The Press Article
A BLINDING THIRD ALBUM. A WORLD TOUR. COLLABORATIONS WITH THE MUPPETS AND ALI G. ALL IN A YEARS WORK FOR SUPERGRASS, AS GAZ COOMBES TELLS US...
PICK the odd one out from the following list of words: lovely, relaxed, hectic, productive, apricot, exciting, funny and good. Yup, you're absolutely right, it's "apricot" - because thats the only word Gaz Coombes - Supergrass' fuzzy-faced and occasionally fuzzy-minded singer - wouldn't use to describe the year he's just had. It's been quite a 12 months for Gaz, beginning in the studio and ending on a bus, trundling across the world to play countless thousands of people the songs from what came between: Supergrass' much-anticipated, much-celebrated third album... um, "Supergrass".
Has it brought him joy? Mirth? Glee? Delights Well. he's a humble lad is Gaz, so he just slithers deeper down into his comfy sofa and smiles a bit. "There haven't really been any disappointments for us this year," he hums softly "Well, nothing specific, anyway. Which is actually pretty fantastic! It's been a good year, but it has kinda flown by a bit. Maybe it wasn't quite as good as I thought it might be, though. We've got really high aspirations and, last year, I was thinking: 'Right! 1999! Let's party!' But it didn't quite turn out like that."
PISH, piddle and piffle. It might not have been a big party year for the 'Grass, but it has certainly been a busy one. All those other bands who came back this year? None of them, were remotely as ubiquitous as Supergrass. None of them embraced nearly as many weird projects, ranging from the televisual and the interactive, to the literary and the, um, puppety. None of them, you could argue, came anything like as close to expanding their horizons as Gaz's bunch did.
"I suppose we have been everywhere this year," nods Gaz. "It's that whole promotion thing: one minute you get really f***ed off with it, but then you think: 'We've done a good album, so what would be the point of not trying your hardest to get loads of people to hear it!' Even if it's getting on your f***ing tits, you have to realise that you recorded it for people to listen to, and they've got to be told that it's out there. It's not just for ourselves, it's for other people to hear."
Indeed, and we'll get to that in a second. But first, let's have a wee natter about those oddball projects. And, of all Supergrass' schemes in '99, there really was none more oddball than allowing Ali G to "big up" one of their songs for his forthcoming TV series. "Yeah," sniggers Gaz "That was... erm, interesting! I wasn't sure whether to do it at first, but the other guys kinda talked me into it. It was really mad, though! At the end of the show, we came onstage and started doing 'Sun Hits The Sky', and he had this little mixing thing, and basically started feeding club basslines and drum things in. Then he started rapping over it! Actually, it was really brilliant! And it was dead, dead funny."
How did you get on with the great man?
"Well," he shrugs, happily. "He did take the piss out of me a bit: 'Wot iz it wiv this monkey bizniz?' I tried to have a go back and take the piss out of his goatee, but it was a very feeble effort, frankly. He was all over me and I couldn't even begin to think how to out-ad-lib him!"
FOREVER blighted - albeit in a very loveable way - by their Chopper-bike-riding "Alright" video, Supergrass also managed to burst right out of that image ghetto this year by becoming... well, complete and utter Muppets. Sorry, not "complete and utter" Muppets - their heads were their own; it's just that they were transposed on to the bodies of gangly 12ft monsters for the "Pumping On Your Stereo" video. Which isn't exactly normal behaviour, is it?
"True," laughs Gaz, "but we had such a good time doing it. It was a fantastic experience, getting to work with the Henson people and all the puppeteers - the camp puppeteers! And it turned out really well, didn't it? It couldn't have turned out any better! I like the dark aspect of it - when I first saw it, I watched it with my girlfriend and we were thinking, 'Oh, it's a bit freaky, actually! It's a bit dark!' Just the whole look of it - totally black in the background, but with these really strong colours in the foreground.
"And it's just kinda odd the way we performed really straight - we didn't make a thing out of the fact that we had puppet bodies! Obviously, the people who aren't so clued-up about the band might've thought 'Ah, that'll be Supergrass going back to their wacky "Alright" ways', but anyone who was a bit more sussed could see it was loads more than that. Besides, we grew up on 'The Muppet Show' - how could we refuse?"
WELL, indeed. But Supergrass also agreed to do several other things this year, some for slightly less convincing reasons. One of which was their involvement in the warrior-themed computer game, "Silver". Which, it is generally agreed, wasn't that good. "Yeah," groans Gaz. "But we only did it for the money! They came along and said: 'We'll give you a grand each if you put your voices on this game.' I haven't even played it, to tell you the truth - and I'm not remotely interested in playing it, either. The thing is, even though they cut Danny's [Goffey, Supergrass' drummer] lines out, he still got his money, the cheeky bastard! Would I make a good warrior in real life? I might make a good philosophical warrior type l'd try to battle my enemies with conversation. Bore them to death!"
And finally, just to prove that Supergrass really are a multimedia entity these days, the boys even appeared in a scene in "American Psycho" writer Bret Easton Ellis' latest novel, "Glamorama". Strange but true.
Anyway, enough already about the oddball sideshows, and on to the main event. Released in September, Supergrass' third album was utterly beyond reproach. So good, in fact, that The Maker described it as "head, shoulders, chest, belly and pubic undercarriage ahead of their last two albums". Which it was. "It just felt really smart to be doing it again," says Gaz about the release of that album. But, if it was a joy to release, it was an even greater joy to listen to. If you haven't already bought it, make sure Santa sorts you out.
"MY highlights of the year?" muses Gaz, in closing. "Well, musically, it was probably our British tour - we were at a real peak, really tight playing together and in a great frame of mind. But, personally speaking, every time I go home is a highlight for me. I just get back to my place in Brighton and do a bit more to the house! I built this sota upstairs in my attic - that's definitely my personal highlight of the year. Me and my girlfriend drew this design for a sofa which curves all around the walls, this James Bond-type thing made of white vinyl!
"Yeah," he stretches, yawning his way into another year. "It was really good getting that built."
Building and buildling, that`s been the story of Supergrass' year. Long may they tower.
Robin Bresnark, Melody Maker - 04 January 2000