IT has got to be the most anticipated reunion tour of the year, especially as it all collapsed in tatters a couple of years ago, but finally Culture Club are undertaking a tour of the UK and will at long last be releasing a brand new album – their first together in 20 years.
Guitarist and keyboard player Roy Hay, who has been resident in California since 1989, finding success composing music for TV shows such as Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, thinks that the delay following the breakdown of a previous tour was actually beneficial in the longer run.
“Yes, well [Boy] George had some vocal issues at the time, so it was probably a good thing,” says the 57-year-old who is originally from the Essex resort Southend and before Culture Club worked as a hairdresser.
“We’ve had more time to get together and prepare, and also more time to work on the record, which we hope will be out in October.”
He adds: “It gave us time to rebuild and we’ve worked out that it’s the right time to do it.”
When not on Culture Club duty, Hay has kept himself busy, and branched out into commercial composing and sound design with his own company, Haywired Music.
He says: “I’ve been working on a bunch of different things for film and TV. I’ve been song-writing and I’ll probably concentrate on movies, I think. I just do music, man.”
Culture Club, comprising Hay, Boy George, Mikey Craig and Jon Moss, formed in London in 1981 and burst upon the music scene in 1982 with hits like Do You Really Want To Hurt Me and Church Of The Poison Mind which fused pop, soul and reggae influences.
They enjoyed huge international success the following year with Karma Chameleon – which sold more than three million copies worldwide – and its parent album Colour By Numbers, leading to Brit and Grammy awards, but the band suffered disappointing reviews and more modest sales with its successor, Waking Up With The House On Fire. A fourth album, From Luxury To Heartache, reached the top 10 but swiftly faded.
In the end it all fell apart in 1986, and some of the fallout was down to the tempestuous relationship between the lead singer Boy George and drummer Moss.
We’ve been working on it since May 2014 and it’s an amazing record. There’s a bit of an edge to it that we thought we might have lost.Roy Hay
They seemed to have overcome this now. Moss went on to marry and have three children while George forged a career as a solo artist and successful club DJ.
But have the pair resolved their differences?
“One would like to think so,” says Hay. “They can still push each other’s buttons, but it’s better than it was.
“We don’t have a problem with it nowadays.”
And how is the album – which the band recently revealed is going to be called Life – going?
“We were working on it in January and George is adding more vocals.”
Hay continues: “We’ve been working on it since May 2014 and it’s an amazing record.
“There’s a bit of an edge to it that we thought we might have lost. It’s been a fun experience as well.”
Hay is keen to point out that they still have something to say. “That’s right,” he agrees. “We’re not a band on an 80s night out, we’re trying to rebuild the legacy.
“We can be a good band and play good music. The point is to be an active band.”
Support for the tour is by Belinda Carlisle, former lead singer with American band The Go-Gos who went on to have a string of hits in the 80s with likes of Heaven Is A Place on Earth and Circle In The Sand, and Tom Bailey from the Thompson Twins, who, like Culture Club, appeared at Live Aid in 1985 and were big in the UK and America with their album Into The Gap.
With such a line-up, time will be a little limited.
“I’m not exactly sure how long we’ll be on stage, maybe one hour 20 minutes, something like that.
“Tom supported us in Australia and he puts on a great show.”
And what can we expect to hear? “I think we’ll play selected tracks from the new album, they slot in very nicely with the old stuff. The show is made up of little sections. It’s a good mix.”
And is Hay looking forward to it?
“I really am, it’s going to be great. We’ve got 50 dates to warm up in the States, but playing to English audiences is fantastic. The response is so amazing and it’s something special.”
And will that be the end of Culture Club? Hay is philosophical about it.
“I’m not sure. This tour and album is not a means to an end. We’ll have to see how it goes. We may go into another cycle with another record – who knows?”
Culture Club will be appearing at the First Direct Arena, Leeds on November 23. Tickets are available from the box office and usual agencies.