Brett Lewis Anderson (born 29 September 1967) is an English singer-songwriter, best-known as the lead vocalist of Britpop band Suede. After Suede disbanded, he fronted The Tears, who are currently on indefinite hiatus. Anderson has also released four solo albums. Suede reformed in 2010. In Suede’s early days, Anderson’s androgynous style and distinctive vocals, with their wide tonal range, became suddenly fashionable in the UK
Early years: 1967-1988
Born in Haywards Heath, West Sussex into a working class family, Anderson’s mother was an artist and his father was a classical music fan. He was brought up in a small council estate in Lindfield, a village adjoining Haywards Heath, attending Lindfield Junior School then Oathall Comprehensive School.
In his teens, Anderson played guitar for garage bands such as The Pigs and Geoff, the latter featuring future Suede bassist Mat Osman. In the late-1980’s, Anderson and Osman formed Suede with Anderson’s girlfriend, Justine Frischmann, soon recruiting guitarist Bernard Butler through an advertisement in the NME. After receiving percussional help from former Smiths drummer Mike Joyce, in 1991, Simon Gilbert joined Suede as their official drummer. It was around this time that Frischmann left Anderson for Blur frontman Damon Albarn, which created an early rift in the burgeoning Britpop scene of the early 1990s. After missing too many rehearsals and flaunting her relationship with Albarn while still living with Anderson, Frischmann was fired from the group, going on to front Elastica.
Suede: 1989-2003; 2010 onwards
Even before Suede’s first album appeared in stores, Anderson’s androgynous style and vague “confessions” about his sexuality stirred controversy in the British music press. His infamous comment that he was “a bisexual man who never had a homosexual experience” was indicative of how he both courted controversy and a sexually ambiguous, alienated audience. In 1993, Suede hit number one on the UK charts. Combining Morrissey‘s homoerotic posturing with David Bowie‘s glam theatrics, Anderson achieved instant fame in the UK. America, however, was still spellbound by the grunge revolution and Anderson’s grim yodellings clashed with the raw anger of Nirvana‘s Kurt Cobain and Pearl Jam‘s Eddie Vedder. Furthering complications across the Atlantic, due to a trademark dispute with the American lounge singer Suede, the band were forced to change their name to The London Suede for the American market. Although the departure of song writing partner Butler in 1994 during the recording of second album Dog Man Star (number three on the UK charts) led many to fear Suede’s eventual demise, the band continued to release critically and ever increasingly commercially successful material in the UK, Europe and Asia, such as 1996’s critically acclaimed Coming Up (another number one of the band). The band carried on to release Head Music (number one on the UK charts and in several countries) in 1999, but A New Morning was a commercial disappointment in 2002. In 2003, following the release of their “Singles” collection, Suede disbanded.
Anderson has commented that the history of Suede is “…ridiculous. It’s like Machiavelli rewriting Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It involves a cast of thousands. It should star Charlton Heston… it’s like a pram that’s just been pushed down a hill. It’s always been fiery and tempestuous and really on the edge and it never stops. I don’t think it ever will.” On his own, Anderson collaborated with Stina Nordenstam, and his guest vocals can be heard on the album This Is Stina Nordenstam and has made a duet with Jane Birkin in 1995 which appeared in 1998 Birkin’s Best Of album. He also sang the lyric “You’re going to reap just what you sow” in the Children in Need charity single “Perfect Day“.
Following persistent rumours, the boss of the band’s former label, Nude Records’ Saul Galpern,
confirmed to the NME that Suede would be playing together again. “It’s [for] a one-off gig,” he explained of the show, which featured the band’s second incarnation. The band will played London’s Royal Albert Hall as part of the 2010 Teenage Cancer Trust shows.
Because of the huge success of the shows, a new European tour was announced for the summer of 2010, covering 2 festivals, Skanderborg Festival in Denmark and Parkenfestivalen in Norway, the tour continued in the autumn covering France, The Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and Belgium. A homecoming date at the The O2 Arena (London) closed the tour. Further festival dates were announced for 2011, along with UK dates where Suede will perform their first 3 albums in full at Brixton Acd in London and at Olympia in Dublin.
Suede embarked on a full Asian tour, which began in late July in Jisan, South Korea, and finished at the Summer Sonic festival in Tokyo, Japan, on 14 August 2011. Suede performed in Athens on 11 September 2011, and ended the band’s touring commitments in Russia on 16 and 18 December 2011 where they showcased the new songs “Falling Planes”, “The Only”, “Someone Better”, “I Don’t Know Why”, “Cold War”, “Future Nightmare” and “Sabotage”. Suede began recording a new album with Ed Buller in 2012 and Brett Anderson stated that of the songs showcased in Russia, only “Sabotage” was thus far in contention. On 7 January 2013, the band announced that the sixth studio album, Bloodsports, would be released in March. The announcement was accompanied by “Barriers”, a song from the album, as a free download. They released their first single in a decade “It Starts and Ends with You” on 4 February. Bloodsports has been well received by critics and has been their best reviewed album since the group’s 1996 album Coming Up. On 12 April, Suede announced on their website the dates for their forthcoming European tour. The tour will begin on 26 October 2013 at the Leeds O2 Academy and will finish on 23 November at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. Suede subsequently added a further three shows to the beginning of the tour. They played additional shows in Southampton, Southend and Bristol on 22, 23 and 24 October.
2014–present: Night Thoughts
In late January 2014, Anderson announced that Suede are working on a new album, he estimated the album would be released in 2015 as the band are in the writing stage for the album. On September 7, 2015, the band announced that their new album, Night Thoughts, was to be released on January 22, 2016, alongside a feature film directed by photographer Roger Sargent.
The Tears: 2004-2005
In 2004, Anderson and former Suede guitarist Bernard Butler briefly formed the band The Tears with Will Foster, Makoto Sakamoto and Nathan Fisher and released their début album Here Come The Tears, which was met with mixed critical and popular reaction. It was produced by Butler and largely recorded at home, and featured the singles “Refugees” and “Lovers“. Following the cancellation of a European tour in support of the album, the band were dropped by Independiente and the project was abandoned. Anderson was close friends with Simon Hobart (promoter of Popstarz) and was the DJ at the benefit night held in Hobart’s honour after his death.
Solo work: 2006-2011
In May 2006, Anderson announced details of a solo album consisting of 11 tracks, which was released on 26 March 2007. He told NME that the title would be Brett Anderson since “…that’s my name, you see.” The accompanying video for Anderson’s first single “Love Is Dead” debuted on UK television in February 2007, quickly finding its way to YouTube. “Love Is Dead” made its début at #42 in the UK singles chart, and the album went to #54 the following week. The keyboardist-producer on his album is Fred Ball, and former Suede bass player Mat Osman joined the live band on tour.
In July 2007 Anderson modelled Nick Hart for Aquascutum’s autumn/winter 2007 campaign photos on wallpaper.com
In May 2008 it was announced that Anderson’s second album was to be premièred on 7 July in a special concert at London’s mermaid theatre. A copy of the album, entitled Wilderness, was distributed to all ticket buyers, in the form of a USB stick. The album was recorded in only seven days, with most tracks recorded as live takes. He plays the piano and the acoustic guitars, and is accompanied by Amy Langley on cello. One of the songs “Back to You” written with Fred Ball of the Norwegian band Pleasure is a duet with French actress Emmanuelle Seigner.
Anderson’s third album, Slow Attack was co-written with Leo Abrahams. On his website, Brett Anderson writes that he tried to use words in a different way, as fragments, and hint of meanings and emotions. The music is more orchestral than Wilderness with more instrumentation throughout the album. On tour, he was joined by Didz Hammond (Dirty Pretty Things), Angie Pollock (Goldfrapp), Sebastian Sternberg (Pleasure, Marina and the Diamonds), Kris Sonne and Amy Langley, thus giving the songs a more art-rock edge.
Black Rainbows – Anderson’s fourth solo album was released through BA Songs, distributed by EMI Music Service in September 2011. It was preceded by the single “Brittle Heart”. It was the second album Anderson had co-written with Leo Abrahams and it saw a return to a simpler more commercial rock format. Anderson stated that he had taken as reference points some of his old favourite records like PIL‘s “Rise”, and Siouxsie and the Banshees‘ Juju while conceiving the songs. A second single followed, “Crash About To Happen” and then a small tour, ending with a live set from Koko, London to round-off the Black Rainbows release and tour.