‘Hopefully people will think it’s a damn fine show’ - Leftfield leader looks ahead to Norwich UEA gig
PUBLISHED: 09:03 08 October 2015 | UPDATED: 09:03 08 October 2015
“People began to ask why I didn’t make a new record. I decided there was more to be said, it was as simple as that.”
So says Leftfield lynchpin Neil Barnes when asked to explain why he decided to breathe new life into the pioneering dance act, despite two decades having passed since their acclaimed debut album and his former right-hand man Paul Daley choosing not to rejoin the party.
And talking to the friendly and honest Barnes it’s clear he knows the decision to relaunch the duo, with only one half still intact, would be enough to put off some former Leftfield purists.
But he’s keen to prove there’s plenty of life in the old dog yet.
And that process started with the release of the new album Alternative Light Source, which went straight into the top 10 of the album charts, amid a plethora of rave reviews.
It’s an album which highly-deserves any of the praise coming its way, proving that even after all these years Leftfield can put out music which is modern, relevant and maintains an edge.
Barnes said of the album: “Of course I was worried it (Leftfield) might be passed its sell-by-date, all the Leftfield albums have set a high bar and I wanted this to be the same.
“But on this record I decided to take a few more gambles. First and foremost it had to be something I would want to hear.
“And I guess there is more about me on there. It is a more emotional record, I did let myself go a bit, perhaps it’s more self-reflective.
“But there are plenty of bits where the music just takes over, like Dark Matters, which is about being in a dark phase and coming out the other side. I’m really pleased with it.
“I hope that the ten tracks take you on a journey and that people will get something from it.”
Previous Leftfield albums have indeed set the bar high. For the uninitiated, Leftfield burst in to the scene in the mid 90s and we’re a perfect antidote to the blaze of Britpop for some and a dance act Britpop kids could like for others.
Their first album, Leftism, sold over 200,000 copies and was nominated for a Mercury Prize. Listen to it twenty years on and its surprising just how well is has survived the ravages of time.
They followed this up four years later with Rhythm and Stealth, which included Phat Planet, the track used in the famous Guinness advert involving a horse and some waves.
But then, as so often happens in the messy world of rock and roll, things started to turn sour and the duo split in 2002.
Barnes says he didn’t do much in the subsequent years but eventually, by 2010, he started touring again as Leftfield and laying down some new tracks.
Although his former partner decided not to return, Barnes was keen in conversation to ensure that didn’t take away from the part he played to get Leftfield where they are today.
He explained: “I think both Paul and I are proud that people are still discovering our first albums two decades on.
“It is the 20th anniversary shortly and it never ceases to amaze me that people still come up and say how much they love it.
“I have many happy memories of playing with Paul and that is what I hang onto. There’s no way I’d ever try to take any of the credit away from him, it was a joint venture and I am just so proud to have been a part of those records.”
It’s clear he feels more comfortable looking forward not back, which brings us to the small matter of Leftfield’s forthcoming tour, which reaches Norwich’s Nick Rayns LCR on Friday, October 16.
Neil is looking forward to it for an extra reason than normal, he explains: “I’m really excited about playing Norwich. I don’t think I’ve played there before and some of my family are actually from Norfolk so they’ll be coming along to see it.”
Joining him on stage will be several guest vocalists, a drummer and new collaborator Adam Wren.
He says fans can expect to be confronted by much more than a ‘heritage act’, even though some of the classics will certainly be on show.
He added: “We do play a very radical way live, it can wind people up but we want people to get something different.
“We do play some of the old record, but in the right places. Every gig we do is different. Something always comes along to bite you or make you go off in the right direction. Hopefully that is what gives it an edge.
“There’s a lot going on when we play live. A lot for people to get involved with. Having vocalists allows us to take it in different directions.
“I like to think it is a big live show, with lots going on and a lot going into it. It’s certainly expensive to put on, but hopefully people will think it’s a damn fine show.”
Leftfield play the UEA Nick Rayns LCR on October 16, 7.30pm, £29, 01603 508050, www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk
Alternative Light Source is out now
Further listening: www.leftfieldmusic.com