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Hugh Cornwell defends songs about Mussolini and Mugabe on new album

Former Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell has described his old band’s current iteration as ‘bogus’ (Sony Music)
Former Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell has described his old band’s current iteration as ‘bogus’ (Sony Music)

Former Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell has announced a new solo album which features songs about Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and former president of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe.

Cornwell, 68, will release Monster on October 5 and embark on a UK tour in November to support what is his first album for five years.

The singer-songwriter wrote and sang The Stranglers’ 1977 top 10 hit No More Heroes, which contained references to historical figures such as Leon Trotsky and William Shakespeare.

For his new album, Cornwell said he was partly inspired to return to the theme of heroes and villains by the memory of his mother, who swam in Hampstead Ponds everyday near their family home in north London.

Cornwell said: “My mother was a legend, if only in our little world.

“She was a celebrity among the swimmers on Hampstead Heath because she would swim five or six times a day, even in winter.”

He jokingly added: “She was also the villain of the family, and kept us all in line. So that’s where it all started, with the song La Grande Dame.”

Cornwell has defended making Mussolini and Mugabe the subject matter of his new material.

He said that Mussolini “refused to exterminate the Italian Jews” and said of Mugabe that “nobody can doubt that, in his heart, he wanted the best for his country”.

Cornwell said: “These are people who have defied categorisation. I’ve spent my whole life trying to defy categorisation. If someone wants to put me into some sort of a box, I’ll do my best to defy it.”

He added: “I’m not a violent person but I like a violent attitude to thought processes. I like presenting people with dilemmas about truth and fiction.

Hugh Cornwell's new album Monster
Hugh Cornwell’s new album comes with a bonus disc of acoustic Stranglers covers (Sony Music)

“A lot of people go through life pretending to be things that they’re not. And I’m really of a mind that pretence is for Hollywood.

“That’s the side of punk that I liked, presenting a mental dilemma to people about their behaviour.”

Monster also includes a bonus disc of Cornwell performing acoustic versions of some of his former band’s songs.

The musician left the group in 1990.

He took aim at his former bandmates who continue to tour as The Stranglers as he explained his thinking behind the acoustic covers.

“These are the ones that work best acoustically and I’ve found 10 that sit well together.

“I’ll be playing The Stranglers’ hits when I tour this album, because I think people are no longer associating me with those songs after 28 years.

“They have been sequestered by a bogus version of the group with only two original members.”

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