Sun, 26 Jan 2003

Suede `incredibly happy' with latest album

Suede is Brett Anderson to most people, so much so that even a British edition of Rockopedia did not bother to include pictures of other members of the group in its Suede section.

But aside from Anderson, Suede has Simon Gilbert the machine- gun drummer, six-foot six-inch cool bassist Mat Osman, glam guitarist Richard Oakes and whizzkid, guitarist/keyboardist Alex Lee.

The Jakarta Post had the opportunity to do a face-to-face interview with Gilbert and Lee a day prior to their show on Thursday. Below is an excerpt of the interview.

The Jakarta Post (JP): I really like your new album. Are you happy with the outcome?

Simon Gilbert (SG): Incredibly happy, yeah, definitely. I mean, that's why it took so long to put it all together. The first time we recorded it we were unhappy with it. So then we went back into the whole game. We just wanted it right, otherwise we wouldn't have released it.

JP: Was that the only reason it took almost three years to come up with this album? No internal problems, like drugs, for instance?

SG: No, not so about. I mean, the drug thing was almost four years ago. That was before we started working on this album. We don't do that anymore. It's just because we wanted the material in the album to be right. It does take quite a long time to write songs and record them.

Alex Lee (AL): From the outside, it seems quite like an effortless thing for a band just to write songs and record them. But it's not. If you care to see the whole process, we wanted to do things perfectly. We had to think about the lyrics, the right sounds, the best way to do it. Three years at the end is not that long to make an album.

JP: But, you know, three years is like a life cycle for a boyband.

SG: Yeah (laughs), but they don't even write their own songs.

AL: And they don't make their own music.

JP: What do you think about boybands and all that stuff?

SG: I don't know, but it depends on who you're talking about. If you're talking about the Backstreet Boys, they're pretty good at what they're doing.

AL: I mean, there's always been manufactured pop right from the very beginning.

JP: Back to your new album, it isn't selling as well as previous ones.

SG: Well, not yet. In Britain maybe not, but we don't really know about in other parts of the world. In Germany and here for example.

AL: And you have to remember as well that when, say, Head Music came out in, what, 1999? The Internet wasn't as prolific in terms of selling, people downloading music for free, piracy ... all that kind of stuff. Although it sounds like an excuse for people in the music industry to make, but the Internet really makes a difference. Hardcore fans are buying the record in the first couple of weeks. But many people check it out first on the Internet, and if they don't like it they won't buy it.

JP: How's the British music scene right now?

SG: Pretty much the same pop, manufactured thing. There's this TV show where people audition to become a star. It is a horrible, horrible thing. But it sells loads of records as people watch the show and buy the records.

JP: What about new bands? Are there any new acts that you like? Like Coldplay, for instance?

SG: (hesitates) Coldplay's OK. I like The Vines, The Flaming Lips.

JP: What about American bands?

AL: I think the American scene right now is quite teen- oriented at the moment. And they really like dark, loud stuff that parents would really hate (laughs). I think it's quite healthy. For a long time it was a bit dull, wasn't it? With Bon Jovi and all. It's quite good at the moment. Bands like Slipknot is quite good.

JP: About the drug problem, how did you quit?

SG: I've got to be honest, I've never been addicted to drugs. But yeah, when you're a rock band you're surrounded by that kind of stuff. And of course you occasionally take it.

But I've never have a problem with drugs. You know, Brett had this problem with drugs and he decided to quit. And he's a lot healthier to work with the band.

JP: To quote Brett's statement in (British) Q magazine recently: "90s music wouldn't have been the same without Suede." What do you think is Suede's most important contribution?

SG: I can't say. We're not journalists or critics, we don't see the whole big picture. We don't really think about that, really. Just try to move on.

AL: Because I wasn't in the band at that time, I think the impact was that the band was the first British guitar band to emerge after a long period of manufactured pop in the 1980s. It kinda broke the mold. The same time as what Nirvana did.

JP: Who was your biggest influence?

SG: Punk rock, like Sex Pistol, and also The Beatles. When I was four years old I always wanted to be Paul McCartney, I don't know why in hindsight (laughs).

AL: It's really hard to separate one thing from one another. When I was a kid I listened to Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys...

-- Hera Diani