Roy Hay, (seen here on the right), songwriter, guitarist and keyboard player with Culture Club, chats with Kevin Cooper about their appearance on Celebrity Strictly Come Dancing, the documentary Boy George And Culture Club: Karma To Calamity, their new album and their forthcoming tour of the UK.

Roy Hay is a songwriter, guitarist and keyboard player with Culture Club, a band from the 80s fronted by Boy George.

In 1982 the group released Do You Really Want To Hurt Me which became an international smash hit peaking at number one in over a dozen countries.  This track sold up to 6.5 million copies worldwide.

In 1983 Culture Club released Karma Chameleon which was their biggest hit as it became one of the top twenty best selling singles of the 80s selling up to seven million copies worldwide,  but due to Boy George’s addiction to narcotics the band disbanded in 1986.

The band reformed in 2014 and announced a tour of America and the UK, but two days before the start of their 21-date tour, Culture Club announced they had to cancel the tour due to George suffering from a serious throat condition.  The cancelled tour would have represented the full original line-up’s first tour in twelve years.  The tour was eventually rescheduled and it started 17th July 2015, in Vancouver.  

A television documentary, Boy George And Culture Club: Karma To Calamity aired on BBC Four in March 2015.  The programme documented the band’s reunion in 2014 and the making of their new album in Spain, and followed the band right up to the announcement that they were cancelling the tour

Whilst all of this was happening Hay had moved to Los Angeles in 1989 and from there wrote for and produced young artists and bands for Sony Music.  He branched into commercial composing and sound design with his own company Haywired Music.

Whilst busy preparing for Culture Club’s forthcoming tour and the release of their new album, Roy Hay took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.


Hi Roy how are you?

I’m very well thanks Kevin, how are you today?

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

No worries, it’s my pleasure.  No doubt you are going to tell me that there is a bit of sunshine over there in Nottingham today?

As it happens there is, we are having a fantastic day today (laughter). 

Bugger (laughter) I have been in London since January and now that I have finally come back home to California the UK finally gets some sunshine.  Just my luck (laughter).  If you really want a laugh, let me tell you that it is currently raining here in California (laughter).

Other than having bad luck with the weather, just how is life treating you?

I have to be honest with you and say that at the minute life is all good.

Culture Club have just announced their Life Tour with eleven dates here in the UK.  Are you looking forward to getting back out on the road and playing to your home fans?

Very much so, yes.  We have actually done quite a bit of touring over the past two years, not so much last year but we did a massive tour of the States back in 2016.  What can I say, it’s been fun man.  It been so much fun getting out there and playing live once again.  People have been coming out to see us and it has been nice.  We haven’t done a tour over there in the UK for years so we are all really looking forward to that.

Well the UK leg of the tour starts here in Nottingham on Friday 9th November just what can we expect?

That’s easy, it’s going to be a kick-ass show man.  Before then we are playing sixty shows across the USA and Canada in the summer so by the time that we get to Nottingham we should be pretty good I should think (laughter).

And what about the content of the show.  Is it going to be a straight Greatest Hits Tour or will you be treating us to a few new songs?

Well it’s funny that you should ask that (laughter).  We have got a new album coming out in October which we have been working on for four years so that is quite exciting for us.  That also means that we will be in a position to play a few new songs on this tour.  We will obviously be playing a few of the old songs which we might just mess around with a little bit in an attempt to liven them up (laughter).  Other than that I hope that it will be a good, solid show.

You will have Tom Bailey (The Thompson Twins) and Belinda Carlisle with you which is a nice mix of eighties music sonnet you agree?

Well you have me to thank for Tom Bailey.  We were down in Australia just before Christmas where we were doing a tour with them and I just thought that he was great.  I said to him “we might be touring next year and you should get yourself on that” and Tom said “oh really, that would be fun.” So we got the powers that be together and it was done, so that is going to be really fun.

And Belinda always puts a good show on.

To be honest I haven’t seen her for a while so I’m not really sure just how she is doing these days.  She has always been a bit off; a little bit crazy, but we like that (laughter).

The PR and the marketing for the tour says Boy George and Culture Club.  Why is it not just Culture Club?

I’m so glad that you have asked me about that.  Apparently there is a feeling between the record company and management that because George has been recording and playing as an individual, some people won’t associate him with the band.  A lot of people still don’t think that the two are linked.  Obviously anybody who has been around for as long as we have know that George is a part of the band but, in their wisdom and in an effort to make it clear that George is in fact a part of Culture Club, they have decided to call it Boy George and Culture Club.  In my opinion I feel that it has just added confusion to the situation.

People are now asking “why have they done that” and also “is it going to be the other original members of Culture Club or will it be George with his other guys”.  From my personal point of view I feel that it is most probably asking more questions than it was originally done for, in an effort to link the two brands.  You most probably have George’s manager to thank for that one.

Are Culture Club in a good place at the moment?

Yes we are in a good place actually.  Everybody is quite excited about the record; there is some really good energy behind it, and coming off of the tour that we have done everybody feels that it is going to be a really successful summer for us leading into the UK tour.  At this moment in time, everyone is particularly happy to be finally doing a UK tour once again.  I just spend so much time in London now I actually feel that I am back there permanently (laughter).

Bearing in mind what happened back in December 2014 when you cancelled the UK tour at the last minute, how confident are you that this year’s UK tour will actually take place?

The thing was that back in 2014 we still had some problems that needed to be worked through and put to bed.  George had some general health problems which he wasn’t really looking after, but I think that he is much better at that now.  Please, having gone through the touring that we have gone through, I am very confident that the tour will go ahead.  The problems that George had, fortunately he didn’t have to have surgery for; the problems went away simply by him starting to look after himself.  In a way things have worked out better; we are in a better place as a band now, the record is finished and finally coming out, and we are all genuinely pleased with it.  To be honest it is funny how these things turn out.  Everybody will be getting a better show this time.  I feel that fate dealt its hand there (laughter).

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 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 (laughter).  I wouldn’t say that I don’t like it, it is an amazing party song now, and whenever we play it as an encore, the crowds go crazy and the song has its own energy.  I could speak to you for hours about the reasons why I think that overall in our career it was a mistake even though it was at number one for weeks and weeks.

Whilst I think that the energy of the song came across on the show, it is hard for George to do something that he doesn’t want to do and he didn’t want to go on Celebrity Strictly Come Dancing and do Karma Chameleon.  Now as for the documentary, where do I start; that was a real fuck up, it really was.  It was meant to be a lovely behind the scenes look at Culture Club making a new record, and the guy who made it was actually a really good friend of George’s.  I can’t tell you just what ended up on the cutting room floor, but it would have made a wonderful documentary.  What he focused on was the two negative areas, the two negative sides that were involved in conflict.

He simply concentrated on that and made it look as though everyone hated each other.  It really was a dreadful piece of work.  Basically he made George look like a right c**t and let me tell you, George is very unhappy about that.  Making a documentary was the last thing that I said that we should ever do.  We were trying to make a record after not being in the studio for over sixteen years, so I questioned the decision to have a film crew in there with us all of the time.  George is a different creature whenever there is press around.  He has a private image and he has a public image.  I think that having a camera in your face when you are trying to create simply wasn’t a great idea.

I really do strongly believe that doing those two things was a disaster.  I sent a scathing letter to the guy and of course he blamed the producers.  I thought that we had a really good chance to make a proper rockumentary about the band, showing us in the studio, showing us actually playing, showing the real bond that we have and the creativity that exists between us, and he turned it into an episode of The Kardashians.  It was most upsetting.

So am I correct in assuming that with hindsight you wouldn’t have undertaken either project?

Absolutely not.  Having said that, the funny thing is that people actually love the documentary (laughter).  Thinking about it, then I suppose that there is a certain honesty to it that people actually appreciate.  People will approach me and say “I really loved the documentary, just how do you deal with George all of the time” (laughter).  Obviously if he was like that all of the time then I wouldn’t deal with it.  You could never deal with someone if they were really like that.  If you watch the documentary again, you can clearly see that George obviously isn’t like that all of the time (laughter).  George is more upset about the documentary than anyone to be honest especially as it was his friend who made it.

I have said this before and I will say it again, what was sad in all of this is that we let down our guard and we let someone into the inner camp who just turned around and fucked us on it really which was most unfortunate.  Who knows, maybe there is a reason for that (laughter).  I like to feel that I am assured enough now not to get intoxicated with the drama these days.

So if we take the events of 2014 and 2015 out of the equation, why has it taken you so long to get back together in order to tour the UK; just what has been the stumbling block?

That would be because there had been a lot of stuff going on with everybody and to be honest, I think that we all felt that Culture Club were done as a group, we all felt that we were finished.  I feel that over time we started to look back and think ‘you know what, maybe we should rewrite that ending’.  We finally made up with each other and we all began to think that maybe there was still work to be done.  I think that it was a question of we just felt that finishing in the way that we did, it was negative and not great, and I think that we all just wanted to rewrite it.  Me and George, as a creative force, thought that maybe we still had some writing left in us; we still felt that we had some of the essence of the band left in us.

Having said that I personally feel that if it hadn’t have been associated with a new record then I don’t think that we would have gone back out on the road to play any of those 80s shows.  I don’t think that is what any of us wanted.  We didn’t want it to be just another notch in the belt.  We didn’t want to be a part of these so called Rewind Tours or any of the 80s cruises.  We didn’t want to be just another band on a line-up of other 80s bands; that isn’t what we wanted to do.  We all knew exactly what we wanted to do; we wanted to go out there and have another chance to express our creativity.  We want to try and make ourselves into a contemporary band once again.

Obviously the markets have changed so much, but I think that as song writers we really do still have something to offer.  As a live band we have always been good and people at the moment seem to have forgotten that.  The one thing that we did get on the tour that we did in the States a couple of years ago now was the fact that we reluctantly won the fans over.  Some reviewers came to see us with the opinion that we were just some silly pop band from the 80s and after the show they left thinking ‘oh my god this is a serious rock and roll band who really can play’ (laughter).

We were ending the shows on that particular tour with songs like Get It On and Purple Rain and by the time that people walked out they were saying “oh my god, these guys are actually pretty good”.  This is something that people seem to have forgotten.  George’s image was so powerful that people simply forgot that we were a really good live band that could all actually play and had a lot to offer musically.  I think that was also a part of the reason why we wanted to come back; we wanted to make people realise the difference between George’s personality and the seriousness that is the band and the music.

It has always been a bit of a problem for us, Jon (Moss) used to have the funniest saying which was ‘first there was Culture Club, then it was Culture Club with Boy George, then there was Boy George and his hat, and then there was just the hat’ (laughter).  It’s quite a funny analogy but things really did get that silly, they really did.

Well I have to say that personally I feel that Culture Club are worth far more than a forty minute set at Butlins.

Thank you for saying that as I really do think so too.  George is obviously a big personality; he can walk onto any TV show at any time, but the one thing that I know frustrates George is that he wishes that he could get more recognition as a singer, as a songwriter and for his solo work and I think that he gets that through Culture Club and that is another reason for him to want to do Culture Club. We all tend to click as writers together, me and George in particular, and stuff seems to come out of the band during those times.  I have written a lot of songs with a lot of other people, and so has he, but I think that something clicks with the two of us and with the other guys as well.  The sum of the parts is greater than the equal values.

Are Culture Club now in this for the long haul, and the reason why I am asking you that is that I interviewed Tony Hadley prior to the Spandau Ballet Reformation Tour and he said “oh yes, most definitely, we are all in it for the long haul” and then the following week he announced his retirement from Spandau Ballet.  Are you simply using the diehard fans as a cash cow?

Let me firstly say that Spandau Ballet really do have some serious issues (laughter).  I am not going to commit myself and say that it is for the long haul, but what I will say is that while we are creatively getting on with one another, than we will keep doing it.  This most definitely isn’t a case of ‘let’s just go out and make some money and run away’ kind of thing.  It’s definitely about trying to revive our legacy.  It really is all about that for us.  There are some things that we have done which might just make people sit up and take notice.  The other thing is, which is kind of sad, is that you mention Spandau Ballet, and with them now gone it is now basically us and Duran Duran who are the only ones left.

Duran Duran have had their issues too, but despite that they have always done their own thing.  I think that losing Andy (Taylor) was a massive blow for them because as a songwriter I always felt that he held the band together.  They have done amazing things with their brand over the years.  They can still go out and really kick some ass out on the road in the USA in particular.  They tend to do things very well.  We have lost so many 80s artists over the past few years; we have lost Whitney (Houston), Michael (Jackson), George (Michael), Prince, (David) Bowie, who I know was basically a 70s artist but he had that massive resurgence during the 80s.

I think that because of that it is something precious to still have a band performing with all of its original members who really did mean something both musically and culturally and who are still together and who can still go out there and play.  I think that we have a certain humility about that as well and I think that we are realising that; it is such a really nice thing to have in your life.  To be able to go out and be able to offer something to the world, and try to leave it in positive mood.  We have over the years been a part of that.  I feel that Culture Club were a lot more culturally significant than people give us credit for.

We weren’t just another band putting out records.  We didn’t stand on a soap box promoting this and promoting that.  We didn’t have too just with our look and the diversity of our music and our image.  My quote which George stole and now uses all of the time is “if you grew up as a teenager with a Culture Club poster in your life then maybe you are a little more rounded a human being than you would have been had it been just another Heavy Metal band’.  We were saying something that maybe had a subliminal effect on people.  I like to think that attitudes are more open today; maybe we are a bit more liberal, which maybe we had something to do with along the way.

I personally think that Culture Club, like Abba, are now getting the recognition that you should have received thirty years ago.  Would you agree with that?

That’s interesting and if we go back to the Karma Chameleon thing, I think that up to that point we did receive recognition but then we exploded in such a huge way both pop wise and George’s image wise; it was hard for us to recover back then.  But I think that the fourth album that we made, From Luxury To Heartache, with producer Arif Mardin was such a fantastic record but I think that by then, the image had got so out of control and George was so overexposed, the whole situation was just so mad.  I don’t think that we could recover from the exposure that we got up to that point.  What we probably should have done was taken more time and had time away from it all.

Having said that there were things going on within the band that were very volatile; who knew what we were doing (laughter).  It’s all very interesting but what is amazing is that we can now all sit down and have dinner together and be happy to be back making music once again.  That is one of the most satisfying things.

On that note Roy let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been enlightening.  You take care and I will see you here in Nottingham on 9th November.

Thanks Kevin, I will see you in Nottingham.  Bye for now.