Paul’s Interview with Craig Adams 7th February 1998 for Scotland Calling (Scottish Music Network)
We caught up with Mike Peters’ bass player, Craig Adams in Manchester on Saturday, 7th February 1998, during the U.K. tour. The University building is a labyrinth of corridors and stairs – you have to have a geography degree to find your way around! In one of those corridors we sat Craig down, got the tape recorder out and talked….
How’s life, Craig?
Life is really good, thanks. We’re finally getting to grips with the new songs, having a laugh on stage and off, and generally enjoying ourselves. Had you heard much of Mike’s music before this tour? Obviously I’d heard of him when he was with ‘The Alarm‘. We used to run into each other during the 80’s doing various TV shows around Europe, but I didn’t know much about his solo stuff. I knew he was active, but I hadn’t heard anything by him for ages. How did you meet up again? It was quite strange. I was actually moving out of my house in Brighton, and the telephone was the last thing plugged in. I got a call from my old mate Billy Duffy, who said ‘look, I’m getting this thing together with Mike Peters – do you fancy coming up and having a play?’ I said OK, we met up in North Wales and got on like a house on fire. (Pardon the pun). The project I was initially involved with was ‘Colorsound‘, a band with Mike, Billy and Johnny Donnelly (Saw Doctors). After we’d worked on that for a while, Mike asked if I fancied joining his touring band – Johnny was doing it so I said yes, I might as well! That was really it. In between all this, I’d moved back up to Yorkshire, so the travelling was fairly handy too.
How long had you been down in Brighton?
Five or six years. I’d played with ‘The Cult‘ from 1992 until we split up in around 1995 but I’d done a couple of things with Billy in the meantime as well. It was a good place to be based at the time.
What’s it like playing the small venues?
Well it’s a gig really, when it come’s down to it, isn’t it. You either like them or loathe them. Playing a small venue is harder in some ways. You can see the whites of people’s eyes in the crowd! Really big venues are just a mass of people – you can’t really see anybody. But on this tour, we see everyone. We can tell if we’re doing it right by their reactions!
Do you feel you’re going back to your roots?
You know we had a joke – how long are we supposed to pay our dues for? But no, as I said a gigs a gig – I’m a player. Playing is what I do for a living and a hobby. It doesn’t matter if I play to a hundred people or a hundred thousand, as long as I enjoy what I’m doing, it’s still the best job in the world. Playing is the thing.
So size doesn’t matter?
In this case, no. That was really dodgy, that. I can’t believe you said that!
Where do you call home now?
Leeds. It’s where I come from originally and now I’m back.
How did it all start?
I started in a band in Leeds called ‘The Xpelairs‘ – playing keyboards! We got signed by Zoo Records in Liverpool; it was the Teardrop Explodes label. We were all sixteen or seventeen. Then I joined the ‘Sisters of Mercy‘, again based in Leeds. These were the really early days – they weren’t really going then. This was right in the beginning. I had to borrow a bass guitar. The only bass I could get hold of was a left handed Fender – I had to string it the other way, and I went to the audition with this fuzz box. I could play guitar a bit, and I had the idea the bass would sound great distorted. I played for a bit through a rig and they said ‘Yes, all right you’re in’. So I did that from 1980 to about 1986.
What kind of places did the Sisters play?
A lot like this, actually. We did the circuit for a long time. We played all around Germany and the rest of Europe as well, everything from bars upwards really. Then around 1986, the guitarist, Wayne Hussey and myself left and formed ‘The Mission‘. We did that from 1986 to 1992. Wayne and I decided we’d been together for long enough by then, we’d been with ‘The Sisters‘ and ‘The Mission‘ together for ten years or more, and it was time for a change. So I joined ‘The Cult‘ and Wayne kept ‘The Mission‘ going. ‘The Cult had been going since the early 1980’s in various forms, and I’d known Billy Duffy for years. The first gig I played with ‘The Cult‘ was in front of 35,000 people in Germany, supporting ‘Metallica‘. We hadn’t done that much rehearsing, as the music was quite straight forward. So I turned up with all my notes on stage – I must have looked really stupid! I had this little file with pieces of paper stuck all over the monitors. From the stage, the crowd just looked like a faraway mass of people, and I got through the gig OK.
Were your biggest gigs with The Cult?
As far as touring goes, yes. Metallica played to thousands around Europe during our six week support slot. Then we played a couple of gigs with ‘Guns and Roses‘. ‘The Mission‘ played to 100,000 up in Scandinavia somewhere. But again, it’s just a mass of people. The nearest one is about twenty foot away, and the stage is high so you see heads only. These gigs with Mike are the ones! Last night we played in The Wheat sheaf, Stoke. The crowd was about two foot away, right in front eyeballing us!
Do you miss the Limos and Hotels?
No…Yes! The hotels I miss. On this tour we drive back to North Wales nearly every night after the gigs. We’ve got to know the motorway services really well. It has been a great experience and a lot of fun. I’m enjoying it no end.
What did you do when you left The Cult?
Bits and bobs really. Trying to get things going with bands, different things. Looking out for work – if anything turns up that’s nice I’ll give it a go. I’ve worked pretty constantly from 1979, so I’ve been able to pick and choose what I do. It’s not like I have to get a job next week – I have a place to live, but it’s nice to keep your hand in. I keep in touch with my former band members – we all get on, although it’s more difficult when some live in the states and others are dotted around the globe. Nothing silly. Remember, Billy got me this gig!
Your first bass?
Well, as I said, the first one was borrowed. I was working in Morrison’s Supermarket, on the nightshift, and I saved to buy my first bass – a Hondo. I had to have something. That one didn’t last very long – it got snapped in a moment of madness and destruction! We were testing out sounds and scraping it along this wall and it gave up the ghost. I got an Ibanez Roadster then. That got smashed as well – the body split down the middle. A bloke in Hull said ‘I’ll fix it for you’, so he glued it back together and bolted a big brass plate across the front of the thing to hold it together. That was basically the bass I used throughout the ‘Sisters’. We played the Albert Hall, and I played this £70 guitar! That was it and it was fine until I lost it. It disappeared and I do not know where it’s gone. I’ll know it as soon as I see it because of this great brass plate on the front. It was the heaviest guitar in the world!
Well, in the ‘Sisters’, at the beginning I used to use an H & H guitar combo with a fuzz box! The first gig with the Sisters we didn’t have any amps at all. It was all D I’d and put through the monitors. We’d turn up basically with our guitars in a plastic bag with a couple of leads, the fuzz box, and one riff – get D I’d and off we’d go. I must say that wasn’t the best way to go about things. Doing that is not advisable. I then graduated to a Trace Elliott thing for a bit – I forgot what it was called, but it had a GP11 graphic in it. I still use that graphic today. Also it had one 18″ and a couple of 10″ speakers and a horn or two as well. On American tours we used whatever was there, really, and I discovered Am peg. That was that really – I’ve been with them ever since. Once I heard one of them, I was hooked. They are so good, although I borrowed a late model one recently, and it wasn’t as good. I don’t know why that should be. Mine’s one of 500 classic ones they made – I had two in the 80’s. That one’s doing OK, though it keeps fusing, I don’t know what’s going on but something up! With The Cult again I used an Am peg set up with two SVT heads, two 15″ speakers on the bottom and two 8 x 10″‘s – it sounded great. That’s another thing with the smaller gigs. The Am peg needs to be loud to be heard at its best but there’s so much power there that sometimes the things set so low that it’s still in first gear. That’s why I carry a little Peavey around as well. At the moment I’m trying to get hold of a Portaflex. The Cult album we recorded with Bob Rock we used a Portaflex almost exclusively. That’s not too loud, but it sounds great. When we get to America I’ll be doing some shopping, I think!
What’s the bass guitar you’re playing now?
It’s Overwater. They make them up North. What happened was I used to use Gibson Thunderbirds and RD Artists. I did the classic trick of putting the T-bird on the guitar stand, tripping over the lead and the headstock dropped off. They’re prone to that! Yeah, it wasn’t damaged before, and I did it at a gig. Our sound man at the time was supposed to be delivering this Overwater to I think it was ‘Wet Wet Wet’; somehow I ended up with it anyway. I tried it, and again it was the combination of guitar and amp that did the trick. Yes I said, I’ll have that!
Are you a collector of guitars?
I was for a little bit, but then I realised I wasn’t using a lot of them. To me, if it’s not being used it’s a waste. I keep visiting people who have my old guitars! I went to see Tim Rachino who used to be in ‘All About Eve‘ and then he had a band called CNN a while back and I saw my old RD Artist on his wall.
‘Where the hell did you get that from?’
‘Oh, we borrowed it from you back in 1988!’ But at least he was still using it, so that’s cool, I’ve got an EB something – it’s the SG shape, and an acoustic – don’t ask me what that’s called. I’m not bothered what they are really – I try them, if I like them, I have them. If it works it works.
Your Technique with Mike is straight ahead 8ths?
Yeah, it’s always been my policy to play as few notes as possible. That’s what I’ve always stood by. But with Mike it’s a different thing to what I’m used to. There’s more bass playing and I’m not really a bass player! That’s not how I’ve thought of myself anyway. It’s hard to explain – I can’t think. I like simplicity.
Have you ever had a lesson?
What, on bass? No! That’s why I used a fuzz box, because I didn’t know how to play. Through the fuzz box it sounded fantastic no matter what you played! It sounded good to me anyway.
Do you practice?
(Quizzical look) What, now? Jeff Beck said that if he had a choice of staying in bed all day or practising the guitar, staying in bed would win every time! I sit in front of the telly and start playing. If I feel like practising I will, but there’s no set routine or time or anything.
What’s your top tip for budding bassists?
If you don’t like it, don’t do it! If you do like it, go for it! People have so many different styles, and no one is right or wrong. Lemmy was my hero. I wanted to sound like him. I bought the Rickenbacker guitar and I bought the Marshall amp, but I sounded nothing like him! And why do it anyway if it’s been done before? Find your own individual sound, but don’t break too many instruments on your way to finding it!
What’s a typical tour day like?
OK, What I’ve done today. We left the house at about one o’clock. We dropped Mike off at the football – Man U were playing at home. We parked up in Manchester, listened to the football on the radio, came here, did the sound check – played any old song we could all remember at the time, hang around, do the gig, have a kebab and go home! You’re enjoying it! Yeah, you get up and play music – when it’s going right it’s the best job in the world. It’s a great feeling.
Do you get any pre gig nerves?
I’m a bit of a thrower upper, actually. It doesn’t matter if we play to two people or a stadium full, I do like to get it out of my system. I can’t eat from about midday onwards on gig days. I don’t feel nervous, though. I think it’s just habit. And not a nice habit either! I never used to do it, but I never used to know what I was doing on stage either. My stomach gets ready for an evening of running about, like sports people, I suppose. How bands can go for meals before a show beats me. You’ve got great rapport with Johnny on the drums He’s so easy to play with. We’re having a whale of a time. Every now and then we make eye contact, especially at the end of songs and in tricky parts. Sometimes it works, and as you will have seen sometimes it doesn’t. I think we fake it pretty well though. The crowd know if you’re enjoying yourself on stage. If you’re not how can you expect them to enjoy themselves? A tight rhythm section is vital to any band anyway, but you have to enjoy it as well. That was what punk was all about. We all came from that time – apart from Johnny who was about five – that’s what got us all playing. Mike, James (Stevenson guitar) and myself all came from punk. We knew how to play an E and an A, and we were musicians. Musical ability is not the point, it’s the attitude.
I’ve got to ask about your hair?
We all had stupid hair once, didn’t we? I know Mike did! One day I just decided that’s enough, it’s got to come off. And it did – all of it! Around 1993, I realised I looked a sad looking bloke with receding hair hanging around with other sad old blokes with receding hair! I think I look timeless now!
What’s touring like with a family at home?
I met my wife on tour anyway so she knew the deal from the start. As far as my little girl’s concerned, Daddy goes away sometimes for a while. When he comes back though I’m around all the time. Some Daddy’s come home at 6 o’clock; others go away for two months! I like to keep my family separate from my work – that’s what the band is to me – work. They did come to the Gathering though for a holiday and to see what Daddy does. I think she was quite amazed, really.
I see you’re doing backing vocals with Mike?
Yes, I’ve never done harmonies before. I’ve usually got it right by the third chorus! James was supposed to sing, but he said his guitar parts were too difficult to sing as well. And Johnny can sing too – by the end of the tour we’ll get them all singing if they like it or not!
What are the plans for after the tour?
We’ve another band ‘Colorsound’ with Mike, Billy, Johnny and me. We’re going to the states in the spring and we’ll see what comes of that. The songs are good; the personnel are great, now it’s down to luck and fate. You can’t look too far ahead. If you can plan next week, you’re doing fairly well. As soon as you plan too far ahead, that’s when the wheel comes off!
Thanks Craig – How do we find the gig?
At this point the tour was going OK. The infamous Birmingham date was the following Tuesday – no doubt you’ll hear all about that elsewhere!