Steve Cradock interview: Collective Memory

Founding member of Ocean Colour Scene, Steve Cradock spoke in-depth to Marko Kutlesa ahead of a seven date tour with Paul Weller's band The Songbook Collective.

Ben Smith

Last updated: 6th Oct 2016.
Originally published: 5th Oct 2016

Image: The Songbook Collective

Steve Cradock is regarded as one of England's best electric guitarists and has had a career so far that has lasted over a quarter of a century. Born in Solihull, he first played in bands in the late 1980s and one of his early groups supported Steve Marriott, a Mod legend and former lead singer of Small Faces.

In 1989 he was one of the founding members of Ocean Colour Scene who, after an unsuccessful debut album, began to receive more positive and widespread attention following Paul Weller's invitation to support him on a tour in 1993. Following that run of dates Weller would also ask Craddock to tour with his band. Since that time Cradock has appeared on every Paul Weller album and each of his live band tours. 

Ocean Colour Scene followed their tour support slot with Paul Weller for one with Oasis in 1995. This contributed to them signing for a major label and releasing their second album Moseley Shoals. The record was hugely successful, reaching number two in the album charts and spawning four highly popular singles - 'The Riverboat Song', 'The Day We Caught the Train', 'You've Got It Bad' and 'The Circle' - three of which were top four hits.

The album spent almost 100 weeks in the album charts. Its follow up Marchin' Already arguably fared even better, reaching number one on the album charts, where it displaced Oasis's Be Here Now. Their third album, One From The Modern, reached number four.

Published by The Sun newspaper, while Ocean Colour Scene were at the height of their fame, an interview with a former friend and drummer, who had played with most of the band in an earlier group, outed the band's lead singer as being gay. Undeterred by the betrayal and gutter level tabloid attack, the band continued, strengthened and have released six more albums since. 

Ocean Colour Scene embark on a tour later in 2016 in which they will celebrate the 20th anniversary of breakthrough album Moseley Shoals, but prior to that Steve Cradock will take part in a seven date UK tour by The Songbook Collective, which includes his fellow members of the Paul Weller band Andy Crofts (The Moons), Ben Gordelier (The Moons), Steve Pilgrim and Andy Lewis.

The intimate venues on the tour will be treated to music by Paul Weller, Ocean Colour Scene, the Moons and each of the members solo efforts. Steve is a personal friend of Mani from The Stone Roses, is known to be a fan of The Beatles and currently lives in Devon with his family. Marko Kutlesa caught up with him during the London based rehearsals for the tour.

Before Ocean Colour Scene had been invited to support Paul Weller on tour had you at all been fans of both The Jam or Style Council? A lot of Jam fans never really got Style Council.

Well I was a fan of both of them, but the other members of Ocean Colour Scene weren't. Simon was into Bowie, Neil Young and Bob Dylan. Oscar was kind of a reggae man, I think and Damon was into Echo & The Bunnymen.

Had you been a full on Mod revivalist with the long, green parka and patches? Did you have a scooter?

No, I didn't have a parka. But I guess I was into the Mod revival, yeah. I had a scooter, I had a PX.

Did you actually get to meet Steve Marriott? What was he like and what were the gigs like?

Yeah, I did get to meet him. I supported him twice. He was really good. I didn't realise what a great guitar player he was. And he was still a really good singer. He gave me my first spliff, Steve Marriott did.

If you're aware of what he did around the late 80s it was the Packet Of Three or The Dts, in fact I played with both those bands. It was kinda like pub rock, really. The band weren't really up to much, if I'm honest with you, but it was just Steve Marriott, wasn't it? He was kind of over singing a lot as well. He over sang from Humble Pie onwards, I thought. But, it was still Steve Marriott, so... 

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When Paul Weller approached you to be part of his band on the Wild Wood tour, did either you or the rest of Ocean Colour Scene worry that this new undertaking would negatively impact on your commitment to the band?

Well we were all on the dole at that time so I don't see how it could have been a negative thing really. We'd all signed back on after leaving our first record deal, so it could only be a positive thing, I think. 

As that relationship progressed were there ever any thoughts that it would become so consuming that it would take you away from the band?

Yeah, I think they've gone through that. But I've been playing with Paul for 21/22 years now and for me to imagine not doing it., well, I could imagine not doing it, but at the same time it's just been an amazing journey. They could have put their foot down. I dunno. You'd have to ask them that, wouldn't you?

Were the persistant shouts on the Wild Wood tour and on later tours for Jam material ever discussed in the privacy of the dressing room with the band leader?

No. I think that was a really good period for Paul, where he didn't do any Style Council or Jam songs, it was just solo stuff. That was his frame of mind. He was creating a new path.

He finally relented and later on went back to including some of that older material. How did that feel?

Yeah, I loved it. Is it the right thing to do? If he fancies singing it then it's good, you know? He has to be in the right mood to sing it.

As you've progressed through your musical career which guitarists have you discovered, admired and taken on as latter day influences, ones that may not have been influences in the early part of your career?

Er, I don't know. I like the overall sound of groups really, I'm not that into guitar players that much. I like a girl called Haley Bonar at the moment, it's quite grungey. She has this song 'Kismet Kill' which is my favourite song at the moment. 

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Do you think the transition from being a police officer to working in the theatre of rock n' roll was difficult or at least an eye opener for your dad (Steve's became his manager after leaving the police)?

Yeah, I think so. I think he saw it as a positive thing though. When we started guitar bands wouldn't be top 40 bands, I guess we'd all be classed as indie bands. Around that time he would have seen that we were trying to be successful and he must have thought that was a good thing.

But the downside would be all the drugs and the drinking, the bollocks side to it all. Maybe he knew about all that through the police though? Again, you'd have to ask him. 

How did you feel about your dad being around that environment? Were you ever embarassed or uncomfortable?

When I was 14 he gave me a fag and a pint of Guinness and we started swearing in front of each other, so we'd been doing that from eight years before I was in Ocean Colour Scene. He used to drive me to these working mens clubs every weekend, so I could play. We liked hanging out with each other, it was good. 

You've got the Moseley Shoals 20th anniversary shows coming up and you're still a member of the Paul Weller band, so why bother doing these Songbook Collective dates? 

Because I really like the musicians, I think their solo stuff is really good. I really like The Moons. I think Steve Pilgrim's solo albums are really good, he's a great singer, which is something you just don't see when he's a drummer.

And we had a bit of time off. We play well together, we enjoy hanging out, so it was a kind of a no brainer. It ended up being an album and now we've got these seven dates. It's become an achievment, I think we're all really proud of it.  

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What was the general feeling among the band members to Simon's outing in The Sun by a former friend of the band?

It was quite a horrific evening and morning actually. That a friend would do that. Simon was told the night before it went out, so he was just mortified. He was in bits. He was pushed to a certain place that people just shouldn't be pushed to.

It was a hard one for him to take, but he took it well and eventually it became a really good thing, because he could be himself. He was having to hide it, from his family, from everyone. 

It's kind of horrific that a newspaper would be interested in a story like that.

Yes.

Makes you think how times have changed from when that was published to today.

I don't think they have. I think that paper you're on about is still just as awful. I don't even want to talk about that publication.

Have you been to see The Stone Roses since they reformed?

I saw them at Heaton Park on the Saturday night. I thought they were really, really good. Ian Brown was in good form, vocally. I did a DJ thing for the aftershow and unfortunately that was the night my mum died.

I was DJing and I got the phonecall through that she'd passed. I was expecting it, but we didn't know it was going to be then, so it was a bittersweet evening for me. 

Did you see The Beatles: Eight Days A Week, The Touring Years yet? What's your favourite era or album of The Beatles?

No I haven't. Is it still on at the cinemas? I really would like to see that. I really want to see Supersonic, the Oasis one, too. I pick and choose with The Beatles, I love all of it. I love all the albums as much, I think. 

Aren't you a bit cut off from rock n' roll in Devon (where Steve and his family now live)? 

Well I'm always out on the road, so I'd say no. I just got back from America, touring with The Specials and now I'm here with the Songbook, then I'm touring with Ocean Colour Scene later this year, so absolutely I'm not cut off. But it's nice to go home. I like Devon, I like the seaside. 

Are your kids developing Devon accents and how does that sound to you?

They sound posh. 

How does it feel to do a hometown gig these days? Your Hare & Hounds date will be a lot more intimate than some of the stadium gigs you've performed.

I do solo gigs at the Hare & Hounds, it's a great venue. I'm pleased it's still open and still doing it. I used to live in Kings Heath and we used to rent a room off Bob Lamb, who produced the first UB40 album, in Kings Heath, so I know the place really well.

I'm looking forward to it. Having said that, you know what it's like on the road.... people say “What was it like going to America?” You don't see fuck all of it, you're on the bus all of the time. You pull in, knackered, get some food, play a gig, get back on the bus and go to another place. I suppose it's glamourous in a way, but it's not what's imagined. It's like being part of the circus, without wanting to sound too cliched.

Find available The Songbook Collective tickets below

Glasgow - The Classic Grand, Thursday 6th October 

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Linlithgow - The Star and Garter, Friday 7th October

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Birmingham - Hare and Hounds, Sunday 9th October 

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