Kevin Rowland: ‘I’ve voiced myself in a approach we wanted’

May 8, 2016 - fall Denim

I accommodate Kevin Rowland for lunch in his internal vegan grill in easterly London. He is dressed down today, during slightest by his mostly impracticable sartorial standards, in buttoned-up denim shirt, far-reaching denim jeans and a vast prosaic cap. The look, from a stripy fisherman’s jumper draped over his shoulders to his well-groomed ’tache and goatee, is bohemian, rather than full-on dandy. He seems loose and looks dark-skinned and healthy.

“Yeah, we feel all right,” he says, smiling, “but we do have to work during it. I’ve done an manuscript accurately how we wanted to. I’ve voiced myself in a approach we wanted.”

The manuscript in doubt is called Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul. It is, as a pretension suggests, an doubtful hybrid, comprising a preference of Irish ballads churned with some other songs that, as a content puts it, “loosely tumble underneath a streamer nation soul”. They embody Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now and Rod Stewart’s You Wear It Well, that is stretching a clarification of nation essence rather but, as ever, Kevin Rowland walks to a kick of his own drum.

Essentially, what unites them all is that he likes them and they lend themselves to a kind of no-holds-barred regretful smoothness that has been his signature given Dexys Midnight Runners denounced their statement-of-intent debut, Searching for a Young Soul Rebels, in 1980. “All a songs on here are low within me,” he says, “and I’ve had a genuine titillate to do them for a enlarged time. They are as most a partial of me as if we had created them myself and we put as most of myself into them. One hundred per cent, substantially more.”

As fans of Dexys will attest, Rowland is zero if not totally committed to his unparalleled code of soul-bearing intensity. The strident bearing of early songs such as Geno and Dance Stance competence have been gradual by a years, yet a power stays and is now channelled into outspoken performances that travel a line between ardent and melodramatic. He does not so most sing a strain as live it, in most a same approach as a process actor competence douse himself in a role.

“You don’t only stone adult to a studio and only sing a song,” he tells me, “You’ve got to get inside a song. You’ve got to know who we are when we are singing a strain and we gotta know who you’re singing to. Otherwise it’s not going to be believable.”


Rowland and a stream Dexys personnel, Lucy Morgan and Sean Read.

During his recording of a magnificently unhappy Irish ballad Carrickfergus, he says he associated so most to a protagonist that he began to knowledge chills. “It’s a difference of a long-distance male – a Irish labourers who trafficked around England, mostly walking from city to city and sleeping rough, in hunt of work. He’s failing and he wants to lapse to Ireland where his adore is buried. we associated to that in a unequivocally genuine approach and began to feel cold and shivery when we was singing in a studio.” On a recording, we can hear him cough during a strain and complete a enlarged whine during a end. “It wasn’t given we had a cold,” he says, “It only came out and, when we played it to a crony we trust, he said, ‘You’ve got to leave a cough on there.’ That’s when it occurred to me that a cough and a whine during a finish are indeed a partial of a song.”

A week after a meeting, we declare Rowland walk out on to a theatre of a Royal Festival Hall as partial of Imagining Ireland, a opposite low-pitched jubilee to symbol a centenary of a Easter Rising of 1916. Wearing a dark pinkish 1920s fit with a widest trousers imaginable, he deduction to rip down a place with his smoothness of a Irish strain The Curragh of Kildare. As a strain progresses, we can feel a primarily questionable assembly respond to his ardent delivery. His even some-more emotive take on Carrickfergus, lonesome by a likes of Bryan Ferry and Van Morrison before him, becomes a soulful scuffle between him and his stream co-operator and co-producer, Sean Read.

On record, though, it’s a opposite matter. Without a live setting, a same songs sound rather busy and overwrought, too zealous and literal. we tell him that it is tough for me to suppose anyone singing a strain like Forty Shades of Green or a some-more recent, yet equally regretful The Town That we Love So Well yet succumbing to a tenderness that is pithy even in their titles. Rowland is carrying zero of it.

“They’re not nauseating to me,” he says, resolutely and with only a snippet of a aged combativeness. “I’m a son of a builder. I’m not a son of an intellectual, and a kind of people who find songs like these nauseating are customarily egghead types, people who aren’t in hold with themselves. we initial listened those songs sung by my uncles and aunts, unaccompanied, and they sang them beautifully and we responded to them in a utterly discerning way. To me, they’re only pleasing songs and we sang them as best we could.”

Which raises a question, given did he not do an whole manuscript of Irish songs? “Well, that was a suspicion behind around 1983, when we creatively wanted to do it,” he says of a album’s enlarged gestation. “I was going to [County] Mayo a lot behind then, removing into roots a lot. we was exploring Irish enlightenment and going to Derry and Belfast to try to know what was going on there, too. My suspicion afterwards was to do a whole manuscript called ‘Irish’, but, as time went on, we only suspicion I’d unequivocally like to do You Wear It Well and Both Sides Now.”


One we done earlier: Dexys Midnight Runners in a downy shawl period. Photograph: David Corio/Getty Images

He explains that a Rod Stewart strain soundtracked a finish of a enchanting summer in a early 1970s when Rowland worked during Butlins, in his late teens. “It only prisoner a intrigue of that time for me and that feeling of unhappy when we are withdrawal something pleasing behind.” Joni Mitchell’s strain was only powerful. “I initial listened Both Sides Now when we was 13 and it overwhelmed me in a unequivocally low way. Still does. It has only so most beauty to it. I’m an discerning man and we can’t mostly clear given we do a things we do, nor am we even meddlesome in doing that unless someone like we asks me to. For me it’s about anticipating a beauty and expressing it, either it’s an Irish ballad or a essence strain or one of my possess songs.”

Rowland’s Irish roots have always shone by in his music, though, from a cover of Searching for a Young Soul Rebels, that featured a immature child clutching his security after his home had been burnt down by a narrow-minded host in Belfast, to a stirring show of a names of good Irish writers on a singular Dance Stance, and on to a Celtic gypsy-soul of Too-Rye-Ay. Born in Wolverhampton to Irish parents, he lived in Mayo, where his relatives grew up, from a age of one to four, before returning to his home city. “I remember starting propagandize and carrying a piss taken out of me all a time,” he tells me, “Then, we changed from Wolverhampton to London when we was 10 and that was even worse given Irish people were not hold in high venerate here behind then. You have to fit in to tarry as a kid, so we became good during accents unequivocally quickly.”

We speak about how a Irish songs he sings competence have a opposite inflection for first-generation Irish people like him who grew adult in Britain. When we ask him if he feels Irish, he says: “Along a way, we have wanted to get divided from it and I’ve embraced it. And now we consider we can overtly contend that I’m in a place where I’m gentle with who we am. we consider all identities are a passed end, really. So, I’m not observant this or that about Ireland with this record, solely that this is how we do these songs that we love.”

Rowland’s teenage years were diligent and he had several run-ins with a law, including an detain for assaulting a squad of organisation with an iron bar. The strange Dexys Midnight Runners were a approach of channelling his disunion and, initially, he ran a organisation as a cranky between a squad and a team, commanding despotic manners about earthy fitness, dress – dickey jackets and downy hats – and, yet they were named after a code of amphetamine, banning all forms of drug use and rejecting all things rock’n’roll.

“No one else was articulate about essence in 1978,” he tells me, “You weren’t reading about essence in NME behind then. That’s given it was cold to me. It had power to be radical. To me, it was after punk and it was new and a shaft from a perspective and we desired essence yet now we consider it was a bit narrow. In fact, we wish we had never pronounced that word, soul, given once we tag something, we kill it. we consider we should never have pronounced anything solely we’re Dexys and this is a music.”


Rowland’s coming during a 1999 Reading festival in a dress. Photograph: Michael Walter/PA

That song has taken on many radically opposite guises given then, while somehow remaining radically and identifiably Dexys. After a outrageous crossover success of Come on Eileen and a concomitant manuscript Too-Rye-Ay, he found himself all during sea in a mainstream. “I was sincerely gentle being a alien knocking on a door,” he pronounced of that time in 1999, “but once a doorway non-stop and we stepped inside, we was totally lost.” When 1985’s manuscript Don’t Stand Me Down, still deliberate by many his masterpiece, flopped, his career nosedived, dramatically heading to failure and a spell in rehab. (I reviewed a record rather equivocally for NME back then, and today, some-more than 30 years later, he brings it adult as he has on a few occasions we have met since. “NME unequivocally had it in for us during that time,” he says, “But don’t worry about it. It’s in a past. It was all a enlarged time ago.” Back then, though, we used to dismay bumping into him, as he had beaten adult another publisher who had created an unlucky review.)

In 1999, he expelled an manuscript of cover versions called My Beauty on Creation Records, posing on a cover in drag. At that year’s Reading festival, he donned a white dress, stockings and lipstick to sing Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love of All to a faraway assembly that responded with boos and bottles. “Four years ago we was nuts,” he told a Guardian in 2003.

Thirteen years of overpower distant My Beauty and a recover of One Day I’m Going to Soar, Dexys’s critically acclaimed late quip from 2012. In interviews, he spoke of enlarged durations of therapy to conflict drug use and feelings of shame about past behaviour. Today, he does not wish to dwell on a past, yet he does say, “For a enlarged time, we wasn’t means to demonstrate myself in a approach that we wanted. we would try to do things, yet zero seemed to work creatively. And, during a time, we would substantially have been observant to myself, ‘Oh, no tag wants to pointer us’ or whatever, yet low down we consider we knew that what we was doing wasn’t unequivocally good adequate to put it out in a world.”

There is a tangible aura of calmness, if not utterly serenity, about Kevin Rowland these days, as if he has finally done assent with his possess unfit final per art, beauty and, above all, ardent intensity. “I substantially had to go yet all a things we went by in sequence to make a song we wanted to make again,” he says, “which is impossibly hard, yet we also suggest it, holding 20 years off or whatever time it was. Sometimes we only have to step back.”

Let a Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul will be expelled on 3 Jun on 100%/Warner Music

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