Portsmouth Pyramid Centre

Tony Butler of Big Country interview chats with Chinners.

Big Country are a band that together with the likes of U2, Simple Minds and The Alarm dominated the 80’s rock music scene with their big anthems, melodic guitars and passionate heartfelt lyrics. After the death of their leader Stuart Adamson in 2001 the band have regrouped with the The Alarm’s Mike Peters taking on Stuart’s duties in a respectful dignified way.

The band have a two week UK tour and further festival appearances ahead of them. All the way from Launceston in Cornwall Tony Butler the original bass player with Big Country is getting ready to get back into the swing of playing with his band once again:

Chinners Hello Tony, how are you ?

Tony I am doing just great, I am sitting here in Portsmouth in the beautiful sunshine on Southsea seafront.

Chinners I understand as it is the first night of the tour you are going to be very busy today with an extended Sound check so thank you for taking time to speak with us.

Tony We all have not met up since our tour ended in January so we need to just get ourselves back into the music again.

Chinners: In the 80’s Bono described Big Country and The Alarm as the “new breed”, What do you think set these bands apart from the rest?

Tony We all played big heartfelt music using guitars that was well crafted with melodic sentiment, it was different from what a lot of other groups were doing at the time, there was allot of electronic music, we had a new breed of listener.

Chinners The start of this collaboration could be traced back to when Mike Peters and Stuart Adamson first me at a U2 gig at Hammersmith Palais in March 1983 where they joined U2 on stage for ‘Knockin’ On heavens Door’ . What are your memories of that night. (Hear the audio of that night here.

Tony I cannot tell you much, I was there that night we supported U2 and on a few occasions, they very special shows and a great thing to do.

Chinners With yourself in Cornwall ,Mike in Wales, Bruce & Jaime in Scotland and Mark in England, how do you all get together to rehearse?

Tony The simple answers is we don’t really, we had a get together for three days before the first part of the tour in January and it all came together very quickly. As with when Big Country used to tour we just freshen ourselves up in Sound checks, we all know we are good enough not to worry, we limber up like good athletes. This is just an extension of the January tour and we played enough dates together then to get back into the swing of things.

Chinners Have you decided to change the set from the January Tour?

Tony We have decided to put a few different songs ones in , I am not going to tell you which ones though, I am going to leave it a surprise. We are going to play places that we did not play in January and there are many of our fans that have not seen us play yet, so much of it will stay the same, we might change things about as the tour goes on.

Chinners Where did the wearing of the checked shirts originally come from?

Tony That was Stuart’s idea, he also wanted us all to wear checked shirts with Italian army trousers as well, it was all about the band’s identity, Stuart also bought along the tartan scarf’s which he attached to his guitars. A little known fact that we are not really a Scottish band even though everyone thinks we are, Stuart was born in Manchester and Bruce was born in Canada. We are really three quarters English. With Mike now in the band we are more of a Celtic band with people from Scotland, Wales and England.

Chinners I have heard a bootleg recording of Mike Peters singing a b-side ‘Never Take Your Place’ with Big Country at a fan club convention in Holland in 2002, this seemed to work so well, was Mike the only person that you considered for this part of the band ?

Tony I remember that well, it was not long after Stuarts death and I really did not want to be there, I just went as I did not want to let the fans down. I recently saw the video on Facebook and thought that it did work well. Myself and Bruce considered 5 or six people for the job, I don’t think it would be right to let you know who they were, however Mike filled the position perfectly, he fits so well into the band.

Chinners What is it like being on the road with your son Jake who plays in the support band The Crowns.

Tony It is great having him on the road, his band The Crowns are really good, they are supporting us here in Portsmouth,Manchester and Oxford, also we have Bruce’s son Jaime with us who is just 18 and plays Stuarts guitar parts so well. Not forgetting Stuarts children who are both doing well in their own bands Kirsten in The Gillyflowers and Callum in Ahab.

Chinners Tony are there any plans for the band to record any new material together?

Tony As you know the three of us (Bruce, Mark & Tony) recorded some new material as BBW which shows that we are more than capable. We will start experimenting with things and have a look and see where we get, it has to be done with respect to Stuart in a complimentary way. We had a great time together in January and we will have to see how things go.

Chinners I understand there are a few festival performances planned in the summer for the summer?

Tony Yes we are excited about playing to people that don’t know our music as well as our fans do, we are playing the Isle of Wight festival June 10th, Inverness with Simple Minds on 16th July and another in Scotland in July. It is going to be a busy summer. We will see how it all goes and decide what happens after this.

News just in…………….

Big Country are to play an intimate warm up show for the Isle of Wight Festival at the Brook in Southampton on 9th June with the band looking to try out some new material.

Tickets can be purchased here:


Also a further show after the festival has been arranged at the Exeter Phoenix on 11th June



Where The Rose Is Sown(Portsmouth)

Never Take Your Place(Oxford)


Photos by
Bob Whetton

Words by
Dave Chinery (Chinners).

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to MySpace