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Wet Wet Wet



I still recall the ‘I’m staying over at a friend’s so we can revise’ lie I told when I first snuck out to go to a Wet Wet Wet concert. My mother eventually cottoned on and used to berate me for spending all my time ‘going to see that Wet Wet’. She never quite made it to the third ‘Wet’, perhaps assuming that if two Durans were enough, then two Wets was also plenty.

I went on to pass a few exams while Graeme Clark, Tommy Cunningham, Neil Mitchell and Marti Pellow went on to sell in excess of 15 million singles and albums and play to more than four million people in over 25 countries. Success included of course the seemingly never-ending number one Love Is All Around, which they’ve gone full circle with, from love to albatross to re-embracing – perhaps mirroring the band’s own relationship, which included a period of not communicating.

Following a 25th anniversary show in their home town of Glasgow last year, they’re now back with a greatest hits album and are touring for the first time in five years. Mid-rehearsals and tv interviews, I talked to bassist Graeme Clarke about playing old hits, the age of Saturday morning television and whether this is their last outing as a band.

So the new album is greatest hits plus some new tracks. Has the way you write changed over the years?
We all do different things now so it has changed in some ways. (Lead singer Marti is focussed on musical theatre while Graeme has recently started doing solo material) When I think back to the 80s, it was a lot of big production, studio-based sounds and when you first start you try and emulate that. Now it’s more about sitting together with a few instruments and throwing ideas around. We’ve each got such different taste, and we always did, we don’t all listen to the same stuff, but there is a distinctive Wet Wet Wet sound that we create.

What’s it like looking back on your success?
I never thought about industry pressure at the time, which is a good thing. Being a working class lad from the west of Scotland, it’s instilled in you that you were lucky to get out and go and earn a living playing music and to remember that it might not last for ever. Back then I had a lot of friends who were losing jobs and real pressures like that, nothing like us worrying about whether or not our new song would get released. When you’re in it, you don’t have time to stop and think, you’re just kind of doing it. It’s only really now that you talk to people and they tell you that you had an impact on them in the late 80s and 90s, that you realise we were on people’s radar.

Your first album came out in 1987 – the music industry must feel like a very different place now?
We were signed in 1985 and didn’t have a record out til ’87 – we had a good 18 months of writing, playing crap gigs, learning, just spending time together to learn how to be a band. Something you don’t just get these days. And even that word, band, it’s a bit of a lost word – to me there is a difference between a band and a group. That time we were given was such a good grounding for us. It wasn’t about getting a quick return in those days. I’m not saying ‘oh in our day it was better’ but in the 80s and 90s people went into bands to entertain their mates. People don’t seem do that anymore – to just join bands just to make music with their mates. It seems to be just about getting something up on YouTube, and I get why that’s important but things were so different for us.

We would release a single, go on Saturday morning tv to play it and suddenly lots of kids in the UK would have access to you. They would get their pocket money the same day and then go and buy your records Saturday afternoon in an actual record shop – even those don’t exist any more. It’s a changed landscape entirely. We’re lucky in as much that we can still get out and play live – and that’s how we sell our records now, by getting out on the road.

Any regrets?
There are always regrets. There are things I’ve said in the past that..the unfortunate thing about YouTube is that you can stick our name in all manner of interviews come up that…it’s all there documented. But I’m a believer that at any given point, you are where you’re supposed to be. I think there are times when maybe I could have dealt with things better, but I’m human. We’re lucky, we still have a relationship with each other – we can still sit in a room and still talk and we’re still friends. We started out as friends who liked music and that still stands. It’s like each member of the band is holding an elastic band – each member is pulling the tension, and that’s how we create, everyone pulling in their own direction. Luckily we’re through all the messiness (the ‘messiness’ included them not speaking for some time, re-uniting at Marti’s mother’s funeral) and now we’re at a point in our lives where we’re adults and we can talk.

I’m a songwriter so I need that outlet for my creativity and Wet Wet Wet is a great vehicle. I can go out and say ‘I’m Graeme Clarke’ and that carries a little bit of weight, but if I say ‘I’m Graeme Clark from Wet Wet Wet’ people’s ears prick up and they say ‘oh we’ll give you a listen then’. So I’m incredible lucky that I can do that. Wet Wet Wet is an on-going thing, obviously it’s slowing down the older we get and the less energy we have, but at the same time new songs and new music is our lifeblood.

You’ve just released your greatest hits, is this one last hurrah for Wet Wet Wet?
I’d be really disappointed if I was saying to you ‘this is it’. It gets harder and harder for us to reconvene and get back in that room and sit nose to nose. But I think next year we’ve got some exciting things coming up – writing songs and new music is going to breath new life into us. I’m not saying the heritage thing is bad, but we’re an on-going concern. Of course people want to come to the gigs and hear Angel Eyes and Sweet Little Mystery and they say they don’t particularly want to hear new music. I feel slightly disappointed by that, I’m not saying we go and play just new stuff and bore everyone, but I think there’s room.

We set the bar high with the old songs, so if we can hit the same writing standards as before then we’ve got a fair shout. I hope we’re going to do a new album, it’s just everybody has to clear some time out and put the work in. For a start Marti’s a busy boy, but it’s great that he’s here for this tour. His musical theatre is a brilliant thing, we all think it’s amazing that he’s out there and he enjoys it, all power to him. And all power to Wet Wet Wet too, it’s the band that won’t go away no matter how much you try and put it down, it’s still there. We’ve managed to weave ourselves into people’s minds somehow.

‘Step By Step – The Greatest Hits’ is out now. Wet Wet Wet are on tour in December, with special guests Blue. See http://www.ticketline.co.uk/wet-wet-wet#tour  @wetwetwetuk @graemeclark1