Part I--An Interview With Kevin Miles
- After your current U.S. tour gets done, will you go back to the studio
and record more stuff?
- No, we go back to England for about three days. Then we start
our European tour around the beginning of December, and then
hopefully we'll get back in the studio and probably record three
or four songs for a single.
- Have you already come up with some songs?
- We've got about six or seven songs that are finished, and
about another ten that we are just waiting for Martin to add
lyrics to. We have been trying a few out on the road, you know,
two or three.
- Can we anticipate something like that tonight?
- Yeah, there will be at least three. We don't want to play too
many, so people will hopefully want to hear the songs on the
- So, in England you guys are huge and sell out large places
- Well, yeah, quite big places.
- Well, I'm sure since you started your U.S. tour you find
yourself in these small places with tiny audiences. Do you have
- No, this is actually pretty average really [talking of the
venue]. In Los Angeles we played at an outdoor place that held
about 1200 people, and in New York we did about the same, but most
of the other places hold about five to six hundred. But you know,
it's fine. We don't expect to come over here and play to three or
four thousand people, that would be a bit arrogant to assume that
since we did it in England we could do it over here.
- Have you been received very well over here?
- Sure, yeah, I mean, it's a slow kind of building thing. We
talked about Elastica earlier, and they are obviously doing better
than us worldwide, but then they played here as well. I think for
most British bands coming over here it's kind of difficult.
- Now when you played at the Reading Festival, were you on the
- Yeah, they have a huge big stage, and then they have a big
marquee that holds about twenty thousand [the Melody Maker tent].
We had fun on that one, it was kind of frightening.
- I'm sure you got over it though.
- Yeah, you get used to it. We've did lots of European
festivals like Glastonbury and some others where there are not
only English bands, but European bands. You get, well, not used
to it, but a bit more experienced at playing them.
- Now I was wondering, how close is Gene's sound to Spin's
- Spin's sound? Quite a bit different actually. Steve and Matt
were originally in Spin once, and the singer would write the
songs. There would be a slight comparison obviously in Steve's
guitar style and Matt's drumming style. Other than that the songs
are more like the Stone Roses type of songs. I mean, I and
Martin came in towards the tail end when two members of Spin left.
We were there for about a couple months and then we started to
write new songs. You can still get Spin's albums, I don't
know if you can get them over here but in Great Britain they are
- Just some information I wanted, on my "For The Dead" single it
says that the song originally appears on "Olympian," but it's not.
- It's an import then. The U.S. release of the album has "Be My
Light, Be My Guide" and "For The Dead."
- How did I do that?
- Maybe you bought the British one. The American one would be
on Polydor Records and the British one is on Costermonger.
- I was worrying because I had the album, but then there were
tracks that I still didn't have.
- Why did you guys end up covering a Beatles track?
- Why did we? Well, we all knew it. Well, when we
first started, we needed certain chords and Martin needed a song. We used
to do it at every show, when we first started but then we stopped playing it
about a year ago because we were doing it at every show and it was getting
boring. Now and again, over here or in Europe we'll do it, but not very often.
- Have you guys done any other covers?
- We've done a Faces cover. We'll probably do some more in the future.
- Well, I don't know, it's difficult. To try not to do things
that are obvious, to try and pick songs that are a bit...with the
Beatles one it as a b-side to a Beatles single, it wasn't like
doing Hey Jude. We would try and do something that we could
change a little, not make it exactly the same.
- Off "Olympian," are there any songs that are just yours?
- Off the album? "Sleep Well Tonight," "Be My Light," "Be My Guide,"
"Still Can't Find The Phone," "London," "Can You Wait." They were just
sort of ideas, very basic ideas. I can't say that I wrote all of
the song, but that I came up the idea. For the opening of, say,
"Sleep Well Tonight," the verse and the chords, and then I think
Steve came up with the chords for the chorus. There actually are
some group compositions, we don't always split the writing, that's
just because Matt plays drums on it also, I mean, he plays guitar
- Now is it just, pretty much the three of you, are you guys
pretty much isolated away from Martin when it comes to the song
writing experience? Do you write the music first and then...
- Give it to Martin? Yeah. It's a weird way to work. That's
the way we work better, I mean, Martin writes lyrics, we can't
really write lyrics that well, so he does the lyrics. And also, I
think, that if one person writes the lyrics you kind of have a
progression, so you can tell that one person is writing the lyrics
and expressing the same kind of ideas. And also, we tend to come
up with music easier than he can.
- Now, do you guys share the same kind of political agenda that
- Yeah, I mean, I can't speak for everybody, but I'm a member of
the Labor Party the same as Martin, so, we have pretty similar..
- Now would any of that seep into the music in an obvious way?
- Well...we've got a new song that is quite political that we
might play tonight, and I'm trying to think of other songs that
we've put out, the song "Do You Want To Hear It From Me?" It's the
b-side of "Haunted By You." That one is about the royal family and
the aristocracy. But it's kind of difficult to, I sympathize with
him really, it's difficult to write something about that without
coming across as banner waving. You have to be quite subtle about
it to do it well. It creeps in every now and again.
- It seems that since I've first heard of Gene they have always compared
you to The Smiths, so what is your response to this?
- Yeah, it keeps coming up. There are some people that think we
really sound like The Smiths. I mean, there isn't
a lot we can do to change their point of view. I think, if
you actually listen to a Smiths record and listen to a Gene
record, there's no Smiths record that you could listen to and say
"well Gene nicked that." And also, I think, when we started the
band, Steve and I weren't listening to The Smiths at all. I felt
The Smiths were an OK band, I've got a couple of albums, but we
were more into bands like the Small Faces, and the Beatles, and
The Jam, sort of Van Morrison and that kind of Motown, than The
Smiths. I think if you actually listen to the music, the music
doesn't sound like The Smiths. People say that Martin sounds kind
of like Morrissey. I remember the review for the album, and it said, "this
man wants to be Morrissey," which is completely unfair. I think his vocals
are very different to Morrissey, I think he's got a better range, he's
got a better melodical style. I think it's just the fact that he
writes about certain topics that Morrissey does. He
doesn't write about cars and girls. He writes about things that
are a bit more sensitive, or a bit more important, and tend to
perhaps attract people that would have been into The Smiths when
they were around. Perhaps the band means a bit more to them
then going out and getting drunk and then in six months time
forgetting about the band. Really, that is the only comparison.
We're not trying to nick The Smiths. I think we wouldn't be here
if that were what we were trying to do.
- With the new material that you guys are writing, are they in
the same vein as the songs off Olympian? Or do you see a
- I think the only reason for a progression is that we are more
experienced as a band writing together, but hopefully the songs
will just get better. We haven't actually sat down and thought,
"for the next album we want to become a jazz band," or, whatever.
Which of course, some bands do, so that they change with every
album. I think we set ourselves, in a way, quite a good, it was
quite a good move with the first album being, whatever, twelve
songs of different styles,
Part II-- An Interview With Martin Rossiter
- Now, how did you end up getting hooked up with the guys from
- Well, it was all because of him, really--Mr. Mason. He
approached me in a club. He approached me and said "can you
sing?" I looked at his haircut and I looked at his shoes, and
I thought he looked too ridiculous to be in a band. Then I
thought, "this sounds interesting." So I asked why? He said, "I'm
in a band and we're looking for a singer," so I said "OK." And I
went down and auditioned. It became obvious from the first notes
that were sung and chord that was strum, that it would
work. There was something that happened.
- It worked. So, there was a kind of connection there?
- Yeah, there was a connection there.
- And it's continuing?
- Oh, it's getting stronger, oh yes. I mean, that's inevitable.
We know each other a lot better.
- Well, sometimes that could just ruin things.
- Well I think that we are four very distinct characters, we are
very different people, and that in a way helps, because we do
argue, but they follow a certain pattern, and because of that we
have a certain pattern for solving them.
- Do you find yourself falling back on certain themes lyrically?
- I wouldn't call it falling back, it's not a reliance on
- I'm sorry.
- In fact the new songs I'm writing at the moment are changing
in a way. They are becoming more candid, more honest, more
autobiographical. Before, I would create an artifice, I would create a
setting to get a certain point across. Now I simply say how it
happened to me.
- Kevin mentioned that more of your political agenda is
seeping in to the music, with some of the new songs. Will it ever
get to the point were it is blatant?
- Oh, at times it is blatant. It's just that I don't want to
wave a flag, I don't want to carry a torch, because that's always
the sort of thing that switches me off. I don't know if you know,
this song wasn't on the album, the song is "This Is Not My Crime."
That essentially is a very political song--it's a song about rape.
The line "this is not my crime," is one that has been said
before, and I hope will be said again. It was a line that I
thought needed to be said then, in a record, and that is
essentially a political song. There is a song at the moment just
called "French Song" because we haven't come up with a title yet,
and that is also a political song. I wanted to put emotion in
there. I don't simply want to say "the right are bad, kill them
all." That would be dull, and it's been said before, and
people don't listen to that.
- Do you think the message gets obscured when you use "pop"
music to convey it?
- No, I think that pop has always had it's strengths to create the times
and reflect the times, and history had proved that. Pop music is by far the
most potent, or possibly the most potent, potentially the most potent art
form there has ever been. I mean, you stick Sinatra in the boxing ring
with Milton and Sinatra will win.
- I've even read comparisons of you on stage with Morrissey,
even the way you preen yourself.
- Maybe I just made an enemy. I mean, I had to ask.
- I mean, people have compared me to Morrissey, but I've also
been compared to Bowie, and people had compared me to Adam Ant,
people have compared me to, believe it or not, a couple of times,
Henry Rollins. I tell no lies.
- Who do you compare yourself to?
- I don't.
- That doesn't work for an answer.
- It does, because it's true.
- What kind of influences do you have?
- Well, in the band the band the influences are long and fast
I'll try and place for you to show you the variety. Matt is a
huge reggae fan. Kevin is a huge Soul fan, Northern Soul in fact.
And a lot of Motown and your Al Greens of this world.
Steve likes blues, he's a big fan of the Ronny Woods and
Keith Richards of this world.
My...I think I've pinpointed what
is my main melodic influence it's hymns. But I'm a big fan of the
Pet Shop Boys, I love Queen, I love the Redskins, I love a lot of
rap music, I like house music. It sounds pompous, but it's having
a connoisseurs taste, it's taking bands from every genre and being
influenced by it, it's something you can do a bit more easily in
Britain because radio isn't segregated as much as it is here. I
mean, in Britain you can have a Michael Jackson record followed by
an Anthrax record followed by the Pet Shop Boys followed by
Nirvana followed by Mariah Carey, and that can sit quite
comfortably. People don't have any problem with that because
that's what they've grown up with. I mean, we have Radio One
which is the biggest radio station playing music, simple as that,
it plays pop music, rock music, whatever you want to call it, soul
music. It plays music. The whole thing, bar classical. Whereas
here, a lot of people have not heard of A Tribe Called Quest
because they don't listen to that kind of station, or have never
heard Def Lepard, but lucky them.
- I guess I have to ask. How did you get that scar by your
- Ah, nobody has ever asked me that. Now here's a story, it's
not that good actually. I was eleven and it was a Saturday, and I
had gone down to the local chemist to pick up some photos for my
Mum, and basically what happened was I walked through the door,
turned the shop corner and there was a Golden Labrador tied up,
and I obviously shocked it, and it's reaction was to jump up and
take a chunk out of my face. I was only about 4'8", and it jumped
up and took a chunk, and I was rushed off to the doctors down the
road, who luckily was in, and he stitched it up and all is well.
Seven stitches, though, two there, four there, fifteen there.
- Now, this is all from the same dog?
- No, this is all separate.
- Now, you only have scars on your face?
- No, I have a scar on my thigh.
- Well, should we ask?
- No, no no. I fell off a bike. I was an accident-prone, geeky,
gawky, prepubescent boy.
- And you're over that now?
- I would like to think that I am, although life is determined
to prove otherwise.
- What kinds of things do you find yourself writing about now. I
mean, you said that a lot of them are autobiographical.
- Well, let me think. They are just becoming more emotional.
When I want to write about a subject specifically, the very
mechanics of writing a song don't allow you to cover that whole
subject in 120 words or 150 words. I take a
little bit of it and, either I relate it to something that's happened to
me, or something I've seen, or I use my imagination and I write about
it like that. And specifically the song we mentioned earlier, the
"French Song," the untitled song, is essentially three very brief
vignettes of three characters living in the British Isles and how the
(political) right has destroyed their lives. But, that's how I do it, I'm
not going to stand up and say the right is really bad, you have to
relate it to people. I loath to go too much into detail because I
do want the songs to speak for themselves. I don't want to have
to give out reams and reams of notes so people can decipher them.
If I do that, I'm failing.
- When it comes to song writing I know that they pretty much
write the music and you pretty much write the lyrics right?
- I mean, they certainly contribute more to the music that I do,
although I do have my moments.
- Now you play the keyboards right? But you're not willing to
play them while touring.
- No, because playing and singing is a completely new art to me.
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