Travis drummer, Neil Primrose can't beat Lancashire
PUBLISHED: 00:58 23 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:18 20 February 2013
Ben Samuelson meets a star who travels the world but looks forward to hearing the birds sing outside his window of his home near Lancaster
IT'S not every day you get to interview a real, honest to goodness rock star. Neil Primrose, drummer in the band Travis, is globally famous.
The group have a bucket load of Brit Awards, they've toured the planet, sold 10,000,000 records and, if you believe Wikipedia, one in eight British households has a copy of their album The Man Who.
Unless you have spent recent years running screaming from radios tuned to anything other than Radio 4, you will have heard their songs Flowers in the Window, Why does it Always Rain on me? and Sing. I promise.
So what's a star like Neil doing living in rural north Lancashire? Well, it's something to do with the in-laws, but more of that later.
Rodney Banks-Lyon, of Lancaster's Banks Lyon Jewellers, asked me if I fancied meeting the drummer as he was a regular customer and he could help with an introduction.
Rodney promised me I'd like him, but my mind had immediately raced ahead. Best not phone too early - Neil would probably wouldn't be up until mid-afternoon, at which time he'd be having his butler bring the Rolls Royce round so he could drive him from the bedroom to the pool.
A deep but softly spoken Scottish voice answered the phone. I was straight through without negotiating a battalion of press officers! He suggested where we could meet. 'There's a nice tea shop in Wray.' A what?
Interviews are meant to take place in the Presidential suite of a city centre hotel, or in a gloomy corner of a selfconsciously trendy bar - surely not a tea shop... To my relief we settled on Banks Lyon's as he was popping into Lancaster anyway.
I thought I'd get the photographs out of the way first as even people who are used to having their picture taken can become annoyed by it. Not Neil. As he chatted watches with Rodney, he lit up with unfeigned enthusiasm for the subject. Pictures out of the way, we retired around the corner to The Borough for a cup of tea and a slice of cake - what else? I thought I'd start by asking him why he'd moved to Lancashire.
'It's down to my wife really, who spent most of her childhood in Hest Bank and we came back here so we could be closer to her mum and dad. 'We'd been living in London for about six years or so and had become disenchanted. It's no place to bring children up - that was the most important reason for coming up here. It's all about the quality of life, the peace and quiet, the countryside.
'When you travel round the world and come back to Lancashire, you realise that you're fortunate. It's real and it's honest. People don't tend to embellish everything - you're not part of that constant social networking thing you get in cities. I think I'm quite a down to earth guy and for my kids to be grounded, I've got to be grounded.'
It's clear he's all too mindful of what can happen to those in his line of business who aren't, and how savage and fickle the world in which he moves can be. 'It's a real shame but people want you to do well and then watch you fall from grace.
Look at the thing with Amy Winehouse at the moment, with Gazza. It is, of course, caused by them being wasted but it is predominately caused by the British obsession with celebrity. I have to engage with the press - if you don't play the game, you don't get invited to the next one'.
But it appears that coming home to Lancashire is really of paramount importance in enabling him to deal with all of this. 'When I'm away I really look forward to hearing the
birds singing outside my window when I get back. No light pollution. No smog, Taking your kids to their little school in the morning, although I do have to acknowledge that my
wife does all that brilliant mum thing while I'm away.
I evenlook forward to being able to do things for myself - like cooking for my family. When you're in this business, you always have people around to do things for you - it's a very false security. When you get a bit older, that whole coming out of a nightclub at five o'clock in the morning smashed out of your head thing gets a bit boring.
'We've just made a great record [Ode to J. Smith], very quickly and very cheaply and have done it off our own back. It'll be released in late summer on the internet first and then in the shops, at least if they're still selling music in the shops by then.
They've just announced that Woolworths have stopped selling CD singles so how are kids meant to buy music now other than compressed files off the internet? I've just bought 48 vinyl albums from Oxfam in Lancaster and I much prefer the sound quality.'
Banks Lyons brings him into Lancaster pretty frequently too. 'Nick Mason, the Pink Floyd's drummer, wrote that after he'd gone on tour, one of the first things he did was to buy himself a Rolex Daytona and that's something I totally understand.'
But the Rolex is one of the very few external things that marks out one of Lancashire's most extraordinary residents. Having been fortunate enough to spend some time with him, it seems obvious that he would have suggested meeting at somewhere as normal as a tea shop. He likes how real and honest Lancashire and Lancastrians are. He doesn't realise how well he fits in...