Brett did a small Q&A with ‘BANG Showbiz’ recently and below is the article.
Brett Anderson turns his back on Britpop
6th Nov 2009
One of the most familiar faces of 90s Britpop, Brett Anderson became one of the movement’s most prominent figures as frontman of Suede.
Forming the band in 1989 with then-girlfriend Justine Frischmann – who later went on to carve a career as singer of Elastica – the group enjoyed numerous line-up changes before settling on Brett, guitarist Bernard Butler, drummer Simon Gilbert and bassist Mat Osman.
Debut single ‘The Drowners’ marked them out as vastly different from the dying out Madchester scene, and the group enjoyed widespread critical acclaim with their self-titled debut record.
Several additional line-up changes – including Bernard leaving and being replaced by 17-year-old Richard Oakes midway between recording second album ‘Dog Man Star’ – affected the band’s sound throughout their career, from a poppy, commercial third LP in ‘Coming Up’ to keyboard-heavy electronica on ‘Head Music’, but Brett’s distinctive voice always held the band together with an undeniably trademark sound.
The group’s final album, 2002’s ‘A New Morning’, proved to be a disaster, however, failing to receive support from either fans or critics, prompting the group to disband in October 2003.
Always an engaging and enigmatic frontman, there was little doubt that Brett – with his heroin and cocaine addictions behind him – would not disappear from the music scene for good.
Now 42, the singer who once described himself as “a bisexual man who had never had a homosexual experience” appears in perfect health, and though the make-up and long hair may be long gone, Brett still retains his androgynous look and can still move on stage as well now as his hey-day 15 years ago.
As he releases third solo LP ‘Slow Attack’ this week, BANG Showbiz caught up with him to discuss reunions, the safety of being in a band and his literary ambitions.
Q: Several bands from the 90s – such as Blur and Shed Seven – have reformed recently. What do you think about that?
A: It’s just making money isn’t? Everyone’s got bills to pay.
Q: So does that mean you would never get Suede back together?
A: I can’t tell you whether that’s true or not to be honest. I never thought that I’d do lots of things and I ended up doing them because I never really see beyond my next project. I email Simon and Mat often. I invited them to my wedding, so absolutely.
Bernard I see occasionally when we bump into each other and have a chat. There’s no bad blood with the former members of Suede, it ended because – and unfortunately, it’s always more interesting to have an exciting story and a punch-up – but really, as with most bands, they end because they just get a bit bored with it and they want to do something else. It’s not like a plotline from TV- some of them are – but you want to do something else. I felt creatively like I didn’t know where to go with it. I felt like I needed to find my creative thing again and I wasn’t finding it within the framework of being in a band.
Q: Do you miss being in a band?
A: I’d quite like to make a band record again actually, the last couple of records I’ve made have been me in the studio with a piano, I would like to make a record with a band. I don’t mean that I want to form a band, but I’d like to have musicians in a room.
Q: Do you think it is easier or harder being a solo artist?
A: I’ve noticed it’s an interesting thing going from being in a successful band to being a solo artist. A lot of people see it as an opportunity to give you a kicking because you don’t have the armour of being in a band around you.
As soon as you’re in a vulnerable situation, like I am now where I don’t sell records in the volume that I used to, I think it opens you up to a lot of criticism.
Of course, you read bad reviews of your work and it always hurts. I seem to polarize people’s opinions. I don’t get much middle ground with criticism, people tend to be very extreme one way or the other.
Q: Are you happy with the new album, ‘Slow Attack’?
A: I think it’s a beautiful record, and at the end of the day – and you’ve heard this a million times from a million different musicians – it’s all I can do. I’m not making commercial music anymore, I’m not making music for the radio. I stepped out of the machinery of being in a band. I’ve had the bravery and the perspective to walk away from that when it would have been easier for me to stay with the band, and I’m doing something which inspires me artistically.
You can’t be sitting there wishing ‘God, I wish I could do a song like I used to do.’ It’s part of why you have to change what you do as an artist as well because if I was still trying to write ‘Animal Nitrate’ that would be really pointless because that was ‘Animal Nitrate’ and that was pretty good, so I’m not doing that. I’m trying to do something with a different feel, that still pushes the right buttons, that inspires me but sounds different and feels different.
Q: Would you ever write a book about your life?
A: I used to be addicted to drugs and now I’m addicted to reading. I’d like to write something eventually but I’d never write a sort of history of my experience of being in a band in the 90s. I can’t think of anything more boring than another person compiling a load of information that everyone has read before. I had a funny idea of writing about my childhood that would stop up to the point when I started the band, like a suburban ‘Cider With Rosie’. There’s time for that when I’m 99.
Q: Do you think Suede should have finished earlier than they did?
A: Yeah absolutely. I think we probably made one album too many. I think the last Suede album was a case of us feeling around trying to find a new identity and probably not succeeding. Of course, there’s always pressure on us to make a record but I was a very confused person about what I wanted and what I wanted to be and what I wanted the band to be, but I don’t believe in that record as much as I believe in the other Suede records.
Q: Are you happy with the other albums?
A: I do totally believe in the first four, even ‘Head Music’, and ‘Head Music’ was one that very much divided fans because it wasn’t a traditional rock record, we had lots of electronic influences in it and I think that’s a fantastic record. Probably a bit meandering and a bit too long. It would probably have benefited from losing a couple of tracks but it’s fantastic.
Q: What inspires your songwriting now?
A: I think it’s less self-conscious. I think when you first start writing you’re inevitably an amalgamation of your influences and as you develop your confidence in yourself you find your own voice as a writer and your own voice, literally. I feel like it’s more natural when I sit and write it sort of comes into me, I’m not thinking oh it’s got to be this sort of song or it’s got to be that sort of song, it’s more of a naturalistic process.
Q: You recently performed a cover of Velvet Underground’s ‘Venus In Furs’ with Carl Barat and John McClure for the Jack Daniel’s JD Set. What was that like?
A: It was fun, yeah. It was a classic song, everyone loves it. I’ve known Carl for years actually, a long time. He’s always been very sweet and a lot of fun. I’d never met John before. He’s very tall. He’s kind of a foot taller than me. It was great. We just got up there and sang a few verses from a song. I think that’s the spirit of the thing isn’t it.
Q: You once said you were a bisexual man who had never had a homosexual experience – has that changed now?
A: The whole point about that quote is that I was trying to define and talk about myself in that kind of blurred way, I was trying to blur the genders. It was very much born out of the 1990s when there was lots of the drug ecstasy around. Ecstasy was quite influential in the early 1990s in the sense that I think people stopped sexualising people and started treating them as human beings because it’s quite an emotional drug. I’m not in any way advocating its use or anything boring like that, I’m just trying to explain.
I was just trying to reflect on myself as a human being rather than a sexual being.
Q: You’ve taken to showcasing your demos and new tracks on the internet. Why do you do that?
A: I love that. One of my favourite things about the internet is that you can do things like that. I love doing those little films and I’m surprised that no-one else has really done it. I think it’s a great way of introducing new songs to people but without actually giving anything away because I can just sit there and do a piano version of a song. Obviously it’s not the final recorded version, it’s very different, so it’s a nice teaser for the music. I started doing that for my first solo album and it’s something I intend to continue doing. It’s great, instead of having to give away music or stream music.
By Viki Waters