Alias Goffey And Coombes
With the Supergrass bassist off-games after tumbling from a balcony, we give you the Diamond Hoo Ha Men
It was a delightful idea, but frankly it was never going to work. I am here, apparently, not to interview Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey of Supergrass, but "Duke" and "Randy" from the Diamond Hoo Ha Men. The email I had received from the Supergrass press officer read: "To ask them a question about what Supergrass would think, you'll have to ask them, 'What would Gaz and Danny think?'
Going pseudonymous is a long-established rock rite of passage - from the Glimmer Twins, to Larry Lurex and the Dukes of Stratosphear. Today "Duke" and "Randy", in white shirts ans shoelace ties, are posing beside a gorgeous Cadillac Fleetwood on Brighton seafront. Tonight, the Diamond Hoo Ha Men will play their first ever show as a White Stripes-style two-piece in a club down on the beach. Over wine, "Randy" worries that their set is under-rehearsed. That's not all that needs work...
"Duke and Randy have been friends since childhood," explains "Duke" hesitantly. "We've always stuck together through thick and thin... We've always been there for each other." After ten seconds, the tentative narrative peters out.
"Do we have to do this in character?" complains "Randy" to "Duke". "I think we should makea decision about this."
The Diamond Hoo Ha Men owe their lives to a song, Diamond Hoo Ha Man
, the rollicking first single from Supergrass's forthcoming (sixth) studio album. It's a raucous, glammy piece of work - two parts Led Zeppelin to one part Bolan boogie - and it signals a decisive return to breezy, devil-may-care form. Through songs like Caught By The Fuzz
, Supergrass have always worked best as an exuberant antidote to earnestness.
That said, their last album, 2005's Road To Rouen
, was the most introspective and serious collection of songs the'd ever recorded. They had their reasons. Rouen
was recorded following the death of singer/guitarist Gaz Coombes' and keyboard player Rob Coombes' mother, as the once-close friendship of Gaz and Danny was breaking down. Drummer Danny Goffey's personal life was in the celebrity blender. His wife, Pearl Lowe, had struggled for years with addiction, then the pair became red top fodder when the tabloids named them as part of a celebrity wife-swapping foursome with their Primrose Hill pals Jude Law and Sadie Frost. Lowe has since published her own to-hell-and-back account of her traumas in All That Glitters
. Everything was shaping up nicely for the new album when, in September, bass-player Mickey Quinn fell off the balcony of a villa in the South of France, breaking his back and smashing his foot. In the press it was reported as a "bizarre sleepwalking accident". Strange times indeed.
"Me and Danny met when we were 15," says Gaz. "This is all we've ever done. I was a bit worried when it looked like we were going our separate ways."
But last year, touring Rouen
, the band rediscovered the joy of playing together, soemthing that shines out on tracks on their upcoming album. Recorded in Berlin's Hansa studios, it's the sound of a band falling in love with music and each other all over again. As typified by Diamond Hoo Ha Man
, the album is energetic and pointed and vibrant, all delivered with the Gradd's brilliantly loose-limbed musical joi-de-vivre.
Over a plate of pre-gig oysters at a Brighton restaurant, Danny rolls his eyes at the sleepwalking story, and makes glass lifting motions instead. "His girlfriend's parents were at the house and he didn't want to wake them by going to the toilet, so he thought he'd go out the window instead," Danny grasses him up.
This has left them a bass-player short and forced them to put back the album release - originally slated for January - until March. For the Supergrass shows, Gaz's younger brother Charley will play Quinn's bass parts on keyboard, alongside Gaz'a older brother ROb, who became an official member in 2002.
In the meantime, Gaz and Danny, restless and keen to recover the kind of kinship they felt in the early days, have created the Diamond Hoo Ha Men. it's not, perhaps, the most original or daring of rock concepts. The main investment consistd of a couple of Elvis-style jump suits with the pseudonyms sequinned on the back. But it is hugely enjoyable, as several hundred Brightonians are about to discover as they launch into a brief seven-song set.
Kicking off with a deranged version of Michael Jackson's Beat It
, they move on to "cover" new Supergarss tracks like 345
and Hoo Ha Man
, the duo are pure, unpretentious fun. In their 13 years Supergrass have never been massive - nor will they be, despite the fact they can play most other bands off stage. It's a fact that puzzles them. "I don't think there's a day goes by when I don't think we should be playing Wembley Arena," says a mildly disappointed Gaz Coombes after the show.
Supergrass may find it hard to maintain the po-faced gravitas it takes to become major rock icons, but it takes a real, if occasionally erratic, musicianship to pull off a two-piece show as joyful as tongiht's.
William Shaw, The Word Magazine - February 2008