Talking Music: Ben Adams of A1 Discusses The Boys are Back!
Celebrating a decade of wild boys of pop, four acts from the 90s featuring original line ups, party classics, greatest hits, banging tunes and everyone’s favourite dance moves will hit Cardiff’s St David’s Hall in March 2020.
A1, 5ive, Damage and 911 may be men now, but for one night only, the Boys Are Back! On the road, on the mic and working up one hell of a sweat!
Brit award winners, A1 were the British-Norwegian band consisting of Ben Adams, Paul Marazzi, Mark Read and Christian Ingebrigtsen. The band had their first breakthrough in The UK in 1999 and went on to have many International number 1 hits. They achieved massive success throughout the UK, Europe and Asia racking up over 10 million record sales.
Andy Howells recently caught up with Ben Adams to discuss A1, his career as a musical writer and the forthcoming Boys are Back tour!
What led you to join A1?
I was at school doing GCSE’s. A friend of mine said there were auditions down in London for a band, it wasn't A1, but I went to the audition and I got it.
I met Mark (Read) through that and then we left that band and formed A1, which was a band been put together by the same management as Steps. As a band, we toured around every bloody venue up and down the country, which is what you had to do back then as there was no social media. There was a good year or so before we got a record deal and the rest is history.
A1 had a bit of an international feel as Christian Ingebrigtsen comes from Norway. Did that allow the band success over there and in other countries?
I think Christian was really upset that we weren't popular in Norway. We were doing stuff in Europe and Asia, but Norway weren't interested at all. Eventually our third single, Everytime, blew up and went massive (the single reached No.3 in the UK and Norway). So, I think he was pleased that we finally managed to crack it, but it wasn't a given that there will be success because we had a band member from one of those places.
You had two number ones (Take on Me and Same Old Brand New You). What was it like getting to the top of the charts?
It was amazing, but for both number ones we weren't in the country at the time.
That's one of the bad things about being in a band, you don't always get time to take stock and appreciate what you have achieved. It wasn't like, “Oh! We’re number one! Let's celebrate for a week!”
It's 20 years since you recorded the songs. How do you think A1's music has stood up in the time since you recorded it?
Some have stood up better than others. Caught in the Middle, because it was more pop sounding you could release that song tomorrow and it would still sound current. Songs like Same Old Brand New You perhaps belong back in the nineties and noughties music. There are so many playlists on Spotify that you put music on, it transports you back.
Same Old Brand New You probably hold a lot of memories for people who bought it at the time
Absolutely! It was the first number one I had ever written!
What was the inspiration for it?
We were in America and Thong Song by Cisco was in the charts at the time. We were taking a bit of inspiration from that. We were so excited because we were over in America working with big producers and all that kind of stuff. I think we just thought “Let's write most catchy song we can think of” That's what happened with Same Old Brand New You. It was a great experience
Your other number one was a cover of A-ha’s Take on Me, what was the thinking behind that?
Yeah! I'd never heard it if I'm honest.
Christian was particularly nervous about doing that one. It was a huge song to take on and from a fellow Norwegian band. He knows Morten Harket and if we had done a bad job, he'd have been lynched! (Laughs)
It didn't get to number one when A-ha did it, but as a songwriter, I guess Morten Harket is pleased we did it!
In recent years you’ve moved on to stage musicals including performing in Flashdance with Joanne Clifton.
I love performing. So, when I'm not performing it feels kind of strange After Flashdance went down so well, I continued with musical theatre and did the Rocky Horror Picture Show which I've just finished. It does take its toll on you a little bit, it’s that relentless touring. They did ask me if I wanted to stay on another 6 months to do Rocky Horror, but I just couldn't do it, my brain was frazzled with 8 shows a week Since 2017! I thought, “You know what? Thank you very much but I need time off to do other things!”
I've written a musical called Eugenius! and another musical, Bloody Norah, but when you're trying to get on tour, you're not around to do any of that stuff. Of course, there’s A1 concerts as well and that's taken off now!
There's not enough time to do everything, so I thought, “I better take stock of it, I’ve had a great time doing musical theatre. Let me put it on hold a second, so I can concentrate on something else.” I might go back to it, but I’d probably prefer to do something in the West End, so I can be home a little bit more!”
This forthcoming Boys Are Back tour sees you on the road with 5ive, Damage and 911. Did you all cross paths back in the chart days much?
We’re all old friends. It's a very big industry but it's also very small. We've been touring with these guys in different ways, so we bump into each other all the time!
How will the shows pan out? Will you all do a set?
I think each band will get about 45 minutes and then we will go on one after the other. A bit like the old Smash Hits! Tours. Even when you go to Glastonbury, you get a band, then a band and then another band coming on, so it will be a bit like that.
When you look back over your varied career to date, what has been your highlight?
Eugenius is the most favourite thing I've ever done. It's the thing there has been the most buzz about. Although the audience are clapping for the performers, you get a sort of indirect applause. I can't quite describe the feeling to be a writer of a successful musical. It's quite an incredible feeling!
The Boys Are Back plays Cardiff’s St David’s Hall on March 23, 2020. Tickets are available via nvite.com/community/theboysareback2020