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Profiles - Suede

Andrea Baxter

August-September 1993

B Side Magazine




Submitted by: Rhys Anderson


by Andrea Baxter, photos by Michele Taylor

It seems that whenever critics draw parallels between new bands and phenomenally successful groups from the past, the new bands wither at what appears to be a challenge or the public dismisses the newcomers because...well, just because.

Brett Anderson, Bernard Butler, Mat Osman and Simon Gilbert, collectively known as Suede, haven't exactly shrunk from the phenomenon they created. Due in no small part to Brett's sexiness, perversity and unapologetic penchant for the sort of glam gear one might have found at David Bowie's garage sale in 1978, the band has outlived the "new Smiths" tag bestowed by critics and seems to embrace the concept that all the world's a stage. They regard America as a willful child and intend to make that child worship them. But as each British band that has crashed on these rocky shores knows, it takes more that good PR to conquer these former colonies.

Brett, hardly a reticent frontman, quickly became a critical darling for his liquid quotations about sexuality and fashion, which are as much fodder for conversation as the weather. Having shocked the masses with the blatancies most people simultaneously admire and fear, Brett now has time to talk about the music that brought Suede together in the first place.

"It's always quite odd when things start happening on this scale and it's exciting," Brett says of his newfound fame. "But the most important thing is writing songs and making records because that's really what we do, regardless of the media profiles."

Despite a meteoric rise to pop icon status, Suede does have a history. Weaned on music by everyone from Kate Bush to the Sex Pistols and friends since their youth, Brett and Mat linked with guitarist Bernard in October '89, after running an ad in the Melody Maker seeking bandmates. The three initially played to the consistent tapping of a drum machine, but eventually recruited drummer Simon Gilbert, a concert ticket clerk at London's ULU, and the gigging began.

The sweaty packs of weeping, screaming and smitten fans that now assemble for Suede shows hardly represent the band's leaner years, when audiences and critics despised the musicians' melodramatic, comic, arrogant and tongue-in-cheek style. Venues, record company executives and the public quickly jumped on the anti-Suede bandwagon before the tables oddly turned in early 1992 and a good review spawned a second and rekindled curiosity. Among those who became enamored with the band's heart-on-my-pouffy-sleeve songs was Morrissey, who even covered Suede's 'My Insatiable One' on his 1992 tour.

"I had a bootleg of it from some gig he did in Paris," Brett describes. "The band played very badly on it, but it's quite exciting, really. Lovely. I've always loved the Smiths."

Suede's EP Metal Mickey, released by Nude Records, and the 11-song, self-titled Columbia disc have enabled the band to sustain the aura of mystery and playful artistry like few other bands have been able to do. Sales figures don't look bad, either. But Brett maintains that he and his musical co-conspirators would still be doing what they are doing, whether people liked them or not. Right now, the musicians are content to disprove notions that they are a mere replica of the Smiths.

"We try to steer clear of the 'new Smiths' label because if that's what you are, you're just a shadow of them," Brett explains. "You may as well be yourself, rather than something based on what would appear to be quite cool."

Their first tour of America completed, the verdict is definitely mixed, with the New York crowd giving them a bit of a cold shoulder. For now, it's time to plan another major tour assault and keep those pretty chins up.

But crash helmets are always [sic] a safe option when heading for shore.

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