A stranglehold on music scene

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Paragons of punk, The Stranglers are heading to the North East next month as part of their UK tour.

We caught up with vocalist, guitarist and Sunderland music scene flag flier Baz Warne.

AS a teenager, Thornhill School boy Baz Warne was swept along on the first wave of punk music.

 Little did he know that 30 years later he would be lead singer of The Stranglers, the most continuously successful band of that scene.

 In a career that has spanned five decades, they’ve notched up 23 Top 40 singles and 17 UK albums and welcomed Baz to the fold ten years ago.

 “When I first joined the band I had to keep nipping myself for the first six months,” he explained.

 “But once you’re in the thick of it and you’ve forged those bonds, you feel like you have been in the band forever. They were the only band of that era who have never split and I think people are intrigued by that.”

 Chart success, of course, was nothing new to Baz.

 He’s a former guitarist with punk rock outfits Smalltown Heroes and The Toy Dolls, who enjoyed success with quirky track Nellie The Elephant.

 But his love affair began with music long before that.

 In 1974 brother Chris was given a guitar for his ninth birthday, which Baz soon smuggled away him, honing his musical skills for hours on end.

 Soon after, a milk and paper round meant he could afford to pay for his own electric guitar, and he began jamming with mates.

 He recalls: “There has always been great music in Sunderland, you just need to know where to look. Where the law courts are there was a pub called The Old 29, which was Sunderland’s premier music place at the time I first started.

 “I think the musical success is grounded in the ethos of the people. It’s a working class city and Sunderland has always tried its best, that is reflected in the music.

 “The Toy Dolls were unique; The Futureheads are superb and Field Music just blow me away. Sunderland music is always left of field, slightly quirky, but always accessible. It’s always had that kind of two fingers up at you attitude.”

 Like those bands, Baz too has remained loyal to his roots and still lives in Sunderland when he is not touring the globe.

 Next month, The Stranglers, who last year released their Decades Apart Greatest Hits album, are embarking on a UK-wide tour.

 Baz says:“For this tour we have nothing to promote, we are touring because we feel that’s what we do best and we owe it to people. We have a pretty eclectic bunch of songs to choose from, but there are certain ones we can’t get away with leaving out. We’ve also plundered the back catalogue and there’s some stuff that hasn’t been played for years.

 “The songs are timeless, you can see that when you look down in the audience and see the smiles on people’s faces. There’s a huge cross section in our audience, from emo kids to punk fans who now have kids of their own.”

 Touring is what the band – whose hits include Golden Brown, Peaches, Always The Sun and No More Heroes – love most says Baz.

 “We pride ourselves on the live thing. It’s only one side of the coin of being in a band, but we love it , we are all show offs and exhibitionists at heart.

 “That feeling of being a unit, the four of us on stage, it’s a very primal thing.”

l The Stranglers play 02 Academy, Newcastle, on March 4.