In The Mick Of Time
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
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
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