Interview with Miles Hunt of The Wonder Stuff
Leeds: March 2016
The Wonder Stuff celebrate the release of their 10th studio album 30 Goes Around the Sun which has seen the band back in the UK album charts and selling out night on their UK anniversary tour Louder Than War’s Katie Clare chats with The Wonder Stuff front man Miles Hunt about the legacy that has seen the band remain creative and productive for thirty years.
Arriving in Leeds just as the storm baring my own name made its presence known with an unexpected cloud burst that soaked all those unfortunate to be outside in a freezing deluge meant I arrived, as a drowned rat, to speak with The Wonder Stuff’s Miles Hunt who luckily offers a warm welcome and room in the maze like backstage area of Leeds O2 Academy on the penultimate date of the bands 30th Anniversary UK Tour.
LTW: 30 years of The Wonder Stuff that is a real achievement did you think at the start that you would be celebrating three decades in music?
Miles Hunt: Yes, I started a band to be in a band for the rest of my life that was the idea. Didn’t ever think to try anything else to do and nothing has really distracted me enough to make me think that that would be a better thing to do than be in a band. I knew from when I was a kid that was all I wanted to do and I’m pretty stubborn.
LTW: Music or nothing.
Miles: Yes, well I was definitely going to give it a good go and if I could make it last and have an audience that would stay on my side I will do it till I drop.
LTW: And you did have support right from the start.
Miles: The rise to a national audience did happen really quickly we had the first EP within 6 months of forming and then another about 8 months after that which got to number one in some indie charts. Next a major record label and within a year of that touring the world. So within two and half years of forming the band we were doing what bands do and it was what I thought was possible – we were lucky enough that it happened.
LTW: Was putting together your old diaries from those early days for your book did you have any blinding revelations?
Miles: Well not really I remember it all … actually there was I was surprised to see that I’d written Size of a Cow while we were recording HUP! I can’t think for the life of me why we never had a go at it. I’ve got a demo of just me doing and I was really surprised why we didn’t do a demo of it as a band and why isn’t it on HUP! That was a bit of a surprise so I don’t know what that was about. Maybe I thought it was too poppy and I’ll save it for the next album. That’s what I mean about this is what I was always going to do while recording the second album I was holding back songs for a third which is pretty arrogant.
LTW: Not arrogant just planning ahead?
Miles: Sure but it was surprising. Actually one of the nicest thing about writing up the diaries was regarding The Wonder Stuff’s original drummer Martin Gilks, who died in 2006, we hadn’t spoke for the best part of three years and he was being quite petty and nasty trying to stop me using the name The Wonder Stuff which was the name I gave the band. He’d willingly left The Wonder Stuff, which I hadn’t wanted him to do, so for the last two and a half years of his life we hadn’t anything good to say about each other. When he died I took the news with a shrug and I was like oh well I’ve not seen the guy for years it really isn’t going to make a great deal of difference to my life. I really didn’t have a good thought for him. Then when I was reading all those diaries from 25 years and more ago I started to remember the youth Martin and the young me and how much we liked each other, how we had each other’s backs and what a laugh we had together. I realised that what I do now I wouldn’t be doing without what we did together so that was really lovely that this knot of dislike for Martin I’d had for the past ten years just sort of disappeared. Now when I think of him or if people mention him I remember the young Martin.
LTW: You and The Wonder Stuff seemed to have been more serious in the early years and it seems to have been replaced with something more joyful.
Miles: Yes, I suppose what I learned through it is all and this I probably figured out ten years ago. When I was younger I expected things to change overnight, I expect that I would feel different and the world would look different just because we’d sold a few records; of course that doesn’t happen your shit still stinks. I was impatient for something to change, of course there is constant change I look back and think how much fucking change do you want, at the time I wanted things to be more instant.
LTW: That’s just youth though.
Miles: I imagine so. When you’re a kid the six-week school holidays felt like a year. Now six weeks now seems like a couple of days. Back then if I was told you’ll be touring America in September instead of August I would have thrown some petulant little fit cause I wouldn’t want to wait the three extra weeks.
LTW: Is that change organic or is it something you’ve been mindful of?
Miles: No I’m not smart enough to have figure that out it’s just age and experience.
LTW: With that time comes an increasing back catalogue looking back are there throw away tracks that have now become more importance or vice versa?
Miles: Vice versa. There are a few tracks that have gags in them such as Size of Cow and Welcome to the Cheapseats which are quite light-hearted, lyrically depressing, but there are musical gags in them that I don’t mind. But tracks that are out and out gags like Astley in the Noose it’s just fucking rubbish we thought at the time aren’t we being spiteful and nasty upsetting this poor idol popstar. Now I look at it and go well the song was rubbish and why would you write a joke because you can only tell a joke so many times. Thank god it wasn’t a hit or we’d still have to be wheeling it out now.
LTW: Are you aware of how important and significant many of your tracks are to people?
Miles: It’s lovely to know that our songs have played a part – become a soundtrack to people’s developmental years. There are songs from Tom Robinson Band and Magazine that I’ll listen to forever they still sound as fresh to me now as they did when I first heard them. It is really lovely to think I’ve done that for other people … of course you don’t know it at the time it takes years to figure that one out. I imagine some idiots like the fucking Manic Street Preachers probably write tracks going I’m the spokesman for your generation – no we didn’t think like that – there will be fuckwits that do. What happens is twenty-five years later you met a bald fat bloke in his fifty’s like I did the other night who told me Don’t Let Me Down got him through tough times when he was in prison and that when he got out Caught in my Shadow was release and he knew it was about Birmingham because he was from Birmingham, and it made him be a better person he said and you are like fucking hell all we were doing was just knocking out a few tunes and people have added those to their life experiences. I would never have planned that but now that it is what turns out to be happening then I feel blessed.
LTW: Have your motivations changed?
Miles: No, I suppose I’d say, I am absolutely knackered today and I was absolutely knackered yesterday, and when I was younger I’d be like I don’t want to fucking play tonight and may have played the card oh my throats sore do I have to once or twice, and now I wouldn’t dream of doing that. Because the gig is not about me, it is not about us it is about the audience – I mean I enjoy it of course I fucking enjoy it – but the reason we gig is for the audience.
LTW: You can’t fake that can you?
Miles: No I don’t think you can. We were so very adversarial when we were younger, us and Pop Will Eat Itself got along, but any other band that came along we were adversarial with and then I was adversarial with the audience, I don’t know where it came from, I guess that was just me protecting the shy me and it just got out of hand. But these days it’s about the audience.
LTW: And you’re still writing us new tracks.
Miles: I don’t know why any of us do it, I don’t know why I do it now or why I did it when I was younger – other than that when you’ve written a bit of a tune and you’ve worked it out with the people in the band and you’ve recorded it you get a real sense of achievement that never ever dulls – it is always a lovely feeling.
LTW: You love reading and your passionate about books does that help with inspiration?
Miles: I love books, I love words and I like playing with words. Although I felt writing the lyrics for this album (30 Goes Around the Sun) was perhaps more difficult than I’ve found it before. I had written the book before and had really enjoyed that. I needed to take those anecdotes and string them together on a timeline, I wasn’t sharing them because I had something important to say, so I had two ideas for how to do that, one was to have the whole book as a conversation to a new dog by the person he now lives with. I still think it’s a good idea I might use that for the second book because the second lot of diaries are really miserable and need lightening up somehow and I am getting a dog soon. So writing this time was harder because writing the book meant I could play with words and sentences there were no rules and then the next writing was constrained to rhythm and rhyme. I would have a really good idea for a song a real thicker story to put in there but no I can’t because I’ve got to stick to shorter sentences and it would help if they rhymed. I got it done but I am not sure that I enjoyed writing the lyrics as much as I enjoyed writing the book.g
LTW: A least you’re enjoying something.
Miles: Maybe I’ve finally developed.
LTW: Sounds like you can still find new things to enjoy that you still have ambition do you also feel you have something to pass on to the next generation of artists?
Miles: I was going to say no because if I said yes I’m stating that I think we’ve done something you can learn from and I haven’t finished developing myself yet. Although saying that everyone on the tour absolutely loves The Lottery Winners and each day one of us is giving them a bit of advice. We have a drink every night after the shows and they will share with us what they are learning from their very first tour. I’ve said to them that I am slightly envious of them because they are at the start of it and I know what a fucking good time it can be. So to answer maybe yes The Lottery Winners are getting something from an old fart like me.
LTW: This year then there are the summer festivals, the second book and towards the end of the year a second appearance at Shiiine Festival anything else?
Miles: So yes I’ve got to do the second lot of diaries and then I have a huge library of live material going back to 86 I think we’ll do a live anthology before the end of the year. We really enjoyed Shiiine it was good one, hung over to hell, Dan’s son was born the night before and we were on the whiskeys and cigars on the tour bus heading to Minehead. So Shiiine was great, usually with any festival you don’t do two years in a row so I was surprised when they asked again, and when they said we’d be the main support for Echo and The Bunnymen I was like sure that’s a no brainer. Maybe there will be another album, I really enjoyed this one it was a really good line up to write with but you don’t know what plans people have so who knows, I’m up for another record with this line up and the O2 want to do an Eight Legged Groove Machine 30th tour in 2018 which I am fine to do so maybe 2017 will be the time for another album – we’ll see.
30 Goes Around the Sun (Independent Records Ltd) is out now available on CD, DL and LP from the usual retailers as well as directly via The Wonder Stuff PledgeMusic page.
The Wonder Stuff official website if a great place to keep up to date with news, tour dates and where you can find The Wonder Stuff Diaries ’86-’89 Book talked about in the interview. The band are also on Facebook, Instagram and twitter where they tweet as @thewonder_stuff.
The 30th Anniversary UK Tour may have finished however do not despair The Wonder Stuff remain touring throughout the year and will be appearing at a number of festival during the summer and autumn
28 May Manchester Gigantic Indie All Dayer Festival
29 May Norwich Down By The River Festival
9-12 June Newport Isle of Wight Festival
18 June Chesham Buryfields Festival
24 July Leicester Simon Says Festival
27 August Thame Towersey Festival
11-14 November Butlins Minehead The Shiiine On Weekender 2016