Interview With Steve Mason

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Written By:

Gavin Riley

30th April 2010
At 05:00 GMT

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In an age where most bands would sell their granny just to get a plum spot on the latest episode of Skins, it's refreshing to hear of musicians with principles.

There are very few bands who remain protective of how their music is used in the media. You hear of bands like Coldplay turning down million dollar offers from Gap, but let's face it, they've already lined their pockets with the money of the naive. It takes something especial to stick to those principles when you're penniless, depressed and all out of luck.

Enter Steve Mason, the creative force behind The Beta Band. Now an established artist in his own right, Mason famously turned down a £1 million offer from a car company to use the band's songs because maintaining the band's integrity and reputation as one of the most outspoken, imaginative characters around was more significant.

Having battled and overcome depression for many years, Mason has relegated both his demons and his many monikers for his new album, Boys Outside. It's the first time Mason will release under his own name, yet listening to a few radio interviews before Strange Glue got to speak with him, you got the sense he's getting rather frustrated with the question.

"I do get asked that about eight times a day, it is getting a bit dull now but at least the album is good enough that people actually want to come and talk to me."

That album certainly is good enough. As Steve Mason undresses his acoustic compositions there's a strong, familiar theme that permeates the album. And even though he'd like Boys Outside to be a cash cow, it wouldn't be for his benefit.

"The record is about me, you and what we are going to do about this sad sack excuse for a Government we have in this country."

He adds: "I want it to achieve unprecedented sales on a global scale allowing me to form an armed militia and destroy our Government. Then, rebuild our political system from the ground up with clear divisions between business, banks and the ruling party. And a police force which works for the people, rather than against them. Simple."

Such talk has got Mason into trouble before. On tour with The Beta Band in the U.S, he invited the audience to chip in to buy a rifle that could be used to shoot George Bush. Several petitions to get Mason deported followed, with Mason promising in future, that if he wanted to talk politics in his lyrics he would have to "sneak things in".

With the restraints of the major labels long since unshackled, Mason no longer has to worry about sneaking things in. Indeed the new album is overtly political. The most obvious track is Yesterday. "Its harking back with sadness" he explains, "to a time before the people of this country were under constant surveillance from their Government, before protesting was viewed as a criminal terrorist act, and before in a so called civilised society the police could shoot and beat people to death on our streets. It doesn't really provide any answers though, except petrol bombs."

With the impending election and many political correspondents predicting a hung parliament, to coin a phrase, surely that could only make things better. Mason though isn't impressed. "Sadly, its doesn't matter. It really doesn't matter. It will make no difference. This country is controlled by the banks. And who ever is in power bends over and takes it up the arse from the Bank of England / The World Bank. The British people and anyone else who gets in their way pays the price. Politicians mostly think short term personal gain, and there are many people out there who can use that to their advantage. Change can only come through armed struggle. Sounds crazy now, I know, but just watch what happens over the next ten years."

We shift topics onto the new record which was going to be released independently by Mason and producer Richard X until Domino imprint Double Six stepped in with an offer to do all the legwork. It's not the first time he has worked with the legendary pop producer Richard X, yet Mason is rather adept himself when it comes to manning the controls. Was there any temptation to overrule him?

'Ha! Well, it wasn't Rumpole of the Bailey. I think when you working with someone like Rich you have to be smart and listen to his opinion. He's knows what he's doing. There was a lot of mutual respect, so things were pretty smooth."

If the record does fail to provide Mason with the funds necessary to form militias, then at least he'll be able to replenish the coffers with a U.K tour to promote the album, something that he really seems to be looking forward to as he describes who he'll be taking to the stage with him.

"I will be doing a headline tour this year, probably around October I think. The line-up is pretty exciting. I have Billy Hallam, son of Donald Cobham on tympani, Juin Gunderson (who's now 67) on double bass and Bal Measley who you may remember from Diddums playing the keys.

Finally, we talk about The Beta Band. I found an old quote from Mason, in which he expresses the opinion that "towards the end, The Beta Band were starting to work well together creatively." Will there ever be a return for the band? Or has that ship now sailed?

"I don't remember saying that! I think the reverse is true. It would be very hard to raise the Titanic. Not impossible, but it would have lost a lot of its splendour, rusting away down in the darkness, all alone."

Despite the many problems Steve Mason has had to deal with over the years, it's refreshing to see that the scrupulous, forthright and sometimes comical Steve Mason still comes to the fore and that his principles remain in tact.

It's a new, fresh and reinvigorated Steve Mason - and we're all the more richer for it.

Boys Outside is released on May 3 via Double Six / Domino. You can stream the entire album below:

Steve Mason - 'Boys Outside' by DominoRecordCo
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