The Press Article
This Is Planet Mirth
Supergrass are currently touring with Life On Other Planets GARETH GORMAN calls on interplanetary, extraordinary Mick Quinn
A year ago, armed with wine, cigarettes and acoustic guitars, Supergrass barricaded themselves into a villa in the South of France for "two months of getting pissed on red wine and scoffing French food". Here began a musical odyssey that would later become Life on Other Planets. "We had a laugh playing guitars, writing songs, and generally hanging out. We 'lived it large' and 'kept it real'. Being together in France felt just like the old days, when we all lived together on the Cowley Road [Oxford]."
The album came together when they got into the studio with Tony Hoffer, "this cool Californian dude", who is best known for his work with Air and Beck. Says Mick, "It is the first time we have used a producer since I Should Coco. Tony has tickled the album's scrotum with his cheeky west- coast touches".
Supergrass are still here when most if not all of their Britpop contemporaries have fallen by the wayside, Quinn puts this down to keeping it simple, stupid.
"That has less to do with us. I don't know if it was luck or what, but we've managed to get through, really. You see this happening in music all the time, with bands falling by the wayside. But I think the reason we kept going is because we still enjoy doing it. And as long as that remains the same, we'll keep doing it.
"We know what the band's about, so it's never been a problem with us. It's always been something that feels really natural. I still get a massive buzz when we write new stuff. It's never disappointed me musically, so that's kept me going. We don't have rows, we have 'discussions'. We don't have fist-fights; well, it's sometimes more like Chinese burns! But I'm a Zen Buddhist.
I'll back down coz I know it'll come back. Karma."
They also indulge in slight flights of fantasy from time to time whether it be getting towed around in a bed on the back of the truck in the splendid folly village that is Portmeiron for the video of Alright or things that are possibly even more bizarre.
"Danny once said that he liked Tunnocks tea-cakes, so we were asked to come and tour the factory. Such things are bizarre, getting to meet everyone and taking the tour as if you're royalty. Then, of course you get loaded down with so many Tunnocks tea-cakes your love for them could easily subside."
Supergrass constantly get comparisons to Bowie and Bolan. The latter in particular baffles the band, but Mick admits that inspiration can be found in all manner of places.
"I think the way that we write songs comes out of us attempting to play something or affect some type of sound or feel that we like and getting it wrong. None of us can really hear the Bolan thing. I have been known to be inspired by the odd John Entwistle bass-line though."
A Supergrass story that will never go away is that Steven Spielberg once asked them to record a pilot of a Monkees-like TV show. As pop continues to regurgitate itself, such plans are on the drawing board for another band of impish rapscallions. But perhaps people should take heed of what happened to The Monkees (they felt they had to revolt against their prefabricators) and understand why Supergrass turned down the offer.
"At the time we were asked, we'd only recorded the one album. We were known for being young, slightly wacky and writing pop songs. We just felt that this was going to be played up and played on to an infinite degree and we knew that we weren't like that, couldn't be like that as much as it was perceived and we just didn't want to get locked down into that and have it impede us going on.
"I suppose we sort of blew it in terms of being a really smooth, commercial act and cashing in. But in some ways that's quite nice. We sort of had to develop mechanisms for dealing with the flak afterwards. But if you're a long-termist, these things will work out."
That certainly didn't happen, with Supergrass growing up to a massive degree on their second album, In It For The Money, a titled half-inched from Frank Zappa.
"We couldn't resist having a go, it was the time when the Spice Girls were just coming out and they were everywhere even to the extent of being nominated for writing lyrics to Wannabe. Of course, there's always been bands and people in the music business like that and there always will be. We didn't change a thing and why should we?"
Supergrass are a band so great that not only do they write their own fine songs, which have included Caught by the Fuzz, Alright, Richard III, Sun Hits the Sky, Going Out, Pumping On Your Stereo and Moving, but they are one of the few bands to tackle another great band's songs and actually turn in a finer version.
This happened when Supergrass took on Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others for The Smiths tribute album, The Smiths Is Dead. Supergrass dwarfed everyone else, including Placebo, The Divine Comedy, Billy Bragg and The Boo Radleys, with their go at a song from The Queen Is Dead. Quinn and company were chuffed at the chance and champed at the bit to take on a Smiths song especially one that certainly doesn't fill the cliché that Smiths equals miserablism.
"Oh yeah, The Smiths were great loved the Smiths and what they stood for. Life's a lot more 3D. You're not miserable all the time. Even The Smiths were tongue-in-cheek and quite funny. We didn't have to do things in a certain way. We're our own bosses; there's no real pressure."
If you've never done it then you know you really should see Supergrass live that is. Never in my gig-going life have I witnessed a band that manage to play so tight. Take for example the gnat-arsed tight breaks needed in transmission for Pumping On You Stereo right every time. Saying that, don't expect a Supergrass show to include all the hits and fast ones.
"We're getting older now and a bit more tired, so we had to slow things down. You know, you can't keep playing at a hundred miles an hour all the time. I quite like the last album for that. I don't think we could do it again in the same way, but I really like the energy on it. But times do change and we have to slow down a bit."
Gareth Gorman, LAM Online - 29 January 2003