Dexy’s Pete looks back on transition times

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Pete Williams’ new album is an album very much about looking forward.

But Roughnecks + Roustabouts, released on March 30, is also about looking back, explains Pete, who brings his band to Chichester’s Chichester Inn on Saturday, March 21.

Pete, with Dexy’s Midnight Runners from 1978-81, says: “It’s an album about life and memory really. I speak about when I left school, the place I am from.

“I left school when I was 15 and got a job in a factory as an apprentice foundryman, with all the older guys. It terrified me. I was from the Black Country that straddles Wolverhampton and Birmingham, and I remember getting the early bus to the factory with my sandwiches. There was all that dread, and half the album is about that really. But at the same time I was starting a dual life. Music was the thing I loved, and at the same time as I was working in the factory and hating it, the music was starting. There is a song on the album called First Real Job. I did three years in the factory, but I was lucky that Dexy’s Midnight Runners were just taking off. We were all working and I was doing various menial jobs, and then we decided to give the band full tilt and try to make a go of that. That would have been July 1978. Our first number one was 1980 when I was just 20.

“So the album is a bit about that industrial era and about that transition in life when success was just starting with the band. It’s about belting up and down the country when there were venues everywhere, and then getting that first number one was a huge thing for us. We had had a single out before that that had got to number 11, I think. For us, it was just heads down and get on with it.

“I had grown up with Top of the Pops. We all had, and then we were appearing on it. It was great. It was quite funny really. You were there all day, and it was a long day. It doesn’t look like it does on TV. It was all a bit grubby before it gets sprinkled with the magic dust of broadcast!”

Pete brought his first solo album out three years ago, but it wasn’t until September last year that he really decided to focus on his own work.

“The album is due out at the end of March. The only people that have got it already are the people that pledged for it. I crowd-funded the album. We were thinking about how to do it, and I was advised by a very close friend of mine to try crowd-funding rather than schlepping around London trying to get an advance from a record company, which is few and far between. We went through Pledge Music.

“Lots of people are doing things that way these days. It’s just a way that if they are interested, people at the very least can pre-order the album. I also had a lot of people asking for lyric sheets from the album. That’s another way you can get the money in. There is no way I would have the money to just go and do it. Doing it this way really helps make it happen.”

Pete made the album between February and July last year at Tesla Studios, a converted factory unit in Sheffield. For the recording, he was joined by special guests including Mick Talbot on keys, Josie Lawrence and Clive Mellor on harmonica.

Tickets on 01243 783185.