Slay Your Dragons - Malcolm Stern

Honoring a Legacy of Resilience and Music: From the Holocaust to Artist Management and Label Success

April 18, 2024 John
Honoring a Legacy of Resilience and Music: From the Holocaust to Artist Management and Label Success
Slay Your Dragons - Malcolm Stern
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Slay Your Dragons - Malcolm Stern
Honoring a Legacy of Resilience and Music: From the Holocaust to Artist Management and Label Success
Apr 18, 2024
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When Colin Lester OBE speaks of his father's legacy, the air fills with a charged blend of resilience and reverence. His tale, woven from the threads of a past marred by the Holocaust, unfolds to reveal a vibrant celebration of life's enduring spirit. This episode is a tribute to those who hold the dance floor despite the shadows, honoring the survivors and their remarkable stories. As a testament to the human spirit, Colin shares how his family's haunting experiences in the Gorlitz ghetto have left an indelible mark, contrasting the chilling realities they faced with the cherished opportunities that the UK provided to his father post-war.

The world of music beckons as we trace Colin's extraordinary journey from the storied halls of Abbey Road Studios to the pinnacle of Artist Management and Label. The instinct for survival, as exhibited by his father during the darkest of times, reverberates through his tale, illustrating how such tenacity can translate into success in the most disparate of industries. We revel in the anecdotes of nurturing talent like Craig David, and the serendipitous moments that birth hits like "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?" by Travis—each story a testament to the power of legacy, music, and the connections they forge.

As we navigate the nuanced path of personal growth, Colin's honesty about his battle with anger and the quest for emotional integrity offers a mirror to our own inner struggles. He credits his transformation to an unwavering commitment to self-awareness and the therapeutic process. Our conversation concludes on a note of mutual appreciation and acknowledgment of the progress we've each made, underscoring the importance of vulnerability and the courage it takes to confront our dragons. Join us for this profound exploration of gratitude, survival, and the enduring impact of one man's journey on his life, his art, and the world around him.

Website:  www.jemmusicgroup.com

This Podcast is sponsored by Onlinevents 

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

When Colin Lester OBE speaks of his father's legacy, the air fills with a charged blend of resilience and reverence. His tale, woven from the threads of a past marred by the Holocaust, unfolds to reveal a vibrant celebration of life's enduring spirit. This episode is a tribute to those who hold the dance floor despite the shadows, honoring the survivors and their remarkable stories. As a testament to the human spirit, Colin shares how his family's haunting experiences in the Gorlitz ghetto have left an indelible mark, contrasting the chilling realities they faced with the cherished opportunities that the UK provided to his father post-war.

The world of music beckons as we trace Colin's extraordinary journey from the storied halls of Abbey Road Studios to the pinnacle of Artist Management and Label. The instinct for survival, as exhibited by his father during the darkest of times, reverberates through his tale, illustrating how such tenacity can translate into success in the most disparate of industries. We revel in the anecdotes of nurturing talent like Craig David, and the serendipitous moments that birth hits like "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?" by Travis—each story a testament to the power of legacy, music, and the connections they forge.

As we navigate the nuanced path of personal growth, Colin's honesty about his battle with anger and the quest for emotional integrity offers a mirror to our own inner struggles. He credits his transformation to an unwavering commitment to self-awareness and the therapeutic process. Our conversation concludes on a note of mutual appreciation and acknowledgment of the progress we've each made, underscoring the importance of vulnerability and the courage it takes to confront our dragons. Join us for this profound exploration of gratitude, survival, and the enduring impact of one man's journey on his life, his art, and the world around him.

Website:  www.jemmusicgroup.com

This Podcast is sponsored by Onlinevents 

Malcolm Stern:

So welcome to our podcast, slay your Dragons With Compassion, which I'm doing in conjunction with a wonderful organization called Online Events, and we're now on the second tranche of podcasts. We did the first 10. And we're looking at we're calling it Slay your Dragons With Compassion, which is the same title as my book, and it's basically about people's moments that have changed their lives and what they've taken on and often what their suffering has brought them, what the difficulties have brought them and where they've got have changed their lives and what they've taken on and often what their suffering has brought them, what the difficulties have brought them and where they've got to in their lives. And most of us I think pretty much all of us go through scenarios where our lives change because of random events that happen and and where we get to. And I'm very grateful to our listeners for for listening to this.

Malcolm Stern:

As you saw today we had over a thousand downloads on the first tranche and I'm really looking forward to Terence Stamp as the opening one for the second tranche, and I'm very, very honoured to have Colin Lester OBE and that's pretty amazing that, as Colin said when he told me, pretty amazing that that um, as colin said when he told me, um, he's a son of him, of immigrants, who's actually sort of got got himself an award that is really highly rated and doesn't come easily as well. So I think we'll start with your, your obe, colin, but then I would like to take a look at at some of your journey, which has been pretty extraordinary and and um, what you, what you do, so big welcome and, uh, look forward and engaging with you and chatting on this great.

Colin Lester OBE:

Um, malcolm, it's a pleasure to be on here. You are, um, without a shadow of doubt, one of my inspirations. Um, you know you, you just keep on keeping on. You know, and I think I've just, you know, just going back to talking about, initially, about Melissa and what the book is about and how you got Slay your Dragons into perspective for you and how it helped you, I think, is an incredible. It's just to you, it's an ode to Malcolm Stern who, for me, you're the person that's gone through hell and come out the other end smiling, and you know that expression is often used. Oh yeah, he came out the other end smiling, but really rarely do people smile after the sort of, you know, tragedy of losing a child. Nobody alive should have to bury a child. That that is the number one worst thing other than dying yourself and leaving family. So you are the inspiration and and it's an absolute pleasure to be here. So so you know, um, thank you for having me on the show.

Colin Lester OBE:

Um, and in answering um your question, the obe is is um, or, as they call it in america, uh, hi, mr collin, that's the bals Obe and some of them Obey, but you know, the honour of it is huge, you know, to have something signed by Her Majesty the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, an award to my name, is way beyond my wildest dreams, and the fact that I received it for services to the music industry and for charity is an even bigger acc. Services to the music industry and for charity is an even bigger um accolade, I guess, for for me, because the charity part of it, and ob for those who don't know, it's um the rpe stands for, and I was just about to an officer of the highest order of the british empire, um, and I don't really look like an officer of the british empire, but I take that title very seriously. You know it's not something like oh great, I'll stick that after my name and maybe it will help me in certain things. It's there as a reminder of what I must continue to do, and really in the name of my father, because in 1945, the British government, Winston Churchill, allowed 634 refugees, as they were although they hated being called refugees displaced people coming over from the Holocaust in Germany, poland, and they could only find a thousand alive. And sorry, they could only find 634 alive. They allowed a thousand to come into the country. Excuse me.

Colin Lester OBE:

It's quite emotional for this, but they allowed a thousand but I could only find 634 alive to come here. One of them was my father, harry Wilson, and the fact that they'd allowed my father to come here and build a new life this country had for me, it's the greatest honour you can bestow upon a family. You know it was a rebirth of someone who really should have been killed many, many times. So for me to be able to do something back for that country although that wasn't my motives initially, it always has my father in the back of his mind that this is a country or UK is a country that gave my father a place to learn how to speak English, to learn how to earn money, have a very comfortable life, successful business, and I have the greatest respect for any country, sovereign or other, that allows people to practice their religion and practice freely and speak freely within their environment.

Malcolm Stern:

That's beautiful, colin, and your dad was also an inspiration to me, and we'll talk a bit more about Harry, because his story is quite extraordinary and has obviously deeply impacted you and I know that's very emotional for you.

Malcolm Stern:

And I was just thinking about this interview the other day and I was thinking about going to your son's bar mitzvah many, many years ago, um, and, and I was sitting at a table, yeah, yeah, and I was sitting at a table with the, the boys they were called themselves the boys who came over with Harry from the Holocaust, and there's these old men sitting at the table and then the music started playing and I watched these men dance with every ounce of their being and I saw what it was to really treasure being alive, because they'd come so close to being dead, as your dad was, so close so many times. And his story is quite extraordinary and also the heroism that he showed. I know that he actually formed a relationship of sorts with the commandant of the camp and was able to help other people stay alive as well. So perhaps you could tell us a bit more about your dad's journey as a young boy in Poland who suddenly finds himself in the concentration camps in the Second World War.

Colin Lester OBE:

Well, it all started one day when his father came home. I'll try and condense this as much as I can.

Colin Lester OBE:

But, it all started one day when his father came home and he had, at the time he had a sister three brothers mother, father. They lived in a flour mill in a place called Gorlice in Poland and his father said come on, grab what you can. We get on the horse and cart and we're going east. The Germans are coming from the west, we're gonna go east. And so they loaded up the car and off they went and about I don't know 15 miles down the road going east. The horses needed food, they needed rest, so they thought they'd stay over with some relatives that evening and carry on their journey. The following morning, when my grandfather saw a train on the tracks and when I say on the tracks I mean on the tracks, because we all assume that we get on a train at a station and there it is, it's our level, we walk on. But actually the train, you know, is as tall as the, you know, goes down into the track. So they're quite high to get on top of it, especially if you're going to get onto the top of a cargo train. So they had to climb up and my father said look, you stay to his sister brothers. My father and he had his eldest brother, danik, danny, and said you help me, the rest of you stay in, the, stay on the horse and cart and we'll load it up. And as they got up there and they were loading it up and you know, I don't really know, nobody really knows, because this was so traumatic. So my father tells a slightly different story to to my uncle, who both of them have passed away now, unfortunately, um, but they both told a different story and in fact my uncle went to the, went to the extent of blanked it out completely and never actually accepted it happened, um, until he went back there, um, I think about 10 years ago, um, maybe a little longer, no, it is a lot longer in fact, because my father was, was alive, so I mean 20 years ago. He really didn't accept it happened, um, you know, because my father obviously kept asking him how come you, you win, why did? Why did it pull out? You know, why did you leave us on the tracks? And really they couldn't jump from the top of this train and and I've been there, I can see the height of it, I can sort of I get it um, but anyway, they stayed on the train and they said at the time. Look, you know when it. When they did meet up, they said we thought you were going to come back. You know, we waited at the station. We waited there. We thought you're going to come back on the next train and get us. And my uncle and grandfather said well, we thought you were going to get the next train and we'd meet you at the destination. No one knew the destination. So neither of those happened. It was the last train east and it was the last train west. There were no more trains. So eventually they went back to their home thinking that's it. You know, maybe they'll come home at some point. And by then the Germans had invaded Poland and the Polish had surrendered and they were then put into the Gorlitz, the Gorlitz ghetto, and that's where his story really started, and we've all seen pictures of the ghettos and the horrors of them.

Colin Lester OBE:

But when you visit and you smell, you know, smell is an incredible sense, you know. And when we watch films and we watch documentaries and we watch terrible things, one thing we really lack is smell, and smell changes an environment. You know. It's also, you know. You know, when you walk into a place and it smells of like. For me, if I walk into a place and it's got shiny, you know, just had polished floors, and it reminds me of my first day back at school. You know, in the new term we always used to smell at this, you know. And so smell is an incredible sense and when you smell what was going on, the disgust in a ghetto and even that was in comparative to the camps you realize that they were living like animals even in the ghetto.

Colin Lester OBE:

And my father used to break out every night with um, break out of the camp with his brother, his um, his brother, um, um, sunak, and they would then go and try and steal some food in the town, you know, do what they could to get some, some food for the family and, um, whatever they could do, cigarettes, etc. Etc. And one day they were out there and you had to be 12 years old when the armband Star of David, armband that you were forced to wear as a Jew, you only had to wear from 12 upwards. So my father was 11 at the time, his brother was 12. And he didn't have to wear the armband and out he went, but of course his brother took the armband off. You're not going to walk around the streets with an armband as a Jew.

Colin Lester OBE:

However, unfortunately, he was recognized by someone in his class who shouted at a Gestapo guard. It happened to be. He said Yudin, yudin, yudin. He was in his party. He recognized him as a Jew and the gentleman or I don't know why I called him a gentleman, but you know he certainly wasn't a gentleman. He was one hell of an animal actually, and that's disregard. I like animals and animals are great, you know, in fact I'd be doing disjustice.

Colin Lester OBE:

So this animal of a guy, this foul, vicious animal, just shot him dead there on the spot, right next to my. He didn't know my father, but he shot his brother there and then, and my father ran you know he wasn't going to be hanging around and he ran. And then he had two problems and one problem was, apart from being caught, what they did were two problems. The one problem was how do you, as an 11-year-old, tell your mother that you know, and we just discussed it, you know about burying a child, we just discussed it. I just, you know, mentioned it at the top of, you know, the top of this conversation about Melissa. And how do you do the same thing? You know, the circumstances are very different, but the situation is identical. You know how do you tell a mother that her son has just been murdered, executed? So that was his first problem.

Colin Lester OBE:

The second problem was he was fully aware that when the Germans killed someone of a family, they would find out who the person was. They would go into the ghettos at night, bring the family out onto the streets and shoot them all dead. And that's how they controlled them, because you know otherwise, you're killing people's children. They're just going to go mad and start throwing things and trying to overtake. You know it. Just it wasn't what the Germans did.

Colin Lester OBE:

So he knew that his family was in danger, but he was too scared to go home and tell his mother that Sunak had been executed. So he did the next smart thing he went to a relative and explained to the conversation, and the first thing they were most concerned about was the family being murdered. So his cousin had the sense to use some of his contacts? Um with the soldiers and managed to convince the jewish um capos, the, the people that kept the jews in place they were jews themselves, um that they weren't going to be a threat. Everything was going to be okay. And could he go and speak to the germans and try and you know get them a reprieve, which he did. So my father already saved his family at that point, at the age of 11, and went back to the ghettos with his cousin, who then told the family.

Colin Lester OBE:

And there begins you know my father's story, if you like, you know that's, let's roll the titles now and start the film. But you know pre-titles is enough of anyone's life, if you like. To have been, you know completely, you know wrecked, if you like, thrown into the most ridiculous situation for someone of that age.

Malcolm Stern:

I mean, even as you speak about it, colin, I just I can feel my skin sort of like, you know, sort of like wired as I listen to that. You know what that must be like for an 11 year old boy. His world is suddenly tipped upside down who's where, there's no safety, there's nothing, and he had to learn to live on his wits, which he most certainly did, and you and I have had conversations about him in the concentration camps and his relationship with the commandant and how he managed to survive, and how he managed to survive his most extraordinary story, and also what he did to to make something of himself once he came across to the UK afterwards. But let's take a little bit more of a look at what happened to him in the camps and some of the stories that have emerged from there.

Colin Lester OBE:

Yeah, I mean. The camp that he ended up in was Plasov and he'd been separated by that time from his mother and his brothers that had been put on a train, taken to Belzac way east and put straight into the gas ovens. So was the end of that. The only reason that he survived is on boarding the train. Um, in fact, he told us tells a story where he said I pushed everyone you know we knew by then that you know we were being murdered. It wasn't no longer a secret and I pushed my mother and, and you know, family to the front.

Colin Lester OBE:

My sister and brother said look, let's, I don't want to watch everyone be killed. Let me be killed first and then we don't have to watch everything. I mean, this is a 12-year-old boy now. It just bears. You can't think about it. I can't think about it as I'm saying it. Can I be first to be shot so I don't have to watch you? That would be the kindest thing in his life at that time that you could give that child was I don't want to watch you die, so I'd like to be killed first, please.

Colin Lester OBE:

And as they boarded the train, they didn't shoot them, they expected to be shot as they went out of this factory. They were being held in a shoe factory in Germany and as they were getting on the train he was pulled to one side because he was quite a big boy for his age and they needed people to work. They needed people to bury the dead Jews, you know, and the gypsies that they had been murdering all around the town, and he was pulled aside to do that. And that was the last he saw of his family. And before he went into plush off, he was filling in mass graves and remember, you know you're talking about small towns.

Colin Lester OBE:

You know he knew people that he was burying in mass graves, one of which I found through a cousin of mine, and deep in the forest. When he found it it was really untouched and unfound. That was very emotional. Just to imagine that here's this boy of 12 having to do that. And when I spoke to my father about it, he said to me, you know he said what worried me wasn't at this point, now dying. He said I was more concerned about who was going to bury me after I was killed because I was really frightened of being eaten by wolves. You know he said that was his fear. So you know he'd been so reduced already to they'd already taken away any sense of dignity, you know, and this was just the beginning.

Malcolm Stern:

Wow. And then he spent six years was it? In the camp.

Colin Lester OBE:

Yeah, he spent six years in different camps in Plasov, where the very famous Schindler's List was filmed, and he lived in the house with the commandant was Müller of that camp and he lived in the house with him and and it was an awful experience, although he was very smart and he was very astute and he made sure that Muller got everything he wanted. He became his shoeshine boy. And the way he became the shoeshine boy is they were standing what became known as a, where they had the roll calls on and you know we're what is a car park essentially, um, and they were being counted and they were waiting to go into plush off and you know there's a lot of people standing there and what the older boys did was push the, the younger ones to the front. They didn't want to be in the front line and and here they were in this courtyard and eventually Muller started addressing them and telling them you know they'll behave and what, what the ethic was behind the behavior in this camp, and my father was pushed to the ground by one of the older boys, just in his, you know, just to get behind this. At this point, really, it was about saving people. You had to save yourself. This was self-preservation, not for everybody but for a large number, and you can understand that and I get it.

Colin Lester OBE:

But he fell to the floor and about an hour later, at the end of this conversation, he was pointed out and told to come into the commandant's office. And he thought that's it. You know they're going to shoot me. Come over here, boy, get in that room, blah, blah, blah. And he said he's never been more petrified in his life. He was shaking, he was, you know, completely. That was it.

Colin Lester OBE:

He was about to be shot and um, and, and and I can't say it in, but my father tells it in german um, he said, you know, um. He said you know, you're the boy that got pushed over and you got really, you know, covered in mud and everything from from being pushed over in this you know sort of horrible car park with rain everywhere, et cetera, et cetera. And he said you're a clean Jew. I saw you go to a puddle and clean your hands off. So you're a clean Jew.

Colin Lester OBE:

You're now going to be my, you know, house boy, shoeshine boy, and and go and get my boots cleaned in the camp and get them shined up. He said don't get me a new pair. Just go and get me. I want them back as soon as possible and get them cleaned up. So he ran into the camp, found the. You know, it's quite interesting because in Plashov and I've been there they have like caves, and one cave was for the horse shoes and then for shining shoes and you know, whatever. It was, a sort of of. It's hard to explain, um, from my vision of it, but, but he went there and he and the guy said no, you can't get these cleaned, you know.

Colin Lester OBE:

Basically, fuck off. You know, I've got enough to do here, you don't need to be sitting here, I'm not doing that. And he said well, this is muller shoes, so I'll go tell muller that you wouldn't, um, clean his shoes, uh, and that'll be the end of you. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, he's gone. Maybe he's run away with them and he's trying to find him and kill him.

Colin Lester OBE:

And, um, eventually they sort of I don't know bumped into each other, I guess. And he said I've got the shoes, I've got the shoes, took them back to muller and muller then whacked him around the head and said I told you I didn't want new shoes. You know, I didn't want new ones, I want my shoes back. And my father said these are your shoes. He just cleaned them up. Perfect, put them on, put them on. And he put them on and he went okay, they are my shoes. And this guy was so frightened that was cleaning them he knew he had to make them like new. This was muller, you know, the camp murderer, the commandant um. So he then became the um, very, very efficient shoe shine boy for for him in plashov extraordinary and I know that he influenced Muller in not killing people at times as well that your father.

Malcolm Stern:

He knew how to bob and weave. He knew how to find his way through things with all the fear that was there. He became very astute, like an animal trapped in a cage. He knew how to make his life worthwhile. And I believe your father was bar mitzvahed in the camp. Is that correct?

Colin Lester OBE:

He was one of the few people ever to be bar mitzvahed in the camp. And coming back to what you're saying, malcolm, it was fight or flight. You know it's that. You know there was no choice. It wasn't a case of you know I'm going to try this and try that. It was fight or flight.

Malcolm Stern:

It was instant, you know, and you lived on the you know edge of your nerves and I think I've inherited, you know, literally some of that sort of angst and fight or flight times in my life you know, of course you will have done, because I've done quite a bit of work with a guy called Thomas Hubold who does work with something called intergenerational trauma, and we carry the wounds of our parents inside ourselves, so you will carry some of Harry's wounds.

Malcolm Stern:

You also carried some of Harry's ability to make your life into something really profound and and to become, to become somebody, which is what Harry became as well, and and you've become one of the best pop managers in the UK, possibly in the world, and I've seen how some of your acts treat you, that they have an enormous respect for you. You know how to be with people. You know how to bob and weave and find your way through things, as Harry did. And so he was six years in the camps and went through all sorts of privations in that place and then came to the UK and in fact he stayed with my parents for a year. Soon after he came back, uncle Mo and Aunty Helen.

Colin Lester OBE:

Yeah, yeah. So Mo Stern was also had a very big influence on me.

Malcolm Stern:

And I keep saying that, and my dad used to tell me that Harry used to wake up every night screaming and crying.

Colin Lester OBE:

Yeah.

Malcolm Stern:

Incredible effect on us, but he found the power to make something of himself and he became a successful businessman. He became someone who was well-loved by everyone who knew him, and I knew that your love for him is one of the most beautiful things I've seen with a father and son, but there was such a deep love between the two of you and and he. He was your inspiration.

Colin Lester OBE:

Yeah, yeah, and and so um, I mean, this is emotional for me and I can see for you, but I miss him. You know it's not a day that goes by, but you know life goes on.

Malcolm Stern:

Life goes on and actually you carry a legacy of a man who survived against all the odds. You carry a legacy of that man and you found a way of giving your life real purpose. Legacy of that man, and you found a way of giving your life real purpose and and I think there's very much in accordance with the fact that actually you had a dad who was, who inspired you in such a big way.

Colin Lester OBE:

so very much by me to be able to act like that in such adversity and the odds of survival. You know, people always say I get asked a lot, wow, they must have been lucky to survive. And of course they were lucky to survive. But every person that survived was lucky, but they lived on their wits edge and they, they wanted survival just more than the others. And so many people just resigned to the fact of. You know, this is it. My family's been murdered, take me away, away. You know um, but he had this, this.

Malcolm Stern:

You know instinct, I'm going to survive it and and um, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful things out and as an 11, 12 year old boy, it would have been quite easy to just go. I can't stand it, you know, I'd rather die. And he had a survival spirit in him. Um, that I I saw over the years. So how did this impact on you? What's, what's been your life journey with harry? Post harry now doing what you do? Tell us a little bit about what it is you do. I know that you're you're a rock manager and, uh, and a quite successful one as well.

Colin Lester OBE:

Yeah I'd like to think we're sort, you know, have reasonable success in what I've done. I started off as a musician you know a budding rock star, I think you know. I thought, wow, this is going to be great. You know literally one woman in a song. But I didn't realise you had to be, you know, an accomplished musician to achieve that. So when I was about sorry, when I was 12, my grandfather bought me a guitar, an acoustic guitar for my birthday, which cost £10, I remember very well and I never realised you had to use both hands to play guitar. I never realised you had to actually use both your hands and I thought it was like really easy. But I accomplished that, joined a band signed to a record label called Jet Records that was owned by the infamous Don Arden, jarrah Osborne's father, who was known as potentially the first allegedly first mafia man in the music industry back in the 70s.

Malcolm Stern:

I just want to share something about Don Arden. I don't know if I've told you this story before, but I worked for Greenpeace and Jeff Lim from Electric Light Orchestra offered a penny an album. A penny an album for the song the Whale which they made, and it sold 8 million copies. So we would do 80 grand. And Don Arden wasn't paying us. So I used to hustle him and say can we get the money? He said come around to my office. I went around to his office, sits me down. He says if I hear from you again I'm going to shoot your fucking kneecaps off. Now, piss off. And I never went near him again. So he worked for the infamous Don Arden.

Colin Lester OBE:

Yeah, he was definitely infamous. He hung Ronnie Wood out of his window for doing the same as you. You know, it wasn't like it wasn't reserved for you. So just to help you feel a bit better about it, when Ronnie Wood now Ronnie Wood, rolling Stones, you know went for some royalties there, he hung him out the window of his office and, you know, probably had the same words with him and that was the end of that. So he wasn't a particularly nice man and you know I left. That group moved on.

Colin Lester OBE:

Um, I went to work at abbey road recording studios as a sort of house engineer um, not house engineer house producer producing tracks for um and demos for bands that emi were interested in, and and um and that sort of got me into management. Because I remember one day, um, someone said to me, col, do you know any engineers? You know recording engineers? I said, yeah, of course I know Recording engineers, you know. I said Abbey Road every night and they said, well, we've got an album project that's going to pay quite a bit of money. You know we need an engineer who's going to earn 250 a day or maybe 300 a day, actually 300 a day, which is a lot of money even then, 300 pounds a day for a six-month album project, you know. And I went into work that night and I remember saying to the engineer I was with, who went on to be very successful as a record producer, ian Grimble and I said, ian, you know, surely you don't want to stay the rest of your life? You know what about doing something as an independent? You know, surely you don't want to stay the rest of your life. You know what about doing something as an independent? You know, go and leave and do your own stuff. And he said I'd love to do that, but you know, it's about finding the right job. I said, well, I've got you a job for six months. Pays, you know, I think it was 250 or 300 a day, I can't quite remember. And that's you, and you can now go and be, you know, an engineer outside of here. And he took the job. Great for me. I was earning 50, 60 pounds a day for having done the deal, nothing to do for six months. And I thought, well, this is easy, I'm 60 pounds a day better off now. This is quite interesting, this 20 percent business, and the only thing that I will say is it didn't really excite me. You know that was a deal and the deal was nice.

Colin Lester OBE:

But beyond that, musically, you know I had taste of what I wanted to do musically, so it sort of was my introduction to management and then went on to manage acts like the brand new Heavies, a huge album, brother Sister, which was a massive success worldwide. We signed Travis, myself and my business partner, ian McAndrew. We signed Travis when they were in art school. We signed Craig Davey to our record label, which we had, wildstar Records, you know. We signed the Arctic Monkeys for management, reverend and the Makers, lots of acts, connery, many acts I can go through and I don't want to miss some out, but Carly Nannison, there were lots, you know, and we were at the time very successful as a management company and as a record label.

Colin Lester OBE:

So really that was my sort of intro into it and was lucky enough to have signed this young kid from Southampton called Craig David, lovely, lovely guy. And I remember going down to his council estate, um, and and I think I can't remember what car I had, but it's probably been a bmw or something like that and, um, I remember him saying to me if you leave your car there, it won't have wheels when you get out. You know he came to meet me and I said I'm really like bother, go play me some hits and I don't care about wheels, and um, and, and. And I went up and met his very humble his mother and grandmother, which was an amazing experience in this small council flat, and his bedroom was tiny, and I mean tiny, but it was stacked from ceiling to floor with vinyl. This guy was the real deal, you know, and it was. I'm going to sign you to the label. You know I love the fact that you're 16 years old.

Colin Lester OBE:

You wrote a song called walking away. Um, I'm walking away from the troubles in my life. I'm walking away trying to find a better day, and I just thought anyone that's written that at that age is very talented. Um, and, and we started working together in I think that was the year 2000 and we're still working together today. You know I actually sold um, my shares in the label many years ago and I've continued to manage Craig. Through all the deals that I've done along the way and other businesses that I've been involved with and still am. I've still continued to manage. Craig has become a very good friend and really a family member to me, you know, it's just a pleasure working with someone so complete as a human being.

Malcolm Stern:

It's funny, you know, because I think it was. I think again, this was your son's bar mitzvah and I went there and normally you've got the sort of bar mitzvah band, you've got the local band who are sort of doing their thing, and I didn't know much about Craig at the time and suddenly Craig David comes on, starts singing and it's like this is what an accomplished, talented, brilliant musician does. And although it's not my type of music particularly, I'm a Leonard Cohen fan, sort of the soft, soulful, elder Hallelujah, hallelujah. This guy was magic, and I just realised that there is that sort of that ingredient that someone has that makes them magic. What makes Eric Clapton magic, what makes Mick Jagger magic, what makes Craig David magic? And I've been lucky enough to come to some concerts of his with you and, again, although it's not music that I normally would listen to, I watch a craftsman performing with every ounce of his being. Who's got unutterable talent.

Colin Lester OBE:

Oh yeah, just talent is. You know, this is really interesting because, you know, with the sort of artists that I've signed, from rock bands to, if you use the brand new heavies were Acid Jazz. You know funk really but got titled as Acid Jazz, you know, to the Arctic's independent, the Arctic Monkeys, which is you, anne, at Windsor Castle. Normally, those of us that have been fortunate enough to meet the royals on various occasions and I was exceptionally fortunate to meet Her Majesty the Queen in Buckingham Palace at a reception the questions are very general and I get it, they've got a lot of people to get to. Oh hi, and what do you do, even though they know what you do because they've been forewarn, etc. Etc. Um, and and actually brings me a story that that, that, that that I was in a um at this particular reception in um, buckingham Palace, and in the lineup um was Eric Clapton, as you just uh mentioned him.

Colin Lester OBE:

Eric Clapton was in the lineup, so were Collins was in the lineup. So they had it was. It was a reception for artist managers, so they chose certain artist managers to come I was one of them and certain musicians and certain record producers and certain record company executives, and so they made it as a mixture of that and in the lineup the Queen actually asked Eric Clapton and what do you do? Which I thought was a fantastic, and I heard it with my own ears and Phil Collins said. Phil Collins answered me and said he's a very accomplished musician man, should I say, and it was just hilarious. So sorry, just coming back onto your I know, that's great.

Colin Lester OBE:

Eric Clapton.

Malcolm Stern:

And it's like you do see it when someone's got this Sorry, sorry, finishing this.

Colin Lester OBE:

I'm sorry you get old when you get to my age and you don't finish the story, but the point I was making that when Princess Anne gave me the OBE, her words to me beyond the general chat which I just thought would be like, oh great, congratulations. What do you do? Move on. She said to me you know, you've signed lots of different musical genres in your career, lots of different musical genres in your career. You've worked with lots of different musical genres. What are you into? What sort of music are you into? Which I thought was an incredibly question to someone where I just thought they were going to pin it on me and move me along and we had a good chat about that. And a wonderful person.

Malcolm Stern:

She really is very interesting and, however well briefed, she really was interested and I think what, what I see with you is like what I see with the musicians, that they've got got these musicians who are really accomplished, who really are sort of shaking the world with their music. They've got something, something comes through them. You've got and I wrote about this in my book Slay your Dragons with Compassion I wrote about the radar that we have and there's something in you that's got a radar. You recognise when someone's got something and I've seen you in social situations. You know who's got something to say and you know who you're going to humor and just sort of like you know chat about it and and move on so there's something transparent yeah, yeah, it's transparent to me.

Malcolm Stern:

You're careful, yeah, yes, but it's like um, I really recognize that actually, you, you've found your groove and you've made something of your groove, and I think a lot of you has done it in honor of your father, harry, absolutely, and actually, you know, for me there's such a I'm so touched by the relationship between father and son and I start to see it now with my, with my grandson and my, my son. I can see that actually, the relationship between father and son is so vital and, and you once said to me, harry's your hero.

Colin Lester OBE:

Yeah, and he was, he was a hero still is, and I, and you know, I often think what would he do in this situation? And um, and then I don't necessarily follow it because I'm not sure that, you know, it would be acceptable in today's world. But, you know, it's incredible to have come from a father that was, you know, everything was black and white to him. You know, and, and, and himself, along with all of the survivors and I grew up with survivors because they were my family, they were my father's family. They, they, they didn't, they, they had no hatred. Know, their whole life, their whole being, was about creating a new family. It wasn't about hating the people that destroyed that. You know, their generations and children and family. It wasn't about hate they.

Colin Lester OBE:

Really, I've never been so, um, in awe of so many people that have been through such harshness and came out the other side without hatred. You know, and, and and I mean this with the greatest respect christianity is, is, is, obviously, you know, forgiveness, um, is full of forgiveness and um, that's where you know that, that, that that's, that's the path. Uh, their path was very, very different, you know, from Christianity. They were being murdered by Christian people, and so the fact that they came out with that very same view of it's about loving, you know, it's not about getting revenge. It's not about, you know, seeking justice. It's just about creating a new generation. And thankfully, we're five generations deep since then, and so, you know, I'm second generation. We're into five generations deep now, which really is, you know, that's victory. That's what victory looks like. So when people say, well, how do you? You know, obviously, you know, 6 million were murdered, how can there be any victory? Well, the victory is now, and long may it grow.

Malcolm Stern:

And long may it grow. Because, again, you know, it's almost like we set patterns and moulds for ourselves as we go. And I've watched you with your son, jack, and I've seen that this boy really rates you and values you. It's almost like there's a saying that the sins of the father, it's true, but but actually, what I can also see is that the love of the father transmits him to the son as well and, of course, onto the daughter.

Malcolm Stern:

I know your daughter, emily, as well that there's a sort of sense that you bring love to your family and you are creating a role model there, um, from out of, built from out of.

Malcolm Stern:

You know, the dust of, of your dad's almost demise and his family being decimated as well. Yeah, so, um, I think that you know, what I see is that you are bringing your love to the world. You're bringing your love of music to the world. And again, I've watched, I've seen your relationship with Craig, where there's just such a deep connection between you. He's inspired by the fact that you've actually embraced him, taken him on and he's got a rock in you. And I think that that's something about you, colin, that you've become a rock for many people and know you. I won't tell the story about you and Travis, but I know that you actually were a rock for them and actually you sort of like you kept them in line and I think the people who've been lucky enough to be managed by you have actually had a father figure who's actually been able to hold them in that environment well, that's true, travis.

Colin Lester OBE:

I don't know about holding them in line but they were certainly, you know, great bunch of guys. And I'm still very much in contact with Fran Healy, the singer, who's living in LA now. You know, still very close to him, and you know we speak from time to time and I still watch over him in a fatherly manner. He tells me, you know, he recently unfortunately got divorced and you know that actually personally shocked me, you know, on a personal level. Why would it? You know I've not sort of, you know, lived in LA. You know I've seen him in LA from time to time. I visit quite a lot of LA work wise. But you know it affected me, you know, quite deeply because I'm very, you know, he's like family to me.

Colin Lester OBE:

You know it becomes, you know, in music it's not just about understanding. You know I don't do love you baby, want you baby. Music, that's not my thing. You know I leave that to the experts in pop. So for me it's about, you know, the words that you've written. You know what are you saying. Like I said, about you know.

Malcolm Stern:

I'm walking away, yeah, from the trouble.

Colin Lester OBE:

Yeah, absolutely In the same way that that fran healy, you know it's great lines of. You know, why does it always rain on me? Is it because I lied when I was 17? You know that that story comes from um.

Colin Lester OBE:

I remember fran came into the office, you know, and he had writer's block after the first album, good feeling had huge. You know, it really was gonna. It was gonna set the world on fire, um, and actually sold 30 000 copies. That really pretty much set a lot of money on fire. So Burn is through, way through through over a million pounds.

Colin Lester OBE:

And I remember him coming in and going. You know I need to write for the second album but I've got rights as block. And we said to him look, get on a plane and go somewhere warm. You know, go somewhere warm, fran, and take your guitar with you and just chill out and just reduce the pressure on you. And and you know, and he said, well, and fred believe it, you know he didn't like flying. I mean, this is a sort of um strange for a rock star, because they fly all over the world. He may well be over it now and you know he does fly all over the world.

Colin Lester OBE:

And and um, he said, well, where I don't like going very far. I said do, do you know what? Why don't you go to Eilat? And this was around October, november, and the year was probably 99, 98, 99. And he said, okay. I said it's four hours away and it's really hot. It's the Red Sea. It's really beautiful. You can swim in the sea. Amazing know, underwater wildlife. It's really really, um, it's a beautiful place and you may get inspiration there. And he said okay, and off it went and we booked the trip. And, uh, off he went and and, um, this beautiful, you know place in, in, in, in the middle of so many, you know on what jordan one side, egypt the other side, in a very even, obviously forever a very difficult terrain, if you like. He found beauty in it. However, it pissed down with rain every single day.

Malcolm Stern:

Why does it always rain on me? And then he wrote that chorus.

Colin Lester OBE:

Why Does it Always Rain On Me?

Colin Lester OBE:

You know, funny enough, the verses I remember, if I remember rightly, in Italy. But that chorus, why Does it Always Rain On Me, was written after a day on a glass-bottom boat in Eilat. So you know, you just don't know where real writer's inspiration is going to go. And lyrics mean a lot to me. I mean, the reason that I chose Fill Me In to be Craig Davies' first single on his record was the one line in there he wrote young people doing what young people do. Young people doing what young people do. Parents trying to find out what they're up to. I mean, isn't that just exactly what it is? You know, if your parents aren't fucked off with you, then you're not going to do it. You're like, you're okay with me growing my hair long? I mean, you're okay with me smoking weed? Oh well, maybe it's not cool to do it, you know so. It's always been the antitypethist to, to to. What your parents want is what you do so.

Colin Lester OBE:

That line in itself gave Craig to his own, you know, sort of culture, his own people, his own age group, and that's something I continue to hope well is is just look for that, um, for the artist that can talk to his generation, um that's the beauty, isn't it? And that is the importance of it, of it. And when I no longer have the ability to do that, that's when I'll say I don't get it anymore. But you know, listen, we all wake up and go. I don't understand this.

Malcolm Stern:

I don't understand and most of that's to do with politics and you know sort of wars that really are happening that are not our own Some of them are and some of them aren't but but the real, when you strip it all back, we do understand our environment you know, if our eyes are open I think that's right, and james hillman, the, the psychotherapist, um, says um that inside, every one of us is a diamond, a d-a-e-m-o-n, like a demon, and it would drive us mad to do what it is we were born to do, and it feels like you're doing what you were born to do, you're fulfilling something that wanted to be born in you and you've touched other people along the way.

Colin Lester OBE:

So we're coming towards the end of our our podcast and there you go on craig's first album, born to do it oh, there you go, perfect, perfect and that comes well ironically.

Colin Lester OBE:

um, that comes from the willie wonka and the chocolate factory, if you remember the beginning of that film. They all come out of school and they run into the guy's sweet shop the guy with the brown coat on and he holds out you know, wonka's got a new bar, you know Wonka's got a new bar. And they hand him the bar and the kid says to the guy in the shop how does he do it? How does he do it?

Colin Lester OBE:

And he says you don't ask a fish how it swims or a bird how it flies.

Malcolm Stern:

They just wow lovely. Who extracts wisdom from things happening around him that he observes?

Colin Lester OBE:

and that's within all of us, you know, if we search within ourselves and I've learned that over the years I don't think, you know, you're born with a certain amount of empathy, sympathy and aggression, you know, and I think it's how you manage in your life to compartmentalize it and use it for the good rather than for the bad. And you know, and I've been fortunate, that I've had very good family, very good friends and been very, very, you know, sort of well coaxed and well brought up in that sense, you give love and you receive love.

Malcolm Stern:

I mean, that's the thing. It's like there's a bad Beatles line and in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make. I've watched you again with people and and seen that you actually give love, so I'm going to come to this, the final question what you want, though.

Colin Lester OBE:

What's that?

Malcolm Stern:

I always get what you want and you can't always get what you get sometimes it's true so so let's, let's just take a a look, the. The series is called slay your dragons with compassion, and for each of us, we've had to find something in ourselves that has led us to be who we are, something we've had to overcome, and and I'm throwing this at you without any preparation, so we'll just see whether something emerges for you, but what's the dragon?

Colin Lester OBE:

you've had to slay to become who you are. I think, if I'm going to be really honest, yeah really honest, Colin.

Malcolm Stern:

Anger.

Colin Lester OBE:

Now I remember I think that you know it's that little guy on my shoulder, that's like you can't let him fucking talk to you like that.

Colin Lester OBE:

And there I would be. And then, you know, as I've grown older, this guy said don't listen to him, right, he's winding you up. And so I've had to deal with the anger and that's where I believe it was the DNA that my father passed on on to me, and I've looked into it about how can you have one generational DNA, but apparently you can, and that I think I really did have to deal with. And and you know what, more so, in a family, um environment, I, you know, with my wife, and you know they say that you take it out on people you love the most, and I think that's true, it has been true and and I've worked very, very, I work very hard on making that, you know, a distant memory in my life, but I think that's, I would say that you know, and that's the biggest change as well, that's beautiful yeah.

Colin Lester OBE:

Without anything, just to love unconditionally and not lose my temper when someone's doing something that is not necessarily the way I would do it, or you know, just straight into that fight or flight I guess we were talking about earlier, and so that's that's been for me.

Malcolm Stern:

You know, um one of the things that's really changed in my life and it didn't come easily either, colin, and I know that it's like you actually had to sort of take yourself on in a therapeutic environment and actually sort of like really work through this deep anger. And, of course, when we were looking before intergenerational trauma, you can see that how could you have been anything other than angry, angry, how could your dad have been anything other than angry? And you found it's like it's almost like you've mellowed in your I'd say your old age, because you're to me, you're young, but, um, but you've mellowed as you, as you've grown older, that you've mellowed and something in you I've learned to tolerate.

Colin Lester OBE:

I think, um, and and and and. Look at things slightly um, I guess you know more three-dimensional, four-dimensional than you know, but I think that's the same for anyone. You know, when you're young, you know everything's black and white, and and when grey starts coming into it it's quite confusing. Yeah, do I have to consider that the black and white and it could be grey here and then, when you start learning that in business, in personal life, in, in the deals that I've done, and and look, you know, you'll find people in the world that go columnist or he's a wanker, he, he's an arsehole, whatever you want to call me, you know you don't do my job for as long as I have done and not upset people, but you'll never find anybody. And in defence of people that I represent and in defence of my family, I'm sure I've upset lots of people, hopefully never too deeply, but you do realise that you're doing that, you know, for for a reason. And I think that for me, um, you'll find people that can call me all sorts of things. What you'll never find is someone that I've ripped off, say, oh, he ripped me off, or, you know, because the most important thing to me has been my reputation and my integrity, and if you lose either of those your reputation, you're out of business integrity, you're losing yourself. So I've never lost either of those and never would you know I.

Colin Lester OBE:

You know, listen, we talk about in any business and and, and you know you can talk about I work in in in sport as well. Now, you know, I've started sports division. I have a new record company. You know, it's expanding. My son Jack's working in the business and doing an incredible job. Um, you know, and I often come into conversations and people talk about you know, oh, what about backhander? And I and I have the same answer that I've always had is um, you know, and often come into conversations and people talk about you know, oh, what about a backhander? And I and I have the same answer that I've always had is that, you know, look, brown paper bags are for fruit, not for cash for me.

Malcolm Stern:

You know, and, um, you know, I live my life that way and I know that's true and and and we've, we have to learn the hard way and you've come through this sort of this rage, which, again, we talked about as well in the past, and I really appreciate the honesty you brought to this, this interview, and I'm very, very grateful to you, colin.

Colin Lester OBE:

Always If you could just edit all of it out.

Malcolm Stern:

So this is Colin Lester Goodbye. Thank you very much.

Colin Lester OBE:

Just take most of that out and just don't let me see you guys. No, it's, look. And the thing about honesty is is Amanda, my wife often says to me you know, you're not very sugarcoat. You know, when you tell someone about a track or someone asks you about music, you say no, that's shit, move on. And I said, well, that is me. You know, if you want my advice which you're not going to hear, actually, by the way, because you're just going to hear what you want to hear, the point I don't like it. I'm an arsehole for not liking it. There's no point. If you come back to me and want advice after thinking about it, great.

Colin Lester OBE:

But you know I don't sugarcoat things and that's because you know I, and certainly as I've grown older, um, you know, life's important time is is the most important thing we've got. It's the most valuable commodity. You can't buy it, can't sell it, you don't know how much you've got. So time is the commodity and I sort of live by that now and that's made me calmer, definitely made me calmer, yeah. But I've got to say, malcolm, I make an amazing, just completely, we're going to go off grid here. I make amazing sandwiches. Okay, my wife will always say you know, if you want a sandwich, kind as you may, if you want a sandwich kind as you may and I do, I build sandwiches and etc, etc.

Colin Lester OBE:

But I have to tell you, the person who taught me that and the inspiration is your father, your father. Well, he taught me a part of many things. Wonderful, wonderful guy, really massive, massive, massive respect and love for Uncle Mo, but he taught me how to build a great sandwich, because no one builds it like Americans. And he was a GI that came over to England, you know, married your mother, an English lady in London, and it was just wonderful. Growing up he was, without any shadow of doubt, my favourite uncle. You know, it was like Uncle Mo's coming around, wow, I'd get really excited. And you know, over the years he had a massive influence on me. But I have to give him the sandwiches.

Malcolm Stern:

Fantastic.

Colin Lester OBE:

You get a years. He had a massive influence on me, but I have to give him the sandwiches.

Malcolm Stern:

Fantastic, a lot more than that but the sandwich is what I carry through my life for him. Well, you know Harry in. You know the interesting parallel here. Harry was my favorite uncle and I remember Harry saying to me in the last year of his life. He said I didn't talk about my experiences in the concentration camps for 50 years and in the last year I just talked about it nonstop and we had some beautiful exchanges about the suffering he'd been through and what he'd become.

Colin Lester OBE:

And I think you're a real credit to him and I'm really grateful that you're my cousin and that we have this sort of I am so grateful to you as well, just on that point, is that the reason he didn't talk about it which would be interesting for people to know is the survivors didn't talk about it for a long time for two reasons one, they didn't think people would believe them, um and. And two, they were ashamed that it happened and that they'd allowed their families to die. So the fact they opened up to you is a testament to how much he loved you, malcolm and and um. He did, he really did, and and I do too. You know you really are a very special person and it's been great to watch you today. I don't think I'd have opened up to many people the way that you know I have today with you and I really appreciate especially the stuff around the anger.

Malcolm Stern:

It's like it's. It's honourable to say there's a part of me that I've had to work through to become who I am. Absolutely, colin.

Colin Lester OBE:

Thank you so much and uh, thank you so much and I send all my love to you and hopefully see you soon and good times.

Malcolm Stern:

Let's do that. You're looking great, so catch you later. Cheers then. Thank you Bye.

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