Interview: Francis Rossi

Loved by middle aged rockers, Status Quo keep on rocking all over the world. Martin Hutchinson meets frontman Francis Rossi.

Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi are still doing their stuff
Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi are still doing their stuff

IF the term ‘status quo’ is generally taken to mean that things remain the same, this year has been anything but static for the veteran rock band who adopted the name back in 1968.

In March the ‘classic’ line-up of the band, as fans would definitely call it – Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt, Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan – reunited for the first time in more than 30 years. For the fans and the band it was a great moment, but it was only ever supposed to be for a short tour of Britain.

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Three months later came a new album – Bula Quo – which was essentially the soundtrack of the first-ever feature film starring the band. The film was seen by enthusiasts on cinema screens when it went on release in July.

Then there was the matter of a new drummer, the winter tour and another reunion tour with the ‘Frantic Four’ line-up.

All of which gave the band’s loquacious singer and lead guitarist Francis Rossi more than enough to talk about when I caught up with him for a catch up at his impressive London home.

“It was great being with Alan again,” says Rossi, alluding to the fact that he and Lancaster were the best of friends when they formed their first band, The Scorpions, while at school in Catford in 1962.

“John too, although he found it hard – it was hard work for all of us, really.”

The tour by the original foursome was arguably the event of the year for Quo fans, with sell-out crowds at every show.

“It’s wrong for me to poo-poo it,” Rossi says.

“We did it for the fans, as they had been asking for it for many years and I think the time was right.”

The fans might have wanted it and the band were willing to do it – but Rossi admits that actually, they may have been a little below par.

“And even though I thought we were a bit sloppy and under-rehearsed I can’t believe the reception we got – it was amazing,” he says.

And it seems that this won’t be the last we see of the Frantic Four (as they have been labelled).

“No, tickets are on sale for some dates in Europe next year, and we’ll be doing Britain again.”

The new album was released in June and, to some surprise, the album was welcomed with decent reviews.

“To be honest,” admits Francis. “If we hadn’t done the film, I don’t know what I’d have done for the album but I found it very refreshing. There’s a lot of diversity on the album which is always nice.”

The film, released in early July, was shown in around 200 cinemas throughout the country and has the band on tour in Australia. Things then take a little turn for the surreal when the band finds it self somehow wrapped up in a crime plot which has them running for their lives and filming in Fiji.

“It was a lousy job, but someone had to do it,” quips Rossi.

It is now out on DVD.

“I was surprised it didn’t go straight to DVD,” laughs the self-depreciating frontman.

“Seriously, we’re quite enthusiastic about DVD and as a band we’re used to falling on our faces.

“We were pleased with the film in the end and they may even want us to do another one.

“But we’ll need to be more involved script-wise.”

At the end of last year, Matt Letley, the band’s drummer since 2000, announced that he was leaving the band, which came as something as a shock, and presented a bit of a problem.

Due to the obvious problem in finding a suitable replacement, he agreed to appear with the band until May when his place behind the drum-kit was taken by Leon Cave – who had drummed on Francis’ solo tour.

“He’s fabulous,” Rossi says. “Matthew was fantastic and Leon is near him. There’s a vibe that comes out that’s great.

“He’s really enthusiastic and so jolly, we’re very pleased with him.

“Also, he’s joined a band that’s mad about food. We’re always talking about it and Leon’s up for trying anything.”

At this point, we realised that Francis’ partner-in-crime since 1967, Rick Parfitt, had recently turned 65 and was therefore a pensioner; will Francis be taking the mick?

“I’d forgotten that. No I can’t really, because I’ll be there myself in six months,” he says.

“We are born to grow old,” he says philosophically, adding wryly, “which is OK when you consider the alternative.”

As for the December shows itself, Rossi is weighing up the set-list.

“We’ll probably do an hour and a half or an hour forty and there’s a couple of songs from the new album that we might do.”

Such as?

“Well, Looking for Caroline and Go Go Go are very good tunes and lend themselves to a live performance.

“In the end though, we’ll do what we do.”

Which, of course, means giving the people what they want, with their impressive catalogue of hits such as Down Down, Rocking All Over the World and Caroline.

Soon the Quo frontman will be stretching his solo muscles again.

“I’m doing a bit of work on a new solo album,” he says. “I spent most of yesterday clearing out my laptop and checking all the little pieces of music that were on there.”

Beyond that, the Quo are booking dates into 2015.

“I don’t know about doing another album yet,” says Rossi. “The joy is that something might happen.”

Status Quo, along with special guests 10CC will be bringing their Bula Quo tour to the Leeds Arena on December 17. Tickets are priced at £38.50 (plus booking fee).

Record breaking hits

STATUS QUO’S total world-wide record sales exceed 118 million units.

The band has recorded 64 British hit singles – more than any other band – 22 of which have hit the Top Ten.

The band’s first hit was Pictures of Matchstick Men, which reached number 7 in January 1968.

The band has made 106 appearances on Top of the Pops – more than any other group in the history of the programme.

The bands has spent in excess of seven and a half years – 415 weeks – in the British singles chart.

Rockin’ All Over the Years album sold 1.1m in Britain, gaining triple platinum.