He might have won six snooker world titles – but Steve Davis is more proud of his musical achievements than anything he accomplished on the baize.
He retired from the game in 2016 after more than 35 years and has since gone to form a band, play festivals including Glastonbury, and release four albums.
And Steve still can’t believe anyone in that world took him seriously – considering his only previous musical venture was a solo line on Chas & Dave’s song Snooker Loopy.
The green baize legend, 63, says: “What you can judge is how much thrill it’s giving you and how proud you are. And in that respect I’m more proud of what’s happened recently, maybe because it’s fresher.
“Winning snooker events became the norm. But this is all so unexpected, beyond belief, when the snooker, in the end, was expected.
“But kudos to my bandmates for having the guts to go on the road with somebody whose only previous output was one line in Snooker Loopy.”
A long-term lover of psychedelic and experimental music, Steve became pals with guitarist Kavus Torabi in 2006. They did a radio show, some DJ gigs, formed band The Utopia Strong with Michael York, and have a book out this week called Medical Grade Music.
It details the pair’s musical adventures from DJing a packed-out tent at Glastonbury in 2016 – worse for wear after starting drinking gin at 11am – as well as another festival where the crowd were given Steve Davis masks to wear, and the champ’s idea for a YouTube channel where he plays snooker while on drugs.
It’s quite a change for the man who had the reputation of being boring, most notably due to his “Interesting” Spitting Image puppet.
In December Ronnie O’Sullivan even claimed Davis “ruined” snooker in the 1980s as players went on to copy his emotionless style of play, leading to a lack of characters in the game.
The south-London born star only began to show his real personality later, including when he famously stripped off while appearing on I’m A Celebrity in 2013.
But he’s happy to admit that in his snooker heyday, he really was boring.
He says: “If you practise eight hours a day in a dark room you’re not going to have any personality, are you? How can you?
“The nature of snooker lends itself to having a robot-style mentality, so I wasn’t out partying. I fully hold my hand up to my boring persona but I was on a mission.
“When the ‘interesting’ puppet came out, I was able to laugh at it – as long as I was playing snooker well, I didn’t really care what people were making of my personality.
“If you wanted to identify what makes someone a winner, one of those things would be being in control of yourself.
“I agree a lot of personalities could get exorcised from a sport if it gets more successful and I was a stepping stone to that.
“But you’re always going to get the maverick, a Ronnie, a Jimmy White, a Bubba Watson, a John McEnroe. What is nice is the mixture of personalities.”
The so-called “golden age of snooker” in the 1970s and ’80s is the subject of an upcoming Louis Theroux documentary, for which Steve has been interviewed.
But he reckons the game is in its prime now, comparing the 18.5million viewers he got during the 1985 World Snooker Championship final against Dennis Taylor with the 60m who will tune in from China alone for this year’s event, which starts on Saturday.
Steve adds: “This documentary concerns itself with a specific time back in people’s memories.
“They were asking me all these questions and I was thinking – this is all in the past.
“For me there’s a frustration, I think, with the UK in general. We’re living in the past. The actual golden era of snooker is now. The game is more worldwide than it’s ever been.
“I sense with this documentary they’ll make a fair bit of the bad boy image of it, sensationalise it. I understand they’ve got to try to make it attractive to watch, so it can’t be about me going to bed at 10pm with a glass of hot milk.
“But somewhere down the line maybe we can stop living in the past.”
In the book, Steve dubs his snooker fame “The Thing” and admits it’s been both a blessing and curse when launching his new career in an alternative band – where he plays a complicated electronic instrument called a modular synthesizer.
He adds: “I’d never even considered I was a liability. Usually it would be the seal of approval if I put my name to a snooker product but when the record company had to try to sell our record, you can imagine people going, ‘What?’
“It could have backfired if the record had been crap. But we believed it was good.”
While the events of the past year put gigging on hold, The Utopia Strong have a tour planned for November.
Steve adds: “Making records and rehearsing has taken over as a driving force and it’s certainly injecting enthusiasm into the veins.
“There was no plan – this has just happened. And going on stage to play live improvised music is not the job spec of somebody once they’ve retired. I really should be filling out the forms for the heating allowance now.”
● Medical Grade Music by Steve Davis and Kavus Torabi (White Rabbit, £20) is out tomorrow.
This post appeared first on Daily Star - Snooker.