the ALAN ROBSON interview (Alan To Alan)
Provided by Derek Walmsley. Source unknown; but must be in '86, because they're talking about "Dance Your Life Away".

Alan Robson: Hello welcome to you. Now it's been donkey's since we've had an album from you and then, suddenyl, it comes.

Alan Hull: It's four years, Alan.

Why has it been so long though ?

The last album was Sleepless Nights, the last studio album, and it did get into the charts but not very high. We weren't very pleased with its performance, and this time we wanted to get it right so it has taken a while to choose the material, write the material, but also it took a while to set up the deal. You know, we're an independent record company of your own, and we were in control of the artistic side of it.

But four years in between - there's very few bands that could manage to stay in the public eye and ear all the time through those four years.

We are one of those strange bands who don't have to rely on chart success you know. It's great to have it, but we can carry on quite happily without it by virtue of the fact that the Christmas shows are so popular.

And also any songs that you do, any new songs, you've immediately got somewhere to put them.

That's right. We put them on stage, half the songs on this album we have already played before an audience on the stage, which is great.

So you already have an audience who have been walking round record shops trying to find the damn things for ages ?

Yes, that's true. We have had loads of letters you know, but at last it's out. Also we have tried to pitch it towards those people who come to the shows, because we know what they like, you see.

Now, four years worth of material and only one album to stick it on. Not easy.

That was one of the problems, you see. Again Lindisfarne has problems other bands don't have. Other band's problem when they come to make an album is where they are going to scratch round for material. Ours is what we're going to leave off, because me and Steve [Daggett] who produced the album, had between 60 and 70 songs to choose from, so we whittled them down to about 14, and 2 or 3 of them fell by the wayside as we were recording them, and we ended up with the ten on the album.

Listening to the album, - you have tremendous variety of styles.

Yes. I think the album is up though. I think it's positive and it's got some messages of hope in these pretty dismal days we live in.

It's just strange finding a song that has overtones of all things political, and then you have a love song tucked away.

That's right, yes.

So the difference of putting keyboards there, you've always had keyboards on albums before, but why bring someone else in for it ? Just for the live thing, or what ?

It's mainly for live - I mean we play the keyboards on the Album, me and Si mainly, do all the keyboard work - Steve a little bit, but it's to have an extra pair of hands on stage. We can't phsyically play two instruments at once, so

What's the mystery about a Lindisfarne Christmas audience, you never get the same level of audience participation at any other gig than a Lindisfarne Christmas Concert ?

That's right. The main thing is the audience watching. We don't approach it as a band doing a gig with an audience watching. We approach it as an event and we involve the audience the moment they walk through the door. We give them a hat to wear. They've sort of learnt with us; they've grown up to it, to understand what to do at a Lindisfarne concert over the ten years, and it's great doing them in new places. We're doing a load of gigs on this tour, the most we've ever done and it's great to go to new places and see them learning during the course of the show.

So they are walking out saying I've fluffed a line, but next year

Yes, they do. Their hands are red raw with clapping, they've lost their voice with singing. I love to see audiences go out. Sometimes I sneak round the corner and watch them and see all the grins on their faces.

But is it a different type of gig say if it's done in the South of North ?

Not really, no. We do the same thing. For instance this year we did Lerwick in the Shetland Islands, it was the biggest night on the island they ever had. They guy who organised it said don't expect much from this audience, mind. The only person they ever clapped for, or gave an encore to, was Barbara Dixon. I just looked at him and said "You'd better watch this, they're not going to sit in their seats" and they didn't and he was amazed. He'd never ever seen it before in his life. Shetland Island people getting up and dancing and going wally.

So let's have a look at the album, again my opinions of the L.P. the band are more than well aware, but it's different to anything you've done. The harmonies are still there and all the nice little touches that you've always expected, but it's different.

We've deliberately kept the vocals, cos that's what Lindisfarne is, big vocal sound. We've got me, Jacka and Si singing, and now Martin. It does hear a resemblance in a strange way to Fog on the Tyne actually. I know it's different, it's a different sound and all that, but Fog on the Tyne was a complete album. You could put it from the top and listen right through, and I think that applies to this album. So in that sense it's complete and similar to Fog on the Tyne, but it's totally different sounds and things - it's 1986.

I noticed that when the last track came on, it cuts before you expect the last line.

Well, we deliberately did that.

It made me want to turn it over and stick the first side back on again.

That's the reason why, because if you listen to the end of Abbey Road, it ends on a note where it's not resolved and you feel like you want to hear it again.

That's right, and of course the single is the first track.

So you go back to the single, Shine On, that's right.

Number one for Christmas ?

Oh, I'd love that.

The album sounds as if it's layer upon layer upon layer upon layer. The song about Liverpool for example, it's one of those tracks that when you hear it, your mouth falls open.

Dying to do that on stage, that song.

How possible would that be because it does sound chocker block full.

No problem, no problem at all. There has been a revolution in the last five years in the studios and present day equipment has revolutionized recording and concerts.

Yes and it's changed the sound of Lindisfarne. It's still warm, but it's 1986.

It's brought it up to date, and that was one of Steve's most important roles in the studio, because he understands the new technology, so you know that everything we've done on that record is easily adapted to stage, and that's what we're doing right now, working it out right here.

Are you doing most of the album on stage.

We're doing 9 tracks from the album. There's only 10, only missing 1 out. The only reason we're missing the particular one out is that it's such a killer to sing. I've got to be careful I don't lose my voice otherwise we'd all be in trouble.

But again your performing night after night to packed crowds, that have waited all year to see the lads back on stage, how easy is it for you to hang on and keep the quality there.

Well that is the most worrying aspect of it, you've got to be careful, you've got to watch yourself, not too many late nights.

But what about your motivation, let's say you are doing a number of nights at the City Hall, you're going back to the same place tomorrow to another whole bunch of people, and I've noticed that a lot of people go to Two or three shows.

Some of them go to the whole lot, you know, I mean we get loads of letters all year but maybe January, February, we get whole sack loads of letters saying how people have enjoyed it.

But you're also a family band, I mean you get little tots.

Yes we do we get old age pensioners, we get mams and dads bringing their kids, and we get kids brining their mams and dads. We get heavy metal fans coming, we get a sprinkling of punks, you know, all kinds, that's the beauty of Lindisfarne really, it can appeal to a wide audience.

Can you put your finger on why that is though ?

I think we've talked about most of it in this short chat, it's because of the warmth and also because we're from the north, also the fact that we've concentrated on albums and we've always been a song based band, songs that people can relate to, songs with a chorus, but it's wrong to think that Lindsfarne is simply a singalong band, they're not, there's much more to it than that. We've never followed fads, we've never been slaves to fashion, we've survived punk rock, we've survived glam rock and all others, and we're still ere.

I think Christmas is only famous three things. That is, Santa Claus comes, it's the birth of Christ for those who believe in such, and it's the Lindisfarne Christmas Concerts, it's all part and parcel of it. So good luck with this season's.

We're really looking forward to it, it's going to be marvellous.

Right well I'm looking forward to hearing it. I'm sure all the crowds will be there, and I'll be singing along with the rest of them.

You won't be alone.

Alan Hull thanks very much.