"I’ve reversed one of the fall-outs and could reverse the other at any point if I saw the guy (Brett). We had a big fall out, but time’s a healer and all that stuff. I’ve worked out what I wanted in life and realised I’m not going to let that stand in my way.”
GM: OK. I might as well be the first to bring this up. It’s a dirty five-letter
word. It starts with S and ends with E.
BB: It’s not a dirty five-letter word at all. It’s a band called Suede that I’m very proud that I was in and I wish people would stop treating me as if I wish I was never in Suede. I made great records with Suede and they’re a great group. I’m very proud of that and there’s no big deal about it.
GM: The British press is always….
BB: Yeah, but I’ve never said that. It’s one of the many questions that I face, day in and day out. It’s kind of second hand information, but you never find the guy who said it in the first place. That’s what always worries me. There’s someone out there and he’s got a list of theories on me.
GM: Alright, well let’s talk about the songwriting. It’s interesting, now that
your solo work is out, to compare your work to the B sides that were recently
released on Sci-fi Lullabies. When we listened to Suede 3 or 4 years ago we
always wondered which parts did Bernard write, what’s his impact. I hear
similarities between some of the B sides and your solo work…the slow-boiled
beginnings followed by a nice and sweet long intro… were those your elements?
BB: Well, I wrote all of the music when I was in Suede. So, yeah, it was all me. (laughs)
GM: Well, the more brooding works such as High Rising…
BB: Yeah, High Rising I was really, really into at the time. There were no drums on that so I did percussion and everything myself.
GM: Was that your reaction to what Suede was becoming popular as?
BB: Well, I was just challenging…yeah, but in a musical way. Just like I’m doing now. I’m playing these songs acoustically because it’s being represented in a different way and that turns me on. Yeah, at that time in Suede I was obsessed with challenging the music. Challenging the way people saw the group. I never invented this glam rock tag. I was never interested in any glam rock band, whatsoever. It meant nothing to me, ever. So I was always interested in making classical music. That’s what I thought Suede was. I always thought it was great pop music, but there was also a classical element to it that I was really into. So the songs on High Rising, yeah, it was just me challenging my own songwriting and trying to do something different. I think they stand up, you know.
Q. Bernard, if much of Dog Man Star and all the first McAlmont and Butler album is expansive both in terms of length and guitar style, your more recent songs are noticeably shorter and feature very controlled guitar work. Have you in the pursuit of Motown-style pop perfection abandoned the idea of writing another eloquent guitar epic such as Stay Together?
Anwar - London
Bernard: I closed off the Bob Marley avenue of pleasure about the same time…. the whole point of stay together was that the first 3 mins 30 secs worked as pure pop and you would never hear the rest on the radio.
Q. Brett: Your usual songwriting practice is to write a lyric for a pre-existing piece of music, in this case by Bernard. Has the reverse ever been true with you presenting a complete lyric for someone else to write music
Anwar - London
Brett: yes, ‘Filmstar’ and ‘She’ were both sort of written like that
Q. Which of your co-star’s songs that was made without you is your favourite? (ie not early Suede or The Tears)
Ian from Hong Kong
Bernard: Eno’s ‘Introducing The Band’
Q. If you had to play one song live from either of your back catalogues, what would it be?
James Brown from Hereford
Bernard: She’s a Layabout
Q. You’re probably sick of people comparing Tears songs to this-and-that Suede song… What reference points would you use to guide people about your sound / influence?
Kathryn in South Yorks
Bernard: Listen to ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ back to back with ‘Crazy in Love’ and pentangle’s ‘Poison’ for a few days and you’re getting into my world….
Q. Tell us a bout the writing process, how it starts, how it finishes, if anyone takes the lead…
Dave in London
Brett: It’s all just lucky guesswork!
What do you think of the music press/critics? Do you not like being interviewed?
BB: Journalists are like taxi drivers - some of them leave you to it and some of them drive you mad taking wrong turning. Some of them think you owe them a living while some smile and enjoy what they’re doing. Sometimes you like them and have a chat, and sometimes you wish you’d got the bus.
How many songs do you think remain unreleased from your time with Suede?
BB: There are no left over songs, just a few backing track ideas without vocals that I retained the rights to.
Is there any sheet music The Sound Of…? Or any of your other stuff
BB: There is a book for the first Suede album which is totally wrong and for Dog Man Star which is so complicated I couldn’t tell you if it’s right or not but features some fairly crap artwork wholly unconnected with the records. Nothing yet for the McAlmont and Butler LP.
Have you thought about working with Ed Buller again?
BB: Thought about it…woken up and splashed my face with a cold flannel…realized it’s OK now..
What did you listen to when you were younger?
BB: When I was small I listened to a lot of Irish traditional music mixed with Elvis and Nana Maskouri. Then I moved to Blondie, Madness and The Jam, followed by (1983+) New Order, Joy Division, The Smiths, Velvet Underground, etc.
What do you listen to now?
BB: Neil Young, Underworld, Van Morrison, Roxy Music, Bob Dylan, Teenage Fanclub, Elvis, Lou Reed, Beach Boys, Jeff Buckley, Talking Heads, REM, Burt Bacharach, various records.
Who are your favourite bands of the moment?
BB: Supergrass, Teenage Fanclub, Underworld, Hopper.
Is your guitar a Gibson Acoustic J200 and is it expensive?
BB: Yes, I have a 1973 Gibson J200 acoustic and yes, it’s worth quite a lot of money, but don’t be fooled by expensive guitars - even in the high vintage price bracket they can be hit and miss. One of my favourite guitars is a cheap acoustic, probably worth next to nothing but which has a huge rumbling sound. Don’t try and buy the guitar and colour your hero has - it possibly came to them by accident in the first place and won’t help you find you own sound and character.
Have you spoken to Brett since you left Suede?
BB: We meet regularly for a silent game of bridge. (LOL)
Which guitar do you like best?
BB: My favourite guitar is my 1962 Gibson ES355 which is close to my heart although it has been “adopted” by a few morons lately.
What do you think of heavy metal?
BB: I like Nick Drake - does he count?
Do you really write most of the songs on “The Sound Of McAlmont & Butler” on hot Summer nights?
BB: “Yes” was record at Xmas 1994. “Tonight”, “You’ll Lose A Good Thing”, “The Right Thing” were all recorded in Summer. “Tonight” was recorded on the hottest night of the Summer of 1995 - hence the argument we taped for the outro sequence - it was a fight taking place in the flats opposite RAT studios about someone’s barbecue blowing smoke into another man’s house
Bernard: It’s the same old rubbish all the time… we are the same old lunatics.
Steve: You got cats now and things now, and you have probably…
Brett: Bernard has a family now, so that’s very different. I dunno. I think we are essentially the same people.
Steve Lamacq: Do you think so.
Brett: Yeah, I do actually, yeah I do. It didn’t seem when we first met after nine years away it didn’t seem weird, or it didn’t seem like me and someone I didn’t know. It’s just like Ah, get on with it. It’s like… just ordinary, really.
Steve: Did you ask things you were curious about?
Brett: We had a sort of drunken night when we talked rubbish to each other for a few hours but I can’t remember anything we said really.
Bernard: I remember getting you into a taxi.
Steve: Did you have to pay for it as well?
Bernard: Bristol quick! Don’t ask (all of them are talking at the same time and having a laff)
Brett Anderson, 1999:
- Why Bernard Butler quit the band?
-Whooo?! Berner Butter?
Bernard Butler, 1999
- Bernard, is it true that you left Suede mostly due to Brett Anderson?
- Swwaaaaaaayyd? Bread &ersen?!!!!!