ONE of the first people to hear Starsailor's Ben Byrne play 'live' was a noise pollution officer.
The drummer lived in Manchester Road in Kingsway North when he was a youngster and he used to practice songs by his heroes Ringo Starr, Roger Taylor, Mitch Mitchell, John Bonham, Ginger Baker and Keith Moon.
But little did he know that his first experience of an audience would be someone from the council coming to monitor his noise levels.
Ben, who first learnt Queen's We Will Rock You when he was nine, said: "We had this little outhouse on the side of the house and I remember one year we had a really hot summer and the whole street put in a complaint against me.
"They ended up getting a noise pollution officer to come and measure the sound levels.
"I was below the decibel rating so there was nothing they could do but it didn’t make me very popular with the neighbours."
Memories have come flooding back to former St Oswald’s Primary School pupil Ben as Starsailor have just released Good Souls, a greatest hits album collecting together 15 years of their songs.
They are also hitting the road for their first UK tour since their 2009 hiatus.
Ben said: "It’s great that people are still into us after all this time. It means a lot.
"We haven’t done a UK tour for six years and the fact that we’ve still got fans out there who appreciate the music and are excited that we’re still about is really endearing.
"I think it’s because it brings people back to a time and a place when they listen to a song. I know it always does with me.
"The fans are still there. The Manchester show at Albert Hall has sold out.
"But I think there’s less pressure now because it was such a whirlwind first time around and we were so young. I like to think we’re a little older and wiser now."
That 'whirlwind' saw the foursome go from forming the band at Wigan and Leigh Music School to being at the centre of a record label bidding war. At the time, Ben was just 22.
The dad-of-one to two-year-old Connor said: "It was strange because I didn’t realise how big it was going to go and when it did it was just crazy."
A review by former NME writer James Oldham at a Heavenly record label show sparked the bidding war.
Ben added: "I think his final line was: ‘Record companies should start queuing here’ – and they did. I’ll never forget that.
"We were just on this rollercoaster travelling the world in a rock band. It is every musicians’ dream really.
"My highlight was the first time we played the Manchester Academy on a headline tour just after the first album came out.
"I’d been to so many shows there over the years since I was 14 so to sell out that venue was special to me.
"I've seen Soundgarden and Alice In Chains there and you’re standing among these classic great bands."
Starsailor's greatest hits CD also contains two new tracks, Give Up The Ghost and Hold On, and Ben told Weekend that it is a sign of things to come.
"The plan is to write some more material next year and we’ve already demoed a few new ideas," he said.
The band were inspired after a visit to The Farm studio run by Mike Rutherford of Mike + The Mechanics in Surrey.
Ben said: "It was a phenomenal place and the equipment there was unbelievable. All the Genesis and Marillion albums were recorded there.
"We got Mike’s son Harry to produce it because he did James’ solo record so we did those two tracks over four or five days."
Starsailor have also recently returned from a tour of America with Embrace.
"We had a great time even though it was 13 of us on a bus," added Ben.
"We had a good laugh with the Embrace guys. I loved San Francisco and we did Webster Hall in New York which was a particular highlight. Toronto was great too. We played a little venue called The Horseshoe Tavern.
"It was hard work getting into Disneyworld for our show though. The security is full on and it took about two hours to get in there.
"The smaller venues brought me back to the early days but the crowds were so enthusiastic."
That is a far cry from their first gig since reforming in 2014 when they played to about 30,000 people at the Isle of Wight Festival.
Ben said: "There’s nothing better than going out on stage in front of thousands of people. You can feel that roar from the crowd as soon as you walk out.
"I was a bit anxious at first because you can’t help think: ‘Is everybody still going to be into it?’
"But when we went on stage and everyone was singing Silence Is Easy and Good Souls back at us it was a great feeling."
Starsailor have appeared alongside Mr T on Soccer AM and worked with Rolling Stones legend Ronnie Wood.
But Ben said his most surreal moment was meeting Brian May in Los Angeles.
The 38-year-old added: "We were playing with The Charlatans at the Palace in LA and I invited Brian May as I’m a massive Queen fan.
"He was in the area as I think he was re-mastering A Night At The Opera at the Capitol Building at the time. I can’t believe he actually came.
"But he came into the dressing room with this little hand clapper singing We Will Rock You. Things like that are just crazy."
- Starsailor's gig at Manchester's Albert Hall on October 3 is sold out but tickets are available for the Liverpool Academy show on October 2