In a full transcription of the interview that appeared in the May 16 issue of the YEP, Andy Roberts talks to Noble - guitarist from eclectic Bowie-esque soon-to-be superstars British Sea Power about growing up in Leeds and more...
In a full transcription of the interview that appeared in the May 16 issue of the YEP, Andy Roberts talks to Noble - guitarist from eclectic Bowie-esque soon-to-be superstars British Sea Power about growing up in Leeds, the band's forthcoming LP and their songs that apparently should be imagined "at a lock-in knocking back pints of barley wine and ordering a nice blend of Glenmorangie and Blue Nun for the ladies"!
We hear you went to Roundhay School - what are your memories of growing up in Leeds?
I moved to Leeds when I was 13. I was taken under the wing by the Smith and Picken family and had a happy time at the 9th Northvale scouts. Burning myself and sleeping in bivouacs in Wike and making bridges was a fun time. I used to drink Thunderbird in the Roundhay Park woods and have fun in a polygamous kind of way. I first fell in love in Leeds. Ms Eade, if you're there, I'll never forget you.
Were you in any bands in Leeds before moving away? If so, do you think Leeds is a good place to be in bands and why?
I was in a band called Blind at the age of 15, we were a very good band for our age - far better than The Music. We used to play the Duchess of York and fill the place full with pissed 15 year olds, we played reasonably well and we'd all have a super time. Sadly, the Duchess is no longer with us. The Wetherspoon pub plague seems to have taken over Leeds. It seems like a riot in Leeds on a Friday night these days. My friend's brother got punched in the face for calling someone a dickhead! At least Josephs Well is going strong as a venue.
You played Leeds Festy 2002 but do you ever come back to Leeds?
Yes of course, to see my brother, my friends, mum and dad and my grandparents. My Grandad used to work at Rowntrees, and my other grandad plays a mean church organ. He can play any tune. You hum it - he can play it.
I love going to the Yorkshire Dales or Yorkshire Moors. It cleans the soul and increases one's appetite for life.
Will the date at Joseph's Well be special in any way or will it just be another date on the tour?
There will be friends and family there so I will take care to impress them. I may break my arm or play really well. All British Sea Power shows are a little bit special. For both the Leeds show and the show at York Fibbers on 19th May we will be be featuring a live video link to a bird-observation hide at Flamborough Head. We will also be showing some previously unseen footage from Heartbeat and playing a recording of John Betjeman reading his poem The Licorice Fields At Pontefract. He's a good man Mr Betjeman. You're all in for a treat. The words go: "Red hair she had and golden skin/Her sulky lips were shaped for sin/Her sturdy legs were flannel-slacked/The strongest legs in Pontefract." You wouldn't get that from that strange ape-like boy from the band The Music.
How did you end up in Brighton and in British Sea Power?
Well, firstly I studied Zoology and Psychology to try and understand the way humans and animals behave because it is frequently very confusing to me. Julian Cope once said in a song "People I see remind me of mooing like a cow in the grass". Sometimes I think he's on my side talking about the foolish folk out there fucking everything up for the world, and sometimes i think he's talking about me. I left Reading because it was a stagnant concrete shithole of commerce with no charm and moved to Brighton for the sea, countryside, ornithology, clay pipes and good times.
What is the thinking behind the stage garb and props?
If you have something that looks good, that's nice. If you have something that sounds good, that's nice. If you have both, then that's nice times two. We find it just a bit strange that people seem to think having some plastic birds and a few tree branches on stage is a radical departure in the world of entertainment. Presumably, in 1967, the same people were saying to The Velvet Underground, "Hmm, this music's rocking, but do you really have to have this strange German model bird who can't sing and what's with the films showing when you play and why do you have that weird fruit Andy Warhol hanging round?" We like the heron and the owl and the beech leaves. We hope other people do as well.
What was it like playing with Interpol in Europe? We hear Paul Banks joined you onstage to play 'The Lonely'?
Interpol are on the prowl and this is their domain. Yes, Banksy did join us to play on song 'The Lonely' in Germany, which was a very pleasant. We played five weeks and nine European countries with Interpol and it was just a joy.
Would you say you were a quintessentially British-sounding band?
We do celebrate the place we come from, but not to extent of being frightened by Europe, what some people think of as the strange land across the English Channel. We're a British-sounding band like The Smiths were a British-sounding band - a band who draw inspiration from some lesser known British byways, but also a band likely to get attacked in the street by the kind of person who would shave a Union Jack on his bulldog's bum and get upset when the Queen Mum gets a can of sardines stuck in her throat. Then again, the ugly old dear did have good taste in booze. Mine's a gin and Dubonnet.
Did the LP take a while to come together? What was it like recording?
We spent a lot of time making the album. We recorded stuff in an old coach house in North Wales, in our front room in Portslade and by the Grand Union Canal in London. All credit to our label, Rough Trade. They gave us all the time and money to make the album we wanted. And, you know, it's rather good. In fact, we feel we should tell you all that The Decline Of British Sea Power will emerge as the best album made by a British guitar band this year. At the very, very least. Also Mads Bjerke who works with Spiritualized, is the man who help us record, engineer and produce the album. He's an immense talent. He mixed the new Primal Scream live album and he introduced us to the intimacy of Roberta Flack. The man survives on digestive biscuits and tea for 12 hours a day and never lost his temper ever.
The LP is fairly eclectic - does it capture the essence of the whole BSP thing?
You could never capture the whole World Of British Sea Power in just 47 minutes. But, the album is a delightful and brilliantly scheduled bus tour that takes in all the scenic delights and magical secret glades. The album ranges from a two-minute slice of furious, brutish rock'n'roll to a 17-minute piece of what can only be described as symphonic rock music. The former is about Lonnie Donnegan and Field Marshall Montgomery. The latter song is called 'Lately' and is good enough to have been on any great album. Good enough to have been on, say, Marquee Moon by Television.
Does 'The Decline of...' have universal appeal in your mind?
No. It will only appeal to those with a brain and a brain which they are unembarrassed to turn on. We don't expect Prince Edward and The Datsuns to be buying a copy.
How are the re-recorded 'Fear Of Drowning' and 'Remember Me' different to the previous versions?
They're older and wiser. The earlier versions couldn't quite get served in the pub. Imagine the new versions sat at a lock-in knocking back pints of barley wine and ordering a nice blend of Glenmorangie and Blue Nun for the ladies. They sound a bit like that.
Are you destined to be critically acclaimed yet under-discovered? If not why not?
Only for a little while longer. Our oldest known fan is Ronald Of Natland, who, I think, is 77 years of age. He tells us that "If the world doesn't embrace this album then this world is sick." This album is too good to go unnoticed. We have a new song with the working title 'How Animals Work'. It's like a more pastoral version of New Order at their very best, and Leadbelly. We think that it will be Number One in the charts in January 2004.
Would you like to take Club Sea Power on tour with you?
Yes, we would, and we are, to some extent. The London show on this tour is the first fully fledged example of Club Sea Power on the road. We will be unveiling the BSP range of women's clothing and will have such brilliant DJs as SAS Dirtyman, Monsignor Ian and Phil King playing his renowned set of unknown glam-rock greats. We are also scheduled to have a five-drummer grand finale, featuring Young Tom White from The Electric Soft Parade, Sanderson from Jesus and Mary Chain, and Shinyu from Earl Brutus banging a marching drum and trying to charm the ladies. Shinyu used to massage Madonna, you know. I won't tell you why the contract ended.
Rod Jones from Idlewild is from Leeds too - are there any other chaps like you, fellas from Leeds and environs lurking in top quality bands?
There is a great band called Hood from Wetherby. They are signed to Domino Records, of Pavement fame. A good band. I also have a soft spot for Dave Gedge formerly of The Wedding Present.
British Sea Power's debut album The Decline Of British Sea Power is released on 2nd June 2003.