Gene interview with
The Indie Shop 6.1.00
was impressed in so many ways through the interview. Perhaps the
strongest memory was the friendship and comradery that exists between
the band. This positive and friendly vibe seems to envelope all around
them, and I can't help but be impressed with the kindness they've shown
this small time radio dj from the other side of the world. I must say
that this also relates to the bands management and publicists. Both
Jerry and Michelle have gone beyond what your normal record exec would
normally do, and without them there would have been no interview. It's
rare that one gets to meet the people he greatly admires. This is
especially true in this age of global markets and media exposure. Gene
helped to re-awaken me to the joys of British music while England was in
the throes of Brit Pop. Suffice to say they're outlived early
comparisons to The Smiths, many of the bands that rose with them in the
mid 90's, and have gone on to forge a new identity with the explosion of
the internet. What you have below is a 90 minute conversation between
myself and the band. We touch on many of the topics that have shaped the
band in the past years, as well as what might shape the music industry
in the near future.
Cast of Characters:
Kevin Miles - Bass
Martin Rossiter - Vocals
Steve Mason - Guitar
Matt James - Drums
Michelle - American Publicist
Jerry Smith - Gene's Manager
Charles - Indie Shop host, rabid Gene fan & interviewer
Ali - KBeach dj and assistant interviewer
The Interview took place
within the outside lounge of the band's hotel in Hollywood. Kevin was
sitting by himself at a small round table as we arrived. I must preface
the interview by stating that the bands attitudes may be different from
the way they are here. Their sense of sarcasm and humor is tough to
translate to print, especially Martin's.
Due to the interviews
length, it has been divided into several pages. Merely follow the link
at the bottom of each page
Martin: I had a
skinhead for many years. The first skinhead I had was at 14, if I
Charles: Feels great doesn't it?
Martin: Oh its lovely.
Charles: You don't even need shampoo, just regular soap will do.
Martin: No, I use shampoo.
Martin: You filthy boy!
Charles: Were just poor over here
Martin: Well I don't believe that now
Charles: Do you want to introduce yourselves?
Kevin: I'm Kevin Miles and I'm the bass player of Gene
Martin: I'm Martin Rossiter and I do everything he tells me to
Charles: I've heard on one of your pages, a fan page, that Kevin
actually runs the show
Kevin: That's right, yeah. Well I'm the oldest you see so age
Martin: He's the great puppeteer…. and were mere pawns in his
grand scheme, aren't we Kev?
Kevin: That's right.
Martin: It's all true.
Kevin: Its taken me ten years to get them sounding a bit like the
Faces. We'll get there eventually.
silence…….moment a bit overwhelming]
Martin: So what
should I say next Kevin?
Kevin: I don't know.
Martin: Control me boy!
Charles: So you guys enjoyed the venue last night?
Martin: Yeah, very much actually. I had a great time. I felt like
Kevin: Its all like the marquee almost. It's a very legendary
venue, a lot of famous people have played there. John Lennon used to
hang out there, didn't he?
Ali: All those heavy metal bands
Kevin: Well, we're not bothered about them, are we.
Martin: Just the fact that John Lennon got kicked out of the
Troubadour is quite important to us.
Kevin: Elton John's first American show was here I think
Charles: Will you guys try to follow in his footsteps?
Martin: What, buy getting kicked out, or buying a wig? Well, we
tried so hard but they're all so nice.
Kevin: We tried smoking
Martin: But that didn't work.
Charles: How was the crowd?
actually, yeah. There's no barrier at the front. We've found over the
years that the atmosphere tends to be better if people are pushed up
against the barrier. People seem to relax a bit more.
Martin: They were great. The Los Angeles crowd is much like
London. They're a little bit jaded because everyone comes here. London
is the same. Its not like going to Sheffield back home or somewhere here
like San Diego which not everybody passes through. They're just a little
more excited to see anybody. But having said that, they were quite
wonderful actually. We feel very welcome.
Charles: And the fact that its been three years since you played
Martin: It's a bonus for you probably.
Kevin: We'd hoped you had forgotten us by this time.
Charles: You decided initially to do one show here in the US, and
I was surprised that Los Angeles was chosen.
Charles: New York seemed to be much closer.
Martin: Yes, yes, but it makes very little difference, five hours
on a plane.
Kevin: We had a friend here who was friendly with the promoters
of the Troubadour and they were quite keen to putting us on. And
on top of that we've always done, probably LA's been the city in
American that's been kindest to us I think. We've always done really
well here. They've taken us to their silicon bosom.
Charles: I know you came out here to do some promotional work as
well, such as start a label.
Martin: We'll, we've got a label started back home. It would be naive
to deny it, we're over here looking for some American licensing deal.
Also, we're doing the web cast on Friday. That ideas been thrown around
for the last year or so. I think it would have been a bit dull to do it
in London, and I think it was the perfect opportunity to reacquaint
ourselves with you.
Kevin: We thought we'd record it and put out a live album as
well. We'd have a lot of requests over the years for a proper live
album. So we're gonna get that out. We're gonna mix it as soon as we get
back, and hopefully, if it all goes well tonight and tomorrow. We'll put
that out at the end of June.
Charles: Do you plan on doing a live video as well?
Martin: There's talk of a video, of a DVD, fully interactive,
dress Kevin as you want.
Charles: I believe it was Steve that posted something about
wearing nursing outfits.
Martin: He was obviously drunk.
Kevin: Well I'm used to that, my wife's a nurse, so I'm a but
jaded with that fetish.
[Martin requests his
first diet coke from the waitress]
Charles: As far as
the video goes, do you plan on releasing that here in the U.S. as well?
Martin: Well I hope so. The mechanics are thus, It's simply a
case that if somebody wants to do it. With the deal we signed in
Britain its for the UK and Europe and we're trying to spread our fingers
around the rest of the world. If somebody wants to release it, of
course, we'd love to. Unfortunately that's out of our hands. If it was
feasible that we could expand out to America with our own little label
than we would, but it's not. We need somebody with a little more muscle
over here. I hope so, I really would hope so. If people like us.
Kevin: I think the video will probably come out over here. The
live album's gonna be out here, so hopefully.
[Michelle, the bands
American publicist/promotions manager appears.]
Martin: You still
crotchety? We'll cheer you up, so don't worry.
Michelle: I know you will
Martin: Sorry, so where were we?
Charles: We were talking about releases as far as videos here in
the U.S. You guys do fairly well in the UK still.
Martin: We do alright. I mean the last years been very odd
because we've been without a deal, and we did a show in January in
London at a venue called the Forum which is a fairly large place. We
were very pleasantly surprised that it sold out quickly, and that the
fans are still there. In a way, without sounding too cocky, I think it's
a victory of substance over style. We've never been a
particularly fashionable band, but that's enabled us to have some
longevity. The last time we were in America was in May of '97 and we've
come back and sold out three shows which has staggered us to be honest.
We were hoping to sell out one and they kept on adding them.
Charles: And I understand that the shows in New York are also
Martin: Are they? I don't know, I don't know. If you're right.
Kevin: That's good.
Charles: You definitely have a very, not hardcore, but a very
strong core audience.
Martin: No, we do have a hardcore audience. Ron Jeremy, big fan.
In every way. In fact the porn industry has been very supportive, and I
would like to take this opportunity to thank them.
Ali: Maybe you guys could make a porn soundtrack?
Martin: Maybe we could make a porn movie that would never sell
Martin: I think we ought to get off this….yes, move on.
Charles: Speaking of videos, you guys had a song featured in
Buffy the Vampire Slayer?
Martin: Did we?
Kevin: In the Buffy the Vampire?
Martin: Slayer. It's a program.
Kevin: I know, my mate
who's here, he loves Buffy so if we tell him that he'll a…
Martin: In the program of film?
Charles: In the program yes.
Martin: What song was it? Do you know?
Charles: How does my mind go blank at the wrong times?
Martin: I don't know, mine does as well.
Charles: (after looking at cd) "Fill Her Up"
Martin: Oh was it? Oh how lovely.
Charles: For some reason the only way I know is that a person I happen
to work with is a huge
Buffy fan and does her own show. It's a coincidence that my favorite
band would appear on the show.
Martin: Absolutely charming of them. Did you know that Michelle? That
we've been on Buffy the
Vampire Slayer allegedly?
Michelle: No, actually Jerry told me he's trying to find out all the
things that you're on.
Martin: "Fill Her Up" it was. I don't know, I don't watch the
Michelle: You've never seen it? It's really, really, really popular.
People are obsessive about it.
They don't miss it.
Martin: I wanna be on Frasier
Kevin: I wanna be on the soundtrack album than.
Charles: It's interesting that you would have a song used and not even
know about it.
Martin: Well there are a lot of things that we don't know about. The
worlds a large place, there are
thousands of countries and you simply cant keep up with everything. And
obviously people like
Michelle don't do their job properly obviously.
Martin: Oh, I'm so sorry, so sorry.
Michelle: I cant be blamed for anything in the past, only for the past
Martin: We don't find out about everything, so its nice to be told.
Charles: You don't think that it's a sign of losing control?
Kevin: You cant really stop it to be honest. You have to give permission
to things like adverts and
films. We had "London Can You Wait" in a film called
"Face" and we had to give permission for that.
Martin: But contractually after a certain amount of time you lose that
anyway. That goes for any
band on this planet, whether they're Limp Biskit, REM or Spice Girls.
Kevin: Hey Andy. I gotta tell him, he's the Buffy fan.
Martin: Watch his face, watch his face.
[Andy is told of the
Martin: You simply don't find out about everything. It's ok, I don't
think it devalues the songs. The songs stand up. Christ, I co-wrote them and they stand up for me so
they should for anyone else.
Charles: Recently a law came before congress, and part of the law stated
that an artist is basically
hired and they don't retain the rights to their music. The company
maintains all control.
Martin: Well that's been true anyway, your publishing company owns your
if you want to make records, that's how you have to do it.
Kevin: They lease them don't they.
Martin: Yeah, for twenty five years. That's the nature of the business.
I'd love to change that, and I
don't think its right, but in the grand scheme of things we're a small,
albeit quick, fish.
Kevin: In the end of the day if it's a fact that we were played on Buffy
we'll get paid for it. If we
didn't have a publishing company than anybody could….
Martin: Well probably get paid in about four years, seventy cents each.
Charles: Do you maintain some kind of control over your songs?
Martin: As much as we can. With the new deal, we probably have as much
control as is possible in
the industry. I doubt there is a band that has more control than us. But
having said that, its impossible
to have 100 percent. It simply doesn't happen.
Charles: So twenty years down the line you wont have to worry about
someone else controlling
Martin: That still applies. In twenty, twenty five years they'll be open
to the open market. That's
why Michael Jackson owns the Beatles songs. The writers still get the
money, don't get me wrong. Chrysalis, our publishing company, they own our songs. There's nothing
we can do about that.
Charles: Which I guess is what I'm trying to get at. Who owns the songs.
Martin: It's the publishing company. The publishing company owns your
Charles: That's something you work out when you get signed?
Kevin: There's no way you can get out of it.
Martin: That's true of every single band on this planet.
Charles: So it's a matter of compromise.
Martin: Of course it's a matter of compromise because there's no other
way of making records. To be
quite honest with you I think its more important that the people hear
our songs than us owning
Charles: As far as the songs themselves, there seems to be a change in
the way that you're bringing
them forth. The original music from Olympian seemed to much more
emotional and now you're
getting more political, at least as far as lyrics are concerned.
Martin: You've got a copy of Revelations, haven't you? ( he looks at the
cd sleeve). This is the last
studio album, and if you look at this there are three or four political
songs on this.
Good as it Gets"
Martin: Yes. Politics
is emotional. It's not an intellectual pursuit, it's a pursuit of the
heart. Kevin and I are both, I think, still glad to say we're
socialists. Aren't we?
Martin: And I don't do that because I thinks its intellectually
right, I do that because I think it's morally right, and therefore it
becomes emotional. I still get angry, I still get hurt. Without sounding
like Whitney Houston I still look at the world and it pisses me off. But
having said that, you've got songs like "Little Child" which
is, when it was written, was about my unborn kid, and that's highly
emotional. Very small, very micro little song about a tiny little detail
in one persons life, and I think it's as emotional as anything we've
ever done. I think all we're doing is broadening the way we show that
emotion, but its still there. I don't think Gene would be Gene without
Charles: So its just perhaps a signal of your growth as
Kevin: Lyrically if you think of the first album "Left
Handed" was a very political song. "This is Not My
Crime", "Do You Wanna Hear it From Me". There's always
been political sides to the lyrics. I know Martin writes the lyrics and
there are more on the recent album. Its probably a part of waiting so
long for a left wing government to come into our country and when they
came they just
Charles: What are the things that still motivate you when you
write? What really gets to you, touches you?
Martin: I think the thing to remember is that there is still that
magic. My favorite song ever is a song called "Rapoit Mader Rapoit
(sp) by a Hungarian folk band called Musikas. Now I haven't got a clue
what it's about. It's in Hungarian. My Magyar isn't what it was. I love
that song because it does that thing that music can do. It can make you
like on your bed in awe and you have this absolute flood, air raid, of
feelings that just smother you. The lyrics in Gene are intrinsic to who
we are, but it's easy to forget also that there are simple things like
lovely tunes, that I hope, can leave you breathless. So in that sense
I'm motivated by, I think we all are, by creating any sort of response
from the listener. That's important.
Kevin: It's just a wonderful thing, writing a song and than
recording it. You feel so proud. As though you've achieved so much.
Granted it's not a brain operation, but for the four of us it's what
we've always wanted to do. And to be able to do it and be able to pay
our mortgages as well is fantastic.
Charles: How does it feel, when obviously the product is good.
You guys write excellent songs and the emotion is strong. How does it
feel when you've slaved in the studio and the public reception isn't
quite what you hoped it might be?
Martin: You feel a bit pissed off, that's inevitable. I think
we're probably more philosophical about it now, because otherwise it
would destroy you.
Kevin: But we're still playing here in Los Angeles. You have to
look at it and think that in the grand scheme of things we've done
fantastically well. Compared to 99.9% of the bands who never even get a
record contract, never mind manage to travel the world.
Martin: It is easy to look at it negatively and you do have to
punch yourself occasionally and say "well hang on" and view it
from the other side. You suddenly realize I know the names of people
I've met because they like our music in about forty or fifty countries
in the world. We've been to Japan and seen the same faces and they adore
us, and they adore our records. Sometimes you do sit there and think
this is shockingly unfair, but than you see some very talented buskas
Charles: I'm specifically speaking of "Little Child"
which among fans seems to be the least popular song.
Martin: The least popular? Oh that's good. Does it?
Kevin: Perhaps it has something to do with, there is this sort of
weird attitude to people in bands when they have children. The Gallagher
brothers have had serious knocking in the British press for becoming
fathers which is unbelievable. Its just a part of life and growing older
and moving on. Maybe people still like Martin to be some sort of single
chap who's available. That's my take on it. I think musically and
melodically it's one of my favorite songs from Gene We played it to the
Forum in January. Do you know Dodgy, the band? We had the drummer from
Dodgy play and Matt played acoustic guitar and that was just great,
Martin: It was lovely.
Charles: I agree that it's one of my favorites. You can tell that
it's such a strong emotion for you. Martin: What people forget is that
it's not over sentimental really. The root of the song is that my misses
and I had a miscarriage and she got pregnant again. The song is saying I
hope this one survives. It's not at all "aren't you lovely, I'm
going to stroke your beautiful bottom that looks like a
Kevin: I'm the baby
Martin: Thank you, and you of course. It's a highly emotive
issue. People are entitled to think what they like, just not in front of
Charles: I do have a couple of questions that listeners are
curious about. We talked about playing live. What would be your proudest
moment. Martin: There've been a few.
Kevin: I think V97 was a good one. There's a festival in Britain,
Virgin Festival that we played in '97. We were on the second stage
against The Prodigy and we pulled a massive crowd.
Martin: That was one of the best shows we ever played.
Kevin: We played really well, didn't we? I think the Forum in
Martin: The Forum in January. Having done the Albert Hall still.
I drive past the Albert Hall. I don't know if any of you have seen it,
but it's this monstrously impressive building. And to go past it and
think hmmm, we filled that. Sometimes you go past that and think I only
filled that. That sense that "ha".
Kevin: That was great. All our families in their little box.
Martin: Milan in 1995. That was an important show for us. The
first time we heard the songs being sung back in a foreign accent. It
gave us a sense that we were translating over water.
[Steve walks over and
take over for me
Michelle: It's a tag team interview
Martin: I'm the rock
of live, any embarrassing moments?
Martin: Many. Absolutely hundreds.
Matt: That wasn't a good start. I missed the question actually
Martin: Embarrassing moments live.
Matt: Oh live. I think the worst one, for myself, and the one
that I remember was Glastonbury. Sort of falling over on stage in front
of forty thousand people the moment we came on. We were really going for
it and Martin climbed on the monitor as he does every night
successfully. He's a really good monitor climber actually, and he just
fell completely on his ass in front of forty thousand people. To be
honest, it just endeared the crowd to us as because he just took it on
the chin and bowed. After that they were really cool with it. I don't
think I've had anything else myself. Oh, a monitor fell one me once when
we were in Germany. A huge monitor just fell on me, and I just managed
to get out of the way before it crushed me to death.
Charles: I've done a lot of reading recently on The Beatles, how
they came up from basically nowhere. Do you ever get a sense that
without music you wouldn't have all these opportunities to travel the
Martin: Of course. I couldn't imagine anything else that would
have done this. I don't think any of us would have made professional
Matt: I wanted to be a social worker if not a musician. Music
wasn't my number one. If I'd been a social worker I wouldn't have been
able to travel at all. It would have been holiday once a year with
Martin: New Yorker
Matt: Well, Prague or something like that. We do feel lucky to do
that. Coming back to LA after a few years is very exciting. I was
sitting in a pub with a few friends and they said "where you going
tomorrow", "well I'm going to Los Angeles to do three
shows". I still get a little excited about saying that to people,
and that's the way it should be.
Martin: Absolutely. It's great to feel proud, and a little bit
cocky. "Yeah, I'm off to play the Troubadour, isn't that
great". And you want people to share that with you. And your
friends do, they get excited on your behalf as well which is very
Charles: How has success changed your lives as far as family and
the friend you grew up with?
Martin: I've deserted most of my friends to be honest. They're
frankly not worthy of me.
Matt: Parents are very proud of me. When we played the Royal
Albert Hall in London. It was the biggest we got in England. Just
walking out and seeing your mom and dad in a box, peering over looking.
I find that family weddings, people come up to you "My husbands got
a music shop outside of Wolverhampton (sp) and he's in a band called Cry
Wolf and they're a bit heavy metal. What do you like?"
Martin: "Got any advice for them?"
Matt: There's a token pop star in the family, though I don't
think we're really pop stars. We're sorta second division pop stars.
It's all that kinda thing.
Waitress (to Matt): Do you want something to drink?
Matt: I'll have a small diet coke please.
Waitress: It comes in one size.
Matt: Hey, one size is cool with me.
Charles: You must be inundated with demos where ever you go.
Martin: We do get quite a few. Which are generally awful. I'm
sorry, I'd love to say they're great, but they're really not.
Occasionally you hear something that shows magic that has yet to come.
But than again I listened to some of the demos that I did in bands
before this and ...(sign of embarrassment).
Matt: The best demo I've
ever gotten was from a band called Muse. Have you heard of them? They're just starting to break in the UK now and they're fantastic. We
were at the time getting local
bands to support us in every town and we did one in Exeter, southwest
England, and this band Muse,
they were all about sixteen, seventeen at the time, sent me a demo that
was great. From there they just
grew. Two years later they're on the front cover of NME.
Martin: They're a great band actually.
Matt: They're brilliant. I love getting demos, I really do. Most of them
are rubbish, but you have to
sift through. There's one in every fifty that's good.
Martin: Where do you think we nick all our songs from?
Matt: Yeah, we gotta get them from somewhere.
Martin: You don't think we actually write them, do you?
Charles: We actually have that on tape, so...
Martin: That's alright, it's the truth.
Charles: What other bands that you've seen develop in the past few
years, you really feel in touch
Matt: Well Muse is one of them obviously. I've watched REM's career
since day one. I've been a fan
of theirs since Chronic Town sort of time, and I've always.
Martin: They owe us a lot.
Matt: I've always wanted to emulate REM. I never thought we sounded like
them but I always
thought they had a degree of integrity and art. Artistic credibility
that I wanted to get that big and
retain it, and they were always a band that I wanted to follow in a way.
Not musically, but...
Martin: But just the fact that they managed to become the biggest band
in the world without having
to compromise too much.
Matt: They did a little.
Martin: Everybody has to a little, that's inevitable. We were talking
about this before. There's no
such thing as full control, it just doesn't exist. They did it better
than most. I'm not a huge fan. I like
some of it, but you can't deny that they're held on to their dignity.
Matt: I've watched peoples careers all the time. Watching Travis' career
at the moment. Watching
Oasis' career and seeing how that's changed around and the nightmares
that they're going through.
How it all becomes diluted after a while. Knowing when to stop and when
to keep going. I've been a
keen observer to the whole thing.
Martin: I don't understand music so.
Charles: How about some of the newer bands now?
Martin: Matt? I'm completely the wrong person to ask. I'll tag team with
Steve here because he
knows more about these things than I do. Steve, tag team.
Matt: There's a
band called Coldplay that aren't too bad in the UK. We're talking about
up and coming band that we like. There's a band called Mower that sound
like Captain Beefheart to me. I'm not a huge fan of Beefheart, but I
respect for that as young guys trying to do something avant-garde.
Failing sometimes, but occasionally getting it right. Obviously Travis
are doing well. I like the fact that they've got a good ear for melody
and simple chord structures with classic chord structures. I can't think
of anyone else I've been into. Oh, Super Furry Animals. Do you know
them? They're a brilliant band. They're great live. And they never used
to be good live but they became great live. There are a lot of bands
sticking to their guns and doing the things they want to do.
Steve: Who's this?
Matt: Super Furries
Steve: Oh we like the Super Furries.
Matt: There probably a band that actually has a fan base and
they're not really gonna break it huge, I don't think ever. They might
Charles: Have you heard their latest?
Matt: The Welsh language album? Mwng or whatever it is.
Charles: Is that how you pronounce it?
Matt: I don't know, I think it is. I went to see the gig in
London and they played the majority of that album. I think half of it is
fantastic and half of it is...Guerrilla, the last album, is brilliant.
Charles: I was curious as I played on the songs last night and
had no clue how to pronounce it.
Matt: On the album?
Charles: Yes. I had to just spell it out.
Matt: Yeah, track seven.
Charles: I think most people have no clue that in the UK there
are different languages for different regions.
Matt: Oh very much so. Well, sort of accents. There's only Welsh
really? Welsh and English. And there's Gaelic.
Charles: How do you cross between being a fan of music and
actually writing? Does it ever impede on your ability?
Steve: I think if you're a songwriter you need to listen to as
much music as you possibly can. It's like with any form of artistic
expression you have to be aware of what's going around you. Past and
contemporary stuff because everything does influence you. You'll taste
dictates what you'll do anyway, but if you hear something that's
brilliant than you must really analyze why it's brilliant and try to
utilize it for your own artistic expression.
Charles: So you never worry about being influenced too heavily.
Steve: That's called plagiarism, so obviously you try to avoid
plagiarism as much as possible. I think John Lennon said the art of
great songwriting is disguising other peoples work. I don't know whether
that's true or not, but everyone's influenced. We try to do things that
other people haven't done before. But than again you're in this genre
where it's a guitar band and unless you get into the technology and
drafting, aspects that aren't retro, than you are within a genre.
Basically we're (good/with?) songwriters and the power of the song is
more important than the style necessarily. A good melody is a good
melody no matter how you present it, and if it is a good melody it will
stand up to any presentation. We present ourselves as a guitar band and
that's what we are.
Charles: I guess one of the things I'm thinking of is, if you
listen to Travis, as much as I like them, you can definitely hear a lot
of voices in there.
Charles: They toured with Oasis last month here and you can hear
some of the melodies as they opened and hear them played back during
Matt: I can't really see that.
Charles: A Wonderwall type thing with the acoustic guitar.
Matt: Oh, right. I think Fran Healy is far superior to Noel
Gallagher in his sense of melody.
Matt: Noel has penned a couple of good tunes, you have to give him
respect for that. I think Fran
will prove to be a better critically acclaimed song writer. I don't
think he's stolen from their melodies.
You can hear the Byrds and Teenage Fanclub and bands like that in
Travis. That Scottish sort of rock
tradition. I can't hear Oasis though. You can hear Oasis in people like
Embrace and bands like that.
Charles: Let me ask you a question since we're talking about
songwriting. How do the songs
Matt: I write everything! No.......
Steve: I do!
Matt: He does as well.
Steve: What normally happens is someone comes in with an idea and the
four of us, Martin on piano
on Hammond, Matt on drums maybe on guitar occasionally, Kev on Bass, and
I'm on guitar, and we'll
just go through a basic song idea and play it around and around in as
many different styles as possible
until we conjure up the best possible presentation for the music and
than Martin will go away and
drape his melodies and lyrics over the top. He'll come back here and
decide whether the true are
cohesive, and if they're not than we'll bash it around again until it's
right. Sometimes it can take
months, other times it can be quite swift.
Ali: Do you ever get really frustrated?
Steve: We get frustrated all the time.
Matt: It is frustrating. We know how many songs we've written, and we
know if it's weird. I wish
we could just do it more quickly when you really need to. There are
songs in the set, one that we
played last night which I think is fantastic. It's not finished yet.
There's another one we're gonna do
tonight that I know is gonna change again. But you gotta do that. We're
gonna "yeah, that one's really
good", no it isn't, yes it is". You gotta go back and have
another look at it, and that's the process.
Charles: What's song?
Steve: Don't tell him.
Matt: No no...
Steve: It does make a huge difference, the four of you playing in an
enclosed space like a studio and
actually presenting it in front of a whole load of people. You get a
different sense of objectivity
because you have to gleen from the audience how they're perceiving it.
If you've got any slight bells
ringing in your head that this isn's quite right than you'll know for
certain when you play it live
because that little chime turns into Big Ben. You know what I mean? You
have to be aware of it. A
lot of bands fall in love with their work too quickly.
Matt: That's very very true. I think playing live really helps your
songwriting and our first album we
played live before recording it and the second album we didn't do that.
Although I think there are some
fantastic songs on the second album, some of them are a little bit
self-indulgent, a little bit studio like.
There's nothing wrong with studio albums actually, but live they didn't
transfer because they didn't
start off live and hadn't been bashed around live. We're gonna try to do
that a bit with this record, and
it will be a lot better for that.
Charles: Do you remember how "You'll Never Walk Again" came
Steve: The initial riff was written in Belgium, I think I was just
sitting down to nap. And from that
we started jamming.
Matt: You had that sort of thing didn't you? Than the piano thing turned
later. Martin write the
piano riff over that, didn't he?
Steve: I had that as well, that whole riff. To be honest we really don't
sit down and say well who
came up this bit and who came up with that bit. We're a collective.
We're a house of cards. If one
person isn't present than the whole thing topples. I write riffs, and I
forget them, and Matt says "you're
playing that wrong", and it happens all the time. Without Matt I
must forget half the stuff I write
anyway. We all sort of edit each other and encourage each other and
collectively we come up with the
Gene sound man! It's true.
Matt: I have a mini disc and I tape loads of stuff. Me and him sort of
jamming with guitars and
stuff. And every rehearsal now I tape mini disc stuff. It's great. The
last time I was in Japan I got a
mini disc and it's helped us so much. I just tape loads of stuff that we
would have forgotten before. It's
a bit of a chore going through it sometime, but it's worth it.
Charles: Does anyone actually write music?
Steve: I think Martin does.
Matt: Martin can read music. He's the most, sort of, classically trained
of us. He can write string
lines and score them as well. I think he will do that this time. He
wants to score out the string parts
first and do that properly. He's getting better and better. He's become
really good on the Hammond,
Martin, as well. He was a very, sort of, piano player really. The
Hammond playing is getting brilliant
now, isn't it? Really soulful and stuff.
Charles: How did you two come into your instruments? How you started the
drums and guitar?
Steve: My brother
was always a bass player and had guitars lying around. I had a guitar
lying around the house for ages and picked it up when I was sixteen. No
real calling really, just lying around and I thought I'd have a bash
with it. you had to paint all your nails to follow the guitar chords. My
father thought I was going through some weird phase in my life. Waking
up with nail varnish on my hands. In about six weeks I had all the
chords sorted out and I was within a band in about two months and it
just sorta went on from there. I never thought I'd end up doing it as a
living, that's obviously how it panned out.
Charles: I never heard of the nail polish technique.
Steve: It's great, you should try it.
Charles: You could start your own school.
Matt: I watched Steve develop as a guitarist. I was in a band
with his older brother.
Charles: Spin, right?
Steve: That's right.
Matt: It's that Steve just worked really hard at it. You gotta do
that. And he had a certain amount of attitude in his playing, always,
even when he wasn't as particularly as he is now. There's the certain,
picking up the Hendrix stuff and learning how to play them with soul.
That's something not everyone can do.
Steve: I think studying is a question of enthusiasm. If you're
enthusiastic about something you will succeed. If you lose enthusiasm it
doesn't allow you any form of talent to read and get better, and I found
guitar playing solace really. I was crap at sports at school. It was
something for me that's mine and I'm fuckin' good at it. I don't have to
compete with anyone on any other level apart from that's what I do.
Charles: Were there any other guitarists that really influenced
Steve: When I started hanging with Kev he brought in a lot of
Faces stuff, Ronny Wood? And that's when for me everything started
turning on its head and I started getting into rock blues guitar
playing. Before that I hadn't really listened to Hendrix that much, I
was more into the Stones. I think Ronny Wood, through Kev's influence,
really dictated style and where I wanted to go. It was quite revelatory
really, that was a good thing that Kev did.
Matt: That was when the "For The Dead" riff came. A
very important moment in Steve's development, that riff. That is a
killer riff. You know you've written something good. When we wrote that
and finished the song we thought "we've actually got something
that's soulful and classic sounding" and also we (?) because of
Martin's lyrics. It's very influenced by the Faces sort of track
music, but if you take Martin off it. It's a really interesting marriage
and we realized "I've stumbled on something" and, oh right,
now's the time to go for that sort of thing.
Steve: That was kind of the blueprint for a lot of songs that
came after that.
Matt: I never get bored of playing For The Dead. Not really,
sometimes, we play it not every night, but most nights because fans
demand it and I don't mind. I still play it in sound check. Steve still
strikes up the riff and rather than, I'll play along, again for the five
hundredth time now! I never get pissed off For The Dead and that's the
mark of a good song.
Steve: There's a sense of security in that track as well, as we
know that's the defining moment when we were on to something. When you
play that you know how it sounds and it's a good yard check for judging
sound checks and how the bands sounding in any room. If you've kinda got
that one song nailed, and it sounds great, than you know that things are
gonna be alright.
Matt: If For The Dead doesn't sound great we know were in
trouble. Big style. Help!
Charles: What's the song you're most proud of?
Matt: I think my favorite Gene song is Where Are They Now
actually. I like so many of them. As an end on Drawn To The Deep End the
fade out of that track at the end is my favorite bit of Gene music ever.
The fade on the last bit of Where Are They Now. I love the song, it's
probably my favorite Gene song, but that bit is my favorite bit of
music. There's some wicked new stuff.
Charles: yourself? (to Steve)
Steve: I can't really pinpoint it, as there's so much to the way
Martin delivers things. If you've got stuff like Speak To Me Someone,
which I think's fantastic. And you've also got Why Was I Born. I try not
to think about it too much, I just like our songs and that's enough for
Matt: I think it's good to be fans of your own music, and it
should be like that. Sometimes I forget that we wrote those (?) and I've
become a bit of a Gene fan myself. That's great to be like that. It
makes you take care of them. There's songs that you don't become fans of
"they're not up to scratch and we'll have to do better".
Steve: Lyrically I think This Is Not My Crime is one of the best
lyrics that Martin has ever delivered. I still read those lyrics and
think "That's fuckin' brilliant". There's no way I could ever
conjure up that take on that subject so eloquently and you think, hand
down, respect. When you've got that sort of level of respect between the
four of you. Kev being a fantastic chord merchant and bass player, and
everyone's got a mutual sense of respect for each other. It just makes
everything a lot more harmonious, so if someone has a problem with
something you'll listen and say "this is like this and we can go
through other ideas and try to make it better" and normally we do
succeed in doing that. Where other bands go "no, that's it, this is
the way it's done" and you gotta live with it. Fuck that, that's
Charles: Are there times when you listen to your own music? Put
on the cd and listen to it?
Steve: I do occasionally. Not too much. You spend so much time
writing the songs and recording them, and than playing them, going and
listening to them again is almost like opening up things that don't
necessarily need to be opened up.
Matt: Yeah, I put Revelations on the other day and actually heard
it for a while. Put it on in me car. I don't think we ever made an album
that sounds like a concept album, maybe we should do that Draw To The
Deep End was the nearest to that. All our albums are collections of
songs and are quite eclectic, and successful for that in some respects,
But maybe I think we should get some new sounds as a whole thing. Like a
Stone Roses album or a (?) after the Gold Rush or town like album. We do
great collections of songs. That's something we've still gotta crack.
You always need something to work on.
Charles: I do have a listener question for you.
Steve: A listener question?
Charles: I heard that you've taken up boxing recently.
Charles: They were wondering….Say it was you, Robbie Williams
and Liam Gallagher in the ring, who would come out first?
Steve: Me, cause I'd run away. I don't box of any form of
violence. I box basically I wanted to get fit and I'm fortunate that
I've got a place 30 seconds around the corner from me.
Matt: He's sick of being bullied by is all. We're always cracking
him around the ears.
Steve: I just did it because I felt like I needed to get fit. I
started running as well, it's just boxing. I don't do to sort of walk
into a pub and if anyone looks at me and go, give it the ol' Clint
Eastwood and go "alright, outside" you know. Its just there so
I can get fit and have a sense of release really.
Charles: So you guys are
working on releasing an album over here. I heard that you'll be
Revelations over here?
Matt: Trying to, yeah. We're going wrestle it back off Polydor first. It
isn't easy. It's stupid, she
should agree because if they sell copies they'll make money as well. We
can do a deal with them. It's
proving a little tricky. I think we will get there. It's our music and
we gotta fight for it. It wasn't really
Polydor America's fault that it didn't come out. It was the whole
takeover by Universal. Polydor just
didn't exist any more over here. There's nothing they can do about it
really. They're been a little bit
hard with us about letting us go our way. I don't think the Universal
bosses want us to have success
because it makes them look stupid. They got rid of us. They can't really
stop us because there are so
many fans, and we can just survive. That's a great thing.
Charles: Are there any more plans to release another b-sides
Matt: There were a few that didn't make it. There are a few
songs, Touched By The Hands Of Havoc, isn't there.
Steve: I Need You.
Matt: Yeah, I Need You hasn't been heard. There's a few that
we're gonna be b-sides to single three and four from Revelations that
have not come out. There's Little Diamond that's and instrumental that a
Charles: Actually Touched By The Hand Of Havoc was on a past
Matt: Has that one been out?
Charles: I believe it was Fill Her Up.
Matt: Oh god, so it's not that one than. Which one is it?
Steve: I've no idea. It's weird, a lot of bands have loads of
stuff unreleased and we've only got three or four songs unreleased.
Charles: I've read that you did about twenty five tracks for the
Matt: I don't know if we did that many.
Steve: I don't know if we did that many, I don't know.
Matt: There's only Dear Restrauntier (sp?) from that time.
Steve: We have a few things. There's probably a few more. There's
Supermarket Bomb Scare, has that come out?
Matt: I don't know. I can't remember. I've no idea.
Charles: Is there chance of releasing these sometime?
Steve: The thing is if we wanted these songs to be released than
we would have released them.
Steve: Hi Chris.
Matt: Hi Chris.
Charles: Are you
guys running short of time?
Steve and Matt: No.
Steve: We'll talk until the cows come home. I never know what
that phrase means but,
Matt: They come home to the shed at the end of the day, don't
they. They all go out, graze and eat their grass than come home to the
Steve: I've got a friend that's quite sad. He's got a book of all
these quotations. So if someone says something he'll give you some
brilliant reason why that phrase is used.
Charles: Contra, that's the name of the company you're starting?
Matt: There's Sub Rosa Music which is what we wanted to use but
there's a company called Sub Rosa in America. We're actually called Sub
Rosa but well trade to the name Contra. Contra, did you thin of that?
Steve: Yeah, it just means in opposition to. Which I think is
quite apt considering we don't like working for corporates.
Matt: It's nothing to do with (?), I'll assure you of that.
Steve: I don't ever want to work for a corporate again to be
honest. It's just wrong for what we're trying to achieve artistically.
I'm sick of being, I think we're all sick of being pressured by monetary
values rather than our artistic expression. We did get a lot of hassle
which was unnecessary. Two singles which we otherwise wouldn't have
chosen. It just all comes down to cash, something we really don't need
to get into. It's nice for us now to be independent and have people that
believe in us quite blindly, that we are good musicians and that we're
worth being backed, rather than just being under the umbrella of a
corporation that has so many artists on the roster that they don't know
where to spend money so they throw it all around the place and no real
understanding. I think that sucks and that's a bad ethic to live your
life by. So Contra is opposition to that.
Ali: Do you feel especially compelled to play all age venues and
keep the cost of tickets to your shows down?
Matt: Yeah, we've always done that.
Steve: We're not elitists in any way.
Matt: That is important. The all ages show is more of a thing in
America. Certainly tickets prices we've kept…It's worked for us in a
way cause we've always sold tickets live. We just did the Forum in
London and had two and a half thousand people there, and we haven't had
a record deal for a year, means these things are paid back to us.,
though we've always kept ticket prices pretty low.
Steve: Not that low.
Matt: Lower than most people. We're rewarded by loyalty, so it
works for us as well.
Charles: How do you feel about the way the internet is really
helping musicians get out there, and hindering others….
Matt: For us I think it's going to empower us.
Charles: Think so?
Steve: I think its such an early day that there's such confusion
over how the internet will dictate the market. There's not enough in the
majority of countries, there's not enough technology in peoples homes to
exploit the fact that music can be delivered over the internet basically
through the downloading problems and the lack of quality. I think the
whole retail market will change hugely over
the next ten years because you will not need to have big hangers full of
product. You can just burn it straight away. It just means that the
retail situation, which obviously dictates all the charts and dictates
the media, because the charts are what it follows, its gonna have to be
taken into account for the internet sales and its much easier to release
records on the internet as it's not half as much money. You can do it
yourself as well. Anybody can make music in their own bedroom, make
their own website, you can have your own record company from your own
house. It does cut out all the fat cats with the cigars saying show me
the hits. I think that's a godsend.
Matt: I remember that, during the Drawn To The Deep End session,
when Lucy and (?) at Polydor just clapped his hands and said "show
me some hits" and we just sorta, all our heads went down.
"Lucy don't say that in front of Gene", we were like, "oh
Charles: You don't worry about internet pirating?
Matt: I know that our fans have made our stuff available,
downloadable. To me it's sort of home taping really. It's probably gonna
do us some good really, the word of mouth type thing. At this stage,
I'll encourage it. We're not gonna be Metallica about it. As though they
don't have enough money already, they're all probably worth about four
Steve: The think is every form of fraud needs to be monitored,
doesn't it? And if it's fraudulent behavior than it needs to be sorted
out. At the end of the day I think people like seeing the artwork,
reading the lyrics.
Matt: People will still like to buy a cd.
Steve: At the end of the day the internet will get so strong that
people will get to do that anyway. You have any photograph and you'll be
able to zap it into the computer....
Matt: There's something about shopping though, isn't there? In a
sort of physical way, hopefully will still he there. Bands like us , it
gives a chance to survive really without making corporations in the
future because we have people that like our music. We've always had a
problem of getting more people to like our music, hopefully we'll be
able to utilize the internet to do that as well. We've got to a certain
size and kinda stayed there. We really do want to become like REM,
really. maybe we'll find a way through the internet to do that.
Charles: How do
you feel about tomorrow nights performance?
Steve: Don't know, haven't played it yet.
Charles: The fact that you are able to reach fans all over the
world with one performance in a small venue.
Steve: Frightening, isn't it?
Matt: Yeah, don't cheer us up too much please. What's amazing is
that you can touch so many people without leaving a 200 person venue.
Matt: We had this idea of having a virtual ticket type thing
actually where people had a ticket emailed to them for free. it gives
you a number and you go to that site, but we thought that was too
restrictive in the end. It's gonna be great. Let's just hope that people
are up at six in the morning in the UK. They were thinking of beaming
into a club in London so the London fans could watch it on a
screen. But they'll be tired. We don't think they'll like us enough to
get up at four in the morning and go somewhere.
Charles: There are actually a few people in the UK that wake up
at five in the morning and listen to the show, though I can't imagine
why. I'm sure I'd be the same. It just shows the power of the music.
Charles: Offering the chance to listen to something different
that Brittany Spears every hour.
Matt: Oh yeah, now that's the way it's going. There's some
shocking stuff going on in the music industry. There are people that
aren't even stars, people who are just frightened little girls and boys
put in roles as puppets and bands where you can lose two members and two
others show and nobody seems to notice or care.
Charles: To me, as far as being a fan, it's almost frightening.
It seems like it would be a little scary as an artist to see the way the
industry is moving around.
Matt: It is. (?) type stuff being controlled completely by global
corporations. It's up to people like us and other artists to fly the
flag of art really and not be afraid to be artists. Stop calling
projects art. These things are just projects, sort of cabaret things.
The boy bands and all that stuff, it is just elaborate cabaret.
Sometimes its very good, in the entertainment world. There really needs
to be a balance. There's a lot great stuff getting squashed.
Steve: The thing is all industries change for one reason,
progression. And obviously the whole internet scenario is in a confused
state at the moment, it will take a while to settle down. I'm sure once
it has settled down . I'm sure once it has settled down it will be for
the better for all involved.
Charles: This kind of goes hand in hand with this next question.
How does it feel to come into the US and try to regain a footing?
Matt: Regain a footing?
Charles: You built up a good fan base with Olympian and Drawn To
The Deep End and you kind of lost it for a while because of the deal. It
seems you will have to re-establish yourselves.
Steve: You've gotta fight for everything you want. If it's given
to you on a plate you become complacent. I think at the end of the day
if we have to fight all over again than it gives us a sense of hunger,
it gives it a new sense of challenge. I think when you're challenged it
puts you in a different mindset and you deliver things you wouldn't
possibly do if you were in complacent land.
Matt: It was great. It felt like last night it was a case of
needing to win over some of the American fans here. Obviously we're
older and haven't been over here for a while. There was a little bit of
sparring between us and the audience in the first half of the gig last
night. And by the end it was "oh yes, you are still good to
us". There's no reason why people won't just like you forever if
not good. There was a case of winning back the memory of it and seeing
that there is a future as well. I really felt that there was something
going on. Hopefully tonight will be better than last night.
Charles: Are you guys taking requests for tonight at all?
Matt: What sort of request?
Charles: I had a fan, a listener, who was interested in hearing
"Speak To Me Someone".
Steve: We did that one last night.
Matt: We'll play that. In the London shows recently we didn't do
that at the Forum, we didn't do that at the Scala before we came out but
we decided to do it when we came over here. It did actually go down
really well last night. We're probably gonna mix the sound around a bit
tonight and pick the best for Friday.
Charles: Ever play any b-sides?
Matt: We might play "This Is Not My Crime" on this
tour. We've got that up our sleeve. I don't know, we'll have to wait and
see. There are a couple that might come out.
Steve: To be honest we wanna come back and do a proper tour of
the states anyway, this is just a gift, to come out and do three. We
were quite fortunate that the fans were loyal and allowed us to play
three nights here, and obviously you have the web cast and stuff. This
to us is just like a rekindling of the fire that we tried to start years
back, and now we're in a different situation where we got people that
believe in us. We'll come out and do proper tours. And once you start
doing proper tours it gives you more scope to really rage the back
catalog and bring things to the fire that you might not have done. To be
honest we would get bored if we played the same set every night. It's
like watching the same film every day, you can't do it. We've written
stuff, I don't know, about a hundred songs? We've written so many.
Matt: Must be about a hundred
Steve: It would be stupid for us not to bring out rarities, and
it puts us on our toes because we think "shit, how the hell did we
play this in the first place". Also, it's nice for people to hear
things from us that they wouldn't normally hear from us.
Matt: "Sick Sober
And Sorry" was the b-side that we sort of embraced and played every
now we sort of put it on hold for a while. "I Cant Help
Myself", that's one of the greatest songs we've
ever written and it should have been on Olympian. I don't know why we
didn't do that. It's one of our
favorites, and of fans as well. A status all of its own.
Charles: Have you guys played All Night live?................It just
happens to my personal favorite.
Matt: Yeah we have. We used to use the same(?) snare on it, didn't we.
Steve: I can't remember how that goes.
Matt: That one isn't a Gene favorite really. It's sort of...
Steve: That was an attempt.
Matt: That was an attempt at a pop song and I think it's a bit shallow
in a way. I suppose
"Fill Her Up" is a bit shallow in a way, it's just a drinking
song. "All Night" Martin didn't really like it
actually, he was the one who wasn't so keen on it.
Steve: That's quite sonic, isn't it?
Steve: (simulated drum sounds) doom doom chik, doom doom chik.
Matt: Yeah, yeah. Yep.
Steve: It's a bit embarrassing.
Charles: How about "Pass On To Me"?
Matt: That's a great one, it's very lovely actually.
Steve: (trying to remember how the guitar goes, humming chords)
Matt: We've got so many songs now that those songs don't get a look, but
I think that when we do
the next lot of touring we're gonna bring songs that we dropped or never
played in again. It's to keep it
exciting for us. Maybe that's one we could consider.
Steve: It's quite intricate, "Pass On To Me", isn't it? (hums
Matt: It's really one you could do on a radio session or something. I
like that one. It sorta goes off at
the end, we didn't quite finish it off properly.
Steve: You gotta be weird with certain songs because on record they
sound great but trying to get
them across live, you're sounding dead rigid because you've got this
technical thing to pull off. To be
honest, I can't be assed. I'd rather whack a guitar a bit more and be
violently emotive. We are a rock
band basically. We seem delicate because we have a singer that can
deliver poignant lyrics.
Matt: I was into the encores last night, of doing the rocky encore and
doing the delicate encore. I
think that's brilliant as it shows the two sides of us. We might try to
do that again tonight.
Charles: I saw your post on the message board. It was you?
Charles: You're doing a Belle & Sebastian song?
Steve: That's not me. There's imposters you see, they're everywhere. I
love that word, it's quite
Charles: There's no way to tell.
Steve: Well there should be as I try very hard that when I do go on the
bulletin board to have a style
that, whatever, well it doesn't seem to work so I'm gonna have to
conjure up a secret code or
Charles: I really appreciate your guys for being able to talk to me
Steve: Cool, it's a pleasure
Matt: Quite relaxing place this hotel. Not the grandest hotel, but I
really like it. Sitting around, sorta
just chatting really.
End of interview…….
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Photos courtesy of
Gene's official site, Genenet