Gareth Icke : an interview with singer/songwriter
Gareth Icke is a talented young singer/songwriter who writes well crafted songs of deep intelligence and sensitivity who has been making a name for himself on the grass roots circuit. He has released two albums and played most of the big festivals. Gareth’s second album, A Brand New Battle, has just been released by Manchester based label, Eromenos Media and is development of his crafted, melodic songs.
He is also the son of David Icke which gives him a quite different background with tabloid harassment during his youth and an interesting upbringing.
What is quite remarkable for someone who has had such an interesting background, with a father, whose outspoken views on the ways things are, made him a tabloid target, is that Gareth is a remarkably well adjusted young man, who is prepared to graft his music from the grass roots and hone down his songwriting skill.
I interviewed him in the Cornerhouse cafe in Manchester, where he had driven over from his home in Derby.
What was the first music that really touched you?
‘Nirvana was the first band that I really got into. My older sister was into the Wonder Stuff and the Senseless Things and bands like that. She went to festivals and told me stories about them and the bands that played there and I was fascinated. But when Smells Like Teen Spirit Came Out came out it was the first time I had heard a song like that, a song that really spoke to me. It was totally different and it really affected me. It’s a cliche now when you get nine year old kids wearing Nirvana tops but when they came out they were totally different from anything I had ever heard before. They spoke to a generation. It was very simple. There were no fancy solos. They were like the Beatles but louder. It was so much easier, as a kid, to get into this new music, so I grew my hair long and died it blonde and that was it!’
Did you get deeper into the so called grunge scene after Nirvana?
I got into Pearl Jam and Soundgarden as well. When I was growing up on the isle of White there was totally a massive scene for all those kind of bands and there was loads of local bands playing that kind of music. John Peel came down to check out what was going on. There were lots of bands but none of them went on to do anything unfortunately. At that time, every pub had a band playing and it was all original music and not covers and it was all quite punky but it’s not like that now.
I got my own band together and we played gigs for this scene and it was great. When I first started playing gigs, we would play the Isle Of White and then we would play Southampton as well- we always got a good reception there.
The music you play now has changed a lot from this has’t it? it’s a lot more polished now.
When we started, we were a punk rock band like Nirvana and we were really into that scene but then along came groups like Silverchair and so much crap after Nirvana and it was so American sounding and that made me look at it a bit more. When we started we did sound American as well and we sung in American accents. It was not an intentional thing but when I listened back to it I thought it was crap really. I then started listening to different bands and a lot more English groups. I suppose you grow up really. I started with Nirvana and then I loved the Stereophonics first album but then they started wearing cowboy hats! Now I listen to music like Joy Division and the Smiths without trying to sound like them, so my music taste has got a lot older.
Interestingly you also had a brush with being a pro footballer in your youth…
I was a footballer when I was younger. It was my dream to play for Derby County, who I support. I had trials at Portsmouth in the championship. I always supported Derby County. Peter Shilton was my hero. My dad used to take me to watch Portsmouth because we lived near there and we would sit behind the goal. Portsmouth were my local team and I ended up going for trials with them but then I discovered Nirvana and it was not the bollockings off the manager that put me off, it was because I didn’t enjoy the laddish side of football and the culture around it, so I lost interest.
I had invested so much in doing football and I didn’t get a guitar until I was 18. It happened after I got kicked out of a gig and was told not to be an obnoxious prat by the promoter, who told me to start a band. He gave me my first gig and that was the reason I started playing. Before then I had rather watched other people do it. Once you get started you can’t get out though. I’m 31 now. I tried going straight but I got divorced and decided that a musician is what I wanted to be. I had all these songs and I phoned up some mates and we got band together.
In football, I was the goalie and you find that you are separated from the rest of the players just by the nature of your position. Being a goalie attracts a different kind of person.
There is no hero states for the goalie, so it doesn’t attract arrogant characters. Me and my old manager used to talk about bands being like a football team and the drummer being like the goalie, the singer being like your striker and how you get away with having decent drummer and singer and a dodgy midfield because you could play the long ball game!
Is your band like a football team?
Our drummer has the best ability in the band. Our drummer is in a different league. So it’s like having a great goalie! When I went into the studio with him he was playing piano and all kinds of instruments. He grounds me a bit. I have creative ideas and stuff and I will say I want the music a certain way but I really respect his ability.
Your background is quite interesting. What was it like growing up with a controversial father?
At first is was horrible. I was too young to understand when everything went mad in the press but soon they were following me to and from school. In the end the teachers were giving me lifts home so I could avoid the tabloids. I was nine years old and there was press everywhere. A friend of mine was offered 350 quid to say something horrible about me but he would not do it which was great. The press followed us on our holidays to Greece and someone on the island was feeding information to the press. My dad had to pretend to go to another hotel twenty miles away and send a fax because he knew it would get intercepted and get the press off our trail because they then had the wrong hotel address. One of the things about growing up surrounded by the media is that you are much more prepared to be honest and that’s been important to my music.
Did you take much interest in what your father was talking about?
The more you read up on the stuff he was talking about, the more you get interested. You become a lot more open to it. When I was younger and when I wanted to watch Match Of The Day, he would talk about stuff which I didn’t want to talk about then. But because I have grown up with it, I talk to him like it’s normal now, which is good.
How come you so well adjusted? with the tabloids chasing you in your youth it must have been weird..
The thing is to stay stay grounded. My dad always said no matter how passionate you get about saving the world you still have to think about how did Derby do on Saturday. People follow me of Facebook because of my dad and it can take over your life to quite a creepy level sometimes. The problem with that is that it deters those well adjusted people having a decent debate. I get people on my Youtube arguing amongst themselves about something my dad said. If you want a debate great! but, please, not on my youtube.
Does your background affect your music?
At first I tried to go away from it as far as possible by being a footballer but, of course, that got me the instant comparison with my father. So I dumped that to be a ice hockey player to avoid it, but I still got compared to my father because of being a sportsman which left me thinking how big does the umbrella have to be to escape! Now as a musician I have got space and I let it in more, now I don’t give a shit what people think.
What place does music have these days, is it to inspire or to pacify?
I think music can still play a massive role- it can be like a spoonful of sugar for the medicine to go down. If I stood on a street corner with my opinion people would pass me by but with three chords and a melody and the same words then people will listen. Unfortunately music also has the ability to dumb people down with X Factor.
Personally I like melody the most and I can listen to great melody even with crap lyrics.
Music has a real power though and I like the thing they said about Kurt Cobain being the man who told America how upset it was- that was a perfect summing up of him…