Title: A man of two tribes
Author: Lynn Hanna
Source: No. 1
Publish date: Mar 2 1985
Warrior brave or pop idol… Which one is Paul Rutherford now? Has success tamed Frankie? Have Holly and Paul swept their sexuality under the carpet? And is it true about the bust-ups in the band?
As Frankie prepare for their first nationwide tour, Lynn Hanna questions Paul Rutherford on his role in Frankie and Frankie’s role in pop.
Boxer shorts and pierced nipples. A Jamaican tan and a dapper moustache. That’s one side of Frankie’s stylist — a sexy mover with a wardrobe full of the most expensive clothes in the country.
The other Paul Rutherford has a soft voice, a shy handshake and a polite, unassuming manner — a Liverpool clubber who still feels self-conscious in front of a camera.
Paul arrives at the No. 1 studio after a weekend with his dad in Liverpool, en route for a flash London music biz reception. In tow is an old friend of his-Peter Hogg, a large, unemployed Liverpudlian who might have been made to puncture popstar pretensions.
"Paul was always getting beaten up when he was a lad," he confides gleefully. "He’d be stuck in a telephone box screaming, ‘Ma, come and get me’, with eight skinheads battering down the door…"
Both lose no time in laying into a store of wine in preparation for the real business of the day — hitting the town tonight.
After the sort of success that too often smells sour, Paul Rutherford still knows how to Relax…
What was it like getting the BPI Award for ‘Relax’? Did you think it was ironic?
No, I was too drunk!
I didn’t really read anything into it. I just thought it was an award, and for as much as that’s worth, I’m grateful. If it’s worth anything, we’ll have it pawned next week! (Laughs)
I always think things like that are just the business crawling up its own arse, praising itself. It was a night for radio pluggers and A&R men. Which is alright, I suppose.
What do you think is going to happen to Frankie this year? Paul Morley (ZTT’s publicist) has said you’re going to be the new Duran Duran.
I think whether we wanted to be or not, we would be. Your career is down to the people who buy your records and the way they treat you, and the press you’ve got to do to please those people.
We could stand outside it and say, ‘That’s crap’. But we’re very easy-going people, and if that’s what people want, we’ll give it them.
It’s always going to have that edge now because of Frankie’s history, so it’s not quite the same.
Do you think you’ll be absorbed into the business?
I think we’re totally absorbed into it now. There’s no escaping that.
Does that worry you?
Can I ask you something: should it?
Maybe. It depends what you wanted to do when you started out.
I don’t think my attitude’s going to change at all. A leopard can’t change its spots. When I can get my digs in, I’ll get my digs in. Maybe it’ll make people who are scared of the business change their minds when they see you call say this or that in the press.
I think you should always be as honest as possible. I certainly don’t want to live a lie, and I know the rest of the guys don’t. We’re just going to go out and do it. That’s how we made our name and that’s how we’re going to keep it.
We’re never going to be pretentious, because we’ve got nothing to be pretentious about.
Last year a lot of people thought the only important thing around was Frankie. Do you think you’ll maintain that excitement this year?
I can only hope for that. But then again, it doesn’t bother me if we don’t, and if people feel, disillusioned then I’m dead sorry, because we never went out to do things…
Morley had the bigger ideas for us. Even before he got to know us he thought, if I can market this band, get people to like them, then I’m a happy man. And I think he’s done it.
He’s cut through all the bullshit. They’re not interested in all the sordid facts, they still buy the records and they obviously like us.
What are we supposed to do? OK, so we were an alternative rock or pop band, whatever. Does that mean we’ve got to have an alternative attitude towards fans that we might meet — put the pen down and say, ‘This is bullshit, I don’t need any of the crap’?
If you do that, you cut your own throat.
Also, fans have come up to us and said, ‘Youse great because you swear and youse dead normal’. And that’s all we ever were. We’ve never tried to be anything else at all.
I think a lot of the marketing had these pretences for us to be up there.
How do you feel about that marketing now?
It worked. I suppose it did reflect what we were at that point. I don’t know whether it does now.
You certainly change. Money alters your life, and that’s basically what’s happened to us. It’s very hard to maintain an outside attitude when you’ve got money, because you’re not like them any longer. You’re not scrimping and saving.
Like Bronski Beat always going on about how left-wing they are. I think that’s a contradiction, totally. I was talking about things like that last night, leftist values, and it’s gone out of window as soon as you make it in the business. You start pretending, and I think that comes with extreme guilt.
I don’t feel any different. OK, I’m not worrying where my next meal — or my next jacket — is coming from. Should I feel guilty about that?
If you start to feel guilty it’s time to get out, because that’s the time when you’re not enjoying it any longer.
I do feel guilty sometimes. Every time I buy expensive clothes. It’s when I go back to Liverpool as well. Last time I met a friend called Jayne (Casey, of Pink Industry — a long-time friend of Holly and Paul). She said, ‘Bloody hell, you look like an apparition walking down the street’.
I said, ‘I feel stupid actually’.
But she said, ‘No, I think it’s really good. You’re dead healthy, you’ve just got back off your holiday, you’ve got really nice clothes on…’ I feel like I’m kind of blessed.
I do believe that everyone should be given a chance. I’m one of the lucky ones — I got a chance. I also think it’s very wrong of me to feel guilty about it. Having money can make life a lot more comfortable, but it doesn’t give you longevity. You’re still going to die at the end of it all, so who really gives a toss?
I don’t feel that the business is really that important. It’s another job, another way of biding time, another way of seeing life through.
How do you think Frankie will be different from Duran Duran?
Not very, since I’ve met Duran Duran!
Five lads who want to be in a band, happen to be successful and have got all this wealth… Not very different at all.
Do you think there’s anything left of the original Frankie…
…Looking back to the first ‘Relax’ video, you’ve changed quite considerably since then.
I don’t think we feel the need to shout as loud as we did then.
Not that we’re sitting on our arses. I think we’ll come back with something that’ll make people’s lips curl, feel a bit sick, like, cos I know what we’re like.
And I do feel that we should have a change soon. We should become like warrior braves again. And we will do.
It’s very hard to be creative when you haven’t got much time on your hands and you’re pushing what you created a whole year before.
It’s very hard to think beyond that. You’re pushed around so much. It’s like, ‘Get on this plane, you’ve got to do this show’. It becomes really difficult to maintain creativity.
This year we’re doing a lot of media things, and little else. After that maybe we’ll get a chance to call the shots.
You feel you have to do it if you’re going to make it.
If most bands had their way they wouldn’t bother talking to people because they don’t feel the need to explain themselves. Personally I love talking to people. It keeps my mind active and I like meeting people. It’s quite a buzz for me, although I still wonder why people want to talk to me, because I certainly don’t feel that important.
I don’t think any of us do.
How has success changed you?
I try not to think about it too much, because if you do, you start acting at being yourself. One day you’re on the dole, then two weeks later everyone wants to know what you eat for breakfast.
It’s bound to change you, that. You can’t stay the same.
Some people go very ugly when they get a bit of cash, that’s the danger. And other people just think, ‘Great, I’m going to have a bit of fun now’, which is the healthiest attitude to take.
I always wonder, do I come across as being superior? I think I come across as OK. How do you feel?
You certainly don’t come across as being superior.
No, I don’t feel like a star at all. It’s a weird word, I think.
What about the others? You hear rumours about Mark and Nasher having a fight and Ped being depressed. Are they true?
(Paul bursts out laughing.) If you live in such close proximity with each other, you’re going to have arguments. We’ve all had arguments. It’s just that some of them are out of earshot of journalists!
Ped’s not well, yeah. (Ped fell downstairs after Frankie’s American tour and is currently wearing a surgical neck collar.) When you become ‘a popstar’ you don’t suddenly become superhuman, a perfect being, and stop arguing and being ill.
How do you and Holly get on?
Brilliantly well. Especially when we’re drunk.
It would be really hard for the relationship to break because we’ve got such soft spots for each other. We’ve known each other for over nine years now.
Do you see it as being two halves of a band — you and Holly and the other three?
Only because we have certain interests and they have certain interests. That sounds like I’m being dead evasive…
I suppose they’re a bit more basic than me and Holly. We’ve got more arty pretensions — that’s what I’m trying to say. Going to art galleries and movies and reading.
Have you had an affair with Holly?
Well, I might as well say it now — no. (Laughs.)
No, not at all. We’re just really good friends. We met through Jayne Casey and we had a lot in common.
People like Holly are very few and far between in Liverpool. They’re very few and far between in England, as well. In the world, I’d say.
When Frankie started a very big deal was made of the gay thing. Now it’s died down. Do you think it’s been swept under the carpet?
By whom? I think people have got their priorities right and they want to talk about other things instead, because they realise it’s not that important.
Should your sexuality stand in the way of what you’re going to do? I don’t think it should at all. We never did want to wave banners.
A lot of gay magazines say we’ve sold out. But I know where I am, and as I’ve said before, a leopard doesn’t change its spots.
What about your role in Frankie? You’re not involved with the writing, are you?
Not up until now, no. But if I came up with something incredible, I’m sure it would be used.
But I do find it very difficult to write because I get very embarrassed about it. It’s very personal, writing lyrics. I’m perfectly happy to sing Holly’s.
I went through a phase when I felt really shallow about the whole thing. It was like people didn’t take me seriously.
But I am involved to an extent — to a big extent, I think. When we’re rehearsing it’s a collective, and you throw in what you want to throw in.
How do you see your own role developing? You helped establish the group’s identity. Do you see it continuing to be as important as that?
I don’t know! The day they get bored with me and want me to leave, I’ll leave, because I’m quite a gracious being. But I think they like being around me, and like me being around.
You shouldn’t be in it for your ego, but for the music. I don’t need to get my face in the cameras. I wasn’t in any of the British television shows we did for ‘The Power Of Love’ because I was totally superfluous.
I’m really well-adjusted to what I’m doing, I think. I really love being with those guys. We pick arguments because we’re with each other so constantly, but not to the point of destruction. I think all of them have become really good friends.
We know we have ups and downs. We’ve only been in this business a short time, and we’ve been in at the deep end all along.
The other people in the group are the only ones who could possibly know how the others feel within it.
Are you looking forward to touring? A cliched question…
The whole business is a cliche and you can’t help falling for a lot of them, no matter how outside you want to appear to be.
Yeah, I really want to tour. When we came back from America, I felt a bit vacant. Your time is so full then, you’re doing things all the time. It’s nice to live like that.
I just hope we don’t disappoint them. But we couldn’t possibly. We enjoy it far too much…