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Martin Compston on Arctic Monkeys: ‘There are no egos’

The Line of Duty star, in his own words, describes how it felt to meet his heroes, then go partying with them, and THEN watch them in concert from the side of the stage

When I was asked to interview Arctic Monkeys for The Big Issue, the first feeling was panic. You want to do it so much. I was supposed to meet the boys in London, then it was potentially in Las Vegas – it felt like one of those ones that just ain’t gonna happen. So when it all fell into place, there was just elation. Doing it for The Big Issue is an amazing gesture from the band. And they are heroes of mine and have been for a big part of my life. The fact that we could get up close and personal was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.

The boys were unbelievably kind. Over the years, I judge people by how they treat the plus one. And from the group to the manager to the roadies, they couldn’t have been nicer to my wife. She had an absolute ball. Once you are in that inner sanctum, there are no egos. We had a proper laugh, a few beers, then the lovely chat with Alex.

It’s probably not what people want to hear, but my favourite part was when me and Alex had a chat just after the interview, while I had a beer. There’s no mics on, you can just relax. The interview was lovely, then we just carried on. That’s when you know it is going well.

I got quite emotional watching from the side of the stage. They were phenomenal. Alex said during the interview he used to wear his tracksuit zipped up tight and wear his guitar high – and I was struck by how he was strutting around, mic in hand, shirt open, working the crowd. An incredible frontman.

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From that I started thinking about me and my mates and where we were 20 years ago, and how I wish they were here to see this. And it made me think how far I’d come.

Arctic Monkeys were trailblazers. I was still cutting around Greenock and music was really shit when I was growing up. I had no interest in it. You are not going to go to a festival to see Hear’say from Pop Stars. I missed Blur, I missed Oasis, I was too young for it. Then Arctic Monkeys came out and I spent the next 10 years of my life at festivals because of them.

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The song that changed my life was I Bet You look Good on the Dancefloor. To see that in the encore, to see the crowd in the palm of their hands while we were jumping around like crazy at the side of the stage, and to see they’ve lost no enthusiasm for it, was amazing. 

We’ve all grown up but we aren’t old bastards. And they are so fucking cool – it was reassuring. It has taken me a long time to start talking about producing my own stuff and follow up the ideas I’ve got in my head. You can put yourself in a box, but when I listened to their new album, the scale and ambition of it, it feels like they are getting better. And that’s inspiring.

You can think you are yearning for that first record again, but if anything, you are yearning for your youth. We are never going to be 17 again. I’m nearly 40, so to listen to that new album for the first time with a glass of wine, looking out over the sea from County Cork, when I’d just put my son down for a nap – I had a huge smile on my face. You’ve got to change, you’ve got to grow up, but what they show is that you don’t need to get less cool.  

It is beautiful. I love the energy. Track eight, Hello You, is already one of my favourite Arctic Monkeys songs. It has a swagger, there’s a drop of the shoulder. They are doing something different, being brave, but they pull it off every time.

It has taken me a long time to start talking about producing my own stuff and to follow up the ideas I’ve had bouncing around in my head for a long time. You can put yourself in a box. But now we are on the verge of hopefully making something exciting with the BBC. When I listened to the new album Arctic Monkeys, just the scale of the thing and the ambition of it, if anything, it feels like they are getting better in different ways. And that’s inspiring.

There was a wonderful, accidental moment when the boys were coming off stage. Alex was getting his mic taken off. We just saw each other and had a big hug. I felt like I was hugging him for all the 80,000 people in the crowd. I’m just one of them. I’m just an Arctic Monkeys fan. And I was able to say thank you.

I will feel more protective of them now. People can confuse shyness or wanting to live life away from the limelight with a sort of arrogance. But watching them talk to waiters or bar staff at the hotel, they couldn’t have been nicer. They are really kind lads. We want our rockstars to be a bit wild, and they definitely have that edge to them. But they are absolute gentlemen.

Arctic Monkeys’ new album, The Car, is out on October 21 (Domino Records) 

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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