May 26, 2017 Interview – Clive Farrington Original Member of When in Rome UK
Without question, the 1980s was the era of the song. Filled with a plethora of defining tunes which still resonate with listeners over three decades later, of the many to dominate airwaves during the ’80s, one which stands tall is 1988’s “The Promise.” A song written and performed by UK band When in Rome, “The Promise” made it to number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 1 on Billboard Dance charts. A part of the band’s exciting yet eclectic self-titled Virgin Records debut, sadly by 1990, When in Rome were no more.
So where have the talented trio been all these years? Well, in spite of creative differences, When in Rome still lives in 2017 as original Vocalists Clive Farrington and Andrew Mann team up together for live shows. A flame that never died, Farrington and Mann’s desire for music is as strong as ever and set their sights on some new When in Rome music sooner rather than later. Recently we caught up with Farrington for an in-depth look at the story of When in Rome, the magical success of “The Promise,” and his hopes of write a new chapter in their unfinished story.
CrypticRock.com – You began When in Rome three decades ago, and, since that time, the band has been synonymous with one of the biggest songs of the latter part of the 1980s. What were those early days of When in Rome like for you?
Clive Farrington – They were the heady days, if you like. That’s when we really, really enjoyed ourselves, and just experimented and everything else. We had a little, tiny studio in South Manchester at my parents’ house. We used to record demos in there. Of course, “The Promise” comes along and the rest is history, if you like.
It was a great writing process that we had, because I was originally a drummer; my first instrument was drums. I remember programming the drums for “The Promise,” and that was kind of the backbones of the track, if you life. We had the pleasure of working with Corinne from Swing Out Sister on some of the demos, as well, and we did some really nice covers – such as “Ghost”….I wish I had some copies of these, I’ve lost the copies now. We did a few covers of our favorite tunes at the time. I remember one of them clearly being “There’s A Ghost In My House.” I even forget who the original artist was, but I remember doing that as a cover. Corinne from Swing Out Sister used to be the female vocalist in the band until she became famous with Swing Out Sister.
CrypticRock.com – Your music career began much earlier than your formation of When in Rome. As you said, you were a drummer and you had another band.
Clive Farrington – Yeah, a band called Beau Leisure. Dave Powell was the frontman and we were doing all the work in men’s clubs/working men’s clubs. That was a really great time. Of course, we dressed like New Romantics and we did the working men’s clubs all the way, all the round North. North of England. Of course, there were some dodgy times: we’d turn up at a club full of Rock-type people, if you like. We would turn up with our makeup on and our New Romantic clothing and, weirdly enough, they’d take to us; they quite liked it. You know, we thought we were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it always worked out really good for us. I guess it’s because…Dave Powell, for instance, was a great frontman, very, very confident frontman. So we were fortunate to have him, and he was the main songwriter, as well. There’s a track I do now in my live set called “American Beat” that he wrote, that we did with Beau Leisure. So I’m keeping that alive, as well.
CrypticRock.com – That is very good that you are doing that. I was going to ask you, since you had this prior experience, what do you think made When in Rome click to become such as success? As you know, sometimes these things just click and you do not know why, but they do.
Clive Farrington – I had my eye on the lyric-writer, Andrew Mann, for a long, long time. I met him at a place called “Horse” in Manchester. Horse Wine Bar, which was very famous for the clique, the fashion conscious of Manchester, if you like, used to gather there and I met Andrew there. He used to support Beau Leisure, as a poet. Like a Punk star or poet, like John Cooper-Clarke. There were a few Punk-poets around in the Punk years, around the late ’70s. We needed…I’d already employed Mike as our keyboard player. My mum and dad went to go see a band in Northridge called Brit Tick, Mike was in that band, they came home talking about him, so I contacted him.
We carried on Beau Leisure a little bit when Dave Powell left. We formed When in Rome together and we were thinking who can we get as a lyricist? I said Andrew would be great as a lyricist because he writes these real cool anti-establishment poems. We asked Andrew to join us and it was the very same time he was moving down to London. London is like the Hollywood of Britain, it is where everything happens, it is where film and music happens. Thankfully we asked him to join. Mike and I were writing the basic tunes and sending them off to Andrew on a cassette tape and he would finish the lyrics. I am very lazy with lyrics, for instance, I wrote the original verse of “The Promise” and the chorus of “The Promise, ” then I sent it down to Andrew. That is exactly what happened with all the tracks, I would write the opening lyrics and chorus, then I would send it down to Andrew to finish it off. He came up with the really great lines in “The Promise,” such as the second verse.
We had found a formula, it was one of those things where we were very lucky. The lightning struck just at the right time when he was coming down to London. He is very personable, Andrew. He is a lovely guy and really good to speak with, he gets on with people. He frequented the places where all the A&R guys were going. He played an A&R guy “The Promise” on a 4-track demo, just my first verse and the chorus, and we received interest from that. Shortly after that, we were doing showcases down in London at a place called Nomis, a place owned by Simon Napier-Bell, Duran Duran’s manager at the time. We started doing showcases and small gigs around London to get our name about.
Then we signed to Elektra Records, which was great for Andrew because he is a big fan of the Doors. We were signed to Elektra Records for about a month and, for whatever reason, they decided to move back to America. They had an office in London and they decided to move back to America, it was very difficult to deal with them because of the time difference. So we decided to come out of that deal, nothing against Elektra, they are a great label. We just couldn’t deal with the time difference, so we signed to Virgin Records. Thankfully they were interested in us the same time as Elektra. We eventually signed with Virgin.
CrypticRock.com – Interesting, and when you did sign with Virgin Records, you then released the self-titled record in May of 1988. That album was anchored by “The Promise” and “Heaven Knows.” Beyond those songs, there were eight very other good songs. What was it like putting this cohesive album together?
Clive Farrington – A lot of people would say they are not really cohesive. I obviously would because I was part of the writing process and everything else. I think it was three different people writing an album. My influence was really in “The Promise,” I really program drums that way, I program them like a machine. I was always into bands like Human League. “The Promise” came from that drum beat and that opening piano line, and of course everyone had their influence throughout the whole album. It was a very democratic album. It was good in some ways and bad in other ways.
We were very honest with each other right from the beginning, we all said, “We can all have our say in how the song goes.”I think the reason we didn’t have more hits because our tracks sounded so diverse. Some of them sounded a little like R&B, some a little Rock, some like Ultravox. I can’t speak for Mike Floreale, he came from a more Rock/Pop side of things. Andrew came from a more the Doors style and I came from a more Ultravox/Human League side of things. It all worked out great in the end because we all receive the same amount of money in royalties.
If you look at a band like Spandau Ballet, who have had their troubles as we know, all of their songs sound brilliant and they sound like the same band. With When in Rome, I think we do sound a little bit like different bands. Although it is on the same album, it sounds like a different band on all the tracks. That can be said to be good, but it can be said to be a little too diverse if you like.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, diversity is a positive thing, but depending on who you ask, how diverse is too diverse? The debut was very good, but unfortunately, due to how things turned out, there was never a follow-up release. Had things worked out better, do you think the second album would have sounded more like one band to the consumer’s ear?
Clive Farrington – Absolutely. I released an album called Independent in 2013. To me, that really sounds like the album we should have done second. To me it sounds like the first album we should have done, but if we had done it as a second album we would have seen a little more success if you like. When you didn’t have another hit as big as “The Promise,” bands tend to lose record deals, and that is what happened to us. We weren’t really given a chance to a do a second album. First of all, it is a bit of a shock to get signed to a record label. It is usually, lets put it that way. Not every band in the world gets signed to a record label. You are in a little bit of a shock to get everything down quickly.
For instance, the first time we went to America, we were sent there to do three extra tracks. We were told by the record company in America that we only had one track on the album and it was “The Promise.” That was the first words of the mouth of the office in London. So we went ahead to record “Heaven Knows,” “Wide, Wide Sea,” and “Sight of Your Tears” with Richard James Burgess in Hollywood. There are three tracks on there which sound a little bit from the rest were produced by Richard Burgess. I always wanted to work with Richard because Landscape were one of my favorite bands growing up as well.
I think, as I said, it is an unusual thing for a band to get signed to a record label. We were over the moon and very happy with the situation, but sometimes you get swept up in the situation as well, and don’t necessarily treat it as work. You can become a little bit complacent and I think we did become a little bit complacent. At least we should have made sure we were doing a second album, let’s put it that way.
CrypticRock.com – That is understandable. Yourself and Andrew have remained friends, now you two are on tour again. What inspired you the collaboration to tour again between you two?
Clive Farrington – First of all, Napoleon Dynamite (2004). We lost the record deal in around 1993, when “The Promise” fizzled out. It had already been a hit and of course none of the other songs were as big. A lot of it can go down to bad marketing as well. I would say “Heaven Knows” is as good a song as “The Promise.” I think if it had been marketed as well as “The Promise” it would have been a hit, and “Wide, Wide Sea” as well. I think they just lost interest. As I said, we became a little bit complacent.
Andrew and I kept working together toward getting a new record deal. In 2003, after not having not heard from Michael since we let him go in 1991, I received a phone call in a hotel I was working at; my daughter was born in 1999 and I had to get a proper job as you would say. I received the phone call out of the blue and they wanted to use “The Promise” in a film. I didn’t know what it was all about at the time, of course I said, “Of course you can use it!” I was in contact with Mike every other day throughout 2003.
Unfortunately, when the film came out in 2004, I never heard from Mike again and he formed a band called When in Rome, without myself or Andrew. Neither myself or Andrew said we had given up on anything, if you are not making money from the business you have to do other things. We were always open to any offers that were happening. Of course, the film came out in 2004 and it was a big hit. When we found out Mike was in a band called When in Rome with a singer that, for all intensive purposes, looks like me, we are 5,000 miles away, and we can’t do anything about it. That wasn’t the reason we came together again, it was because of the film we realized there was interest in “The Promise” again and people wanted to hear the original singers, so Andrew and I decided to work together. We wrote a new song together when I recorded Independence in 2013. We recorded the song called “Lost” and we have added that to the set we have now.
Unfortunately it incurred some court stuff, we were being sued by Michael because we decided to come back on tour. The promoters wanted the original singers and unfortunately for When in Rome II, people want the original singers. More than anything, it was the film that revitalized “The Promise” and brought us back again. What is really great is when they give you a half hour set and you can do at least a half of an album to show you have more strings to your bow if you like.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, it is wonderful to see yourself and Andrew back on the tour. More recently, you did the second annual Like Totally ’80s Festival on May 13th out in Huntington Beach, CA. How exciting was this show?
Clive Farrington – It was fantastic. The last beach show we did was Galveston Beach back in the ’80s when “The Promise” was a hit. I remember doing Galveston Beach and there were about 17,000 people on the beach.
CrypticRock.com – That is great. As you mentioned, Napoleon Dynamite really reignited a new generation’s interest in the song. If you look at the timeline of music, synth-based music was very popular from the late ’70s into the ’80s. Then the ’90s, it kind of went away from that. Now, in the latter part of the 2000s, there is a lot more synth based artists coming back. What are your thoughts on that?
Clive Farrington – I love it. I was just at NAAM recently and it’s just great to hear those sounds again. To me, it is weird that Synth is as exciting to me as live Rock music. To me, synth can stir emotions in me just as much as live guitar, drums, or bass. The sound of synth has its place in music and it is a breath of fresh air. I recently watched a Documentary of Gary Numan called Android in La La Land – it is about him moving out to LA where he was most successful. He talks about when he went into a period of trying ballads, trying to write what he thought was right for the record industry of the time, but wasn’t going along with what his heart was saying. On 2013’s Splinter, he went right from his heart and realized he was doing stuff the same as he was way back when in the late ’70s into the ’80s.
CrypticRock.com – Very interesting. Gary Numan is also set to come back with Savage sometime in 2017. With that said, now that you are actively touring, do you think now is a good time for yourself and Andrew to collaborate writing and put out a new When in Rome record?
Clive Farrington – I think it would be a good thing if we could do that. This could be the time to do it, to tell you the truth. What is happening in the UK right now is track music is becoming very popular and going back to the R&B roots, we definitely wouldn’t go down that route. I think we would go back to have “The Promise” as a template, use machines/synthesizers, just got back to our roots and write the album that should have been our second album.
CrypticRock.com – That would be very exciting. There is certainly an audience. There are many bands from the era who stepped away for a while and are back writing and recording new music.
Clive Farrington – Absolutely. It definitely will happen, but it is down to logistics again. I think what we will do this time, while we are on the road, is put some stuff together. We are both still hungry and into music. We are collaborating with some really great people as well, working with Pancho Burgo in LA and Jon Brooks here in Manchester. They are brilliant musical directors and, as you say, it is about time we did something.
CrypticRock.com – Well that will be something to look out for. You have been active in music in the past few decades. You actually have music in your family, have you recorded with your family?
Clive Farrington – My daughter is really a very good singer, but she doesn’t take instruction well from her dad (laughs). I know she is proud of my achievements, but in the studio, it is very difficult to get her to do things in a methodical manner, she wants to do things her own way. That is good in some ways, but it is frustrating to me because if she ever did go into the music industry, I would want to look after her to make sure she doesn’t go down the wrong roads. Whether that is going to happen, I don’t know, we can only hope.
CrypticRock.com – Well best of luck to her in the future. Children never usually listen to their parents, but years later, they come back and realize their mom or dad probably knew what they were talking about. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. We cover all types of music on CrypticRock.com, but also Horror and Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of those genres, do you have any favorites?
Clive Farrington – I am really a fan of Horror films, the scarier the better. The one that comes to mind straight away was when I was around 16, I somehow got into the cinema to watch The Exorcist, and I couldn’t sleep for 6 weeks! I still like that kind of film and definitely like that genre. Some Sci-Fi as well, to me it has to be believable. For me, watching The Exorcist, it actually says it comes from a true story, so I think that is the reason I was more scared. I am not a Treky or anything like that. I think if they made a film about the proper space station I might be interested. Something that is possible or a true story. I like Documentaries for that reason, because I like real life stuff.
CrypticRock.com – Understood. In regards to The Exorcist, possibly one of the scariest films of all-time, it is not a particular fast-paced film; it has a unique atmosphere where the dialogue breathes.
Clive Farrington – Absolutely! I remember it clear, I remember going to the cinema to see it and people were laughing as well, I guess they might have been in shock. I guess those people knew the ins and outs of the film, like when her head spins, I didn’t know the ins and outs. I was very shocked by it all.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, that is very true. Are there other films you find as effective?
Clive Farrington – I think The Exorcist was so good, anything that comes after it, the visual effects in the film far outweigh anything in that genre since. I don’t think anything has been as shocking. You have to be a very good writer or cinematographer to actually make something that can shock as much as The Exorcist. I think it set the standard. When I do watch something like The Omen (1976), it just doesn’t quite match up. It is like a gold badge on the genre of Horror.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, the film set a high standard. You look at the time it came out, and what came after, it was really a boom for Horror. Horror was really at peak popularity at the time The Exorcist came out into the ’80s.
Clive Farrington – Yes! I always wanted to write for Horror as well. I have always been into sound effects. It is really weird it happened the other way around with “The Promise,” where they chose to use the song within a movie. It is weird because I always wanted to write for film. Thankfully, this year, I wrote a song for a new movie coming out called Tournament with Pancho, he is the musical director in my live band. He wrote the score to the new movie and I wrote the main theme song with him, so I had my chance at least.
I had a chance to watch the spots of the film with just the dialogue. It is such a weird experience, because you just don’t get it when the music is not there. I am not the best of listeners if you like, it just went straight past me, but when the music gets put on, it pinpoints the spots where you should be thinking in a different way. To hear it with the music is just fantastic and a great experience. It is a brand new film from a new director named Patricia DiSalvo Viayra, she is a lovely lady. I am wishing her much success with it.