Gaz Coombes talks about growing up, rocking and shopping
Supergrass front man Gaz Coombes walks into his smoky local pub in Kemp Town. He's dressed down in a sky blue top and brown trilby hat; he sports - as always - the mutton-chop sideburns that make him unmistakable from 100 metres. Despite this nobody looks twice.
"People are cool here," he says. "I was in Covent Garden last week and people were coming up to me and asking for autographs, and it was not good, but here it's cool. Brighton is cool, it's a great place to be."
Difficult though it is to believe Supergrass has been with us for a decade. In that time they've notched up three platinum albums and toured the world many times. This year they are releasing a retrospective 'best of' album with a DVD, which includes official videos alongside a montage of live footage.
"We asked fans to send in any video that they'd taken over the years and we put it all together on one disc. We are just finishing it now and I'm really happy with it."
He lights a cigarette and I instantly think of the lyrics of the bands' biggest hit, Alright: We wake up, we go out / Smoke a fag, put it out / See our friends, see the sights / Feel alright." It's a song that was a hit nine years ago and was all about being young, naive and discovering girls.
"I'm very proud of Alright," he says. "But we don't sing it at concerts any more. It's hard to sing lyrics about being so young when you are not." Of course - like us all - he's grown up in the last decade. And that - really - is why he's talking right now.
Gaz is very private and doesn't normally give interviews, but today he wants to add his name to the thousands of people supporting Brighton and Hove's bid to become recognised as a Fairtrade City later this year.
"I've had some very strong discussions with my wife Jools about ethical shopping," says Gaz. "Fairtrade is an organisation that ensures that the people who grow the crops get paid a fair rate for the work they do. And that's something you can't really argue with."
Gaz says that when he was growing-up he had no idea of ethical issues around food, "It's so easy to put stuff to the back of your mind if you don't want to think about it, but if you are not careful you find you are living in your own bubble. Over the last year I've become more aware about food and the politics around it. I want to be more aware - to care about people and to see the big picture - it's not just about us living in our house it's about the planet.
"I care about what I eat - who suffers you know. I don't want people to suffer. We're doing good, we're doing alright and other people across the world aren't. So what's the big deal in spreading a bit of the wealth and a bit of the love as well?"
This all sounds good in theory - and very worthy too - but can a few trips to the supermarket really change the world? "I know it's a cliché to say that one person can make a difference, but it's not just one person it's a combined effort. Consumer power is real - many people don't realise what an impact they can have by the products they choose in the supermarket."
So is it easy to shop for Fairtrade and ethical stuff? "About once every two weeks we go to Infinity Foods in North Road and stock up with water and food. We go to ASDA - which is local - for our day-to-day basic stuff. They do Fairtrade coffee and chocolate, but there's not much else available.... perhaps I should get more of the shopping at Infinity.
"The important thing for me is to know that I do have a choice, and that choice effects people across the planet. We are all the same, it's just that we got lucky with where we were born and some other people weren't so lucky. If you speak to children they know all about it: that there are people around the world working for barely any money - because they see it on programmes like Blue Peter.
"When I was a kid I didn't know about this stuff, but now I do, and when I buy Fairtrade food I feel that I'm doing something to redress the balance: I feel that everybody is winning."
Supergrass will be playing Brighton in the Spring. The new CD and DVD retrospective will be released in May. See www.supergrass.com for more details.
Brighton & Hove Fairtrade City - March 2004