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Sean Rowley

2 December 2000





Submitted by: Inge Klinkers



"When I was a kid, I worked down the market in Haywards Heath and I'd scrape together a couple of quid, and the first record I bought strangely, and coolly, enough was 'Never Mind The Bollocks…'. That was the first record I paid money for. What a first record to buy! It's one of the most iconoclastic and most influential records of all time and I thought, ‘Fucking hell, this is It'. After being force-fed classical music and hating the pomposity and the sumptuousness of it, all of a sudden here was something that was really raw, really powerful and that really said something to me."


“The formative years of my life were spent listening to Rachmaninoff and Liszt played very loud, emanating from downstairs. It's got nothing to do with the fact it was my dad playing it, but I've got a real hatred of classical music... and what I mean by classical is ultra fucking pompous stuff that does my head in - a million timpanis and a string section the size of Canada. My dad was really into that and he just sat there going, 'Listen to this, it's fucking genius,' and I was always going, ‘I fucking hate this.' I think it's impossible for people to convert other people to music, because you've got to let people get into it on their own terms. They've got to find it on their own and get their own kick out of it"

NME: Do you think that hatred of classical music is reflected in your work?

"No, I don't. It's funny because I think a lot of the melodics and the sense of tone have almost seeped in through the back door. A lot of our songs are quite slow and quite romantic, and some of them - especially some of the ones from 'Dog Man Star' - have quite a neo-classical sound, so I suppose there is an influence of sorts. Even though my head tells me I don't like it, something about it has seeped into my musical make-up. It’s something that, when I think about it, I want to get rid of it.”


"I was quite late into Prince - I wasn't really into him until about ten years ago, I suppose. A lot of the blueprints for 'Head Music' were quite Prince-y. I wanted to get that electronic groove like he gets on ‘When Doves Cry', stuff like that. 'When Doves Cry' is such a simple record; there's no bass and it's almost like a nursery rhyme.

but it's still dark and poppy. It's that combination I love about him. I guess I've wanted to emulate his groove, but of course I'm a skinny white bloke, so I can't make a groove like Prince can. All you can do is take it and then turn it into something that's nothing like it. There are only three seconds on 'Head Music' that sound anything like him (laughs), the rest sounds like Suede. But when you're making a record, you've got to have a direction. You can't just sit down with no light to follow, you need to know where you're going."

NME: What are you listening to at the moment?

"I go and buy lots of CDs every week and sometimes I'll only like one track, but it's still worth it. When I was asked to do this piece, initially I didn't want to, because I think there's been a very retrogressive culture in the last few years. Everyone's making lists and people are overs-obsessed with the classic acts of the past. I don't want to believe that the best music is behind us, because I don't think it is. Look at The Flaming Lips' album (‘The Soft Bulletin'): it's amazing and it was made in 1999. In ten years' time, that will be seen as a true classic. It's really important to keep pushing and to keep thinking there's going to be another great record made. That's my take on it, anyway,"


"It was the same with Crass really. I got into them when I was at secondary school, ‘79/’80, something like that. The other kids were into all these weird bands that had all these really extreme political things going on, and there was something powerful about all the imagery. Some of the early Crass records have all these heavy things going on, depicting the effects of a nuclear explosion and all these sinister collages with political figures in them. That really used to move me as a kid."


"In general, I think these artists gave me a strong sense of ambition for the band. Their music is quite ambitious, whereas punk is all about attitude. With them, there's a sense of wanting to create something rather than just making a muddy-brown sound. The stuff Eno did with Bowie - like "Heroes", 'Low' and 'Lodger' - is probably my favourite. I love that period when they're making something together that's out there, but still has a pop sensibility as well."


"A lot of my Kate Bush records are from my sister's record collection when she left home. I'd wander into her room and play 'The Kick Inside' and stuff like that. I think Kate Bush is one of those artists who's just got better and better. She's kind of like Madonna in that respect. To go from ‘Wuthering Heights' to 'Hounds Of Love' is just amazing. I think 'Hounds Of Love' is possibly one of the greatest albums ever made."


"Once I got into music I wanted to play it, and I started with the Velvets and Dylan, because they write quite simple songs. I'd sit there with my sister's crappy Spanish guitar, trying to play 'Blowin' In The Wind'. I don't think they're miles apart. I've got a Velvets box set and there's a version of 'All Tomorrow's Parties' where Lou Reed is trying to sound like Bob Dylan, There's a real sense with him end Dylan that they were limited as vocalists, but what they lacked in technical ability, they more than made up for with passion. There's a real soul to Lou Reed and Bob Dylan, a beautiful dark energy in both of them "

Sean Rowley

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