Ali Campbell sticks with reggae as feud with brothers’ version of UB40 endures

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Ali Campbell

UB40 singer Ali Campbell has revealed tensions are still running high with his brother, Duncan, as both halves of the split band launch new projects.

Commenting on the ongoing legal battle between who should keep the right to use the 40-year-old British reggae band’s original name, Campbell said he does not understand “what they want”.

Describing his brothers Robin and Duncan’s side of the group as the “dark side”, the singer told the Press Association: “They are saying UB40, but not saying it’s not the original line-up.”

The singer recently reunited with former band members Astro and Mickey Virtue, this year releasing their latest album, Unplugged. Meanwhile, his brother’s line-up announced on Tuesday an eight-day UK tour next December.

“We go out as ‘UB40 featuring Ali, Astro and Mickey’ so people know what they are getting,” The Birmingham artist said.

“They (his brother’s line-up) are suing us, trying to stop us using the name, but they have already got the name so I don’t understand what they want really.”

The original band split eight years ago when founder Campbell quit over a disagreement about management, and has since criticised the direction his brother took.

He said: “I sat back and let it happen for five years without saying a dickie-bird, but when they made a country album and I reunited with Astro we thought, rather than let them destroy the legacy of my band, we would continue to promote reggae music.

“I certainly wouldn’t want people thinking I am still part of the dark side – we are much better.”

But he added that the row had caused problems in creating the album, putting off producers such as Warner Brothers from taking on the project.

“They were too scared, so we eventually went with Universal,” he commented.

Describing his own 11-piece group as the “hottest reggae band in the world at the moment,” the 57-year-old said Unplugged, which does not use bass guitar, is “unprecedented”.

“We just went with guitar, bass drum and a lot of percussion, and we didn’t really think about it until we had actually finished and realised we had done a reggae album without bass – which is unprecedented really.

He summarised the Unplugged sound as “cuddly reggae” more accessible to a wider audience, explaining: “A lot of people are intimidated by big heavy bass, especially the Americans and older people, but people have always enjoyed our rock n’ roll side.”

The collection also features vocals from Campbell’s own daughter, Kaya, who he fondly described as “absolutely fabulous” with a “great voice”.

To accompany the release of Unplugged, the trio have harked back to their earlier years, putting their name to a new bottle of special edition Red Red Wine.

Created by Eminent Life, the Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend is available to buy directly from the makers’ website this season.

A keen wine enthusiast, Campbell said he was “pleasantly surprised” by its “beautiful” flavour, adding: “It’s very light and fruity – like our Unplugged album.

“Put them together and it’s the perfect night-in gift for Christmas.”

It will be a short festive break for the group, who will fly out to New Zealand on December 27, before embarking on a year of touring and recording around the globe.

They already have plans for two new albums, based on work with reggaeton artists and renowned bands such as No Doubt and The Wailers, as well as Jamaican group Raging Fyah.

According to Campbell: “There’s a whole new movement coming out of Jamaica at the moment, coming out with good lyrics, conscious lyrics.”

Speaking about being back on tour with two bus loads of band members, he said: “There are 11 of us so we have a lot of mouths to feed and we work hard. But we are enjoying ourselves.”

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