At Home With…. Simon Gilbert of Suede
5 March 1994
Submitted by: Inge Klinkers
At Home With…. Simon Gilbert of Suede
Just a stone's throw from Gloucester Road Tube station's 24-hour Haagen-Dazs emporium, and a mere Platinum Amex card's toss from Harrods! That's where JENNIFER NINE finds chez Gilbert. Zooming close behind: MATT BRIGHT
How long have you lived here?
“I’m actually just in the process of moving, but I've lived here for a year, exactly, this month. I never stay here for longer than about two weeks, though, because I rarely get any time off. Ninety per cent of the year, we're off doing gigs."
What made you choose this neighbourhood?
"I've always liked Kensington, its atmosphere. When I first came to London, the first place I went to was Kensington Market. I like all the buildings; it's very London, or my idea of London at least, those huge white buildings everywhere and shops that stay open all night. The transport's brilliant too— it's £4 in a taxi from the centre of town. Before, when I lived in Stepney, I was paying £20 to get home."
Any famous people in your neighbourhood?
"Wellll [he leans forward confidentially], I hear Princess Diana lives just up the road in a nice place called Kensington Palace. I see Dave Stewart and his wife walking around. And you get quite a few people coming through... of course, Harrods is just over the road, so you see the odd Rod Stewart. But mostly it's just tourists and banking people, really.
"The nice thing is that I can be quite anonymous around here. I don't usually get recognised. Although I went into Boots this morning and got asked if l was going to be at the House Of Commons tonight for the vote on the age of consent laws."
Who comes round to visit?
"Brett and Allan, Brett's flatmate, come round quite a lot. A few of my old friends do, though it's really hard to keep in touch with old friends when you're just away all the time. It's difficult to get back into what it used to be like with them, not to sound pompous —'Oh, it's such a different world now’ - but it is, it's a different trip. But I do see some people I used to see; they'll come round for dinner, which is nice."
Do fans find you here?
"Surprisingly, yeah. People sit in the Pizzaland down the road, waiting for me to go out and buy a pint of milk. They rush out and say, 'Golly, Simon, we were just sitting here accidentally.' I've had people come to the door a couple of times, and people phoning up as well. I don't know where they got the numbers from... although apparently in one of the music papers, there was an advert for a publication called 'Stars' Addresses' - and it's got Suede listed. It's bizarre. I’ve been thinking that I might send off for it, and see if I can find out where Brett lives!"
Do you have parties at home?
"Occasionally, but only small ones. I've been thinking that I must have a proper one before I leave, because it's really the ideal pad for a party where absolutely everyone comes. I had a party here for the Brits last year; it was on the next night and we all came around here —the record company, the band, everyone involved."
Who would be your ideal party guest?
"I'd love to have Nick Cave come round, as I'm is big fan of his. I met him when I was 16. I’d gone to see The Birthday Party play, and there he was, standing in the corridor with a bottle of vodka in one hand and a bunch of roses in the other. I said, 'What time are you on?' And he said [mimes staggering, Australian accent] 'Uh, 11.30.’ Great —my last bus was at 11 o'clock, so I had to miss them! But at least I spoke to him, and I'd love to have a real rap with him."
Who would be your party guest from hell?
"A gossip. Someone who'd repeat everything, distort everything. Someone with a tape recorder! [He laughs, leaning ominously over my tape recorder] The sort of person who comes for the wrong reasons, basically, like for what nasty information they could get."
Who was the last person in your bed? What did you do? Did you use a condom?
"Well, I'm not going to tell you who the last person was. But, yes I did use a condom. What did we do? Hmm... we told poems to each other. Made them up as we went along."
What's your favourite room?
"This one here, the front room. I only recently moved the bed back into the bedroom. I was sleeping in here for a while because at ten to eight every f***ing morning, I'd get the sound of a drill going off from the building underneath. For which I was incredibly grateful, of course. So I moved in here, which is nice because, living on your own, you tend to put everything in one room and do all your living there. It's got everything I need, really. Cushions, stereo, records... and a broken TV. I used to watch it quite a lot, but I can't do it any more. Drives me mad."
What's your most treasured possession?
"This Beatles 'Yesterday And Today' album [with infamous, and highly collectable, 'butchered babies' cover]. What's the story behind it? Well, it's an American copy, and actually goes for sale at about £700, but our manager went over to America a couple of months ago and there's a bloke who works for Nude over there who's obsessed with Beatles and Stones collectables. And he told me it was no problem to get one for about $300 so I jumped at the chance.
"Do I play it? Oh, yes. Even if I scratch it, it doesn't really bother me, because all that, I think, just makes a record. I can't really play CDs because it just doesn't feel right... maaan!
"My other most treasured possession is a little Bakelite TV from the Twenties. I got it for £10, which is brilliant. It doesn't work, but I like it. And there's this enormous Afghan travelling cushion, which I'm sitting on, which apparently was made by rug-makers who used to travel across Afghanistan and make it as they went along. So the wool in different parts of the cushion is from different parts of the country, which is why that end is a bit darker. Everyone who comes over fights to sit on it, which is why it's all coming apart at the seams."
Do you have a lot of records?
"I guess so. That's all the Suede stuff over there. The bootlegs from Camden Market I do usually get free. I've only ever been refused by a bootleg T-shirt seller at one of our gigs - I asked, 'Do you mind if I have one of those?' and he said, Well, I'll have to wait 'til the guv’nor gets back!' There's nothing wrong with bootlegs. I've always collected them - I've got 13 Clash bootlegs. I'm a fan of music and I like collecting it. Ours for a start; I've got virtually everything we've ever done.
"But bootleg T-shirts... especially when they're shit... I saw some dreadful "Animal Nitrate" ones, where the pig was green! And apparently there are some goth ones as well, with the Suede logo and a huge gothic angel. Maybe they should do us up with black quiffs, as well."
Do you take drugs or drink at home?
"I don't drink much, to be honest. I prefer dope, and if I'm going to get off my head, I'd rather do it at home. There's nothing I like more than getting stoned and playing music. It’s an old cliche but it's true; it's nice to be able to crash out. I could never do acid outside my own place, for example — no chance!"
How do you entertain yourself at home alone?
"Music, really. Have a joint, listen to some 'sounds'. I write a lot of letters, Fan letters. We try to reply to all of them, so I do quite a lot of that. There's a big batch over there behind the sofa. I don't tend to write as much to my own friends, as it's easier to phone them up, but I love writing to fans, because it makes you realise that it's all real. The fan club mentioned recently, ‘Simon likes getting fan mail' and since then there's just been, well, loads. My letters have been getting a bit shorter in consequence."
Do you read in the loo, or the bath?
“The loo, usually. It tends to be stuff about music. I'm not really a great reader — the only things I do read are biographies and stuff. I just read a Keith Richards biography. I've got a book on Kate Bush, and The Guinness Book Of Hit Singles. I think we're in this year, apparently, for 'Animal Nitrate'.
"Of course I never expected to see us in it. You always dream of having a hit record, but only half of you thinks it's going to happen. And the other half says, of course it won't. We're Number Three in the charts today with the new single, which I still can't believe. Everything that happens still blows my head away, every time."
Any ghosts in your flat?
"Not in this particular flat, but once I was having some people around and it was about five in the morning. The people upstairs only live here in the summer and this was in the winter, and they weren't here. And suddenly there was a tremendous banging on their floor. Everyone stopped and thought, maybe someone next door is complaining about the music. So we turned it off and then we heard a terrible screaming, and the banging again, and it was absolutely definitely right above this room, for about two hours.
"We were all too f***ing scared to find out what was going on. I have no idea, still, what it was, but the people upstairs definitely weren't here. Freak us out."
Are you a gardener?
"No. I'm not into growing things at all. I tried to grow a grass plant once and failed miserably. That plant on the table there is the only thing I've ever grown successfully— the one in the pot marked 'Flour', ha ha. Hey, I'm deep, all right? I got it a couple of years ago from a friend when it was just a tiny little shoot. I wouldn't mind living near a field, but not a garden."
How much does this flat cost?
"Mmm, it's a lot. More than a hundred pounds a week. But it's pretty much all I spend my money on. When I lived in Stepney I paid £15 a week... this place is a complete waste of money, to be honest. It's too big and I'm never here, which is why I'm looking at moving to a smaller place, a maisonette— it's just throwing money down the drain."
What do you keep under your pillow?
“Nothing. Under my bed... porn mags? Nah. I don't keep anything in my bedroom besides my clothes. And the Suede scrapbook. Everything else is in here. Maybe it's because living on your own, deep down, you think if there's ever a fire, if everything's in one room… well, maybe that room wouldn't get touched."