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Ali Campbell & Astro UB40 Interview

ub40

Ali Campbell & Astro UB40 Interview

UB40 are without argument the worlds biggest selling Reggae band with over 40 million albums sold worldwide and after Ali Campbell split from the band in 2008 due to management issues, he has had a successful solo career. But for reasons that will become apparent, Ali Campbell felt the need to reform some of the original UB40 lineup in order to try and ‘save’ the UB40 brand and clean their ‘tarnished’ reputation.

We managed to speak exclusively to both Ali and Astro in the studio prior to them playing at The Leicester Music Festival later this month.

LM: Ali, Astro it is great to speak to you both today, I hope we don’t take up to much studio time.
Ali: No problem at all.
Astro: We’ve only just got here, so we have plenty of time.

LM: Ali can I firstly ask how it feels to be working with Astro again?
Ali: Well I left the band about six years ago now, along with Mickey, so its been a long time coming. But now Astro is back, it’s like he’s never been away and everything has just slotted back into place.

LM: So Astro, how does it feel being back with Ali after such a long break?
Astro: It feels just the same as ever (Astro laughs) Its great to be touring with Ali and Mickey again. In fact I forgot just how much I missed it all.

LM: Astro why did you decide to work with Ali again?
Astro: Well for me Duncan Campbell’s UB40 has been going down hill for a number of years. We were playing less popular venues and the mood of the band is a bit up and down and something I no longer wanted to be a part of.

LM:Ali I know you have always been unhappy with the split from the original band, but have your feelings changed much six years on?
Ali: No I feel just the same, what did it for me was when they released the country album. I mean UB40 are the biggest selling reggae band in the word and they bring a fucking country music album out. It has tarnished the good name of UB40 and I can’t sit back anymore. It was the straw that broke the camels back and that is why I am back on tour, to try and repair some of the damage done by my brothers.
Astro: Yes the country album was a disaster and something not everyone agreed with.

LM: So was reforming UB40 with its original vocalists an easy decision to make?
Ali: As I have already said, I am simply trying to save the legacy of UB40, who are the world’s biggest selling reggae band. Brian Travers and Jimmy Brown have disgraced the name of UB40 and almost turned them into a laughing stock and the last album was nothing more than a joke.

LM: Are there any plans to bring back any more of the original lineup?
Ali: No, everything feels right now that Astro is back and we don’t need to add anyone else to the band.

LM: So are you enjoying your current tour?
Ali: Oh yes of course, we have been to some amazing places; Dubai, Nigeria, South Africa and I feel very privileged. I have a great band and we are playing at some great venues, doing what we love best. What could be better?

LM: You’ll be coming to Leicester soon for the Leicester Music Festival, are you looking forward to that?
Ali: Oh of course, Leicester is a great place and we will play a set that everyone in Leicester will remember.
Astro: Yer it’s certainly going to be a day for Leicester to remember and I’m sure everyone will enjoy our performance.

LM: Are there any plans for a new album in the near future?
Ali: Yes we have a new album coming out later this year.

LM: Will that be a covers album or your own material.
Ali: It’s a mixture of both to be honest. There are some great covers on there, but equally there is a lot of new material.

LM: So how did it work with Astro coming back and the new album?
Astro: We had to go back in the studio to do a few changes, but I know everyone will love what we’ve done and to hear UB40 putting out some new reggae is what it’s all about.
Ali: Yes UB40 is a reggae band (Ali laughs)

LM: So what are the future plans for Ali Campbell’s UB40?
Ali: Well we have a lot of commitments to fulfill this year, but we will be touring America next year and then doing a UK tour after that. So we are going to be very busy and hopefully giving the fans what they want.
Astro: Yes the fans are the most important thing to us.

LM: Given how publicly much of UB40’s laundry has been aired, do you have a message for the fans?
Ali: Ultimately the fans will make their own mind up about UB40 and their history. But you wouldn’t pay to see the Rolling Stones with Chris Jagger singing and the same can be said for UB40. In most instances watching a band perform without the original vocalist makes them nothing more than a tribute act. When fans watch us perform they are getting the real deal, with the original vocalists and not a singer who has never even recorded an original UB40 track.

LM: So the message to the fans is that Ali Campbell’s UB40 is the real deal?
Ali:The fans will make their own mind up and I am simply trying to do what I love best.

LM: Ali, Astro thank you for your time today.
Ali: Thank you
Astro: Thank you.

You can buy tickets for the Leicester Music Festival by visiting the website

Interview By Danny O’Callaghan