Lorraine Wilson interviewed Justin Currie of Del Amitri to find out 10 things that changed his life...

1 The NHS and the Welfare State

THE NHS has saved the lives of so many people I love, as well as saving my life several times. Perhaps this is more about that post-war consensus of progressive taxation though.

Not only did I come from a privileged background culturally, I also didn’t have to pay for anything. I got a pretty good education. I got world class healthcare. I got a grant to go to university, which I used to buy musical equipment. I honestly don’t think I would be doing what I do today if it hadn’t been for that safety net.

For the next generation that’s looking increasingly like a lost ideal. That idea of investing in people is being lost to the idea of backing nuclear weapons and the boys in the city.

2 Learning to play football

WE moved from Glasgow when my dad got a job at Leicester University as Director of Music. At school, we were taught how to play football by a lovely man called Mr Childs, the most loving and patient football coach. He never shouted at you and spent months teaching the basic skills.

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Eventually he put us on the field to play other teams and we beat everybody. They all had these horrible barky PE teachers, frustrated Army types and were terrified.

It showed how much more could be achieved by Mr Childs’ approach.

I wasn’t a tough guy at school but if you played football you could get by. It seems that anywhere you go, if you get a ball at your feet and you have those skills, you can meet people and get on with them.

3 Getting p***** for the first time

YOU can be cute about it and blame repressed Scottish social anxiety, but I’ve just always love getting pissed.

The first time was accidental. We were one of these liberal families where children got a tiny glass of wine with water alongside dinner, to slip slowly.

But my mum served a strangely large glass of Soave one hot day when I was about 9. I downed it after playing football - and she was horrified. I wasn’t drunk, just really ill.

When I was about 13, we had moved back to Glasgow and my sisters and I were servers at a fundraising party my dad was giving for the Scottish National Orchestra Chorus.

The wine was on sale or return, and my parents weren’t counting the bottles. We put aside a bottle of champagne and red wine and got completely pissed.

To me it was the first time that I had been in any kind of altered state that turned off that drab internal monologue that we all have.

A found it entirely liberating, to the point that I said I’m going to streak! I took off all my clothes and started running around the front garden. It was a long time until I drank again. A double lesson of finding out the alcohol can be incredibly liberating, but there’s always a punishment.

4 Access to music technology

WHEN we lived in Leicester, my parents bought a Crown Japanese stereo system. If I had an empty when I came home from school, I would listen to my sisters’ pop record on my own, which I really loved.

Back in Glasgow, my dad gave me his Ferrograph reel-to-reel tape recorder. It let me listen to things in my bedroom hundreds of times, which is key to what I ended up doing. When you’re involved in recording music, that’s what you have to do.

My mum had a reel-to-reel of Ella Fitzgerald sings Cole Porter and I had Abbey Road and Sergeant Pepper. That was my education.

Later on I had a cassette radio, which allowed me to tape the John Peel show. That exposed me to a huge range of music and was absolutely life changing.

5 Losing the first two Del Amitri guitarists

DEL Amitri formed when I was still at school, when I was around 14. My two best mates and I got into new wave and punk together, but all had slightly different tastes. Then Postcard Records happened and that galvanised us into forming a band.

We were a jangly Postcard copyist band really, but we sounded OK. Clearly we were completely devoted to Orange Juice and Josef K. We copied them - embarrassingly so - but I don’t think we were aware of it.

We started getting gigs when Mark Mackie from Regular would book us at QM union. We were getting a small audience. Then suddenly the two guitar players said they were leaving to go to university. Donald went to Canterbury and James went to Edinburgh.

Our drummer Paul wanted to keep going, but I thought that a band forms and when someone leaves it’s over – like The Beatles. I bumped into the journalist John Dingwall, who had put out a flexi-disc featuring us and The Bluebells with his fanzine Stand and Deliver. He said, “Why don’t you just get other musicians in?” It genuinely didn’t occur to me that I could do that.

Eventually I put up a notice in McCormack’s Music Shop. Through that I met Iain Harvie in 1982 and Del Amitri took a massive leap forward.

6 The record deal

I DID go to university, but left halfway through because I was offered a job as a chef in a burger restaurant.

It was a horrible job really, but it was interesting in that I met a lot of people I wouldn’t have, and it means that I have, sort of, learned to cook. It allowed me time off and money for rehearsals and I could also get time off at weekends if I was doing gigs out of town.

When we did a John Peel Session, a guy called Pete Lawton who worked for Chrysalis Records phoned up our manager and offered us a deal. We had put an indie single out on No Strings, but we had no idea that our record company would give us an advance.

That meant we could sign off the broo or leave jobs to concentrate on recording.

At that point we hadn’t really thought about an album we just thought it was a chance to put out more singles.

Some of the money that was being earned for Chrysalis by bands like Spandau Ballet was trickling down to bands like us. We were given £25,000 and could pay ourselves wages.

I remember the day the call came through that negotiations were done. I could take off the apron, dump it and become a professional musician.

7 Touring America for the first time

WE extracted ourselves from the Chrysalis deal after one album. We had £2000 in the bank and had no idea what was going to happen next.

Our American manager Barbara Shores had a dream of taking a Scottish band to the US so put a plan in place.

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She made sure all our releases had a PO box number, so we would divide it up and answer every one personally. It was to encourage them to help us get played on the radio and stocked in record shops. Americans, being naturally entrepreneurial, would invite us to come over and play gigs in their backyards and at parties.

So Barbara put together our madcap coast-to-coast tour, on which she thought we could just about break even if we could sell T-shirts and badges.

We went in illegally, spending the two grand on flights, and did all these gigs the fans had arranged. I think this was our version of backpacking around Europe - our formative experience. There were nervous breakdowns, there were fights, three people were driving and usually we travelled overnight. We would somehow get $10 together for some food and find an all-you-can-eat salad bar. It really was begging from gig to gig. Really tough, but really positive. We came back from that and really felt that we could do anything.

8 At home with A&M

WHEN we got back from America, it was time to start looking for another deal. We had a different approach to songwriting now – there as a lot more Americana in there. To get money for new demos we all had to get jobs again, but it was worth it. They prompted something of a London label bidding war, with ridiculous amounts of money flying around.

We wanted to be at A&M, but our manager avoided their advances at the beginning. In the end we were at the point of signing with Warner Brothers, but at that point she went to A&M and said, “We really want to sign with you, if you can match this deal.”

And they did. They offered two albums with four singles from each and said they would keep going until they broke us.

9 Top of the Pops

WHEN Nothing Ever Happens was crawling up the charts in January 1990, we did a little bit of daytime TV, we did the James Whale radio show, and we did Wogan. There was an element of starting to get recognised.

Then we were booked for Top of the Pops, which at that time was a bit of a lottery it was very much the producer’s choice. We were desperately hoping to get it.

For once on a promo tour in Germany, I actually had my own hotel room and got the call. The head of TV and radio at A&M said we had Top of the Pops. I really was punching the f****** air. I knew that was it. There were four channels and millions of people watching. There was Sinead O’Connor and Public Enemy and some daft dance band and us. You found an audience overnight and from that one appearance our live audiences went from around 300 to 1000.

It was instant fame. A woman gasped when she saw me in a supermarket the next day. A few days after Top of the Pops, I was getting on a bus in Dumbarton Road and the driver said “Ho, what are you doing? You were on Top of the Pops!”. He actually banned me from the bus for being too famous.

10 Getting back together with Del Amitri

WE parted company with A&M after the fifth album and we were a bit all at sea about what to do. In the end we decided to take a break. I had been in the band since I was 15, so it was probably a good idea.

I didn’t really want to make solo records at the time, but I had so many songs. Now I’m glad I did.

It was 2012 that Iain phoned and said our agent suggested we played live again. I was kind of waiting for that call because I thought it was inevitable that someone would want us back at some point. This seemed like the right amount of time. And I had really only ever wanted to be in a band called Del Amitri.

It had been 13 years since we did a gig together, so we rehearsed every day, 10 hours a day, for two weeks. We were s******* ourselves.

The first gig was to be the Hydro, by far the biggest place we’ve ever played, so we did a couple of warm-up gigs in smaller venues in Ireland.

Getting through that completely vindicated the reunion. Having the chops to pull it off and not f*** up was life-changing in your late 40s.

Del Amitri “The Whole World Is Quiet” is a series of acoustic shows at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh on August 26, 27, and 28. The new album Fatal Mistakes is out now. Live dates run from September to December. For more information visit www.delamitri.info.