Lead singer Barry Hay discusses SWITCH, the latest album by the group which gave the world Radar Love.
Why did you call the album Switch?
Well, because it is a
Switch in every way from the last one. And because a
Switch is a way to get something going, as in flick a switch, you know – the electronic connotations. And in the abstract sense, a person has to keep switching in order to stay alive.
In what way has the band changed musically since the last album?
The new keyboard player adds a lot, naturally. He'd been playing with Elton Dean and all those jazzers and for him it was a switch to rock 'n' roll music. To have a player like that in a rock 'n' roll band really made a difference for us.
Is there less pressure on George, having a keyboard man to fill in some of the rhythm parts.
Definitely. I won't have to do the rhythm guitar parts anymore because there's a grand piano onstage, in addition to an electric piano, and synthesizer, and consequently I can stand and sing. I can finally concentrate on my singing more, and we're really happy with the situation as it is. The evolution of the band has been speeding up since we've gone five-piece.
Any switches in the songwriting?
No, George and I are still doing all of it, although we are making them a bit shorter – there are eight songs on the new album. I write just the lyrics, and George writes the music, he writes primarily for the guitar. George will have a tune and we'll sort it out together and then arrange it with the whole band. I end up adapting his melody to the way we eventually play the song.
Can you briefly run down the tunes on the new LP?
There's "Love Is A Rodeo", a chauvinistic pig song about a guy whose girlfriend is an incredible lover, and he's wondering where's she got all that technique. The key line is "Love is a rodeo/Once you think you're riding high, off you go". The title song is about all kinds of switches, naturally, as in switchblade, switches that can drop bombs, just about any switch imaginable.
The single has a different title on the album, the album version is called "Kill Me (Ce Soir)" and the single version is "Ce Soir". I hate to explain songs, actually – they're there for anything you want them to be, some people think a song is silly, some songs come off as being a down, but it all doesn't matter, the song is there and you can make out of it what you want to make out of it.
But to go on, what are the rest of the songs on the album?
Well... alright. There's a reggae number called "Tons Of Time". There's a song called "Daddy's Gonna Save My Soul" about the son of a millionaire who really lives it up, and there's one called "Troubles & Hassles" which is on one hand very plain and forthright and on the other hand there's a soft melodic part. George sings one song, the last song on the album which is called "Lonesome Deejay" about a disc jockey whose girl has just left him and is driving in her car, and he's talking to her through the radio, asking her to come back.
How did it affect you when you found yourself playing songs a year or more old in America on your first American tour, as there was such a long delay between the English and Stateside release of Moontan
Actually we found ourselves doing the songs from
Moontan onstage differently from what was on the album. The songs always change, no one show is the same as the one previous.
What bands did you enjoy playing with on American tours?
We did a lot of dates with Santana, and we were very paranoid about that at first, but it turned out really well. We did some with J. Geils and the Doobie Brothers, and it's always been good, we hit all these weird combinations but it always seems to work. A rock 'n' roll audience is a rock 'n ' roll audience.
What bands do you like?
I really dig the J. Geils Band, and Santana, and Little Feat.
Some critics have painted a likeness between you and an American group The Blue Oyster Cult – how do you feel about that?
I like them for what they are but I wouldn't get any of their albums. I think the guy who compares us to them is a moron. Somebody compared us to Slade as well, but they must have made a terrible mistake somewhere.
Do you get a charge out of the Disco-Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes record which mentions "Radar Love"?
I flashed on that – it's a very noisy record! I was fortunate enough to see them on TV in Holland and they're crazy, it's a real fun, AM record. We're also in that song "Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)" and it's all really flattering. It suits me fine.