“I’m conceited enough to think that we did rather a good job…”

2009 marked a significant year in OMD’s history with the band performing with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in the summer, while the autumn schedule included OMD touring alongside Simple minds for a series of special concerts. History Of Modern was still yet to be released and in this brief interview,Andy McCluskey talked about OMD performing live again – and how his guitar had become a star…

Can you tell me a little about what you’ve been doing lately?

I’ve been tracked down by a guy called Paul Balmer. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen them – Haynes car manuals, where basically they take the car apart and show details and drawings. Well Haynes have commissioned him to do a series on guitars and he’s done Fender Strat, Gibson Les Paul and the Fender Stratocaster.

He’s doing one on Fender basses and he found out that I had a ’53 Fender Precision Bass. So he’s taken it all apart and done all this forensic photography, looked into the details of all the serial numbers and everything and my 1953 Fender Precision is going to be the cover guitar of this Haynes Fender Bass manual when it comes out! (laughs)

That’s great news. When is the book due for release?

It will probably come out towards the end of the year or early next year but I’ll let you know. Perhaps we can get a copy to give away on the website. The strange thing is I said “How did you know I had this bass?” and he said “Well because my mate Geoff Ireland sold it to you in 1983 – I used to be in a band with Geoff Ireland!” (laughs).

It turns out it’s serial number 0905, it’s the 905th guitar that Leo Fender ever made. It’s quite a rare beast.

So it’s certainly a valuable piece of equipment

Yeah, it was put together in ’54, but with parts that were made in late ’53. It’s incredible, because he’s like “oh the pick-up was a 1967 blah-de-blah-de-blah one and the neck was made by so-and-so, the body was made by so-and-so-so-and-so” – they’re all these people that worked in the factory – “the paper capacitor is the original one from 1954”, it’s all these serial numbers that he’s checked out with his bloody microscope – he’s a total anorak! But you know a loveable one who does these wonderfully precise books.

So my guitar is going to be a star. And the reason why it’s in the book is because I play left-handed, even when I got this I knew it was an antique because it was already 30 years old and so I’ve never used it or messed around with it. It’s never had the nut cut (the piece at the top of the fret board that holds the strings in place), it’s never hardly been played by me. So nothing has changed on it in the 26 years I’ve owned it. You see, whereas my other basses have had replaced pick-ups and replaced pots (the rotary control switches) because they’ve all been used on stage and got rusty, worn-out and sweaty.

What are your thoughts on OMD performing live again? With lots of older bands touring again there’s always this risk of people being disappointed

Well I think that’s the dilemma. It’s funny actually because when I was talking to Duncan Fielding yesterday, he said he was really, really nervous when he came to see us in Hamburg in 2007, because that was the first gig he came to see us on that tour, and it was this little sweaty club and he said he was shitting himself, he was like “Please God don’t be shit, don’t ruin all my happy memories!” and he said he couldn’t believe it when it turned out to be even better than he expected.

That was really why those first few gigs in May 2007 were so exciting for everybody. We were convinced we were going to be good because we’d been rehearsing, we thought we can do this, we’ve learnt how to do this again and it sounds good. But you know we weren’t sure what the audience would think and the audience weren’t sure what they were going to think. And you’re right – you do go see bands or you buy their new album after 20 years and you’re catastrophically disappointed. So I’m conceited enough to think that we did rather a good job and I’d like to keep on doing it for a few more years.

Paul Balmer’s Fender Bass Manual is available from Amazon.

This interview originally appeared on the Official OMD Website on 5th September 2009.

Original interview by Paul Browne
Revised text 29th January 2014