“To be honest, I'm not really a bass player. I've scammed people all this time…” The world of Jean-Jacques Burnel

Jean-Jacques Burnel of The Stranglers performs on stage, Philadelphia, 16th March 1978. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Jet Black and Dave Greenfield might be gone but The Stranglers – the band and their influence – are unstoppable. Now in their 50th year, their impact on the world of music and bass playing has been huge. Here was a British punk band who could take the Burt Bacharach-Dionne Warwick hit Walk On By and turn it into a 6-minute freakout inspired by The Doors, who had a hit all over the world with a sweet song about heroin written in waltz time (Golden Brown), who stood separate from the punk pack – proudly European, musically eclectic, boldly innovative – but were nevertheless as tough as titanium.

And in Jean-Jacques Burnel they had one of the most original and influential bassists of the era: a classical guitarist who turned his skills to creating basslines so brutal they’d give you a black eye, with a bruising, distorted sound that still resonates to this day. In this archive interview he looks back over some selected career highlights.

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Scott Rowley
Content Director, Music, at Future plc

Scott is the Content Director of Music at Future plc, responsible for the editorial strategy of online and print brands like Guitar World, Guitar Player, Total Guitar, Louder, Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, Guitarist and more. He was Editor in Chief of Classic Rock for 10 years and, before that, the Editor of Total Guitar and Bassist magazines. Scott regularly appears on Classic Rock’s podcast, The 20 Million Club, and was the writer/researcher on 2017’s Mick Ronson documentary Beside Bowie