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I'm a prisoner of the indie mainstream, says singer
from The News, November 16, 1998
by Barry Rutter

Disallusioned by 15 years in the music business, Roddy Frame walked away... only to discover he couldn't live without it. Aztec Camera's contract with Warner Brothers had come to an end, commercial success had long gone and Roddy had had enough.

"When I finished with Warner Brothers I didn't promote the last album, I went to Thailand," he says.

"Within a week I was looking for a guitar because I was getting ideas and I wanted to play it. I learned by walking away from music that it's in my blood. I had no chance."

He illustrates his position perfectly, saying: "Bruce Springsteen used to finish his set by shouting 'I am a prisoner of rock and roll'. I should really shout 'I am a prisoner of mainstream indie pop.'

"Anyway, there's nothing else I can do."

As well as discovering he couldn't live without writing songs and playing music, he has also discovered people still want to hear him.

Ten years after Somewhere in My Heart stormed to number three, Roddy has been gaining radio airplay, appearing on TV and selling loads of copies of his new album, The North Star, on the Independiente label.

It's his first taste of true indiedom after a whole career with Warners - and he's loving it.

"The whole thing is pretty new for me, it's like starting again," he says.

"I was at Warner Brothers for a long, long time - since I was 18 and I'm 34 now. In my 30s lots of changes happened.

"I am now less experimental, I did loads of dabbling not always to their tastes. I made pretty eclectic albums.

"It's like coming home, I am on a small label and it's very hands on. This is what I feel. It's stripping it back to the songs."

A lot of that chance has come simply with age, he says, and it's one of the reasons he is now plain Roddy Frame instead of Aztec Camera, which was basically just him anyway.

"When you get into your 30s it's time to use your own name," he laughs.

"Anyway, a lot of the neuroses I had in my 20s have dissolved, a lot of big questions have resolved themselves. I feel more focused on music now.

"I started to rediscover or revisit a lot of the ideas I had when I was in my teens, like how I wanted the band to sound, the books I was reading, I have got into film... a lot of the things I haven't had time to do.

"You get more time and space because you are not out dancing all night. In your 20s it's your duty to be out there burning the candle at both ends all the time.

"It's a relief when you get to 30 and you can stay in and read a book... 'I can't go home, I'm in my 20s!'," he chuckles.

The songs are simpler.

"Oh yeah, if I shout to the engineer and he says three and a half minutes I say 'Yes I might as well stop'," agrees Roddy.

And it's paid off - the single, Reason for Living, got him noticed again, and The North Star is being quoted as one of the albums of the year in the music press.

"I was surprised that we got so much airplay. I didn't see how they could fit it on daytime radio, but old friends came out of the woodwork like Chris Evans and Bob Geldof.

"When I am sitting writing the songs at the kitchen table I haven't got one eye on the charts, but you have to have a certain amount of commercial success to carry on."

But while he's looking ahead, others will always hark back to his glorious past. Did it bother him that TFI Friday wanted him to play Somewhere in My Heart rather than new material?

"I just concentrate on the fact that I am on TV. Would you rather be playing Somewhere in My Heart on TFI Friday, or sitting at home watching TFI Friday?"

It's a good point.   

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