Paul Carrack on The Beatles, Mike & The Mechanics and losing the plot

Jenny Lee puts performers and artists on the spot about what really matters to them. This week, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Paul Carrack

Former Mike and the Mechanics lead singer Paul Carrack brings his solo gig to Belfast's Grand Opera House on October 21

1. When did you think about a career in music and what were your first steps into it?

I was already playing in semi-pro bands while at school in Sheffield. Just before leaving school we were invited to visit the local colliery to see if we fancied a career in coal mining. We travelled in the cage deep down underground then on a little train before finally making it on foot to the coal face where we had to crouch down on our knees. If anything convinced me to take my chances eking out a living playing in a band it was probably that experience.

2. Best gigs you’ve been to?

In the 60s I saw The Beatles (twice), The Rolling Stones, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and more, all Sheffield City Hall. My favourite gig was probably The Everly Brothers at London's Royal Albert Hall, sometime in the 80s.

3. Fantasy wedding/birthday party band?

James Brown, The Temptations and Curtis Mayfield, would be the perfect soul package.

4. The record you’d take to a desert island?

Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain.

5. And the book?

Probably something historical. I'm useless at following a plot, so fiction is out.

6. Top three films?

The Dresser, starring Albert Finny and Tom Courtenay; Fargo; and Kes, directed by Ken Loach.

7. Worst film you’ve seen and why?

That's tricky because nowadays if you're watching a film and you're not enjoying, you're not going to make it to the end.

8. Favourite authors?

Graham Greene, Alan Sillitoe and Terry Hayes.

9. Sport you most enjoy and top team?

Football first and foremost. My team, for my sins, is Sheffield Wednesday who recently suffered their greatest home derby defeat at hands of our fierce and increasingly noisy neighbours Sheffield United.

10. Ideal holiday destination?

Spain. It's not too far away, no jet lag and good chance of sunshine.We have a small apartment in the south which we bought just before the property crash. We probably couldn't give it away now, but we do try to get some use out of when we can.

11. Pet hate?


12. What’s your favourite:

Dinner? Spag Bol.

Dessert? A Magnum ice cream. Not allowed at home, only on holiday.

Drink? Barolo.

13. Who is your best friend and how do you know each other?

Peter Van Hooke, a friend of 30 years who has morphed into my manager/co-producer. We met at the first Mike & The Mechanic photo session in 1984. Pete was the original drummer and I was one of several designated vocalists. Neither of us are involved with the current manifestation.

14. Is there a God?

Probably not as many of us think of 'Him', but surely there's something behind this incredible creation? I believe in forces of good and evil, love, karma – that sort of stuff.

:: Paul Carrack performs at Belfast's Grand Opera House on October 21 as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival. For festival details and booking visit

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