Interview with Mick Quinn by Leo Hoek van Dijke
on 07 November 2005 at the Melkweg, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Click here to view Part 1 of the interview
Read on below for Part 2 of the interview...
Now some questions from the early days on towards now. Did you ever expect that the demo you've recorded in 1994 would turn into a full album on a major label within 11 months.
No. No Way! When we started the band, we were playing in the King & Queen and stuff. Even when we recorded the record we didn't think this was gonna end up high in the charts and we were gonna be big contenders on the scene in England. I still find that difficult to come to terms with, you know, that you get mentioned in the same breath as 'Pulp' or, at that time, 'Pulp' or 'Blur' or anything, f***ing hell you know! We actually did something right, you know! So yeah, No! A big shocker! But it's good you know, 'cause we came to terms with it, well, up to a level. We made a record that people liked on our own terms and recorded it how we wanted to record it, so that's the way it's gonna go in the future. If you do it, how you wanna do it, then peiople are gonna like it. If you start feeling that you have to repeat something, or just cash in on the succes you've got before, then it might get into a formula and then you're f***ed, you know! It's not gonna work. so yeah, it was shocking!
But you came out quite alright.
Yeah, I think, we kind of kept our heads, you know. The key earlier on was Steven Spielberg, you know, we could have go on with the Steven Spielberg thing and it would have made us a lot of money. But, I think, would have really affected us as people, which could have been the end of our band, really. It would have been someone else's band after that, definitely!
Anything you did in the last 11 years you do regret, or simply don't regret at all?
I don't know, there's a few parts on records that I think you could have tried harder on that or some of the lyrics or, I don't know. There are parts of some songs that if you'd just taken this section out, it would have made song so much better or efficient. And maybe some things in terms of the videos or marketing we've done, or things that we've said in interviews. You know, I think it's not really how I felt at the time, or how I expressed that. It just ends up confusing people. It dilutes your message or what you're trying to do. But we aren't professionals. We've made mistakes and I think you just learn by them, but I'm fairly happy with the records we've made. It gets harder sometimes to push yourself, do something different and not repeat yourself. But that's the challenge we kinda like, you know. It's just been good for ten years.
Do you regret ever have written, played or recorded 'Alright'? Because on the previous album-tour, you sort of refused to play this song.
I don't really regret that song in the slightest. I think, when we wrote it, we really enjoyed writing it, but what hampers it, is the band is connected with it. It's 'The Supergrass Britpop Anthem' and you champion it, it feels like we using it to push ourselves, it feels like an advert sometimes. It just doesn't sit with our ethos of doing something different. We should start playing it at some point in the future, but it's difficult, because you think we might be using this to reinvigorate ourselves, the sales. And I kind of understand the point of view people coming to a gig and wanting to hear it. You kind of letting them down not playing it. If I were to see The Beatles and they didn't play 'Taxman' or something, I think you'd be really pissed off. Hopefully we can find a way of playing it in the future. That would be interesting. For me it's similar to 'Mansize Rooster'. When we play it now, it does feel kind of very dated. It feels like some band that we were years and years ago. But who knows we might find a way to re-arrange it and play it in a different kind of way and that can be more interesting and kind of updated.
And the other bit is that people say it's about being young and stuff, but we wrote that song looking back at that time. I was in my mid twenties when we wrote that song and Gaz was 18 or so. But we're always thinking when we wrote that song: this is about when we were like 15 or 16 and first started to smoke and just have a good time, so it was always some sort of reflective song. It's not quite the sort of being dated in terms of us getting older. But it's a strange one. We should sort it out sometimes.
After touring for 'Supergrass' in 1999, there came remarks and rumours about things that were going wrong inside the band. what do you do now, to prevent such things happen inside the band?
On 'Supergrass' it was Danny who had quite a hard time on that point. He had a problem with the direction that record was taking. Which happens from time to time. We tended not to express it very well with each other. That kind of the upshot is, he wasn't there a lot of the time for the back of the record, which became a problem when we started doing interviews with it, because he didn't feel completely connected with the record. There were a number of things he said he wasn't completely happy with and that it hadn't worked for him. Which is probably correct. And on balance it did suffer from that as a record, as it isn't all three of us working at it. One of the main strengths as the band is when me and Gaz and Danny and to an extend Bob's as well are very connected with what we wanna do. We're all putting our input in and it makes a very strong record where it can get multi-dimensional, when it's just me and Gaz and Bob coming up with shorts. For me, there's still some regrets for that record, but going back and listening to it, it's just the sense of a weird sort of grandeur to that record, that kind of got lost, like a flawed grandeur. It didn't quite reach where it should have reached, but just the feeling that it's gonna reach that high, makes it an interesting record for me. There's some really strong bits on there.
And how do you keep the internal relations healthy after playing together for 11 years?
I don't know! It's all dynamics and stuff, like in any marriage. I think I've described mine and Danny's relationship before as a 'love-hate' relationship and it is exactly that, you know. Sometimes he just extremely pisses me off because he can be very selfish, even as a musician. But on other times he's just amazingly inspiring and he just makes me laugh my pants off, cause he's just so stupid. While with me and Gaz, we really respect each other musically. We tend not to have to talk about it being very empathetic and stuff. I just find Gaz very inspiring. There's always sorts of problems with Gaz in terms that he gets too stoned or gets kind of lazy and a bit strung out occasionally, but you just kick him up the ass and he get's on with it. But then again I can get quite hard headed and stuff. But I think that's the dynamics that have always been in the band. It just depends on when we get too tired to do the band anymore, get outside interests. You get distracted I guess, but the relationships inside the bands haven't really changed. We've gone on with it on the same level. I just remember I lent Danny £50 when we'd just started the band and he didn't give it back to me for about a year. This was just something, a part of that 'love-hate'-thing. He got away with it, because he just charmed my pants off. But it was £50 when we just had no money, you know. I'd buy a week's shopping. Me and Danny have always been like that, but we always come back in the end and say 'sorry' to each other. But you need frictions in bands as well. It's a good way to be. Yeah, it hasn't changed.
Did your decision to stop touring for long periods of time also affect your popularity?
Probably, I don't know! It's difficult to pin things down like why we've sold less records than 'I Should Coco' over a period of time. But I think that's pretty much untrue, as when your debut album comes out it's 'Really amazing! Brandnew! Never heard anything like it' and everyone wants to buy that record and they're kind of get used to what you're about. They get a bit lazy about selling things. People haven't bought this record as it's 'Just another Supergrass Record. I'll just buy the 'Kaiser Chiefs', as they've never heard anything like that before. But it just doesn't mean that their record is better than ours, it's just they're after novelty and this record was specifically made as not being a novelty, but just to express us as 'Here we are at this time'. Which is a self indulgent kind of risk, but that's who we are. We can't pretend to be anyone else. So that's just the way it is.
Why did it take until 'Life On Other Planets' for Rob, to get credited as a full member of the band?
That was tricky, as it had been a creeping thing with Bob. When we first started touring 'I Should Coco', is when Bob first started playing with us and at that point he had no musical input in the band. He primarily played the keys. But occasionally on soundcheckes, as I remember, he was playing these chords, just these four chords going round and we spent ages jamming it and that the became the chorus of 'Moving'. And we said 'You've written those chords. Let's give you a writing credit of that'. So on that record, he got a percentage of the writing. And it's kind of progressed over that. He played a lot random over the synths and came up with interesting syth-lines we just use all the time, all the occasional chord-tweeks here and there. And then we thought, you're there all the time. It just became a time-machine: Bob being there all the time in the studio, he's there all the time on the road with us, so we just got to a point where you'll split the money four ways and everyone's happy. Although you don't have the same huge production-credits, because Danny and me and Gaz probably spent more time on production, whereas Bob doesn't. But it kind of came to a point that we said you might as well start doing interviews and talk about what you're doing as well. And if he's doing interviews, we just split the cash in four ways and we're all doing the same amount of work. So that's how it worked out.
You've done all kinds of side-projects, like in 1999, playing with 'Dr John' on records. Are you still doing such things individually?
Not really. I think Danny has done most side-projects. He'd sort of recorded two albums with his wife Pearl. That's probably as Danny is living in London. He hangs out with a lot of musicians. I think he played drums on an 'Elvis Costello'B-side and he stepped in for 'Ash' at one point and played on a B-side for them. I think that's just his connection to London. He's very restless and he likes being constantly busy, so he's played a lot of things like that.
The 'Dr John'-thing kind of came along out of the blue. the record company said 'We signed Dr John and he's gonna do this huge collaboration-album. And because you're both on Parlophone, it makes life very easy if you wanna do it. And we thought 'fair enough'. How it gonna be to sort of sit down. It was just when we got there that we realized it was 'Dr. John' and, f***in' hell! We just sat down and started playing with him. And we'd seen him on 'Joolz Holland' two years before as we'd been on the same show with him. I remember meeting him at that time, saying 'I'd really like your band'. Which was a really nice compliment. So it's kind of easy to do that. But beyond that me and Gaz never really felt the need to do other things. Maybe as time goes on, we'd be more interested. But the ever tempering fact is that we have families, which I think a lot of other young bands don't have. And that's taken up a lot of our time, when we're not working. We just want to spent that time at home and just forgetting about the band. As it gives you a bit of space. I guess that's what other people go on to do other musical things, because they're unsatisfied with their own bands maybe, or they've got a lot of time on their hands. But I think we've put all our efforts into the music of this band and when we're not working with this band, we just not wanna be having anything to do with it. You just wanna get away from it. That's why.
Some future plans. You're now playing a set loosely based on the acoustic tour. Will there be more acoustic tours in future?
I don't know. I think at the end of that acoustic tour in August, we kind of felt it to be quite interesting. But we wanted to go back and play some more traditional Rock shows, as they're more vibrant and stuff. But it's been really interesting being on that acoustic tour. Just the way we've changed all the old songs and played them differently and just gave them new life. I just think we needed to do that after the 'Supergrass Is 10' tour. We really needed to not repeat what we've done before. So it has been interesting. But it's kind of a misnomer to call it an 'Acoustic tour', as it's more of a hybrid. I'd be interested in finding different ways of playing it, but not based on acoustic. Which got all sort of strung up Folk-vibes to it and feels like it's too gentle for where you should be and what you wanna do. Something more interesting. Gaz played me the video of Neil Young, when he was doing the 'Trance' Tour, which is really odd. When he's gone all electronic. Neil Young is playing acoustic, but with all this vocoder and things, it's really nasty and it's in a way pretty horrible. But really interesting. There's other ways you can change as a live band, without resort to being quiet. But again, you have to see the show tonight and the outcome is different and interesting, but not something you wanna do all the time. But I think for one set of touring cycles it's worth doing it. It's kind of interesting.
As you're very satisfied with the 'Ronnie Scott's'-gig, will this be released on DVD?
Well, I think some of that footage will be on DVD. I know that we all had really bad hangovers, so it's not the best performance in the world. Some of the songs came out really well and some didn't so I wouldn't be happy with releasing the whole thing on DVD. But definitely selected highlights, yeah. Although there were some corkers, because we were quite drunk in a way. Yeah, but maybe not the whole thing!
Will there ever be the release of a 'Lost Tracks' album, with songs like 'Out Of The Blue' and other songs you tried to record, but didn't really work out.
That's tricky. Every record done, there's been two or three songs that could have made it onto that record, but didn't. It's really difficult going back to these songs, as the feel like they're in the past and they're not where you are now. So it'll be quite hard work, emotionally, to go back and try and finish those songs off. Because you wanna finish them off in the frame of mind you were writing them, which is the only way that they really work. So probably not!
'Out Of The Blue' in particular was one of the songs that got to the point were it could have been released. It was in a shape and it had lyrics and everything. Were in the right place to release it as a single, no not as a single, but as a track in itself. There are some tracks that were really, really strong and could have been almost A-sides. But we didn't quite get them together at the time and they're kind of 'sad losses', you know. They're not in the position to release them for other people to hear, but I can still hear them in my head sometimes. They're really odd sort of ghosts, hanging 'round in the back. Some songs come back. You'll write a new somg and there'll be an echo of that old song in it, the kind of feeling you wanted to get into it and it all come back in a new song like 'Roxy'.
And some songs on this record are very old, you know. Like I said 'Roxy' was three years old, before we even recorded it. And there are at least four or five songs around that period that cast a life, but got left behind and are absolutely superb. I can kind of hear them half in my head and how they should be. Maybe they'll make it onto this new record, which will be really interesting.
Another ghost that's still chasing you, is the question "Will the old 'Jennifers' stuff ever be re-issued?"
Pffft! I don't know. I've never been in 'The Jennifers'. I can't answer that!
Well, we know about Gaz and Danny being in 'The Jennifers'. were there any bands you were playing in, prior to 'Supergrass'?
Yeah, many and vary. Lots and lots of bands were in Oxford, but nothing that made it. Nothing commercial. I used to play bands with my brother. . There's a band 'Bigger Than God', that was quite big in Oxford and I used to play with their guitarist. I'm still kind of in touch with people I used to play in bands with and who come to our gigs and sit down and talk about music and stuff. But all the people I used to play with, were in school etc. They all moved around England. Moved to other countries and they usually phone me up and say 'Can I come to your gig'. That's how I see them all the time and keep in touch with them. But never in any famous bands. No.
How do you see the future of 'Supergrass'.
I don't know. One day at a time. Impossible to say, you know.
And bearing in mind the increasing pressure on the record sales
The way I see it, it's not something you can really worry about. I mean, we can change the music specifically to increase record sales. I think we just have to inspire ourselves. We have to find new ways of changing the band to get really inspired with ourselves. If you make a really good record they wanna stand by. If you feel that strongly about it, that people are gonna enjoy and buy it. But there's also standard pressures. We're a band that's ten years old. And like I said of the 'Kaiser Chiefs', if you've got the choice of buying a brand new band's record, that you really excite. Brandnew, like you've never heard them before, you probably gonna buy that record over a band that's been out over ten years. But there's nothing we can do about that. So, what can you do?
A reviewer from 'Road To Rouen' once stated that both 'Supergrass' and 'Super Furry Animals' are making records which will still be relevant in about twenty years. What do you think about such remarks?
Well, it's very flattering! I only think he put SFA in there, because they were releasing a record that week as well. If it would have been some other band, he would have probably said the same thing. We're not trying to sound pompous about it, but when you make records, you wanna leave a mark and you wanna leave something that will last for a longer period of time. I remember saying when we made 'In It For The Money', that we'd wanna create a record that you get more and more out, when you listen to it. You discover new things in it.
I was in the car the other day and 'Starman' by David Bowie came on. And I was really drunk and suddenly I heard the strings line, that I've never really listened to. I've listened to this record for about twenty-five years, on and off, and I'd just heard the string parts in it and they just blew me away. I've never listened to them before and I'd discovered this new element to this song. And all of our records are like that. You come back listening to it in ten years and you'll hear something new. That's the kind records that I wanna make. So yeah, I hope they'll still be relevant in ten years time. In your life, you still get inspiration from them. That's the kind of one I'm after.
But underneath that remark, isn't there a certain kind of criticism on current bands in England? On their quality?
I don't know. Maybe there is. But that's not my job to criticise other bands. If a band has released a brand new record and I've been hearing a lot about it in the press, it takes me about two years to get round to buying that record. I think any band that puts records out, they should be standing out the test of time, that you should buy them two years later. And if the big fuzz about them was right in the first play and you still get something out of it years later, without all the hype. I think that when we were growing up, at that time the chartmusic was rubbish. So you start listening to stuff like 'Pink Floyd', old 'Gong' records and stuff that no one was writing about. It wasn't in the press. You didn't see this kind of music anywhere in the media. You'd go and make your own assemptions on this record and develop your own opinions about them and that's always more interesting than anything else. You kind of find out your own things and that works more inspiring. So, commenting on other bands of the moment, saying that they're not gonna last whoever, it's on the strength of their music really.
Speaking with Guto Pryce of 'Super Furry Animals' on September 1st 2005, I asked him the same questions. Here's what he had to say about it:
Are there any new bands we should focus on?
Few weeks back, in a review of Supergrass' 'Road To Rouen' in one of the music magazines, I read the reviewer stating that both Supergrass and SFA are now making albums, which will still be relevant in twenty years time. How do you feel about such remarks.
Ah, nice! You know. It's funny, to be honest, we've always had good press, which doesn't seem for us necessary to be transcribed into sales in some places, but people write things. It's nice and it's what we're trying to do, yeah! We want to make albums and we want people to discover these albums in twenty years and get them to buy another one and, like we've done as music fans, discover old stuff. The records will always be there!
But what does it say musically, as it sounds to me that bands like Franz Ferdinand are doing okay now, but their records will be consider outdated in twenty years time.
Bands are different, aren't they? It's not that every band can be the same. Some music is of the moment and it's immediate, everybody likes it and then, maybe, they move on to something else. And what happens is, if a band get's very big, very rarely they keep that fan-base. So after a period of time, when they're not as big as they used to be, they look at them and say: 'Alright, they're finished'.
We've never had that one massive record, that has overshadowed our whole carreer, you know. It's not that we turn up every gig and the audience is just wanting to hear one song. we're quite lucky in that respect. Not that we wouldn't want it to happen...
Listening to Supergrass' latest album and your latest album, there are certain parallells between the use of sounds and things. Like the songs seemed to be tuned down a bit in tempo and temperament with both Supergrass and with SFA. Is that something that happens with bands that play for twelve years or so?
We're getting older. Older and slower! I would say, it was a sunny record, you know. It was done in the sun, food and wine and stuff that slows you down. It's definetely more chilled. I mean, the next record could be a death Metal Hardcore Punk record, you never know. It would be sad, if we just kept on getting slower and slower untill we stopped. There's still plenty of energy left.
Well, it'll be difficult for me to say, after what I'd just said. Having said that, like the latest 'Kaiser Chiefs' single, that has just been released ('Modern Way', LHD), I find quite interesting. It kind of reminded me of something like 'Odd?'. It just had this strange quality to it. But there's other stuff I listen to. I really like 'The Coral'. We spent time touring with them. Gone really well with them as people and really like their attitude towards music and stuff. The whole sort of 'New Merseybeat'-scene: 'The Coral', the 'Zutons'. That's very interesting to me because it's out of the London centric spotlights. It's a whole scene going on up there, with people doing this whole setup with scouse bands and the way they interact with each other. You've got 'The La's' and a whole lineage of people from Liverpool, through 'Echo & The Bunnymen' and Julian Cope. All this kind of lineage going on in Liverpool. Which is quite interesting. It has nothing to do with 'The Beatles'. I just like the scene up there, all those bands kind of talk to each other and spent time playing in each others houses. It's just very organic, very interesting.
Beyond that, people should just go back and listen to all the records of the Seventies and Eighties, because there's a lot of interesting stuff there. I'm always sort of discovering new records. Like Gaz telling me on to that 'Graham Chapman' record, which was quite a revelation. It's a record that's scored in 1970. And Gaz is some sort of record collector and he just read something about it and bought it. And we've been listening to it for the last two years. It's just one of those records that is part of your life now. You just find these records occasionally. I don't know, people should just get out and go through the old record shops and take a few chances. It's all I could say.
Are there any bands or artists you'd like to play with, or play with again?
Well again, that goes back to being shot to our record doing well and 'I Should Coco'. I don't feel like we are kind of on the same league as other people. You'd be a bit too shy to play for other people. You're f***ing up here, you're just 'The Supergrass-band'. I don't know, it's difficult. I just think we'd be intimidated playing with other people. I can't think of any band that kinda is that close to us in sound. You could replace other people in the band with you. We're an entity. It's not something we did when we were growing up early. You're kind of stuck with your own band. Unless you start playing with other people, when it was like the band you've had before. Then you just leave the band you're in and start playing with them, because that was the point: you find people that actually lift you up and made you play better than you did before. Never really hungered to look for that really, no.
Thank you very much!