LOOKING A LONG TIME AHEAD
An interview with Dave Cousins by Phil Hewitt, Entertainments Editor, Chichester Observer
Reproduced by permission
It's their 40th anniversary year; they're touring on the back of a great new album; and life's never been sweeter. Strawbs frontman Dave Cousins says: "It's much more fun now. There is not the pressure on us any more like there was when we were with the major labels - not the pressure of having to come up with the singles. Now we make albums with our own company and we put them out at our own pace. And we have a very loyal fan base that is growing all the time.
"We have never played a package tour before - and it means we are playing every night to 500 people who have never heard us before."
The package sees them on the Classic Legends Of Rock Tour 2009 as one third of a triple bill with Focus and Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash (Friday, October 23, Worthing Assembly Hall, tickets on 01903 206206).
"The 40th anniversary is just one of those things that creep up on you, but there has always been a market out there for us. We have always stuck steadfastly to what we do. We never did go down alleyways that we don't understand, and we have an audience that come along, come what may."
Especially in the States where they spent a good deal of time in the 70s - for simple economic reasons.
"We've got 50 million people here. They've got 250 million people over there. Instead of selling 100,000 records, we were selling 200,000 and 300,000. The good news is that another tour to America and Canada is lined up - all part of the current high.
"Prog rock is having a bit of a resurgence at the moment. For a long time when punk came out we were seen as the has-beens, the boring old fogies who were out of touch. Complicated arrangements were not what was wanted. They wanted three-minute songs that you could just bash out."
But times change, with many people finding their way back to The Strawbs through Yes and Rick Wakeman, an early member of the band. As Dave says, it means The Strawbs are still picking up plenty of younger fans.
It helps that those early years of the 70s were such a creative era, he reckons: "A lot of the influence came from The Beatles in their later years. People listened to the riffs they were doing and Yes became the surrogate Beatles."
The Strawbs took a rather different route - though certainly not the folk route many people believe lies behind them: "I have never sung a folk song in my life," Dave laughs.
It all seems a lifetime ago now, though, Dave says - but one certainly revisited on their latest album, Dancing To The Devil's Beat - a recording warmly received by the aficionados and lapped up by plenty of new converts.
"I am thrilled to bits with that. I intended it to be part of the 40th anniversary celebration - a summary of what we have done over the past 40 years. I played the banjo on the record because I played banjo on the early records. And there are tracks where Oliver Wakeman really stretches himself on the organ just like his dad did. It's astonishing having him there."
And for The Strawbs' 40th anniversary bash in September, on successive nights Dave and The Strawbs had the pleasure of playing with successively Wakemans junior and senior.
Yes, life really couldn't be better at the moment, so much success coming in the wake of what Dave calls his 20-year sabbatical (1980-2000).
"I think it is all the better for having had a break. I think we would have ground The Strawbs into the dust if we hadn't done.
"I don't think we wanted to go around playing in the local pubs which was the circuit we would have got into. Now we are going around doing some very nice theatres, and we have got America and Canada coming up.
"We are looking a long time ahead."