"The Christians" are taking over Dubai this weekend! And, no, we're not talking about religion
Liverpool soul band The Christians became the toast of Britain’s charts in the late 1980s, releasing a string of top 40 singles and selling more than a million copies of their self-titled debut album.
The group – fronted by brothers Garry, Roger and Russell Christian – are best-remembered for two charity cover songs, beginning with top 10 hit Harvest for the World (originally by The Isley Brothers) in 1988.
A year later the group joined with other Liverpudlian artists, including Paul McCartney, to cover the legendary track Ferry Cross the Mersey by Gerry and the Pacemakers – which topped the charts and raised money for those affected by the Hillsborough football disaster.
The Christians’ second album Colour (1990) also reached number one and spawned the original hit Words.
Vocalist Garry continues to front the group to this day, although without his brothers – Roger died in 1998 and Russell called it quits in 2005.
We spoke with him before the band’s two free unplugged shows at Century Village this weekend.
What are The Christians up to at the moment?
We’re just sitting around writing songs and putting the album together. At the moment, we’re in (lead guitarist) Joey’s studio in his home in the centre of Liverpool putting the early touches to arrangements. Up to now we’ve got nine great ideas, so we’re pretty happy.
Are there any themes as yet?
Kind of, there’s a bit of structure there. They’re all based around me, because it’s all about me you see. Only joking! There’s a song called Jupiter, which is basically about a guy who’s really disillusioned with life and wants to get off.
How do you like to balance old hits and new material in your set?
When we play live, people obviously want to hear the old tracks. There are some artists who go out there and don’t play any old stuff and it’s really boring for the audience. You’ve got to make a balance, I think, and before we play a new song I say to the audience, “This one’s new, so you can all go to the bar if you want!”
In 2010, you covered the Cat Stevens (aka Yusuf) track Where Do the Children Play. We hear the man himself professed himself a fan, is that true?
It was great. We did it as a B-side and it was picked up by a local DJ. He was interviewing the actual Cat Stevens, and he asked him if he’d heard our cover, which was quite weird! But he had a listen and said, “Wow, that’s better than my version!” That really encouraged us to start playing the song in our set.
How is the Merseyside music scene in 2014?
It’s quite lively, but everything’s changed. There are a lot of great bands but they’re not being heard. With Facebook and so on, they have their little enclave of fans, but in the wider world nobody knows them. There are millions of bands on the internet who are quite good if you just take the trouble to listen to them. But I really think the record industry is dead in the water.
Are you guys reliant on a record label these days or do you manage everything yourselves?
If we had to rely on a record label, we’d be dead in the water. We’re lucky because we’ve had that moment in the sun and we’ve sold a lot of albums, so people know of us. If we put a tour together, we sell out everywhere we go. But I feel sorry for new bands because they kind of don’t get a look in. This policy where venues take money off the band, what’s that all about? It’s a real shame.
So who handles everything for the band?
We self-manage, because we know what we’re doing. My partner Emma does most of the admin for us. She gets the gigs, she does the promotion – she’s a wonderful person.
The Christians will play two unplugged shows at Century Village Dubai, tonight and tomorrow from 8pm. Tonight, the group will be on the main stage next to La Vigna, Sushi Sushi, St. Tropez and Da Gama restaurants. Tomorrow night, they will be on Stage 2 outside Soho Bar and Grill, Sarband and Masala Craft restaurants.