start out as an album called Tribes back in 2014. We went to Spain for a couple of weeks and whilst we were there we recorded eighteen new tracks which were produced by Youth who as you know has previously worked with the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, The Verve, and Embrace to name but a few. The album was scheduled for release in early 2015 and whilst I don’t want to go into a long winded story, the album got side-lined for a while as George had a problem with his throat.

Plus at that time he had undergone a change of management so the album got put to one side for a few years. However, we then decided finally to get it out there and so from that point we certainly knew that we had to add some new songs to it as our mind-set had changed. So we added some new songs to it and then we simply kept going adding some more new songs to it until it finally became a new album basically. And so that album finally became Life.

Are the four of you happy with the finished item?

Yes we are, we love it. For us, this period of time is very exciting. There are a couple of songs on the album which are a bit more, for the want of a better description, grown up. But overall it is still the eclectic Culture Club vibe. There are a couple of reggae tracks on there together with a few quite poppy tracks.

Now I have been informed that there is a very special guest vocalist on Runaway Train, is that true?

(Laughter) just who the hell have you been speaking to?

(Laughter) you should know that I could never reveal my sources but I have been told that a certain Ms Gladys Knight has put down vocals on that particular track. Is that true?

Well firstly let me say that yes, there is a track on the album called Runaway Train and yes, it’s true that a certain Gladys Knight added some vocals to that particular track. Also about three weeks ago now we were playing a show at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles and she jumped onstage with us and she sang a duet with George on that particular track. So as you can see the past few months have been a whirlwind.

I recently saw her on the TV singing Licence To Kill and I have to say that she both looked stunning and sounded stunning too.

Do you know what, I was so shocked when she came on stage; she looked so bloody good for a lady of seventy something. I don’t know what she has been doing but I grabbed the mic from George and said “doesn’t she look bloody good” and the audience simply agreed with me completely. I was stunned as she really does look great and she sounded brilliant too.

Going back to the album, I have recently been playing Let Somebody Love You and I have to be honest with you and say that I think that it is great. In my opinion it epitomises everything about Culture Club.

I totally agree with you, I think that track has the classic Culture Club vibe. It was a good song to record and making the video was fun as well (laughter). People always automatically think of some exotic place whenever you mention that you are going away for a few days to make a music video. Not in this case (laughter). We made the video under the motorway flyover in London. We had groups of people there acting as protesters, and it was all really good fun. It was colourful and had a carnival kind of atmosphere. It was really nice.

I have to ask you, is all good now with Culture Club? Are the four of you okay being in each other’s company?

Yes we are, we pretty much are. At this moment in time we are all fairly amicable with each other. At the end of the first leg of the tour Jon (Moss) needed to take a little breather as there were a few issues happening at home, so we simply told him to take a rest, sort out the issues and then come back.

The UK leg of the tour starts here in Nottingham of all places at The Motorpoint Arena on Friday 9th November.

Yes it does, that is exactly right.

Will it be good for you to be back on the road here in the UK, playing as you put it earlier, in front of your home-grown fans as you haven’t played here for over sixteen years in fact?

Is it really sixteen years, in that case it really has been ages. As you know we were due to play here three years ago now but the tour was cancelled. My goodness, it has been such a long time. Obviously we are all looking forward to playing at home. Roy (Hay) now lives over in America but even so, for him to be performing here in the UK will still feel like playing at home. I have to tell you that George and I are really looking forward to it. We all love playing here in the UK and to be honest, I don’t know why we haven’t done more of it in recent years. Obviously the tour was cancelled recently but even prior to that we haven’t done that much touring here so yes, I personally am really looking forward to it. We did play a few isolated dates last year, but we haven’t done a full-scale tour here for such a long time.

I know that hindsight is a wonderful thing but looking back to the appearance on Celebrity Strictly Come Dancing and then the documentary; Boy George And Culture Club: Karma To Calamity, just how badly did they damage Culture Club’s reputation? I recently asked Roy and he said “I think that they were both very big mistakes, they really were, let me put it that way. We had a big fight with the BBC because we really didn’t want to do Karma Chameleon; no one really wanted to go out there and do Karma Chameleon, we don’t want to play Karma Chameleon for the rest of our lives, in fact I never liked it in the 80s and I still don’t like it now”.

Is that what Roy said to you, well let me say that is Roy’s opinion and not mine. With regards to the appearance on Celebrity Strictly, you can’t get away from the fact that the fans still want to hear the old hits. Obviously what keeps a band alive is being able to both write and perform new material and obviously that is what Roy meant by that comment. Whenever we are putting together a live set you have always got to strike a balance between new songs and the old hits. You can’t go out there and play a whole new album and nothing else because the show will die a death. You have to work the new songs into the set bit by bit. We will be working a few more into the set for the UK tour. That’s the reason why we are all gagging to get out there; we are all really looking forward to it (laughter). With regard to the documentary; Boy George And Culture Club: Karma To Calamity I really would rather say nothing about that. Let’s just leave that in the past.

Are we now seeing Culture Club back with us for the long haul or is it simply a case of let’s finish the touring and see what happens?

Personally, I am hoping that it is going to be for the long haul as none of us are getting any younger. So I am hoping that it is going to be for a longish haul. Having spoken to him at length it would seem that George is thinking along those lines as well; likewise Roy and Jon. We would love it to be for the long haul. In the past we have stopped working together for long periods of time, for one reason or another, but I think that everybody is at a period in their lives now where there is a kind of equilibrium with everyone and I think that we can now all move forward together for many years to come. Let’s just hope that everybody stays healthy (laughter).

What would say has been the highlight of your career with Culture Club so far?

There have been many highlights really but there are a few that I am still waiting for. For example, I would love us to play Glastonbury to start with. One of the highlights really has to be the very first time that we played on Top Of The Pops performing Do You really Want To Hurt Me. We were invited along because Shakin’ Stevens had got a cold and couldn’t perform. So Culture Club filled his slot on the show. It was amazing; here we were in the middle of the afternoon walking into a TV studio seeing all of this action, the cameras and this whole thing going on. I remember thinking ‘why aren’t all of these people at their proper jobs, what on earth is going on here’ (laughter).

That was a real highlight for me. We stood by the side of the stage waiting for Fat Larry’s Band to finish performing Zoom. So whenever I hear that now I feel myself standing at the side of the stage waiting for Fat Larry to finish. And then up we went and performed Do You Really Want To Hurt Me and that would most probably be the highlight of my career so far.

Unfortunately ‘Fat’ Larry James is no longer with us. He sadly passed away in December 1987 from a heart attack at the age of 38.

Oh no, what a shame. But whenever I hear that song it takes me right back there.

Whenever I speak to anyone about appearing on Top Of The Pops they all tell me the very same thing; they couldn’t believe just how small the studios were.

(Laughter) I have to agree that it did feel a little bit weird. You had to make sure that you got out of the way quickly or you would get knocked over by a camera if it spun around (laughter). Having said all of that it was quite a fun thing. It was amazing because the show encompassed everything about Great Britain at that time. Every genre of music was played there, from the ridiculous to the brilliant and the great thing was that everybody watched it. You would even set your video recorder to tape the show it you weren’t around. If you managed to get yourself onto Top Of The Pops then you were guaranteed to have a hit record because everyone was watching you.

However, that simply isn’t the case anymore; everything has completely changed. I personally feel that once Top Of The Pops went from that Thursday slot the music industry changed in this country completely.

Not necessarily for the better unfortunately.

No, not necessarily for the better, no. Definitely not for the better.

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

I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the song but I saw A Star Is Born last night starring Lady Gaga, and let me tell you that I was really surprised. She is bloody good; she really is a great actress somehow (laughter). We all know that she is a great musician but let me tell you, she really is a fantastic actress as well. She sang one song last night which made my wife start crying beside me, and at that point I almost lost it. My lips were trembling a little bit (laughter).

As the festive season is rapidly approaching I have to ask, what would be your ideal Christmas?

My parents are Jamaican of course, and I haven’t been to Jamaican for many, many years now. In the past three years I have stored up so many Air Miles; about five hundred thousand or something crazy like that, and I thought to myself why don’t I just splurge it all on a trip for the family to Jamaica at Christmas. However, being a typical male I didn’t really get it all together in the end (laughter). My wife Lilli is Italian so we will most probably go over to Italy instead. Anyway, in answer to your question for my ideal Christmas I would love to be on the beach in Jamaica, and then again for New Year’s Eve where they will be having some wild parties for sure (laughter). Normally we have a traditional Christmas but I feel that it would be nice to have one like that.

Mikey on that note let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been a delight. I will see you in Nottingham as I am coming down to the Arena to photograph the gig.

That’s fantastic Kevin. In that case make sure that you come backstage and say hi. You take care and bye for now.