EXCLUSIVE ‘24/7 VALENCIA’ INTERVIEW WITH JEAN-JACQUES BURNEL OF ‘THE STRANGLERS’
First formed in 1974, the attitude of ‘The Stranglers’ was adopted by the punk movement of the late 1970s. But their musicianship transcended the genre, creating a sound unique to them. With their first three albums (‘Rattus Norvegicus’, ‘No More Heroes’ and ‘Black and White’), they scored hit singles with ‘Peaches’, ‘No More Heroes’ and ‘Walk On By’. Success followed with the classics ‘Always The Sun’, ‘Strange Little Girl’ and ‘Golden Brown’, among many others, earning the group 24 Top 40 singles and 19 Top 40 albums in a career spanning five different decades. With a unique sound, combining a bright melodic edge with dark aggression and effortless cool, ‘The Stranglers’ are recognised as one of the most credible and influential bands to emerge from the punk era. The band’s latest album, ‘Dark Matters’, reached the top 5 in the UK and was their highest charting album for 38 years, proving that The Stranglers are still a creative force to be reckoned with. Dark Matters achieved great critical acclaim and was described by the press as “their best album in forty years”.
24/7 VALENCIA: Can you tell us more about the latest and really popular album by The Stranglers, ‘Dark Matters’?
JEAN-JACQUES BURNEL OF THE STRANGLERS: That’s a rather broad question. WE started the recording before lockdown and had most of it completed by then. However, with Dave’s passing there was an added impetus to complete it in tribute to him.
Could you please share with us some of your favourite memories of the late and great (keyboardist) Dave Greenfield…
Dave, as many people will know, was a geek of the first order. A high-functioning autist who had developed a very unique style of playing. When he got into something… he pursued that interest to the extreme. Whether it was ‘The Dark Ages’ re-enactments or flying planes. One of our very rare arguments arose when he was making chainmail in the studio while we were supposed to be recording!
Given the mess of Brexit; is the concept of your solo album ‘Euroman Cometh’ more pertinent than ever? Could you see Britain “returning” to Europe one day?
As I see it, Brexit is one of the biggest own goals in history. Not only has it contributed to even more division within the United Kingdom but has played into the hands of countries who seek to cause dissension and division… between countries who are allied against tyranny and totalitarianism. The steady and continual drip-drip of complaints and moans about Brussels and foreigners in general helped foster an irrational fear and dislike, which fed on people’s prejudices. Taking back control seems to have morphed into losing control.
How does living in France compare to England? Where is home for you these days?
I now live in France after my mum passed away and I took over the family home.
What bass and amp are you using live and in the studio? How did you develop such a distinctive bass technique and sound?
I no longer use an amp on stage. Everything goes directly into my ears. In the studio, I occasionally use an old Trace Elliot amp.
You played Spanish classical guitar in your youth and you have travelled the world since then. What does Spain and what do Spanish-speaking countries mean to you?
Spain and South American music was my first introduction to the guitar. I actually saw Segovia at the Royal Festival hall in London in the sixties. My father always adored that music and the Spanish language.
You have a 7th degree black belt (nanadan) in Shidōkan Karate. Please could you explain the philosophy of this martial art, which you head in the UK?
I suspect the philosophy of Shidōkan Karate is very similar to that of all martial arts. That is to teach respect, be humble, try to be the best person you can be, to build confidence and in that way protect the weak.
What can we expect of ‘The Stranglers’ show in Valencia on March 3rd?
With over 45 years of making music, there is an awful lot of material to choose from. We will probably decide on the day…
Interview by Will McCarthy
Article copyright ‘24/7 Valencia’
JJ Burnel now has a biography out in French: https://thestranglers.co.uk/jj-biography-out-now/
More about JJ Burnel’s signature basses: https://shukerguitars.co.uk/basses/j-j-burnel-signature-basses/
THE STRANGLERS (Live – 2023 Tour)
Friday, 03 March 2023
C/ Baix Vinalopó, 2 (Pol. Industrial Mislata)
46920 Valencia, Spain
Doors open 21:30 h
Show starts 22:30 h
Advance purchase 33€ (+ booking fee)
Tickets also available at ‘Harmony Discos ‘ and ‘Discos Amsterdam’ record stores in Valencia