Suede interview part 2

Is writing a different process when you are older?


Mat Osman :

‘Unfortunately you have to put the hours in! I would have loved it had the five of us started writing and the first five things we wrote were brilliant and we recorded them.  It wasn’t that way at all.  We worked and worked and wrote some shit then threw it away and wrote good stuff. It took time. Everyone was amazing about it. And pretty focussed on what was good for the band. It’s never been that kind of band where you have two tracks on the album so I need three. I have no idea of who wrote what on the new album. We all work on the idea and then Ed (Bueller- producer) comes in and has a say and things get fairly managed by the end of it. It’s meritocratic in that sense.  We were lucky to have success quickly and we were never scraping around for pennies and stuff.’

Brett Anderson :

‘But we did have that kind of attitude that we were a new band and we wrote some stuff and then more stuff.  We wrote a whole album and played most of it live at a gig, a festival, in Russia  but it didn’t feel right. We played 8 new songs at the festival.

There was that real thing which, I’m sure you know as a musician, that when you play a song in the room when you rehearse and when you play to an audience they are completely different experiences.  You learn so much about a song when you are playing to an audience. You see the holes in it.  You see it through the microscope. That’s what we did. We looked  at the songs we had been writing in the cold light of day and thought most of them have not been right, maybe a  change of direction here and we thought about what we were doing.’


Mat Osman :

‘The problem was that it was not that interesting to us, slightly boring.’


Brett Anderson :

There was some interesting stuff in there but it wasn’t quite the sort of record we wanted to make. It was a bit more post punk sounding and not really us.’


Mat Osman :

‘If I listen back to those songs there are some really unusual ideas there that must have come from the eight year backlog that everyone had to go through since we had split up.’



Was there maybe an attempt to sound a bit more cutting edge than you really were? Maybe trying to hard to sound modern instead of playing to your real strengths?


Brett Anderson :

‘Yes, we were sounding like Interpol or the Horrors and referencing them although not too slavishly. We  suddenly thought, relax what’s wrong with our own sound and not mining that seam that comes from Public Image Limited and the Banshees land post punk onwards. We were listening to a lot of that stuff and it was not quite us. We relaxed a bit and I think we always write best when we write instinctively and don’t over think it. The first three albums were pretty much like that, we just made Suede albums and it wasn’t until we got to Head Music that we were thinking what sort of album do we need to make. And that’s the death of it.

You should just get on with it but there was a huge pressure, especially in the nineties,  to reinvent yourself.  Sometimes it’s great like when the Beatles and Bowie reinvented themselves but some bands being themselves over and over again really works and there is nothing wrong with that and I wish we had someone to say that there was nothing wrong with being yourselves. It’s ok to be yourself and not disappear up your own arse like at the end of our nineties career.’


Most bands discover this. A band trajectory seems to be start of brilliant then get lost trying to anything other than what you are before coming back to what they did in the first place!


Brett Anderson :

‘There is nothing wrong with that, if you do something well. There’s loads of great artists that pretty much made the same album over and over again and there is nothing wrong with that not that was our plan! I’d advice bands not to be scared of that. It may not be what you want to hear from an interviewee or what you want to promote as a journo because it’s almost like the death of imagination and ambition bit it’s also kind of the truth because there are some good bands who stay doing what they do.’


The album certainly plays to Suede’s strengths but also twists it with a certain modernity and even adds a kind of Simple Minds stadium gloss to the sound without ever losing its edge.


Brett Anderson :

‘Obviously we wanted it to sound like Suede but we had been away ten years doing our own thing. I had been making solo records and this lot had been doing their own thing as well. There was a  whole new set of influences in there  and that’s why it would have been wrong to make a slavish Suede record. It had to remain fresh and that was the fresh element getting the selection of ingredients right, getting the right amount of this and the right amount of that in there which made it feel fresh and still us.’

Your singing voice sound sounds more powerful.

Brett Anderson :

‘I’m a better singer now, technically better. Your voice changes as you get older.  You’re much better controlling the low end of the register and the baritone end and obviously the falsetto goes. There is no singing Black or Blue now!’


Mat Osman :

‘maybe we should get Neil to sing it now (laughs)…’


Brett Anderson:

‘It’s a myth that the voice get worse as you get older. It just gets more character.  Look at someone like Sinatra who added this amazing phrasing and richness to his voice.  Lots of those early Suede songs are naively written in terms of where I put the singing notes to the chord and are right up there and really hard to sing now. These days I’m more capable of writing somewhere more comfortable but at the same time more edgy.

I wouldn’t theorise about stuff like that and I would not work out vocal lines as mathematical things. I know instinctively where my voice sounds good. I suppose before I would be more theoretical and I would write a song and kind of worry about the singing later but now I sing a song more musically and less theatrically.’


The album contains more melodramatic songs, with that an attractive undertone of darkness…


Brett Anderson :

‘I never wanted to be nihilistic. In the early Suede songs I found nihilism too easy as an attitude. I have let go of that now. I like something relatively bleak but now it’s an ideology change. I grew up with the Smiths and before that Crass and things like that which were from a nihilistic sense of that time but reacted against that.’


Mat Osman :

‘The brutal thing  is that as you get older it gets harder as opposed to when you are younger with hope running through your songs. When you are younger it’s easier to be always hopeful about stuff (laughs). When you are 45 there are some lives that are unrelentingly bleak and you can’t ignore that.  One of things about being in a band that does well is that you feel that everything will be alright and it will all work out but when you get to 45 you realise that’s not true and things can go horribly wrong…’


Brett Anderson:

‘It’s about thinks not being so blindly romantic. The romantic notions of early Suede were lovely in a way. I was very careful not to reference anything lyrically from the first three albums, even the subject matter from the lexicon like hire cars, nuclear and pigs. I obviously didn’t want to do that as it would be a self parody but I wanted to to talk about how is  life through my eyes now rather than through my younger eyes.’


With an older perspective is there some lyrical wisdom?


Brett Anderson :

‘Possibly but that’s debateable! (laughs) anyone can find wisdom. I’m not saying it’s there.  It’s an album about relationships like a million other albums but I specifically wanted it to be almost like a kind of documentation of  a relationship form the start to end.

The original idea of the album would be that the first song would be about meeting someone and then infatuation and the go through periods of suspicion, obsession and all these things like co-dependency and finally they split up and a new beginning. It’s about the cyclical nature of relationships not that  it’s slavishly plotted butevery song deals  with different aspects of being in a relationship.’


Was it a fictional relationship?


Brett Anderson :

‘No, it was a  real relationship…’


Is it hard to write about the personal?


Brett Anderson :

‘I don’t find it hard to write about personal things because you can write about in so many tenses and not always write from the first person or in the present tense. I’m a human being and I can write from memory and I have been through a whole load of things in my life to draw from. I don’t find it hard and I fictionalise as well sometimes. I think every writer does a bit.  I don’t think every single word in every pop song every written has been the truth! What is the truth? you see things there that are different truths.’


Your words have lots of imagery…


Brett Anderson :

‘The sense of great writing is never about nailing it down completely.  For me poetry and journalism are completely different things.  Poetry in a sense is like song writing- that’s the closest art form to writing lyrics, even though it’s quite a way away. Poetry and journalism, do different jobs. It’s not the songwriter job to explain things. It’s the songwriter’s job to deepen the mystery as Francis Bacon once said. I always go back to that, it’s a fascinating quote because all the great art it doesn’t have any answers, it makes you think. It’s a colour and it suggests new possibilities…’


Art should never explain or apoligise?


Brett Anderson :

‘I often refuse to explain if there is not an explanation. I find my explanation is not the definitive explanation of my own songs. I love that about art and song- that it’s open to interpretaion. I wrote the songs and someone elses explanation is just as valid as mine, so when people have their own explantion then that’s cool with me. A bloke came up to me in a foreign country once after a gig and said one of my songs is about blah blah and I said ‘is it?’ (laughs) but for him it was and that’s good enough.

I wasn’t thinking,  you stupid idiot  and it’s that thing I love because what it’s about to me is just my interpretation. Often I use words because of the sound they make and the same word sung with different melody, tone and register  has a completely different meaning and  that’s the subtlety of the language isn’t it?’


Is the new album an attempt to stand out as Sude and away from the clutches of Britpop?


Mat Osman :

‘The the point of being in a band, for me, is that I love playing live and the reason to be in a band is also to make records, to make beautiful things that were not there before. There is something fanstically democratic and simple about making a record.  One of great things about coming back these day is that you can just put it out there. With Barriers we just gave that away for the simple reason it was a track that we liked and we thought people wanted to hear it.  There was nothing complicated about it. It wasn’t like we were going on tour where you spend  6 months reaching a quarter of a million  people. It was lets give this track away because it sounds really good and two months later  it was online and a million people heard it .  That was a fucking great, amazing, wonderful thing. There is nothing more to the point of being in a band than that just getting your stuff out there.’


You have returned at a different time


Mat Osman :

‘It’s totally different. It’s a different world. Before we and the music press were living in this little world which I think must be strange for people from outside the UK to see British bands slagging each other like it was in the old days. It’s kind of like when you get SWP and the Revolutionary Communist Party slagging eachother off when you know that, deep down they really care about these little differences and it’s all the same kind of thing.’


Brett Anderson :

(laughs) I really like that analogy…the People’s Republic Of Judea! (laughs)


Matt Osman :

‘What would Blur v Oasis mean in Texas? It’s nice to come back and we don’t mix with the other bands.  We are not part of any scene and  it’s quite liberating. We just get on with being Suede and we spend hopefully lot less time doing that stuff and more time on the music this time round, he said in the interview room! (laughs)’

part one of Suede interview is here


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