The Press Article
We were right again! A mere five months in and SUPERGRASS, one of The Maker's tips for '95, have just gone Top 10 - and their first LP 'I Should Coco' is the fabbest, fastest, funniest Britpop album yet. TAYLOR PARKES drops in at the 'Top Of The Pops' studios and gets stupid with The Werewolves Of Oxford.
A QUICK NOTE: STUPIDITY
Pop must always, always be stupid - stupid as in not understanding the rules, as in running blind, as in stupid with desire, stupid with joy, as in stupefied. That kind of stupid.
This, then is the most unremittingly stupid interview I have ever conducted. And Supergrass, if you follow, are the most unbelievably stupid band I have ever met.
DUGGA DUGGA DUH DUGGA DUGGA DUH - KAPOW!!!
We are, incidentally, sitting round one of those white plastic garden tables that look like the things they stick in the top of take-away pizzas to stop the box caving in onto the topping, on a lawn somewhere in the BBC's Elstree studio complex. This is not really very exciting, but it is possible to make your own fun. (I, for instance, spotted the woman who reads the news on "South East At Six" in the canteen. I have fancied her for three months, largely on the strength of her weird, ululating crimson lips. I am saddened to report, then, that in real life she's actually a bit of a barker.)
We're here to watch Supergrass mime the Deep-Purple-jam-with-The-Muppet-Babies single "Lenny" on "Top Of The Pops". I tried to sniff out some amusing "TOTP"-related anecdotes for you, but I was unsuccessful. Sorry.
Oh, except that Celine Dion was walking up and down the corridors practicing her high notes, and we all shouted at her to shut up. That's about it.
HERE COMES MY MUM
Danny stops fiddling with his hair and his eyes pop open well big.
"I wanna say this, right! I wanna say: sorry, mum. Cos I was quoted in some interview saying she was a horrible old woman or something - I never said it, man! I never said it!"
The others laugh uproariously and point little fingers: "Yeah, you did!"
Danny looks like he's about to cry. "I did not!" He stares at his shoes "I just said something about her getting pissed out of her head all the time, and Tom out of Radiohead. . .sorry, Thom out of Radiohead had to keep picking her up off the floor in-between sucking lemons. . ."
See, I always wondered about pop groups who start off in their late teens - y'know, the proper age to start off...
Danny: "That should be the END of their careers! I started off when I was 10 - The Fallopian Tubes, man, great band, 'My Wife Shut My Gonads In The Door'. That one was about sexual frustration I seem to recall. So were al I the others. . ."
I've often wondered whether you ever hit big trouble at home- I mean, mere striplings like ourselves, shooting off about shagging and drugs and so forth, don't your mums ever read it and, ahem, know wot you dun...?
Gaz: "Well, we're all from pretty middle-class backgrounds, but they're cool about it, man. I went off
on holiday to Amsterdam the other week, and before I went my mum said to me, 'Now listen, I don't mind you smoking a few joints but just you be careful, don't you try and bring anything back with you."'
Danny (in bizarre monster voice): "REMEMBER PAUL McCARTNEY!!! REMEMBER PAUL McCARTNEY!!!"
Gaz composes himself, and continues.
"Thing is, my mum's an ex-English teacher, so she's really strict and really liberal at the same time."
Mickey: "And boy, can you f***ing spell."
Danny: "Yeah, but it's horrible when your mate's mum tells you off! Eurrgghhhh!"
Gaz: "But anyway she's cool. When 'Caught By The Fuzz' came out [apparently an absolutely, 100 per cent TRUE story of getting busted at the age of 15] she was really proud. I overheard her talking to one of her friends, playing her the pre-release tape 'Oh yes, this song's autobiographical of course...listen out for the third verse, that's where I come in!"
I still haven't quite come to terms with the fact that, somewhere on the planet - and, right now about a foot away from me - there is a man who looks like Gaz. You've seen the photos. What you're not prepared for is the fad that he actually looks like that. The fact that despite looking like an extra from "Planet Of The Apes" (yeah, that's been said before, but trying not to mention it is like trying to describe the Pacific Ocean without using the words "large expanse of" or "water"), he is incredibly good looking just makes things even creepier.
I do not fear him, however. For two reasons: one, a fan apparently turned up at a gig in Worcester paying homage to Gaz by sticking a carpet tile onto each side of his face.
For the second, I must thank photographer Lili Wilde: Lili, permanently leather-clad fetish club regular and the only photographer I have ever met who can go toe-to-toe with a grumpy Trent Reznor, is setting up her camera, and tosses a handful of props to the band, for them to utilise in whatever way they choose.
"Heh heh," chuckles Gaz (and Gaz smiling makes Gaz sullen look positively cuddly - we are talking Tony Blair here). "Have you got, like, some whips in there, too? Hahahaha!"
Lili looks up: apologetically. "No, I left them at home."
They think she's joking.
"Hehheh," continues Gaz. "What about, heh heh heh, some handcuffs?"
"Oh yeah!" Lili reaches into her bag and pulls out some handcuffs.
What Gaz's face looked like at that moment is why I'm not scared of Gaz. Or his face.
But would I shag him? Hmmm . . . yeah, I think I probably would.
FAME! I'M GONNA LEARN HOW TO FLY!
"Top Of The Pops", then. Feel like pop stars yet?
Gaz: "I did a minute ago, cos you just gave me a drink for no money"
Danny: "It's just life, man."
What the f*** are you on about, Danny?
Gaz: "We've just got back from Japan and that was f***ing weird. They all wait outside the hotel, and then when we come out and get in a taxi to go to say, the EMI building, they all get in taxis and follow us, then wait outside the EMI building."
Mickey: "They're all so polite as well, even when they try and chat you up."
Gaz: "They say, 'Maybe later, you and me, we might be able to go together tonight, if you would like that."
Danny: "It's really good fun to frighten them by hiding round comers, then jumping out and going, 'RAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHHHN!!!'"
Was it a conscious decision to sign with EMI, and avoid that crap indie thing of just hanging around for six singles before you get famous?
Mickey: "Yeah it was a bit."
Danny: "And because The Beatles were on EMI..."
Gaz: "We just thought, 'What's the point in going for that stupid indie "cred", let's sell some records.' I mean, all record companies work exactly the same way."
More power to your elbow, young man!
Danny: "And we're on Capitol in America as well, which is brilliant, it's f***in'...it's exactly
like The Beatles, man! It's exactly the same!"
Mickey: "Danny. Shush."
JUST SAY NO
Some members of the "Grange Hill" cast walk past and start giggling at us.
Danny's eyes almost tumble into his lap. "Look! The cast of 'Grange Hill'! Let's see if we can get them naked!"
You'll have noticed by now, right?
Danny is...how can I put this? Danny is a f***ing nutter. Off his Jarvis Cocker, totally Radio Rental, Grade A, 24-carat headcase. And he looks as if he should be in a home. Which, right now, strikes me as pretty cool, for some reason.
Mark Goodier recently attempted to interview Danny over the telephone for the Radio 1 "Top 40 Show".
"And now we go over to Danny from top indie band Supergrass! Danny, hi!" Danny, who was looking after a friend's baby at the time picked up the phone on cue, and found himself drowned out by an avalanche of mewls and pukes.
"Danny," went Mr. G, imaginatively, "how does it feel to go straight into the charts at Number 10?" Danny thought for a moment, said "hang on" put his hand over the mouthpiece and bellowed, "SOMEONE SHUT THAT BLOODY KID UP, I'M ON RADIO 1 FM!"
"Uhhh...what are you up to right now, then, Danny?" stammered the unflappable wireless type, pressing on manfully.
A long, long pause.
"I'm baby-sitting, man."
Would I shag him? Hmmm...if I was on drugs.
TAXI FOR SUPERGRASS
I was in the cab on the way here, right. . .
Danny: "Are you telling a joke?" No, it's a slow build-up.
Gaz: "Then get on with it man!"
F*** off I was in the cab on the way here, and the driver...
Mickey: "We were in a cab the other day, and the driver who hadn't even spoken to us, got out this mobile phone and rang up his mate and started going, 'Hey, you'll never guess who I've got in the back of my cab! It's only Supergrass!'"
Doesn't beat MM's own Ian Gittins, who once told a cabbie he was Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, and entertained him all the way home with tales of on-the-road excess, until the cab pulled up outside Gittins' flat and the cabbie bade him farewell. It was only the next day that Gittins suddenly realised that there's still a cabbie somewhere in London who thinks Neil Tennant lives above a stationery shop in south London.
Mickey: "Hang on, you were telling a story. You were in this cab..."
And the driver had one of those classic hits stations on, which was playing "Dancing In The Street" by Mick Jagger and David Bowie.
Danny: "Oh no!!!"
And it struck me that the most embarrassing moment in the history of pop is that bit at the beginning where Mick Jagger goes " South A-meee-ri-caaaaa!!!"
Danny: "I think the most embarrassing moment in pop is on this tape we got in Japan by this Japanese Jam rip-off band, where it goes: ' I walked up to smell her/But she knew I weren't Paul Weller.'"
Gaz: "Nah, the most embarrassing moment in pop is on our album where it goes: 'Oi Mum! Got any mandies?'"
Mickey: "Yeah, that gets on my tits too! Why the hell did we put that on?"
Some of Shed Seven stroll over to our table. Actually, to maintain chronological sense, I should point out that, since Rick "Kwik Fit Fitter" Witter isn't one of them, I have no idea that it is some of Shed Seven. I should say: some northern blokes stroll over to our table.
One of Shed Seven who isn't Rick "Kwik Fit Fitter" Witter: "All right?"
Rick "Kwik Fit Fitter" Witter strolls over to our table, and I realise that the northern blokes must be Shed Seven. At which point - seriously - Danny says to him, "So Rick, are you looking forward to being on TV?"
Rick "Kwik Fit Fitter" Witter: "Uh, yeah."
Shed Seven walk off and start playing football.
Danny: "Heh heh. Shed Seven's drummer's hair's gone white. He fell off a rock. It's not his fault."
What the f*** are you on about, Danny?
Gaz: "Aren't you going to ask us about sex, then?"
How did you get that reputation for being so wild and sexy?
Mickey: "You lot made it up. We're no more wild and sexy than anyone down the pub."
I can't believe you just said that, Mickey.
Gaz: "It's true, though. I know loads of people wilder and sexier than us."
For f***'s sake! You're breaking a million hearts!
Gaz: "Nah! We never said we were any of those things!"
So you don't want to be thought of as wild and sexy, then?
Gaz: "Well. . . if people wanna think that, then fine."
Danny strokes his chin and looks at me quizzically.
"Would YOU want to be thought of as wild and sexy?"
I think it would come in pretty useful.
Mickey: "Yeah, but.."
Maybe you're scared of disappointing people, is that it? Maybe you're worried you won't live up to their expectations. Maybe you're INADEQUATE! Hah!
Danny: "Hang on!"
Mickey: "Are you really that interested in whether we're wild and sexy? Does it really trouble you that we might not be?"
If I was 15 and female, it would trouble me a great deal.
Danny: "Umm, yeah, but any 15-year-old girl who read that might just think we were being modest. I mean, she might mightn't she?"
Gaz: "Or she might think we were lying, you know"
I knew I'd get you on this one.
Gaz: "Yeah, OK, we've been lying, we are wild and sexy"
Danny (whispers): "Yeah, but for God's sake don't print it. . ."
We suddenly realise we're a stone's throw from Albert Square. "East Enders" is filmed on one huge lot at the back of the Elstree studios, and all outdoor shots are done in a bizarre and, frankly, scary Albert Square set made entirely out of cardboard - the Queen Vic, the caff, the houses, all squashy to the touch - to which access is strictly forbidden. So, being, like, really rebellious and that, we go and have a look around. Rock'n'roll!
Gaz: "Careful, our mate got chased off here once by a bloke with a stick."
Danny: "Look! Deals On Wheels!"
Oddly enough, Supergrass elect to have their photo taken under the sign that says "Deals On Wheels". I wander around trying to think up some fit between the plastic brilliance of "I Should Coco" and the fact that everything in Albert Square is, like, y'know, artificial. I can't think of one, so I run around Pauline Fowler's front garden instead.
Mickey: "Look in here! It's everyone's front room!"
We trot into a huge studio (the door of which someone has, with inestimable stupidity, left open), and sure enough, there stand the front rooms of everyone in "East Enders". Danny picks up a picture frame from someone's sideboard.
"Let's take the photo out and put one of us in there!"
Then a man comes and chases us away with a stick.
THE TROUBLE WITH CLASSICISTS
If, in such fragmentary times, Melody Maker could still be said to have an overall aesthetic, then right now it's probably this: a deep deep distrust of the accepted version of rock history (Elvis·Beatles-Dylan-Stones-Hendrix-Bowie-Pistols-Smiths-R.E.M.-Roses-Nirvana-STOP), all dope-smoking dudes with guitars, "authenticity" and "grit" - and a deep, deep belief in the pleasures and possibilities nestling some distance from the main thoroughfares: oddities, one-offs, weirdos, iconoclasts, nutters. Stupidity. Pop music.
It was with McCarthyite zeal, then, that Simon Price, reviewing The 'Grass recently, highlighted some disturbing, emerging "classic rock" tendencies...
That made me laugh, actually, because he said that on the sleeve of 'Mansize Rooster' Gaz is wearing a 'Neil Young-style green felt hat'. Hahahaha! He bought it off the seafront in Eastbourne! And a poncho - it was my f***ing bedspread! We'd just got up!"
Gaz: "I mean, we do want a long career - we don't wanna go back on the dole if we can help it, y'know! But that doesn't mean you have to turn into the Stones."
Mickey: "We're a real band though."
What, like instead of a cardboard band? What the f*** does that mean?
Mickey: "Well, not like Take That or whatever."
I fondle the knife in my trouser pocket and grit my teeth HARD.
I had you down as a proper POP GROUP!
Gaz: "We are! What he means is that we want our songs to sound good for longer than a month or two. If that's 'classic rock', then...I mean, we're happy to be on 'Top Of The Pops', but I don't think we'd do a 'Smash Hits' front cover."
Mickey begs to differ.
"Actually, I like the idea of 12-year-olds being into us."
Gaz looks uneasy.
"But isn't the 'Smash Hits' thing a bit shallower? Like, 'Oh, I fancy him, I'll buy the record?'"
Gaz, name me one way in which that differs from, like, "Great guitar line, I'll buy the record."
Danny: "Yeah, come on, Gaz! There's nothing wrong with a bit of that!"
Gaz: "It's just that I remember not really liking music when I was 12. It was only later that I appreciated stuff that was around then, like The Smiths."
Danny "Yeah but I hated The Smiths when I was 12. I thought he [Morrissey] was really weird."
Pot, kettle-kettle, pot.
"I was into playing football and that and I just thought, 'Oo's this bloke?' I only got into them when I started growing hairs."
Gaz: "See, I just remember my birthday party, with my cake in front of me and Wham! playing somewhere in the background."
Mickey: "You had Wham! At your birthday party? Wow!"
Danny: "I loved all that stuff, though! Kajagoogoo! I used to lure girls back to my bedroom and play them Kajagoogoo, trying to get a snog."
Did they ever go for it?
"They were too shy"
For over 10 minutes Danny can't work out why everyone else around the table has just laughed themselves purple. Finally, realisation spreads across his face like dawn breaking.
Let's talk about your great new album "I Should Coco".
Danny (thoughtfully): "I don't think it's the sort of music you could masturbate to."
Gaz: "But you could have sex to it, definitely."
Danny: "Yeah, but you could have sex to... f***in' monks, or something."
Have sex with monks?
Danny "To monks. To monks."
What the f*** are you on about, Danny?
Gaz: "You could definitely have sex to 'Sofa (Of My Lethargy)'. Real nice smooth sex."
Yeah, actually it only lasts six minutes, Gaz, so you could be on a minefield here...
Gaz: "Well, without foreplay, obviously."
Gaz: "You could put on 'Sitting Up Straight' for the foreplay, then 'Sofa' when you get down to a bit of how's your father..."
"Sitting Up Straight" lasts two minutes and 18 seconds. I say nothing.
Since they're just going to be silly, I'll have to talk about the album myself. It's f***ing skill. It all sounds like the singles. Basically, it's twice as much fun as walking into Hyde Park during last week's VE Day celebrations wearing a fluorescent backpack, a camera round your neck and a London A-Z in your hand, going up to a squaddie and saying "Excuse me, mein Herr, wass ist all dis? I do not understand vy all zer people are in zer park. You vill tell me, please."
Way cool. Stupid, man.
Every group has a Mickey. He's always the drummer or the bass player (in Mickey's case the former). He has the most sensible haircut. He is the oldest. He doesn't say very much. For a while, you just assume he must be very boring, until it suddenly strikes you that, in actual fact, he's just sane.
Would I shag him? Ummm...no, but I'd let him watch.
So, boys. Ever had that thing where your cashpoint card gets so rippled along the bottom from chopping out lines of coke that you put it in the machine and the machine doesn't recognise the shape and keeps your card and you get in trouble?
Gaz: "Yeah, man."
Danny: "No, but we've had that problem with other people's cashpoint cards. We keep ours quite nice. In fact look at this, I bought a new wallet yesterday. Well, found a new wallet"
Danny: "Yeah, I think that's the right word."
Mickey: "Why is 'stole' not the right word?"
Danny: "Well it was empty, wasn't it?"
Gaz: "What was the question again? Have we got hazardously ripply cards? Nah we've been warned against using our cards for things like that because if they catch you in America with traces of powder on your card, you can't cross state borders and things."
Isn't that why they make tour laminates sharp at the edges?
Gaz: "Heh, we had tour laminates made for the Japanese tour with horrible cross-eyed pictures of us on, as a cautionary thing."
Someone told me you were the only band they'd ever met who managed to get some drugs in Japan.
Mickey looks alarmed.
"Well, we weren't going to take any in with us!"
Danny (in bizarre monster voice): "REMEMBER PAUL McCARTNEY!!! REMEMBER PAUL McCARTNEY!!!"
Gaz: "Yeah, we found some, but the hash was £75 an eighth!"
Danny: "What??? £75 an eighth? F***! Glad we didn't have to pay for it."
Mickey looks thoughtful.
"The thing is, we never get stopped at customs, or anything."
Looking like that? Jesus.
"I got stopped in America at immigration control, cos I stunk of whisky, cos we'd been getting pissed on the plane."
Mickey: "No it wasn't. It was because everyone else breezed right through - 'Yeah, we're here on business, yeah, here's our visa' - and you tried to engage the bloke in a conversation about football!"
The last time I went to America, they brought the sniffer dogs round and this alsatian went mental around an old lady's vagina. You could see all the officials going, "Oh no, I'm not putting on the rubber glove..."
Gaz: "Great! We'll have to remember that!"
Supergrass' press officer looks aghast.
"Please don't say that! They'll stop you everywhere now!"
Mickey: "What, you think we're actually going to take an old lady on tour with us as a receptacle?"
Gaz: "I've got this brilliant book on how to smuggle stuff round the world, and it says you should take a baby, and open its nappy up and put all the shit in with...the shit."
Mickey - father of a bouncing baby girl himself - looks revolted. Whether by this appallingly exploitative international drug smuggling ploy or by the reminder of dirty nappies, I cannot say.
Gaz: "Yeah, and another one is to lift up the vinyl roof on a car and put about three kilos down there then put the roof back on. Brilliant! Or you can shove it all behind the grille at the front of the bonnet..."
Mickey: "Gaz. You haven't got a car."
Gaz: "Ummm...oh yeah."
Mickey: "Oh, one more thing - I wanna say hello to my kid. Hello, Daisy."
Danny: "Yeah, right, Mickey."
Danny: "She can't read yet, you f***ing twat."
BYE THEN! BYE BYE! SEE YA!
SUPERGRASS. Stupid, like the heavens. Give thanks!
Melody Maker - 20 May 1995