Fame made Fred Fair­brass too sexy, even for his Ford Fi­esta

The hit sin­gle made Fred Fair­brass of Right Said Fred a mil­lion­aire, but his cel­e­bra­tions were muted, he tells Sarah Ewing

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Front page - Read our full se­ries of Fame & For­tune in­ter­views tele­graph.co.uk/go/fame For more in­for­ma­tion about Right Said Fred and their forth­com­ing con­certs, go to right­said­fred.com

Mu­si­cian, song­writer and ac­tor Fred Fair­brass, 60, is one half of Right Said Fred, along with his older brother Richard. Fred is mar­ried to his se­cond wife, Alex, with whom he has a daugh­ter, Ma­rina. He splits his time be­tween Barcelona and Berk­shire.

How did your child­hood in­flu­ence your work ethic and at­ti­tude to money?

My par­ents in­stilled in us the im­por­tance of be­ing punc­tual. We grew up in East Grin­stead, Sus­sex. Dad was a printer and he came from a long line of print­ers.

Once Richard, who’s three years older, and I were in our early teens, Mum got a job in the sales team of a garage. My dad was cyn­i­cal about any­thing vaguely au­thor­i­tar­ian, so we def­i­nitely got that from him. From 10 or 11, I had a pa­per round and at 15 I started work­ing in a record shop be­fore mov­ing to Top­shop in Lon­don, while Richard col­lected bot­tles in a pub.

When did you re­alise mu­sic was go­ing to be your ca­reer?

I was ac­tu­ally quite a good foot­baller, so it could have gone ei­ther way, but deep down I knew I prob­a­bly wouldn’t be good enough.

I went to a school gig and saw I was the only bloke there among all the girls, so I thought those were good odds. I started play­ing gui­tar, mostly self-taught, when I was 13, and writ­ing song lyrics came nat­u­rally.

We started tour­ing in the late Seven­ties with Joy Di­vi­sion and moved to Lon­don in 1981 when I was 25. In a sea of post-punk new wave mu­sic, we were a quirky pop band with pro­gres­sive rock in­flu­ences. We didn’t hit it big for an­other 13 years when we re­leased I’m Too Sexy.

Did you worry about your fi­nances in the early days?

Yes, all the time. By our late 20s we de­cided we were pretty much un­em­ploy­able, but hav­ing got into fit­ness by the mid-eight­ies we both knew we could fall back on work­ing there or in bars.

It was only when we got picked up by EMI Amer­ica while play­ing in New York in 1987 that we knew the mu­sic we were do­ing was good enough.

Did you re­alise I’m Too Sexy was go­ing to be such a big hit?

I knew it was dif­fer­ent, but all the record com­pa­nies we went around told us it wasn’t a hit. Even our agent then sacked us be­cause he thought the al­bum was dread­ful.

So we self-pub­lished and self­funded, and have done so ever since, bar a small blip in 2007. It was the best de­ci­sion of our ca­reer as it meant we had to­tal con­trol. We bor­rowed £1,500 to make the sin­gle and then an­other £3,000-£4,000 to make the video.

But with no ma­jor record deal, get­ting ra­dio air­play was go­ing to be a strug­gle.

How­ever, we got our break when a friend of a friend got in con­tact with Si­mon Bates, who had the big­gest show on Ra­dio 1. The re­ac­tion was in­stant.

What’s the big­gest fi­nan­cial les­son you have learnt?

Just be­cause things are go­ing well doesn’t mean peo­ple aren’t mak­ing mis­takes, and when things are go­ing badly it doesn’t mean ev­ery­one’s do­ing things wrong.

We’d as­sumed, be­cause I’m Too Sexy was huge, fol­lowed by Don’t Talk and

Deeply Dippy, that ev­ery­one was do­ing a good job. It’s only when things start to un­ravel that you re­alise how dif­fer­ent it could have been, and that in­cludes putting the blame on our­selves. Af­ter our hits the ma­jors were like bees to honey be­cause we be­came a cash cow, but they didn’t have our best in­ter­ests at heart.

What’s been the best-paid part of your ca­reer?

Song­writ­ing, although pass­ing on writ­ing for the Spice Girls was a big mis­take on our part. Even though pro­mot­ing a record glob­ally is un­be­liev­ably ex­pen­sive, it was worth it be­cause I’m Too Sexy was cre­at­ing a lot of money.

When our ca­reer hit the skids around 1996, bizarrely our cashqflow was still go­ing up be­cause our three main hits were be­ing so heav­ily used in movies and ad­ver­tis­ing. Amer­ica fell in love with I’m Too Sexy, so we had on­go­ing cam­paigns with Ford, Ko­dak and Garnier, to name a few.

So, weirdly, while we couldn’t get on telly our­selves or get air­play as eas­ily, our roy­alty cheques were mount­ing up.

What’s been the worst de­ci­sion of your ca­reer?

When we re-signed to our orig­i­nal record la­bel in 2007. The deal came crash­ing down when the la­bel be­came in­sol­vent.

What did you treat your­self to af­ter the suc­cess of I’m Too Sexy?

A Ford Fi­esta, would you be­lieve? Hardly a posh car, but to me it was be­cause it had elec­tric win­dows. Af­ter strug­gling for money for such a long time, I couldn’t be­lieve our luck, so I didn’t want to go silly.

My big­gest pur­chase af­ter the hits was buy­ing houses for cash, which in Lon­don in the early Nineties proved to be an in­cred­i­bly smart thing to do. Both Richard and I bought in Ful­ham, and the mar­ket was very good to us. But not so good when the re­ces­sion hit and the la­bel fell apart at the same time. The bank we were with was un­be­liev­ably preda­tory and hor­ri­ble.

And your worst pur­chase?

A mod­el­ling agency in the late Nineties. We had some spare cash at the time, but it was a good les­son that just be­cause you’re suc­cess­ful in one area doesn’t mean it will trans­fer to other busi­ness ar­eas. We got ripped off and lost a lot of money, but it served us right, re­ally.

How com­fort­able are you deal­ing with fi­nances?

Very. I pay all our bills and all the in­voices come straight to me. When you run a small ship, you have to be mind­ful. We work with a lot of in­de­pen­dent mu­si­cians and I don’t want them wait­ing a month for their money. When a bill comes in, I pay it.

If you have a hit in Amer­ica it can take up to a year for the roy­al­ties to come through, so you’re at the mercy of the ex­change rate at the time they stump up.

Does money make you happy?

No, and if you’re for­tu­nate enough to do well, the state will not look af­ter you. When our mum got Alzheimer’s, and sub­se­quently died last year, the state walked away. If we hadn’t had ad­di­tional fi­nances to soften the blow, it would have been an even more bru­tal ex­pe­ri­ence. You need that safety net. As a so­ci­ety we need to re­spect and take care of our el­derly bet­ter.

Do you in­vest in stocks and shares?

We have a small port­fo­lio and an in­vest­ment man­ager who over­sees it for us. It’s not a huge amount, but it gives us a cush­ion and a lit­tle bit of div­i­dend ev­ery year. It also fi­nanced our new al­bum and tour.

What are your fi­nan­cial pri­or­i­ties over the next 10 years?

We’re both mul­ti­mil­lion­aires many times over, so we could re­tire if we wanted, but there’s still stuff we want to ac­com­plish. I think our new al­bum, Ex­actly!, is great.

What is one thing that you would change about the busi­ness world?

I’d make it il­le­gal for record la­bels to hold artists’ rights in per­pe­tu­ity.

What char­i­ties do you work with or do­nate to?

They’re all per­son­ally mean­ing­ful to us. Richard’s part­ner died in 2010 from can­cer, so we work with the Royal Mars­den and do their char­ity walks. We re­cently gave our video bud­get to Cri­sis, the home­less char­ity.

Fred (left) and Richard Fair­brass at a fes­ti­val in Aus­tria last year. Be­low, Fred per­forms in Scot­land in 2012

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.