Interview: Ex-Supergrass singer Gaz Coombes

Gaz Coombes. Pic: PA

Gaz Coombes. Pic: PA

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Gaz Coombes enjoyed a long career in one of the biggest Britpop bands. Rob Lavender catches up with the former Supergrass frontman to find out about going solo and on a tour that brings him to the Capital next week.

ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE REACTION TO NEW SINGLE MATADOR?

Yeah it’s kinda blown me away, actually. You never know what’s going to happen - you put all your time into something, but until you actually put your babies out there, you never know how people are going to respond. It’s humbling, in a way, that people get it.

IT FEELS LIKE A VERY PERSONAL RECORD. WAS THAT HARD TO CREATE?

Not really. At times you wonder if lyrically, you want to let that much go, but then it depends on the track. Even with a lot of the very personal lyrics, you have to look at them like they’re a hook - a musical hook, like a chorus. If it’s a little couplet of lyrics that are very personal, they still have to have a hook to them.

There’s no point in being morose or depressing - it has to have an edge you can pull someone in with. I wasn’t afraid of being honest and even, at times, emotionally stark, because that’s life. I actually find it harder to talk about that stuff than write it down.

ARE THERE ANY TRACKS YOU’RE PARTICULARLY PROUD OF?

It changes every day. I enjoy looking back at moments where I had something in my head and tried to get it across and translate on tape. When you pull off those moments, that’s a real buzz.

The middle-eight of The English Ruse is a section I’d been working on for a separate soundtrack for somebody, but when I came to it, I realised it would fit, and getting the singers in to do the performance that I needed - it’s always a little battle trying to get across what’s in my head to other people, but when I heard that middle-eight come out on the playback, it was a real buzzy moment. It’s the same buzz I got when I was 16, 17, it doesn’t change - it’s what you get when you’re hearing something you’ve recorded that you love the sound of. It’s what fuels you. It’s why I still do what I do, it’s like an addiction.

HOW DO YOU DECIDE ON THE ORDER OF SONGS ON AN ALBUM?

It has to be presented like a book with chapters, it has to have a thread. But I hope that people listen to it however they want to.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR CURRENT TOUR...

We’re pulling together the new stuff, and it’s really brilliant how it’s connecting to the first album. Similar to making a record, making a set-list is a really exciting time.

I can’t wait to get on that stage. I’ve got a great band with me as well, who are brilliant players and fast learners, and great at translating what’s on the album. So yeah man, it’s really exciting times. It’s good having another record now, because it means I can actually do a pretty decent length set.

IS IT MORE NERVE-WRACKING AS A SOLO ARTIST THAN IT WAS DURING YOUR SUPERGRASS DAYS?

Yeah, it’s definitely more seat-of-the-pants stuff. There’s no time to get comfortable, which is good. I’m always on my toes, because it’s such a new thing and I guess everything’s on me - a bad gig or a bad day or a duff review has to be on my shoulders. I can’t share that around with the band. But it’s exciting and even though I was with a band for 22 years, this is a new experience. I keep getting lovely little surprises and great moments which fuel the project.

YOU’VE BEEN IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS SINCE YOU WERE A TEENAGER. WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING IF NOT THIS?

I don’t think I’d be starting for United! I was really into art at school - in fact I did better at art than music - but it’s hard to say. It’s a scary thought: if it all goes tits-up, what happens? Oh no, I’m gonna have nightmares! But who knows?

I just hoped I’d be in a position where I have two great kids and an amazing wife and hopefully that would be enough for me - after that, you just do whatever you can. But I’m gonna keep on doing this until people tell me to shut up.

• Matador is out now on Hot Fruit Records. Gaz Coombes is at The Pleasance Theatre, Tuesday February 10, 7.30pm, £15, visit www.pleasance.co.uk, call 0131-650 2656