Introducing the Band – this was was my attempt at emulating a Buddhist chant which i’d first encountered in a temple in Kyoto during an early Japanese Suede tour. I suppose there was also a kind of Orwellian tone here , as there was on much of the album. 1984 is one of my favourite books ever and i often mull over the phrase ‘ if you want a vision of the future imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever’ . I suppose there was something in the crushing, metallic drone of the music which reminded me of this phrase and inspired me to write a kind of fantasy piece about the unstoppable almost military force that a powerful band can become. The reference to Winterland is of course a reference to the last gig played by the Sex Pistols in San Francisco . There’s was also a nod to Lewis Carroll in the phrase ‘ stabbed a cerebellum with a curious quill’ , i suppose it parodied Carroll’s neo- scientific Victoriana . I was re -reading the Alice books at the time and also reading a lot of biographies about Carroll himself so this inevitably bled through into my writing.
We Are the Pigs – the soundtrack to a riot, a paean to chaos and insurrection again with a strongly Orwellian tone. it’s interesting that you can look at what you wrote years ago and realise what you didn’t at the time. I suppose this was my comment on an age of excess; a portent of doom; the guilty realisation that this grotesque house of cards that we had built around ourselves could at any point come tumbling down and that the only way to deal with that was to embrace and celebrate it’s destruction and to dance around the bonfire . I’d always been fascinated by animal imagery, the whole man-as-animal animagus thing. there was a bit of Lord of the Flies in there as well with the innocent but chilling children’s voices chanting at the end . i suppose my vision was of some sort of post- apocalyptic landscape where society has crumbled and man is reduced to his primal childlike, animalistic form picking at the rubble . This was one of the earliest songs we came up with and was always for me a very strong statement of intent which somehow set the scene for the whole album. the title was inspired by an old schoolboy band of mine called The Pigs.
Heroine – I loved this from the moment i first heard Bernard’s demo. the guitar part is so beautiful and dark and winding and immediately suggested to me a bleakly sexual lyric. the song is about loneliness and pornography and i suppose is the first song on the album that introduces the themes of isolation continued in 2 of Us , Sill Life etc. i’m casting myself as an 18 year old hormonal teenager , trapped within his drab slum and within the imprisoning power of the female form , unable to break away from this fantasy and form actual relationships. of course i was aware of the Heroin/Heroine thing but have always loved playing with homophones. the opening line is from the Lord Byron poem ‘She Walks in Beauty’ . the ‘Marylyn ‘ reference was never actually meant literally to Monroe but more as a kind of Venus/ Aphrodite reference .
The Wild Ones – as well as my favourite single song also my favourite bass part on the album. i was listening to a lot of very ‘singerly’ singers ; Scott Walker, Edith Piaf, Frank Sinatra, Jaques Brel, people with the emotional and musical range to transform a song into a drama. this is what i wanted for the Wild Ones, for it to be a timeless slice of melodic beauty that people got married to and shared there first kisses to. something that embedded it self deep within the sound scape of their lives. it’s unashamedly mainstream but hopefully with a depth that belies this simple ambition. it’s still my favourite single moment in Suede’s history and when interviewers ask me of what i am most proud i always mention this song. The main refrain was inspired by Brel’s Ne Me Quitte Pas. I remember Bernard first playing this in a soundcheck in America in 1993. he’d often work stuff out just with him and Simon, i suppose to get a sense of how the song would sound loud and live but without it being completed by bass and vocals and therefore still in a fluid , sketch like state.
Daddy’s Speeding – A strange story of a dream/fantasy about James Dean’ s death. i was immersing myself in overtly cliched Hollywood iconography at the time. i guess it was an extension of the isolation/ pornography themes where i saw people forming relationships with fantasy figures rather than real people; our new communities were soap operas, our new friends were characters in American sit-coms. I wanted to give the vocal a Lennonesque quality, that magical dreamlike way he sang songs like Day in the Life and Across the Universe which i thought would complement the phased , otherworldly tone of the music. there were sections that were directly inspired by How Do You Think It Feels on Lou Reed’s Berlin album.
The Power – the last song written for the album and the only song recorded without Bernard. i think you can hear this in the lightness, it doesn’t really have Bernard’s depth of touch but i remember me , Mat and Simon recording it together at Master rock and it being a fun experience. i suppose there’s a nod to Quicksand here if i’m honest and the whole thing emulates that acoustic Hunky Dory feel . i’m sure it would have sounded different if Bernard had been involved beyond the writing phase. It’s a simple message of empowerment. i suppose i was feeling proud that i’d dragged myself from a council estate in Hayward’s Heath to a position of being one of the most talked about musician’s in 90’s Britain and that this ( and also the album title’s message )was somehow influenced by that trajectory . i know that sound’s vain but i think the thrust behind the song was less smug and less self congratulatory . it was meant a kind of anthem to meritocracy ; a belief, rooted in left wing politics , that anyone, despite class and upbringing has the ability and the right to achieve.
New Generation – one of the best vocals on the album. this is an incredibly hard song to sing, it requires a lot of vocal stamina, power and range and i don’t think i would have even bothered attempting something like this on the debut album. live it always sounds a bit ragged vocally but here the take really hits the mark.
Lyrically it’s quite anodyne to be honest. the best line is ‘ we take the pills to find each other’ , a neat little sound bite that summed up my search for belonging through narcotics.
structurally it’s interesting in that we had started to successfully incorporate bridge parts in our songs.
This Hollywood Life – my favourite guitar riff on the album; primal , sexual, urgent, it immediately suggested to me a squalid tale of envy and ambition set within the grubby world of the casting couch. I suppose it parallels anyone’s rise up the ladder and was an allegory about my experiences in the seedier side of the music business where everyone has to debase themselves to greater or lesser extents in order to succeed.that’s just the universal law and you can see it played out every time a band plays a humiliating gig in the back room of a pub to three people, something of which Suede had great experience in the early days. the slurred saxophone at the start was my idea ( as were the chanting kids in WATP) and added at the mastering stage after Bernard’s departure. it was intended to convey a distorted journey from bright eyed Hollywood ambition to sleazy compromise. the working title of the song was Trashy which easily could have been the finished title. in fact , maybe it should have been.
2 of Us – a description of the isolation that comes with success but told against the back drop of the world of high-finance , the characters making millions but unable to negotiate basic human emotional relationships; ‘alone but loaded’ . i suppose, again it was a kind of allegory for my own condition where i would find myself adored on stage but then completely unable to connect and communicate when i stepped into real life . a self imposed isolation followed which built the foundations for many of the themes on the record. ‘ the snow might fall and write the line on the silent page’ is my favourite single line on Dogmanstar. I remember hearing Bernard play the song in Master Rock and being utterly, utterly moved by the consuming beauty and sadness of his performance. to this day one of my most powerful and moving memories of him as a musician.
Black or Blue – A simple autobiographical tale of a failed relationship set against a sub-text of racial tension . a kind of tragic, doomed Romeo and Juliet story. I was the boy from the coast who loved the sound of the underground .
I remember Bernard going to a different studio and playing his parts to this song after he’d actually split from the band as a fulfilment of contractual obligations.
Asphalt World – this was the centrepiece of Dogmanstar; a song that captured the beauty of deviancy in a way that i’d always knew we could . it’s elegant , epic and sexual and as we discussed is virtually a page torn directly from my diary of the time. ‘she’s got a friend, they share mascara i pretend’ is for me the key line in the song. i love the way you have to wait for the second verse to get this and all of a sudden when it’s delivered the, listener understands what the song is about. the themes of sexual jealousy and arousal never become too overt as to be salacious but sit stealthily within the song’s epic frame, commanding the listener’s complete attention.
I suppose the music has an almost Pink Floyd like quality in places, the sense of a musical and textural journey . i’d always loved stuff like Saucerful of secrets and The Dark Side of the Moon so i loved the musical parallels i saw in this,but i was just never going to write a lyric like Roger Waters . Yes, the vocal performance was recorded the day i read Bernard’s interview in Vox . one of the amazing things about being a song writer is that you can literally achieve alchemy. i took all of the pain i was feeling at that moment and channelled it into my delivery. Whenever i sing the song now i’m always, always utterly, utterly engaged with it and in the moment. i still find it so emotionally consuming.
Still Life – The housewives of Sleeping Pills return to the stage extending the themes of isolation that i had been weaving through the album since We Are The Pigs ( and for that matter weaving through Suede songs since He’s Dead) . This song was written very early on and almost made it onto the debut album… but we were just never quite sure how to arrange it. It’s a simple story of someone waiting in vain for their lover to come home, sat by the window wondering who the approaching set of head lights belongs to. I suppose i cast myself as the housewife in this song and remember accessing a lot of latent pain in order to summon up the bleak imagery.
There’s a definite Scott Walker influence here and i was definitely trying to stretch myself as a vocalist , the move up an octave during the third verse being a testament to that. Looking back i think we possibly went too far and the song would have been more powerful without the OTT coda but i suppose it was conceived very much with the album’s journey in mind and as such provided an eloquent end point.