'Stuart is always with us – through his lyrics and his music': Big Country celebrate 30 years with an upcoming tour and re-release of their debut album The Crossing

By KIRSTY MCCORMACK
UPDATED: 07:44, 3 February 2012

They may have released their debut album back in 1983 and been absent from the music scene along the year but Big Country never faded away.

The band are back and celebrating the anniversary of The Crossing – which cemented their success in countries across the world – but the road to 2012 hasn’t been straightforward.

With a 13-date tour kicking off in Manchester on February 3, the now five-piece band are ready to ignite fans with the same passion and unique melodies that saw them become one of Scotland’s greatest exports.

Celebrating 30 years: (L-R) Tony Butler, Mark Brzezicki, Bruce Watson and Stuart Adamson released their debut album The Crossing in 1983

When front man Stuart Adamson tragically passed away in 2001, Big Country were unsure what the future would hold, but now their vision couldn’t be clearer.

Bass player Tony Butler, drummer Mark Brzezicki and guitarist Bruce Watson will be playing their debut album in its entirety and with the help of Watson’s son Jamie and front man of The Alarm, Mike Peters, they have found a way to keep the music of Adamson alive.

But after taking an indefinite hiatus from the music scene that spanned almost eight years, why is it that now is the perfect time for Big Country to be back on the road?

‘The whole thing has been a massive transformation,’ explains Butler. ‘Simply because ten years ago I just didn’t see this happening at all.

‘I didn’t want it to happen to be honest. After Stuart passed away I thought that the band had had its time and the thought of actually putting it all back together again, for nostalgic reasons, or for commercial reasons, just didn’t sit well with me at all.’

Following Adamson’s unexpected death, Butler admits that he didn’t want to ‘entertain’ anything to do with band: ‘It hit us all very, very hard,’ he explains.

However, the bands manager Ian Grant had kept Big Country alive amongst fans, particularly with the band’s website, and in 2007 they wanted to celebrate a landmark – the band’s 25th anniversary.

‘I kind of conceded to that one,’ says Butler. ‘But I don’t really remember it – all I remember is that I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t feel right and I made it clear that I didn’t want to do it again.’

New line-up: Jamie Watson (L) and Mike Peters joined the rest of the band at Rak Studios in London on January 13 to perform The Crossing live to 100 lucky fans

Butler’s one stipulation of the band’s anniversary performances was that they did so as a three-piece in order to respect Adamson’s memory.

‘To bring in somebody else, to bring in a name and a face would have given it a slightly more commercial character, and to feed the flames of a continuance was still not in my kind of thinking.’

However, following the ten day trip on the road with band, Butler returned feeling better about the situation and was keen to do something else.

Nothing came up until the BBC approached the band about a memorial concert for singer Kirsty MacColl.

‘Kirsty was our producer Steve Lillywhite’s wife, so we wanted to play that gig out of respect,’ says Butler.

‘Steve was a brilliant producer for us, as he really set us off on our way in terms of making records, so we were always going to get involved but we had the problem of who was going to sing for us.’

The band eventually decided on Peters, who had supported Big Country on tour in previous years, but unfortunately the band didn’t end up playing at the memorial concert.

‘We were then thinking “Okay let’s do something and let’s get Mike involved,”’ says Butler.

'Always with us': Adamson, pictured here performing in Germany in 1986, tragically passed away in 2001

‘Ian put on a tour the next January, we rehearsed and we just went “wow we can do this,” and that’s when I started feeling better about doing it.

‘I didn’t feel as though we were selling out in anyway. I felt that we were doing Stuart’s memory a great service.’

It was around this time that Jamie joined the band and things began coming together once again.

‘Bruce felt a lot more confident to have his son around and to work with him,’ recalls Butler.

‘Because the guitar parts are quite intricate in our songs and for them to make the band sound anywhere near its original form, it just seemed to be a better combination. He’s a really talented guitarist.’

The band toured the UK in late 2010 and last year and are now looking forward to the year ahead, but someone who always wanted to continue with the music and live performances was Brzezicki.

‘I was comfortable from the start,’ he explains. ‘I missed the band and it was really good to play those songs again because I missed playing them and I missed seeing my mates as well.

‘We soon went back to our own ways again, but when we got Jamie and Mike together it was a trigger.’

But although the band were feeling happy about the line-up and the energy was evident in rehearsals, they were more than aware that their fans might find it strange as they were so used to seeing Adamson take centre stage.

‘I was prepared for anything really,’ says Brzezicki. ‘I knew we couldn’t be everything to everyone and that’s a fact because there were people saying “if Stuart’s not in it then I’m out,” and I was quite happy to let that be, I understood that.

Pride Of Scotland: Big Country recently won their first ever award which they describe as 'bittersweet' due to Adamson not being here to collect it with them

‘But at the same time getting together with somebody else isn’t replacing Stuart, its celebrating him.

‘Mike sees it like that as well and Stuart is always with us through his lyrics and his music – without him we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing now, it’s all part of the family tree.’

After touring last year, the band have received great feedback from their large following and are confident that fans will enjoy the upcoming shows – especially as they will be playing The Crossing in sequence.

‘We were thinking of doing the shows in two halves,’ explains Butler. ‘But we’re just going to be on stage for the duration, and we’ve also brought in a lot of stuff that we’d never even thought of playing such as obscure B sides.’

Big Country recently revisited Rak studios where they recorded The Crossing and treated fans to a live show where they re-recorded classics such as Chance, Fields Of Fire and In A Big Country.

‘We wanted to do something exclusive for the fans, something special,’ says Brzezicki. ‘It was a nice way of just reliving it.’

Big Country’s success has extended so much further than just the UK over the years and the band enjoyed several hits stateside and even received a Grammy nomination.

They recently won their first ever award in the form of the Pride of Scotland award but Butler and Brzezicki admit it was a fantastic yet sad moment for the band.

Doing Stuart's memory a great service': Brzezicki and Butler revealed that the leave the centre of the stage free as a mark of respect

‘It was a little bittersweet for me due to the fact that Stuart wasn’t here,’ says Brzezicki.

‘The reason I say that is because there was plenty of time to recognise the band while Stuart was still alive with us, and then ten years after he died we get this recognition.

‘It’s great and nothing can be taken away from it and I am totally blown away but just personally saddened that Stuart wasn’t alive to accept it with us. However, that’s not taking anything away from the appreciation and the gratitude we have in receiving it.’

However, the band admit that they keep Adamson’s memory alive all the time by rehearsing and playing live and intentionally leave the centre of the stage empty as a mark of respect.

‘He’s always there with us,’ says Butler. ‘It’s wrapped up in the music and his words. We can’t ever contemplate what we’re doing without having him somewhere in our consciousness at all.’

It goes without saying that Adamson would be proud to see what the band have achieved since 2001, and the fact that they’re still gaining new fans and selling out tours just proves that they’ve got what it takes to survive the industry.

‘Audiences who never saw Stuart perform with us are seeing the band live and then going back and listening to the albums where Stuart is singing,’ explains Butler.   

‘So playing to new fans is going to be an intriguing turn of events – we’ve got a lot to look forward to.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2095424/Big-Country-celebrate-30-years-upcoming-tour-release-debut-album-The-Crossing.html#ixzz24SrMi5nS

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