About time the UK's diverse music is recognised, says Biffy Clyro's Simon Neil


Biffy Clyro's frontman Simon Neil said "it's about time" the diverse music of Britain is recognised and celebrated as he walked the red carpet ahead of the Brit Awards on Wednesday evening.

The annual ceremony, held at London's O2 Arena, kicked off with early arrivals from the Scottish rock band, who are nominated for British Group, and Critics' Choice winner Rag'n'Bone Man.

On the topic of diversity, Neil likened grime music to that of the breakthrough punk movement of the 1970s and praised Britain for its wide range of musical styles.

Artists such as Mercury Prize-winner Skepta, Stormzy and Kano are among those representing the grime genre at this year's Brit Awards.

Neil told the Press Association: "It was kind of similar when punk came along, I think the mainstream tried to ignore it and it's the same with grime.

"It's great to see Kano and Skepta up for British Album of the Year because those records are the best made this year."

He said, jokingly: "Apart from ours, which is the best record made any year, ever."

Neil added: "Britain is so diverse musically, never mind just culturally.

"It's so important to represent, and if we don't we're doing ourselves a disservice, so it's about time."

Chart-topping singer Rag'n'Bone Man, who is also nominated in the British Breakthrough Act category, said that, in terms of diversity, "good music speaks for itself, regardless".

The stars on the red carpet shared their excitement for the ceremony's impending tribute to George Michael, who died on Christmas Day at the age of 53.

Neil said: "George is a total legend, I love the way he conducted himself throughout his career, he's been great with charity, he never really chased fame, he just did what he wanted to do, he made the music he wanted to, and at the tail end of what was a terrible year last year it is so important to value people like George Michael.

"I don't think there will ever be people like George Michael or David Bowie ever again, it's just the nature of the world changing but we love George and I'm sure the tribute will do him proud tonight."

A spokeswoman for the Brits confirmed that a tribute for the late pop star would take place, but did not give any further details.

Brit nominees Ed Sheeran, Little Mix, Ellie Goulding, Craig David, Michael Kiwanuka and James Arthur were among those to grace the red carpet ahead of the event.

Arthur said he did not expect to win in either of the categories for which he is nominated - British Single and British Artist Video of the Year, both for his track Say You Won't Let Go - but that it is "nice to be recognised by the Brits" regardless.

He said: "The songs in the category and the artists are so much bigger than I am, so I'm not expecting to win anything. I'm just really happy to be here."

Arthur, who won The X Factor in 2012, is up against artists including Coldplay, Calvin Harris and Little Mix in the British Single category, and is among the likes of Adele, One Direction and Zayn in the Video shortlist.

Other stars on the red carpet included Our Girl actress Michelle Keegan and singer and former X Factor judge Rita Ora.

Singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas, who is nominated for British Female Solo Artist against Goulding, Emeli Sande, Nao and Anohni, said she is happy to just be nominated.

"The stuff I do is not massively commercial all the time, I feel very grateful, and honestly, I know it's cheesy, I'm just glad to be nominated," she said.

On the diversity of this ceremony - which comes two years after rapper Kanye West brought a group of grime MCs onto the stage to highlight the lack of recognition of the genre during that awards season - La Havas said it was "unusual" to not see grime represented as strongly as it is now.

She said: "I think the genre has now been a bit more acknowledged.

"For me personally, when I hear grime, because I'm from London it sounds like London to me - it does in hindsight feel a bit unusual that it was something that wasn't promoted as much.

"But I also think now we've got some real stars happening in that genre, it makes a lot of sense now."

She praised other awards ceremonies, such as the Mercury Prize, for recognising a wide variety of genres.

Rapper Wiley said he is looking forward to celebrating if "one of my guys" wins one of the big awards at the Brits.

He said: "I need them to take something home, I can't wait."

Wiley is not nominated himself, but is backing artists such as Skepta and Stormzy to win, said: "We're going to go to the after-party, get some drinks, have a good time."

He added: "I like what Stormzy's done by pushing barriers, I like what Skepta's done with the barriers.

"I love Kano, he's slipped into an area he well deserves to be in, and I know his live show is always going be out of this world, so my respect for him will always be there, I'm glad for him."

Katy Perry, clad in a glittering Versace outfit, attracted excited screams from fans gathered along the red carpet as she arrived ahead of her live performance during the show.

Perry is not nominated for an award this year, but will be taking to the stage for the first time since appearing at the Brits in 2014.

The other performers at the ceremony - hosted by Emma Willis and Dermot O'Leary - are Sheeran, Sande, Little Mix, Bruno Mars, The 1975, Robbie Williams and Skepta.

Speaking from the red carpet during a social media live stream, Perry said she is not nervous for her live set, but that she has butterflies.

She said, of her performance: "It's chapter two of what I did at the Grammys, it's the next storyline narrative, I'm excited. I'm feeling very free and I hope it translates on stage."

Perry regaled a story from her first time at the Brit Awards in 2009, where she won the International Solo Artist prize, but was so unwell she was discovered hiding in the toilets by singer Natalie Imbruglia.

She said: "The first time I won a Brit I was really sick, it was the first and only time at the beginning of it all, and I had the flu.

"I had the chills, I was shaking, I had the snots, but I I was giving it on the red carpet. I couldn't sit at the table, I couldn't deal with everything, the haze - I was like that Spongebob meme where he's circling.

"I went to the bathroom and hid under the credenza, I was shaking underneath it. I was so sick and Natalie Imbruglia came over and was like, are you OK babe?"

She joked: "I think she thought I was off my face - you guys get crazy here in the UK!"

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