Just In The Mick Of Time

Yes! I found it!

Several months ago, I mislaid a disc with an interview I conducted with Mick Quinn from Supergrass to discuss their last album - the superb “Diamond Hoo Ha” - and the band's fifteen year career.

Now, fittingly, on the advent of this year's sparkling Leicester three day event that we know as the Summer Sundae Weekender, the interview - which I conducted at the 2008 extravaganza - has materialised. What on earth it was doing underneath a pair of gardening gloves I don't know, but still, here it finally is in all it's full glory:

Mick Quinn is contemplating a difficult question - whether being in Supergrass now is on a par with the heady old days of yesteryear, cycling manically around Portmeirion, becoming the soundtrack to just about everyone's summer and reeling off three straight platinum albums in a row.

MQ: They're completely different beasts, really. It's difficult to compare the early career to now, because back then, it was all new to us, fresh and exciting. On the other hand, on a personal level, I'd say it's probably more fulfilling now. We know what we're doing more now. It's a double edged sword, to be honest. We've got better at what we're doing, but then as you get better, you kind of lose some of that edge you had at the beginning.

AD: Does the lack of commercial success from recent years bother you at all? I was personally appalled that neither of the first two singles from “Diamond Hoo Ha” (the near title track and “Bad Blood” made any kind of impact on the charts.

MQ: No, but then we have no choice in the matter. It was a horrible combination of record sales in general falling through the floor anyway, and us no longer being the latest thing. It is a shame though, to some extent, because without wanting to blow my own trumpet, I am very proud of those songs.

AD: Did your injury have any bearing on the direction of the album? (NB - Mick rather embarrassingly sleepwalked out of a first floor window whilst holidaying in France, breaking various parts of his body!)

MQ: Well the injury happened just after we'd finished, so it was lucky in a way. I'd say the biggest influence was the previous album (“Road To Rouen”), which we'd taken a rather drastic left turn with, and gone away to make a very acoustic, uncommercial and self indulgent record as we could. “Diamond Hoo Ha” was a kind of reaction to that, and we decided not to have any slow songs this time around. I mean, we weren't looking to go back to “I Should Co Co” or looking for a big single or anything like that, but we just thought it would be good to make a very energetic album this time. That really was the only requisite. Also we're big fans of the Berlin trilogy of Bowie albums, and all things Iggy, so when we learnt that Hansa Studios were operating again, we decided to go and record it there. It's always more interesting to go and record somewhere outside England.

AD: Going back to “Road To Rouen”, I lost my father around the time that was released, and I didn't find out until afterwards that Gaz and Rob (Coombes) lost their mum at roughly the same time. The album really resonated with me, and I wonder how much of a bearing their loss had on the making of it…

MQ: Almost entirely. Some of it was a reaction to other bad stuff that was going on. I don't think ANYONE was in the mood to release another set of “Alright” style jovial pop songs. Everyone was in a very stern frame of mind. Danny had a lot of personal stuff going on, thanks to the adult tabloid media. He was really messed up. You have to make the most of a bad situation though, and you try and express yourself through your music. It would have been a lie to try and do “up” music at that point. The lyrics probably were commercial suicide though - it didn't sell particularly well, that record, but I'm more proud that it actually exists than if it didn't.

AD: On “Diamond Hoo Ha”, the track “Whisky And Green Tea” is a hark back to the old days…

MQ: In some senses, yeah. It has traces of Nirvana I think, which we haven't had since, say, “I'd Like To Know” or something, and we really pushed all the angles on that one, right down to the sax plating, which was inspired by an old Stooges record. (NB - I am presuming he's referring to “1970” here, but am not entirely sure).

AD: So if you had to pick a highlight…

MQ: Probably travelling the world. Beijing was interested - and funnily enough, that is referenced in “Whisky And Green Tea”. That really was a shocking place to go. Not in a bad way, but culturally shocking. It was like when we first went to Japan ten years ago; that's the only parallel I can draw. The food was incredibly different, we couldn't read any road signs and we got lost many times because it's just so easy to do. Nowadays, Japan's a lot more Westernized - you can go and get a KFC if you really are that pathetic - but when we went to Beijing, there were really no cultural references at all. We saw a lot more poverty on the streets and if you wanted to eat, you had to eat steak soup, or something equally obscure, but it was still absolutely brilliant. Fascinating place, so I'd probably pick that as my highlight, although Brazil and Iceland were amazing too.

AD: Going back a bit, you turned Steven Spielberg down when he wanted to make a film about you. Why?

MQ: (deadpan) I think because we're arrogant bastards (cue the sound of much laughter). No, it's just that really, we see ourselves as musicians and definitely not actors, and he wanted us to act. I mean, obviously we were jumping up and down with excitement when the call came through and I told the guys “Steven Spielberg's on the phone and he wants to work with us”, but we were in the middle of making “In It For The Money” and we could see that if we DID take that opportunity, that would signal the end of the band as we knew it. We wanted to stay in control of our own destiny.

AD: You DO have a film out though, don't you?

MQ: Well, kind of. It's “Glange Fever”, so I can't really comment. It documents the experience of the Diamond Hoo Ha Men - Gaz and Danny's alter egos (Duke Diamond and Randy Hoo Ha) while I was convalescing. I was obviously very high on legal pain killers at that point, but, you know, more power to them that they were able to get out there and do their thing. I actually caught one of their shows towards the end of my recovery period. It was extremely strange to stand there watching them murdering Supergrass songs!

AD: That really MUST have been a surprise! Were you equally surprised that two of your albums made it into Robert Dimery's “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die” book?

MQ: That was a really nice feeling actually. I mean, I'm not really into industry awards and all that bollocks. Obviously it's nice to get them, but at the end of the day it's completely pointless. To make the book was very flattering though. I kind of take those things a little bit with a pinch of salt though, because obviously all the contemporary ones are going to be in there, and if you're gonna judge our stuff against all the ultra classics from the sixties, we're dead!

Ha, well let's hope that's not for a while yet! After all, Supergrass have released six mighty fine albums to date, and whilst Mick dutifully informed me that the band “haven't even written a note” for the next long player yet, I have no reason to doubt it'll be another corker. “We'll probably find our feet at the beginning stages, and see what mood everyone's in first” he went on, but let's be honest, they could be asleep on the sofas of their lethargy and it would STILL turn up trumps.

Interview by: - Tone E

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