Oh no, it's— The Fan-ish Inquisition

James Oldham

8 May 1999

NME

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Submitted by: Hagar Itzikson

Oh no, it's— The Fan-ish Inquisition

The Suede boys answer your probing questions…

Text: James Oldham

Photography: Hamish Brown


You won't believe us, but it's true. On a Saturday afternoon, in a Camden photographic studio, Suede are revealing to NME a hitherto hidden passion, one that would mortify the more, um, nocturnal elements of their fanbase. That's right. They're playing football. Enthusiastically. With a piece of wood.


Well, some of them are anyway. While Neil Codling, Richard Oakes and Mat Osman answer the question, 'How sporty can you be in black leather?', drummer Simon Gilbert crouches in a corner tutting maternally, and Brett Anderson prowls around awaiting a call from the photographer. Generally, though, their spirits are high.

Last night, they played a secret gig in north London, which was filmed by Channel 4 for a forthcoming TV documentary. This morning, they performed on CD:UK, and by the time the weekend comes to a close 'Electricity' will be the latest in a long line of Suede singles to go Top Five. No wonder they're buoyant. Now all they've got to negotiate is this: The Fun-ish Inquisition.

Yes! You've levelled your most probing queries at the Manics, Mansun and Placebo, and now it's the turn of Suede. Want to know when they're playing in Latvia, Cirencester and Outer Mongolia? Well, tough. We've weeded all those questions out. Want to know if Brett ever felt like punching Damon Albarn in the mouth? Then read on, because all will be revealed - just as soon as we can drag Codling, Oakes and Osman away from that doorstop...


What's the worst insult anyone's shouted at you?(Fred Telfer, London)

Mat: "'Effete southern wankers.' Someone shouted that repeatedly through our first ever Scottish gig."

Simon: "I was in the toilet at that gig, and this bloke came up to me and said, 'Have you seen Suede? I'm going to smash their teeth in.' I just pretended to be from Scotland. The hard part."

Brett: "Someone once shouted, 'You sound like Rod Stewart.’"

Mat: "No, they said, 'We remember Rod Stewart.’"

Brett: "Oh, that's it. That was at a time when everyone was into bands like The Wonder Stuff, and we were playing ballads. I think the Scottish crowd thought we were old hat."


Brett, did your arse ever get sore from hitting it with your tambourine? (Kieren Kelly, Ireland)

Brett: "I used to get a lot of bruising, that's why I don't do it any more. I put my aggression into singing these days rather than self-flagellation."


Are there any songs you wish you'd never written? (Debbie Harding, York)

Brett: "'Stay Together'. I don't know why, it's just not one of my favourites. It was the sole time in our career when one of our records has been successful because of hype. We've been accused of that a lot, but that was the only time when it was true. It was just style over content."

Neil: "I've only written three, so I haven't got much to regret."


I read somewhere that after you moved out of one of your flats, the council had to have It fumigated. Is that true? And do you like vacuuming as much as Nicky Wire? (Gary Regis, Leicester)

Mat: "That was in The Mirror, wasn't it?"

Brett: "That's a bit of an exaggeration. What happened was we were in the middle of a tour, and we finished a gig and I had one too many shandies and a couple of other things, and I was moving house.

"Me and a couple of friends were sitting on my bed while these removal men went around my house throwing things in plastic bags while we were off our tits. It was a bit of a mess when we left, and I apologise to the people who moved in afterwards.

"These days I find vacuuming and washing-up quite therapeutic. I hate having a messy house, it makes me really depressed, so I try to keep my environment clean."


Which one of you has got the biggest ego? (Softywat, West Sussex)

Brett: "Definitely not me, ha ha. I don't think any of us has got a big ego, to be honest. It's another popular misconception about the band. We don't all need to be pampered, none of us are that fragile. Possibly a few years ago, I had a bit of one, but I think I've managed to chip away at that. I don't feel particularly ego-driven any more."


If you could stick pins in a voodoo doll of anybody on earth, who would it be? (Kirsty Irving, Grimsby)

Brett: "I don't have any bad intentions to anyone really. I think when you have bad intentions to other people, you're just looking for someone else to blame for where you've gone wrong with your life. It's just a coward's way out, and I try not to entertain thoughts like that. So, nobody."


What were the first records you bought? (Emily Mugford, Chertsey)

Richard: "My first record was 'Thriller' by Michael Jackson. I think I was about six."

Brett: "'Never Mind The Bollocks...' by the Sex Pistols was the first album I bought, and the first single was 'Wuthering Heights' by Kate Bush."

Mat: "I think it was 'Abba - The Album'. The one with 'Thank You For The Music' on it, anyway."

Neil: "Mine was 'Another Brick In The Wall (Part Two)'."

Brett: "Woah, what a record!"

Mat: "What a youngster!"

Neil: "I thought it was amazing."

Brett: "I loved the video with all the kids and that. I used to have the sleeve painted on my wall. The headmaster."

Simon: "Ever? David Bowie, 'Low'. Shall I tell you why? I thought he was a punk, because he had orange hair. I then went out and bought 'Never Mind The Bollocks...' after that."


Brett, were you good at games at school? (Clint Stone, Yeovil)

Brett: "Yeah, I was actually. When you're young, sport is really important, or at least it was at my school. I held the school record for the 800m for a couple of years. I was a good middle-distance runner. I used to play for the county at football as well.

"It was the only way to avoid getting beaten up. All the bullies tended to leave the kids who were good at sport alone, and not take them into the corner of the field and kick shit out of them. I fancied being an athlete when I was a kid, and then what happens, you get into cigarettes and girls and pop music, and you just end up a fat bloated fool."


Which member of Suede can drink the most beer? (Mike Crisp, Brighton)

Mat: "Richard, probably."

Richard: "I don't think so."

Brett: "Well, you're the one who regularly empties their mini-bar wherever we go. Even if we've got day rooms. He brushes his teeth with vodka, he does."

Richard: "Not really."

Brett: "Well, yes. Who are you trying to kid? This is the man who has a bar in his bag. You sit in the back of a taxi with him and when you get out there's glasses littered everywhere. That's no exaggeration. After the pubs shut, you don't try to find a dodgy offie, you just look in Richard's bag. That's the truth, mate."

Simon: "He drinks anything, him."


What do you say to NME's editor, who recently included you alongside Ocean Colour Scene, Cast and Reef In a list of bands who "have nothing to say" (NME, April 3)? (Dave Thorley, Shropshire)

Brett: "I don't think it's true, to be honest."

Mat: "There's always this assumption that if you have something to say, you have to say it in terms of politics and social conditions."

Brett: "I totally agree. When we're in places like Germany, we're always asked, 'Why are you not political?' and my answer to that is always the same. If you don't understand the politics of the songs, then you haven't looked into them. The songs aren't flag-waving, they're more subtle than that.

"I think I'm getting more interested in the music as I'm getting older, but I don't think that's a bad thing. I don't think you lose that fire for life. As long as you're inspired and have a real passion and rage for your music, that's something to say in itself. That's not a cop-out, that's just how I feel about music and the band."


Brett, you're always photographed wearing a silver bracelet Who gave it to you? (Samantha Jones, London)

Brett: "It was from a fan, actually. Someone sent it to me for my birthday. It's just a cheap, silver-plated one, but I like it. I'm quite superstitious, and I wear a lot of my jewellery for that reason. This bracelet is a perfect example, it's been quite lucky. I wrote lots of the album wearing it, so it'll continue to be on my wrist until something goes wrong."


When was the last time you cried, and why? (Gontie Tommy, Belgium)

Brett: "I think the last film that I cried at was Watership Down when I was young. The closing scene was really fucking sad.

"My sister used to read books to me, she liked reading to me so much she used to pay me 2p an hour to listen. She'd read stuff like Watership Down and Lord Of The Rings, and I'd cry at that too."

Simon: "I don't think I've ever cried while watching a film."

Brett: "Neil?"

Neil: "Nah."

Simon: "Oh, he's a butch lad."


Have you dumbed down your lyrics to the point where they're patronising to the listener? (Tom Stubbs, Dartford)

Brett: "I don't think they are patronising. If you want to look for intelligence in lyrics, there's a lot more of it in simplicity. I think the lyrics to our new album are a lot more intelligent than anything on 'Dog Man Star'."

Mat: "There's a difference between dumbing down and being universal. The majority of people who buy Suede records aren't English, their first language isn't English."

Brett: "When you go abroad people are just mystified about what the early stuff is all about. This is an interview for an English music paper, so everyone knows all the cultural reference points, but there's a whole world out there and I think it's important to communicate to them as well.

"As I've said before, the blueprint for a lot of lyrics on this album came from reading writers I really like, like Camus. His words are just like a simple painting of a triangle or a square or something. There's nothing clever-clever about them, they're just there. They describe a situation with a couple of simple brush strokes. That's what I was trying to do on 'Head Music', and if that's patronising, then sue me."


What sort of cigarettes do you smoke? (Laura Pike, Aberdeen)

Brett: "Benson & Hedges. It's always been the same. Mat smokes Silk Cut, but then he doesn't count."


If you could be any character in EastEnders, who would it be? (Sarah Glanville, London)

Brett: "I quite like Matthew Rose. I like the real ones - Matthew, Tony, people like that. I can imagine being one of them, they're in the same sort of age-band. I really like the Mitchells as well.

"Actually, I think I'd be like Phil in the old days. He's lost the plot a bit as a character since he gave up drink, but I used to love Phil. I'd regularly have dreams about hanging out with him and Grant, and committing various crimes."

Simon: "I'd be Ian Beale, because I've always wanted to own a 50p/£1 shop."

Brett: "Everyone hates him though, he's the most hated man in the square."

Simon: "Suits me."

Neil: "I'd be Reg Cox (Reg Cox was found dead in the first episode after never speaking a word - EastEnders Ed)."

Richard: "I'd like to be Nick Cotton, but I don't think I could pull it off. Every time he's been in it, it's been great. The time he tried to murder Dot was brilliant."

Brett: "The best one was when he came back and pretended to be a Christian. That was really sinister. And I love Dot Cotton. Charlie was great as well."


Tell us about your brown rice diet… (Johnny Robinson, Kettering)

Brett: "I still eat brown rice every morning. You get hooked on it, because it's just so clean and good for you. I'm really looking after my body at the moment. I spent so many years abusing it, it's time to give it a break I think."

Mat: "I met someone at a Super Furry Animals gig who was such a Suede fan he'd started just eating brown rice. I was trying to convince him that you don't have to do that to be a Suede fan. He should have seen Brett a few minutes earlier, he had a whole load of prawns stuffed into his mouth."

Brett: "You've got to make sure you get the right sort of rice. It can't just be brown, it's got to be wholegrain. What I recommend to our fans is go to a standard Indian restaurant and have a fish masala. That's very nice. I eat like a horse these days. Brown rice just gives you energy."


Brett, did you ever want to punch Damon Albam? (Paperback Rioter, Walthamstow)

Brett: "Punch? Nah, I'm not a violent person. Lots of people have had a go at me, but you just have to learn to deal with it because you're always going to be a target for someone."


Suede always seem well-groomed. How vain are you? (Jackie Long, Manchester)

Brett: "Personally, I'm pretty vain. You can only afford not to be if you're really confident about yourself. If you're always sticking your face in front of a camera and looking like a dog, you try to do something about it, don't you? I spend a lot of time looking in the mirror just to iron the creases and get rid of stray bits of fluff.

"Simon's quite vain. The first thing he does when he gets into a hotel room is unpack his huge case of toiletries. He's got five different sorts of aftershave, you name it. So actually, he's the vainest member of the band, and probably the best dressed."

Simon: "Yes, I'm glad you've noticed my Gucci shirt. Mat's got the best shoes, though."

Mat: "They're from Prada."

Richard: "They've still got that revolting stain on them."

Mat: "(Sheepishly) Yeah, someone was sick on them. Me, actually."


Brett, are you still an eco-warrior (A reference to a recently unearthed school essay in which Brett complained about vandals defacing trees)? (Leonard Brown, Portsmouth)

Brett: "Oh God! I was eight years old. Listen, right, all that stuff from my past, anyone who wants to criticise that, I'd like to ask them what they were like when they were that age. When you're eight years old you're not boozing and injecting drugs into your eyes, are you? You're just into stupid things. And no, I'm not an eco-warrior, it's not something that keeps me awake at night."

Neil: "He does live in a tree, though."

Brett: "I have concessions to a green lifestyle, but it's only buying eco-friendly washing powder. I'm not obsessive about it."


Is it true you only listen to your own music and surround yourself with people who admire you in obsessive and fanatic ways? (Moa Ranum, Sweden)

Brett: "No, that's bollocks. A lot of my close friends are into the band, but there are a lot of friends who've never heard a Suede song. A lot of our friends are ravers, and the music we make has no connection with their life at all."

Simon: "My best friend in Scotland hates us."

Brett: "I don't think we're that fragile that we need a load of people telling us we're great. I think we've grown out of that to be honest."


Does Neil like antiques? (Purple Girl, England)

Neil: "I'm glad you asked me that. Not really, and I hate watching the The Antiques Roadshow. It's always shown in the winter on Sunday evenings, and it's really depressing. It's always dark outside. It's so English, and it's all part of that dreary idea of what it is to be English. It's really parochial, seedy, it's all about poking your nose into someone else's business."

People bully me at school for liking Suede. What should I say to defend myself? (Barry Beautiful One, Carlisle)

Brett: "Tell them they're the cowards. If they have to persecute someone to make their own lives seem better then that's pathetic. Tell them we're going to go up to their school and get them.

"I don't know, when you're into music at school it says a lot about your identity and personality, and a lot of it was about getting into trouble with other people. You have to break an egg to make an omelette, don't you?"

Your life depends on collaborating musically with either Damon Albarn or Bernard Butler. Which one do you choose? (Derek Brodie, Manchester)

Mat: "Well, we've done one of them, so it would have to be Damon."

Brett: "What song would we do? We'd probably do a cover of 'I've Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts'."

Mat: "In a ragga stylee."

Simon: "He'll probably phone us up now and demand to know how we knew what he was working on."

Have Suede become a parody of themselves? (John Rickleford, Kent)

Brett: "Not at all. Part of being in a band is being a parody. I don't think anyone will listen to 'Head Music' and think it's a parody of Suede. I think what we've done on it is develop the sound of the band, but keep to the heart of what Suede's all about.

"It's true that there are certain constants in Suede's world that we go back to, but there's a fine line between repetition and just having a lexicon of words to fall back on. Sometimes I fall the wrong side of it, but I like to have a palette of words that I use, like an artist has a style. That's part of what makes Suede what they are."

Wise words, but as the clock ticks to three, NME is forced to halt the interrogation. Suede are off to rugby practice. No, sorry, to a Swedish television interview. They are drained, but happy. In the space of a few hours, they've grown as human beings. Thanks to you.

Mat has resolved to clean the sick from his shoes, Neil to overcome his hatred of The Antiques Roadshow and Brett to become more like Phil Mitchell. Before you is a new Suede. They like football, they still wear leather, but they find housekeeping strangely soothing. We hope that's all you needed to know.