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Friars Interviews

August Darnell
kid creole and the coconuts

friars appearances :  12/06/82  05/10/82  27/11/09

Kid Creole at Friars Aylesbury 27th November 2009. Photo credit: Neale Wareham

Anybody who saw those two incredible Kid Creole gigs in 1982 will be very excited at the prospect of them coming back in November 2009. They broke big in 1982 and we caught them at exactly the right time. As August says below, the cost of that size band over from the States on the road in Europe wasn't cheap and subsequently the second gig in October 1982 was a record admission price (and stayed that way till 2009). What did the Friars punters think of that? It sold out immediately! As you will read below, the Kid is making sure that the 2009 band are every bit as good as they were in 1982. Kid and the band are based all over, mainly Europe, and we caught up with August in Sweden in November 2009. Over to you Kid!

We're all looking forward to the return of Kid Creole and the Coconuts! Those 1982 gigs were two of the best Friars gigs ever! Lot of people speak very highly of those gigs.

Thank you! That's good to hear - they were some of the first gigs we ever did in the UK.

It was your first proper UK tour wasn't it?

Yes, we played Leeds and then London and (finished in) Aylesbury. It was the start of our UK conquest! I have a personal assistant now and she was at that Friars show in June 1982! She became a friend as she was dating one of the band members and she has been reminding me of that gig! Then I got some great emails from David Stopps who has a great memory - he was telling me what the Coconuts were wearing, that one of them went sick and so on.

Did you see those photos of you on the Friars website from that June 1982 gig?

Yes, they were classic photos. They are brilliant! Unbelievable stuff.

The man who took those pictures will be back at Friars on November 27th along with so many others who saw you the first time round!

That first UK tour in then Off The Coast of Me and Fresh Fruit in Foreign Places had already been released....

Yes, but the record sales of those has been truly pitiful. But we struck gold with the third album, Tropical Gangsters.

That went top ten in the UK

That's the one that did it for us. You is amazing....would the band have survived if that hadn't have been a hit? I don't hear anything different between that and the first album. Maybe it was fate...the planets were aligned or something in 1982 (laughs)

Something worked! It was a breath of fresh air. Everybody will always remember I'm a Wonderful Thing....

It's there are only about seven or eight songs on that album. It was a short album but it lived and lived on the chart and the UK success spilled over to Europe and we had hits in Germany and France and beyond. But the UK was the start. So Wonderful Thing, Stool Pigeon and Annie was a great home run for us.

Everything was smiling on you! But if Tropical Gangsters hadn't been the success it was, do you think the record company would have continued to be supportive?

I sincerely doubt it. But we had two record companies. Warner Brothers in America and Island elsewhere. Chris Blackwell was a real believer in the music. I don't think Chris Blackwell (Island head) would have given up on us but he would probably have started making some demands on what direction we should go. We had been allowed free rein up to Tropical Gangsters, no-one had told us what to do. Our angel in those days was a British guy, Michael Zilkha, son of the Mothercare Foundation who was putting up all the money for touring in America before we even did the UK. It was through Zilkha's connections in the UK, that we got involved with Chris Blackwell. But to be specific about the question, in hindsight it may have been the end, but the album was so successful that Blackwell wanted to carry on.

I appreciate that but there was also the consideration that the band was physically big....

It was huge! It was a fourteen piece band. It was a very expensive endeavour with flights, hotels etc...

And touring, especially for a large American band coming over was not a cheap thing!

Absolutely!  David Stopps reminded me of what we got paid for those Friars gigs in 1982, it was quite shocking! (laughs). But when the tour took off and we got that hit record, we were touring 360 days a year and the band so was so tight and effective and such a powerful tool for me. Those were the days I loved touring so much and I realised that touring was the way forward. To this day, if I hadn't respected that aspect of the music industry, I'd be dead! Even after the hit records dried up, we still had such an incredible live band, we could continue playing.

Yes, that line up that played Aylesbury in 1982 stayed together for quite some time didn't it?

We put a good twelve years into it. We started out in America in 1980 playing all the clubs and we had a twelve year run with that band. The only original member from that band still with me is Bongo Eddie the percussionist. Everybody else has gone off to pursue other interests, some even out of the music industry. The guitarist is now a wine taster and a couple have passed away. Winston the drummer passed away and two of my road managers have passed away over the last five years. Having Bongo Eddie alongside excites me as I can say to him "do you remember that gig in Paris" etc. We moved out of New York to Europe and the band now is European based. So that was probably the beginning of the end of an American band and has been European based since 1993.

The current line up of Kid Creole and the Coconuts, you're in Sweden, some live in England...

Some are in Scandinavia...Denmark and Sweden. Bongo Eddie is still a New Yorker. An international band!

It must make rehearsals a nightmare!

It's like a war campaign to be honest with you! It's OK when you are working six months straight as everyone is in the same place. Everyone gets paid a salary for the six months. But when you don't have the gigs everyone goes home, so getting everyone together is a pain in the ass! We don't tour much any more, we just do the gigs that make sense. It is difficult bringing everyone together.

With you being European based, the Conquest of You album (1997) appeared to be very German?

(laughs). A German producer who had the idea that he thought he could break Kid Creole into the German market. I've had a lot of calls like that over the years of people saying they know what Kid Creole needs! This guy was Austrian, working in Germany and we put together a lot of German musicians for that working with his formula. Since I have been in Europe I have been all over the world working with people who want to get on the bandwagon. I worked in Italy with a group called the Cappadei Family who have been around for fifty years, a generational thing and I worked in Spain and all over the place with different musicians. Once I lost the core band (the American one), we struggled to get a band as good as they were.

I've seen you over the last few years with different musicians....including the Here and Now tour earlier this year.

That was a pick up band (house band). When I got the call, I didn't want to do it initially as I wasn't sure what sort of a band they would give me as they couldn't afford to bring my band over, all they could really afford was me, they didn't even want the Coconuts. I refused to work without the girls as it is Kid Creole and The Coconuts after all. I couldn't afford to bring Bongo Eddie to many of those shows as they weren't paying enough dough to warrant it. But we worked and worked with those guys.....the Kid Creole music, you need to be a musician to appreciate all kinds of music, so many these days are only into one thing. The Kid Creole music has always been eclectic, you have to know your jive, R&B, swing, calypso and reggae. It was difficult at first with the Here and Now band as while they got the funk of Stool Pigeon, but I wasn't comfortable with the calypso of Annie. We worked and worked and worked on it and by the end I was quite satisfied with the band, it was tight at the end. I missed the fact there were no horns as we are horn based so had synthetic horns but it's not the same! I have different feelings about it as people will feel you are retro, but I also need to expose the band to a younger audience too and it worked in my favour as they realised we were still out there.

On the show I did see, you had Marc Anthony playing with you (who has been with you a while now)...

You caught one of the ones he played. He's fantastic. He 's the son of Jimi Hendrix. I love that guy! He is so talented (as a player and songwriter) but hasn't had that break yet. He's worked with the band for over eight years and is working on new material here with me in Sweden.

When will that new album be out?

That comes out in the Spring and will be called Hercules Unchained. I am working with another guy who has a band called Hercules and the Love Affair. His record company wanted to hear a combination of his band and mine. He's a huge Kid Creole fan.

Bongo Eddie and Marc are both on that album?.


Let's go back quite a way here to before Kid Creole and the Coconuts. Dr Buzzard's Original Savannah Band which predated the band.

That was a learning curve. It was my brother's band primarily. He was the leader and I was his right hand man. He wrote the music, I wrote the lyrics and played bass, keyboard and guitar. I was a very attentive pupil of (my brother), Stony. I would go to the recording studios and watch with wonderness even when I wasn't needed. I learned a lot about production and song writing and got introduced to Cory Daye the lead vocalist. It was a great learning period. And we got lucky, the first album went gold in America. It's a huge place (America) and we also had a number one with Cherchez La Femme.

So how did that all end? Was it just that you wanted to branch out and do your own thing?

Yes, it was sibling rivalry and he (my brother) was very dictatorial in his ways and only his ways. I wasn't allowed to be involved and it was a case of "I write the music and you write the lyrics....forever" I was growing up and wanted to be more than a lyricist and I couldn't do that in the Savannah Band. So it built up and I said if you're not going to allow me to build up my I jumped ship and took Sugar Coated Andy Hernandez (later Coati Mundi) with me and we formed Kid Creole and The Coconuts. We were partners and outcasts in the Savannah Band as we weren't into drug culture so we bonded that way. We were free of drugs and the others were into drugs to aid their creativity. I'm not knocking that, to each his own, but Mundi and I formed a friendship through being sober as we didn't do drugs or alcohol. My wife came on board to bring in the Coconuts. The Savannah Band was a great learning experience, it was fantastic. 1976, we had our first hit.

You've also kept yourself busy with musicals, notably Oh What A Night....

I did it for ten years! I started in 1997 in Blackpool on what was a three month run. I remember leaving saying I will never come back to this city as long as I live! I also remember saying I wouldn't do this show again as it turned out to be harder than I thought it would be as it required a very different discipline from when I had been the boss in the band to being very regimented in when I turned up and what I did although I was still the star of the show. It was more tiring on stage. In Kid Creole we did the the choreography (originally through Adriana and now with Eva) so I did on stage whatever I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it. With Oh What A Night, there was a choreographer telling me what to do and when. It was tough, but I enjoyed it because it celebrated the disco era because I am a child of the disco era and the only one in the cast who lived that period.

The show was very successful and so the producers then asked me if I would carry on and that went on for 10 years. It wasn't continuous, maybe three or four month stints and in between I was still doing the band so I had the best of both worlds.

OK, here's the big question......have you been back to Blackpool?!

(laughs), I have not been back to Blackpool! I know loads of people love it!

From the old band, I believe you are working again with Peter Schott?

Yes, we're working on an opera and musical called I.V. League. We've worked on this for three years and finished two months ago. So now we are looking for producers. Peter and I got back after a ten years absence and decided to write a musical. He co-wrote Wonderful Thing and is a wonderful musician. We came up with a story about a young lady who doesn't know her parents but who does meet them in an auspicious and strange way and finds out that her childhood was a complete lie. It's not as heavy as it sounds as there are light moments in there. There's no old songs, all the music is brand new and I am quite proud of it.

Apart from the new album in the Spring, when is this musical likely to debut?

Right now, it's looking like it will debut off Broadway in New York. We have some strong connections in that direction, I don't want to say too much and jinx it but it's looking very good to open in Summer 2010 to open for previews and to get people involved.

To open on Broadway would be pretty good going!

It would be good if we get that successful with it. The Broadway musical route is even harder than the music business, especially right now with the economic climate. And this show is expensive to mount with a cast of hundreds...obviously! (laughs)

You don't do things by halves do you!

No (laughs) because I was brought up on those Cecil B DeMille movies like The Ten Commandments with casts of thousands!

I'm sure it's going to be brilliant!

I'm really happy with the libretto and the music, so we're hoping we can get it mounted and past the first base and we'll have a home run with it.

2010 sounds like it's going to be a busy year!

It's exciting as the new album is coming out and also we have a 2 CD anthology of some of the old songs re-done with new musicians. The album is half new and half re-visited songs from the Creolian golden era. That's at the Rainman Records site (link below) - my manager has created this to get this album out. Then the Hercules album and then the casting for the musical. It looks like an exciting year. But every year has been exciting, I'm so lucky as so many of my fellow musicians have given up and fallen on the wayside but I am still in there. I did a show in Copenhagen last night. The audience, although we did only two songs, and didn't know us wanted to know more afterwards.

YouTube......people not familiar with the band have sent emails and fan mail having discovered us on YouTube. We have got new fans that way.'s a great tool, I love it!

You're probably one of the few musicians that does!

I know a lot of people have issues with it because they aren't being paid, but you ARE being paid! You are being paid by reaching people you would never have reached otherwise.

That is some people's argument with illegal downloading....

I love illegal downloading! (laughs). It's the future. Why invent something and then say oops I made a mistake - you shouldn't have invented it!

Well, the people who invented it would have done it on the basis that there were rules you were supposed to play by...

You just put your finger on it! Shakespeare had a great line...."as a woodcock to mine old springe" - I love that line as you are making your own tracks in life - accept what you have created. Same with the atom bomb. Give us the tools to destroy ourselves! I love that hat quote as it says we are masters of our own destiny as we have created the tools to destroy ourselves. And downloading is a clever thing but the internet is the internet and it is growing day by day. You can't stop illegal downloading, you gave them the means to do it, it's impossible. The people who download without paying for it, good luck to them. I don't even know how to download! My kids do it and I used to scold them telling them it was taking money from their father's coffers and they would say "hey Dad, this is the future, we can't stop the future!" I know people are furious on both sides.

Just to finish....when you come back to Friars on November 27th, what can we expect?

For Friars we have a fourteen piece band, a great cast. Bongo Eddie and Marc Anthony will be there. I have told the band that because this is Aylesbury and the historical connection, they have got to kick ass and prove they have the fire and they all agree. Everyone of those guys has seen footage from the 1982 gigs and they want to be at that level. Friars is in for a treat as we are revved up. There are new younger Coconuts and have stepped into the footsteps of the incredible original girls and that is not easy. I am so proud of them. One of them, Eva,  I met with Oh What A Night and has been with me 12 years, even longer that Adriana Kaegi who was there when the band started. We call her Mama Coconut as she has been there the longest and is responsible for getting the right Coconuts. The youngest, Amy Bramall is Baby Coconut!

We will be doing stuff like Stool Pigeon, Annie and Wonderful Thing, the things that people remember and other favourites like Gina Gina and Casual Sex. It's going to be a great show!

I was hoping you would say that.....stuff like Gina Gina. I really love You Had No Intention (which you did back in 1982)

Gina Gina is one of my favourites. You Had No Intention, you can do that! We don't do that anymore. I don't know people who remember that song although I like it.

And Table Manners of course!

Table Manners? Oh yeahhhhh! Oh yeahhhhh! All I will say is that there will be some surprises on the night!

The fact you are ramping the band up for Aylesbury is brilliant! Finally, say something in a nutshell for the good Friars people coming along on November 27th.

The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but I am damn sure proud to be returning to a place I played so long ago!

August, thank you so much for your time!

I can't wait!

Official Kid Creole website    

Official Rainman Records company website covering the new Anthology 

This interview and its content are 2009 Mike O'Connor/ and may not be used in whole or in part without permission.


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