by Nathan Bevan, South Wales Echo
Nov 16 2011

Alabama 3’s new album was born from the recent London riots as the group watched their beloved Brixton burn. Here singer Larry Love tells Nathan Blake about finding in hope in the ashes, growing up in Merthyr and Bible reading with Bez...
FOR many, trying to work out the underlying causes behind the recent London riots only raised more questions than answers.
And, while Alabama 3 frontman Larry Love can’t profess to know the exact reasons behind the violent chaos that erupted just a few feet away from him, he is certain of one thing, however.
He can now tell which part of the country a police van has come from just by the sound it makes.

“It’s true, I’ve become a connoisseur of sirens,” says the gravel-voiced singer, his deep Valleys baritone still evident despite having lived in Brixton for two decades.
“They came from forces all over to deal with the trouble and I could tell the Welsh ones straight off.
“The Yorkshire vans had these funny ding-dong noises, but it was the one from the Met who were the loudest – they sounded like proper dubstep,” laughs Love.
And their combined shrill cacophony proved lucky for the band – dubbed the world’s only crypto-Marxist blues/country/techno outfit – as it provided the perfect soundtrack to the making of their newest album, an inflammatory state-of-the-nation address entitled, Shoplifting 4 Jesus.
“We had the best seats in the house for the riots, our first floor studio being right in the thick of it,” says Love, whose cult outfit provided the theme to the hit HBO gangster drama The Sopranos in 1999.
“Suddenly the album’s subject matter – about how young people are being neglected and demonised in our society – became all the more topical.
“Everyone needs to look at how we treat kids today and start investing in them, something Alabama 3 has been doing for years.
“We work with various outreach centres, taking guys who’ve had rough lives and come from broken homes and getting them apprenticeships at our studio, showing them the ropes and giving them a glimpse of which way their lives could go.
“We’re not like Coldplay and stuck up in our ivory towers, we’re out there on the frontline with the youth and listening to what they’ve got to say.”
Having grown up in the Valleys, Love (real name Rob Spragg) is well versed in the frustrations that come with been on the wrong side of the ‘have and have not’ divide.
“I grew up in the shadow of Cyfarthfa Castle,” says Love.
“On one side of the fence you’d have this huge imposing building with massive gardens, while on the other were the remains of the closed steelworks and no jobs, no money and no hope.”
That sense of righteous indignation nurtured Love’s passion for punk, which he’d sneak onto his strict Mormon parents’ turntable whenever they weren’t in.
“Mum caught me with a Black Sabbath album once,” he laughs.
“She made me go to the bishop to explain my dodgy musical choices to him.”
Once arriving in London though, Love discovered the club scene and, by mixing in those loud guitars and the gospel tunes instilled in him since birth, happened upon what would become his band’s signature sound.
But it’s to the theme of their latest record that Love, clearly narked by the all this talk of economic injustice and cream-licking corporate fat cats, returns.
“I mean, what’s the difference between a load of kids robbing trainers and these bankers leaving the poor and vulnerable unable to pay for their heating this Christmas?” he snorts.
That ire is shared by Cockney hardman actor Ray Winstone who recites a verse from Exodus on the opening track in typically foreboding style.
“Ray he was reading aloud this passage about how there should be no money lenders and bankers in the house of the Lord and asked if he could add his own little bit at the end?’
“Naturally I said yes and then he growls, ‘Kill ’em all’.
“I just laughed and went, ‘Ray, that’s not actually in the Bible mate’, and he replied, ‘Yeah, but it b***** well should be’!”
Also on the guest list of unlikely religious icons is notorious party animal and former Happy Monday’s dancer Bez doing Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.
“About half way through he turned to us and, in the those heavy Mancunian tones, goes, ‘You know what, I’ve never read the Bible before, but it makes sense don’t it’?” says Love.
Perhaps they should have rigged up some speakers and got him to address the crowds directly, it may have even stopped the riot dead in its tracks.
“Or started another one,” he laughs.