Formed in 1982 in Liverpool’s Kensington district, Candy Opera took inspiration from bands like Love, The Pale Fountains and Glasgow’s Postcard Records scene and quickly acquired a growing reputation and following. Despite interest from the likes of EMI and Go! Discs, the band eventually petered out in 1993 but they’ve since got back together, overseen a release of archive material, recorded and released new tracks and began to perform live again to critical acclaim. The band’s founder and lead singer, Paul Malone caught up with Into Music’s John Welsh for this exclusive interview.
John: Candy Opera released a new album, The Patron Saint Of Heartache in late 2020 – quite a bold move given lockdown. Was there any temptation to put back the release given it was your first new material in 30 odd years?
Paul: The album was recorded in 2019 so not really much choice, we couldn’t leave it on the shelf any longer. It’s more about putting the music out. Don’t think it’s been detrimental and still sold well and we’ll have a new set to play when we go and play live again. Just becomes part of the Candy Opera story of missed opportunities, lockdowns etc.
How easy was the writing process as a band on the new album and what are the main changes you see as songwriters and musicians compared to your younger selves in the 80s?
Not much has changed in the writing process. We individually continued to write in the in-between years. Maybe lyrically, it’s a bit more mature.
We were all chomping at the bit to do new Candy Opera music so that made it a lot easier and being friends, having a close rapport means that we can do things really quickly, so there wasn’t that much fuss in the studio.
10 days, that’s all it took. It was the mixing and and the producing that took the longest time.
We are all experienced in our own home studios though a real studio is a different matter and that was a new learning curve.
What’s the reaction been like to the album and do you have any plans to play live/tour when it’s safe to do so?
We’ve not really been looking at sales, so don’t know how many it’s sold. It’s never been a priority, it’s about getting music out for ourselves.
Yes, the reaction online has been great but this time the album has been released on all platforms so it’s more difficult to gauge how it’s done.
Yes, playing live is the next step for us and I think that we will be better prepared and have more to offer this time. Difference being we have 3 albums now to choose material from instead of trying to pull a set out of 1 album.
You worked with Grammy award winning producer/engineer Guy Massey on the record. How did that come about and how was the experience?
Never met him! We worked through emails which was strange.
The bulk of the work was already in place though I must say he done a fantastic job. We would just relate what we needed from him and he delivered 100%.
I think it worked really well on the tracks. He was a Wirral lad, a friend of Brian 30 years ago so we got back into contact with him through a mutual friend. He is very easy going and great to work with though sending 506 emails backwards and forwards was a chore for us but he took it in his stride.
You’ve released a new single Tell Me When The Lights Turn Green. What’s the song about and can you tell us a bit about the accompanying video?
Tell Me When The Lights Turn Green is about hope. The lights are a metaphor for starting up and moving on.
We wanted to write a song that could be sung by Buddy Holly or the Everly Brothers, something simple but classic sounding. Works for me anyway!
The video depicts a scene of me falling into the water while the band throw away the instruments, this is a kind of change, a baptism if you like, leaving the old Candy Opera for the new.
2018 saw the release of 45 Revolutions Per Minute album – how did that come about and were you expecting the reaction it had on release?
It took us all by surprise. Again that was an email from Firestation Records to say they wanted to put out our back catalogue. I didn’t think much more about it than to give them the tapes.
I got my mate Dave Wiggins and Neil Cooper to write some sleeve notes and that was that. Became bigger than any of us would have imagined.
Getting the band back together after so long at that time – was that just a natural progression or did you need to work at it?
That was the hardest bit and the easiest at the same time. Disagreement with the early members of the band on punctuation. They wanted to put a full stop after the album whereas I seen it as the next chapter.
That relationship waned but times a healer and we’ll see what the future holds.
I see Candy Opera as a vehicle, the name doesn’t matter it’s the destination and I had no intention of letting anybody take that away. The band that we have now have grown together and know their roles – it’s a case of taking that opportunity and running with it.
Thinking back to the early days of Candy Opera. How did the band come about and what were the influences (both musical and otherwise) that led to the band forming?
Post punk and all of that. Lazy days, no work, time on our hands. Friends playing footy and and grabbing a few instruments and messing about – that’s all it was, no particular direction or what to do.
Youthful exuberance, I think we had two or three bands at the time, different names and the rivalries of the night meant you ended up in different bands.
Me ,Ian Haskell, Mike Wiggins and Ken Moss started it up with Carl Hodgeson and Dave Wiggins popping in and out. We had a good time and achieved our small goals back then. It became a more serious affair when Brian “Chin” Smithers, Alan Currie and Franky Mahon joined. That’s when the writing really started.
Looking forward, what does the future hold for Candy Opera?
God that’s the hardest question of all. In this climate, hard to say. Wanna do another album. Gigs and hopefully get some recognition for our efforts. Mainly that the world to get healed and we can all go about our lives as normal, leave it at that for now.
Lastly, thinking back to all the gigs you’ve personally attended, which one stands out the most as really memorable and why?
I always say this, hasn’t changed for me personally. The Jam at Deeside Leisure Centre 1980 will always be the greatest gig. Fuelled with energy, excitement and fear it was like a footy match rather than a gig, never seen anything like it. Went with my old mates from Anfield, it was an all day affair, brilliant.
The Stone Roses at Spike Island was a close second. Was older then and it had a more ethereal feel, same energy though.
Into Music would like to thank Paul for taking the time to do the interview.
To keep up to date with Candy Opera visit the social media links below and to order music and/or merchandise visit their Bandcamp page here.