- 12 Jun 17
Hot Press' Liam Fay interviewed Nigel Grainge about his career to date at that point, January 1991. The interview was originally published in Hot Press 15-02, with Gabriel Byrne on the cover. Nigel Graine passed away on 11th June 2017.
Sinead O'Connor, Boomtown Rats, Thin Lizzy, The Waterboys - Former Ensign supremo Nigel Grainge has worked closely with all of them and his involvement has been integral to their development, both creatively and commercially. Nigel Grainge grew up listening to music. His father ran a record shop and from the age of three onwards, he was given a new 78 (single !) every weekend. At five years of age, he realised that he didn't have to make do with what his father chose, and he could search out what he liked himself. This he did and, by his early teens, he had amassed a substantial vinyl collection and a vast store of rock and pop knowledge.
"I was like a ravenous beast, soaking up records and interviews and record information… it was the only interest I had and I was determined to make a living out of it. I just couldn't imagine myself doing anything else."
Mr. and Mrs. Grainge had started making other plans for Nigel, however. They wanted him to get a proper job, with good prospects, and he soon found himself working as a trainee first with a firm of surveyors, then with the Abbey National. He spent seven years at this before gaining a job in the sales division of (Philips) Phonogram Records. "Basically, I saw it as a way of getting my mitts on some free records," he says.
To his surprise, he excelled at the job, however, and his natural enthusiasm for, and knowledge of, music helped him rise quickly on the corporate ladder. After only a couple of years, he was promoted to the position of label manager, US Repertoire and was actively involved in the in the success of such diverse hits as Faron Young's "Four In The Morning and Chuck Berry's "My Ding-A-ling", a U.K. No. 1.
Later, as head of Phonogram A&R, he was to sign Steve Miller, Graham Parker and the Rumour, and Clover (featuring Huey Lewis) among many others. "I was starting to define what I was looking for in artists," says Grainge. "Call it star quality or whatever, it's more than just an ability to project good advice. I was looking for acts who would stand the test of time, people who could handle success and/or failure, and people who could be consistent in their creative output.Nigel Grainge's name first became linked with Irish rock history when, whilst still in the sales and marketing division of Phonogram, he signed Thin Lizzy.
"I signed them on the basis of one song but with Lizzy that's all it took," he explains. "The were part-managed by Ted Carroll who ran Rock On Records and I was down there on Saturday buying a few 45's and Ted told me that he was managing Thin Lizzy. So jokingly I made the inane statement, 'Why don't you come to a real record company', and he surprised me by saying, 'OK, make me an offer' - as it happened, they had just left Decca and were looking for a deal. They'd also just changed line-up - Eric Bell had left, Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham had just come in.
"Anyway, he sent me a tape around which had only one track on it. It was "Still in love with you" - with Gary Moore on guitar, now that I think of it - and it just blew me away. It was a great blues ballad and I'd been expecting some no-nonsense hard rock because Ted had told me they were rocking harder than ever. Then of course I went to the Marquee to see them live but we'd already started negotiations with them at that stage on the basis of "Still In Love With You". They were awesome"
The way Nigel remembers it, Thin Lizzy's first album for Phonogram ("Nightlife") more or less recorded itself and was completed and released within a couple of months of the band's signing to the label. It wasn't until they handed in the masters of their follow-up ("Fighting") that Grainge had any cause to worry about the direction in which Lizzy were heading.
"They delivered the album to me, and I knew that at least four or five of the tracks on it were wrong for Thin Lizzy," he recalls. "They were forced, almost mindlessly hard and I didn't like them. So I faced the band with this and told them what I thought, which was pretty hard-nosed of me really 'cause I was only a jumped-up salesman who'd come in as a junior A&R man and was promoted to head of A&R simply because the company didn't have anyone else!"
"So here was this untrained youngster telling these seasoned tough guys that he didn't like their album. I expected them to tell me to fuck off, but they didn't ! They didn't over-react at all, they just said what don't you like about it and we sat down and talked it out. That was the thing about Phil, he could act the tough guy and he could be a maniac at times but he would also listen to advice. Anyway, they'd run out of budget at this stage so I gave them some more - about ten grand - and they came back in a couple of weeks with the best four on the album, one of which was 'King's Vengeance' which is still one my favourite Lizzy tracks."
"Fighting" was followed in 1977 by "Jailbreak" which spawned a monster in the shape of "The Boys Are Back In Town" and seemed to suggest that the band now had the world at their feet. However, despite countless tours and a string of hit singles in both Europe and in the U.K. the band never really cracked the American market. Nigel blames this on a failure of marketing imagination and commitment from Mercury.
"I know people have all sorts of theories about this," he says. "The most popular being the fact that Phil being black worked against them in the States. But I don't think that that was ever a problem. Phil transcended that in the same way that Jimi Hendrix had and never became an issue, as far as I'm aware. The truth is that Thin Lizzy failed to break America because of bad promotion, simple as that. Knowing the problems that I had with their American record company over other artists, I can only say that if Thin Lizzy had been handled by anyone other than Mercury (Phonogram' US label) they would have been huge in America and much bigger though out the rest of the world."
Nigel says that he was "pretty close" to Phil Lynott thoughout most of his career, even after Grainge had formed Ensign and no longer had a direct business relationship with Thin Lizzy. Was he aware then of Lynott's growing dependency on drugs?
Anyone who knew Phil was aware of the fact that he was doing drugs. I've never really done drugs myself but I remember Phil gave me some once during one of the early recording sessions. It nearly killed me. I crawled on all fours to the toilet and tried to throw up but couldn't believe that people did this for fun. But the thing about Phil is that his drugs problem didn't just happen overnight, it happened over a number of years. Curiously though, during his early days with Phonogram I'd always been more concerned about his womanising. He was a notorious with women and that was the main threat to his health as far as I was concerned. One wondered how he stayed alive on that level."
In later years did you ever attempt to talk to him about his drugs problem?
"The last time that I had any really deep conversation with him would have been in '80 or '81, around the time of his wedding and he seemed fine then. I don't think the drugs had begun to take hold of his body until much later and by then we only ever met very casually at parties or gigs or whatever. However, anytime I ever enquired about Phil's drugs usage, I was continually assured by management that it wasn't out of control, that it wasn't a problem."
By late 1976, Nigel Grainge was starting to feel stifled and restricted by the corporate structure of Phonogram. He had already earned himself a reputation as shrewd and creative mover within the London record industry and received several offers of jobs, including a prestigious position with Island. While he mulled over his options, however, Phonogram's executives realised that they were about to lose one of their best and brightest operators and, in a bid to keep him within the organisation, they came up with the sort of alternative offer that Grainge could hardly refuse - they offered him his own record label. It would be called Ensign (N for Nigel - Sign), and would be staffed by people of his choice and funded by Phonogram who would also press and distribute anything which the redoubtable Grainge ears decided had potential.
Nigel couldn't believe his luck. He encouraged friend and like-minded music buff Chris Hill to quit Phonogram to come with him. Doreen Loader, a financial and administrative "mother-hen", teamed up with the duo and this nucleus remained the mainstay of the label for years. The fledging label didn't have to wait long before their first signing. Indeed, they hadn't moved into their temporary new offices when The Boomtown Rats landed in their lap.
"I was boxing up my stuff in my Phonogram office, preparing to move out, when Chris O'Donnell (Thin Lizzy's manager) walked in and said he had some friends outside from Dublin who wanted to make an appointment so they could play me a demo tape. I said, 'Never mind about that - I don't have a full diary yet, bring 'em in now'. Bob Geldof and Fachtna O'Ceallaigh walked in and proceeded to play the most unbelievable demo I've ever heard. Geldof had this big roll of posters under his arm and while the tape was playing he grabbed my staple gun and was walking around my room stapling up Boomtown Rats posters. Now normally, I would have kicked someone like that out, but the tape was so good I said nothing and just listened."
After a considerable amount of to-ing and fro-ing and several attempts by Virgin to out-bid Ensign, the Rats signed to Nigel Grainge's label in March '77 and within months had chalked up two top twenty singles in ""Looking After No.1"and "Mary Of The Fourth Form", and a successful debut LP with "The Boomtown Rats". Over the next three years The Boomtown Rats were to have thirteen UK Top Thirty singles, two of which reached No.1.
Meanwhile, Ensign was trying to establish itself as a new and dynamic label in an often-unfriendly environment. Many people in the local record industry dismissed Grainge and Hill as a pair of over-ambitious wide-boys while others claimed that the Phonogram umbilical cord would eventually strangle the infant company. Still others complained about the label's lack of identity. On the latter point, Grainge could see what they meant but his first priority was to tuck a few commercial successes under his belt and ensure that the Ensign logo found it's way onto the chart listings.
"Chris and I listened to a huge amount of black music," explains Grainge. "We knew black music very well and we spotted a few potential hits that escaped other more established labels. In fact, in the early years, all of our acts, apart from the Rats, were black, people like Eddy Grant, Light Of The World, Incognito, Beggar and Co., Black Slate. We also had several one-off things that were huge on the club scene with the result that, for a while, we were known as a black label."
The success of Ensign during this period provided a role model for other similar labels during the late seventies.
"We were the first independent-though-a-major and a number of labels saw us as a prototype, labels like Chiswick, Radar, Automatic, even Stiff," Grainge observes. "People saw that this was a new idea where a sort of maverick A&R guy would move out from under direct control of a major but would still have the full corporate machinery to back up his signings. It was a mixture of big company muscle and indie suss. We showed that it could be done and we were quite proud of that."
However, just when Ensign was beginning to be flattered by imitation, relations between the label and their Phonogram mothership broke down.
"It was a question of our identity really," says Grainge. "We knew that the label didn't yet have a definable sound of its own but we did believe that we should be able to create an instantly recognisable vibe and image for Ensign. However, we were at the mercy of the Phonogram art department, which was very AOR, very straight and not much good to us really. Meanwhile, The Boomtown Rats had gone off into the stratosphere of pop stardom and so had no real credibility with the rock press, so Ensign didn't have any identity as a credible label either."
In 1980, Ensign extricated itself from Phonogram and signed a licensing deal with RCA. The first casualty of that move was the Rats who insisted that Ensign sell them to Phonogram on the grounds that they were now too big for a small label.
"It was a really stupid and misguided thing for the Rats to do," reflects Grainge. "They thought we were holding them back and so rather than work though me they wanted to deal directly with the major. But what they were doing in reality was breaking a link in a successful chain. They plummeted like a stone the minute they left us and never again had another hit, not even one."
And what of Grainge's subsequent personal relationship with Bob Geldof and his fellow Rats?
"No problem at all," he says. "There was probably a little coolness immediately after the split but hat soon faded away. We've always had a relationship with the lads; they come in and play us their tapes or whatever. In fact, I spent a day with Bob when he played me the tapes of his album, Vegetarians Of Love". He had twenty-eight tracks recorded for that album and it was our suggestion that he keep the Irish theme for that album because most of the stuff was very Cajun and rockabilly. I felt that the Irishy stuff would give the album a focus and I think he took my advice on that. I don't particularly like the album but there are tracks on it that I like - which is more than I can say for any later Boomtown Rats stuff. I hated everything they did after they left us."
While The Boomtown Rats were disappearing in ever decreasing circles, Ensign too was having problems. The label never really settled comfortably into the RCA bosom and it wasn't long before thoughts of contract re-negotiations filled Nigel Grainge's mind.
"I think RCA expected us to deliver another Boomtown Rats immediately," he says, "and they didn't seem to be prepared to allow us time to build our acts. The spearhead of our roster at this point was an American duo called Slow Children who were sorta like New Order meets The B-52s. We made two albums with them, which I really loved, but which, with RCA's lack of promotion; I couldn't get arrested with. That really depressed me because I really believed in Slow Children so it came as a big relief to me when RCA underwent a management change and decided to sever connections with us."
Within weeks of that split, the Ensign distribution and licensing contract was snapped up by Island. Simultaneously, Ensign was becoming big news again. Word was spreading that this tiny label had scooped the pot and signed what many felt was going to be the act of the eighties, a band with the unlikely moniker of The Waterboys."To me, The Waterboys of 'Savage Earth Heart' and 'A Pagan Place' was the greatest band in the world," says Nigel Grainge. "There had been nothing like them before and there's been nothing like them since. But The Waterboys of their later albums is not The Waterboys that I knew and loved. It's certainly not the band that I signed and believed in. And that saddens me because I can no longer see them achieving the hights that at the beginning I really believed they could achieve."
Ironically, while Ensign's nurturing of the nascent Waterboys proved to be the making of the label, it was also the commitment that brought them closest to self-destruction. For Nigel Grainge, the relationship with Mike Scott and his henchmen has left him with both the sweetest memories and the bitterest disappointments of his long career.
It all started when Grainge was driving home from work one evening in 1980 and heard a John Peel session featuring a much-touted Scottish act called Another Pretty Face who were fronted by a young Mike Scott. At the time, Ensign was still seen by most people as a nebulous, faceless label that had a few lucky disco hits but did not, despite the success of The Rats, have an identity of it's own. In that one APF track were all of the characteristics that he hoped would one-day form the Ensign trademark.
"The song was 'Out Of Control' and there was something about it that struck me deeply," he recalls. "It was a fairly rough version but still had an ambitious, intelligent, literate, even mystical quality. It appealed to me as a music fan and I knew then that this was the kind of act that I wanted Ensign to have .
As it happened, APF had originally been signed by Virgin records but serious tensions between band and label had erupted with Mike Scott's infamous and stubborn single-mindedness causing Virgin executives to rethink their position. Eventually, only four months into their initial contract, APF and Virgin parted company and the band began to shop around for a more conducive environment. As far as Ensign were concerned the thing couldn't have been better.
"We did get or wires crossed in the early stages though," explains Grainge. "While we were trying to reach Mike Scott in Scotland so that we could talk to him directly, a tape had come in to our office and for some reason lay unopened on the front desk for days. When we eventually listened to the tape, which was full of things the band had done at gigs, we found it fairly unlistenable. So I asked Mike Scott if APF would do a gig for us. One was organised at Tiffanys in Edinburgh and they did this incredibly enigmatic show in front of about ten people. It didn't fit in with anything that was happening at the time but it sent shivers up my spine and was close as you'd get to the Velvet Underground at Max's or Tim Buckley at the Marquee with no punters in the room."
The duo of Mike Scott and John Caldwell that were Another Pretty Face duly signed to Ensign . After a few months in London, Caldwell decided to leave and return to Scotland.
Grainge so believed in Scott's talent during his early days of their relationship that he was prepared to indulge the Edinburgh bard's most headstrong moods and moves but even then he was worried by Scott's apparent obliviousness to the harsh realties of the record industry. The earliest example of these came when Scott insisted that Ensign fund a trip to America so that he could record some material with Lenny Kaye, guitarist with Patti Smith and renowned curator of rock lore, the idea being that the work with Kaye would form the centrepiece of The Waterboys' debut album. Ensign eventually relented and financed the whole venture but the collaboration turned out to be a complete disaster and all of the tapes were scrapped. The Waterboys' debut LP was then subsequently made up of demo recordings that had already been completed before the costly and ill-fated American trip.
Incidents like this all appeared to have been worthwhile in '84, however, when The Waterboys came up with "A Pagan Place", an album that at last fulfilled some of the wonderful potential that Nigel Grainge had always seen in Mike Scott. The cosmic brilliance of the following year's "This Is The Sea" and their trajectory towards mega-stardom and even greater creative achievement seemed assured. But even before The Waterboys' third LP was released, various inter-personal and business problems had arisen that were to change things irrevocably.The two years that Ensign spent with Island were not happy ones, primarily because Island were going though a period of severe financial difficulty themselves and Grainge felt that too much pressure was being levied on his label to deliver instant hits to the detriment of his cultivation of long-term acts like The Waterboys. And now, just when The Waterboys were beginning to come good saleswise, Island were starting to undermine all that by demanding too much too soon.
"Inevitably, we had a huge row with Island," explains Grainge. "They put the threats on me basically. They said that if Ensign didn't extend our deal with them for a further two years and at the same time extend our deal with Mike Scott, they wouldn't promote "The Whole Of The Moon" in America. And when we wouldn't and couldn't play ball, they carried out that threat and didn't promote the record in the U.S. which was disastrous for us. We had invested an awful lot of money in The Waterboys and we needed 'The Whole Of The Moon' to be a major worldwide hit if we were to survive as a company. Everything was riding on it."
Meanwhile, Grainge's troubles were exacerbated by unrest in The Waterboys' camp itself. Karl Wallinger, a gifted techno-boffin who had been an integral member of the group and was now emerging as a talented songwriter in his own right, was growing disillusioned and unfulfilled within The Waterboys. After months of painful wrangling with Scott. Wallinger quit altogether to work on his own project, World Party. The split was not amicable and relations among some of the remaining band members were soured for some time afterwards. To make matters worse, Mike Scott himself was beginning to question his own role, not only in The Waterboys but with in the rock world general.
"He was afraid of the rock persona that had started to grow up around him," says Grainge. "He once said to me, after a gig in Nottingham, that he wasn't sure that he could handle the prospect of becoming public property. That the idea frightened the life out of him." Things came to a head in November '85 when "The Whole Of The Moon" reached No. 26 in the British Top 40 and Top Of The Pops offered The Waterboys a place on the show. Scott was reluctant to appear on the programme and basically forced TOTP to withdraw their invitation by making a series of petty demands.
"First he said he wanted to sing live and when the BBC agreed to that, he started asking for control of camera angles," recalls Grainge. "Then he insisted that he be allowed to perform the song without an audience in the studio. His list of demands just kept getting longer and longer. He just didn't want to do it and I found that mystifying and extremely exasperating. Jesus, Ensign were about to go out of business and here was the one key to explode him as an act and have a big hit and he wouldn't do what was needed. It was enough to drive you mad. Up to then; I'd been giving Mike 90% of my time and still I couldn't convince him to do this one thing. And even now I think about that. Who knows how big the group would have been , and in what shape the company would have grown if that single had been a hit and 'This Is The Sea' had been a huge seller?
"The week after The Waterboys' non-appearance on TOTP, "The Whole Of The Moon" started to drop down the charts. Before disappearing completely within a fortnight. Nigel Grainge had had enough. Frustrated, disillusioned and on the verge of bankruptcy, he decided to sell Ensign to one of the major labels.
"I just got so sick of running a record company and worrying about how to fund it," he explains. "Especially when we had an act like Mike Scott who spent money like it was going out of fashion but wouldn't co-operate when it came to making money back. So I thought he's gonna have to do it with someone else's money 'cause I can't handle the grief. I was married and had kids and the whole thing had become a huge strain. I wanted out, so I decided to sell the company on the understanding that Chris and I could maintain executive positions and run it as we had been doing."
Eventually, it came down to a two horse race, a fight between Chrysalis and Virgin for control of Ensign. Initially, Chrysalis appeared interested only in The Waterboys while Virgin seemed more receptive to the idea of Ensign the label, with a roster of acts that now included World Party and Sinead O'Connor.
"I definitely was leaning towards selling to Virgin," says Grainge, "but Mike Scott had already had negative experience with Virgin during his APF days so, with the help of his lawyer, he "helped" me make up my mind to sell to Chrysalis. And as it happened, it turned out very well for us. We were lucky in that our first two albums with Chrysalis, Sinead's debut and World Party's debut, were very successful and that put us in a strong position which we were able to build on"
The sale to Chrysalis, however, marked the end of Nigel Grainge to Ensign's close working relationship with Mike Scott.
"Mike chose to have a direct link with Chrysalis and that meant we were by-passed. It was also around this time that he chose to become "surrogate Irish" and the fact that he moved to Ireland meant that we had little or no contact. That hurt because it was a personal severing as well as a professional one. It's a loss that I felt bad about for years."
As a music fan, what does Nigel Grainge think of the output of Mike Scott and The Waterboys in their raggle-taggle incarnation?
"I really liked most of 'Fisherman Blues'," he says, "and tracks like 'Stolen Child' and "a bang on the ear" certainly achieved the level of some of their former heights. But as I've already said, they became a completely different from the band that had first excited me nearly a decade before. I always liked the ethereal, mystical, lyrical side of The Waterboys and I think they made the mistake of thinking that that aspect of their music could only be explored though traditional Irish music and nothing else. After the terrible 'Room To Roam' I got the impression that he came to the end of that sequence. After releasing what was essentially a traditional album, he seemed to cut away many of the traditional elements and attempted to return to some of the earlier Big Music." Of all his musical relationships. Nigel Grainge probably takes most satisfaction from his cultivation and nurturing of Sinead O'Connor's talents. It was Grainge who first took the callow Dublin teenager to London, financed and supervised her early recording sessions, and, most importantly, championed her when others doubted her ability. In return, Sinead has remained fiercely loyal to Ensign and has cited Grainge as one of the major influences on her career.
"The first time I saw Sinead was in Dublin when she was singing with Ton Ton Macoute," he recalls. "They were one of several Dublin acts who were auditioning for us at one point. I was particularly interested to see her because I had heard her voice. Kieron Owens had told me what a wonderful singer she was so I was eager to meet her. I knew immediately that she was special, very special, even though the songs she sang were unremarkable as was the band itself. So we just gave them some words of encouragement and as I was leaving, Sinead came up to me and wondered if she ever wrote her own songs would I be interested in demoing them. So I said, 'Yeah', went back to London and forgot all about it. Then, about a month later I got a letter from her saying she'd left the band and had these songs of her own and asking would I demo them. And it was such a nice letter and I was still able to recall the beauty of her voice that I organised tickets for her to fly to London immediately."
Sinead's demos proved to be so impressive that Grainge wanted to sign her there and then. However, this was late '85 and since Ensign were still bogged down in their financial difficulties with Island they were unable to offer anything more than the most basic of contracts. "Basically, we didn't have a pot to piss in, at the time," explains Grainge. " So the best we could offer Sinead was a tinpot deal, it was all we could afford. After some deliberation, Sinead took the tape back to Ireland and was told by Bono and his accountant that she shouldn't sign with Ensign because they could get her a fantastic deal elsewhere. But, by then, Sinead felt a certain loyalty towards us and she liked the fact that we were allowing her a lot of space to go in, write songs, demo them. No pressure, no rush. So, despite other advice, Sinead signed with Ensign."
In fact, as it transpired, the deal was subsequently renegotiated before Sinead actually began work on her debut album, "The Lion And The Cobra". During that period, the young Ms. O'Connor became a regular fixture in the Ensign office.
"She'd come in every day and more or less hang out with us," says Grainge. "She'd make tea, buy the sandwiches, answer the phone, help with the filing. She also spent a lot of time reading the various music papers and listening to types of music she had never heard before - just generally learning about the record business."
At the same time, Grainge and Hill were encouraging Sinead to re-appraise her visual image.
"Basically, she was very ordinary when she first came to London," he explains. "She just looked like any other collage girl really. I wanted her to decide what sort of vibe she wanted to portray in photos and on record sleeves, otherwise she would've come across like Enya or anybody. And at the time, she was getting involved with new crowds in London, going out to see bands and shows and then one day she came in with a Mohican hair-style and I thought 'Yeah, that's a statement!'. Then a week or two later she came in with the whole thing shaved. It was a definite look and it helped create a powerful image in people's minds. It also highlighted her beautiful face. She really has the most beautiful features and her hair somehow obscured that."There were other Ensign triumphs - Phil Fearon & Galaxy, for example, who had a string of Top Ten hits during the mid-eighties. And World Party whose second album "Goodbye Jumbo" was a surprise hit. And even "Waiting For A Train" by Flash & The Pan, which was one of the most played singles of 1983 on British radio.
There were failures too, of course. The fact that Slow Children never made it, instance, is something that still wrankles with Grainge. London-Irish outfit Stump was another act that Ensign had high hopes for but unfortunately fractious inter-personal relationships caused the band to implode before they made any real headway. And there were other disappointments too. But Nigel Grainge insists that he never gets depressed about such letdowns.
"Ensign has never had an overall strategy or carefully mapped-out plan," he says. "Wewere in the business of making the kinds of records we'd like to have in our own album collections, we were not into pre-packaged radio fodder. Because of that, ours was a high-risk label and we had to be able to take failures in our stride. However, I've found that every cloud does have a silver lining. For example, the night that Stump broke up - onstage at a Christmas gig in Camden Town's Electric Ballroom in '88 - they were supported by a band called The Blue Aeroplanes who just blew us away. As it happened they were in the process of leaving Fire Records and within a couple of months they'd signed with us."
The following year, Dublin four-piece Into Paradise became the next in a long and distinguished list of Irish acts to join Nigel Grainge's roster. So what was it with Ensign and Irish artists? Is Grainge attached to some special quality that musicians from this country alone posses?
"Not really," he replies. "In many cases, the Irish connection was only a coincidence. With Into Paradise, for example, I'd really liked them before I even knew they were Irish and Dave Long (I.P. Frontman) had always wanted to sign with Ensign because he admired the company and liked our back catalogue. Having said that though, there's a mixture of soul and mysticism that is common to all of our really successful acts and Ireland does seem to exude plenty of that. So yes, soul and Irish mysticism is probably the secret behind Ensign."
And finally then, what lessons has Nigel Grainge learned during his years in the record industry? "I'm not a pessimist by nature but I'm afraid my expectations for the long term future of the creative side of the music industry are not great," he says. "Over the past decade, the big development has been that artists now rule. That may sound like a good thing but artists now insist on such watertight contracts and put themselves into such a firm driving position that when they have a hit, they become uncontrollable. They don't listen to advice, they think they're infallible and they exclude everybody else's input. Obviously, the record industry has brought this on itself by some appalling rip-offs and con jobs but the truth is that the artist doesn't always know best. I've experienced this first-hand myself and it worries me in terms of the long-term effects on the industry. And I think, over the coming years, you're going to see more and more acts going off the rails and fewer and fewer sustaining to even a second album. The future of music is going to be one hit wonders and one LP bands. And that to me is an appalling prospect.""After selling the label to Chrysalis in 1992, followed by its subsequent corporate absorption into EMI, I found the strictness of the major company especially in the U.S., far too suffocating and departed along with cohort Chris Hill in 1995.
"Since then I have run a successful publishing company, 'Dizzy Heights', also now sold. Another recent project , alongside long time compadre Chris Hill ,has been to oversee production (Executive A & R)of the latest album by ALISON MOYET . Alison was linked with Bristol-based production team The Insects , and their collaboration has led to the release of the brilliant "Hometime"'