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INTERVIEW: ROY HAY of Culture Club – August 2015

| 3 August 2015 | Reply

80’s mega-stars Culture Club are reunited, and according to keyboardist/guitarist Roy Hay, it indeed feels so good.  After 30+ years of their music permeating pop culture, these gents have gone into the studio and recorded a slew of new tracks to add to the catalog that has graced many a memory and soundtrack to one’s life.  After a tour that had to be cancelled in late 2014, Roy, Boy George, Mikey Craig, and Jon Moss have returned as promised and are making a triumphant return to North America during the summer of 2015.  Mixing new tracks, catalog hits and fan favorites, as well as a few band favorites, Culture Club is ready to take us all back while keeping us firmly in the present…

Culture Club 1 - 2014 credit Dean Stockings

Toddstar: Roy, how are you sir?

Roy: (muffled in the background) Here we go… pineapple for you, chocolate for you, and pineapple for you. I’m coming, I’m coming. I’m coming for you, baby. Where’s Todd? Where’s Todd?

Toddstar: Todd’s right here.

Roy: Hello! Hey guys. Hey man, how are you? Sorry, I’ve got the boys here. For some stupid reason we can’t get on the extension, so we have to be one at a time, so it’s just me, I’m afraid.

Toddstar: Well Roy, it’s a pleasure to speak with you. Thank you so much for taking time out for us.

Roy: Oh, it’s good, man. No problem.

Toddstar: Welcome back to North America. How does it feel?

Roy: Yeah. Feels great, actually. It’s fun to be on the road again. A little tiring… obviously not as young as we used to be doing this, but it’s just great experience again to be playing these shows and getting such a great reaction. It has been amazing, man, amazing. Incredible stuff.

Toddstar: It’s great for us. I’m in Detroit, but we’re going to get to see you over in Windsor, Canada [GET TICKETS HERE].

Roy: Yes you are.

Toddstar: How is the music of Culture Club being accepted these days? I mean, it’s been a while since you guys have been over here. How is the music coming across to the fans?

Roy: Well, I have got to say, it’s very interesting. There was one review that kind of got it. The point of this tour really, and the reason we didn’t come with the album was… the whole concept is to sort of re-write our ending. We never really ended; we just kind of pieced it out and fell apart. I think everybody felt this was too important of a thing in our lives to just let it end that way. Let’s see if we can rebuild our ending here or have a bit of a Renaissance here, and try and do something. We started writing, and it was going okay, but then George ran off and did his album, and then we got together again, and I think by that stage he was ready for it. We really had a couple of moments, particularly when we would just sit down with the four guys, just the four of us, in his living room with a guitar, a bass, and Jon basically slapping his thighs. And we had some ideas to put those down on our little recorder, and then we locked ourselves away in a studio in Spain with Youth, and he really let us become a band again. And we had a real moment, you know, we put some stuff down and it was really good. I think we all felt that we didn’t want to just put that out and let it go to, sort of, album heaven. The best thing we can do is go out, play some of these songs live, and put ourselves back on the map a little bit. And then come with the album when we’re sort of out there again. So, that’s what we’re doing, and the response has been amazing. It’s been really amazing. Particularly, the other night in New York, my god, we played a new song and went into “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me,” and literally, we had like a 3-minute standing O in the middle of the set. Not at the end, in the middle of the set, where the crowd just wouldn’t sit down, kept cheering, and it was an unbelievable moment. I don’t know. Do you follow tennis?

Toddstar: A little bit.

Culture Club approved image

Roy: Do you remember when Djokovic didn’t win the French, and he went up as the runner up and the crowd wouldn’t sit down, and cheered? It was a bit like that. It was ridiculous. I mean, we just kept bowing and saying thank you, and they just kept cheering. And there’s been a few of those moments, but that one in particular was an amazing moment.

Toddstar: Well that speaks to the power of Culture Club, that’s for sure. You guys have been missed around the world.

Roy: Aw, thank you. Thank you. That’s nice to hear.

Toddstar: I’ve looked at the set-list and I’m not going to spoil anything for the people out there. You guys have thrown a couple covers in there. With the catalog you guys have, what made you decide to put some covers in there with the strength of the songs that you do have?

Roy: Well, the funny thing about the covers is they were hits for George, so “Everything I Own,” I don’t know if that was a single out here, but “Everything I Own” was his first single outside of Culture Club when we broke up the first time. He went with Stewart Levine, I think, and produced and had a hit with “Everything I Own”. In fact, I think it was Number 1 in England, and did the reggae version of that song. There’s a certain…A lot of people know that song as George singing it, so we put that in. And obviously, he had the song “The Crying Game” with the movie, so people know that. And obviously we’re all David Bowie fans, and in fact we put “Starman” on our fifth album from ’99, Don’t Mind If I Do. We did a version of “Starman” on there, and it’s just a great singalong song, particular the choruses out at the end, it’s just a great live song. We just really enjoy playing that. Other than that, it’s all our own material.

Toddstar: Yes it is, and it’s a great setlist, I’ll tell you that.

Roy: It’s a great set, I mean it’s funny, we play for almost an hour and 3/4, and you don’t even realize it. It just flies by because the new songs slot right in there. That’s what’s amazing, the way we paced the set. We come out bang, bang, bang, and everyone’s up, and then we go into a reggae thing with a new reggae song, which is so familiar. It’s one of those songs that you think you know, by the second chorus people are here singing along. And then we have a little… we go back up again, and then we have the little piano part in the middle, where we do “Black Money” and “Victims” back-to-back, which is really fun, really a nice moment, actually. I know George just gets to sing beautifully on “Victims,” which is great.

Toddstar: You mentioned “Tribes” and you mentioned the new songs. How different was it to go back 15 years later and start recording together?

Roy: Well, it was very different. In fact, we started this process a few years ago, and it didn’t really work out very well. I think George didn’t really know what to do. One of the problems for a solo artist is that George has just become so used to just being his own guy, and basically everyone going, “That’s a great idea, George.” When suddenly someone turned around and said, “That’s not great idea, George,” he didn’t like it. So, I think that’s part of the difference between us and Culture Club, and George on his own, is that we’re a tough room, man. If your idea is not top, it ain’t getting through the room. We may even get to the recording state… there are quite a few songs that we recorded that haven’t made the album, just because we listened back to them and gone, “George, come on, that’s not…” “All right, all right…” And then 6 months later he goes, “I never liked it anyway.” But, just like I said, that moment we had just being four guys playing music in a room really comes down to it. Forget all the fame, forget the money, forget the life, anything. If you haven’t got that, you haven’t got a band. And I think that, more than anything is what Youth realized. If he could catch that, get that on record, that’s the essence of the band. And if you haven’t got that, what’s the point? Our lifeblood is writing new material, that’s the thing that keeps the soul pumping. So we had to do a new record. This isn’t a case of going out there and just playing the hits. Have you seen the movie Danny Collins? It’s not a question of that, except when he goes out and tries to do new material, he starts and doesn’t know if he can get into it. We have to do it, otherwise there’s no evolution for us. We can’t be just traipsing around playing the same old songs for the next 20 years; it’s not going to happen.

02 Culture Club 2014 by Dean Stockings copy (1)

Toddstar: Sure. What’s your favorite part about being back out on the road?

Roy: Playing. That hour and 3/4 every day, or every couple of days, that you get to be on stage. I mean, everything else is kind of laborious, to be quite honest. I’d rather be back in California playing golf, but that’s okay, it’s a good payoff. And actually, I say that, some of the moments with the guys are really special. Just to be…There’s no laughter like laughter with Jon Moss, I’ll tell you.  Jon is the most politically incorrect man that you’ll ever meet and he will have you on the floor in 10 minutes if you allow him to.

Toddstar: How many times do you look across the stage on a nightly basis, Roy, and realize, “We’re still doing this 30+ years later”?

Roy: I have to say there’s been some moments just where I look out.  It’s weird moments, like in the middle of “Black Money” I’ll look out and I’ll realize this song, this chord progression I put together when I was like 21 years of age, and I’m looking out 33 years later and people are singing along. And believe it or not, I think we play them better now. I’m a better pianist now than I was back then, and I think we’re all better players.  I doubt if I’m a better guitar player, because I’ve played more keyboards after the last 30 years, but I’m definitely a better keyboard player. So I’m playing “Black Money” and I’m just really enjoying playing it and I’m grooving on this thing. It’s great because we know the song so well; it’s a bit like watching Freddy Couples play golf or something. It feels so natural, you’re not thinking about it, but you’re hitting 300 yard drives. Sorry for the golf analogies.

Toddstar: No worries, it’s what you love.

Roy: But it’s very similar in a way. You practice all your life on something, and once you get into automatic with it, and people say, “God it looks so easy.” And it’s because you’ve practiced so hard. Also the other thing is we really rehearsed a lot, and we got a great band because we didn’t want to come out with a ProTools rig, have everything on that and just the 4 of us kind of playing and just going through the motions. We want to play with a band. I’m not saying that we’re Steely Dan, but we are a real band that rocks. That’s the thing I think people forget about because the image was so strong with Culture Club, I think the thing that surprises people the most is how really good the music is. And that goes from the old songs right through to the new stuff.

Toddstar: Well that is the beauty of what you guys do, because in my opinion, regardless of the image you guys portrayed, you put on the CD, you didn’t see it, you just enjoyed the music.

Roy: Right, right. There you go. That’s what I want to hear! Yeah. We always say it was Culture Club, then Culture Club with Boy George, then Boy George and the hat, then just the hat. That’s Jon Moss’s old saying. Funny enough, the hat sort of wiggled away, although he still wears it, and there’s a real love again for the band. The songs have survived, it’s amazing. The songs have really survived. I still hear them. We still get commercials, and we get some good movies and they’re played on, not just 80s, but also sort of post-FM stations, as well, everything from “Time” to “Church Of The Poison Mind.” You put Bruno Mars on “Church Of The Poison Mind,” it’s a hit today. You put Outkast on “Time” or something, you know? These songs, they’re just great songs. In fact, Bruno, if you read this interview, why don’t you do that, mate?

Toddstar: Roy if you had to pick song or two from the catalog… (we get interrupted)

Cheyanne: Hey Todd? Sorry to interrupt.

Roy: We got the two-minute warning. THE two-minute warning. (both of us laugh)

culture-2015 (1)

Toddstar: Good enough. Let’s close it with this: with everything you’ve done musically, I mean you’ve got a career outside of Culture Club as well, but with everything you’ve done, if you could look back and pick a couple things that you want to be remembered for, or you’re most proud of, what would they be?

Roy: Well there are two things; actually, I think it’s the catalog of songs that we’ve left in the world. I’m realistic, we’re not Stevie Wonder or Lennon and McCartney, but we haven’t done badly for a bunch of guys. Quite a nice body of work we’ve left out there. What’s great is particularly playing live you see that, it’s amazing we can play for that long and there’s never a moment, even with new songs in there, there’s never a moment that the crowd sits down. Maybe the ballads a little bit, but even then though, they’re singing along and enjoying it. And the other thing is I think we had a real subconscious level influence on society by our look, and by the way that we…My quote is I think if you grow up with a Culture Club poster on your wall, when you’re a kid in the 80’s, you’re a slightly better person today because of it. I think you’re more liberal, you’re more open-minded. I think it’s true. Savannah Guthrie admitted it on The Today Show, so that’s good enough for me.

Toddstar: I would agree with that. Well thank you so much again for taking time out. We cannot wait to see you guys grace the stage at The Colosseum inside Caesar’s Windsor on Friday August 7th.

Roy: Enjoy the show, mate! If you can get a chance to come backstage and say hello afterwards, it’ll be fun. I kind of wish we were the other side of the river there, staying in Detroit, but it’s okay, come over to Windsor.

Toddstar: Oh I’ll be there. I’ll be there with a smile and enjoy it.

Roy: All right, man. All right, cheers, take care.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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