'80s - Cutting Crew (2009)
'20 Years On - Time To Cut To The Chase'
The pop/rock group Cutting Crew formed in England in 1985. The two founding members, guitarist Kevin Scott MacMichael and vocalist Nick Van Eede, made a couple of demos before becoming a foursome in 1986 - adding bassist Colin Farley and drummer Martin Beadle.
In 1986 Cutting Crew released its debut album, Broadcast. The young group gained mixed reviews from critics, but not when it came to the single '(I Just) Died in Your Arms.' The romantic tune became a smash hit in the United States, reaching number one on the Billboard singles chart. Other chart hits were melodic numbers like 'One for the Mockingbird,' and 'I've Been in Love Before.'
In 1989 Cutting Crew released a sophomore album, The Scattering. A third full-length album, Compus Mentus didn't hit the ground running in 1992, and so in 1993 the band was no more.
Chatting now one-on-one with the original lead singer, Nick Van Eede, having put together a 2009 touring version of Cutting Crew for some european and US tour dates (Regeneration Tour), I first asked him what it had been like as complete unknowns that their debut single, '(I Just) Died in Your Arms' suddenly hit #1 in the US and they were being flown here, there and everywhere to meet the press and do TV?! “Yeah, it was like a rocket and something that you wait all your life for. It just takes you by surprise. It was just massive, yeah. Also, the record company released it as the first single, whereas most record companies spot the big one and release it maybe second. They could have just put one out just to announce that there’s this new band and then bang the second hit single hits.”
“But they put it out first and so nothing ever, ever followed it! It was like #1 in 17 countries, but there was nothing ever to touch it again. At the time it was frustrating, but looking back on it it’s kept it’s legs all these years.”
Do you classify yourself as a One Hit Wonder? “I’m not uncomfortable with that at all, but I could get ponderous here and say that ’I've Been In Love Before’ got to #9, ’One For The Mockingbird’ went to #8, and another five all over the world, but it doesn’t matter to me.”
Do you find that the song is now more famous than the band? "Oh yeah, people know the sentence, ‘I just died in your arms’ more than they do Cutting Crew! They ask me if I’m in a band, I say Cutting Crew and they just shake their heads and mumble,” he laughs.
So, where did the name Cutting Crew originally come from? “We used to make up versions. Kevin’s was that we were busking, he and I outside Pimlico tube station in London and it was the sound of the pennies going into the bucket! So, that’s quite good, but the real one is that Kevin moved from Canada and we just spent day after day recording and then gigging, and so we were just this recording band. And I read an interview with Freddie Mercury and it was around the time where they were doing the same thing; where they never toured, and he said, ‘We’re a bit of a Cutting Crew.’ And I just looked at Kevin and said, that’s it.”
“And then, of course, the hit came out and we rushed to Oxford Street to find our record and we can’t find it anywhere. But we then found them in the Urban Dance bins because of the word ‘Crew’! Because of the Rock Steady Crew and all that! So we were like ‘No, no, no’ and just started moving all our records to the Rock sections instead! You can never win when you choose the title for the name of a band.”
Is it true that '(I Just) Died in Your Arms' was written for/about your ex girlfriend, the same woman who is the mother to your daughter? “Yeah, Andrea, that’s right. We’re good pals now, but it was absolutely the most hokeyest story in the world, but it happened! She left me, broke my heart and when she came back from Spain where she’d been living for a while, I hunted her down at a New Year’s Eve party. I then snared her and we slept together and I have to say I fully remember saying it to her and then thinking, that’s a f**kin’ good title,” he laughs. “No word of a lie. And she stayed and we had Lauren, who’s now 23 and loves the story.”
Is it also true that you were only paid a bottle of whiskey for your work on producing the original ‘Believe’ demo for Cher? “Yep, half … because I shared it with Kevin,” he laughs again. “There were also a couple of guys, and I’ve got to be a little bit careful here because it went into big lawsuits and things, but Brian [Higgins] is now one of the biggest producers in the world. Mark [Scott] , bless him, is a good friend of mine. And they were both just up-n-comers, young guys who didn’t know what they were doing. And so they wanted Uncle Nick and Uncle Kevin to get involved.”
“If I had my guitar here you could hear it, ‘I’ve been in love before’ … that second chord, I remember Mark saying, ‘We love that chord. Can we put it into this song?’ So, we put that chord in to ‘Do You Believe In Love,’ I changed one of the melodies where it goes, ‘I can feel something …’ and then eight and a half years later I’m in the studio hoovering, as you do, and I hear this, ‘Do you believe in life after love’ coming from somewhere! I was like, what the hell is that? And then immediately the phone rang and it was Mark. ‘It’s on the f**king radio’! And so it took that long, but we only did it as a favor to a mate. And it’s a lovely story really, but of course everyone’s like, ‘Get stuck in there for some royalties,’ but we didn’t. We just didn’t want to.”
Well, I guess karma came back around for you when UK pop sensation MIKA partly based his first single, ‘Relax, Take It Easy’ on your ‘(I Just) Died In Your Arms’ - which meant that you became a co-writer on another multimillion seller! “I must say yes, my turn came. Yeah, maybe that’s karma, you know. My dad taught me that. Just don’t chase it.”
But, in truth, you didn’t know about the Mika thing until someone pointed it out to you, correct? “Yeah, and I’m really not like that as I just said to you. I totally believe that you shouldn’t, especially where gain is concerned, have to chase up the royalties. I’m lucky because I’m charmed with having earnt well out of my career, but the Mika thing was different.”
“I was sitting in a coffee shop in Nova Scotia where I lived for a while and Sony Publishing told me to go check out this guy on YouTube called Mika. He hadn’t released anything at this point, but some fans were writing in already. So I checked him out, I could see what they were getting at and I just wrote back and said no big deal. Leave me alone! Then he released ‘Grace Kelly,’ which is one of the greatest songs of the last five years, and they all wrote to me again and said will you NOW listen,” he laughs. “So I said alright and things then got sorted out, shall we say.”
So, after all the fallow years, in 2006 you decided to get the name Cutting Crew back on the music circuit. Why? “Well, first, addressing the fallow years, I don’t mind totally admitting that Cutting Crew was like an explosion, then it was pretty good, and then not so good. And then I began hating all the corporate people getting involved. I mean, you never really had an A&R man. There was a lawyer or an accountant and I despise that. I’d be writing songs and trying to perfect my craft and somebody would go, ‘Well, you’ve sold that many units so let’s make this kind of record next.’ There was no music involved any more.”
“I actively chose to get out of it and had around six or seven years where I really enjoyed different things - like being with my daughter and working with Kevin. Kevin went to Robert Plant’s band and I just started producing and having fun with bands. And then poor Kev died, he got cancer and I moved up to Nova Scotia to be with him for the last eight months.”
“When he died, I was living in Barbados and I went back to the island and I just said to myself, ‘What the f**k. I’m just sitting here, I’ve got a studio, I’m working with local bands. I'm very happy, but this man had been with me so long, and had made music that will last forever. And so it felt like now was the time to record again and so I wrote 12 songs in about 3 months and named the album, 'Grinning Souls.' And whether you love or hate them they were so honest, so from the heart, so unchecked by any A&R man. And I adored it!”
“And so then I went back up to his hometown in Nova Scotia, got a bunch of 23 year-old rockers, didn’t even demo it. I just stood in the middle of the room with this guitar, and we just did it off the floor, with only about three or four takes on the vocals. And I am very proud of it. Very proud.”
And yet, with this new album, ‘Grinning Souls’ now out and in the stores, word has it you have recorded more new Cutting Crew songs for a forthcoming album? “Well, there are some, yes. They are just sitting there for now, but as soon as this tour finishes I'll go back down and put them together.”
Knowing that your house on the east coast of Barbados is just a cane field away from Eddy Grant‘s, did you ever sit and drink with him - or record, perhaps? “He literally was just over from where I stayed in the big old Plantation house he has. With his studio. And so he’d often be in town involved in gigs and a few times he’s asked me to go over and have some rum! So, I did one day. We just sat there and then we got into his studio and he said, ‘It’s all a bit scratchy in here,’ and everything, because he’s right on the cliff, had salt in it! So, every fade you turned up went ‘sccccccruuuuulllltttzzzz‘,” he laughs.
Is it also true you contracted Denge Fever out there and nearly died and yet ended up running a small scale animal sanctuary from your big old house?! “It certainly is. Well, you know, you live in these outcrops of the world - although we did choose to live in real Barbados, I want to make that totally clear - I did not live on the west coast with all the knobs. I couldn’t do that in a billion years. We’d have farmers coming round with their milk, we’d get these cats and dogs thrown over the walls. I’d be in the big house around the corner and you’d suddenly get this ‘meow, meow, meow’ and more kittens would be there! Then it would be, ‘Whose dog is this?’ and yet we’d end up keeping it. It was madness."
“So, there’s this one type of mosquito, and you can only catch it from the female and from dirty water. Now, on the east coast it’s all lovely Atlantic air so your pools of water are pristine. So, obviously I was down in Bridgetown one day and I got bitten and my God it hurt! It was like someone with a small hammer taking it to the back of your head and ‘donking’ it every ten seconds - for two or three months! I had to be put on body builders protein mix at around six shakes a day! I got quite big,” he laughs. “It can kill you though, but my wife nursed through me and I came out of it fine, thank God.”
Is this Regeneration Tour that you are now on the biggest exposure yet for Cutting Crew here in the US since it was reformed in 2006? “In America, yes. I’ve got a funny career. Basically, when we released ‘Grinning Souls’ you put a band together. But these are new guys for new blood, and so we played tours of Germany for while. Anything from Berlin and 10,000 people to 60 people in a little club down in Munich. So, great fun and never avoided America. But the record got a deal in America so it was just time to start putting some feelers out.”
“But I also have this odd thing where I do stuff on my own. And I’m on stage with Bobby Kimball from Toto and Rodger Hodgson from Supertramp. You just walk on stage and there’s a band behind you and they’re great fun, but this is absolutely now, here in America, what I want. It‘s an interesting thing playing to Americans though. It’s very different. From the first second they’re at you, they want it, they respond to your giving. And sometimes outside America you might find people to be very slow at getting to that point. And then maybe song 19 they light up and scream for us,” he again laughs.
“But over here we’re on first. We smack ‘em hard and sure there’s the risk of a slow-start audience, but you don’t get that over here. I can always rely on an American audience for that. We’re having a ball. Really having a ball. I don’t mind going on first at all 'cause you get on there and everybody’s ready. Whereas four hours later they’re tired and ready to leave.”
So finally, how has this Regeneration Tour been like for you backstage, hanging with the other stars such as ABC, Wang Chung and Berlin? “Yeah, it's great fun. We’re all old boys now. There’s no ego’s, you know. We were out with Terri Nunn yesterday and she’s fun. Martin and I have done hundreds of things together before this. In my experience, and you’ll know this, I can be an asshole sometimes - and you can quote me on that - although I don’t think often, but mostly the worst behaved are the younger ones. They just don’t really see the big picture. It’s a bit of a generalization, but when you’ve been in this business 20 years you kinda know the bus is going to be late, that the air conditioning’s broken down. So what are you gonna achieve by screaming and shouting about it? I just can’t act like that any more. No more,” he adds, with a huge smile attached to his face.
Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk
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Now Read The Latest Cutting Crew Live Concert Review From Their Regeneration Tour 2009 Stop in Detroit!