“Without wishing to sound too faux-humble, I really wasn’t sure how many would be interested in the continuation of something that was essentially 30 years old.” So says Ben Watt, who on August 20 and 21 – tomorrow and Wednesday – will play at the Slaughtered Lamb in London’s Clerkenwell, his first solo gigs for 30 years. Watt explains how he got here. Having come to a crossroads with his record labels Strange Feeling and Buzzin’ Fly, he elected to part-close them and devote his energies to other projects. One was Romany And Tom, a book about his parents, childhood and old age to be published by Bloomsbury next February; another was his return to writing songs and the planning of a new solo album, to be begun next month.
The last Ben Watt LP was North Marine Drive, released back in 1983. This is also when he last played as a solo artiste. Does he remember his last gig?
“I have flashbacks of moments at gigs, being on stage at various venues, mainly London: LSE, Kingston Poly, The Venue, the Moonlight Club and of course the very early days when I was given my first gigs by Mike Alway at Cherry Red at Snoopys in Richmond, where, on my first gig I supported the Thompson Twins before they became superstars, on a wet Wednesday night in front of about 60 people with a guitar and drum machine. ‘What do you sound like?’ Mike had asked. ‘Durutti Column with songs,’ I’d replied, trying to secure my first gig.”
“I’m still a great fan of small gigs,” he adds. “When I started DJing after the heady heights of Everything But The Girl’s success in the ’90s, I loved the intimacy of Notting Hill Arts Club, the low ceilings, the sweat. I went out around London a few months ago and checked out some venues that might suit my new songs. I saw Charlie Parr playing at the Slaughtered Lamb and really liked it, so I thought it was as good a place as any to start. The aim is to play mainly new stuff – it is, after all, why I am doing this – but if I dip into the past I think I will go right back – before EBTG – into that handful of songs that have never been heard since 1983.”
Read more of Ben’s thoughts on going solo again and further revelations about his forthcoming LP in the next issue of MOJO, on sale next Tuesday, August 27.