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Interview: Peter Cox

"The way that I sing, it's not a relaxed kind of thing"

Interview from September 2019

Go West have been regular visitors to Australia the past couple of decades, visiting more than they did at the height of their success. In 1985, the duo comprised of singer Peter Cox (far right) and guitarist Richard Drummie reached the ARIA top 10 on their first attempt with "We Close Our Eyes" and repeated the feat five years later with soundtrack hit "King Of Wishful Thinking". I spoke to Peter ahead of the duo's most recent tour, alongside bands like A Flock Of Seagulls and Wang Chung, about the retro circuit, becoming pals with Tony Hadley and his distinctive vocal style.

You’ve been to Australia a number of times. What keeps you coming back?

I love it there. And I learnt from bitter experience not to get off a flight and go to a rehearsal room, which I’ve done in the past and will never, ever do again. The last time I came out 10 days before the shows started, had a holiday in Sydney and got my head on straight. Generally, artists tour in the countries where they’ve had some success, and “King Of Wishful Thinking” was a bona fide hit single in Australia. We did come to Australia in the ’80s, but not to play. We presented an award at the Countdown Awards.

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In Europe, there’s a whole circuit of retro festivals with different bands on the bill, so you can kind of bounce from one to the other. Is it enjoyable doing those gigs?

Yes, it is. I used to get asked in 1985-86 did I know John Taylor from Duran Duran, which always seemed to be an odd question, as if we all went to the same pub, which we didn’t, and I don’t really know the Duran Duran guys. But I have got to know a number of my contemporaries more recently doing the kinds of shows you describe. What’s good about those shows is that there’s a friendly spirit of competition. Everyone wants to be the act the audience will go home talking about.

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Go West on
Chart Beats

I first saw you perform at Luna Park in Sydney in the early 2000s alongside a bunch of other acts — and I did go away talking about Go West because you gave such an energetic performance. What keeps you excited about playing your hits?

I realise this sounds like a cliché but I’m genuinely happy to still be making a living doing something I love. And I recognise that I’m very lucky to do that. As far as onstage energy goes, which I’m thrilled to hear, I did a year singing with Manfred Mann, who had a lot of success in Europe whereas Go West have not. So for the first time I was gigging in Germany and Scandinavia and so on. I mention all that because there are bands playing on that circuit that you would never see in the UK, bands whose records I bought when I was younger. I was really excited to see these bands but on several occasions I was disappointed by how little energy there was onstage.

From my own point of view, it’s just a nervous thing — I would never describe myself for a moment as a dancer of any kind. But when I’m in front of a crowd, I feel that something needs to happen. And the way that I sing, it’s not a relaxed kind of thing; it’s much more of a physical, visceral kind of performance. That’s not by design, it’s just singing songs that have been set in a key right at the top of my range and working really hard all the time. I’m glad you thought it had some energy about it, because that’s what I personally strive for. It’s really important to not just stand there and sing.

Who have you become closest with from the touring circuit that you didn’t even know in the ’80s or ’90s?

I share management now with Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet, for example. Tony and I were involved in a television show some years back called Reborn In The USA — it was effectively a dozen artists of a certain era from the UK supposedly performing for the first time in America for audiences that wouldn’t immediately recognise them. That was the first time really that I got to spend any time with Tony, even though we were on the same label [Chrysalis] in the 80s. I’ve got to know him more recently, along with Paul Young and I’ve worked a bit with Kim Wilde. Plus all the guys on this tour — Cutting Crew, Wang Chung — I’ve worked with these guys several times now. At the summer festivals in the UK, in the area backstage, it’s kind of like a social club. Everyone’s having a glass of wine and enjoying the moment.

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