The Press Article
Grass Of 99
Sky puts pop nice-boys Supergrass in the frame.
Stop looking so miserable... I hope you don't look like that when you play... Which one of you goes on stage first? Who's the most important? Danny, if you keep moving your legs I'm going to have to send you out of the room.
This is not a normal photoshoot for Supergrass. The photographer is keeping them in check with his unique brand of teacher-styled rudeness, usually reserved for small children and family pets. The band are bludgeoned into submission as the man reduces them to schoolboy obedience and grins. The studio is all polite shagpile, mirrored walls and painting-style blow-ups of ambassadors on the wall. It would be safe to say that not many bona-fide pop stars have passed through here before today.
The band muse over past experiences with photographers when they were kids. "Some bloke once came round to our house to photograph the family," remembers Gaz. "I had this dodgy pink tie, a really smart haircut and massive chubby cheeks. I've still got those.
Danny chips in, "When I was about 14 and started getting into music I had a real bowl haircut and a massive spot. You couldn't see my eyes in my school photo. Just this spot." The lads are told to be quiet again. There'll be no pop star reverence in this studio.
With the session now complete, Mr Photographer shoes us outside and we retire laughing to a nearby pub, his reprimands about the boys' smoking still ringing in our ears. You can tell they're long-time mates. Danny and Gaz share a cigarette without even looking at each other as they pass it and they talk like a conversational relay race team, passing subjects with not a breath between.
They're relatively old men of pop, even though they're only in their early 20s, with two albums tucked under their guitar straps, and a third due next month. They're the band your mum would recognise, even if she could only sing along to breakout hippy-happy piano monster Alright. Mick is the daddish, abrupt and quieter one. Danny the chipper, cheeky one, not scared of talking about drugs or making a fool of himself - despite being a daddy - and Gaz is the instantly recognisable lead singer. All three are ridiculously talented musicians. But they're still best known for cartoonish sideburns, the promotion of various retro modes of transport (Chopper bikes and pogo sticks) and chirpy, chirpy songs. After the success of single Pumping On Your Stereo, the Grass are set to storm back this summer with their new album, called... well actually, it hasn't got a name yet. They're currently looking for ideas. "We had to bribe them to come up with a title last time," butts in their manager. The cover art is going to be the three done up as skeletons, replete with sidies.
"We wanted to call it Get Lost," says Danny. "You can take that in a lot of ways. Clever.
"I didn't like it," mutters Gaz.
"Yeah, and so we didn't use it," says Mick patiently, who reels off a list of titles: "Bone Idols, Monkey Tennis...
Gaz explains: "Unless all three of us agree on something, it won't happen. In fact, we might not even call the album anything. The Beatles never called the White Album anything."
Gaz is renowned for his facial fluff. "People do make jokes about my sidies," he says, "but I'm not going to shave them off because of that. It's not something you think about. It's just... hair." In fact, the lads reckon they're not bothered by style. But still admit making some fashion mistakes. "I make fashion errors - when I go to America, mostly," says Gaz. "Cowboy hats, 80s-style cowboy boots..."
"My whole life's a fashion mistake," says Mick. Gaz laughs, "Says you, sitting there in your Helmut Lang jacket."
What about teenage fashions? "At school I used to wear my tie back-to-front and cut the end off it to make it look punk," says Danny. "Yeah!" agrees Gaz. "The more fucked-up it was the better. Cigarette burns and stuff. I had a horrible pair of yellow flares when I was 16."
Then Danny plays his ace card. "I had this blue velvet body-outfit thing, and I couldn't leave the house if I wasn't wearing it. It had a round neck top and matching flares. I looked like a wizard. I used to go down the pub in it, but everybody respected me for wearing it... At least I think they did."
"It was a relief when you stopped wearing it," says Gaz. "We could go out with you without being embarrassed. But he had to go through a withdrawal period, like flares cold turkey."
"I had an army jacket for years," says Mick. "I had to throw it out the other day because it was making all my other clothes stink. It was really sad getting rid of it. I'd already tried about five times before and always ended up getting it out of the bin."
The chaps are gearing up for their only festival appearance of the year at V99. "It's clean," says Gaz. "That's what I always remember about it. But then Mr Branson runs it, so it would be. My favourite festival ever was T In The Park. We came on, the tent was rammed, Alright had just come out, and every one was pissed up and Scottish. Brilliant.
"Another time we went to this festival in Spain, and weren't billed on the day we went there, so didn't play. We still got paid, though."
In traditional rock fashion, Supergrass have spent months and months on the road. Which means months and months of getting trashed. "We used to just get really pissed and not be very tight, musically," admits Gaz. "Now it's usually after we play that we get pissed in the hotel bar. But I can't say that I've ever done a gig and not had half a dozen beers."
Danny agrees: "We wake up with hang-overs quite a bit on the road. But compared to when we first started, we've probably calmed down. We did a lot more drugs then. But we still do, don't we lads?"
Gaz shakes his head and grins, "If you count alcohol as a drug."
"Oooh," chides Danny. "They're all too scared to admit to it."
"My gran's going to kill me," says Gaz.
The Gaz man has recently made a rare out-of-Supergrass appearance and filmed a sketch with one of his comedy heroes Ali G, for a new TV show. "I went on, he took the piss out of me for a couple of minutes, and then I played Sun Hits The Sky. He was adding odd instruments and bass lines until it turned into this mad drum'n'bass track, and then he started rapping. It was really, really good. He does some more characters that are really funny as well. There was a fax for me this morning saying, 'Thanks for Saturday night, man. It was wicked. Total respect.' That was great."
Danny also tells us how he heard the new Oasis album the other day ("lt's mellow, really good") and Gaz enthuses about his new house in Brighton, and, more specifically, his new sofa ("lt's brown leather with curved edges. Like something from a porn film. I'm going to get a home cinema projector next"). Then they're off to another meeting with their record company. The album machine is gearing up again for them, but they're used to it - they've been doing this since they were 15.
We have more drinks. I soon forget I'm boozing with super-successful rock artistes. And that's the thing about Supergrass, they haven't gone all spoilt rock brat or inflicted art concept triple albums on us. They've always said no to the cheesy celebrity merry-go-round. Well, nearly always.
There was the time when Danny was photographed in the back of a car with Liam and Patsy. As Gaz ribs him, Danny protests: "It was just a good night out, for crying out loud. It's good to do celebrity-type things sometimes.
Sky - September 1999