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Music Interview

Pete Waterman and The Sheilas

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For ladies who insure their cars, it’s recently been claimed, Sheilas Wheels are superstars. Readers, we hate to be cynical, but we can’t help thinking that this is a ruddy great con. The Sheilas couldn’t give a toss whether we own a rusty old Morris Minor (probable) or a gleaming Mercedes Benz (as likely as Jodie Marsh becoming Prime Minister). Why? Because they’ve got their hearts set on pop stardom. In fact, they’ve just cut a single with Stock Aitken Waterman, the eighties hitmaking trio behind ‘I Should Be So Lucky’, ‘You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)’ and ‘Love In The First Degree’.

When we caught up with The Sheilas to discuss ‘(I’m So) Happy Happy (You’re Mine)’, their parenthesis-raping new single, we were given a very special surprise: the one and only Mr. Peter Waterman OBE turned up to tell us about his new TV show. Hurrah! Read on to find out whether Carly, Cathi and Emma – ‘The Sheilas’, as they prefer to be known – managed to get a word in edge-ways when Pete began chatting about his five decades in the music biz.

So, how did your collaboration with The Sheilas come about?

Pete: "Obviously I'd seen the advert, but I knew more about the advert than anyone else because I'd been involved in Priscilla, Queen of The Desert. I saw the fun element in the advert and then I actually met the girls and we talked. I think the car ad is the car ad - that to me is what it is. I didn't want to be involved in that. But I had another idea: I get asked to do these TV shows all the time, but I hate to go back. I can't sit in the room with Bananarama or Jason Donovan or Kylie - they're not going to come. Mike and I have been looking all year for something to work on and it had to be fun - the girls were prepared to be fun. Some guy on the radio station was saying he was so happy, happy that Mike and I were working together again, and I said to Mike: 'There's our title!'

Girls, when you won your parts in the advert, did you ever imagine you'd become pop stars?

Emma: "I had a funny feeling, actually, because obviously we can all sing."

Cathi: "We knew it was going to be big - we had that feeling as we were doing it. It just seemed to be so popular. People kept telling us, whenever we were together and all dressed up, how much they loved the ad."

Emma: "And they kept asking us to sing at their universities, so we put a set together and it just went down a storm. Then we started thinking: 'You know what, we could sell records."

So how would you describe the single?

Pete: "Happy happy!"

Carly: "It's really fun, and there's a dance routine to go with it. It's absolutely perfect pop."

Pete: "It's one of those records where you either love it or you hate it - it'll divide households like Liverpool and Everton. You love 'em or you hate 'em. That's pop music: it doesn't sit on the fence. It is what it is, and if you can't see the funny side, and you want to look more deeply into what pop music can provide the nation, then you ain't into this and you won't be into the TV show. If you ain't into frivolousness, you won't like it. I don't care about the economy, personally - I only care about my economy."

What can we expect from the TV show?

Pete: "There'll be an insight into pop history, and there's a couple of bits that have never been heard before. One of the guys on the TV crew is an absolute Stock Aitken Waterman fanatic and he's uncovered so much stuff: tracks that were never finished, artists singing other artists' songs, bits of talking in the studio. This show is about me playing not just Kylie and Jason, but also some of the hits that people didn't know we did. There's also space for brand new artists who are having hits all over Europe. There's this new scene going on - it's been going on for 18 months now - that's very underground. 'From Paris To Berlin' is a song from this scene. It takes these records 18 months before people get to hear them, but we're going to show some of them on the show. I never knew that pop music could be underground. It's ridiculous to think that The Sheilas could be an underground record. We went to Trannyshack the other night and it was packed! When we take the Sheilas on the street, young kids gasp, yet people in TV and radio aren't interested. I've been here before - more than once. The idea of the show is to show people that there's more out there."

So is The Sheilas a long-term project? If this single doesn't do as well as you'd hope, will you record another?

"That depends, really, on what we all think. Nobody knows whether they have a job in the music industry three weeks from now. People say: 'Oh, I've got a five album deal,' but it's nonsense. If your next album flops, you ain't making another one. We're having a good time and it ain't a lot of fun - when we ain't having a good time, and it ain't a lot of fun, we'll stop. We are working on other tracks for the girls - in fact, we've recorded three tracks already."

Have you got plans to work with any other artists?

"We want to work with new artists, but we're taking it step by step. We've taken the brick bats before and we don't care what people think. We'll stand up and take the bullets.

If Kylie's manager rang up and asked you to produce a track for her next album, would you do it?

"No. I'll tell you why: 20 years is a bloody long time. 20 years ago I had defend Kylie to the press. Kylie was the Antichrist for five years of her life, and you know what, I defended that for five years. Kylie and I are still the greatest friends, you know, and we have been. But people around tend to forget what it was like back in '87, '88, '89. But I don't forget and Kylie doesn't forget. It was not fun. How many times we got attacked for producing a soap star! We've done that. She's working with the Scissor Sisters now - they can have the challenge. I've done my bit! I won the gold medals. I was the Olympic champion for seven years running - I don't need to prove anything. I'm not carrying that torch again!"

Has anyone else asked to work with you?

"Two or three companies have heard the record and asked us to do something for them, but we're not sure yet. Our legs aren't fit. We've got to get fit on this record - we're learning more about how the market's changed. We could take a few bob of people and make a few average records, but who wants to make average records? I've spent my life making hits."

Would you ever appear on a reality show again to find new talent?

"The problem I have with reality shows now is they've become too TV. Where reality TV has gone now is that it's television and it's not about the music. When I was on reality TV - for two, three, four series - I always put the music first. In the last two series I did I could see the editors didn't want the music. All the editors wanted was the silly faces, the swearing and the fights and, you know, that's not for me. Not for me. That's not what I do. Simon (Cowell) does that very well.

Do you think The X Factor is capable of finding a big star?

"Well, it hasn't so far, has it? I'm not gonna knock Simon - Simon's my best mate. Simon does a fantastic job. I've never seen The X Factor because he's my best friend. All I know is I haven't seen anybody yet last as long as Girls Aloud, which was my show. People say to me: 'Oh the last show you were on was a flop.' What rubbish! The last show I was on was Girls Aloud: I had numbers one, two and three on the Christmas chart."

Are you fans of Girls Aloud?

Carli: "I love Girls Aloud. They're amazing. People keep trying to stir it up, but there's no rivalry."

Cathi: "People keep asking us who would win in a fight between us and them..."

Emma: "But they're nothing like us. How can you compare?"

Pete: "We've got a car!"

Who are your favourite girl-groups from pop history?

Cathy: "The Supremes."

Carli: "I love the Spice Girls, but I've always loved Girls Aloud ever since I watched the show with Pete."

Cathy: "But when I was growing up, Bananarama were the hippest, coolest group around, so I'll always have a soft spot for them."

And Pete, of every song you've ever worked on, do you have a favourite??

"My next one. Right now this is the most important record of my career and I have to make it work. If this isn't that important, and I can remember another record, then I'm not doing this properly. I haven't worked with Mike for 12 years, so, for me, if this is a hit, it's of bigger importance to me than any other hit I've ever had before."

Pete Waterman's World of Pop airs on Smash Hits at 3pm on August 18, 21 and 23, and on The Hits at 4pm on August 19.

'(I'm So) Happy Happy (You're Mine)' by The Sheilas is released on September 17.

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