Phil Spalding, an English bass player, chats with Kevin Cooper about his project presenting The Music of Mike Oldfield, working with the likes of Sir Elton John, Tina Turner and Freddie Mercury, his fondness for The Sandpiper Club in Nottingham and being influenced by the late Phil Lynott.

Phil Spalding is an English bass player, best known as being a player of Fender Precision Bass guitars. He has played and appeared with performing artists such as Mick Jagger, Seal, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Elton John and Randy Crawford.

Spalding started out as a computer operator for a High Street bank, before he joined rock artist Bernie Tormé in 1976. Later he joined Original Mirrors before beginning a collaboration with Toyah Wilcox, in December 1980. Whilst with The Toyah Band he recorded and co-wrote songs for their studio albums and toured with the band, until 1983. Since then he has been a member of GTR and Mike Oldfield’s band. More recently he has appeared on albums by Michel Polnareff, Suggs, Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue.

Spalding also recorded all bass tracks on the Lion King sound track studio album.

As someone formerly affected by Hepatitis C, he appeared on BBC Oxford on 28th July 2008 to promote a vaccine trial for the disease. He has started a patient support group called Hep C Positive in Swindon and works with the charity Liver4Life to raise awareness of Hepatitis C.

In February 2012 he joined the Simon Townshend band for the Secret Weapon UK tour in support of the album Looking Out, Looking In.

Whilst busy rehearsing with the Phil Spalding Organisation presenting The Music Of Mike Oldfield, Phil took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Good morning Phil how are you today?

Hi Kevin, I’m as good as I could be today, thanks for asking, but more to the point how are you this morning?

I’m very well thank you and before we go on let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

It’s not a problem, it really is my pleasure. Let me just ask you, where are you based?

I’m in Nottingham.

In that case I must ask you, do you remember The Sandpiper?

I do, in fact I was going to mention it later as I first saw you playing with Toyah on the Sheep Farming In Barnet tour way back on September 8th 1979.

Did you, that’s fantastic. I really did used to love The Sandpiper.

The very first group that I saw at The Sandpiper was Bethnal in the late 70s.

Really, well hang about; I think that we supported Bethnal at The Sandpiper when I was playing with the late Bernie Tormé back in 1978. I also played there when we were supporting Generation X as well. I have to tell you that I have recently found on-line a whole bunch of pictures of The Bernie Tormé Band at The Sandpiper; in fact, there is a whole load of them which were taken by a guy named Steve Fisher who regularly would turn up at the club and snap away. Steve has got a whole achieve of pictures of the bands on stage at The Sandpiper. The ones that I can vividly recall are the ones of Ultravox, and I don’t mean Ultravox with Midge Ure, these are pictures of John Fox’s Ultravox.

What amazed me is that you can buy the pictures for a couple of quid each (laughter). It is quite amazing because for myself, I took a few of the pictures and put them up on-line and I am keeping them because I am hoping to put a book together at some point which will cover my travels and stuff. But I have to say that Steve’s photographs are a great document of the times. We really used to do well at The Sandpiper; we were fond of the place. There was always a good crowd, and it was just on the verge of the heavy metal break-out when we played there back in the late 70s. I often used to say to Bernie “if we had stayed together, we could have probably tapped into that market” but as it was Bernie went off with Ian Gillan (laughter).

You mention Bernie who we sadly lost on 17th March 2019. What was it like working with him?

To be honest his death really was such a shock. When you consider that his last tour was called The Final Fling, and for Bernie it really was the final fling. A lot of people turned up to pay their last respects, so that really was good. There were quite a few faces that turned up. It was nice to see just how Bernie was respected after the four decades or so that he had been hammering away over here in the UK. For me personally, it was always a great pleasure whenever I got the chance to play with Bernie. Bernie, bless him, once said to me about going off with Ian, “to be honest Phil it was the sort of opportunity which at the time I really couldn’t turn down”. I really do have fond memories of The Sandpiper up there in Nottingham and of course, we used to really do some good business with Toyah in Nottingham as well.

I was going to leave this until later but seeing as you have bought it up, I recently interviewed Toyah and I told her that I had seen her play at Rock City on 31st January 1981 to which she replied “I will have you know young man that I have never played at Rock City”. This heated discussion went on for at least thirty minutes so I said to her “I know why don’t I send you some slides of the gig over” which I did and then a few weeks later I received a call from her saying “I’m dreadfully sorry, you are right, we did play Rock City”.

(Laughter) that’s brilliant. I remember playing Rock City with Toyah because I had some root canal work carried out that very day by a dentist in Sheffield because we had played in Sheffield the night before and the treatment called for me to be sedated. I always remember that when we were doing the gig at Rock City, I remember feeling like I was floating on air (laughter). I put it down to the fact that it was my very first experience of Valium most probably (laughter). Having said that I distinctly remember playing at Rock City. So, you think that it was the 31st January 1981?

Yes, it was.

Well in that case it would have been during our colleges and universities tour and then after It’s A Mystery was a hit, we moved up into the theatre’s. I really do have very fond memories of that time and especially of playing in Nottingham. In fact, thinking about it, I’m sure that Bernie and I played in Nottingham supporting The Boomtown Rats as well. My very first tour with Bernie was supporting The Boomtown Rats travelling up and down the country whichever way we could. I remember that we had a £150 dormobile which used to break down at least three times per day (laughter).

But having said that, all that experience for me was the most, how can I say it, I remember it so fondly. It brought you really close to both the punters and the fans alike. When you are young you would be having great fun, partying and inevitably meeting girls of course (laughter). You would have girlfriends in all parts of the country (laughter). At that time there was a rumour that there were six girls to every man in Nottingham, or something like that. Is that still the case?

That’s right, and in fact it even went up to eight at one point (laughter).

Really, oh my god (laughter). Whenever we were making our way to Nottingham, everyone would be rubbing their hands together shouting, “oh great, we are on our way to Nottingham tonight, this will be fantastic” (laughter). Without going into too much detail, let me confirm that it did work (laughter).

Anyway, swiftly moving on (laughter).

(Laughter) yes, we had, that’s a very good idea.

What was the rationale behind you forming The Phil Spalding Organisation and more to the point The PSO Presents The Music Of Mike Oldfield?

(Laughter) I knew that you were going to ask that. Where can I start, I suppose that it all started when I saw that Steve Hackett, who is an old colleague of mine, is now putting on a good show which he has put together over the last few years. It is quite inspirational really, to see what Steve is doing and more to the point just what he can do with all the stuff that he has done in the past, mixed together with a bit of new stuff. I hear that he is having a really good time, although I haven’t actually seen him. I keep saying to myself that I have got to catch up with him and get myself along to one of his shows when I can.

I have seen a couple of clips of the shows with the orchestra and I have to say that it looks good. In a way I was kind of referencing what Steve has done, when I took the decision to try to do the show that I am trying to do. It suddenly dawned on me that there is a market for this kind of stuff, especially if you like rock, progressive rock, symphonic rock, or classical rock if you like. I know that Steve started off playing art centres and smaller places and then built it up to getting into the Royal Albert Hall for a couple of nights. That really is quite something. In a way I feel the same way about what we are trying to do. I feel that it is very relevant, it is a good reference to musical history, and it is a real theatre show.

It is most definitely something which I can see going down well in those types of venues. Obviously, I don’t want to get too premature, and I know that we have got a lot of work to do, but we have certainly got the making of a very good progressive rock theatre show; very much so.

How are rehearsals going?

I have to say that rehearsals are going great. I have got a really good bunch of guys around me. They have turned out to be the right personnel, if you can say that. I had to find the right singer, obviously; someone who could represent the well-known songs that I used to do with Mike Oldfield. And I have to say that I got the right person, someone who can sing accurately, who is a lovely person and who looks lovely as well for the band image and everything. Plus, they are also a super professional, having previously done theatre and TV work plus a huge amount of studio work. So, now I would have to be honest with you and say that we are quite blessed. But it still takes a great deal of work, because I would describe it as us having to get ourselves onto the map.

Why did you choose The Cutlers Arms in Rotherham as the venue for your very first show on Saturday 10th August?

That’s right, as you rightly point out; we are playing our very first gig at The Cutlers Arms in Rotherham. I went up there a couple of months ago to have a good look around the place. It really is a great venue. People obviously appreciate their music there, and all the production team, who have all agreed to work with us, are all centred around South Yorkshire. Plus, I know that the food up there is good, and I am looking forward to having a great curry after the show (laughter). Everyone is committed to what it is that we are doing, and are all putting their work, experience and energy into what we are doing and that is why we are starting where we are.

It is a great place for us to play the first show, to test the water, and more importantly see just how we are received. After that I suppose that the world is our oyster really. We have just got to get out and about letting people know just who we are and more to the point, what we are doing. Now we are speaking to people about us playing some foreign festivals simply because there is a market for us in other countries. I think that after this first show is over, then personally I can sit down, take a breath and say, “thank god that’s over” (laughter). It’s a lot of work as there are so many things to take care of. But I will say again that I am very lucky to have people around me that are very thoughtful, professional and they really want to do this.

Out of all the artists that you have previously worked with why did you choose the music of Mike Oldfield? Could the show have easily been The Music Of Toyah Wilcox?

(Laughter) I know exactly where you are coming from but in so far as The Music Of Toyah Wilcox then the simple answer is no. The reason for that is because Toyah is still out there touring and doing her gigs. But to be honest, I did have a think about other artists. I was recently hospitalised with pneumonia and this is where the story is really rooted. Whilst I was recovering, I kept thinking to myself ‘I really must slow down, because my feet really haven’t touched the ground for the past three years’. I asked myself ‘what do I really want to do’ or more to the point ‘what can I do’ and the shows that I did with Mike Oldfield particularly back in 1983 and 1984 which this show is based around, really were the standout moments for me.

Out of all the things that I had done over the years they really were such good shows, the music was fantastic, plus I got a first-hand experience of learning a catalogue of stuff that has been successful and appeals to lots of people. But being in those shows and the dynamics of just how those shows were run, having songs together with symphonic pieces as well, I thought that was what I really wanted to do. To be totally honest, I know that there are a few bands out there doing it but there was nobody who I saw that had been related to Mike in anyway who was doing it. I know that Maggie (Reilly) goes out and sings some of the songs, but again, Maggie has got her own career and own band.

So, I thought to myself, this is something that I can do. If I can get the right people that are really into it, then I could develop something that was based around what we did in the mid-80s. I tested the water a little by speaking to fans and super fans if you like, and I received some very positive feedback and great responses from people who kept saying “yes, do it, do it as we would like to see it” (laughter). Then I found out that there was a whole younger generation or in fact a couple of younger generations who were into the music but who had never had the chance to see the show. I have spoken to loads of younger people some of whom were not even born when we were doing this stuff.

The response was always ‘oh god, it would be great if you could do that show, you do it and we will come and see it’. So, as you can see it wasn’t something which came out of the blue. I had a really good think about this because it is quite a plunge into deep water. The responsibility of it all, getting the musicians together, learning the stuff, getting some management and PR on board etc, all that kind of stuff. So, what I can say is that I didn’t do it lightly. I didn’t just wake up one morning and think ‘okay we will do this and see just how it goes’ I am doing it with every intention of making a mark; making us into a marketable force.

Now I have to say that I am so confident that I honestly believe that we could play a gig tomorrow night. Rehearsals with the guys are great and they take me back to the days I spent with Mike. If we can get somewhere near to the intensity of what I used to experience with Mike, we will be doing very well.

Taking you back to January 1983 when you got the call to join Mike, I have read somewhere that you were terrified, is that correct?

(Laughter) yes, that’s right. I was terrified because I thought that the position was something that was beyond my ability. Let me put it that way. However, I subsequently learnt that Mike was very good at motivating you into doing things that you thought that you couldn’t do. For me, it was playing the backing track for Moonlight Shadows. Mike asked me if I would play my fretless bass which I have to own up and say that at that time I couldn’t really play (laughter). What I had done was that I had taken the fretless bass with me to the studio simply for show. I thought ‘I will take that with me because it will look good’. And you know what, he bloody asked me to play it (laughter).

At that moment my heart sank. However, it subsequently turned out that the keys and the notes that Moonlight Shadow is written in all coincided with the dots on the side if the neck on the fretless bass. So, I could look at it while I was playing, and was able to hit the note accurately. And when I didn’t know what I was doing I slid up and down the neck and you can hear that on the backing track. You can hear me winging it. Subsequently Mike said to me “I love that stuff when you are going whoop, whoop. I really do love that” because Mike always liked anything that he considered was a bit out of the box, a bit unusual.

I have to tell you that the actual recording of Moonlight Shadow is the only time that we played it in the studio. The version that you hear on record or CD is the run through. We played it, Mike got what he wanted and said “okay, that’s it, that’s done” (laughter). At that point I thought ‘oh my god I have got through that’. After that we were running through some of the riffs from the Crises album which I have to say I found hard to do. Having said that, if you listen to Crises, Mike would usually replace all of the bass lines because he is principally a bass player, but on Crises he left me on some of the little bits and they are all the bits where I am whooping around, not really knowing what I am doing or what was coming next (laughter).

Isn’t it funny just how these things work out; Mike really did used to like that sort of stuff. When Mike and I started to work together regularly I was more comfortable within myself, and by that point I had practiced a lot. That was the only time that I had practiced in my life since I was a very young teenager. I could be comfortable within myself; I could put forward ideas which were well received. Sometimes Mike would replace what I had done because that is his prerogative, sometimes he would take your idea and turn it into something else, but we had many days in the studio, and nights may I add, having great fun. Mike finally ended up using me as a backing vocalist.

I did the backing vocals on a couple of the albums from the late 80s; Islands (1987) and Earth Moving (1989). I did lots of backing vocals on those two albums because I had had the experience doing the backing vocals with GTR where we had got inventive with the backing vocals. I personally feel that we were somewhere between Queen and The Beach Boys. That’s where we were aiming for with GTR. Max Bacon, Geoff Downes and myself mainly oversaw those backing vocals which included lots of harmonies, lots of counterpoint and stuff going on. So, I was able to take that experience on into my career and subsequently do backing vocals for quite a lot of people in the past and to this day.

Before you received the call, had you and Mike met?

No, not at all. In fact, I think that I was probably the third or fourth on the list actually (laughter). I’m sure that Mo Foster was called before me, but unfortunately for him he couldn’t make it at that moment in time. It was a very instant thing. Mike was at that time working with Simon Phillips who I had worked with for about a year whilst I was playing with Toyah. Then Simon had moved onto work with Mike and I have no idea just how it all worked out, but Simon then became Mike’s co-producer of his stuff at that time. Then I got the call out of the blue and I was asked “can you get here tomorrow” and whilst I was apprehensive, to say the least, I also realised that it was a call for me to take a step up if you like.

It was most definitely a step up. In terms of the business and commerciality Toyah had largely been confined to the UK. There had been some sporadic interest from a few other countries, but it wasn’t really exploited very well. Having said that, I can honestly say that on reflection it could have been, but I also knew that Mike was a success all over the world. And for me that was obviously a huge consideration; it was most definitely a career step up the ladder. And it proved to be so.

Is Mike a perfectionist?

No, I wouldn’t say that at all. Mike is a very much an in the moment sort of guy. There are things that he would want to be perfect about, some themes and riffs, but overall, I would have to say the opposite really. Mike would be totally open to anything that happened in the moment. Working with Mike in the studio was perfect for someone like me because I feel the same way. If you think about it too much, or you over think it, then I think that it can become and bit lame and a bit tame. Most of the people who I have worked with feel that we have empathy; we are always working in the moment. Whatever happens right then and there, if you don’t capture it in one or two attempts then it is most probably not the right day.

If you find yourself getting into your fourth or fifth time around, then you start repeating yourself. I can quote you something on that subject. I can clearly remember when I was recording Feel with Robbie (Williams). I had the part which I had developed over a period of months, I had played on a couple of versions but you always have to be ready to play the next version as if it is the first time that you have done it. The take that is on the record is my fourth take and after that fourth take I said to the guys “that’s it, take that one because I have just done exactly what I did on the third and most probably the second”.

I felt that there was a distinct danger of me losing the feel if you pardon the pun (laughter). We all recognise that in the studio, when someone says to you “okay we will use that because it is as good as you are going to get”, people will recognise that, so we don’t have to go over it again and again until it becomes stale. For someone like me, it soon becomes stale and Mike would be the same. I have seen many examples of him doing something instantly on the spot, which he had never done before, and not really thought about, but which has made its way onto the record.

Have you had any feedback from Mike regarding the project? Does he know about it?

No, I have had no feedback at this moment in time from Mike. Maybe he does because we are in touch via social media. I have recently been working at Mike’s old studio with his son Luke, but the simple answer to your question is that I don’t know. I don’t think that Mike is in a contactable mood at the moment. Mike’s moods go up and down and I tend to have sporadic contact with him, let us put it that way. I will most probably send him something and see what he thinks. I will probably wait until everything is in place first and then send him something over and see what he says.

You are quoted as saying that you were influenced by the late Phil Lynott. What was it about Phil that appealed to you?

It was Phil’s bass playing style that first appealed to me. I picked up a lot of his bass playing style all from listening to Thin Lizzy records. Me and a bunch of friends who were all in our teenage years were into Thin Lizzy well before they became well known. We saw then perform in all sorts of places in London; the Marquee Club, The Greyhound, North London Polytechnic, The Winning Post out at Twickenham, so we managed to get up close and personal with the band. They were always friendly, and you could always talk to them. From my point of view, Phil was the first bass player who I saw play the bass like a guitar.

I always loved the way that he would bend forwards pointing the bass out into the crowd like a machine gun. When I was younger that is something that I used to do quite a lot although I don’t think that my knees are up to it these days (laughter). The great thing was that Phil was approachable and I just identified with that. When I was fifteen, I was at that point where you are ready to observe and take in what is going on around you. The Marquee Club in London was quite close to where I lived, in fact it was only a ten-minute walk, so by the time that I was fifteen I was in there almost every night; that is when I could blag my way in (laughter).

And Thin Lizzy was one of the staples playing there. The three bands who blew me away at the Marquee Club were Thin Lizzy, Nazareth and Rory Gallagher. I remember seeing Nazareth and going out and buying their album the next day and then in 1989 I ended up playing with them and I have to say that was fantastic. The very first time that I met Dan (McCafferty) it was like ‘oh my god, I’m actually playing with people who I used to watch at the Marquee’. These were the people who as a fifteen-year-old kid I had hailed as heroes. They really were a fantastic rock and roll band. Having said that Thin Lizzy were at the top of the pyramid for me at that time.

Their album, Vagabonds Of The Western World was the album for me back in 1973 when Thin Lizzy were still a three piece band. That was the album which had The Rocker on it. Their next album, Nightlife, generally doesn’t get very good press but I loved Still In Love With You. There were some great Irish folky rock tunes on that album, and Phil’s writing really was brilliant. And then, of course, when they introduced the twin guitars, that really was a commercial sound. I used to love the sound of it; all the harmonies, the lyrics, the attitude, and I do honestly believe that Thin Lizzy should have been the biggest band in the world.

I love Phil’s playing on Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In Its Spotlight) from the Bad Reputation album.

Exactly, I know what you mean. It’s not unlike a bit of Mike’s bass playing on Platinum; there is a big bass section which I played the intro for. Notably Phil used to play the bass with a plectrum, and so I learnt to play the bass with a plectrum. In fact I followed all the bass guitar plectrum players such as Chris Squire and Roger Glover. Roger is the hard driving force behind Deep Purple. At that period, I was inspired by Phil Lynott, Roger Glover, together with Chris Squire, who I learnt so much from about playing a melody and just how a melody worked. If you listen to, I Want To Be Free by Toyah, that bass line is me trying to be Phil Lynott through and through (laughter).

That was exactly was I was thinking when I played it. That song is one of my personal favourites from all the songs that I have done even to this day. It has got that lilt and shuffle on it and that is a live backing track as well by the way. It is all of us playing together live in the studio. I think that I managed to get my take on Phil Lynott perfectly on that recording (laughter).

He was not only a great bass player, but he was also a great leader of the band. At that time bass players didn’t lead the band, they generally stood at the back of the stage out of sight.

You are right, there were not that many singing bass players around at that time, which I have to say is a very hard job. If you talk to lots of singers, notably people like Sir Elton John, Freddie Mercury and Tina Turner, sorry for name dropping (laughter) they all spoke to me over the years and told me just how important the bass was to them. It was underpinning their singing. They would always check a note as well, particularly Sir Elton because of his left hand on the piano, he is quite a busy piano player and sounds like a band on his own. I would check notes with him making sure that I was okay, and we would discuss a couple of notes here and there.

I was pretty good at staying out of the way when I was onstage, which is the job when you are working with someone like Sir Elton. I can remember Tina Turner asking me across the studio floor “what note are you playing there” and I remember thinking ‘I wonder why she is asking me that’ (laughter). She then had a quick chat with me about how important the bass was to help her sing. I saw Freddie Mercury in action when they were making the video for A Kind Of Magic; I was working in the studio next door with GTR at the time. That was my experience of meeting Queen, getting to know them and subsequently playing with Roger (Taylor) on a couple of his solo albums.

I can remember Freddie saying to me “I must know what the bass is doing darling” (laughter). For me to be able to say this to you in an interview, I am sitting here thinking just how very fortunate I have been during my career, to have been exposed to the true greats of our business.

Was it always going to be a career in music for you?

From an early age I would have to say yes. It was going to be either music or football. I have to say that I was a pretty good footballer, but I ultimately couldn’t handle the aggression on the pitch once I got involved in bigger matches when I was older. I would find myself being kicked off the pitch or basically being muscled out of a game. I also think that round about the same time, although I had initially picked up the guitar, I was given a bass. The singer in our band said to me “we can’t have three guitarists in the band, you are the smallest so here you go, you can play the bass” (laughter). And to be honest with you I have to say that I still know the other two guys to this day.

Once I had got the bug it tapped into all that stuff that was going on in the 60s; The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Move and The Kinks who really were a big band for me. For me living in Central London, I could walk down the West End any day of the week and see any one of these bands casually wandering in and out of the music shops. Then, in the early 70s, Fender opened what they called The Fender Soundhouse in Tottenham Court Road. They had a café so you could go there, sit in the café, you could get lessons, there was a repair shop there, and you could see Eric Clapton or Pete Townshend coming in with a broken guitar.

They would regularly be walking in and out collecting accessories and supplies. I can’t really explain it; I suppose that I just got the bug. When we moved family homes I got a bedroom to myself, so it was just me in my bedroom with my records, my record player, learning from vinyl, and just playing, playing, playing every moment that I was awake. I have no idea why particularly except that it did something for me that was very satisfying, and I knew by the time that I was sixteen that if I could, I was going to make myself a career in music.

You have worked with some of the biggest names in the music business, people like Bernie Tormé, Mick Jagger, Seal, Sir Elton John, Toyah, Randy Crawford, GTR, Mike Oldfield, Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue to name but a few. Putting you firmly on the spot, who have you enjoyed working with the most?

(Laughter) you bastard (laughter) that is very difficult for me to answer, very difficult indeed. Let’s just say that there have been some challenging sessions, for example working with Seal was very challenging. Unfortunately Seal and I had a personality clash but to be fair, he kept me on to make some very good records. I was extremely grateful for that. I’m on Kiss From A Rose so I really can’t complain about that can I. It really is a fantastic record and the song that gave Seal worldwide success. What you must remember is that when someone gets thrust into the limelight and they are not given any advice as to how they should handle it, there is a certain insecurity attached to that.

Some people would see that as the artist being difficult, but they are not being difficult, it is just a safety coping mechanism because they are under so much pressure to deliver and it is a massive responsibility for people. No one teaches you how to cope with it. You have most probably got ten people on your back all day saying “do this, do that, can you come here, can you go there”. It really is a very demanding lifestyle. In so far as enjoying things, I would have to say that I have pretty much enjoyed everything that I have ever been involved with. The Ray Charles Sessions really were great, because I was playing stuff that I had co-written.

The late Ray Charles, god bless him, sang some words that I had written, which I have to say is a big feather in my cap. He really was a cool guy. I stayed up with him when he came over to London because he slept when he felt like sleeping. There he was; a god within the music business, who had done everything. He had certainly done his apprenticeship and had most probably been ripped off a hell of a lot. He had an amazing talent; he had lost his eyesight when he was very young. They were special sessions, very special sessions. It really was great that Ray would invite me into his inner circle of friends.

Working with B.E.F. (British Electric Foundation) who as you know are the guys from Heaven 17; Martyn Ware and Glenn Gregory were great fun. They were great times because we had a good team and of course we had lots of very well-known people coming to the sessions. I got to work with the likes of Chaka Khan, the late Billy Preston, Terence Trent D’Arby; lots of artists who were on the Soul and R&B side of things. It was strange because I had originally started out as a rock player, but I learnt a hell of a lot, a real hell of a lot about playing more in that kind of style which I have now been able to exploit to this day.

They were great fun. Sometimes we were locked in the studio for weeks on end. I worked with the guys for about two years and it was enjoyable. I must mention Right Said Fred because the people who committed to doing it did so purely on speculation at the beginning. The guys didn’t have anything, they just had this song, and we were all asked to play on it as a favour. And, to this day, I’m Too Sexy is the gift that keeps on giving. There you go (laughter). The song gets played so much, and I know that there are a few rock bands over in America who wrote to me when the song was released saying that I had blotted my copybook by playing with Right Said Fred (laughter).

And I have to say that after all of this time Fred, Richard (Fairbrass) and I are still very close friends. They are both supportive of some of my charitable efforts. We get to catch up and have dinner; we have dinner like we are survivors. We are like survivors of a big ship wreck (laughter). I also had a great time working with the Sheffield lad, the late Joe Cocker, which involved lots of shepherd’s pie and pints of Guinness and that’s all that I am saying (laughter). Joe would have the same thing every day. On Joes 1997 album, Across From Midnight, I play bass guitar on six tracks and provide the backing vocals on four tracks. Joe was a lovely bloke, and a true diamond. I had such a lovely time with him. I look back on those times fondly.

Although you have not mentioned him, I have been told that you also admire Trevor Horn’s work?

(Laughter) just who have you been speaking to. That’s right; I think that Trevor is both a superb bass player and a fantastic producer. He really is a good bloke. I like working with him and I like seeing him. Trevor really is a funny, dry guy and he is great at what he does. The thing about working with him is that whenever you are playing the bass for him, he knows the instrument inside out which allows him to put himself in both your shoes and your brain. He is one of the very few people who I could play the same song all day with, exploring different ideas. Most of the time I want to get my idea down because I personally feel that the very first thing that you play is the most relevant and most probably the best.

I usually want to get it done and get out of there. And the fact that I get hired to do that most people know that I can do an album in two days maximum. But Trevor will want to investigate every possible avenue (laughter). Having said, that working with Trevor is never boring. Whereas I have been with some people who will get me to play the same thing all day. In those circumstances I don’t know what they are looking for; I don’t think that they know what they are looking for, and so it just becomes a drag. I have said to someone before “I think that you should bring in someone else because I think that I did the best take seven hours ago” (laughter).

If you are still playing the bass on a song that is almost complete after seven or eight hours, there has got to be something wrong. I think that is a rule that you should stick by, unless you are working with Trevor because you know that with Trevor he will want to go up the hill, down the hill; he will go all over the place and he will try riffs and time signatures, all manner of different stuff. As I have previously said, working with Trevor is not boring, it’s like investigating a science and I find it really interesting. We have a laugh and at the end of the day, all that I can say is that Trevor is a really good bloke.

Is there anyone currently out there who you haven’t worked with who you would like the opportunity to work with?

The one that immediately comes to mind is David Gilmour from Pink Floyd. I think that would be nice although my friend Guy has been David’s bass player for many years now so I really can’t see that happening anytime soon. He is someone who pops into my head quite a lot and I follow his work both with Pink Floyd and as a solo artist. I personally like the idea of revisiting people who I have previously visited after we have both been away and developed. For example, I would love the chance to work with Robbie again after such a long interval. I often wonder where somebody is at, knowing that I have progressed myself, and developed in a positive way. Apart from that, I am still being asked to do new things, and I really do love new things.

If we may, can we speak about your rehabilitation?

Of course we can, it’s not a problem. I went through rehabilitation fourteen years ago now and let me tell you, it has totally changed my life. The reasons as to why I put myself into rehab was simply because I couldn’t handle it anymore. I managed, with a great deal of help, to pack it all in and from day one my life has been so much better, much, much better. Its great now that I can have these little recovery chats with some of the people that I know. We can have a discreet chat on the side about living life to the full without having drink and drugs in your life. Having said that, most of us have done enough drink and drugs to last us several lifetimes anyway.

Eventually, if you are lucky, you just come to an end. Most people, who are in a good, sincere recovery, will all try to help other people. We see it as our duty and obligation to give something back, so to speak. It was good for me, although by definition I am a very selfish and controlling person (laughter). Let’s just say that being sober now keeps me away from the worst of myself.

Whilst you have been involved in the music business, what has been your most extravagant purchase?

Wow where the hell did that come from (laughter). That really is a hard question for me to answer. Thinking about it in a rational manner it would have to be a guitar. I tend to buy guitars more than anything else to be honest. I suppose that a house could be classed as an extravagant purchase, but my ex-wife has that now (laughter). My extravagance is trips away from home, holiday breaks, good meals or good hotels. I’m a sucker for an excellent hotel and a great restaurant.

If you had to pick just one, what would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

Oh dear, oh dear that’s tough as there have been so many. One highlight that springs to mind must be finishing off some tracks with Mick Jagger. That was a real watershed moment for me, working with one of the true originals from our business. I remember coming out of the studio with Ian Thomas the drummer and we were both jumping up and down in the air. That is how it affected us because we really did feel like a couple of school kids (laughter). Mick Jagger, despite what you may read in the press, really is another good guy. He has always been nice to me.

You have been active in the music business for some forty-three years now, have you enjoyed the ride?

Yes, most definitely. And you have hit the nail on the head, it really is a ride. One thing I have learnt is that if you go through what you perceive as low points, you are always going to come through them better and stronger. These days, I don’t have low points as such; they are as low as I want to make them in my own head.

Do you have any regrets?

It’s hard to have regrets. What I will say is that I have done some things that I am not proud of particularly when it comes to my addiction. But those addictions were driven by something or someone that wasn’t me. I wasn’t myself. I think that if I were to go back, on reflection, I would cut down the use of drugs and alcohol most certainly. There has been no good result in any of that for me particularly.

What was the first record that you bought?

That would have been In The Summertime by Mungo Jerry.

Who did you first see playing live?

That was Pink Floyd back in 1968 at The Fairfield Hall in Croydon. I was taken along by my cousin who is ten years older than me. All that I can remember is that it was loud (laughter). The lightshow was psychedelic so for a ten-year-old I thought that it was weird. Having said that, it really did hold a strange attraction for me. It was during the first tour that they did without Syd Barrett.

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

(Laughter) that’s easy, it was Can’t Fight This Feeling by the American rock band REO Speedwagon. That’s mine and my wife’s song so I would have really been in trouble if I had got that one wrong (laughter).

Before we spoke today, I watched the 2015 documentary about you and your addictions and on there you said something that made my ears prick-up. You said that “you had been vastly overpaid for cheating people”. What did you mean by that?

What I meant was back in the day there was an awful lot of money flying about. There were some situations where, like most people, I had a going rate for my services, but I would probably not be there fully, if you know what I mean. Most of the time I would arrive late, and I wouldn’t be there fully in mind and body. Once I was playing, I would be there, and in fact Chris Thomas said to me just the other day “I have never met anyone who is so completely mad who turns into an angel whenever they put a bass on” (laughter). I kind of encapsulate that in a way because I used to be a bit of a loose cannon and very difficult to be around.

I was always passionate and enthusiastic but when I was getting high especially in the late 80s and early 90s, I was extremely difficult to be around. In those days you could submit a bill for your services and people wouldn’t always check the times of when you had been there and when you hadn’t. So, what I did to counteract that issue was I started putting in bills for each track instead of for my time. For me, billing per track works out much better because I can do so many in a day. When I billed for time I would be doing myself out of money because I was finishing them too quickly (laughter).

Before we finish, I would just like to ask you, you are involved with the Mark Brown Programmes and your own Hep C Positive Group. Are they helping people who find themselves in vulnerable situations, and are you seeing positive results?

The simple answer to that is yes, they are. Both Mark and I try to help as many people as we can. I am open to receive calls and I hold my own meetings and conventions plus all the other stuff that I go to. From the point of advocating for other people, I feel that I can help people to get through a system which can sometimes be very scary to people who are not used to it. I think that I can confidently say that there are scores of people who have come through our project whose lives have improved having had contact with us.

On that note Phil let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it has been fantastic. You take care and I will see you in Rotherham on the 10th August.

No problem at all, it’s my pleasure Kevin. You take care and I look forward to seeing you at the gig. Bye for now.