It's The 'Grass, 'Grass, 'Grass
HAIL THE DIAMOND HOO HA MEN, AKA DUKE AND RANDY - OR IS THAT GAZ COOMBES AND DANNY GOFFEY IN DISGUISE? LOIS WILSON FINDS OUT.
The Diamond Hoo Ha Men - singer and guitarist Duke Diamond, drummer Randy Hoo Ha - have just come off the tiny stage at Shoreditch's voguish Old Blue Last pub after performing a 30 minute set of heavy riff rocking - they call it glange, a mix of glam and grunge. Raucous covers of Michael Jackson's Beat It and Supergrass's Lenny plus some rollicking rock'n'roll of their own had the crammed-in 150 strong crowd pogoing thie socks off. In Vegas-style diamanté encrusted fringed black jumpsuits with their names blazed in jewels across the back, the duo collapse into leather arm-chairs backstage, knowing they've just played a blinder.
The duo is booked to play again later tonight at 2am at London Astoria 2's indie night, Push. More crowd mayhem ensures and theur final song, Diamond Hoo Ha Man, leads to a spontaneous chant of "hoo ha, hoo ha". Before that, another Supergarss cover, Never Done Nothing Like That Before, is squeezed into the set. It brings the house doen. "We owe it al to those guys in Supergrass," says Randy, with a raised eyebrow, after the show. "We love them."
It's hardly a secret, but Duke Diamond and Randy Hoo Ha are, of course, characters dreamt up by Supergrass's Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey respectively after disaster struck last summer. Shortly after recording their sixth album in Berlin's Hansa studios, where Bowie mastered Low
and recorded Heroes
and Iggy Pop crafted The Idiot
and Lust For Life
, bassist Mickey Quinn, on holiday in Fracne, sleepwalked out of a hotel window. Quinn broke his back and crippled his foot, leaving his bandmates primed for a tour but lacking a bassist. Jamming one day, thought, the two match-fit members realised they enjoyed the Jack-and-Meg guitar-drums formation and decided on a week of low-key shows in bars and caffs across the UK under an alias.
"We stripped the Supergrass sound right down and the shows have just been bonkers," explains Coombes. "It's reminded me of when we first started our - there's that excitement that is only attached to a new bankd, for both us and the crowd, and that's exhilarating. All it took was a new name, new suits, new haircuts, a slim down and wham! Hysteria!"
THE HOO HA MEN SPEAK UP FOR THEMSELVES.
"We grew up in Berlin," says Randy Hoo Ha of his band's early days. "We;ve been friends since kindergarten, shared a love of Rammstein, started a covers band in tribute, then on mvoing to London we felt inspired, discovered we could write our own songs and found out we're like the new Jagger, Richards. It's been amazing!" Manager Charly, who they deny is actually Gaz Coombes' younger brother Charly, also has a checkered history.
"He's a former Middlesex badminto semi-finalist, who had to retire from the game due to a bad groin strain," says Randy. "He's also a recovering alcoholic who resembles tennis star Bjorn Borg with headband and tight sports shorts - at various points durign the show he'll bat sguttlecocks at us and the audience."
"It's just to keep them in line," growls Charly.
Formed in Wheatley, Oxfordshire in 1994, the trio's debut 45 Caught By The Fuzz made waves, but for many the defining memory is the video to smash single Alright, which found the lads larking around in Portmeirion. It piqued Steven Spielberg's interest so much he offered the group their own Monkees-style TV show. "We don't have regrets turning him down," says Coffey [sic], "but it would be interesting to see where we'd be now if we'd taken it up."
Their first three albums all went platinum, their fourth hit the Top 10, as did 2005's Road To Rouen
, but by then things had got complicated and grown up. Coombe's mother died just before the recording of the LP, as tales filled the tabloids of Danny and wife PEarl Lowe's alleged predilection for wifeswapping.
"There've been difficult time," says Coombes with admirable diplomacy, "but we knew we'd get through them. We've never
thought about splitting. All the band we love made album after album after album, Bowie, The Who, Zappa, the Stones. So we just thought that's what bands do, they stick around, whatever hey're faced with... we were trapped in out own little bubble a dew years ago, but now there's a handful of really cool bands around and they give a feeling of what it must've been like in the '60s abd '70s when contemporaries respected each other, did covers of each others' songs. Bands like The Strokes, White Stripes, Kings Of Leon, Artic Monkeys, they all inspire."
Indeed, Supergarss supported Artic Monkeys on their summer stadium tour last year. "Playing in front of 50,000 people meant we had to raise our game," he adds. "It wasprecious, but even though we're older we don't always feel the elder statesmen, most of the time we feel we fit in more now than we ever did in Britpop."
You can hear the strippeddown blues of the White Stripes and Kings Of Leon meld with the trebly New York new waves of The Strokes on Diamond Hoo Ha
. With a faw rawer sound than hitherto, recording at Hansa also means moments redolent of Bowie and Iggy - especially on the Coffey-sung [sic] melancholic pop of Ghost Of A Friend, the Heroes-esque Butterfly, and the William Burroughs-referencing Whisky & Tea [sic], which recalls a naughty night in Beijing.
"We wanted the album to sound sexier than our preivous work and the writing just came out that way," says Coombes. "With songs like Bad Blood and 345 I wanted to write something really intense and direct. And I think we wanted to have fun as well - to get on with what was important, to make the music work and play like we know we can play and have a great time. Having that diamond hoo ha."
Lois Wilson, Mojo - March 2008