Sibling rivalry: Meet the new UB40 in town

Ali Campbell and Astro explain their breakaway band ahead of IV gig

Interview

Read more of what both bands say about each other here

Founding members Ali Campbell (vocals), Mickey Virtue (keys) and Astro (sax) tell Rob Garratt the story behind their new UB40 ahead of The Irish Village gig.

We’re a little confused – we just had a different UB40 playing at Emirates Golf Club in February. Who are we talking to?
Ali:
We are UB40 Reunited. That’s what we’re calling it because we’ve just been reunited, Michael and myself with Astro, because the old UB40 broke the camel’s back by releasing a country album. That’s when Astro decided to join our ranks [in early 2014]. And we’ve taken the name back to save the legacy of the band.

It was Getting Over the Storm that did it?
Ali:
Five years I’ve watched [brother] Duncan sing my songs badly, and fair enough I’ve put up with that. For them to put a country album out... As a founding member, the reason for starting the band was to promote reggae, and that was just a slap in the face to do a country album. And an absolutely awful album to boot.

We’ve not actually heard it...
Astro:
You’re the lucky ones.

Well in that case, how did you last so long Astro?
Astro:
Well to be truthful, I should have left earlier, I don’t understand how they lost the plot so badly. I just couldn’t force myself to stand on the stage and try and pretend it was where I wanted to be. I was left with no option, I felt I had to stand up and leave – and it’s the best move I made in my whole life.

So how did Ali’s brother Duncan, who was never in the band before, end up the lead singer in the other band?
Astro: When Ali left [in 2008], everyone was in a quandary, and then it became blatantly obvious – there’s another Campbell lying round, isn’t there? It was just a case of what seemed the obvious choice.
Ali: I don’t know why Duncan would be an obvious choice – he was a folk singer.

What do the fans make of it all?
Ali:
They’re disappointed. How would you feel if you went to see the Rolling Stones and it was Patrick Jagger?

Now three months old, where is your version of the band at?
Ali: The new album’s just about to come out, we’re putting the finishing touches on and we’re very happy with that. We’re the only people doing [reggae] on a large scale. We are the hottest reggae band on the road at the moment.

Okay.... So what can we expect from the IV gig?
Astro:
Hit after hit after hit.

Ali: We’re not self-indulgent, we know the fans who have paid to see us want to hear the songs that made us famous during 30 years of being a prolific reggae band.

And how has the industry changed over all those years?
Ali:
There’s not as much money in it now. We sold – the real figure is probably close to 100 million CDs. Nobody’s going to do [that] again.

Mickey: When we started, reggae wasn’t even played on the radio, it was unheard of. Everyone who heard we were a reggae band thought we were mad. If you wanted to make money you were a mainstream American pop band, a rock ’n’ roll band – but not reggae.
UB40 (with Ali Campbell) at The Irish Village on Thursday April 3. Tickets Dhs175 from www.timeouttickets.com.

Read more of what both bands say about each other here

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