Backstage With: Ocean Colour Scene – Guitarist Steven Cradock talks turning 21

20 Oct


Words by Rahsian Parris

The Ocean Colour Scene story is the stuff of rock star dreams. A career spanning 21 years, nine studio albums including the 2010 release ‘Saturday’ and with a brand new greatest hits, aptly named ‘21’, out this week; it’s easy to think they would be the envy of every wannabe rocker this side of the Atlantic. However, though they were at the forefront of the 90s Britpop movement along with Oasis and Blur they never quite managed to have the chart success that their two counterparts had. Be that as it may, the band have always had a very loyal following and through Oasis’ tantrums and eventual disbandment and Blur’s in-house politics, OCS have consistently remained the last ones standing. We recently caught up with the band’s legendary guitarist Steven Craddock (also guitarist for Paul Weller’s band) backstage at the finale of the bands recent tour to talk about how Britain’s most undercover rockers have managed to stay in the game for 21 years and what’s really behind the magic of their ever popular tunes.

The OCS dressing room is sans glamour and sans ego with the band’s family, including a bundle of gorgeous children, scurrying around as everyone gets prepped for the groups impending show at the Royal Albert Hall. Steven walks in casually and slumps down in a chair, he looks tired. “I’m alright cheers, but I’ve got a bit of flu to be honest with you, I’ve been sweating and feeling horrible, but I’m on Lemsip” he says slightly snuffled, “I’m Lemsipped off my bollocks” he laughs and though visibly under the weather, still manages to be far more concerned with how I am and ordering bottles of water and tea for everyone in the room. You can tell he’s a family man, enjoys looking after people and has clearly mastered the art of balancing being a doting father backstage and an animated rocker on stage.

The band formed in 1989 and it seems as if it’s starting to show, “It’s strange, we’ve just seen the Universal boxsets [for the album] today for the first time and I suppose that’s how old we are. When you look at the pictures of you, you don’t think you’re ageing that much, but then when you look at the pictures from then you can’t really run away from it.” They have had more releases than most current bands have had hot meals, but has the band itself changed at all musically? “I don’t think we have really. I think we still play the same sort of folk music”, he pauses the mood changing ever so slightly “maybe that’s been a drawback for us, but we’ve not gone more radical and started using keyboards, we’ve not been changed by the fashion because we’re classic. People can also say we’re boring though, there’s always two sides to the story isn’t there? You can say we’re boring, that it’s the same old sound, but at the same time if a song’s classic it’s classic.”

There is an attraction to OCS songs that mean that even after a brief listen, they stay firmly in your mind. Whether it is something in the lyrics or something melodic, they always have the ability to pull you in, often, without you even knowing whom it is. This may be the reason why, although they have a large following, their actual releases haven’t made a dent in the charts since the 90s. Steven comments on this saying “We find it hard to get radio play, although having said that. We did get radio play on the last single, ‘Magic Carpet Days’, but I think you just have to go with what you believe in. It would have to be quite desperate for us to start writing outspoken pop songs.”

In terms of the actual writing process and the bands ability to churn out catchy hooks at every given opportunity, Steven says Simon, the bands front man, is where the magic is. “It’s because of his use of language, it sets the band aside from anyone else. The way he sings when he comes up with a good lyric, that makes it classic.” So the band’s success is all down to Simon’s magic words? He also quips that using the same chord progression in every song is helpful. “Using G D E minor for 21 years, it’s the same old shit everyone’s been using since guitars were played. You go to C for the middle eight, E minor for the outro” he says very matter-of-fact.

However, even a golden chord progression cannot make up for the pressures of trying to top the charts. Steven says that the band have always been up against chart failings and feelings that they were just not cutting it anymore, especially when Oasis were busy taking over the airwaves, but maintains that being more like Oasis was not their thing “they were so beautiful and gifted and gobby weren’t they? I don’t think we’ve ever been like that. There are lots of bands that have false attitudes but they never did.”

A combination of catchy songs and “not employing crazy PR people” means that Ocean Colour Scene have managed to build their name and stay in the consciousness of folk loving Brits for over two decades without succumbing to the woes of being ‘pop’, as Steven says “we do what we love doing, just not on a mainstream level”. So 21 years on, they are seemingly just as low key and quietly appreciative of their success and love of their fans as before, “we’re not doing anything big to celebrate, just playing this show and having a few beers after”. Modest and almost shy of the bands legendary status as always, it goes as no surprise that despite having played hundreds of shows to hundreds of thousands of people, playing the Royal Albert Hall 21 years down the line is the highlight of his career.

Ocean Colour Scene’s greatest hits ‘21’ is out NOW.


Rahsian Parris for Music News


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