Interview: East 17
Published on June 8th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
Last week, Rocksucker enjoyed a hearty chinwag over the blower with East 17 lynchpin Tony Mortimer, the principal results of which shall be published in the July issue of Sound Off Music Magazine.
However, for those manifold friends and acquaintances who need their East 17 fix like the group themselves needed Mortimer’s song-writing prowess all along, Rocksucker is delighted to reproduce for your delectation a selection of answers which did not make the final cut.
Conversational b-sides, if you will.
A proper intro would by now have mentioned that East 17 are back with a new single (‘Secret of My Life’), a new album, a series of live dates and a new singer, Blair ‘Sparx’ Dreelan, in place of the frequently errant Brian Harvey.
Oh, look: this intro’s back with a bang! And so are…
How did it make you feel when Brian, John and Terry reformed as a three-piece under the name E17?
They didn’t really reform, I just left. They did one album and then it didn’t really happen because the cracks were still there, to be honest.
Were they really going to release a single called ‘Fuck That’ the other year?
(Laughs) Sorry, I just had a swig of Pepsi when you said that! I think that was Brian’s plan, wasn’t it? Yeah, that was his ‘angry’ song. I think some other guy wrote it so blame him, not them!
How do you go about divvying up the song-writing duties in this new line-up?
We just go in and see what we can come up with, really; no pressure, we just all sit there and chip in ideas. We recorded the album ourselves but we’re going to hand over the reins to producers because it’s all taking off and now we’re going to be busy with tour dates, making a video and other stuff. You just don’t have the time. So we’re going to hand that over to a producer, or a couple of producers, and hopefully they can finish it in time while we concentrate on being ‘the act’. Hopefully it’ll get released around September, or something like that.
Have you noticed the conventions of pop song-writing change much since the band’s nineties heyday? Could you get away with something like ‘It’s Alright’, with its extended melancholy intro, nowadays?
It’s just a song, a collection of chords and words; you could strip it down and do it in today’s style. You hear dance mixes of old Elvis songs, so you can always remix. A lot of those sounds are coming back now, so I think we could get away with it. It’s all gone a bit dance-y.
Any plans to release ‘Falling Rain’, the song you wrote with Reggie Kray?
Do you know what, I completely forgot about that! We planned to release that with Reggie when he was alive but he died so I’ve not got any plans to release that at the moment. If people ask me to, maybe I’ll remix it and do it up a bit. That would be great to do.
How is John’s roofing business going?
That’s going okay, bless him. He doesn’t like it when the weather’s bad, though; he’d much prefer to be dancing around onstage! It’s easier, really, doing the old stage work. I think it’s good for him to focus on that, to have that up and running, because sometimes you need a break. You need something else; like me with my solo stuff, writing on my own.
You once said that, in the beginning, Tony Watkins offered you a record deal because you were the “only band with a dog”. Eh?
You need something different to catch the public’s eye. Management and record companies like to see some sort of marketing angle so his eyes lit up when John said that to him. He said, “What makes you different from other bands?” and John said, “Well, we’re the only one with a dog.” It was tongue-in-cheek but he liked it, went with it and it all kind of took off around the dog! We’re still using the dog’s face now so it’s actually a lot truer than it sounds. It was John’s dog. I know it’s funny but there’s a lot of truth in it.
Which song or songs are you most proud of having written?
I do like ‘Thunder’, but probably ‘Deep’, which used the chords from John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. That’s where that came from.
Are you still a spiritual kind of guy?
Yeah, I guess so. I mean, I’m not the Pope, but I believe in Jesus and that. Yeah, I am spiritual. I guess that spiritualism is the closest thing to religion.
Have you managed to overcome your bout of agoraphobia?
Yeah, I’m over that. I still get panic attacks a bit but you learn to live with it. You get around it rather than over it. It’s funny because you can go out and get agoraphobia in a crowded room yet I can go onstage in front of a load of people and not get it. It’s a strange thing.
Finally, could you name – as of this very moment – your top three albums of all time?
Purple Rain by Prince and The Revolution. Legend by Bob Marley. And Steam by East 17!
Tony, thank you. And dear readers: look out for the other half of this interview in the July edition of Sound Off Music Magazine!
For a list of live dates, please visit east17official.com