The Professionals are back! With a gig at the 100 Club in October and a new CD collection due, this truly great band are set to emerge after a break of over 30 years.
Time therefore for a chat with bass player Paul Myers. Paul is a joy to talk to, a real gent and a comedian to boot!
What prompted The Professionals reunion? Why now?
I know there is the box set coming out on the night we're playing, October 16th, but I don't think that had anything to do with it.
We'd been thinking about it for a long time. I have to say I think when I saw you, when Paul Cook and I played up North with Subway Sect (March 2012), those shows with Vic Godard were a catalyst for this. For Paul as well. Paul and I really liked doing those gigs with Vic. We loved it. I've always been an admirer of Vic's songs. I'm a bit of a soul boy as you know, and I'd played those Northern Soul-type songs with Vic way back in 1980. When Vic said he actually wanted to record them and maybe do some gigs, I said fantastic. Then I found out Paul was playing as well, and we loved it.
That gave us the impetus, because when we left Vic we were both sitting around thinking "I miss that, let's just continue playing." The idea at first was just to go and rehearse. I love rehearsing! Paul does too. So that was the idea. So Ray, Paul and me started rehearsing. We did it last year, just once and it just fizzled out. We thought it might do the same this year, but it immediately sounded really good. So we thought maybe we should continue this; then it got to a stage when the only way we were going to take it to the next level was either Steve come over or we get someone else. At the time Steve wasn't ready to come over so we decided to get someone in.
As soon as we'd done this we knew it was quite serious.
Ray McVeigh, Paul Myers & Paul Cook back together
Was it a big decision getting someone else in or was it straight forward?
It was straight forward. We'd talked about getting together for 5 years, it had never happened. If we waited for Steve to make a decision we'd be ashes! We'd all be in urns! So, let's do it! Now we're all ready so Steve can come over whenever he wants. We don't know whether he will or not. He certainly won't be over for October, but who knows? We've no plans after October, but the fact is we're all ready to go, all prepared, and we've gone to Argos and chipped in for a blow-up bed so Steve's got somewhere to sleep if he comes over. Who knows?
I've been trying to tempt him over by telling him he can upgrade my boiler to a combi, and the only way I can afford it is if he comes over. I may be able to afford new radiators as well! We all want him to come over, and maybe he will. It's a long way and I understand, I'm quite parochial, I don't like travelling. He's over in LA, he's quite comfortable there, he's got his little swimming pool, and I'd be as happy as Larry as well. It's got to be worth his while. We've got our stuff set up, so he can just come over.
I know there are a lot of people who think it's sacrilege without Steve. But the fact is, it would never have happened. Now it's happening and the door's open for Steve, but that's totally up to Steve.
Steve has often referred to that period as being difficult for him personally, and he doesn't like to be reminded too much of it.
Absolutely, and for me as well. But maybe it's kind of cathartic. This time it is not then. It was a really awful time for me as well. I wasn't well. Although it was really exciting, I had a lot of problems back then, but now everything is totally different. I think it would be great for him to come over. I think he'd love it, I really do. It's not the Pistols, the pressure's off, we haven't record companies to answer to, I think it would be great for him. But then again, it's up to Steve.
You've brought Tom Spencer in. How did that come about - how did he end up getting the job?
Tom Spencer. Enlisted!
That is a good question. I'm just the bass player! I haven't a clue, I'm not a muso at all (laughing). Tom knew Ray and Paul vaguely. They said if we take the next step we know a guy called Tom that might fit in really well. I said let's do it then. So Tom came down and he fitted in from day one. He picked up the songs; he really gelled in the group. He's a lovely bloke. We wouldn't have horrible people in the group! We're too old for that.
They're big shoes to fill. It's brave of him.
I admire him. It's a really scary thing for him, but he's worked hard and picked up the songs in no time. I admire his courage. He's played with a lot of bands. He's played more gigs than all of us lot put together! We have to be careful about putting all the pressure on Tom because in an odd way there will be more pressure on us because Tom is a hardened live performer. I think he'll do great. None of us has any worries about Tom, but I agree with you, they are big shoes to fill.
My only reservation about Tom is he is taller than us. I really don't like tall people! We couldn't do anything about that!
You're not small are you? He must be very tall.
Put down I'm 6'1" just in case! We are all short.
You look tall on stage.
Even Toulouse-Lautrec would look tall on stage. I'm going to get Tom's mic near Ray's, so Ray looks even shorter. Ray will look pitiful and I can be over on my own. I've said to Tom don't even come up to me on stage, just stay over there. We've got it all sorted out.
Playing Professionals songs again, has your view of any of them changed?
Funnily enough I had to make a big adjustment. The songs I'd done with Vic were totally different. The Professionals are more of a rock band compared to how we were with the Subway Sect. It took a while to adjust. Having done Northern Soul with Vic - which I loved - I was wondering how I would feel about The Professionals stuff. I found I liked the songs much better than I did back then. Maybe my musical tastes have changed, but I think it is playing them.
They are a great set of songs...
It's a strong set we've got, it really is. We've got the songs in order so it flows, and they are sounding fantastic.
I think The Professionals reputation including the song catalogue has increased with the passing of time. The Professionals got ignored a lot in the UK in favour of Mohican punk bands.
Without a doubt. But also back then, the problem was I think that it wasn't so long since the Sex Pistols had split up, so there was a lot of residues still there from the Pistols. With distance, The Professionals are now recognised much more as a band in their own right. When we were on the American tours back in the early 80's, some adverts were like "Sex Pistols", or "featuring two of the Sex Pistols". Fair enough, they used that to sell it, but with distance and time, I think The Professionals are recognized in their own right because the songs are really strong.
Ray and Paul were au fait with them, but I had to really put work in to learn them again. I'm not a musician, so I have to work three times as hard as the other musos in the group! I've loved it, the songs are just great.
How often do you play bass?
Oh God! I didn't even have a bass, Phil! Nothing! Before playing with Vic, apart from playing in The Fallen Leaves for about 6 months back in 2005, I hadn't played bass for 15 years. So when Vic came along it was quite daunting. I partly thought bloody hell, it's going to be quite tough for me. My first reaction was to say no, then I thought what the hell, those songs are fantastic. At least it's a challenge. And it's the best thing I did.
When I saw yourself and Cookie with the Subway Sect, I remember thinking, there's half The Professionals on stage. It did feel good to see you both together and I did think "I wonder if.."
We enjoyed playing with Vic. When we played London, Ray would come along. There would be us, three Professionals, in the pub before we went on, and I thought "this is a bit nuts!" There are three of us, we are living in London, we're all mates, what is the big hold up? Then you realise there is nothing holding us up, we can do it.
The focus over the years had been, how are we going to get four of us in a studio? That was the wrong thought to have. It wouldn't have just happened miraculously. We had to do it a different way, and as a result we are playing! Sadly, without Steve, but who knows what's going to happen in the future? Maybe, maybe not. I'm not just saying that, I don't know.
Personally, after 30-35 years, to get back The Professionals with three of the four, is pretty good as a starting point for any band!
I think it is. It's a great starting point. When you say 35 years, what is scary is it would be like Glen Miller, if he'd survived, coming back from 1944 to play in 1979! How bloody mad is that?!
What there is this time, is a real positivity. Half of it is attitude. We are all really up for this and it has made rehearsing so much easier. Steve and I weren't well back then, and that made it difficult for Paul and Ray, whereas it's totally different now.
When you've been back together in the studio, do you reminisce about the old days, or mainly concentrate on the moment?
Ray starts reminiscing. We just walk out. When we come back he's still reminiscing! Ray is the Bill Wyman of the group; he could tell you what we were doing at 11am on August 15th 1981. Ray's got a great memory. I like to look at what's happening now. We have a bit of a laugh about it, but in general we are all focused on now. Back then is a distant memory for me. It was a bit of a painful time. This time it's a joy.
I remember being in London, we were flying out to do a big American tour, I thought why am I not happy about this? Why am I dreading it? It was because of the state I was in at the time. That's all changed.
Are you still doing your swimming?
Of course I'm doing the swimming. I went to Marbella with Paul a few weeks ago. What I'd like you to do is put down "shark attack!" In fact I swam into a whole shoal of jelly fish. I wondered why no one was in the water, but like an idiot I didn't think of that. Then a lifeguard pointed out a yellow flag, which meant nothing to me, but in Spain it means danger! He shouted out "jellyfish" in Spanish. I learnt the hard way. In the interview, just upgrade it to shark attack.
When they asked me on the beach if I saw the sharks I said no, I just plunged down to the depths. They said I was only in three feet of water.
I'm a creature of habit; if I don't go swimming regularly I just don't feel right. I go about three times a week. When I was in Spain with Paul it was every day. If I lived in Spain I'd be super, super fit.
Job wise, are you still an Addiction Counsellor?
I still am. It's really important to me to have things to do. I need something to get up for in the morning. The band is fantastic, but I'm very lucky, I really like my job. I'm trying to support people, trying to change their lives. It's fantastic. It would be the height of arrogance to think I can save people, I can't, and some of my people die sadly. You're going to get that, but in general I'm very lucky.
What I do need is a girlfriend. I'm girlfriend-less at the moment. I've had some lovely girlfriends, but they've all got fed up with me being a commitment-phobe. A girlfriend organises my life. A girlfriend gets an agenda ready. Just before you 'phoned I was thinking about a girlfriend I used to have up North. She used to drag me up to Pendle Hill (east Lancashire) and we'd go for walks along the Ribble Valley and in the Lake District. The thing is I'm really sloth-like. A girlfriend comes along and says "we're doing this." That's what I need. I had a girlfriend I used to see Thursday evenings. It ended because she said; "there's a gig on Tuesday evening, do you wanna come?" I said you can't do that, I'm like an oil tanker; I need time to turn around, I can't just do that, I need a month to think about it! That's when she realised I'm nuts!
What about your girlfriend who made fantastic cakes?
She was the one whose mother lived up near you and who used to take me on walks on Pendle Hill. I'm a real cake person. I really miss her. Last year I had a craving for one of her banoffee pies and I texted her. She said she was with someone else. I said I don't mind that, but any chance of a banoffee pie? She didn't reply.
I'm still after a dentist, Phil. It's so hard to pull a dentist; they must go to secret dentist dating sites. I went out with a dental group practice manager and managed to get £2000 direct fillings for nothing. Another one I blew like an idiot. So what I'm hoping for, from October and The Professionals gig, is a dentist. I don't care if it's a male, it'll do me. I'd like to get 75% off all treatment. It's a bloody fortune. That's another reason I want Steve to come over, so I could get implants. And a combi boiler. I've had to admit defeat with dentists.
There might be some more dentists available after that one who shot Cecil the lion.
Do you know what? I thought of that guy. He's closed his practice down. He's at a loose end. I know it was a disgusting thing he did, but have you seen his teeth?! That guy has got fantastic teeth! Imagine if he's a big fan of The Professionals? He could come over and sort my teeth out.
It would get plenty of press for the 100 Club gig.
Yeah, but if the public knew he'd done my teeth they may knock them out.
As long as he's on hand to keep fixing them, and he doesn't bring his bow and arrow.
God, that would be my dream! But don't bring an elephant; just bring a drill! I should email him.
So what do you think Man City are going to do this year?
(An in-depth chat about football and other things followed!! Paul has promised to eat a banoffee pie hat if City reach the Champions League semi-final.)
The Professionals at the 100 Club. That's it for the moment then?
I don't know. We're just taking it a gig at a time. It would be a shame if it ended on that. We don't plan ahead, 'cos plans can go awry. It's a case of let's do this, see how it goes, see what the reaction is and then go to the next step, whatever that may be.
We're doing it for ourselves. It's just a coincidence the Complete Professionals CD is coming out. We didn't sit down at the beginning of the year and think there is an album coming out; this is what we should do. It's got nothing to do with that. It's great that it is coming out, but we're doing it just because we feel ready, and why not? Maybe we weren't ready before, and this is the time.
Although we only rehearsed once last year, that was kind of the start of it. It may not have happened last year, perhaps something wasn't right. The plan this year was the same, let's just get back and rehearse. It sounded fantastic, from day one. I'm sure it's the positive mental attitude. We all said it sounded surprisingly good. Let's come in next week! It was a bit like that. It was about April when we thought we should take this to the next level.
Ray McVeigh & Paul Myers. Nice hats.
Can you remember which was the first song you rehearsed together?
Just Another Dream. I know it was that because it was the first one I learnt again. It sounded really, really, good. So then it was, let's learn a few more. We didn't have a whole set to start with. After a couple of weeks we were doing about four. Then we decided to learn a few more, and that was when subconsciously there was a change and we thought, actually we are doing this for a reason. Then we knew we had to learn enough for a set and so the three of us sat round and thought, do we all wanna play? Yes we do. How are we gonna do that? We sounded Steve out and he wasn't sure. Steve just wasn't ready, which is fair play. So we said right, we're gonna get someone else in.
Which finds us nearly ready to go.
Have any songs been particularly hard to master again after all these years?
For me, every bloody song! I worked so hard learning to play again with Vic that it made The Professionals easier. It gave me loads of confidence. Vic's songs are quite complicated, but one thing that's a killer with The Professionals songs is you need to be fit to play them. We rehearsed yesterday and I was bloody exhausted. The hardest one is Join The Professionals. Physically it's a killer. It's like training up!
It was funny, because we'd rehearse, then I'd go home and start playing along with the album, and I couldn't keep up! When the song had finished I was only a third of the way through! We're up to speed now! Paul's fit, you've got to be fit to drum on a Professionals set. Paul's going to the gym! A Professionals set is like a Sex Pistols set, it's bloody exhausting for all of us.
It's also mentally exhausting remembering all the numbers, but the more work I'm putting into it the easier it's getting. I really am proud of myself because I'm playing with three great musicians. Paul is a recognised great drummer, they are all really good. I'm keeping up with them! I'm a confident person but I'm also a pragmatist. I'll never be as good a musician as the others but I do what I do really well. I'm not going to be Stanley Clarke, I'm never going to achieve my dream of being James Brown's bass player, especially now!
It's good to get some excitement as well.
It's about the excitement. It's a big rush. We're all old codgers, I think this is living! I'm going on stage with The Professionals. I think it's fantastic. Just before they book me into a home with sexy nurses. Knowing me, I'll meet the dentist of my dreams when it's too late. She'll be sat there in incontinence pads, saying; "If only we'd met sooner. Look at my teeth they are fantastic." That's what's going to happen to me. Peter O'Sullevan the racing commentator died yesterday, aged 97. I'm only eight years away!