When Astro was filling in the Unemployment Benefit form 40, little did he know his band with the same name would take him to fame and fortune.

It's been 39 years since the childhood friends from Birmingham caught the eye of American musician and Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde at a pub and began touring as her opening act.

It was a chance encounter which saw them receive multiple Grammy nominations, sell millions of records and top charts worldwide.

Her tour consisted of more dates than they had played together as a band. And they haven't looked back since.


"There is a difference between surviving on 7 pounds and 90 pence a week dole money ... cause, as far as I am concerned, you can't get any worse than being on the dole."

"Don't let anybody tell you that you can't. If your heart is in the right place, and you put enough time and effort in to learn a new craft, anything is possible. Nothing good happens overnight and nothing good comes easily," Astro says.

After navigating a "skewy" international phoneline, Astro's (Terence Wilson) brummie accent can be heard. He's on his first break of the year, spending time in his home town; Birmingham.

But while they have basked in the glory of their success, they have also had their share of controversy in recent years.

In 2008, lead singer Ali Campbell departed the group, along with keyboardist Mickey Virtue, later joined by Astro, who would leave in 2013. It has resulted in two groups touring under the same name - one led by Ali and the other by his brother, Duncan Campbell.

The dispute still isn't resolved. But despite that, Astro remains firmly focused on the music.

"I haven't spoken to the others. I have nothing to say to them," he says.

"They showed their true colours and I am happy with where I am with Ali and Mickey ... there are no egos to contend with and it is just a pleasure to go to work now."

"We have been performing together all our adult lives basically, so in one respect it is always going to sound the same because it was mine and Ali's voices that people were listening to back in the eighties, nineties and naughties.

"It's just a different selection of music for people to digest."

Their show at Napier's Church Road Winery next January is the first on their 40th anniversary tour. Joined on-stage by their eight-piece band, the trio will play all the hits, Red Red Wine included.

"We are not self-indulgent, we know that when people come and see us they want to hear all the hits." But they will also give the crowd a taste of songs from the new album ... a real labour of love.

It is not the first time Astro has played in New Zealand with the band, having previously played at venues including Black Barn Vineyards in Havelock North.

Napier, in particular, holds a special place in his heart.

"When I retire, it is New Zealand that I want to go to ... a place over by Napier that really took my fancy about 15 years ago."

His sentiments almost seemed too good to be true. "Really, you're not just saying that?" I ask. But he is serious. "No, no, no ...," he says. He is a "sucker for the 20s" - loves all things Art Deco.

But the price of touring means, that until that day comes, he doesn't really have time to spend taking in the beauty of each city he performs in.

UB40, featuring Ali Campbell, Astro and Mickey Virtue, will play at Napier's Church Road Winery on January 25, 2018.