The Stereo MCs are back after a few years in the wilderness with a new label, a new record Paradise, and new positive outlook. Speaking with Nick Hallam from the band was an interesting experience. Listening to someone who has experienced the worst of what the fickle music industry has to offer, but someone who’s still positive about the band’s musical future, gives even jaded music reporter like myself some hope that beyond marketing, money and managers, music is still the most important thing.
Even though the core group of people who form the Stereo MCs – Rob Birch, the indomitable front man of the group, writer and instrumentalist Nick Hallam, and singer Stephanie Mckay – have been on the road and in each others face on tour busses for quite a long time, there is still a great deal of love for each other. “If we’re not making music, we go to Rob’s house and listen and play records, play some table football, that kind of thing,” says Hallam.
Hallam claims there is quite a lot of optimism now about all aspects of the group. “We toured Deep Down and Dirty for about a year or two after the release,” he says of the last few years. “It was a bit of a weird time really. Because Deep Down and Dirty didn’t sell as well as Connected, the record company started becoming a bit negative, and we felt we had to get away from them.”
Things then changed quite dramatically in the Stereo MCs camp. “We fired our manager and we carried on doing quite a lot of live shows for a number of years and then got back into the writing process. In the meantime we were sorting out our legal troubles as our manager took us to the lawyers. And after that all got sorted out, we got out of our deal with Island Records, which we thought of as a corporate record company and we didn’t feel anything for them. Then we got a new manager, who is really positive and helped us start our own label, and we started to get our confidence back.”
Not surprisingly, the legal and contractual problems left a bad taste in the group’s mouth. “There was so much negativity around us at that stage that we kind of lost the plot a little bit, we thought it was all a bit pointless, we didn’t feel as though we were part of something anymore. Island were acting like a bank and we just felt de-motivated by the whole thing,” he laments. “But now we feel it’s a new start – we’ve got the new label, we’re doing it kind of low key really, but we’re establishing a firm base for ourselves again to build something. We’ve done some live shows around the UK and Europe and it’s been real nice, it’s feeling good, as good as when we first started even,” he enthuses. “It’s refreshing.”
“After Connected we had a few bad years where we shouldn’t have been in the studio. We needed to get some fresh juice really. We did the DJ Kicks thing for K7! and it kick started us into making records again. When we did Deep Down and Dirty we felt really good about it, because we had broken through a hurdle for ourselves in terms of actually making a record, so we were a bit disappointed at how the record label treated us like a fucking donkey, you know what I mean?” he laughs.
“But now I think we have control over what we are doing, we’ve got our shit back and we’re feeling more inspired than we have done for about 10 years. Once we cleared the decks of all the bullshit, got rid of people who had grudges against us because we hadn’t made them rich,” he chuckles. “Now we got a new team who have an open minded, positive approach to us and what we were doing, and it has became about making a good record and having fun doing it.”