The Press Article
Step On The Gaz
In preparation for Supergrass' V99 appearance, we join them on a white-knuckle drive through the winding roads of Oxfordshire with daredevil Danny Goffey at the wheel
"I've written off three cars, me," says Danny Goffey, drummer of Supergrass, as he eyes the powder-blue vintage Pontiac Starchief in the pub car park. Singer Gaz Coombes jumps in the driving seat, fires the Pontiac's absurdly enormous engine and takes the throbbing beast for a quick spin around the car park. Danny jumps on the bonnet (or, indeed, "hood") and gives us the thumbs up, as Gaz squeals around, the whitewall tyres taking so much Pontiac weight that they screech like they're in a car chase, despite Gaz's sedate eight mph.
A moment later, Gaz, Danny, bassist Mick Quinn and I are hurtling down some of Oxfordshire's most hairy country lanes, enjoying the breeze in our faces and some nice cigarettes.
"I wonder how many people have had sex on these seats," ponders Danny, stroking the leather interior. Nice thought, Danny. We're really moving now, and that is the only tenuous link we need to justify hiring a huge Californian open-top gas guzzler to tool around in for a day. The new Supergrass single, you see, is called "Moving".
"Hello, look at this," cackles Gaz from the comfort of the front seat. He flips open the glove compartment and reveals and old eight-track player, the forgotten music playback format of choice for the young swinger of the early Seventies. And in it is a collection of Beatles classics. Turn it up, Gaz, let's get "moving"...
There's plenty of time to have a chat about the new Supergrass album, to find out why it's untitled and what Supergrass have been up to for the past year. We can also talk about their forthcoming appearance at V99 and their imminent return to the pop spotlight. But right now we're serious petrol heads, deep in motornik "Top Gear" mode, living out the American Dream just outside Oxford, with the top well and firmly down.
Gaz, I intone in my best Jeremy Clarkson voice, this hog's gotta throb like my head after 500 pints of lager with vodka chasers followed by a fist fight with Chris Eubank outside a kebab shop. On drugs. What's your motor of choice, mate?
"Well, I don't actually have a licence," he confesses.
"Yeah, you should keep it that way," says Danny. "Just think," he says teasingly," you'll never know the feeling of that power under your foot."
"I crave it, I need that power!" shouts Gaz desperately. "I need my open-top car to get full enjoyment out of life."
And what car would that be , if you had a licence?
"He'd like a Polo," quips Danny.
"Maybe a Seventies-style Porsche, or a Mazda MX5, perhaps," says Gaz.
"Urgh!" exclaims Danny. "That's an Eighties yuppie car."
Danny may have some authority in this matter; his dad was a motoring journalist and every couple of weeks there would be a new car in the Goffey's drive. One week it was the Queen Mother's Daimler.
"I dribbled all over the leather seats and made them go all bobbly when I was a kid," says Danny. "My dad was up all night trying to clean them. I went to a party in a Lamborghini once." he continues. "I was 16 and my parents were away, so I went and picked up this girl in it. I didn't really rock it, cos if I'd have pranged it, I'd have died."
Like the time, a week after passing his test, Danny was hurtling through these Oxford lanes trying to keep up with his pal, when one sharp bend foxed him and he drove his car straight into an oak tree.
"My driving instructor drove past the next day and saw me and my dad rescuing the car and he just shook his head," remembers Danny.
"He did a good job, didn't he?" laughs Gaz. It doesn't look like it. Take the time that he left the handbrake off on a slip road onto the A40 while he popped in to see Gaz.
"I came out of the house and the car had gone down the hill and swerved into the fast lane of the A40, where a Volvo had driven through it," explains Danny. "We went down there and this guy told us not to come any closer, they were trying to cut the Volvo driver out of the wreckage. I thought this guy was dead and I was going, 'Gaz, you're going to have to cover for me, I'm leaving the country.' This was a week after I clipped this motorbike when I was overtaking on the wrong side of the road at 70mph, thinking I was on a dual-carriageway. He flew up in the air and landed in this lake next to the road, so he wasn't hurt. He was very angry though."
I should coco. Can we talk about something else now, please?
Mick: "A mate of mine was hitching a lift when he got picked up by this guy who got into a full-on car chase with the police. He kept slamming his brakes on so the police car would ram him and lose its headlights. In the end, my mate jumped out when the car slowed down and he was chased through this forest by police dogs. He got away though."
Enough, already. Let's talk about your band instead.
Supergrass are back, two platinum-selling albums (and a million each worldwide), older and wiser. If they came across as cartoon oiks with their teen rebel anthem "Alright", they soon matured into the band that gave us "In It For The Money" and hits like "Richard III" and the gorgeous "Late In The Day".
"Pumping On Your Stereo", the first single to be lifted from the forthcoming third long-player, called, erm, "Supergrass" (if it's called anything), hinted that the mad old 'Grass were back. but the album is anything but a collection of easy-listening punk fun. Tunes like the next single, "Moving", represent the full-tilt garage groove which make Supergrass so universally loved, and the "Godspell" pastiche of "Jesus Came From Outer Space" is evidence that the sense of humour is still chortling away, but elsewhere songs like "Shotover Hill" and the experimental and Beatles-y "Eon" [sic] show a more ambitious edge, with the trademark Supergrass catchiness putting in overtime. It's a great album, and the treadmill of pop is beckoning once more.
"I'm still in holiday mode," reckons Gaz, when I ask if he's ready for the rock'n'roll circus all over again. "I'm still sat by the pool..."
"That's it," nods Danny, "it's a bit like the footballer's summer holidays; go and sit by the pool and chill out for a few weeks."
So, packed a lot of jet-setting into this last year, then, you multi-million selling pop stars, you?
"Far from it," chuckles Gaz. "Just because each album has done a million copies, that doesn't mean we've got a million quid."
"We keep blowing money on shit videos and things like that," says Danny, referring to the ongoing problems with the video for "moving", about which numerous mobile phone calls are made during our day together. "I'm overdrawn at the bank at the moment," reveals Danny. "I've been very careless with money, but I have got a house."
Gaz: "And a severe drug problem."
"I've got some side-effects to show for it, I suppose," Danny argues.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Supergrass are more settled down now. That much older, that much more experienced, that successful, the choices are either going stark staring mad or keeping your heads down and getting on with the work.
"I think life has gone much the same way as it would have done if I wasn't in a band," reflects Gaz, faced with accusations of maturity. "At 23, I'd probably be looking at getting some property and moving somewhere different and meeting new people. I think my life, with a few exceptions, would be pretty much the same if I wasn't in a band. I wouldn't have as big a house, but I would still be aiming to do the same things that I am."
Danny: "What, like getting pissed every afternoon? You couldn't, you'd have to be at work."
Evidence of a rejection of the fastlane pop life can be found in "Beautiful People" from the new album.
"That's about being surrounded by people sweating with huge pupils, being in a really hectic situation when you'd really rather be in a pub near the gig you've just played, whereas it always seems to end up more..."
Danny: "More like young nymphets hanging off your body parts and that. We're more open to getting trashed when we're on tour, it's much easier to deal with stuff when you're drunk, but when I'm at home I just relax and see my kids."
And now, the pressure is building for the release of the third album, is it?
"There's probably more pressure when you're about to release it than there was recording it," says Mick.
"We've done it now," says Gaz. "There's nothing we can do about it."
Do you think the pop landscape has changed since you were last part of it?
"We've talked about that," nods Gaz, "but it's really hard to see exactly where you're going to fit in."
"I think we've always been a bit of a loner band, really, but we've tapped into the right things," reckons Danny. "I don't think we've really worried about it, It's hard for us sometimes, cos we're stuck in our ways. there's a lack of thought about how people are going to perceive our stuff. We just walk into things."
Too right, too.
There won't be much relaxing going on for much longer. V99 is just around the corner. Is that going to be a highlight for Supergrass?
"I would have thought so, yeah," says Gaz. "It was good last time we did it."
The festival season is one of the few times bands get to see their contemporaries - and the competition - playing live. Are there any other acts Supergrass will be looking forward to catching at V99?
"No," says Danny. "Who's playing?"
Gaz: "The Manic Street Preachers, The Beautiful South, Placebo - which is interesting."
Interesting that they're above you?
"The less said about that, the better," says Gaz. "I guess it's because we hadn't released anything for a while and it was booked a while ago. you just want to play before someone really smart so you can blow them off. I don't feel we need to with Placebo."
"Mel C's going to do a little stint before us. We're going to have to blow her off," says Danny and, somehow, no one laughs.
Do you pull the stops out when you play to festival crowds?
"It's difficult because you can't do your own show, you can't have the stage set-up you'd like," says Gaz.
"I think you just want to play louder than everyone else," says Danny.
"But you do try to rise to the occasion," nods Gaz.
Danny: "Definitely, we're all very erect when we're onstage."
"I don't know if what we do really suits festivals," confesses Gaz.
"We probably want to get it over with as quick as possible, just put all our mental songs in," Danny says.
And will you be refusing to play "Alright" and instead foist your new album on the crowd?
"It's difficult to shake 'Alright' off at festivals," says Danny.
It's one of those songs that people just go for," observes Gaz. "It's quite a laugh to play it sometimes."
"We'll be playing five or six new songs at V99," reveals Danny. "Basically, though, they'll get what they're given."
You'll get what you're given, but you'll be happy about it. Any six songs from this untitled album will keep you thrilled. But why hasn't it got a title boys?
"Well," explains Danny, "we had our heads X-rayed for the cover, which was quite intense, and we were having trouble coming up with a title because all the songs are quite different, so we though, 'F*** it, if we have a strong enough image for the cover, we can just call it 'Supergrass'.'"
"I'm calling it 'The X-Ray Album'," says Gaz.
Were there any other titles considered along the way?
Gaz: "'Get Lost'."
Danny: "'Birdy Numb Numb'."
Mick: "'Electric Ladyboy'."
Look! The sun has come out, Supergrass are back among us and their new album isn't, thanks be, called "Birdy Numb Numb".
Everything's going to be all right.
Supergrass play the Main Stage at V99.
Melody Maker - 21 August 1999