10 out of 10cc by Madelaine Empson
UK legends 10cc – frontman and songwriter Graham Gouldman, Rick Fenn (guitar, bass, vocals), Paul Burgess (drums), Iain Hornal (guitars, vocals, mandolin, keyboards), and Keith Hayman (keyboards, guitar, bass, vocals) – are on their way to Aotearoa! It’s celebration time for the hitmakers, who have dominated airwaves, soundtracked blockbusters, and seeped into the psyches of fans across the globe since bursting onto the scene with their UK No. 2 Donna in 1972. With more than 30 million albums sold worldwide and bangers like I’m Not In Love, Dreadlock Holiday, The Things We Do For Love, and Art For Art’s Sake to their name, 10cc are marking 50 years since their formation in style with their Ultimate Greatest Hits World Tour.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Gouldman ahead of the Wellington leg, where they’ll play The Opera House on Friday the 2nd of June with special guests Hello Sailor.
Congratulations on 50 years of 10cc! How does it feel?
Oh, it’s great. I can’t believe the time has gone by so quickly, really. People love our music and still want to come and see us, and I’m very, very happy about that.
When you first got together in the 70s, did you have any inkling of what was to come?
Absolutely not, no. I don’t think anybody does. You just enjoy yourself, do what you do, and don’t really think, ‘I wonder if we’ll still be going in 10 years’.
When did you first realise you had something special going?
I think when we first got together, we recognised that we had a certain chemistry between us that could be successful. I don’t think any of us thought how big it could be, but we were certainly quite confident that we could do something special.
How did the band fit in with (or stand out from) the genres and movements emerging in the music scene at the time?
I think we didn’t really take notice of any trends or anything. We wanted to please ourselves and please each other, that was it. There was no looking at the charts and thinking, this style of music is in or that style of music is in, we just did what we wanted to do. And we were lucky that other people liked what we did.
I’ve seen you described as ‘art rock’. What would you categorise your music as?
I think if you listen to three of our big records, Rubber Bullets, I’m Not in Love, and Dreadlock Holiday, they’re all totally different. They could be three different bands. There are three different lead singers on those tracks as well. I never try to categorise our music, although other people might try.
Looking back from then till now, what have been some of the biggest ‘pinch me’ moments?
For 10cc, the biggest highlight was when our first record Donna went into the charts in 1972. That was a special moment. And then every number one record that we got. There are so many great moments, but those are definitely amongst the most important and most memorable.
What were some of the major challenges you faced over the years and how did you overcome them?
There are certain challenges with being on the road. Playing is the easiest bit [laughs] – the travelling sometimes can be a bit tiring, changing time zones and things like that. But really I can’t say there have been major challenges or complain about anything, because I’ve been very lucky in my life that I’ve been able to do pretty much what I wanted to do.
Is there anything still left on the bucket list?
I’m doing it. I’m writing, recording a new solo album, playing with the guys. So I’m really happy doing what I’m doing now.
You would’ve witnessed a lot of changes in the music industry – which ones threw the biggest spanners in the works?
During the mid to late 70s, the punk movement certainly affected bands like us and Roxy Music and Queen. I think we went out of favour with a lot of people. Changes happen and change is good, and it’s just one of those things. Obviously, we carried on. 10cc in particular, and bands like Queen, were able to carry on because they’ve got great catalogues. People want to hear the songs after all these years and want to hear them played live, that’s the main thing.
What about technological evolution – how would you compare a 10cc concert back in the day to one now?
Things are quite different now, as far as live performance is concerned. Digital technology has given us so many things that make our lives so much easier. But at the root of it, no matter what the technology is that surrounds the band, they’ve still got to deliver a great performance, well played, with great songs. So you can have the best sounding band in the world, but if the songs are rubbish, it’s not going to be very good, is it? [Chuckles.]
What are Wellington audiences in for at your upcoming Opera House concert?
You’re going to get all the hits, all the songs you’d expect to hear, plus various tracks that we like to play and a couple of surprises as well. When I’m putting a setlist together, I’m in the audience, I’m going to the concert, and I’m thinking, I wanna hear this, I wanna hear that, I hope they play that. I try to think about that, I’m very conscious of what the audience wants to hear.
What are you most looking forward to about visiting Wellington in particular?
That is a brilliant question! In that, what is the most important, wonderful thing about Wellington?
Are you asking me?
Oh gosh. Well, the wind gives Wellington quite a bit of… character?
Character! Okay [laughs].
Joking aside, the most important thing really is the people. It’s always nice to meet people and get to know them a bit if possible, so that’s what we’re most looking forward to.
Do you have a favourite song to sing live?
That’s a tough one. Dreadlock Holiday always gets people dancing and singing along, so I’ll say that one.
What would you most like to say to your Kiwi fans?
We love New Zealand, we always have. It’s a beautiful country and we’re really looking forward to getting back. We’re looking forward to seeing you, and hope you enjoy watching us play.
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« Issue 195, May 9, 2023