I’ve always been searching for something...
And then they came walking into our office. Dexys – no longer Dexy’s Midnight Runners – remain an inspiration force, a band for whom music isn’t mere noise but an instinctual force that inspires the way you act, walk and dress. Kevin Rowland walks in, with a larger, more imposing frame than you might expect. Following him is trusted Dexys lieutenant Jimmy Paterson, a man whose obvious love and tender admiration for the frontman is deeply impressive.
Seated, the pair have an obvious, natural chemistry honed through years of creative bursts, enormous success and testing times. Right now, though, they simply rejoice in being Dexys, as Jimmy Paterson explains: “I feel blessed that I’m a part of Dexys now, the same as I was in 1978 when I joined. Probably even more now – I appreciate it more now. I wake up every morning and I can’t wait to get to rehearsals or go and play a show onstage. It’s incredible at my age – being appreciated by people is incredible.”
Dexys have every right to feel blessed. The band recently returned with new album ‘One Day I’m Going To Soar’ and are taking down time following another burst of ecstatically received shows. Fusing new material with old, the band play two sets each night: one devoted to their recent album, the other devoted to their history. “It was never going to be a Greatest Hits show” Rowland insists. “We didn’t wait all this time and work so hard and spend so much time to then come back and just sell it out for the highest offer. I’d rather slit me wrists than do that. No. We’d never have done a Greatest Hits show. Obviously we’ve got a past and we want to acknowledge it but we’re here because we made a new record which has been well received and we’re really happy with it”.
Once again returning from the breach, Rowland joined with Paterson and Mick Talbot to form a new incarnation of the band. The line up – and, indeed, the name – may be different, but the chemistry, the soul is instantly recognisable. “Without the right chemistry forget it” the frontman says. “Without the right people.. Really the most important things are: A) that they play good. They can play. B) It really helps if they get it, they get what’s going on. Y’know what I mean? You can be a great musician and miss what we’re doing – not understand it. There’s all different kinds of music - because someone’s a good player doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily be right, for us. They won’t relate to it. They’ll hear it but they won’t hear it. So you need somebody who understands it and hears it in the right way”.
Sat beside him, Jimmy Paterson nods his head in agreement. “The right people in the right environment all working for the same aim. We were lucky, really, that everybody was totally into it” he explains. “I mean, Dexys is a special thing – it’s more than a group. It’s very hard to describe because I’m totally into Dexys, I always have been. Maybe I’m a bit biased...”
‘One Day I’m Going To Soar’ has certainly been a long time coming. The product of extensive sessions and numerous false starts, Kevin Rowland insists that the pair never once gave up on their vision. “It’s always in the pipeline” he says. “If you talked to us seven years ago: what you doing? Oh yeah, getting ready to make this album. Well, I was, certainly. Getting ready to make this album. Demoing it. We were always moving closer to it, it just really did take a long time. We were always moving closer to it. Then all of a sudden (clicks fingers). The lights turned green – everything seemed to work”.
Both are clad in clothes that are striking yet difficult to place. The influences are there – 30s, 40s Americana, what would become known as Ivy League – but there’s a playfulness, an eclecticism that means Dexys can’t simply be defined as looking retro. “I don’t like to define it 40s, 50s – I might wear 30s sometimes, some things come from the 20s” Rowland insists. “Like I say, if there’s something contemporary I like then I wear it. I like to think of it as retro-inspired rather than retro. I like to exaggerate it”.
Rowland’s passion, his sheer verve seems to infect the band. Onstage, Dexys remain – as ever – a unit, and this comes down even to the way they dress. The group have caught the bug, and regularly descend on vintage shops around the country to explore new avenues and discuss fresh ideas. “I think it’s a great addition to the music really” agrees Pateron. “Getting ready to go onstage, to perform a show is really exciting. You’ve got to get ready a half hour before you go onstage because you’ve got to decide what you’ve got to wear. It’s really, it’s an extra buzz. It’s fun. Shopping is fun. We were in Southampton and I went for some breakfast and discovered this vintage shop and the next thing I knew everybody had gone.”
To Rowland, looking good and making great music is the key to his existence. Looking back, the singer admits that he can’t remember a moment when both facets didn’t dominate his personality. “To make it really simple: when I was six, seven or eight I saw Elvis, Billy Fury on TV. From the youngest age I just wanted to look good and make music. You know what I mean? That’s it, really. I can’t understand anybody who doesn’t want to look good” he asserts. “People who go onstage in their ordinary clothes.. I say ordinary clothes, we dress the same way all the time. I can’t really understand why you wouldn’t want to. Roxy Music made great music and they looked amazing. I mean, why not? I just don’t understand anybody who wouldn’t want to do that, so I can’t explain it. I can’t understand not doing it that way.”
As for now, Dexys are simply focussing on each little step they can afford to take. Organising another batch of live dates, the band are in heavy rehearsals searching for new ways to define their sound. “Our live show – like Jim said – is two hours and all day long I’m preparing. Two hours is a lot of singing, so I’m preparing for that all day and there isn’t much time for other things. We’re always tweaking the live show though aren’t we? Adding little bits and pieces. The day you’re not moving forwards is the day you start moving backwards, I think”.
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'One Day I'm Going To Soar' is out now.