7digital Interview

What was it about Suede that captured the public’s imagination do you think?

I’d like to think it was because we wrote good songs that spoke to people about their lives.

At the time, you deliberately distanced yourself from the Britpop movement – what are your feelings towards it now?

Like any youth movement, it started off as something interesting and ended up as a comical self-parody. When I was writing the songs in 1991 that would go on to initiate the movement, it had the charm and intelligence of a Mike Leigh film. By 1996 it had become a ‘Carry On’ film.

There’s a huge stylistic shift between the darkly atmospheric Dog Man Star and relatively-pop Coming Up: had Bernard Butler not left, do you think you’d have continued in the same vein as your earlier work? And do you think you had accomplished all you could in your songwriting partnership?

I don’t think the pendulum could have swung any further in the Dog Man Star direction to be honest – that album nearly killed all of us. But the tragedy of it all was that myself and Bernard were taking our writing onto a whole new level and sadly, fascinatingly, we’ll never know where that could have lead us to.

As a lyricist, you frequently reference drugs and drug-culture. Why are/were they such a preoccupation? And do you think the drug culture that reportedly surrounded the band had a positive or detrimental impact overall?

I documented drugs like I documented pornography, isolation or motorways – simply as part of the fabric of life I saw around me. There’s nothing big or clever or particularly cool about them, but people have to work that out for themselves.

You broke through before the advent of digital downloads and before the internet democratised the release of new music – do you think it’s easier or more difficult for new acts nowadays?

I think it’s still exactly the same motivations which make bands pick up guitars. I’m always asked these kinds of questions by the media because it’s a question about the media and so the media are obsessed with it. I don’t think musicians share the same obsessions with these issues. Yes, the landscape has changed radically over the last decade or so. But music and art is still about passion and hatred and fear and love and isolation and death and sex and sadness, like it’s always been.

Do you still keep up to speed with new music and are there any new artists in particular who’ve impressed you recently?

I don’t think I can remember a time when I’ve been more excited about the music I hear around me. The Horrors’ new album is a work of beauty. I love FoalsThese New PuritansChapel ClubVillagersMidlakeBat For LashesInterpol… The list goes on and on.

How do you think Suede’s songs have endured over time?

I think great songs always somehow feel contemporary because great songs are about eternal truths.

Given the calibre of your b-sides, why didn’t tracks like ‘My Insatiable One’ or ‘The Living Dead’ make it onto studio albums?

I don’t know. It’s crazy isn’t it?

Can you pick a single track from your career of which you’re most proud and explain why?

The Wild Ones’ from Dog Man Star. Just listen to it.

Did you achieve everything you wanted to with Suede? And do you have any regrets?

I was a deeply ambitious young man so I probably didn’t achieve all I wanted, to be honest. But experience has taught me to appreciate what I have rather than what I don’t have, so I try not to have regrets. They just keep you awake at night.

And finally, what does the future hold for Suede: will you be writing and releasing new material as a band again?

I’d love to make another Suede album and that is what I am working on next. But unless it’s amazing we’ll keep it to ourselves and just bring it out for birthdays and special occasions.


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