Interview:
Alabama 3

Let There Be Larry Love…


Howl! Woooo! Eeek! Screech! Hahaha! Ya! Bababababab!! These are just some of the noises I was confronted with when I rang Rob Spragg from the enormously talented Alabama 3. Time to find out what’s going on…

AD: Erm…are you at the zoo at the moment or something?

RS: No but I’ve got a houseful of three year olds right now. Take my advice – don’t ever have kids!

AD: I shall bear that in mind. Thanks. Anyway, I’ve got several questions here for you to mull over if you’re ready…

RS: Fire away.

AD: Ok, Alabama 3 have been going for a considerable amount of time now. How is it that you think you’ve managed to stay fresh?

RS: Because when Alabama 3 first came out, it was right in the heart of the house boom of the late eighties and everyone was listening to either that or James Brown funkadelica type stuff – or a hybrid of the two. We decided to concentrate more on a Blues and Country and we realised we had a bit more longevity with what we were doing. I mean, with an idea as stupid as Country & Western Techno as a starting point, we gave ourselves a wide margin to work with. The way we saw it was there was no point in making records for “now” – we were far more interested in making music for 5 years time.

AD: And arguably your biggest break came when “Woke Up This Morning” was used as the theme tune to “The Sopranos”. How did that come about?

RS: It was literally just because it was on rotation on an American radio station, and David Chase, the show’s producer, was driving down the freeway getting really into it. So he called us to ask permission and that was that. He was originally going to use a different theme tune every week for that programme, but in the end they decided that the song was so strong that they’d stick with it. They thought the lyrics and the whole of the track suited the feel of the storylines, which was quite funny because the song’s not about gangsters at all – it’s about female domination.

AD: How do you think the success that track achieved affected you?

RS: You’d be surprised how little difference it made, becaue it became a twisted paper trail of music industry bureaucrats. When Sony picked us up, I think they were expecting a bunch of gung-ho Americans, what with the name Alabama 3, so they seemed a bit disappointed that they got a bunch of Welshman and Scotsman delinquents! But yeah, before we “got the gig” for “The Sopranos”, I remember we had an album come out on the label about the same time as Ricky Martin – we sold about 50 copies and he sold 50,000. So the programme’s definitely given us cult status anyway.

AD: Does it frustrate you though, that this will more than likely be the one track you will forever be remembered for, or do you regard it as a bonus?

RS: Oh it’s a bonus really. From the top, we’ve operated behind smokescreens, and I’d rather be remembered for a programme as cool as “The Sopranos” than for fucking “Friends”. One funny thing though is that all the real life gangsters hang out with us now! I think they see us as their pet piranhas or something!

AD: There seems to be a running theme through the majority of your work – notably religion and drugs, as well as containing some strong political undertones. How important is it to address those issues in your songs, and why do you think these subjects have played such a massive part?

RS: Well, speaking for myself, I AM the proverbial “son of a preacherman” – I was brought up in a Mormon fundamentalist family, so you know, I had to sneak in any Punk records I bought and so forth. And I think any social anthropologists would realise that the conflict between Moslems and Christians is fundamental to everyone so I think it’s very important we address those issues. As far as drugs and politics go, well, I live in Brixton so it would be very difficult for me NOT to have strong political beliefs. Regarding drugs, I grew up with the whole “empowerment with Acid” thing, though we never actually got hugely involved with the artificial highs ourselves. We’ve never either endorsed or criticised the drug scene and I think that’s the best way to be.

AD: So what do you think is the best thing that could happen to our present government?

RS: I think I’d quite like them to stay the same. The way I see it, they’re more than capable of digging their own graves. I think where the general public are concerned, people are a lot more aware of global issues now and everything that’s going on around them. People don’t believe everything they’re told anymore.

AD: If you could only convey one message to the nation through your work, what would it be?

RS: If you want to find peace, find the keys to the mansion on the hill…

AD: That was a bit of a shameless plug for one of your singles wasn’t it?

RS: Yes. Well, I have no shame you see…

AD: Fair enough. So what made you give yourselves the pseudonyms that you did?

RS: To be honest, at that time, we were driving around Italy in a small van every day and all we were doing was drinking and taking LSD. So one drunken evening we came up with the idea that it was not a band we were forming, but a church – maybe that stemmed from the fact that my dad was a Trotskyist, I don’t know, but anyway that’s where the idea came from and it stuck. Even now, I still see our audiences as a congregation rather than just fans. I suppose you could say that the DJ is the preacher nowadays too.

AD: So what are you most proud of that the band has achieved?

RS: I’d have to say the work we’ve done with MOJO – the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, which centres on bollocks like the Criminal Justice Bill. The other thing I’m most proud of is when Rob Brown joined us on stage after 25 years in prison. He just came on and ranted and ranted, and it was fucking beautiful to see. (NB For those who don’t know, Rob Brown was arrested and jailed in 1977 for the murder of Annie Walsh after the police had beaten a confession out of him. He spent a quarter of a century imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit).


I guess moments like those can make you feel pretty humble really. I thought it was a good note on which to end the interview, so I bid Rob farewell and wished him luck with feeding time at Twycross.

Interview and Transcript by Tone E

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

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