“We’re starting with you guys. We’re coming to you and then we have to go to Germany afterwards.”
Hot Chocolate founder member, Patrick Olive, is in good form ahead of the seminal British soul band’s much-anticipated gig in Da Vinci’s as part of the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival.
The big Grenadine, who’s the guy that came up with the rolling bass-line, which grounds the late great Errol Brown’s rangy ‘You Sexy Thing’ vocal on ‘Hot Chocolate’s’ signature tune, says he can’t wait to kick off the summer festival season in Derry.
The multi-instrumentalist and vocalist said he knows all about the festival and is looking forward to performing for the legendary Derry audience.
“It’s one of the big ones you have in your country and I really look forward to being part of it,” he claimed.
“We’ll be doing a lot of songs that the people know and a lot of songs that the people like to dance to and sing along with. We know that for sure.
“On the five or six occasions we’ve been to Ireland the audiences have always participated. They’ve always been appreciative of what we’ve brought for them and they’ve always gone down extremely well and we’re looking forward to seeing that happen when we come on Friday.”
Patrick, who founded ‘Hot Chocolate’ with pals Errol Brown, Franklyn De Allie, Ian King, Tony Wilson and Larry Ferguson back in the 1960s, says the ethos of the Derry Jazz Festival suits the group down to the ground.
“When we’re playing a jazz festival the songs that we do will cut though that as well.
“We include songs that will suit that occasion. If we go to a really poppy occasion then we’ll change the running order around to include some sing-along songs so we’re very adaptable to any situation that’s thrown at us.”
He agreed that all too often musical purism can drain the fun out of jazz, but that won’t be the case tonight.
“Some jazz festivals are too self-indulgent, with some musicians. A jazz festival should be fun. It’s not a pop festival but it should be fun as well.
“It shouldn’t be po-faced with people left thinking, ‘There are some musicians up there, what on earth are they doing?’ When people are going in for a lot of improvisation and becoming too self-indulgent, you know.”
The band’s laid back attitude stems from the early days when Patrick said they didn’t even consider themselves musicians.
“We were just sort of local guys around the neighbourhood, ‘back-a-yard’ [a reference to Olive (Grenada), Brown (Jamaica) and Wilson’s (Trinidad and Tobago) shared Caribbean roots] regular guys and people started coming up with ideas for songs.
“We weren’t musicians or anything. Errol worked at the Treasury. I worked for an ICT company. One of the guys was a manager in a men’s boutique and another guy was a manager of a company called China Craft that sold exclusive chinas so we weren’t pop musicians.
“Then we did a cover of a song called ‘Give Peace A Chance’ by The Plastic Ono Band because of what was happening in the world. We recorded that and they liked it and they released it on the Apple label for us.
“That sort of kick started our career and we just sort of went on from there.”
‘Hot Chocolate’ had further success with the single ‘Love is Life’, and were being produced by the legendary English record producer, Mickie Most, who also made hits for The Animals, Donovan, Lulu, Jeff Beck and Herman’s Hermits. Then things started to really take off, as Patrick explains.
“We did ‘Love is Life’ and, like I said, we weren’t expecting anything to happen because we weren’t musicians. We were just friends and it took off.
“My boss said to me, ‘Look, you’re a great band. You know what you’re doing. Take some time off.’ I had to go on ‘Top of the Pops’ and go back to work the next day. But he said, Look, go and try this and if it doesn’t work come back and work for us.”
The rest, of course, is history. The band went on to have phenomenal success all over the world, especially in the hard-to-break North American market.
Over the years the band recruited a host of members, including the current line-up of Tony Connor, Harvey Hinsley, Steve Ansell, Andy Smith and Kennie Simon, although the one constant throughout has been Patrick, alongside Errol until his death aged 71, two years ago.
The band boast an enviable repertoire including such instantly recognisable hits as ‘Every 1’s a Winner’, ‘It Started with a Kiss’ and, of course, ‘You Sexy Thing’.
“People from the Caribbean. We’re fun people. We laugh. That song? It’s not like it is in Europe, especially these days. If you see a beautiful young lady and say, ‘Hey, you sexy thing’, they’re more likely to call the police.
“But in the Caribbean if you see a nice - I’ll say it to you in the Caribbean way - ‘if you see a nice sexy ting walking down the street’, you say, ‘Hey, you sexy ting’ and invariably she will smile at you because to her it’s a compliment!
“So this is how the song started. This girl was so beautiful the guy said, ‘I believe in miracles, where you from, you sexy thing?’”
Ironically, their biggest hit wasn’t even supposed to be released as a leading single
“That song wasn’t an A-side, it was a B-side for a song called ‘Blue Night’. The Americans said, ‘You guys are crazy, why do you want to go and waste a song like that on the B-side for?’ They said forget about the ‘Blue Night’ that you sent us, re-do the A-side and send it back to us.”
‘Hot Chocolate’ take the stage in Da Vinci’s tonight at 10.30 p.m.