The Big Reunion is back in full swing on ITV2 as more popbands of yester-year reunite to tell their story and perform for their fans once again.
One of the headline bands of this series is A1 – Mark Read, Ben Adams and Christian Ingebrigsten – who have actually been quietly enjoying success away from the UK since they reformed in 2009. Now the band have set their sights back on the UK and we’ve been chatting to all three of them this week.
First up is Mark Read. We gave him a call to talk about The Big Reunion experience, discuss the changes to the music industry since A1’s heyday and find out what he got up to in the years after the band first split.
How are you today?
I’m not too bad. I’m just in the car off to another full day of rehearsals and shenanigans.
The Hammersmith show is this week. How have the rehearsals been going?
Really good. Better than expected because we’ve had to spend a lot of time doing dance moves and things like that which initially we thought we’d said goodbye to a long time ago. They were really keen for us to do them so we were game and up for it. It’s turned out pretty good.
Has it been hard to get back into the groove with the dancing?
We kind of have to learn how to learn routines again. You have to train your body and muscles to do several things at the same time. I’m a musician and I play drums so I’m used to doing one thing with one foot and one thing with the other. It’s the same with the piano as well. With dancing it’s still completely different. You’re literally moving you head, your shoulders and all of your muscles in a different way so it is a bit of a challenge.
What does it feel like to be part of The Big Reunion and have another chance?
To be honest with you we never felt liked we needed another chance with what we’re doing because we’ve actually been very active in other parts of the world. We’ve spent a lot of time in Scandinavia and a lot of time in South East Asia. Of course we’ve been very absent from the UK for a number of years so we’ve looked at it as a step back into the UK territory. It’s been great to be a part of it.
Has it been a bit of an adjustment being back on the radar of your UK fans?
Thanks to things like Twitter and Facebook once they find you, you hear from your fans all the time. It’s been great but it’s been another level how many messages we’ve been getting from our fans online since the show aired last week. It’s been phenomenal. I think I got 1,000 followers in a couple of hours so it wasn’t bad.
Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook just weren’t around when A1 first came out were they?
They weren’t around at all. Facebook started around 2006 and we were finished around 2003. I don’t even think there was YouTube in the way that it’s established now breaking artists and as a place where people can find out what bands are up to. It was a very different time. I actually think with it comes some really good things and some really bad things. There are certainly pros and cons to fans being able to see everything that bands do nowadays.
There’s a huge amount of expectation now that bands should be on TV all the time, have cameras with them 24/7, be tweeting and constantly taking selfies. Do you feel that pressure or are you just trying to do your own thing?
I don’t get too caught up in that. There’s only so many pictures and selfies you can put out there before people get very bored of it. I think people are actually really desensitised to all of it. We see so much of that all the time that actually it’s like wallpaper now. I think the problem with that is that the music industry has lost a lot of its mystery. Once upon a time you had huge stars and icons that you didn’t really know much about, now you get to hear what they have for breakfast, what they’re wearing, what they’re doing for lunch and that they’ve just walked past a shop. It’s great on one hand that it put the fans much more in touch with the bands. I do think it’s lost a certain element of magic that it used to have when popstars really were like megastars.
All of the platforms like CD:UK and Top of the Pops that were around a decade or so ago just don’t exist anymore. There’s nowhere for a band like A1 to perform on TV really anymore is there?
Absolutely not. As great as it is I think that MTV has a lot to answer for that in terms of turning all their show programming into reality shows. I know there’s room for that of course but it went from music television to reality TV. Video budgets have gone down massively and there are just not the shows where bands can perform anymore. There’s so many bands, even more now we’re in the YouTube generation, but there’s only a handful of shows so bands have to fight for that spot. It ends up being The Graham Norton Show or The Jonathan Ross Show.
We’re keen for The Big Reunion to really kickstart the return of proper pop as the charts are so full of ‘cool’ artists…
Even the pop bands are trying to be so cool. I’ve got to be honest that this year’s BRITs was a bit of a telling sign. Everybody seems to be so jaded and blasé about everything. When One Direction were going ‘what have we won?’ and not knowing exactly what was going on. The whole thing has become a bit of a chance for a jolly. I guess in the industry a lot of the bands and artists see the BRITs as the chance for a night out, not really caring if they’ve won or not. I think there’s always been a divide between the industry and the bands because people don’t want to seem too corporate or moulded in that way. I found it a bit sad that only a handful of people went up and seemed grateful and happy to be winning an award. Everybody else just seemed bored and ‘what have we won? Oh great!’
There was also the irony at this year’s BRITs that most of the performers weren’t British…
Yeah! There is that. I thought Katy Perry would have been an amazing opener for the show because her performance was awesome, and I know the Arctic Monkeys had all the flames and everything which was cool, but I guess you have to open the BRITs with a phenomenal British band really. When it comes to awards – I’m not knocking anything about the British music industry because it’s still the best in the world – but the Americans really know how to do it. When it comes to award ceremonies they are so slick and polished. They always tend to put on the best performances. I loved Bruno Mars’ performance at the BRITs.
Let’s talk about the years when A1 disbanded. What were you doing during that time?
Initially when the band first went our separate ways, the first thing I stepped back into was songwriting because it seemed the most natural thing to do. I wanted to develop my writing so I did wrote with a lot of artists. I wrote songs for various X Factor artists, Charlotte Church…so many different people that I got the chance to work with and have songs on their albums. Even now…I’ve got a song on the last Boyzone album. I’ve been very fortunate to have Michael Bolton sing one of my songs, Robin Gibb, Paul Carrack, Paul Rodgers, right down to British rock royalty like The Hollies who recorded some of my songs. Songwriting has been a really, really good thing for me. As a performer and a singer you’re used to being on a stage and performing in front of an audience so I’m quite happy to be getting back out there and doing it.
Sounds like you’ve been very busy and enjoyed a lot of success ‘behind-the-camera’ as people would say?
Yeah! There’s nothing wrong with that. I think everyone knows that when you’re in front of the camera there’s a window of opportunity and you’ve just got to go for it. That kind of thing doesn’t last and you really need to look at setting up something long-term. For me the songwriting and producing has been a much better long-term thing for me.
A1 are going to continue regardless of the outcome of The Big Reunion. What are you hoping that the show can do for you?
It’s kind of already happened and I’m very grateful for that. That was to reignite a fanbase in the UK that perhaps didn’t really know what we’ve been up to. It’s mission accomplished from that point of view.
It’s a case of enjoy the ride and see what happens then?
Yeah, we’ve got the show in Hammersmith and I’m personally hoping that a lot of A1 fans have bought tickets and will be there. When you do a show with several bands you don’t really know how the audience is going to be split up. I’m really hoping that the A1 fans will be coming out in full-force for that.
The Big Reunion Eventim Hammersmith Apollo show takes place tonight. The show continues Thursdays at 9pm on ITV2 and the album The Big Reunion 2014 is released on 3rd March. Watch the video for A1’s classic Summertime of Our Lives: