Ocean Colour Scene frontman Simon Fowler tells Andy Coleman about the band’s plans for a major anniversary
Birmingham music favourites Ocean Colour Scene are set to mark their 21st anniversary with the release of two new albums.
The band formed in October 1989 from the ashes of two local acts, The Boys and Fanatics and next year will see a flurry of activity to celebrate this milestone.
First off is the release of new studio album, with the working title Rockfield, followed by a UK tour and festival dates.
Then, in the autumn, a second album featuring 21 tracks will hit the shops and there are plans for some special shows around its release.
‘‘The Rockfield album is named after the studio where it was recorded, in Monmouth,’’ explains the band’s 44-year-old frontman Simon Fowler, who is a former Birmingham Post reporter.
‘‘It incorporates all the styles that we do, from folk to almost heavy rock, dare I say.’’
At the core of the band is Simon, guitarist Steve Cradock and drummer Oscar Harrison.
Alongside them are guitarist Andy Bennett and bassist Dan Sealey who were drafted in after the departure of original bass player Damon Minchella in 2003.
‘‘I wrote most of Rockfield last year, on and off, and there are songs on it by Andy, Dan and Steve,’’ says Simon.
‘‘We recorded it with a guy from Wolverhampton named Gavin Monaghan. It’s the first time we’ve worked with him. He’s brilliant. He came down to the Wolverhampton gig we did at the end of last year and we went over to his place, did some demos, and it seemed to work.
‘‘We recorded at Rockfield because it’s always been in the back of our minds as a place we’ve heard of and it’s in a fantastic area.’’
Despite setting up their own label, Moseley Shoals, Ocean Colour Scene signed with Cooking Vinyl for the release of Rockfield.
‘‘Quite frankly, I never wanted to be a businessman,’’ Simon says.
‘‘We thought it would be an exciting challenge and we’d become a bit tired of big labels.
‘‘But Cooking Vinyl is a small label so you know everyone and they’ve proved pretty good this year.
“They had a big hit with the Prodigy album so they can punch above their weight. Our label is still in existence, I presume. Steve has an interest in it to sign bands but whether or not he’ll do that I don’t know.
‘‘He put his solo album out on Moseley Shoals so it’s there for that type of thing as well.’’
Talking of solo albums, whatever happened to Simon’s?
‘‘I was going to do my solo album last year with John McCusker, the fiddle player,’’ he explains. “He’s played on a few of our records as well. Just as we were planning it he got a call from Mark Knopfler, ‘Would you like to go on a 116 date world tour?’.’’
So he chose the former Dire Straits singer ahead of Fowler?
‘‘I think he chose a small fortune,’’ laughs Simon.
He adds that he’s had a recent meeting with John but the solo CD has again been put on the back-burner because work will soon be starting on OCS’s second release of 2010.
‘‘It’s a strange album,’’ Simon admits.
‘‘We’ve been together for 21 years next year so the idea is to possibly re-record seven of our most popular songs, collaborate with other artists on seven covers and do seven new songs.
‘‘I guess it would come out in autumn next year and the collaborations will be with people we’ve bumped into in the last 21 years.
‘‘Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher are perhaps the ones people instantly think of which may mean we won’t do that. We’ve made records with Paul and Noel in the past, so I don’t know.
‘‘I’m sure there will also be some special gigs in the autumn.’’
A special gig this year will be at Selfridges in Birmingham’s Bull Ring on September 9.
The invite-only show will mark the opening of the new O2 Academy in Bristol Street the following night.
Simon says he’s disappointed not to be doing the first Academy gig – that honour goes to adopted Brummies Editors – especially as they opened the Academy in Dale End nine years ago but they will perform at the new venue on September 13.
The forthcoming gig in the menswear department of Selfridges sets him thinking about the most unusual show OCS has played.
‘‘We’ve played some that are memorable for being disasters,’’ he reveals.
‘‘There was New Orleans, about 1991 or ‘92. It was a 1,400 capacity venue, we were supporting the House Of Love and there were ten people in the audience, eight of which were on our coach!
There were two guys, Carlos and Alvarez. I remember their names as I dedicated each song to them.
‘‘House Of Love obviously weren’t much of a draw in New Orleans. The show was nearly cancelled but for some reason it wasn’t, which was probably a grave error of judgement.’’
So where did the band go after they’d finished their support slot?
‘‘We felt obliged to stay and watch House Of Love.”