Ex-Strangler Cornwell: New CD, old music industry

WASHINGTON – Hugh Cornwell, original singer-guitarist-songwriter of The Stranglers, rejects the notion that today’s music industry is new.

Cornwell, whose solo album “Totem & Taboo” will be released in the U.S. on June 26, says despite weakened CD and vinyl sales due to illegal digital downloads, talented musicians will win out.

“The one great thing about the digital revolution, people have had to go back to performing live for their main income,” says Cornwell, in a telephone interview from England.

“Before records were invented, musicians had to go out and perform live. Composers did that too. They’d perform their work in a live context, then sell sheet music afterwards,” says Cornwell.

“It’s secretly pleasing to me that it’s going back that way,” said Cornwell.

“Totem & Taboo,” engineered by Steve Albini of Nirvana fame, is getting good reviews in the United Kingdom.

The album’s title track was written during a solo tour in America, after Cornwell heard David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel.”

“I thought it would be great to write a song with that sort of sprit and that sort of drive,” Cornwell says.

Another song, “God Is a Woman,” opens with a bass riff borrowed from Cream’s “Badge.”

Cornwell was a founding member of The Stranglers, in 1974. With music ranging from punk to new wave to gothic rock, including hits “Skin Deep,” “No More Heroes,” “Golden Brown,” “Peaches,” and “Always The Sun,” Cornwell’s voice and songwriting style made the band a local dance club favorite.

Yet, Cornwell walked away from The Stranglers in 1990.

“It got to the stage we weren’t living as a band. We were just meeting up to make the records or tour. Our friendships had meandered,” remembered Cornwell.

Cornwell has never played again with The Stranglers since he left.

“They never split up. They’re on their third lead singer. You can’t reform a band that hasn’t split up,” says Cornwell.

With his 15th solo album, Cornwell is setting up tour dates to support “Totem & Taboo,” but has not yet confirmed a Washington-area show.

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