The Press Article
Mickey sleepwalked out of a window and almost killed himself, Gaz got "buggered" the day before this interview... SUPERGRASS have been on quite a journey recently. But it hasn't stopped them from cuttign a gem of a new album.
"I've just come out the other side of a tunnel," says Supergrass bassist Mickey Quinn, itinerant in vehicle, mobile phone signal faltering. And he could have meant that on many level. For Mickey, it could have all gone so Princess Di.
Quinn and band mate Gaz Coombes (or Gareth as Mickey likes to call him, being grown-ups now and everything) have just been in London discussing artwork for their new, rather champion long player, Diamond Hoo Ha, and they're driving back to Oxford. It's been a struggle to talk to Supergrass. The previous day I was on my way to the band's hometown of Oxford to have what would have no doubt been an informal and relaxed natter within the confines of their favourite snug... but, alsas, I hit King's Cross station and was ordered to return home. Gaz had been robbed the night before. I think.
So did Gaz, you know, get burgled?
"Yeah, I just think Gaz got, er, burgled. So, not good. Like you do."
They either don't want to talk about it or it was all an elaborate ruse. I'm confused.
"Um yeah, I think, um, can't remember what happened but it all went a bit pear-shaped."
Gaz is sat in the car next to him but is too tired out by his ordeal and the arduous exercise of discussing album artwork to talk to me. Right, so you don't want to discuss it?"
"Gaz is telling me he's been buggered rather than burgled. I shouldn't have told you that..."
Gaz is not the only one who's been buggered recently. Mickey has been in the wars as well, as it were. The genial bassist was on vacation in Toulouse last August and sleepwalked out a windows, shattering his foot and, more worryingly, crushing his spine in the process. As holiday horror stories go, it's up there with the McCann's.
"They did a really good job the surgeons, and I'm up on my feet now," he says, upbeat. "Hopefully - no, defnitely - I'm playing the gigs in March."
The band sensibly lined up a short tour for now, including a show [at] the Roundhouse in Camden.
It could have been much nastier.
"Well, yeah. I could have been dead."
He laughs at this. Which often happens when you've stared Mr Reaper in the chops. Death certainly is quite nasty.
"Yeah, pretty nasty. I'm very pleased it wasn't worse that that. It's nto a good thing to have happen, but I've taken so many positives out of it as I could."
Were you traumatised by it or are you past all that?
"I wasn't, really. It made me feel stronger, even though my body was knackered. I didn't feel traumatised by it... it just slowed me down and allowed me time to consider what I was doing a bit more - about where the band was going, or what the last album was about, or even just listening to my record collection again. I had a lot more time to listen to it really closely and get into different things."
Supergrass recorded a more than adequate record in 2005 called Road To Rouen, but it wasn't really Supergrass - it was introspective and occasionally lacking conviction. Thankfully, they seem to have got their mojo back with Diamond Hoo Ha, more of which later. Back to the accident, because it's good to talk about these things, right? It puts things into perspective.
"I think it just puts a different perspective on thing," says Mickey. "Everyone rushes around so much nowadays. I just had time to sit there and be static and thinnk. It was a good tiem for self-indulgence, really."
A couple of months sitting around in hospital does indeed give you time to think.
"I gave up smoking," he adds positively, although this might have been partly because he was whacked out of his gourd on hard drugs most of the time.
"Yeah, ha ha! I did spend about a month on morphine, which was quite interesting."
I can imagine. That was a means of nullifying the pain, right? Not recreational.
"No no no," he protests. "It's got some really nasty side effects, but I was enjoying some of them, some of the time. Ha ha."
Is meandeing about while in a state of somnia a habit, then?
"It's not something I've done that often. I'd been on holiday and I'd only been in this villa for a couple of days, so you wake up and don't know where you are - it's that kind of deal. And I just sort of took the wrong turn and went out of the window basically."
Mickey's incapacity gave rise to the Diamond Hoo Ha Men, Gaz and Danny Goffey's impromptu side project. With just guitars and rums, it was slightly reminiscent of a well-known band featuring a punchy blues frontman with a reputed big *ock and a drummer who didn't record a filthy internetgrumblefest recently. The project spawned a cracking single to boot. I guess the White Stripes element is deliberate, right?
"I think on that track, that was an influaence definitely," say Micket. "But I wouldn't say that about the rest of the record. Sylistically, it moves around quite a bit even if it's a more up and energentic record. Sylistically, I think it's quite interesting - there are different shades on the record."
Runnign through the lineage of Supergrass's songs over the last decade or so you can always pin point the David Bowie moment, the T.Rex moment, the Stones moment...
I love the track 'Whiskey & Green Tea'. 'Outside' stands out too.
"If you listen to a song like that, it's quite a way from The White Stripes. And I can't hear T'Rex or Bowie either. I dunno... I don't know where it comes from."
There has been an underlying glam sound in Supergrass throughout their career. but, again, Quinn is not keen to be pinned down.
"I don't think we sit down and work out who we want to sound like right at the start of a record," he explains. "Things just drift in. I think glam is a bit of a wide term to use. You say glam and you think of Mud... or Sweet."
He has a point. Glam doesn't instanly conjure up thesexiness of Roxy Music or the sussed androgyny of Ziggy Stardust - it fills you with images of builders in blouses, Slade and, more ominously, Gary Glitter.
"If you use big drum sounds of whatever, that sort of melds into new waves stuff," continues Mickey. "There are lots of elemnets to that sound rather than straight glam."
This is Supergrass' sixth album, believe it or not. There are probably some quite obvious answers to this, but how does Mickey think the industry (the music one) has changed since they started out? Is it the fun place it seemed to be in the hedonistic nineties?
"I dunno, I think the level of fun is the same, really. Dealing with the industry is always difficult because you want to do what you want to do but you're constrained in some ways. I think it's a more interesting place now. When people are making it off the back of the internet, no one really knows what's going on."
The Grass are practically an institution, but for a fledgling combo it's surely more precarious?
"I think in some ways it's easier for a band that are starting out to make a mark. You put up a MySpace page and people judge with their feet. They don't need all that marketing to push them there."
but with everything being so egalitarian, surely it's harder for the cream to rise to the top?
"It's tricky for the music industry to get their heads around it. Lots of people who are in marketing don't understand that people are voting with their feet by listening directly to the music, and that appeals to the people who are playing it. It's quiteinteresting. For a band like us, people have heard of us already so half of our publicity is done."
But surely the fact EMI are about to sack 2,000 people must mean these are worrying times, no? How does that affect you as a band?
"In some ways it's better. I mean, for me personally people spend money more wisely and less of it is wasted, so it makes them more inventive in terms of how they work the band and what they do, and that can only be a good thing. There was a lot of wasted cash early on. And you saw record companies ignoring the internet, and I think that's a terrible shame."
So the only real difference is the music industry was less profligate than it is now?
"I think they shot themselves in the foot."
So how do bands make money now? Through touring?
"Touring is always a way for band to make money. That's how it always used to be before there were huge amounts of money in the music industry. If it makes bands more interesting or creative, that's kind of what lights my candle up."
Supergrass lit up our lives an age ago. They were young, they ran free, kept their teeth nice and clean. It all seems a very long, long time agao now, and actually it sort of was. To still be here, well it's some kind of an...
"...achievement? Yeah, I don't know how we've done it. Also, you look back and we're not too embarrassed by what we've done in the past. Which is a bonus."
The band also outlived the Britpop tag, which, like all bands that were involved in it, Mickey claims to never have been a part of. Though the case he states is more convincing than most.
"We saw very early on that that was going to be a problem if we saddled ourselves with it. We never did andwe never really felt part of that scene, which felt a lot more London centric. All those bands were coming directly from the centre of London and spending all their time there. I don't think we ever felt part of that. Now if I look at any of those Look Back at Britpop things, we don't ever get much of a mention anyway. That's a good thing probably; people don't associate us directly with it. or we weren't big enough."
Well, you were the ones who Steven Spielberg wanted to make a TV series about...
"Year, that kind of put it right there. We could have turned around and done that pretty easily and things would be very different to the way they are now, but we stuck to our guns and did it on our own terms."
So did you turn him down?
"Pretty much, yeah."
Respect. Good on you.
"Exactly. But I could be living in LA now with a really bad rehab problem."
What's your legacy and crowning achievement? Is it staying put?
Mickey laughs at this.
"I dunno. I definitely wasn't thinking like that when I was lying in that hospital bed. I was thinking, 'I've got a lot of records to make.' When it starts to get tedious to make records or you're sort of going through the motions, then you'vegot to start asking questions and say, 'We've done our best, let's sum ourselves up.' But we haven't done our best. I think this is a great record, but we can make an even better one."
Jeremy Allen, Stool Pigeon - March 2008