eFestivals caught up with Status Quo's Francis Rossi, his band appear as headliners at this year's GuilFest appearing on the Main Stage on Sunday 18th July.
Actually I'm a sack of shit I've got some sort of bug.
Hope that clears up.
So do I, I've got a gig tomorrow, or the day after.
Are you looking forward to headlining GuilFest?
I am, I don't think about whether I'm headlining or not, I enjoyed it last time. When you've got a good memory of somewhere you think yeah. Now, how do I say this without upsetting someone? I heard last night that Bono is gutted that he can't play Glastonfest. What a load of shit! We have this thing where people try to make Glastonbury sacred. Where as GuilFest no one is saying to me months in advance, "Won't it be wonderful you're playing, what'll it do for the band?" They're both just gigs.
But you ask me am I going to enjoy it at GuilFest? Yes, I enjoyed it last time, it was a great site, and there's a great vibe down there, and you didn't think, "Is it sacred?" No, there's nothing sacred about it at all, it's just a bunch of guys playing in a field.
Yes, very much looking forward to it, and last time I remember getting there in time because 'Char & Dar' were on, as the Sloaney's say, or is it Chas & Dave? And I always wanted to hear them do, "I ain't going to be made to look a fool no more." I love that song, so we got there in time to hear that, and it made the day even better.
We got accosted by that Australian guy who does a lot of drawing, Rolf, which was a bit weird, but there you go. You do this gig in Surrey, and look to your stage right, and there's Rolf Harris, and you think you're seeing things.
What did he accost you about?
Stuff, can't really say, but my partner (Rick Parfitt) ended up doing some sort of Christmas record with him last year ('Christmas in the Sun') which was a sack of shite. Caught him terribly, but there you go. I completely washed my hands of it, he caught my partner but he didn't catch me. It was a shame, but it didn't work, but that was Rolf catching Ricky out.
Do you like playing festivals, how does it differ from other gigs?
It is different, I don't know how. You get into them because they start on Friday or Saturday, and I've already heard the weather report it's going to be 12 degrees, and it's going to freeze up there. We did one the other day near France, and we were on at 11.30, I think that's where I got this (sniffs). Each gig is a gig, I wasn't lying about Glastonbury, I don't particularly have it in for that gig, other than everyone just keeps going on about it as though it's sacred. No gig is sacred. No gig can be more special than another, because that would make one set of punters more special than the other, and when your arse is on that stage, they're all special because they are right in front of you.
I just remember hearing about GuilFest for years and thinking it was some sort of hippie fest, like to old Glastonbury, or Cropredy. For me it's weird how a lot of those have changed their image. I never understand why once it has an image, they work on it and change it. Like the Brit Awards that used to be the biggest sack of shit we used to have. They put in on Capital radio for a few years, managed to kid the kids that they were missing something, and now everyone wants to get there.
The thing with GuilFest is I went there and I really enjoyed it, and it's a nice memory. But, I've got to be careful, because the more I talk about it I set expectations in my head. I think, "It's going to be really as good as it was last time." And if I do that, then I walk on stage looking for that, thinking, "Where is it, where is it, where's that good?"
That's one of the reasons, again, that when we were doing Glastonbury people would be asking, "What are you going to do?" What do you mean what am I going to do? I'm going to go on stage. "Are you going to stay and watch lots of other bands?" No, why? I do that every week! So all this builds the expectations, and you get on that stage and you're expecting something to be woah! And that's what I think is messing human lives up, we're all full of such expectations of whatever we do, and rarely do things live up to those expectations. It's like sexual fantasies, they're great in your head, but you try them out, and you think well it didn't quite work out like it did in my head. It doesn't does it?
But that's half the thing, the expectation?
No, I don't like that. Whether I've learnt that professionally not to do that, and therefore get a better result, and I perform better. You know it starts at zero, so let's see how it goes today. But if you go in there thinking, "Cor this is going to be..." I know we all do it. It happens in the middle of winter runs where you might get to a venue and do two nights on the trot, and you go in there, you have to be careful you're not expecting what you heard last night. Rather than make it from what you hear of right now, and then build that into tonight's gig.
That's the problem with this kind of promo. I keep going back to Glastonbury because I got hammered on it so bad, and people build up this big false expectation. Years ago we did this big thing for Nordorff-Robbins, and me and Ricky were the only people who did the promo for it. And, everytime people kept asking us were we nervous? McCartney was on, Floyd was on, and they kept saying to us, are you nervous? No! Are you nervous? No! Are you nervous? No! And by the time we got there, was I nervous? Yes. Because, you end up thinking, there must be something on here, because they keep asking if I'm nervous. Why should I be nervous? I'm going to do a gig, what a strange thing to say.
I was a bit nervous going into the solo shows, because I was out of my comfort zone.
You said you try not to build up any pre-conceived ideas about the gig, but do you have a track that you plan to play, in an emergency if you like, because you know they will get a good reaction?
No, we have a running set at present time, and that gets changed each October. We've been talking about that since last October, it's been the biggest problem we have as a band. If we do have any problems that's the biggest nowadays. Ex-songs, which are quite a lot of songs, which have to be there because everybody wants, the biggest if you like. Then there's a shape that the set takes, an ebb and flow, and once you have that shape then you have a working situation. I just don't believe, when other people are asked, "are you going to change anything on the night?" say yes. No, when I'm in full front of house on the night, how am I going to change it. Then the lighting plot changes. I find it hard to believe people when they say, "We're just going to go on and decide what to play next." Well you have no lighting plot then, all those kind of things.
I woke up about 6 o'clock this morning and it suddenly went through my head, what are we doing this summer? The winter one is about an hour and 45 an hour and 50. And that's one of the differences about a festival. After about an hour at a festival it starts to get difficult to hold them. Usually most of them have been there since the beginning of the day, in scorching sunshine, they've been drinking and not looking after themselves, by the time that time of night comes around they're burnt out, even though they're waiting to see you.
The drag is, when you're younger you want to top the bill, you say, "I'm not going on unless I'm topping the bill." Then you get older, and I have gotten older, and we quite often go in now and say "can you get us on at nine, or half past eight, anything early?" Especially at a festival, we'd love to get on early, really do our thing, and the earlier we're on the better we function. You start putting us on at 11.30pm, especially some of these European festivals where they want to stay up late.
We were in Denmark and they have something like 350 summer festivals in Denmark alone, and Denmark is only tiny. And they're all well worked out, and well attended. This is because if you go there in the winter, as I remember from either last year or the year before, it was getting light about quarter to ten in the morning and getting dark about ten to two in the afternoon. You think it's no wonder they get out in the summer, they go mad, and the further up Scandinavia the worst it is.
Have you got other festivals lined up for summer?
I don't know I've not got my sheet here. What usually happens is various things come in, and what happens now is that things are coming for next year, or the year after. So, I see them and think good. Then it comes up, where people like you ask where I'm going and I don't know where I'm going, I've forgotten.
I know that the festival is in July, we've got a week of shows in Ireland, and then we're recording for two or three weeks. Then we've got the last bit, where go from July through until August or September. Then I do solo shows again in September. Then Quo will rehearse again, and go out and start the winter bit which starts in France or Germany. It just goes around like that, it's odd for us if we'd had that American market that most people chase, we would be able to disappear out of these things for a while, and make the band more exclusive, or appear that way on this side of the pond. But we don't really have that, so we keep going. We did make a rule some years ago that if we're off longer than three weeks we want shows put in, because we don't really want to go to rehearsals. Rehearsing in some empty film stage at 11 o'clock in the morning, doing 'Rockin' All Over The World' is really quite painful.
The very thing that people thinks drive us insane - the boredom of playing those songs for about 450 years - is that when we play them to people, they love them. So, there's a reason to do them, it makes a lot of sense then. Quite often when we're sound-checking in the afternoon in empty venues I think, "I've got no idea what this is all about." The lowest point is that time in the day, and then luckily you get on stage, and you realise what it's all about.
I quite often wake in the mornings and just cannot imagine how you do that, and I've had that since I was about 12 when I did the first gig, I just cannot imagine doing it again. And I cannot imagine the audience will too. It's like the expectation thing we spoke about earlier. I've got to be careful because I'll think back and think I really enjoyed that, and then I'll expect that. So, I just go in play, and hopefully I'll come off quite pleased.
When you last went to GuilFest did you get a chance for a look around, or was it just in and out?
We don't live far from there, so I know Guildford, and it's local to us. That's another thing, we went, oh GuilFest great, we can get straight home after that.
Will you be playing any new material at GuilFest?
No, no, we're not very good at that. It should be a good show, when it's good it's blinding. I did these solo shows, and everyone was "Wow! That's quite good!" I got back to where the band were in Strasbourg and Luxembourg and even our PA went, "Wow!" She's not particularly into the band at all, but she has been saying recently, "Jeeze, when it works it doesn't half go does it, something happens!" I don't really understand what, but something happens.
I don't get it. If you analyse it, like everyone says it's three chords, bam, and they're all basically quite similar, and what else is it? Fuck knows! Nothing, there's no particular beauty up there. My partner's quite attractive as far as women are concerned, but his shape leaves a lot at the moment. If we're all old, then it's not that, can't be. Something happens, and I don't know what. I try to analyse it sometimes, and then think I don't want to analyse it, and just go.
As I said we all went and did this Strasbourg gig and everyone was up and it was late, very late, and then went and did Luxembourg and it kind of went back to normal after five o'clock and everyone was very flat and calm and quiet. We got to the gig, walked to the stage, and there is 3-4,000 people in this place, and it looks all right, and then we get on stage and something just happens. I suppose it's just our bottle on the line, isn't it. I don't know, something kicks in.
Isn't it just that people know the songs inside out and backwards?
Maybe, but that wouldn't explain why exactly the same thing happens on my solo shows, exactly the same. I don't know what it is, but I'm glad it's like that, because to be honest, it could be as boring as hell, and I can understand why a lot of people think Status Quo are as boring as hell. You either like them, and that's something I learnt when I was very young. Most people don't like you because of your music, it doesn't matter who you are, we don't care who it is.
We always think Michael Jackson is the biggest thing the world has known for some time, he did 45 million albums worldwide on 'Thriller'. Well, if he'd just done that in America alone, it would mean 220 million people didn't buy it. So, most people don't like Michael Jackson, and most people don't like The Beatles, I find that odd. That's the weirdest thing, when I hear people say they don't like them, or they weren't up to much. That's always been a great leveller for me. I don't worry about what people think of us, positively or negatively, I just get on. I'm very lucky that x million people think the sun shines of... well, thinks we're good, anyway.
So what do you like to listen to?
I don't much, but what I do like to listen when I do. I'm very keen on Muse recently, I like Snow Patrol, and The Killers, but I still listen to the stuff that I grew up with. I still listen to The Everly Brothers, Little Richard, The Eagles, early/mid period Fleetwood Mac stuff. The main time I tend to play music is on the bus after the gig has finished and I tend to put on Pavarotti's Greatest Hits, I grew up listening to that stuff. All those Italian Operas, I only really know the arias, I don't much about the rest, it's just something that does that to me. One thing I'm quite proud of is an eclectic mix, it could be blues, it could be jazz, as long as it's Django Reinhardt area of jazz.
Recently I heard 'Need You Now' by Lady Antebellum, I thought what is this? I like this, and my PA and my manager heard it, and she came in with the album out of the blue. Some people would think somebody like me would be, "Oh no this isn't rock, it's got to be macho, and must have a tattoo on it." But, I don't really care.
I think we have got such a problem with ourselves, the image of ourselves, relating to what music we like and dislike. It's just music, it doesn't mean I'm an intellectual or not, it just means I like that. The best thing about music, is that it may hit me. I like anything, and everything.
Have you ever been to a festival as a punter?
No, I couldn't do that. Toilets and all that, very touchy about the bathroom department. The idea of being in a field anyway, never has appealed to me.
What about sleeping in a tent?
I could do that, but I wouldn't want to do that at a festival with sit and mud all around me. As I said when I mentioned Glastonbury, let me sell you something, give me £200, well you'll want to know what it is won't you. Well with Glastonbury they're not going to tell you, but they'll still sell the tickets. People go down there, and I see them in the most terrible messes, but most of the bands that played last year, most of the audience weren't even born when the bands were at their height, which is weird. But, there is something that goes on, there's a vibe, there's something goes on, a collective consciousness, they're all thinking, "We're here it's marvellous!" It almost contradicts what I said, in terms of what I said, they do see it as almost sacred. There's something, "Fuckin' 'ell, someone just pissed down my leg, isn't it great!" Fuck me! I'm looking around and I don't see it. But they, the people who go to Glastonbury, really are getting off on it, big time! I just don't understand it, personally. I can't get that carried away by it.
But festivals and gigs do have that atmosphere about them sometimes.
There is if you're out there, yes, they do I suppose. There are some that have vibe that GuilFest does have, but there are many that don't. We've done Reading, I don't know four or five times, we went to one, I think the Young Ones were doing something (as Bad News), I just had a quick look, and was thinking I'd much rather be on at six or seven o'clock this top of the bill is shit, who cares. I stood at the side of the stage with Lemmy, and this rain of bottles, pig shit, snot, cans, comes flying across. I was thinking, "What the hell is this?" And Lemmy turned to me and said, "We started that." Well done, you've turned the gig into a fuckin' riot, there's no fun playing place like that. There's one or two you get in Scandinavia, and Europe that are like that, and you think, "uh oh, this isn't nice!" So there are different vibes, and I think what I felt at GuilFest was a nice vibe, it was family orientated and it seemed to me that everybody was feeling good and there was no aggro. You can feel that, and it's nice. I thought, "My god this place is groovy." And that's also what I've got so many times with Glastonbury to be honest.
What has been your favourite festival appearances?
Those two I've been talking about Glastonbury, and GuilFest to be honest. There were a couple many years ago, but they were different to today. I remember trying to do this Wheelie Festival in Southend, and we were supposed to be on at two in the morning, I think, and we got on at nine in the morning, and it was just mayhem in those days, there was no security. I don't remember them specifically now, but I do remember GuilFest, turning up in time to see Char&Da, enjoying a nice afternoon, being freaked out by looking to the stage and seeing Rolf, and thinking, "What the fuck's going on here!" And Glastonbury was quite good in the end. But you know what I mean, people had built that up so much, asking what are you going to do that afternoon? What the hell did they think we were going to do? Stupid question, they've obviously got their hand in their trousers thinking about Glastonbury, how good that was going to be. No, it's a gig!
So what advice would you offer to a band about to play their first festival gig?
Don't build it up, I think that with any gig. Maybe it's unique to me, although I know all the guys in the band have learnt to do that. We turned up one time, when we were doing three festivals in a day. Somebody was obviously making a lot of money. We were on at Knebworth, I think with Queen, and we were on about four o'clock in the afternoon, yes - lovely! And John Edwards came up to me while I was having a leak and said, "It's going to be fabulous today, I've been out there, there's hundreds of thousands, it's going to be great! " I said, "Shut up!" He said, "Why?" I just said, "Shut up!" We got there and it was a sack of shit, it just went wrong. So, we got up there and did our normal thing, and it starts to work, and here we go, and now we know what we're doing and start to enjoy ourselves. I really want to enjoy it when we go up there.
And that's my abiding memory of GuilFest, we wandered on I'd seen Chas & Dave and really loved that, thought this is all right, and I went home after a really enjoyable gig, so I liked that. Hopefully we'll get there this year, and it'll be another good one, I don't know, we'll have to wait and see.
interview by: Scott Williams
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