Ahead of Bad Touch’s first ever headline tour, singer Stevie Westwood talks to us about lessons learnt on the road, why their fans are so important, their difficult second album, and their Planet Rock-playlisted duet with Mollie Marriott, ‘Baby Get It On’.
You’ve managed to make the new single sound fresh, but just as powerful as the original by Ike and Tina Turner. How did you get that right?
We wanted a real live, in-the-room vibe because obviously it’s quite an intimate song. So I think it was really important for Mollie to come up all the way from London to record with us, because we were really able to get that vibe and bounce off each other in the studio. She’s got an absolutely stunning voice and it was amazing to sing with her.
As a frontman, how did you feel about sharing the spotlight?
When it’s someone as good as Mollie Marriott, it’s no problem whatsoever to share the spotlight. My band mates probably disagree with me, but I like to think I’m fairly down to earth. I’m borderline shy sometimes, so if someone takes the spotlight off me, it’s fine.
Come on, are you actually shy?
Everyone puts on a front when they’re on stage but in real life I mumble a bit, although I’m not as bad as I could be.
So how much do you ramp it up on stage then?
In my experience, in the eight years of singing with Bad Touch, you sort of have to command the crowd and their reactions, which means you have to be brave and loud and proud. So you do save it up for the show, and afterwards you have to calm down a bit before going out and doing merch and talking to people.
How important is talking to people who’ve come to see you play?
Everything we do and everything we continue to do is because of the people who come to see us, and as a band we make a point of getting the gear down as quickly as possible and going out and talking to people and getting their feedback, and shaking their hands and posing for photos. Because it is those people who make us or break us. When you’re ZZ Top or Bon Jovi or whoever, you can probably sit backstage and rest on your laurels, but we don’t have that luxury. And we love meeting people – there’s nothing better than making people happy.
Can you feel you’re making people happy while you’re performing?
Yes! There’s the old adage of you should give the same level of performance when you’re playing to 10 people as when you’re playing to 10 000 people, but it’s so much easier to do that when everyone’s having a good time and they’re responding to what you’re saying. When you’re trying to give them that little bit of sparkle, that little bit of electricity, and they’re standing there with their arms crossed, it’s so frustrating but you’ve just got to power through it. If it’s not a great gig, you write it off and you try and make the next one better. Always onwards and upwards.
In terms of going onwards and upwards, you’re playing increasingly bigger venues. Has it been difficult to adapt to playing to more people?
We played a smaller gig a couple of months back, and we were sort of packed onto a little stage which made us realise: ‘Oh, we used to do this all the time.’ Just getting hit in the head with the guitar headstock and a cymbal in my back, stuff like that. It is hard sometimes to know where to put your feet, but it’s just one of those things.
We’ve been very fortunate lately to have toured with some great bands, like just recently the Kentucky Headhunters. We were playing to more people than we were with them last year and my attitude has always been: just go for it. And if it looks like you’re having fun, hopefully people will start having fun as well.
Are there any skills you picked up in the early days that you’re still using on stage?
You’re always learning. You meet new people every day and you learn what to say and what not to say, what to do. I’ve learnt a very important lesson for any aspiring singers: don’t ask a question you don’t know the answer to or don’t want the answer to. When you’re up on stage and you shout: ‘Are you having a good time?’ and then nobody responds, that’s awful. Unless you know the answer, don’t ask the question.
Also, even if you’ve got like four people in front of you, don’t take the mickey out of those four people because you’re trying to come off as cool and rock ‘n roll. If only four people have come to see you, you’ve got to make those four people your best friends. If you take the mickey out of them, they’re probably not going to come see you again.
You released your second album, ‘Truth Be Told’, back in December. Now that you’ve had almost a year to live with it and play those songs live, how do you feel about it?
I’m going to be honest, it was a really hard album to do. Everything wasn’t nearly as polished as we wanted it to be, and we went into the studio kind of apprehensive and not probably knowing the songs as well as we should have, but Jethro, the engineer, did a great job of getting the best out of us. I’ve grown to love it and so many people have said they really like it, so I’m really proud.
Apart from several of that album’s songs, what can people expect from the upcoming tour?
We’ve got a couple of little surprises. This is our first ever headline tour, eight years in the running, so we’re going to make it a banger. We’re going to shake up the set, make it really electric. We’ve also got the very talented Mollie Marriott coming with us as our special guest, so you’ve really got to get down and see it.
Bad Touch on tour with special guest Mollie Marriott
24-hour box office: 0844 478 0898
Book online: www.thegigcartel.com
Thursday 16 November: Bristol, Tunnels
Friday 17 November: Manchester, Ruby Lounge
Saturday 18 November: Newcastle, Cluny
Sunday 19 November: Nottingham, Bodega
Thursday 23 November: Glasgow, Stereo
Friday 24 November: Leeds, Brudenell
Saturday 25 November: Coventry, Empire
Sunday 26 November: London, Islington Academy
Friday 1 December: Norwich, Waterfront Studio
Saturday 2 December: Southampton, Talking Heads
Sunday 3 December: Planet Rockstock