Portrait of the artist: Brett Anderson, musician
‘Rock’s not all carnal glamour. You spend a lot of time sitting around backstage, fiddling with bits of cheese’
What got you started?
Being brought up in a very unusual way. My mother was an artist and my father an obsessive classical music fan. We were very poor: if you wanted something – clothes, art for the walls, furniture – you made it yourself. So when I started becoming interested in music, and couldn’t hear the music I really wanted to hear, I tried to make it myself.
What was your big breakthrough?
Writing The Drowners with [Suede guitarist] Bernard Butler. We had been trying to write something in the vein of classic songwriters – Beatles, Bowie, Velvet Underground – with a modern, twisted, sexual edge. With that song, it felt like we’d unlocked a door.
What have you sacrificed for your art?
Everything, really. During the 1990s, nothing was more important to me than my songs. I saw my personal life as a bizarre experiment; as long as interesting songs came out of it, I didn’t care about my health or happiness. But you can’t carry on living like that – or you end up mad or dead.
What one song would work as the soundtrack to your life?
Trash, by Suede. It’s about believing in the romance of the everyday.
What’s your favourite film?
The original version of Sleuth. It’s brilliantly acted and dramatic. I love it when art is brave enough to be economical and minimal, and doesn’t rely on explosions and shiny lights.
Which other living artist do you most admire?
[The film director] Michael Haneke. His films are full of tensions and darkness, but he seems like quite a balanced human being. I don’t believe you have to be a tortured soul to make tortured art.
What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
No one has ever given me any advice. I’ve had to do everything for myself, and claw my way through my own little private forest.
What’s the biggest myth about the rock world?
That it’s a procession of carnal glamour. It’s actually about spending a lot of time backstage, sitting on grubby sofas and fiddling with bits of cheese.
What advice would you give a young musician?
Don’t do it because you want to be famous or rich, but because you want to make beautiful music. When you die, the music is all that’s left.
Born: Haywards Heath, West Sussex, 1967.
Career: Lead singer with Suede, who are reforming for a one-off charity show in March. Also released three solo albums. Performs at the Shepherds Bush Empire, London (0844 477 2000), on Friday, then tours.
High point: “Going from the dole queue to being No 1 in the charts with Suede.”
Low point: “The moments leading to Suede splitting up.”