The Stranglers have been a band since 1974. Such a tremendous legacy presents a dilemma for music journalists — does one ask questions that have certainly been brought up countless times or dig deep, perhaps too deep, to come up with new and probably confounding inquiries?

Fuck it. Instead of a standard Q&A we presented two Stranglers — longtime bassist Jean-Jacques “JJ” Burnel and frontman-since-2000 Baz Warne — with a selection of their hits, fan favourites and choice cuts from their most recent albums. This led to some great storytelling and fond remembrances.

“Lowlands” (From Giants, 2013)

BAZ: This song was inspired by a very drunk evening in a car, in Holland. We were on tour and ... Holland’s not a very big place, so we had a base in the middle of it, and we’d strike out, do the gigs, then go back to the same place. We were coming back one night with a guy playing percussion on a champagne bottle with a broken drumstick, JJ singing, (keyboardist) Dave (Greenfield) in the front singing his keyboard parts, and me singing the bass parts. We were smoking this really strong Dutch weed and it made the whole evening surreal.

JJ: And it fucked up the time signature.

BAZ: Yeah, the time signature in the song reflects that as well. So yeah, it’s about that crazy night.

“Golden Brown” (La folie, 1981)

Would you agree this is your most well-known song?

JJ: In some countries. “Peaches” and “Waltzinblack” are catching up. “Golden Brown” was in that big movie, Snatch (2000) ...

BAZ: And “Peaches” was in Sexy Beast (2001).

“Spectre of Love” (Suite XVI, 2006)

BAZ: That was written about my daughter. I was estranged from her for a few years, for various reasons. When I presented it to the boys there was some resistance because of the title. The Stranglers don’t do love. But once I told them it was about my daughter — that it was a different kind of love ... so that’s what it’s about.  

“Waltzinblack” (The Gospel According to the Meninblack, 1981)

I made the mistake of listening to this track for the first time while tripping on mushrooms.

JJ: Funnily enough, that’s not a bad way of listening to the whole album. I would not recommend listening to it straight. It was recorded on heroin, mainly, so you’re not far off. You need a change of consciousness to get into it.

BAZ: People have walked down the aisle to this song, and played it when putting a body into the ground. It evokes many things for different people.

“Barbara (Shangri-La)” (Suite XVI, 2006)

JJ: Barbara is an old flame of Baz’s.

BAZ: My very first girlfriend. I happened to be cleaning out an attic and found a box of junk representing my life as a teenager. I found this little perfume bottle ... I hadn’t thought about Barbara in 25 years but as soon as I opened the bottle I knew it smelled of her. She was a big girl. Don’t know where she is now.

“Norfolk Coast” (Norfolk Coast, 2004)

JJ: At the time, I was trying to reclaim the Stranglers. We had a few years where there was some tension amongst ourselves. I disappeared to a beach in Norfolk. I was there for a few weeks, and in the second week I saw where the coastline had slightly drifted and exposed what is called “Seahenge.” In the centre is an upturned tree trunk that had been dated to about the 21st century BC. It was very inspiring, and (that inspiration) marked a change in our fortunes.

“Let Me Introduce You to the Family” (La folie, 1981)

JJ: This was the Stranglers trying to do something funky. We’ve tried all sorts of musical avenues and fucked up every time. Our interpretations have missed the point — “Peaches” was a reggae thing that sounded nothing like reggae.

“Nuclear Device (The Wizard of Aus)” (The Raven, 1979)

JJ: We witnessed the political shenanigans of a certain Premier of an Australian state on our first visit there. We were there for about six weeks. This man, Joh Bjelke-Peterson, he was basically a criminal who gained power through gerrymandering. We became rather critical of him, wondered how this guy who got only 20% of the popular vote had done that. He threw aboriginal people of their land, sold uranium mines to groups who performed nuclear explosions off the coast of Australia. He was racist and corrupt. At one point he brought people in to storm our concerts. We had to flee over the state line. But a wonderful inspiration for the song.

BAZ: We were there last Christmas and played “Nuclear Device” — still relevant to some Australians now as it was then.

We have our own shady character holding the office of mayor right now ...

JJ: Ford, yeah. How many have resigned from his cabinet since this morning?

“Tucker’s Grave” (Norfolk Coast, 2004)

JJ: Tucker’s Grave is a pub just down the lane from where we rehearse. Our headquarters, if you will. It’s a cider pub more specifically, and this cider will knock your fucking head off. It’s cider-delic. The building is at a crossroads. It’s all stonework with no (cellular) signal, no music. No bar. You help yourself.

Who was Tucker?

BAZ: Edwin Tucker committed suicide toward the toward the middle of the 18th century, when it was illegal in England to take your own life. Because he’d done that they couldn’t afford him a Christian burial. So rather than bury him they sat him on a stump at the crossroads. The birds came and pecked his eyes out. His ghost is reputed to haunt the building.

The Stranglers’ latest album Giants is available everywhere now.

1 Comments | Add a Comment
Well done Jesse and TORO. There's been very little T.O./Canuck press on the band's brief return to North America, and this is most welcome. Miss your print editions... but hope you keep plugging along!
*Your Name:
*Enter code:
* Comment: