Marti Pellow tells Alison Jones how his traumatic experiences have enabled him to draw inspiration for his latest role as Darryl Van Horne in The Witches Of Eastwick.
Marti Pellow is a man who has danced with the devil, and he readily acknowledges that it has probably coloured his portrayal of Satan himself in The Witches of Eastwick.
A decade has passed since he conquered his addiction to drugs and alcohol, but Marti, 44, says that experiences inevitably bleed through to his performances, whether he is singing or acting.
“The drink and the drugs, that is a life experience. The things that happen to me, good bad or indifferent. As a singer songwriter it will morph its way through my music.
“Does it show in how I make decisions about this character? Probably. All the good points and the bad points, you have got reference points.
“There is nothing worse, I would imagine, than somebody trying to play a drunk who hasn’t been drunk.”
Marti’s performance as Darryl Van Horne, the self-confessed horny little devil who is attempting to spread his bad seed among the desperate housewives of Eastwick, is a study in sleazy sexuality.
Rake thin in the (very little) flesh, Marti uses his lithe form to good effect on stage, as his Darryl has a reptilian quality. You can almost see the forked tongue flickering out as he regards his prey.
“I see it as quite lecherous even when I’m not doing much, when I strike a position and hold it. It is all internalizing, I’m still raging.”
This is only Marti’s second musical, after first treading the boards as the equally slippery Billy Flynn in Chicago, in 2003, performing in the West End, Birmingham and then on Broadway.
“They didn’t know who the hell I was (on Broadway). I was there on the merit of my performance alone. I will be eternally grateful because they didn’t need to bring me to Broadway, they wanted to.”
In Witches, as in Chicago, he is surrounded by dangerous women, but while the femmes fatales are firmly behind bars in the latter, they are usually to be found writhing all over Marti in the former, as they throw off their clothes and inhibitions along with the shackles of the judgmental community they live in.
“It is raunchy,” agrees Marti. “It is a very adult piece. You are playing the Devil, where’s your cut off point?
“You are talking about a guy who ends up having a threesome and manipulates these women. Unfortunately I get my arse kicked at the end. Quite rightly too.
“Everybody will be very familiar with the movie but don’t be expecting a poor man’s Jack (Nicholson) or anything that is remotely like that.”
He looks dapper in his slim suit and shot cuffs – the medallion he sports on stage swapped for a rather more restrained purple tie – and the grin, when it comes is just as dazzling as it was when his schoolboy nickname was Smiler. But he wears the years of his experience of his face.
From the late 80s to their peak in 1994, when they barricaded themselves in at the top of the charts for 15 weeks with Love is All Around, Wet Wet Wet were the clean cut face of pop. But after collapsing in a Chelsea hotel in 1999, it was revealed that front man Marti was the Pete Doherty of his day.
While trying to wean himself off a three year addiction to heroin he had been washing down his prescription drugs with vodka and liqueurs.
Rehabilitation followed. When he came out of the Priory, he embarked on a solo career. However, he refuses to blame the temptations and pressures that are thrust at and onto stars as being the cause of his drug dependency.
It might, he says, just as easily have happened if he’d followed in his father’s footsteps and gone to work in the shipyards of Clydebank.
“Addiction isn’t fussy who it breaks bread with. Maybe because you are in the eye of the media it has got a profile but you could probably stand outside and there will be a few people walking by who had very similar problems to me that have nothing to do with the industry.
“I could, through the gift of hindsight, conjure up something or I can just deal with it and move forward. I’d much rather keep it in the here and now.”
The Wets were pretty much over as a musical force after both drummer Tommy Cunningham and Marti quit.
After that Marti dabbled in the solo arena, recording a southern soul album and a jazz album.
Marti was touched when his former bandmates turned up to pay their respects at the funeral of his mother, Margaret, in 2003, and it paved the way for the reformation she had always hoped to see.
A top 10 single, an album, gigs and tours followed. But Marti seems determined to balance this with a solo and stage career and stresses that getting the Wets back together wasn’t part of the current trend of boy bands trying to revive their glory days.
“Reunions for Wet Wet Wet happens every couple of months for us, I grew up with these guys, my friends. If we happen to make music and it falls in the public ears does that make it a reunion? Maybe. We just took a sabbatical.”
* Witches of Eastwick is on at the Birmingham Hippodrome from April 6-11. For details ring the box office on 0870 730 1234.