CASH FOR QUESTIONS: CRAIG DAVID
The 7 Days man fields queries on Alan Partridge, Bo’ Selecta! and arm-wrestling.
Comparing tantric sex techniques with Sting, selling double glazing and Bo’ Selecta! – just a few of the things you wanted the UK garage Comeback King to tell you about…
It’s a Thursday afternoon when Craig David meets Q at his North London studio. Tucked away within a small office complex, having rescued his career from pop’s dustbin, the singer is busy working on the follow-up to his Number 1 comeback album, 2016’ s Following My Intuition. Although his debut album Born To Do It crested the early- 2000s UK garage wave, the Southampton man’s career floundered, expedited in no small part by David being the constant target of Leigh Francis’s latex mask-led impressions show Bo’ Selecta!. Yet relocation to Miami has provided an unlikely path to redemption. The singer’s “TS5” house parties became the hang-out in America’s dance capital, which in turn rekindled interest in David’s own material leading to arena shows, Glastonbury slots and last year’s all-conquering comeback. Still, something’s amiss in David’s world. According to the strict schedule laid out in his song 7 Days, after wooing potential girlfriends on Monday and Tuesday, shouldn’t he be busy making love on Thursdays (not to mention, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays)? “Not to kill a myth, but I was 17 when I wrote the song, so 7 Days was more my hopes and dreams rather than it ever actually happening to me,” laughs David of his loving-free schedule. “Now I’m 35, it’s more Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday go to the studio, shows on Friday and Saturday… but Sunday I’m still chilling! That’s the one thing that hasn’t changed!” Before he relaxes, let’s add a grilling from Q readers to Craig David’s diary…
In your absenceabse from the British musicm scene, did youyo ever consider gettingget a “proper job”,job” if so what would you haveha done? Peter Gregory, Nuneaton
Nah, this was always the number one. I have sold double-glazed windows but that was prior to me doing my music. Was I any good? Not really. It was cold-calling. Even if you got close to selling, nine times out of 10 it was someone winding you up. You live and learn.
Is it true when you first started releasing tracks that you’d sneak your records into other releases in your local record shop? Brian Hooper, Stroud First time round? One hundred per cent! The first song I was ever involved in was I’m Ready, the B-side of [’ 90s boy band] Damage’s [ 1997 single] Wonderful Tonight. I was 13 years old, so as soon as it came out I went to the Virgin Megastore in Southampton, saw it in the new releases and decided: “Right, it’s going to be every new release!” [ laughs] It only lasted as long as someone clocked me and put it all back to normal.
You lived in an airport hotel for a while – what was the most Alan Partridge thing you did? Michelle Bryant, via Q Mail I found out about the Alan Partridge hotel thing after the event. I’ve got to say that being in a hotel for a year-and-a-half is not a bad look though. It was because when I was coming in from Miami the last thing I wanted to do was drive into Central London, and you almost have everything on tap: gym, restaurant, shop, place to get your hair cut… After a while I had had enough, but I had no complaints. What did Alan Partridge do? An extra big plate for the buffet? That old chestnut! I wasn’t really about the buffet, I was trying to keep it more Deliveroo on that bad boy.
How much maintenance did your goatee beard require? What do you do with the extra time in the mornings now that you sport a more standard beard? Jonty Laud, via Q Mail I have a very good barber, so that’s more of a monthly tip, whereas before it was always: “Let’s get it crisp.” As you grow up, you realise there’s e’s only a finite amount of time in the day and you don’t want to be spending half of it on looking a certain way. I get up, get a shower. If I can get a shave in, cool – if not, let’s keep p it moving.
So where is the best place to take a girl for a drinknk on a Tuesday? Steven James, via Twitter
I’ve been so locked in the studio I don’t know where the spots are, but to be honest, it’s not so much where to take her, but what your intentions are. Rather than go for a drink and it be a bit played-out, are you genuinely into the person? That’s the new agenda.
In 2009, Born To Do It was voted Number 2 in MTV’s Greatest Albums of their lifetime, Thriller was Number 1. Was there foul play afoot or do you stand by the result? Sarah Robertson, Birmingham I was just flattered to be anywhere near Michael Jackson. It was across the board too, not a niche group of people, so even if I’d had my whole team clicking I don’t think we’d have been able to change the result. Around the same time I did my first US shows at the House Of Blues in LA and on the last night Stevie Wonder came. Afterwards he introduced me to Quincy Jones, who said to me: “I bought 10 copies of Born To Do It and have given them all to my friends!” My mind was ticking over, going: “Well, I know who one of your closest collaborators is…” but before I could ask, he went: “Michael Jackson’s got a copy of the album, he loves it!” I thought, “My job is done!”
You once sang to me while I was working in a record shop in Hampstead because you couldn’t remember the name of the song you wanted to buy (it was Celine Dion), have you serenaded any other shop workers? Lisa Goodall, Shepherd’s Bush In HMV? I remember that, I used to live right by that shop. At least I can hold a tune, so there was a chance people would get what it was. I used to sing in shops all the time right up to the point where I realised Shazam existed. That blew my mind, I should have bought shares in it.
You have claimed that you only wear a pair of trainers once to keep them box-fresh. Did you ever consider the environmental impact of this incredibly wasteful act of vanity and where o on earth do you keep them all? Paul O’Dell, Liverpool
To give a bit of back story: I’d save up for ages to buy just one pair of trainers that I really loved back in the day – my first expensive pair I loved were Nike Air Huarache, which I brought for £ 70 –I couldn’t get my head around having new shoes and then soiling them up. So I was the guy who had the full kit: the brush, whitener, soapy liquid for the laces. I kept them box-fresh, so I’d wear them sparingly. I’ve kept that mentality, and my shoes last for a long time! So in terms of impact on the planet, I’m helping, I’m not wearing them once and dashing them, I’m wearing them for years!
Does it disappoint you that Southampton are still a “selling” club? Tim Foley, Haywards Heath
No, because we’re still in the Premier League, and, having been in League One, if we have to sell that’s the way it goes. Somehow we always find our way. I went to the League Cup final this year. It was close. Southampton should have had it but when you come up against someone like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Man Utd forward] who does not play games, it’s a different level.
Now that everything is digital, when was the last time you actually rewound something? Stuart Lescott, Bridlington Recently! I’ve still got decks and I’ve also got a small tape-player I found when I went to my mum’s house. I’ve got a load of cassettes that I’m slowly copying onto my iPod. It’s a mission, but I’m getting there. I also used to always rewind my videos before returning them to Blockbusters. It was a karmic thing.
Did you ever laugh at Bo’ Selecta!? Andrew Fisher, via Q Mail Do you know what, at that time I could see the funny side of all of it, because I remembered Spitting Image from back in the day.
It was exactly the same play. It was more the fact it was named after one of the songs was why the whole attention ended up on me, but everyone was getting rinsed. I couldn’t get the specifics of where he was going with it, but overall I saw he was a comedian on the up and he’s going for it. That’s what comedy is about – comedy is not about holding back! I never thought it would have an impact in the waywa it did. It didn’t bother me personally – you can take the piss out of me all day long,long I’m absolutely cool with that – but whenwhe people started making my music into a guilty pleasure because of it I realised it had some brand damage. The only way to get out of it was to write, I just had to keepkee writing songs. It’s crazy, because it has made what’s happened to me since be more.. If that hadn’t happened I would have just kept putting tunes out, it would have been a comeback of sorts.. So I’ve got no problem with Leigh Francis. Actually, I’ve beenbee asked so many times to do [ Francis’s current show]show Celebrity Juice. The vibe is fun, but no, I’ve had the fun taken out of me enough! By the looks of your torso you spent much of your time away pumping iron – when was the last time you challenged someone to an arm wrestle? Luke Wilkinson, Truro I haven’t arm-wrestled in a long time. Q offers] Nah. Arm-wrestling is something you have to know. What would my preferred physical challenge be? Table tennis! I’m decent. I can put it about. I’ve heard d Damon Albarn is good, so I’d like to play him, but Jimmy Napes apes who writes with Sam Smith is supposed to be the guy. He puts it out there that he’ll school you. So I’m tempted to go to his studio…
Your partiesties in Miami became legendary. What’s your top tip for hostinging the perfect soirée? Noel Carlson, via Q Mail
For me it was making everyone ryone feel like a VIP. At the TS TS5 parties it was drinks on tap, and the food and music had to be right – that’s how all this the comeback comeback] came about really. I started with a playlist that people messed with – one minute it was a hip-hop tune, the next The Macarena – so I reined it in and DJed. Then people said, “Grab a mic, host the party”, so I did. Then they went, “Do some of your own tunes.” I really wasn’t sure about playing my own music at my house party, but people got hyped so I put it on SoundCloud and that led to me getting radio play in the UK. It’s funny when I look back at it, every element was there, but it was a puzzle I had to put together.
According to 7 Days you made love for four of those days, whereas Sting once said he can do it for seven hours at a go. Did you compare “endurance” techniques when you worked together? Nina Walsh, Maidenhead No, we never got to that conversation! He was very much into crosswords when we met. It was amazing, he even let me sample 1993 track] Shape Of My Heart, but then we did the video for 2002 collaboration] Rise & Fall together too, but we never went down the tantric thing.
How do you chill on a Sunday? Oliver Keane, Wigan I properly relax it out because it’s “cheat meal day” on Sundays! I try to be healthy throughout the week, so Sunday is the day where you eat whatever you want. Oh man, we go in! Get in the big pizza and the huge cheesecake, and watch a movie. It’s a good day, Sunday.
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“I could see the funny side of Bo’ Selecta! You can take the piss out of me all day long, I’m absolutely cool with that.”
“Like what you see?” On a break from his weekly love marathon, 2002. A-ha! Alan Partridge, a long-term travel hotel dweller, like Craig.
“I just swallowed a question!” David keeps schtum; (top left) debut album Born To Do It. Just do it: Craig keeps his trainers box-fresh.
That’s for the birds: Leigh Francis as Craig on Bo’ Selecta!. Abs-solutely fabulous: the 7 Days singer turns on the blue steel down the gym. “Now, where did I put my left leg?”: Craig’s collaborator, Sting.