Tom Hingley - Madchester Man - Musician - Hat sniffer and a legend! Victoria Holdsworth asks the questions.
After watching Tom Hingley deliver an amazing set on a wet blustery night in Scarborough, I grab him as he comes off stage and help him to a backstage tent with his guitars, impressed at my roadie skills, we sit down for a chat, where he tells me about life inside and outside of his musical career to date for Leeds Music Scene, before politely asking if he can sniff my hat. With an offer like that from a Madchester legend, you can't refuse!
After the Inspiral Carpets disbanded in 95, you started lots of solo projects, was it a conscious decision to not be part of a band for a while, to rediscover yourself?
Well it was never really a solo thing. I did a lot of work with Jem Kelly from The Lotus Eaters, so I did some stuff with him and then we formed a band called The Lovers, so I did sort of eventually do a band thing in 1995-1996.
Have you ever shied away from offers from within the industry because of your past fame and success?
Not really, I worked at a company for a few years selling incontinence pants to old ladies in homes, so I suppose that's shying away from it a bit [laughs].
The Inspiral Carpets are back doing a tour this year; does it surprise you that there is still such a huge demand for you over 15 years on?
Not at all! It doesn't surprise me. What I'm concerned about is whether we're still actually good enough for the audience, which should be the main thing and it's about whether your audience surprises you really, if they're still enjoying it and are lapping it up then that's the surprise for me.
The Lovers seem to be one of those bands that's could continually re-invent themselves to match any mood of any scene. Do you feel you have a definite finished article at the moment that's going to stick around for a while?
Yeah, I mean the first album was kinda like a garage funk album, but the new album that we're doing is more like northern soul, there's a lot more nice melodies on the new records, but we really enjoy being in that band and enjoy the dynamics of playing with one another. It's not a hobby band and I suppose it is a definite article.
You include some Inspiral Carpets tunes in your set with The Lovers. Is that something that you will eventually phase out or do you still get a kick out of playing them maybe in a different style to what you're used to playing them in?
I don't mind playing Inspiral Carpet stuff, it's what I'm sort of known for anyway, so to not play them I think would be a bit odd. Sometimes it can be really helpful having a whole load of songs that you can play at the drop of a hat, it's quite a good thing, so I wouldn't really drop them. I don't always play Inspiral Carpets stuff though, I like playing some of the songs sometimes though as it can give the set a bit of a lift. Good songs!
You listed 3 of your all time favourite artists as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Ian Curtis. Out of those three, which one would you like to pick to resurrect to work with and why?
I don't think I'd want to resurrect any of them really. The thing is that you've never really heard anything like them, since they passed away. I think that's the problem with some of the people that are around now, trying to copy them but I mean, they may not be as legendary Curtis, Joplin or Hendrix, but there are some wonderful people around, so you have to look on the positives that they have.
I have to say your version of Janis Joplin's Mercedes Benz this evening was exceptional, one of my favourites.
Awe! Thank you very much [smiles] I was wondering whether to play that or Little Girl Blue, but she sings really quietly on that one. I see they're making a film about her soon.
Hmmm! As a Joplin fan I'm kinda dreading that, after what they did with The Doors film.
I know what you mean. I think there would be some sort of relevance in it to this generation though, and I suppose that's not always a bad thing.
You are considered to be an artist that changed the face of an entire music scene - who do you feel has revolutionised the scene in the past 10 years?
It's a long list of people who are fairly obvious really. The Libertines would be one of them and Arctic Monkeys. I suppose Oasis would be included in there, all the main culprits you know. I think with The Libertines though, they were the first band for years where each tune you heard was a really great tune. Pete Doherty is great, it's just a shame he has such problems in his personal life, because he is so massively talented. He's a bit like Elvis as well, he has a very iconic face, he is like an English Elvis. People slag him off, but at the end of the day, he is very talented. I saw him at Glastonbury last year and they did a little set and just watching him I thought he was amazing and you just want to listen to his songs.
Back in 2001, you lent your vocals to a dance track by Oprativ, and one of your lyrics was '...you like to think you're a party animal but you will die in your own stinking bed...' - Was that lyric meant for anyone in particular?
No, I think I was probably just having a bit of a downer on the whole music industry, and probably just the whole scene at that time.
You've been involved in some song writing workshops in the past, is that something you've still got your hand in with?
It's been good doing song writing workshops. I did a lot of the song writing workshops with kids and working with kids is great! I've got some young daughters and I was working with their sort of age group, and it was really good because they've got a real adult outlook on life, but their minds are still quite open. You can't teach people to write songs, all you can do is improve peoples song writing.
Are your daughters showing any interest in music?
Well, my daughter Elsa is about 14 and she's massively into bands, and she hangs around with kids that are about 3 or 4 years older than her and she's quite cool really. My daughter Sarah is learning to play the saxophone, and my daughter Lilly is supposed to be learning how to play the electric guitar, but she spends more time playing the piano at the house, so they're all musical.
Your first single 'Work Rest & Play' is about the life story of a teenage prostitute. What is the deciding factor on song writing for you when it comes to subject matter?
I haven't actually written any new songs in the last 3 or 4 years. I don't really worry about the fact that I have to, but I've now started writing some stuff for the new Lovers album, which is about the sort of scene where you take your kids to a restaurant and they're given a balloon with helium in it, and then they let it go, and it goes off into sky. Basically it's a song about how you've got to learn to let things go. I quite like the idea of writing about simple life lessons.
Have you ever thought of creating a Manchester super group? If so who would be in the line up?
I don't know about a Manchester super group [laughs]. I suppose in a way The Lovers are. We've got Steve Hanley from The Fall, and then we were joined by Paul his brother [also ex Fall] but no, they would never all turn up [laughs] and I'd end up loading all the gear, and the drug debts would just be enormous! [laughs with a cheeky grin]
You have said in the past that you prefer the New Wavey bands because that's where you came from - anyone catching your eye at the moment?
There is a band at the moment, but they're not at all new wavey, called Palace Fires, who are Steve Mason and Matt James. They're really good and extremely good. It's like I said before though, it's the usual suspects. One thing I did think was, someone like Arctic Monkeys is about what's happening now but I do think that they will be around for years. If they can put out another album like they have done, it'll be great, he's like a mini kinda Bob Dylan really. The important thing is the music though and not the whole package that goes with it. I do hate Razorlight though! They're sort of like The Boomtown Rats, and I always hated The Boomtown Rats as well. They're a horrible band!
So there you have it! The Legend has spoken! And as I thank Tom Hingley for sparing his time for Leeds Music Scene and get a photograph for the article, he checks out my striped hat and asks me if he can sniff it - of course I oblige! Tom Hingley - Madchester Man - Musician - Hat sniffer and a legend!