Exclusive: Ocean Colour Scene Steve Cradock on his fourth solo album

Brummie Britpop hero talks about his latest project - and love for Birmingham!

Steve Cradock is best known as the guitarist in Brum’s Britpop era heroes, Ocean Colour Scene (OCS) - a band he co-founded in 1989, and who went on to score 16 Top 40 singles, including The Riverboat Song, You’ve Got It Bad and The Day We Caught The Train.

But away from OCS, Steve has established himself as an in-demand side-man, notably for Paul Weller and The Specials. But he’s also an accomplished producer, shaping records by PP Arnold and Paul’s daughter, Leah Weller, and (when he gets the time) a solo artist in his own right.

Nine years on from his last LP, 2013’s Travel Wild Travel Free, Steve is about to release his fourth solo album, A Soundtrack To An Imaginary Movie. Drawing on jazz, folk, classical and film soundtrack influences, the 10 track album shows yet another side to the versatile and creative musician, featuring ten instrumentals conceived over lockdown that could easily soundtrack a groovy movie.

"It just flowed, and it felt really trippy," he says.

Among the guests on the album are Steve’s wife Sal (gongs, Tibetan Singing Bowls), The Stone Foundation’s Rob Newton (congas), his son Cassius Cradock (piano), fellow members of The Specials’ touring band, Nikolaj Larson (organ) and Tim Smart (trombone), and UB40’s legendary sax player Brian Travers, who passed away in 2021.

In an exclusive chat for BirminghamWorld, Steve takes time out from rehearsals to tell us more about the album, and his plans for the months ahead.

Steve Cradock from Ocean Colour Scene

Where did the idea for the album come from?

In the spring/summer of 2020 I was loving the lockdown, just chilling with my kids and wife, loving the weather and the nature. Along with relaxing I started this project, and when an idea popped into my head I would pop into my home studio, and record something when the ideas flowed - two separate melodies and themes evolved, and that became the catalyst for moving towards doing an album of a similar nature, an instrumental album completely different to anything I have done before.

Is there a theme that links the tracks?

All of the titles are rare colours. As there were no lyrics and it was all instrumental, the titles could be absolutely anything, so I took that idea and began researching rare colours and used them as track titles - Lapis Lazuli, Cochineal, Falu, Gunjo, Sarcoline.

Steve Cradock from Ocean Colour Scene

Sarcoline features the late Brian Travers on sax - how did that track come about?

This was a piece of music left over from my Peace City West album of 2011, recorded in a cottage

overlooking the lighthouse at Start Point in Devon. Brian was a dear friend, I loved his energy, musicianship and well just listening to him, he lived many lives and was a very proud man.

It’s beautiful that Brian plays on it. I embellished the original recording, using the idea you’re walking up the stairs of a club and can hear different sounds coming from each different floor. Three scenarios with the same repeated melody.

Did you know Brian long? Where did you first meet?

We first met in Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham; he played on [1999’s] One From The Modern’s Soul Driver with us at DEP Studios, when I recorded the session of [Paul Weller’s song] Carnation that me and Liam [Gallagher] did [for the compilation album, Fire And Skill: The Songs Of The Jam, released in 1999].

Any plans to tour Soundtrack?

I would love to do one or two one-off shows, but not tour it.

Fancy scoring a real film?

Yes, most definitely, I loved the process of recording this album.

You now live in Devon, but do you still feel connected to Brum?

Devon is Birmingham on sea! Of course, I still am connected to Brum - I was born and raised there, and I love Birmingham.

What led you to move to the coast?

Sal’s folks are from Torquay. We spent a lot of weekends travelling down here, and just didn’t fancy travelling back and forth, and I like living by the sea. I always enjoy coming back to Birmingham though.

Ocean Colour Scene around 2013

What were some of your favourite Brum haunts when you were starting out with OCS?

The Outrigger [on Moor Street, later known as The Ship Ashore] was my favourite place, mid-1980s. Sweat club, downstairs in the Institute, Digbeth, was also amazing for a while, and of course Moseley’s Fighting Cocks and the legendary Jug Of Ale.

When are you next in the city?

I am back playing with The Specials at Moseley Jazz Festival (8-10 July 2022). I love playing with them, they are such an amazing band to be involved with.

How did you get involved with The Specials?

They just asked me. Roddy Radiation had left and I just had a call from their manager, who asked me if I wanted to join. I already knew all their songs and it such a great joy to be asked, and I’ve now recorded two albums with them: Encore and Protest Songs. A lot of the spirit of the band

comes from Lynval Golding. For Protest Songs, he maybe didn’t choose all the songs, but he’d be debating racism, asking the questions.

Ocean Colour Scene around 2011

2022 marks the 30th anniversary of OCS’s self-titled debut album - tempted to revisit any of those old tunes, like Sway or Giving It All Away?

We don’t play anything off that first record. We did play Sway a few years ago, because be thought people might like to hear it, but it didn’t go down very well, so we haven’t played it since.

What’s your plans for the year ahead?

Lots of touring! Summer shows with Ocean Colour Scene, Paul Weller and The Specials. I also intend to do some more producing, write more, and live more!

Steve Cradock’s A Soundtrack For An Imaginary Movie is released on 10 June 2022.

The Specials, featuring Steve, headline Mostly Jazz Funk and Soul Festival on Friday 8 July 2022. Tickets via: mostlyjazz.co.uk

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