Fill in the pages of tomorrows yet to be – talking Dodgy with Nigel Clark

What is it about dogs that they get vocal the moment interviews start? It’s normally my rescue lab-cross, Millie, but in this case Dodgy frontman Nigel Clark’s Bedlington whippet-cross is doing all the barking.

“As soon as I say hello to anybody … hang on … Indie, there’s no one coming! It’s a phone!”

Soon enough, Indie is settled – on Nigel, it turns out – and we can commence, first comparing notes on our four-legged housemates, in his case with a tale of the cat that comes into his garden and causes ructions.

It will be eight years this summer since I last met Nigel, after a storming couple of sets with Dodgy – the band he co-founded with previous WriteWyattUK interviewee Mathew Priest (drums), Andy Miller (guitar, on board since just after the band relocated to London and took their name) and Stuart Thoy (bass, who joined just in time for their most recent LP in 2017) – in the unlikely setting of Ribchester Village Hall, a rural Lancashire setting 10 miles north-east of Preston, one glorious summer’s evening, a Hollow Horse production that formed part of local promoter Carl Barrow’s visionary drive to put under-used community buildings to good use.

It was my eldest daughter’s first live show … and what a great one to open with. And among the many highlights (with my review here) were hits from their biggest-selling LPs, 1994’s Homegrown and 1996 follow-up Free Peace Sweet, plus inspired takes on the Sex Pistols’ ‘Pretty Vacant’ and Frank Wilson’s Northern Soul classic ‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)’, the latter including wondrous forays into The Velvet Underground’s’Waiting for my Man’ and ‘Run Run Run’ and Jonathan Richman’s Roadrunner. Does he remember that night?

“Yes! I do remember that! Wow! How many years ago? Eight? Isn’t it mad, eh. Time goes so quickly.”

It’s odd to think that’s a longer period than Dodgy were together first time around. But in seven years they sold more than a million records worldwide, releasing three albums and enjoying 12 top-40 singles, including ‘90s classics ‘Staying Out for the Summer’and ‘Good Enough’, the latter officially one of the most played tracks on UK radio in the last 25 years.

They reformed in 2012, comeback album Stand Upright In A Cool Place landing16 years after their double-platinum bestseller, to rave reviews, The Word magazine suggesting, ‘They’ve just made the record of their career by a country mile,’ The Guardian describing it a ‘revelation’, and the record also receiving four stars in Mojo, Uncut, Q, and various national newspapers.

Then there was 2017’s What Are We Fighting For, again well received. And now, 27 years after Free Peace Sweet (‘rather beautiful and serendipitous as the average age of the band was 27 when we made it’), from which ‘Good Enough’ was drawn, there are five celebratory shows, carrying on where they left off in 25th anniversary live celebrations of Homegrown, a tour that ended witha big night at O2 Shepherds Bush Empire.

Ahead of this interview, I revisited Free Peace Sweet, and it’s lost none of its impact. Such a great LP. I have all their albums on the shelf, but that remains my favourite.

“I don’t know if it’s my favourite. I think it was the most eclectic of the three albums we did to then. I think Homegrown was the most concise, from song to song. It sounded like the same band, while Free Peace Sweet, in that period of the ‘90s there were so many different musical styles going around, it was the start of the future, if you know what I mean, with so many influences – from the technology of drum and bass onwards.

“I was really into all that, and still am. I love technology, but I love nylon string folk guitars and fingerpicking. So it goes from the birth of music to where we are now, really. And I’m still the same – the eclecticism lives on.”

I get that, but also recognise that wouldn’t work if there wasn’t a great collection of songs beneath it. The quality of the songwriting is there. You talked about the birth of music, and for me there are nods to Ray Davies’ songcraft on that LP. And of course, The Who, something that comes across in so much that Mathew plays.

“Yeah! Well, it used to. He’s calmed down a bit now! He doesn’t wear his influences on his sleeve as much these days … that was 27 years ago. But those 27 years don’t seem like real years. It doesn’t seem that long a distance. In fact, since ‘97, what seems to have happened since the internet {took off}, time has taken a different tangent, I think.

“I was talking to my wife the other day, saying, ‘God, we’re middle-aged’ and she said, ‘There’s no such thing as middle-aged anymore.’ If you think back to when people were in their 50s years ago, they’d all be getting their clothes from that certain shop, the blokes would be wearing caps … Know what I mean? It’s not like that anymore. The gap has shrunk.

“I don’t know if I’m reliving my past, but my kids have grown up now, they’ve all moved out, so I feel like I can get along with my life again, going back into the things me and my wife like doing.”

Nigel, originally from Redditch, and Mathew, from Bromsgrove, moved to the capital from their Midlands roots to get Dodgy off the ground. But these days, Nigel’s in West Wales while Mathew’s in Wiltshire.

My interviewee tells me he’s coming up to 29 years of marriage, aged 27 at the time (yep, that number again). I told him I tend to find it’s those who married far earlier who have the midlife crises, perhaps building up this idea of what they felt they missed out on while bringing up children.

“And they’re normally not married now! You have to make a mistake. When I went down to London, I jacked in my job, my girlfriend, my house, then moved down to London to do music. Everything had to go. But I’ve done that in my life. I know what I want … and what I don’t want!”

Back on the subject of Free Peace Sweet, I’m struggling to think off the top of my head of another LP carrying the title track of the previous album. And that makes me smile.

“I don’t know why that happened! We always had a song that should have gone on the album before, and it never made it. And with ‘Homegrown’, it was destined to be on an EP that got shelved, as we didn’t like the other side. It was kind of Dodgy trying to do something different. It sounded like Stereo MCs, it was called ‘Don’t Go Back’ or something like that. We went, ‘This isn’t what we want to do.’ So we shelved it, and when we got to Free Peace Sweet we went, ‘What about ‘Homegrown’?’ And I liked the idea of putting it on and nodding to the previous album. Like ‘Grassman’ was supposed to be on the first album.”

I’m still struggling to think of a previous case where someone’s done that.

“I seem to think something’s gone on with Led Zeppelin. Somewhere along the line, they had a song that was supposed to be on another album, or whatever. But maybe it is unique. And I like that. One of the reasons for me to get into music in the first place was because … I got a job and bought a house in the mid- to late-‘80s, and started to live this life. So I wanted my next career to not be anything to do with business, and we made a point of trying to avoid all the business rubbish that goes on in the music industry.

“Like, when we first signed our publishing deal, we got two publishing companies to play video football against each other for us. To do different things, turn it a little bit crazy. I’d been in business. I didn’t want to be in business. I wanted to be in music, and the music would carry us. And it did, you know. We had that focus, we were very focused.”

That sounds like my own experience. Being in fairly well-paid jobs, but quitting to get on the path to doing what I really wanted to do, foregoing a comfortable wage to do it. But real life experiences teach you so much, and in my case, being in business at least convinced me what I didn’t want to do for a career.

“Yeah, I think that’s how we work it out really. It is what you don’t want, and sometimes I dip into this parallel world where there’s the Nigel that didn’t leave that job. And it’s quite useful to remember those things. Sometimes I write lyrics that are about not conforming to the life that society has. Even your parents told you, ‘You need to get a job, you need to do this.’ I look at this person I once was, the conforming one. I can bounce things off him sometimes.”

I mentioned Ray Davies before, and he shone a light on those situations at times, something The Jam echoed with songs like ’Smithers-Jones’.

“Yeah, and that line, ‘I’ve some news to tell you, there’s no longer a position for you’, for me personally, I wanted to be in control of all that. I didn’t want that to be my life. I could see how easy it is to do it. People get trapped.

“When I worked at Rover on the shop floor, I was only young, 18 or 19, but a lot of people started there at my age, then had kids and couldn’t leave, because they had children to look after. I was lucky in one way that my circumstance of not having children that young, not having much responsibility then, enabled me to be able to follow my dreams.”

Remind me how you met Mathew and how the Dodgy adventure came about.

“I answered an advert in a local paper, looking for a singer. I was just starting out, musically. I’d been doing it quite a few years, recording demos, and thought it was about time I got a band. I met Mathew that way, he was the drummer in the band, and we decided after about a year that we were really serious about it.

“I went to America, travelling, came back and decided I was either going to live in New York or London. And he said, ‘I’ll come.’ So we did it together, which was brilliant. It would have been difficult on my own. I tried to always be Mister Overconfident, saying, ‘I’m going’ but it was a lot better and easier that I had someone with me.”

You were based in Hounslow, West London. Was that purely a case of somewhere you could afford to live, close enough for the circuit?

“When we first moved down in 1988, we lived in Battersea, and as someone into punk, the soundtrack to our first year in London was The Story of The Clash. Mathew knew The Jam more, so I kind of influenced him there. Then his mum and dad went travelling and we sort of inherited their records, which is when I got into Sly and the Family Stone, in a big way. I still think they’re probably the greatest band ever.

“We were DJs as well. We bought a set-up and would go around colleges and places like that. So we knew what we liked, were vivacious in the music we wanted to listen to, and took on everything. There were things going on – techno, baggy, all that, but we were consuming Simon and Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, then The Beastie Boys, then Neil Young. And when we first heard Crosby, Stills Nash and Young, that was it. I love harmony. I don’t think anything’s complete if you can’t sing a harmony. I listen to a lot of Townes Van Zandt these days, and always sing harmony to him, thinking, ‘If I knew him …’

That makes sense. It’s threaded through your music. Take for example, Free Peace Sweet’s ‘You’ve Gotta Look Up’, with its Beach Boys sunshine vibe.

“I’m listening to an album at the moment, which I really recommend, a feelgood album that’s just come out by Panda Bear from Animal Collective and Sonic Boom from Spaceman Three, who sent him all these intros from ‘60s songs. They both live in Portugal. Some you may know, some you’ll definitely know, such as ‘Three Steps to Heaven’. Panda Bear put them into his sampler and started singing these new melodies and songs over them, and it’s joyous. It’s just sunshine. It’s amazing. It’s my album for the summer.”

An artist who has also released two solo LPs, 2006’s 21st Century Man and 2020’s Make Believe Love, clearly still has his ears open. We’re not going to find him solely on the Rewind ‘90s circuit, are we?

“Well, you might do! I’ve got three or four things on. The Dodgy thing at this moment in time, there’s no record label, there’s no finance for it. So we just do gigs, including these five for the first part of the tour, and hopefully we’ll carry on if we can. Then we’ve got about 25 festivals this year, so that’s great. So this is my income really. Dodgy is still earning my income, then I’m doing stuff with Chris Helme, from The Seahorses …”

Chris supports you on these dates, I see.

“Yeah, he’s great, and he’s coming down to mine, having recently moved by the sea, which is amazing.”

Nigel has his own studio at his new base in Ceredigion.

“I do a lot of electronic music as well. My plan is to start doing online gigs, at least video gigs from my studio. I’m aware that a lot of people aren’t going out nowadays. It’s very difficult to sell live tickets at the moment.”

It’s noticeable that these five Dodgy dates are all weekend shows.

“It’s ridiculous. Someone booked me the other day for a Monday. I said, ‘Monday? Are you sure about this?’ But two weeks before, he said, ‘No one’s coming.’ So I know that now. Society has changed so much, and the money flowing around isn’t fairly distributed in this country. Which is unfortunate, because we need people to have money for society to be able to grow. This is why we’re stagnating as a country right now.”

I was going to ask, 27 years on from Free Peace Sweet’s ‘U.K.R.I.P.’, where do you feel we’re at now? Slowly decomposing?

“Well, the system is broken, and we’re looking at a situation where, hopefully, although I don’t want it to get better at the moment – because I want it to get so bad that we never have these people back in power – I think we need a year zero in this country. We need to get rid of the rotten establishment causing this country so much pain. It’s so blatant, and it’s disaster politics. As soon as we get ready to go out on the streets, another disaster happens.

“They’re a horrible bunch. I’m talking about the Tories, definitely, but I’m also saying that politics in general is out of touch with people. We need to move on, to stop thinking people are stupid. We’re not stupid. We don’t even need politics. We’re a global world. The internet enables us to think globally. And what do we do? We shut it all down. It’s the end, and they know it. They just want to try and squeeze the last juice out of their control.

“It’s a sorry state of affairs. And you have Rishi Sunak getting really excited about the prospects for Northern Ireland, and you think, ‘Fucking idiot! We had that!’ I think we need that year zero, need to go back. I don’t know how it’s going to happen and what it’s going to look like, but I keep coming back to – and I did keep saying this when lots of people were going to vote for Brexit – that the European Union was a peacetime union. And look what’s happened since 2016 – the war in Ukraine escalated because of the weakness of Europe that we caused. I’m outraged about that, the Russia papers, Brexit … I’m angry. These people should be in prison. I think a lot of us think that.”

On a far happier note, back to Free Peace Sweet, and ‘Good Enough’. A modern classic. You found a formula for radio airplay longevity there, it seems. Not many acts manage that.

“We did, didn’t we! And it still earns more money than any of our other songs combined. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? If we didn’t have ‘Good Enough’, I wouldn’t be talking to you now.

“My wife was pregnant with our first son, Marley. We were living in London, and I remember accidentally writing it on the sampler. I got the beat and all that, originally from Lee Dorsey & the Meters. I was learning about samplers. We were making a nest for our newborn son to come into the world, and it was inspired by Bob Marley and George Harrison, really – ‘Here Comes the Sun’ and most of Bob Marley’s back catalogue, because of the positivity.

“It’s so easy to write in a negative sort of way. To write a positive song is so difficult, and yet it came together, When we were in the studio, we felt, ‘This is really good, this is gonna be a hit!’ Then the chorus came. It was a bit cheap, but I liked the harmonies and we managed to get a good hook. It’s one of those things, and it is a radio song. I used to write letters to the radio, going, ‘Why you putting techno on the radio in the daytime?’ People just want to be cheered up on the radio!”

“One of Those Rivers’ also has that feelgood vibe. Another for held-up lighters and swaying arms at festivals. And you’ve written some great festival songs.

“I’m really looking forward to playing that this year We played it at the time, but in the ‘90s we were all a lot younger, and just wanted to bounce around! We didn’t want to be introspective. This will be the first time doing the album in its entirety. It’s a fun thing. We’ve a lot of things to do, a lot of rehearsals in London in April. I’m really looking forward to seeing the guys. It’s been months!”

You clearly don’t live in each other’s pockets.

“We really don’t. Mathew lives in Salisbury, Andy and Stuart in London … and I couldn’t live any further away! We’ve got a keyboardist as well, Graham. Yeah, it’s all good.”

Regarding ‘One of Those Rivers’, that ‘From the rooftops’ line reminds me of classic children’s TV show Rainbow … prompting a chorus of that theme tune from Nigel.

“’Up above the streets and houses!’ It’s a really simple chorus actually. It’s that simplicity of two chords, the melody rising over it. I’ve always liked that. I like starting low then seeing where you can go, the chords staying the same. Those things just happen, but these days it’s really hard to finish music, I find. Doing an album in the ‘90s, we’d collectively finish. It’s very difficult to finish something on your own.

“That’s sort of why I’m more aiming towards the live thing from my house now. I’ve got a performance studio, with visuals, projectors, stuff like that, so this is what I’m hopefully doing very soon. But I feel I’m going to be playing songs that aren’t finished, but are atmospheric, with electronics, and could go on for 10 minutes. They’ll be jams, you know. I want to do something new, as I think the world has moved on in some way.”

You always did mix things up. I mention various classic influences, but on a song like ‘Ain’t No Longer Asking’ I not only hear The Kinks but late ‘90s bands like Gomez who followed in your wake, another more experimental band.

“Yeah, Gomez was about ‘98/’99, and we’d gone by then! One of my absolute favourite modern contemporary artists is Beck, and I think I took an influence from Mellow Gold for ‘Ain’t No Longer Asking’. Again, it was me using samplers, which to me are like guitars now – as much an instrument. Pressing a button to me is the same as holding a chord down, and twisting a knob is the same as strumming. It’s a new way of looking, and it’s fun.

“And I love taking all my stuff out in my campervan. A lot of them run on batteries, so you can do a jam in your van.”

On the subject of which, what became of the van featured on the cover of Homegrown?

“That was the band’s. We rented it at first, for the original Homegrown. Then 25 years later we re-did it and used my silver van, my Crafter.”

What happened to the original van?

“One of our fans bought it. It’s in a garage. He’s been doing it up for years. It’s still being looked after.”

Incidentally, Homegrown’s opener, ‘Staying out for the Summer’, their other big hit, was also written about Nigel’s days at Rover in Longbridge, south-west Birmingham, not far from his Redditch roots.

“It was like, you’re only young once, am I going to just stay in this place and rot away, or just get all those commitments then not be able to leave. I didn’t do very well at school. I went to a rubbish school, but then I realised I was in the summer part of my life. When you’re born, it’s spring, then summer is your 20s, and so on. That was the thinking behind that song, and I love that song. That’s probably my favourite of those I wrote for Dodgy.

“But I still feel a sense of guilt when I talk about my life, because I did it, working at Longbridge and all that, then I got away from it, and now I feel guilty that not everyone did. ‘You can’t go around saying that!’ That’s what my mum used to say. ‘It’s not for everybody, you know.’

Anyway, we went off the subject. You were telling me about the band’s roots in the capital.

“Yeah, we started off as The Dodgy Club in Kingston-upon-Thames in the late ‘80s. We started there just because we couldn’t afford to play gigs in London. When you’d play the Sir George Robey or the Lady Owen Arms, they’d charge £30, you’d be on the graveyard shift, and no one would be there because they’d got the bus home. Everyone was on that circuit, and I was like, ‘We need to find our own venue.’

“We had an eclectic music collection, from the Dead Kennedys to Deee-Lite and NWA to Neil Young. We had that on a poster. We crossed this generational thing. We found a venue that was a restaurant, and said, ‘You’ve got a basement without tables. Can we do it in two weeks and have this as a club on Tuesday nights? You keep the bar, and we’ll keep the door.’ And it’s been a venue since that day we started it. Beggars Banquet use it, there’s drum and bass clubs, and it’s open every night of the week as a small club for students.

“I’m so proud that the legacy of Dodgy is that we started a venue, now part of a recognised cultural centre, also associated with David Bowie, who did a lot of gigs in Kingston. And they’ve invited Dodgy back there in May or June. I’m very proud of that legacy.”

Of course, while you’re out celebrating your majorly successful third LP soon, it’s actually 30 years this spring since your debut, The Dodgy Album, was released.

“Yeah, and they’re all being re-released in June, on vinyl, which is great.”

Did you learn a lot from Ian Broudie (who produced that first record)?

“Yeah. He’s a great teacher. He won’t always give you the answer, but will point you in the right direction. I remember saying to him, and I didn’t know much about music, ‘I find this one really hard to sing, Ian,’ and he’d say, ‘Why don’t you change the key?’ I’d be like, ‘How? I don’t know how to!’ So you’d get the chance to revisit your songs. He’s always been brilliant like that. Such a good teacher, and so knowledgeable. We’ve done a bit of writing together. He’s a great guitar player, although he’s not so confident about his voice. And he’s a music lover.”

Talking of music lovers, you love to drop in those cover versions here and there.

“My wife said this morning, I’ve found a cover version for you,’ and it was Kurt Vile singing ‘Speed of Loneliness’ by John Prine. I said, ‘I already do it, love!’ She put it on, and I sang all the verses!

“I’ve a gig tomorrow in Doncaster and I’ll pick a few Northern Soul songs, like ‘Do I Love You’ by Frank Wilson …”

Ah, one of the highlights at Ribchester.  

“Yes, we did a band version, but I changed it during lockdown, made it more like Jackson C. Frank or Paul Simon, a finger-picking version. I’m going to release that, because someone came up to me the other day and was like, ‘That’s amazing! I love that song, and you’ve just done your own version of it.’ I like doing that, especially with soul songs. I love Northern Soul, and I’m perfectly matched for punk rock and technology too.”

Nigel was born in 1966, so like me came from an era where there were so many tribes to fit into when it came to music, kids often feeling they had to choose between Northern soul, punk, hard rock, and so on.

“Well, when I was into punk, you weren’t really supposed to like any other songs. You’d go to a school or youth club disco and there’d be a Northern Soul section, where older guys with their flares and talcum powder would get out there, do half an hour, then there’d be the punk bit, and the Angelic Upstarts would come on, ‘Teenage Warning’ or something. Then it’d be the rockers’ section with Deep Purple … But I liked it all!

“I was really into rock, and really into Led Zeppelin, because John Bonham was from Redditch and went to my school – he was born in the same area, Headless Cross, where I was born. So I’ve always liked John Bonham and Led Zeppelin … and I loved reggae!”

Again, the Midlands was at the epicentre of all that, with Steel Pulse’s Handsworth Revolution, UB40, and so on. 

“Exactly! UB40 in King’s Heath, 2 Tone in Coventry, all that. And I’ve got into more African music recently, probably through listening to a lot of Talking Heads, listening to Fela Kuti, for me one of the greatest. I’m such a fan, and I got my son to buy me a couple of albums last year on vinyl. I think they’re fantastic.

“And there you go, that whole idea of where the song’s not really finished, but just let it evolve live, rather than verse and chorus. I’m interested in pop melodies, but also in creating something that people can step into, and I think that’s what Fela Kuti did – 18-minute tracks with the bassline the groove and the girls singing. It’s amazing.”

As for home life, you’re clearly enjoying life in West Wales.

“We love it here. What I can’t get my head around is, the whole of Ceredigion from where we live all the way down to Cardigan, there’s only 73,000 people …”

And probably a lot less in winter, with so many second homes, sadly.

“Yeah, and where I’m from in Redditch, it’s 125,000 people. So to move here … you know, I’m feeling very Welsh at the moment.”

That area, particularly Aberystwyth, is where Brummies went for holidays, traditionally, wasn’t it?

“It was, and you hear loads of Brummie accents here, but also accents from Geordies, from Yorkshire, Manchester, and then you’ve got your Welsh-speaking people … and it’s just so friendly. You don’t feel like you’re being ripped off. And you know what, none of the people around here voted for Brexit. I feel safe, I feel amongst friends!”

Dodgy’s Free Peace Sweet anniversary shows take place at Bristol’s O2 Academy (May 20th), Edinburgh’s O2 Academy (May 26th), Manchester’s O2 Ritz (May 27th), Birmingham’s O2 Institute (June 3rd), and London’s O2 Forum in Kentish Town (June 10th), with support from The Supernaturals, back for some rare appearances after five top-40 hits in the late ‘90s, and Chris Helme, lead singer/songwriter of The Seahorses (formed with John Squire after he left The Stone Roses), their UK No 2 LP ‘Do It Yourself’ spawning three top-20 singles, Chris performing Seahorses tracks alongside solo material.

For tickets, head to For all the latest from Dodgy, visit And for more on the support acts, try and


About writewyattuk

A freelance writer and family man being swept along on a wave of advanced technology, but somehow clinging on to reality. It's only a matter of time ... A highly-motivated scribbler with a background in journalism, business and life itself. Away from the features, interviews and reviews you see here, I tackle novels, short stories, copywriting, ghost-writing, plus TV, radio and film scripts for adults and children. I'm also available for assignments and write/research for magazines, newspapers, press releases and webpages on a vast range of subjects. You can also follow me on Facebook via and on Twitter via @writewyattuk. Legally speaking, all content of this blog (unless otherwise stated) is the intellectual property of Malcolm Wyatt and may only be reproduced with permission.
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3 Responses to Fill in the pages of tomorrows yet to be – talking Dodgy with Nigel Clark

  1. laurent delmas says:

    great interview…any news about the future ?

    • writewyattuk says:

      Thanks Laurent. Much appreciated. Re future plans, nothing I was holding back, but maybe that’ll come out when the live shows come together.

      • laurent delmas says:

        I’m a really big french fan from the start. I saw the band several times in France and in uk. I will be at the next bristol gig.

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