Interview: Ian Prowse – Amsterdam, Pele
Published on March 14th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
9th April sees the release of Does This Train Stop on Merseyside: The Very Best of Ian Prowse, a collection of the Cheshire-born, Liverpool-based singer/songwriter’s finest moments from his twenty-one-year career as main man of first Pele and then Amsterdam, including duets with legendary duo Elvis Costello and Christy Moore.
Rocksucker fired some questions over to Ian in the build-up to his St Patrick Day’s show supporting Damien Dempsey at London’s HMV Forum, which shall be followed in April by a UK tour with a seven-piece Amsterdam line-up (click here for dates and links to buy tickets)…
Amsterdam – “Does This Train Stop on Merseyside?”
How did you go about selecting the tracklist for your forthcoming Best Of? Will it be chronological or did you try to mould it into an album in its own right?
The basic idea was to mix up in people’s minds which songs I did with Pele and which songs I’ve done with Amsterdam, so the whole thing is mashed up with nil chronology. The idea being that the listener realises it’s all part of my story whichever band made the tune.
Apparently you’ve been writing a lot of songs. What can you tell us about them? Do you know yet when you might start recording them? Will it be an Amsterdam release?
Yes, there are a lot of new tunes on the go. Three of them have made it onto the Best Of album. Will definitely make another Amsterdam record and will make it early next year. Too busy with my first baby and this Best Of album to get anything out this year.
Congratulations! What’s the current line-up of the band? How much new material will you be playing in your forthcoming live shows?
Well, we shall probably play the three new songs along with all the very best of my career. You’ll get tears, joy, ranting, darkness and daftness. We’re a seven-piece at the moment and it’s a beautiful thing, like a travelling circus. You really wouldn’t want to miss it.
What can we expect from your St Patrick’s Day show with Damien Dempsey at the HMV Forum?
Well, I’ll be playing solo…ish. I’ve played the Forum a few times in my career so I can’t wait; it’s a huge place, but we’ll be going hell for leather to fill it up with my overly emotional pop songs. And of course I can’t wait to see Damien; it’s well known I am beyond moved by his music, but on a personal level, as a friend, I’d die for him in battle too.
Amsterdam backing Elvis Costello on The Jonathon Ross Show
How did you get to know Elvis Costello? Any plans to collaborate with him – or Christy Moore, even – in the future?
We were on the same bill at a show in 2000 and he loved us. We became friends and have done all manner of musical pursuits with him since. God knows about future stuff, I never write songs with other singers in mind.
Christy Moore performing his cover of “Does This Train Stop on Merseyside?”
Apparently “Does This Train Stop on Merseyside” was John Peel’s second favourite song of all time (after “Teenage Kicks” by The Undertones, of course). Did you get to know him at all well?
He called me one afternoon when I was in London shortly after he started playing the song. We spoke for about an hour about all sorts of things. It was the strangest and most wonderful thing to hear that voice, the voice that got me into The Jam in the first place, down my phone. We resolved to meet soon and do a session for the show after his holiday. Sadly he never came back. That was my only contact with him.
Do you still sing the words “Marlborough Arms” now you know that’s not the name of the pub?
I sure do.
Explanation for previous question contained within above video, in which Ian talks about the various inspirations for the lyrics of “Does This Train Stop on Merseyside?”.
Do you have much activity planned this year for The Irish Sea Sessions?
Yep, the magical Irish Sea Sessions is back out on the road in late October. It’s something else, it really is.
Irish folk seems to be a big influence on your sound. Was that the kind of stuff you were exposed to growing up?
No, not at all. My access to that sort of music was The Waterboys’ Fisherman’s Blues album. Before then I was a strictly Jam/Clash/Smiths/Stranglers sort of kid. Now of course I know a lot about it having done a Master’s degree on the subject, but I still don’t feel remotely like a folkie; I’m a rock and roll man to the core, yet that sort of instrumentation is very sympathetic to the sort of songs that come out of me. A genuine hybrid.
Pele – “Fair Blows the Wind for France”
Why wasn’t “Fair Blows the Wind for France” a big, fat hit? It should have been!
If I stopped to think why some of my songs have not brought me more fame and fortune over these past twenty-one years, well, I’d jump into the Mersey with a large brick tied to my ankle.
Is your back catalogue available anywhere online?
Everything is at Townsend Records, I believe.
“It was often remarked that Pele sold more of their striking, primary colour T-shirts than they did records.” Do you still have any of these T-shirts? Rocksucker wants one!
We sure do, people are always asking for them.
Are there any obscure and/or up-and-coming artists that you’d like to recommend or give a shout-out to?
Finally, if you were forced to spend the rest of your days in solitary confinement, but were allowed to bring the entire works of five different artists along to tide you over, whose would you choose?
Just Bruce Springsteen and William Shakespeare would do. All human emotions and experiences are there.
Ian Prowse, thank you.
Does This Train Stop on Merseyside: The Very Best of Ian Prowse will be released on 9th April by CIA Records via Universal.