In the 1980's you couldn't turn on MTV without seeing A Flock of Seagull's "I Ran" video. The song has become a part of pop culture history and has been featured in Adam Sandler's "The Wedding Singer" and the videogame "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City". The group followed up "I Ran" with two other well loved '80s singles "Wishing" and "Space Age Love Song". On the brink of two upcoming '80s invasion concerts in Stockton & Bakersfield California Mike took some time to speak with us. 

While growing up who influenced you musically?

When I was young I was into the Beatles. I was kind of into the Rolling Stones, but more I was into Brian Jones. His Rolling Stones rather than what they became afterwards. He did "2000 Light years from home" which when I heard it I thought it was the best song ever.

Then I liked Zager and Evans because they did "The year 2525". I always tend to lean towards anything that was sci-fi. When the late 1970ís and 80ís came along I was into Ultravox with John Foxx and a few bands that never became that big, but in England they were having a good time.

Was it your idea to create the "Flock of Seagulls" haircut?

It kind of happened by accident. I was a hairdresser. I was very involved in when Punk really started. Then New Wave started. I used to have my hair in a Ziggy Stardust kind of thing. One day Frank, who was an original band player, put his hand on my head and flattened it as we were about to go on stage. I liked the look of it and went for it. It freaked everybody out.

Your hair went with the whole theme of your group.

It looked sci-fi. We were into playing sci-fi sounding music. It was one of those things where everything came together at the right time for us. I think for a successful band that is whatís got to happen. Then with MTV coming up and us having that great look and everything. It was like, "Wow, we have this great look and now thereís a TV station that wants to show it off."

Was the "I Ran" video thrown together or was it scripted?

All I remember about that is we were at the record company offices and the owner of the record company came up and said, "Thereís a new station and theyíre going to show clips of bands." I donít even think they were called videos then. They were just promo clips. He said, "I want you to make one." We had this guy come in and it was made in about 5 hours. The whole idea was just to get something that MTV could show. They probably only had three or four videos, but they showed them all the time.

They would play the same ones over and over.

It was perfect for us because we had an image, we had the space sounding music, and all of a sudden it was put in everybodyís living room. Where as it may have taken us five years of doing gigs around America to get a hit. It took about five months of MTV to get a hit instead.

MTV revolutionized the publicity machine for bands.

Oh yea. Iím just sorry it went the way it did now. Game shows and stuff like that. What does that have to do with music television?

Itís very strange. MTV doesnít play music videos very much anymore.

I donít know if youíre into videogames. The same thing has sort of happened with G4. I used to like watching G4 because I was into videogames and youíd immediately go out & get them. Now itís become like Star Trek. It was such a cool thing when videogames were just becoming good they had a TV station that showed you how to cheat & do all kinds of stuff. I think the same thing happened with music. It was great and ran for a couple of years like that. Then corporate something happened.

You also had a great video for the song "Nightmares".

I wrote "Nightmares" on the road after watching "Mommie Dearest".

Youíve mentioned that movies & television influence you.

Iíll be sitting on my sofa watching TV with a guitar or keyboard and Iíll just sing about something that is on TV. It might not be a direct correlation. Then I go to record the song properly Iíve changed a few lyrics or Iíve done a few things to it that take it away from its first inspiration.

"Mommie Dearest" is such a disturbing film. I can see the influence in that video.

Frank did that. Frank came up with the concept for the video. He wanted to do that. Frank was always into movies and he wanted to be an actor. We let him have quite a lot of rein in that.

Would you categorize yourself as "New Wave" or "New Romantics" at the time?

I wouldnít personally categorize "The Flock of Seagulls". If anything we were progressive pop. I think we just got lumped in with the "New Wave" and "New Romantic" thing. I think Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran were more "New Romantic" than we were. I think we were slightly heavy progressive pop. Thatís why we had hits with "Wishing". I mean "Wishing" wasnít "New Romantic" at all.

I never realized until recently that "Wishing" was A Flock of Seagulls song. Itís a different sound.

When I was young I never use to say, "I like this band and nobody else." I use to be into different songs and I think thatís why I became a songwriter. I would like a heavy metal song and Iíd try to write a song that was influenced by that. Maybe the next day Iíd hear a country song and Iíd have a country influence on one of my songs.

I always liked bands that were more interesting than putting out the same song with a slightly different arrangement and lyrics. For me thatís not what being in a band or being a musician is about. Itís about experimenting with all types of beats. As soon as synths came along I went I have to have one because it was something new to me. I didnít know it would become my main instrument.

Back then I heard it was hard to program or work with them.

They were totally manual when I got them. You had to do everything on the fly. When we were playing live if you wanted a filter sweep you had to patch it up and turn the knob.

Do you have favorite A Flock of Seagulls songs?

When youíre first writing them thatís when theyíre your favorites. For me I always thought "Wishing" was a great song. Even though it says on the album that the song was written by all four of us I did 99% of the writing.

I remember listening to "Wishing" over & over again as a teenager. It has a nice emotional feel about it.

I had a cold when I sang that. Not a really bad one. Even the guy from the record company said, "Your voice sounds real thick on that song." I think the way they recorded it when I had a cold was different. I couldnít project like I did when I was doing the earlier stuff. I had to hold back a bit. It enabled them to get my voice to sound a bit heavier and a bit thicker.

With most 80ís bands I can tell you who the group was by listening to the music. These days I couldnít tell you at all.

To me a lot of it sounds the same. Itís like these days as soon as a band has a hit there are 12 bands doing that same song with different lyrics. No one wants to be an individual anymore.

Iím not that into the screaming "extreme punk" thing either.

I think thatís why Kelly Clarkson is a hit. Sheís doing slightly different things all the time. She started off doing dancey diva sort of stuff, then she moved into rock, and her latest thing is some sort of pop song. Sheís not straying too far, but sheís good. Sheís doing slightly different things. Sheís not just repeating herself.

Is it frustrating when people only know A Flock of Seagulls for "I Ran"?

It is frustrating thatís itís basically why people come to see you. You have to take the fact that people come to see you live and hear that song. You have to try and educate them to the fact that isnít all you are. The thing for me if thatís what people want then they can have it. Thatís not what the band is about. The band is not a nostalgia band, although it has nostalgic moments. The band is still progressing and changing. I think of "I Ran" as the thing that brings people into the gig so Iím glad Iíve got it.

Itís a part of pop culture.

Itís a legendary 80ís song you might say.

You have another great hit too, "The Space Age Love Song".

I tend to find that people first of all get into us because of "I Ran", but they like "Space Age Love Song" and they go, "Oh, but thatís the best song." Then maybe "Wishing", but "I Ran" is definitely the one that brings them to the band.

Your second album had a different sound

We went to where Ultravox recorded; the Conny Plankís studio in Germany. We wanted to be out there and Conny Plank produced Ultravox. It was a completely different studio and atmosphere from what we had when we were doing the first album in Battery Studio in London. It was just strange. We recorded the first album before we were successful. We recorded the second one when we were huge. It was a whole different world for us.

How did you get your first contract?

We basically lived on somebodyís doorstep and made them listen to us. He had worked with Roxy Music and he knew Bill Nelson. When he heard a couple of our demos we had done on a four track he took them to Bill Nelson. Bill Nelson said, "Letís produce up a couple of things."

As we did things, things fell into place. The more you go on with that the more you get confident youíre doing the right thing. When you get that confidence people see it and they come with you. So you go into a record company and they say, "Why should we sign you?" and you reply, "Because weíre going to be huge!" Thatís way better than saying, "Because we need 50 quid."

Youíve got to have good showmanship.

You have to have confidence and you have to show the guy that you mean what you say because theyíre going to throw a couple of million dollars at you. Theyíre not going to do it if youíre some shy, retiring little boy. We met the right people that made us feel comfortable and backed us up.

Did it change relationships with friends and family once you became famous?

We came to the states for 3 weeks and we stayed 9 months. In 9 months weíd gone from opening up for Squeeze and playing little clubs to playing stadiums with The Police. It was almost like when we got back to Liverpool people were afraid of us. They didnít know what to say to us and we didnít know what to say to them. We had just had this meteoric thing happen in our lives. They were still like, "Iím going down to the pub and having a beer." You canít relate to it though. When you spend 9 months on the road gigging, meeting people, having a great time and things escalating itís hard for you to just go sit in a pub and say, "Hey, whatís on TV?"

Do you have any fan horror stories?

Weíve had fans that have been in my hotel room or thereís been a knock on my window and Iím three stories up. Thereís a girl with an album asking, "Can I get your autograph?" At one time I was in New York and The Go-Gos were playing. I could have seen them backstage, but I wanted to see their show from out front. I kind of sneaked in and stood at the back while they were playing. About 30 people left their seats and came. Iím like, "Hey, you paid to see The Go-Gos so go watch them." They wouldnít leave me alone so I had to leave and they followed me. They followed me back to the hotel and I was like, "Go away and watch the The Go Gos. I want to watch them too."

You reunited with the original members in 2004 and then broke up again. Is there a reason you broke up a second time?

The reason we broke up in the first place was because of Paul Reynolds. The original guitar player has got problems. He got into the whole rock and roll thing. He got into drugs and drink. He just couldnít handle it in the first place. That led to the breakup in the first place.

The money, fame, and access to everything messes you up?

He was only 18 or 19 when all of that was happening to him. It was hard to deal with. He ended up with problems and heís had those problems ever since. Heís still got those problems. We basically said we can do the reunited thing if you straighten yourself out. So he did straighten himself out for a couple of weeks. He did the TV show. Then we went to do some gigs and as soon as we were back on the road he was lost again.

We only did like 6 shows and then I said, "You know this isnít fun. Itís not fun being with Paul like this." You end up babysitting and resenting the fact that you have to look after somebody else. You just want to have some fun really. I told them, "I canít work with Paul so Iím going back to playing with my American version." I actually had a great time on the "Bands Reunited" thing.

You were on VH1 right?

With my brother playing with Frank we had a real good laugh. It was tainted by Paul like I said. If he straightens himself out in the future Iíll give him another chance, but Iím not waiting.

There was something with your brother where you werenít talking?

That got blown up. Me and my brother we never really had the same friends in England. We didnít hang out together so much. When I speak to my brother its like, "How are you doing?" He replies, "How are you doing?" I reply, "Okay" and that is the end of the conversation.

I think VH1 angles for a good story.

They dramatize it a bit.

The theme of your first album was Alien Abduction.

Just sci-fi, space, and aliens.

Do you believe in life on other planets?

Obviously, I donít think about it as much as I did then.

Did you decide as a group to do a theme of Alien Abduction and have all the songs lead into that?

Not really, I think it was my influence because I was the writer of the songs. I use to watch all the sci-fi movies. I was into abduction, UFO sightings and stuff like that. Thatís what I wrote about. That was my interest.

Anything else youíd like to say to your fans?

I would say come out and see us because we have a lot of new songs. The band is really good. Iím happy with it and if you feel like having an entertaining, retro, and a little nostalgia time then come see us.

Growing up who did have a retroCRUSH on?

When I was a little kid I was in love with Julie Driscoll. She sang with the Brian Auger band. They did that song, "Wheels on Fire" later on for "Absolutely Fabulous". Julie Driscoll had the perfect 60ís look. She was awesome.

I noticed you have quite a few concert dates coming up.

Iíve got a lot of shows coming up. Weíre doing Stockton and Bakersfield. Weíre doing a lot with DEVO. Theyíre show is great and I love watching them. Weíve done a few shows with them in the past. So for me itís like we can play first and then go out in the crowd.

Iím just glad that after 30 years I still like being in a band.

Come see "A Flock of Seagulls" along with "Missing Persons" and "Naked Eyes" at the upcoming 80's Invasion Concert in Stockton (May 19th) & Bakersfield (May 20th), CA.

Buy tickets for Stockton show
Buy tickets for the Bakersfield show

Check out A Flock of Seagulls Myspace page
A Flock of Seagulls Official Fan Page



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