Alabama 3 in Cardiff Nov 5 2009

The Coal Exchange reopens tonight with a concert by Alabama 3, the band that closed the venue. Singer Larry Love talks to Gavin Allen

IT’S not often you get to make a rock star’s day. Larry Love is enjoying a family holiday when we catch-up, and while he’s clearly very happy being run ragged by his two children, a little snippet of news from back home cranks up his mood a few notches.

Love didn’t realise Alabama 3 would be playing at The Coal Exchange in Cardiff tonight. The gig had been moved from a previous venue once The Coal Exchange declared its intention to reopen a few months back.

Alabama 3 were the last band to play the venue before it closed for a subsequently unfulfilled redevelopment in 2007, and he is delighted to return there.

“I didn’t know that,” he blurts out, rousing his gravel-dry voice from its usual Hemingway-esque economy with words.

“You’ve just made my week. The last gig we played there was beautiful and I hope we kept the ghosts in the old venue happy that night. But it had a sort of melancholy to it because of the occasion.

“The thing is, growing up in Merthyr, I always remember reading about it.

“It was always part of Cardiff’s musical identity, but all over the country people are ripping the heart out of our rock and roll heritage to build flats.”

Even better news for Larry followed a few days later when Funeral For A Friend, who had cheekily nipped in ahead of Alabama 3 to play the first gig and reopen the venue, were forced to postpone their gig, meaning A3 will reopen it.

“Oh, the serendipity,” he deadpans.

A3 have a reputation as one of Britain’s best live acts and have carved out a niche for themselves without ever having a high-charting single or No.1 album,

They have done it with their raucous live shows where the music is blissed-out, acid-house, country-soul blues-funk, the vibe is knowing irony and the overall effect is potent.

But they are senior heads on the music scene and now have their own studio and nightspot (Jamm in Brixton) where they are currently finishing off their latest album, Revolver Soul. Among the stars contributing to the album are Shane McGowan, Huey Morgan of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals and Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell.

“We have always got other people in on our records, taken our friends with us,” says Love.

“Johnny Borrell used to sing with us back in the day before Razorlight even existed. I haven’t seen him in 10 years but I phoned him up and said ‘Oi!, It’s your uncle Larry. Get your backside down here now.’

“He turned up looking like some male model millionaire rock star but I’m glad to see he’s doing all right for himself. He didn’t have any problem returning the favour.”

Revolver Soul is to be A3’s first album on their own label, and they plan to sign other artists, to show their independent ways.

“Kids these days can make a record in their bedroom, get it on the internet and have a hit with it,” offers Love.

“What we want to do is show people that it’s not all about selling records. It’s about building a brand that your fans trust and then honouring that.

“We are quite excited about the future because we have no idea what is going to happen.”

So with their mini-empire mid-build, are these musical outlaws in danger of becoming respectable businessmen?

“That’s quite offensive,” spits Love.

“Who are you calling respectable?”

by Gavin Allen, South Wales Echo