Hugh Cornwall Interview - on a new wave of hi-tech and lo-fi

Chris BishopHe doesn't like technology, but he's giving his album away for free on the internet. He left the Stranglers because he didn't want to spend his life playing the same songs. But his set still includes Peaches and No More Heroes. CHRIS BISHOP caught up with Hugh Cornwell who plays King's Lynn Arts Centre on Sunday.hooverdamdownload.com

Chris Bishop

Whatever happened to Hugh Cornwell? He walked on by in the summer of 1990 just as it seemed life was set to be always in the sun for the Stranglers.

Eleven albums and almost as many reincarnations later, I ask if his latest project is proving as popular with his bank manager as the Mayor of Trowbridge - the Wiltshire market town he famously slated in its opening track as being among the world's duller destinations.

Go online and you can download the whole of Hooverdam for free (www.hooverdamdownload.com). While the music industry steps up its campaign to safeguard artists' royalties from the pirates and file sharers, Cornwell's taken a different tack. Two clicks of a mouse and it's yours.


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'The record company persuaded me it was a good idea,' he says. 'They said if we just release this, it's only going to go to people who know you already. So let's try and get it to people who've never heard of you.'

Cornwell agreed, while the CD version was released for sale packaged with Blueprint - a DVD of the band playing the entire album and a 20-minute interview conducted at the Tate Britain.

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Launched online last June, 20,000 had downloaded it buckshee by October. Cornwell says downloads had come from as far afield as Khazakhstan, revealing an as-yet unknown fanbase in Borat-land. Is nice?

'Maybe they'll come to a show,' he says. 'Maybe they'll even buy a new Stranglers album.'

He said the S-word before I did. But there the similarity ends.

Chateau Cornwell '09 is a very different vintage to the growling bass and swirling keyboards of the Seventies band who shot to fame after forming in a flat over an off-licence.

Snappy songs you slug down in one, served up in shot glass-sized measures by a spit-and-sawdust three-piece, featuring Caroline 'Caz' Campbell on bass and Chris Bell on drums.

Hooverdam is analogue and live, the edges are rough and retro. Turn it up loud in your car and it sounds like they're sitting on the back seat playing it.

'It was deliberate, it was done in three weeks but with very few overdubs on it,' says Cornwell.

'It's easy to get bogged down in technology if you have the tools available.'

At Toerag Studos, where the album was recorded and mixed in a blink, producer Liam Watson 'doesn't want computers anywhere near music'.

The album rips along, a whistlestop tour from the one-way system of Trowbridge to shades of Velvet Underground in Going to the City.

'If you come to a live show we're going to play the album right through and people are loving it, or so they're saying afterwards,' says Cornwell.

Sunday's highlights for those old enough to remember them might include Down in the Sewer, No More Heroes and Peaches.

Then again, it might be Tank, Hangin' Around or Golden Brown, depending how the night evolves. Hugh's sorry now..? Not a bit, insists Cornwell, who maintains he quit the Stranglers because he didn't want to be part of a greatest hits band.

Of the Men in Black, he says: 'I don't have any contact with them, they don't have any contact with me. They're doing their thing, I'm doing mine.'

Asked how his current three-piece outfit sans keyboards grapples with Stranglers anthems, he shrugs: 'I had to learn to play guitar better.'

t 01553 764864 King's Lynn Arts Centre (�15, concs �14), Sunday, March 15; www.kingslynnarts.co.uk. Support is from The Fox Cubs.

hooverdamdownload.com

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