"But why," asks the New York groupie journalist, "do The Stranglers make such inflammatory remarks about Americans?"
" I really don't understand it," she concludes, glancing over at her even grosser companion in search of approval for this 'radical' line of questioning.
"Well," replies guitarist Hugh Cornwell,
"You have all got smaller brains."
Seated to Cornwell's left and right respectively, keyboardsman Dave Greenfield and drummer Jet Black - bassist Jean Jacques Burnel, having caught an early flight back to London is absent from this interview at A&M Records' 32nd floor address on Madison Avenue - nod sagely and remain silent.
"Whaddya mean smaller brains???" snarls this female Einstein.
"D'ya mean lacking in intelligence????"
"Quite," nods Cornwell, his head action being echoed by the others.
"Just a bit lacking in the old cerebellum, that's all. You may rule the Western hemisphere but you're pretty incompetent in any ruling of the cerebral hemispheres.
"Actually," he continues,
"I think that's why you're so fanatical about taking over all the other hemispheres... because you're all so lacking upstairs.
"But don't worry," the guitarist concludes.
"We'll help you all out."
"Ummm... You're obviously trying to get a message across,' continues the petite young thing, a little more hesitantly this time,
"but you're succeeding in alienating a large percentage of your potential audience, namely women."
"You're so-o-o misinformed."
"Well, we only have what we read to go by...."
"Then you certainly are lacking in a few facilities upstairs, " snaps Cornwell.
"You should learn to think for yourselves."
"Okay, then: tell us about women."
"I love women!"
The questioner's friend omits a prurient snigger that sounds not unlike the release of a wet fart. Cornwell remains silent. The questioner piles on the pressure:
"Just as sexual objects?"
"Well," considers Cornwell,
"if they don't get treated as sexual objects they're liable to start getting frustrated and release a lot of hate. Anyway, if women aren't treated as sexual objects they get offended and start to think that there must be something wrong with themselves."
Although Jean Jacques Burnel would prefer that The Stranglers remain "a well-respected little band" in America, Hugh Cornwell believes it is inevitable that the four-piece will "do it" in the States. After a short tour of the Eastern seaboard back in the spring the band - at the request of A&M, their U.S. record company - returned last month to play three prestige gigs, in Los Angeles, in San Francisco, and in New York. The L.A. gig in West Hollywood at the Starwood, the closest that the City of the Angels has to a Marquee-type club and an infinitely vibier venue than the supper-club-like Roxy up on the Strip (which both Ian Dury and the Feelgoods have played to their costs) was apparently by far the most successful show of the three. The Southern Californian punk elite took the band to their hearts and back to their homes. The Stranglers, though, felt a little jaded when they realised that the LA new wave sub-culture only exists because the kids have so much money that they can afford to construct that sub-culture around their parents' Spanish-style hearth-sides.
After Jean Jacques had learned the error of his ways by being picked up by the cops somewhere off Hollywood Boulevard for being "into walkin" - maybe he should have jogged instead, they wouldn't have touched him then - the bassist caught the first plane out and arrived in New York a day earlier than the rest of the band.
Some four weeks later, the horns of impatient rush hour commuters drift up from the intersection of the Brompton and Cromwell Roads just down the street from Harrods in Knightsbridge as Hugh Cornwell sits on a mattress smoking a spliff and catching the rays up on the roof above the flat in which he crashes.
"All the albums that are big sellers in America," he muses, considering the Hip Easy Listening state of the U.S. charts,
"have probably got these sound waves on them. There's a signal which is created by sending this phase thing round all the mikes in the studio whilst something is being recorded.... You know, there are certain sound waves that elicit certain reactions in human beings; you can make someone come, you can make someone feel sick, you can make someone laugh. Just by sound waves. And there's one particular sound wave that makes people feel comfortable, which it's reckoned has been put on all those big-selling albums so that when you hear it for the first time you feel all comfortable and it makes you want to go out and buy it.
"Mind you," he free-associates,
"the Mafia's been around longer than any other party in America. Everyone denies the existence and the power of the Mafia but I don't see why people don't just recognise it. It's part of the wallpaper now.
"Like it's all coming out in this Kennedy thing now. Have you heard of The Gemstone Papers? It's a book that's in draft at the moment and there've been various extracts published in mags like Hustler. I read one outlining how Aristotle Onassis was running America because he was the head of the Mafia for thirty years, which all started in 1930 when he did this big capitalist deal with this government and gained control then. "And the reason Kennedy was shot was because he welched on a deal that was going through. So he had to be rubbed out because he acted dishonourably.
"As is pretty common knowledge now, the CIA were involved in all that and it's reckoned, in fact, that that's why Larry Flint (Hustler publisher) was shot - because he'd put up a million dollars for anyone who could name Kennedy's assassins. He was preparing a report to be published in Hustler.
"Actually, it's quite possible the Mafia's got nothing to do with greed whatsoever. They've just got this enormous organisation operating and if it starts to break down they'll all be out of a job. So the only thing to do," he laughs, "is to keep going."
Although it's said that not only are they "keeping going" but that there's actually a Mafia Great Leap Forward at the moment.
"Well, good luck to 'em," Cornwell grins. "You know, Italy's on its last legs both financially and politically but no-one's worried because they've got this fucking huge land over in the West."
Jean Jacques Burnel fishes in his cup for the tea bag and dumps it in the waste-bin in the room next to the toilets down at TW studios on the Fulham Palace Road, London SW6.
They've got a 16-track in at TW and it's said that they're even considering moving a 32-track board in the near future. Mind you, physically it's still the demo studio it was when Burnel, along with the pair who'd just accepted him into their band as bassist - Cornwell and Jet Black - came down at the beginning of 1975 to cut some demos that did, in fact, get the band a deal with some unorthodox, very specialised ethnic operation from which The Stranglers ultimately had to extricate themselves before they could sign with the then fledging Albion Agency.
No, those were very early days back then. Shortly after - May '75, to be precise - the ad was put in the Melody Maker and Dave Greenfield brought his keyboards along to make it a foursome. The difference now, though, says Burnel - the memory of the near-disco solo track "Eurohomme" that he's just played me in both our heads - is that he can persuade other people to pay for his studio time.
Both Generation X and Buzzcocks have worked down at TW with Martin Rushent, the producer with whom The Stranglers have scored three half-million-selling albums, making them by far the largest selling outfit to have emerged from the new wave.
"They all knock us," sneers Burnel, "but they all want to use our producer."
"Mind you,' he continues, "I would like you to mention that the engineer, Alan Winstanley, who works down here is as vital a part of those records."
There are probably sufficient credibility-enhancing, near-mythological archetypes and icons in The Stranglers' early history, The Fuck/Ford T-shirt for one. Worn by Cornwell the night the Strangs supported Climax Blues Band at the Rainbow, they had the curtain dropped on them because of it. That T-shirt earned them healthy record sales boost when one GLC official remarked that "EMI have taken a stand against The Sex Pistols and now the GLC will support them by taking a stand against The Stranglers."
The apparent campaign against The Stranglers by the GLC has continued until recent days when a complete volte-face would have permitted the band to top the bill at a Hyde Park free concert had Virgin Records not had sole rights to the only available date.
"I think they sincerely and honestly did believe in their confused way that if we played the Alexandra Palace dates we'd wanted to play, then about 250 kids would have got killed. There might have been something more sinister to it than that, but I don't really think so," comments Jet Black - though Cornwell, in whom one occasionally senses a Dave Spart mentality, mutters that permitting the band to play Hyde Park would've been just as much a "political gesture" as banning the group.
And The Finchley Boys. Cornwell:
"Finchley is apparently the borough with the second largest population in London. These guys, who were then very hardcore punks - safety pins through their cheeks, the whole bit - apparently found they could identify with us and just started following us to every gig." He is very impressed, very touched even - he claims - when The Stranglers play a gig some two hundred miles from London and find a whole contingent of Finchley Boys present.
And Dagenham Dave - as featured on the "No More Heroes" cut, "Dagenham Dave": the phenomenally hedonistic black Dagenham car worker who was also one of the best self-educated people any of the band had ever come across - "He turned me on to Rabelais," says Burnel - and who, as one of The Stranglers' most devoted and zealous fans, first took on virtually all the Finchley Boys singlehanded down the 100 Club and then became a firm ally and mentor to them.
And then one night he was found dead in the Thames by Tower Bridge where, like some conceit out of one of Maupassant's river stories, his body had remained stuck in the mud where Dave had leapt in several weeks earlier.
Anyway, all the stuff of which rock 'n' roll legends of almost Zeppelin-esque proportions are made is there for The Stranglers.
The hotel and dressing-room carnage tales had yet another notch carved out by Burnel two weeks back in the Top Of The Pops studio. "I heard noises in my brain. And they said that I should go to this other dressing-room that belongs to someone else. And enter. So I did. Yet this door seemed to be in the way and then it wasn't and then I saw light. The door was not opened conventionally. It belonged to a band called Child."
The Stranglers are now banned from Top Of The Pops.
There are even the statutory journalist-bashing tales, though the bassist maintains that these have become a trifle overstated: "I just hit one journalist because he's an enemy of the revolution and an idiot." Burnel is also - and one may feel his sentiments to be quite reasonably justified - most concerned about the generally low levels of consciousness amongst many journalists:
"It's a bit ironic when you're getting all these heavy put-downs by people who can't even write particularly well."
All these, though, are no more than mere trappings. The Stranglers' great commercial success is the inevitable result of the band's having early on apprenticed itself to that great English tradition of the journeyman grassroots rock band which is generally loathed by the press yet works itself nearly to death all over the country until it acquires an adoration from The Kids that runs far deeper than any mean and moody press posing may ever offer.
Thoroughly in keeping with the not necessarily laudable British Calvinist work ethic, such bands also appeal to the much touted, and perhaps more laudable, British sense of fair play that always gives the underdog the benefit of the doubt. The Stranglers, you should be quite certain, are well aware that they are not the most fashionable band in town.
Those fascinated by cosmic buffoonery will comprehend fully when they hear that Cornwell and Jet Black are both subjects of the remarkably industrious, though often somewhat uninspired, astrological sign Virgo, whilst Burnel belongs to Virgo's opposite sign, Pisces. It is only the Arian Dave Greenfield who appears, as he also does in publicity pictures, somewhat out of place.
So in terms of human sympathy The Stranglers are onto a winner from the start - and fear not for Dave Greenfield: he probably scores the really sensitive girls who want to mother someone who resembles a Ken Russell vision of a 19th Century Welsh pastor.
Such an amorphous bunch are they image-wise, that for the average record-buying punter, faced with such hardline radical chic as sported by the likes of The Clash and the Pistols, The Stranglers are quite reassuringly safe. It seems safe to assume that a further reason for The Stranglers' large record sales is that they have become crossover new wave material. The 30-year-old would-be-hip account exec can handle shoving The Stranglers on the car sound system far more readily than he can The Ramones.
That isn't just a glib throwaway, incidentally: like The Doors before them (and however hard any of the band might attempt to refute this, they still sound like The Doors to me), The Stranglers turn out great car-driving music. Maybe that's how come they did so well in LA, The Doors' city itself, where a healthy dose of music to make carbon monoxide to is a vital part of one's day-to-day existence.
Like many rock star's who specialise in grim facades, The Stranglers are really closet ordinary human beings. Cornwell and Burnel are both graduate entrants to rock 'n' roll. The 28-year-old guitarist comes from a middle-class background in Tufnel Park where, when not chasing "O" and "A" levels at the William Ellis School by Parliament Hill Fields, he was part of the '60s' North London band scene that was spearheaded by the success of The Kinks. Initially having got into rock 'n' roll through hearing Eddie Cochran, Cornwell played for much of the early '60s in a band with Richard Thompson on guitar and one-time Melody Maker journalist and now Faulty Products publicist Nick Jones on drums. The material they played was all non-original - "stuff like 'Smokestack Lightnin''" - and they made it as far as gigging at the 100 Club even back then.
To get his GCEs, though, the guitarist packed in playing and only resumed when he disappeared to Sweden and got into busking in the year off that he had before going up to Bristol in 1968 to read bio-physics for three years.
University, he feels, was "a good opportunity to try out lots of ideas. Mind you, I was expecting something more like Herman Hesse writes about and what I got was more like school-but-you're-a-bit-older.
"Greatest thing I discovered at university was marijuana."
Cornwell is so rigorously anti-image that paradoxically, he frequently appears most image-conscious. Like in New York (What do you think to New York, Hugh? "Hate it!") in the 90 degrees heat, when he's decked out not only in the black cloth slip-ons, the ice-blue socks, the tight black pants, and the Trotsky logoed T-shirt, but also in the ubiquitous tied-belted mac...
Along with the mac and his constantly furrowed brow, Cornwell's stance recalls a character out of some early John Osborne production. Indeed, there is something quite '50s about both him and Burnel. The others in the band are also always complaining that Hugh Cornwell farts a lot.
After university Cornwell returned to Sweden to do research and reinvolved himself in playing rock 'n' roll in a band called Johnny Sox, whose personnel consisted of native Swedes and American draft-dodgers. In 1974, realising that work didn't really exist in Sweden for bands wanting to get up onstage and play three and four-minute original rock 'n' roll songs, Johnny Sox moved on over to England where, after the odd abortive date at venues like the Hope and Anchor, things soon began to fall apart... Until one day Jet Black strode into Hugh's Kentish Town squat.
One of the reasons not too many New York journalists turned up to interview The Stranglers, it was claimed by one of the intrepid few who did risk an interview situation with the group ("Listen, I'm sorry to be taking up so much of your time but I'm gonna sell this interview to at least five or six papers") was because Robert Christgau, the much vaunted "Dean of Rock Critics" had, in that classically incestuous New York manner, utilised his influence to warn other writers off.
Sitting on the couch that doubles as a bed in his Knightsbridge flat, Cornwell listens to a tape of Captain Beefheart - on tour the Captain provides much of his offstage listening material - and offers his impressions of that cultural absurdity.
" He did that because he was so outraged at our lyrics, apparently," he laughs. "And when we heard about that we sent him a telegram saying, 'If you're not careful we're going to come round and slip your wife some real British beef.' (Hilarious - Ed.) "And he totally freaked out. It all seems very self-righteous."
As with any reasonable human being who is opposed to hard-line feminism solely because he has always assumed that women were naturally equal to men (Cornwell notes that women who really get it rough - Glaswegian char ladies who have to get up at four o'clock every morning, for example - have a bad time because of the nature of capitalism rather than a few guys' screwed up head states), Hugh is amused by the furore which The Stranglers' lyrics have created among humourless people.
"When we played in Lancing in America there was a demonstration outside the gig of about forty women's libbers with banners saying 'Boycott The Stranglers - Boycott this club', because they were showing their thighs, you know. Really good for the eyes. But they didn't like that at all so they picketed outside the place. "So we tried to kidnap one and kinda manhandled her into the coach whilst being fought off by these women hitting us with their placards and banners. There was a big fracas and she got away unfortunately... but I bet she was really excited and turned on by it." (Since when does roughing up women indicate a sense of humour - Humourless Ed.)
Of course, as the very term "rock 'n' roll" is itself a relatively sexist (sic) euphemism for doing rude things, maybe rock should be banned altogether, rather in the same way that these same uptight ladies bitch that Rastas are sexist yet fail to note that they also turn out some of the most tender love songs ever written. "Yeah, they're totally paranoid, all those people," Cornwell shrugs. "It's like boogie...." He half-sings: 'Yessire, I can boogie all night long'. I wonder how many people who bought that record know what boogie actually meant?
"By their saying that we're retrogressive they're saying that rock 'n' roll is retrogressive, basically. "Which maybe it is. Some guy in America has just completed a study saying that listening to rock music leads to a reversal of brain development because of a diminution of one's psychic power, because the accent is put more to the last beat than the first one whilst the heart is the other way around. He claimed that it had led to brains shrivelling up and claims that it's very detrimental to The Human Condition." Well, perhaps one could counter that by saying that the reversal of the beat is a perfect Yin/Yang discipline...
Also, of course, like so many new wave outfits, The Stranglers picked up an early rep as a hardline political outfit...
"Communist indoctrination sorta thing...nah," Cornwell shakes his head and takes a sip of tea. "I read Marx's Communist Manifesto the other day and I was really disappointed by it. All the time he kept going on about 'When we overthrow the system and replace it with our own thing'. And it didn't take into consideration at all the people they were going to throw out. Okay, they were going to put the workers in, but what about the people who were there in the beginning through no fault of their own? They were just going to take them outside and shoot them. It was a very narrow view."
Cornwell, though, is a great admirer of Trotsky - "a very great man" - and on a recent holiday trip to Mexico visited his home and the room where he got an ice-pick through his brain. "He just seemed to be almost an ideal public figure, that's all. He did so much. Whenever any of the revolutionary party had a heavy job to do they'd get Trotsky to do it. And whatever it was he made it work."
In between incessant phone calls the soft-spoken Cornwell loads up a tape of Leila And The Snakes, a Tubes spin-off outfit for whom he's just finished producing an album's worth of songs in San Francisco. It offers far more than virtually all the American bands I've heard of late.
"You know," he muses, "However people may miss the point of our lyrics and music, we do try and make people think again. About everything. We try and nurture their sense of inquiry and questioning." He waxes almost self-conscious for a second. "Uhh...If you get what I mean.
"I think that that's the only virtuous way you can use a public platform. Because otherwise you're just using the power to condition.
"I mean, God was a fascist really, because he used his platform to tell people not to do things. So he's a fascist because he allows no other... But maybe if there are certain things that everyone deep within then felt was the right way then you could use the power for that. About the only thing I can think of is 'Thou shalt not kill'. Everything else seems to have two sides to it, but there you've just got a dead man and a live man. But that's the only way of using that programming power that you can't really knock."
Of course, rock 'n' roll is a very primal music and perhaps people should be encouraged to return to primacy to release those parts of their unconscious which modern society doesn't really permit forcing them to wither away unused.
"And that," nods Cornwell, "is probably the concept of anarchy which was the most intended by the whole new wave.
"You know, everyone looks up 'anarchy' in the dictionary and gets one meaning. But there are applied meanings.
"The very fact that people question things is a sign that they have anarchic brains."
Which, of course, comes down to linking up with those basic truths common to all humanity that come slurping out of the old unconscious.
"Yeah, intuitive truths...It's odd, really. A lot of people feel that if they have to question their beliefs then it must imply a weakness in those beliefs. But if you question it and then you come out logically and still have that belief then it must be stronger.
"We do try to go down to fundamentals with our music.
"You know," he free-associates again, "one of the things that really struck me about America this trip was that there are hardly any girls out on the streets just walking around. But here they're all over the place. England is much progressive than most places, in a way.
"It leads the world in many ways. Like the family is a bow and the kid is an arrow and they let them get out and do what they want.
"There's very great repression in the States for the youth, for the kids. The only places they can go and see bands are huge 10,000-seater auditoriums. They can't go into clubs where there's any booze.
"The freedom of youth in this country is great. Very strong.
"Yeah. England's best. And all the Americans know it, too."
One of three sons of a teacher, Jet Black spent much of his childhood in Ilford, Essex, actively hating school. Leaving at as early an age as possible, he was apprenticed and became a joiner and shopfitter. During the evening, though, he was playing drums in jazz bands up in Soho.
Time and a couple of marriages passed, and Jet found himself living down in Guildford, first running just an off-licence then expanding within the building in which the liquor shop was based until he was running a home brew kit export firm from the top floor and an ice-cream factory in the basement. Five years of this went by...until one day he woke up and realised that, successfully and financially comfortable entrepreneur that he was, the one thing that was missing from his life was job satisfaction. Jet's entrepreneurial abilities, however, were vital to the early Stranglers' existence.
Having met Hugh Cornwell and his Swedish guitarist from Johnny Sox in 1974 via an ad in Melody Maker for a "rock 'n' roll drummer" that had Jet assuming all the way to the audition that he was about to encounter some rock 'n' roll revival band, he quickly established a close empathy with Cornwell and, despite the other's initial misgivings, persuaded him that living free in Guildford in a flat above the off-licence with its own rehearsal space was a potentially fruitful scene.
A few weeks after Cornwell had moved down to Guildford, a friend dropped round with a guy whom he'd seen hitching and to whom he'd given a lift. It was Jean Jacques Burnel on his way home from karate. Learning that Burnel was, in fact, a highly proficient classical guitarist, the pair - who by this time had separated from the Swede - turned JJ into a bassist and The Stranglers became a trio.
Shortly afterwards, Black having placed his assorted businesses in the hands of a manager, the trio moved some ten miles outside of Guildford to a place called Chiddingfold, where the drummer had discovered a house at a reasonable rent where the three could live and rehearse together.
Despite only securing gigs by ringing up clubs, finding out what kind of bands they put in and then claiming The Stranglers were that kind of outfit, Jet Black was sufficiently confident to sell off the businesses and invest the profit in underwriting the next few months of the group's existence. Amongst the items left over from the sale was an ice-cream van. For many long months that was The Stranglers' sole means of travelling to gigs.
In the early summer of 1975 Dave Greenfield answered a further Melody Maker ad and ended up as The Stranglers' keyboards player.
A native of Brighton, Greenfield - a guitarist until he was 18 - had quit school just before his "O" levels to go pro and had spent much of his 20's working the musicians' graveyard circuit of the German U.S. bases. Shortly before becoming a Strangler his finances had reached a state where a three-week residency at Tiffany's in Swansea had not seemed out of order. The rest you know.
Jet never even considered that, approaching forty as he then was, maybe he was too old to rock 'n' roll. Notwithstanding the occasional nervous twitch around the eyes that would appear to be a symptom of the strain that the rock 'n' roll lifestyle imposes upon the system, he claims to have no less stamina or endurance than the younger members of the band.
Not surprisingly - considering that he once ran an off-licence - Jet likes the odd tipple. He is also fascinated by cosmology and astro-physics. The Syrius mystery, in particular, holds a great deal of interest for him, as do such occult elements as ESP and telepathy. His ladyfriend has just had a damaged spine cured by a psychic healer. Jet's ambition is to grow his own vegetables.
Slumped in the back seat of the car driving us back through the New York night from the InterMedia club, where The Stranglers have just played, to the Gramercy Park Hotel, Jean Jacques Burnel's eyes are beginning to get heavy. He's just been spiked with his first ever quaalude and the night's going to prove an interesting experience for him. For the meantime, though, speech isn't yet quite a problem, "Hard party lines are a load of bullshit," he curses, waving a bottle of beer under my nose. "The National Front doesn't really exist. They got about 0.2 per cent of the votes at the last by-elections.
"They're being used by the SWP in the same way that extremists always create myths to hate. Like Hitler made the Jews an object of hatred, for example." (Funny - I could have sworn that was what the NF were doing with the 'immigrant' population - Ed.)
Although certainly not as desperate a figure, Jean Jacques Burnel rivals that other well known bass player, Sid Vicious, in the ignoble savage stakes. Because he is also highly intelligent, Burnel is thoroughly aware of the dark shadows lurking within the nether regions of his unconscious. His study of karate, he freely admits, began as an attempt to discipline his inner being and prevent himself so readily going over the top. There are those who have pointed out the closeness in spirit between '50s bohemians, particularly of the English art school variety, and the true street essence of punk. Certainly the blouson noir Burnel could fit easily into such a cast.
The credentials are fairly impeccable: the Outsider spirit fostered by foreign parents - French restaurant workers from Caen who, after working in this country for other people for 25 years, finally managed to buy a small restaurant in Guildford some five years back; kicked out of school in the sixth form for running a magazine called the Gubernator (Latin for "Helmsman"), being a member of the anarchic British League of Youth and ruining the school lawn with weed killer; karate freak and biker with his own chopped-down 1942 side-valve Harley-Davidson; no home to call his own -
"I lived with Wilko for nine months. There were two stabbings and one rape. The place was broken into and the stereo was nicked. Now I don't live anywhere. Which is okay really...Except that sometimes you have to sleep with people you don't really want to go to bed with."
"Did you have school dinners?" Burnel asks.
"I thought they were great. I think they're great at most schools but there is definitely an inverted snobbery about school meals.
"We used to have about eight kids at a table with one kid serving. And when it was things like semolina with jam none of the others liked it and would all go 'UURRGGGHHH!' Because of things like that they used to put school meals down all the time.
"But I'd eat anything. I thought semolina with jam was great.
"The veg was always alright, too."
After getting kicked out of school, Burnel finished his "A" Levels and went up to Huddersfield Polytechnic where, whilst living in Bradford and scoring in Leeds, he got a degree in English and Economics. Despite his hatred for 'hard party lines', he does feel that "there is going to be a new party soon. Maybe quite a few parties.
"I also definitely think there's a growing Europeanism. Euroman cometh."
In saying this, Burnel does not consider yet another vast, tedious corporate power in the mould of the USA and the USSR, but rather he envisages on the one hand a Federal European Parliament and on the other a situation where the individual and minority groups such as Basques, Welsh, Scots and Bretons will find it far easier to establish their identity.
"It's a very fundamental aspect of Europeanism. Imagine: in the United States of Europe there's no reason why Westminster should dictate to Scotland. When you hear these ass-holes complaining that they'll lose their individuality it's always English people... People who've subjugated the Welsh for nine hundred years. There's no reason whatsoever why the English - whoever they are - should lose their identity at all. "Also I think that the giant corporate powers are going to start declining if for no other reason that they're dysfunctional. Also the whole monolith that we know at the moment as socialism is going to inevitably destroy itself because that's just a giant corporation also. Then we can have real socialism."
His economics background, Burnel feels, has been quite useful in studying the strokes that assorted governments pull. Like the way, for example, in which in this country the government seems to have decided that it is a fact of life that there will always be high unemployment.
"It has been accepted. Keynes accepted that it is necessary for an economy to have one per cent unemployment. So it's part of their strategy to have unemployed people. The only trouble is we've got too many people for the economic plan so we'll never have unemployment under a million. Going by present economic planning.
"Mind you, the one thing Keynes never envisaged was stagflation - that is, stagnation whilst at the same time you have inflation."
Burnel is very conscious that The Stranglers, despite their large record sales figures, are essentially an unfashionable band.
"No one's ever wanted to align themselves with us, to openly say they're our mates. Apart from Steel Pulse, that is, who've been really fuckin' great. We've helped other bands and they've shit on us and said really crazy things about us. Yet in front of us they took our sweets. We help bands, give 'em a bit of money to help 'em go in the studio, yet they'll never acknowledge it and they'll jump on the bandwagon and start calling us sexist. Which is so silly, really. Ian Dury can sing about sex 'n' drugs 'n' rock 'n' roll for a whole album and not get put down, and Hugh'll write one song about how one time he slapped a girlfriend and we get all that shit. They're all just bigots. People are very insecure. I mean, two years ago we used to get other punk bands going, 'The Stranglers even smoke dope.' Yet I've seen loads of punk musicians drinking beer at gigs and then as soon as they get home it's out with the Rizlas. What hypocrisy!"
In the dining room of the Gramercy Park Hotel, Hugh Cornwell is sipping on a beer whilst he waits for his food to arrive and mulling over the speed with which The Stranglers appear to be zipping through their rock 'n' roll career.
"The lifespan of this group is very limited. It works twice as hard as any other group around. It's bound to burn itself out quickly." ( Are you sure about that JJ ? - G.S.)
Sitting on his publicist's floor back in England, Jean Jacques concurs with the guitarist's sentiments. "Yeah, The Stranglers could split up at any time. It probably won't last all that much longer. After all, there's lots of other things I'd like to do. I'd like to go to Japan and study for my black belt. I don't really consider myself as a musician as such. It's not work, this, is it? It's just good play. I won't exactly be looking out for a gig after The Stranglers."
Back To The Main Stranglers page