And now for the conclusion to Stephens in-depth and revealing interview with Brett.
By Stephen Duke
SD: Are you still obsessed with that whole kinky suburbia thing?
BA: I don’t know, I find suburbia fascinating, but not in a kinky way, more in a depressing way. I like wandering around, driving around these days actually, driving along strange roads and looking into houses and stuff, thinking about people’s lives… but not in a kinky way! But it’s all part of the fascination of London you know, I do find the outskirts of London really fascinating and I read quite a lot about it as well. I found a great book called Leadville, about the A40… and that’s why I love JG Ballard, I love the way he documents that kind of suburban thing in stuff like Concrete Island.
SD: And that sensibility, like in Cocaine Nights, of everyone being jolly nice but behind closed doors they’re snorting chas and swapping wives…
SD: So… we may get some more of those kinds of songs?
BA: Yeah, but I’m very aware that over the years I’ve overused that kind of imagery, so I’m not sure if I’ll go back there with my songs. I’ve got too many other things that I want to try to explore. I think as soon as I start singing about suburbia, people will start yawning.
SD: On Slow Attack it’s almost as though you’ve ignored the suburbs- it’s about the countryside and central London… I thought a good alternative title would be Horny-thology, because it’s about sex and starlings and things…
BA: You mean, like the study of birds… actually, that would be a good title, The Study of Birds!
SD: There should be a hip-hop album called that, at least. Okay, on to the last, really horrible question…
BA: (laughs) what’s the capital of Madagascar?!
SD: Well, over the last few years there have been a couple of things that have led to huge arguments on the forum, one of them was the whole launch party stuff and the other was when you played for Danish royalty. Quite a few of us questioned those things, whether you’d compromised your integrity. Are there things that you think, “yeah, that was a mistake”?
BA: Are there things… yeah, there probably are, but I think you have to always do what you’re comfortable with because there’s always going to be someone who could object on moral grounds to anything you do and if you start worrying about what everyone thought about stuff, you’d never do anything. And I do to be honest, and I always have refused to do more things, rejected more things than I’ve ever accepted. That’s what people don’t know about, all the millions of things that I’ve been asked to do, like I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, Strictly Come Dancing and bizarre things like that, which of course I’m never going to do, and the Marks And Spencers campaign and things like this, you know. So there’s a million things out there that I’ve never done, but playing a gig (for Danish royalty), you know just playing some gig, I thought it would be fine and they offered me enough money to do it, it was as simple as that. And you know, I need to make money. That’s what people don’t realize; sometimes it’s just about making money.
SD: I suppose it’s easy for us to be pious because we don’t get asked to do things like that.
BA: Well yeah, I mean I’ve never been a huge fan of royalty. I’m not a huge fan of the English royal family. I don’t particularly have a huge knowledge of the Danish royal family, they asked me and they seemed quite nice people and they wanted me to play some songs. I didn’t see it as a contentious issue, really. I can’t think of anything that I’ve really regretted doing like that, you know. No, I think a lot of people do far worse things, and you’d never do anything if you thought about it too much.
SD: But it would’ve been good to see you on Strictly Come Dancing, to be honest. You would’ve been better than John Sergeant.
BA: (laughs) Yeah that would’ve been good, I really regret not doing that!
SD: (shudders) Moving swiftly on, now the questions from the forum…
SD: Ziv asks if there’s any chance of hearing studio versions of Berlin and Europe After The Rain.
BA: The Tears songs? There are no recordings of them. They were really good songs actually, it’s a shame but they’re just one of those things we’ll have to leave floating in the ether, so I have no plans to resurrect them. I don’t know if Bernard will ever resurrect them.
SD: And he also asks if you’ll ever work with Ed Buller again.
BA: I wouldn’t NOT work with him again. I’ve always liked Ed, I’ve always got on really well with him and liked the work we’ve done together. I have no plans to work with him again, but I’d never say never.
SD: So you would go back there if you wrote certain songs that were reminiscent of the work you did with him, and you felt he would do a great job with them?
BA: I don’t know, that would kind of be like trying to recreate something that went before, you know. If I bumped into Ed when I was out and we started chatting… it’s a possibility, but to be honest, I think it’s quite unlikely; he’s making the sort of records he wants to make and I don’t really want to go back to that territory, really.
SD: autographic asks, did the Slow Attack sessions yield any future b sides?
BA: Yes, it yielded two extra tracks, but they won’t be b sides as there won’t be any singles. There’s a song called, “Forest Lullaby” and a song called, “With You Within You” which are extra tracks, which very, very, very nearly made the record. I spent weeks just juggling songs and in the end I decided not to include them. So there are two extra tracks. They’ll be on, you know, these days they’re not b sides but they’ll be kind of itunes music store extra tracks, Japanese import tracks… so they will surface and they’ll be out at the same time as the album.
SD: I’m showing my age there, saying, “b sides”.
BA: I actually wrote a lot of songs for this album, I must have written about 30 songs, I wrote really furiously this winter. I didn’t even play Leo half of them, ‘cause there were lots of things that were just me writing and writing and writing, and they didn’t get to that stage, but there’s a lot of material that may come out.
SD: It’s terrible, we haven’t even got the new album yet, and we already want more!
BA: Exactly yeah! But that’s the kind of rate of things now, people are so bored of things so quickly, it’s like, “when are you going to make your sixth album, we’re bored of the one we haven’t heard yet!”. But you know, it’s like a leak thing, it’s not about actually listening to the music, it’s about having heard it.
SD: It’s greed…
BA: It’s like watching kids open Christmas presents, they open their presents and they throw the actual present away, they don’t actually look at it, it’s just the thing of opening the present. It’s just the thing of hearing it, the first tiny hearing, they’re not actually listening to it, they’re seeing but not hearing, or hearing but not seeing.
SD: A lot of it is down to it being downloads now, and leaks and torrents. Everybody has so much music and they don’t actually sit down with an album like they used to. Like, you’d get the vinyl or the CD, and you’d listen to it constantly for a week, and people don’t actually do that so much now.
BA: Yeah and I think that’s bad, I do really sort of regret that without wanting to sound like a luddite or an old fogey, I think it’s a shame because there is some beautiful music that is meditative and it requires that you sit down with it and don’t just flick through it like channel surfing, and I think it’s a shame because people aren’t getting as much out of music. I mean, there are certain albums that you have to invest time in like you have to invest time in a novel, you have to sit down and give it your attention, it doesn’t leap out at you like an advert or something like that. And that’s the kind of record that I’m making, exactly like that kind of record… so who knows?
SD: I’m sure they will invest the time, but it does seem that if it’s someone you don’t know, then you don’t really, which is kind of sad. It used to be that you didn’t have the money, so if you’d bought some CDs, you almost didn’t have an option, you had to give them some time…
BA: And maybe there’s just too many bands now, it would be interesting to see exactly how many bands there are now and how many there were in 1972. It should’ve been in the census, a new question, “are you in a band?”!
SD: Smash asked, did you mean it when you said it would be sad to make pop music at your age?
BA: For me yeah, it would be. I do feel sort of sad for people who still chase it really. Yeah I think it would be sad, beyond sad, it would be tragic. It’s a very immature thing, pop music is you know, without sort of wishing to sound like I think I’m above it, I don’t at all, I’m not trying to sound like I’m ethereal, like I’m better than that kind of music, nothing to do with that; pop music is a beautiful, beautiful art form. But it belongs to the young, the people who make it shouldn’t be sort of, forty-plus people. There’s something sinister about that. It’s like clever people writing The Sun; there’s something kind of manipulative about it, it’s like McDonalds trapping kids into sort of, product recognition. There’s something a bit sleazy about it. Pop music should be naïve and if it’s not naïve, it’s manipulative.
SD: Like that Q thing, this is the great canon, the great rock canon… and it should be about snotty 16 year olds.
BA: I hate all that, I hate all that kind of thing where there’s these recognized bands that you have to revere, like the Beach Boys… if you don’t know every single note that the Beach Boys have ever recorded then you’re a musical philistine, it’s just snobbery.
SD: It’s like being at school: “This is Shakespeare and this is Jane Austen, and you MUST be respectful”.
BA: It’s exactly the same. It’s stupid.
SD: Translucent asks, what is it that drives you every day to make music rather than say, writing fiction?
BA: Well, I’m much better at writing music than I am at writing fiction, simple as that. I’m quite interested in writing, but I’m not ready to do it yet, writing words rather than music. Yeah, it’s what I do… hopefully I shouldn’t have to answer that really! I mean, I don’t write novels, I do write songs, that’s what people need to remember… there is a musical dimension to what I do!
SD: It seems these days though, everyone has two or three jobs, you know, all famous people, “I’m a singer and I’m an actor…”. Just do what you’re good at!
BA: Exactly, and I mean, I have sort of spent 25, almost 30 years working on songwriting, so to suddenly write a novel… that said it does kind of interest me, one day. I would like to write, what I’d like to do is write a biography of my life but up until the point when I first started the band. The last thing I ever want to do is write an autobiography of (adopts silly voice) the nineties when I was in Suede, do you know what I mean? I’d like to write about my childhood and my teenage years and stuff like that. But I don’t want to write some stupid book for the music section.
SD: Michael Bracewell wrote a great book about Roxy that’s not about the band, it stops when they made records. It’s about Ferry at art school and their childhoods and stuff like that, where their ideas came from. And I think that’s a lot better than… you know, some of us were there, we do remember the interviews, we were at the shows, and you have been pretty candid over the years.
BA: Yeah, it’s all there, I’d just be sort of compiling stuff.
SD: Your background is really interesting though, you’re working class but your parents were almost bohemian, or eccentric… which is a nice way of saying, “mad”, isn’t it! But it must have been great because conformity obviously wasn’t a big thing, and that obviously comes out in the music, you clearly didn’t feel you had to be one of the lads.
BA: My background was a huge thing, my upbringing created me. The way I grew up was very unusual, we lived in a council house, my dad was a taxi driver but you know, he used to play Franz Liszt and Berlioz, and my mother used to paint all day. It was a very strange combination, a very un-materialistic kind of upbringing, which I’m very proud of, because for me materialism is the devil. In a sense it was very creative, I mean if you wanted something, you made it yourself. My dad made all of our furniture, and my mum made the curtains and made our clothes, and everything we had, everything we owned, was made; if you wanted a picture, you drew it. And now, if I want a song, instead of buying it, I make it myself. And when I realized I could actually do that, I did you know, when I reached a level of competence with music to be actually able to do that. I thought, listening to music, the sort of music I want to hear doesn’t actually exist, it really doesn’t, watching Top Of The Pops in 1986 or whatever. It doesn’t exist, so I’m going to try to do it. What I’m trying to say is, you know, not relying on other people, but trying to create it myself.
SD: Well, it’s a side of your life I kind of envy, my dad sold insurance and my mother was a dinner lady. I would have loved it if she’d been a painter. I’d definitely be into a book like that.
BA: Well, at least I’d sell one copy!
SD: Okay, now it’s Mattias… he says your fans are a little obsessed, how does it feel to be mythologized and treated like a god?
BA: I don’t know how if feels to be mythologized and treated like a god, because that’s not me. It’s funny, people say sometimes, “doesn’t it feel brilliant when people are screaming at you and love you” but they’re not really screaming at me, they’re screaming at someone they think I am. So I don’t really know, I don’t have that kind of an ego that I sit there and twiddle my moustache and think, “aren’t I a legend”. It doesn’t really enter my reality any more. I used to be quite an egocentric person and I’ve been very conscious of trying to dismantle my ego in the last few years, because it doesn’t get you anywhere, having an ego.
SD: So when you started, and that started happening, all the adulation…
BA: Yeah, it’s fun, it’s great yeah, because it’s what you want, it’s what you set out to create, but I have no interest in myself as a persona any more. I know it’s there, inevitably.
SD: It must be bizarre though, when you come back from a tour and you get home and the electricity isn’t working, or you get off stage and then you’re stuck in traffic like everybody else…
BA: I’ll tell you the worst thing, when you’re first starting out in a band. We used to do gigs in pubs and stuff and you know, last song and it’s, “To The Birds”, huge song… then you stop, and then go off stage, and then 30 seconds later you’re back on to collect your amps and stuff. That was much more of a reality check! But I don’t know, these days when I’m performing I have a different sort of attitude to it, I’m completely lost in it, genuinely lost in the performance and I lose myself in the music, so that I’m not lost in my own persona, I’m not living that kind of fantasy life these days. It’s a different sort of thing. So no, it’s not such a weird thing coming back and having to deal with the electricity.
SD: I saw Suede at Newcastle Mayfair in ’93. It was the week when the first album came out, and I think it was a Thursday, so you would’ve had the midweek chart placing. I remember looking up thinking, “how must that feel?”
BA: Yeah it does feel amazing. And yes, back in 1993, I was chasing that and I was loving every second of the adulation and it was giving me a buzz. But after years of that, if you still want that, there’s something really lacking in your head. That’s what I was saying, going back to the question about pop music, if I still wanted that, I’d be an infant. It’s like candy floss, there’s nothing there, it’s like just fluff. It isn’t anything in itself. And after a while, it does make people confused, “is this all it is? What is it, so I’m successful? There’s no substance to my life. There’s no soul to my life”. And I know that sounds like a cliché and it’s easy to say that because I’ve had it, and its fun, and I’d recommend that anyone who wants to do it, go out and do it. But don’t think that it’s going to satisfy you, because it won’t. You know, what satisfied me is music, what satisfies me is writing songs, what satisfies me is making albums. That’s where I find my satisfaction. You know, the trappings that come with that… sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not. I can take it or leave it.
SD: So writing songs is better than meeting famous people?
BA: I can’t think of anything I’d like to do less than meet other famous people… I’ve nothing to say to them really, “so you’re famous too? Yeah, great. I really like that thing that you do…”
SD: When you started, you’d really slag people off. I imagine that when you’re first interviewed, it’s almost like two people talking in the pub, “oh yeah, him on the telly, I hate him”. Then you realize you’re going to bump into these people.
BA: It’s exactly that, yeah. I did used to slag people off. I just decided I would really go against the grain, and be antagonistic and I really enjoyed pissing people off. I just find the whole music industry so smug and so very self-congratulatory, and (back to the snidey voice) “oh, isn’t so-and-so so great and oh, you’ve got to give him respect because he’s been around for X number of years”. Oh fuck off!
SD: Ian Gillis asks, what do you think of Tom Ritter?
BA: Who’s Tom Ritter?
SD: He’s a guy on the forum who sings your songs on youtube. He’s not the greatest singer in the world, but he’s really into it, so fair play to him.
BA: I’ll check him out then!
SD: He also asks, as you play old Suede songs, would you play some Tears songs, because there are some great songs on there. So if you were touring, would you play Apollo 13 or something like that?
BA: I don’t know why, but I don’t feel comfortable with playing them. I haven’t played any of them, I don’t really want to. I can’t really work out why, it just feels like… I don’t feel comfortable enough. I feel like Suede songs, there’s a very different agenda there, I have a different relationship with those songs. But yeah, I agree with you, there are some great songs there; I think that album was a great record. It could’ve done with a bit of editing, maybe it was too long, a couple of tracks could have been lost but there are a couple of good songs.
SD: systembitch asks, have you ever written a song that you felt that your fans couldn’t handle?
BA: Couldn’t handle? Well, I don’t think many people liked Positivity. In a funny sort of way, that was quite difficult for Suede fans to handle. And I suppose that was the only song I’ve ever written where I was almost deliberately trying to wind up my own fan base! It’s a rather rash thing to do, but you do things like that when you’re slightly insane…
SD: I think she meant, was there anything too dark…
BA: No, too light! I don’t think there’s anything that could be too dark, people would expect it wouldn’t they? That’s why Positivity was such a shock for people! (Laughs)
SD: I remember hearing it on the radio and thinking, “that’s not Suede! It can’t be Suede!”
BA: Well, that was the whole point of it, I was trying to do something that was completely destroying the myth of Suede. All the decisions we made on that record were, “would we have done this before?” and if the answer was, “no”, then we did it, regardless of whether it was any good or not, looking back on it! And you know, A New Morning is not my favourite Suede album, I have respect for people who like it, but you know… in a strange way, I know it doesn’t sound like it but it was actually an experimental record, in terms of sentiment. It was trying to do something with who I thought we were… actually unsuccessfully, but you know.
SD: Well actually, after hearing Positivity, I didn’t buy a Suede album on the day of release for the first time. But when I did buy it, I expected it to be complete rubbish and I was pleasantly surprised. But I think a lot of people hated it because they weren’t expecting something like that. It was a bad time for British music as well, it had gone out of fashion, and there was Limp Bizkit and the like.
BA: It was a very confused time for me personally, I didn’t know who I was, including in Suede at that time. I didn’t feel completely engaged with it. I needed to split the band up to get re-engaged with music. And I did. I don’t regret that at all. I really think we’d come to the end of the line.
SD: What about The Tears? Do you now think that maybe you shouldn’t have done that?
BA: Maybe. But then again, I’m proud of a lot of the songs on that album, so… no, it’s fine. It was a good experience.
SD: Dangermouse asks, in Suede and in your solo work, a lot of songs sound like they have an eastern influence. How do you adopt those styles to what is basically a western style of music?
BA: I’ve always been quite fascinated by eastern music and the scales and quarter scales and all that sort of thing. But I think it’s a tricky thing to do right, you know if you’re too good at it, you can sound like you’re making music for an Indian takeaway, you know what I mean? It’s a real fine line, you can’t get too good at it, and you’ve got to almost have these hints of it. I’m not the kind of musician who can hear a piece of music and then perfectly recreate it; I just do my own sort of version of it. Yeah, I am aware of it, I do love the sort of feel of that, like the string section of To The Winter, it definitely has that feel to it, Indian Strings as well. I can’t think of any others off the top of my head but I know there are… maybe bits of The Empress.
SD: Ashes Of Us has a kind of Japanese feel.
BA: Yeah, Ashes Of Us as well. I do like that kind of music, for some reason it just strikes a chord with me. I find it very elegant.
SD: stardust asks, why don’t you moderate your forum and do you mind people fighting on it?
BA: Oh we do, but when I first started the forum, we did have a sort of liberal attitude to it, as a place of free speech and stuff, and if people wanted to come on and slag me off, then that was kind of fair enough because I couldn’t have a situation where I only allowed people to praise me, that would be insane. So I don’t mind that, I ask people to have a bit of respect, so if they want to slag me off, at least be constructive about it. But yeah, it should be a place for free speech. There are a couple of really annoying people, an annoying spammer who comes on and quotes the prices of Gucci loafers, I thought it was Ian Gillis at first! Actually, the funniest post I ever read was his, he wrote a sort of history of West Ham football club, it really made me laugh. It was really long, I think it was a dig at DKav because she does long posts… it made me laugh.
SD: I think a lot of us have spoofed DKav…
BA: (laughs) yeah, but it’s such a tiny world, when you’re spoofing someone on a forum, do you know what I mean? It’s not exactly mainstream culture is it? (he’s really laughing now… can’t say I blame him, really!)
SD: (more than a little shame-faced) Yeah, it’s not a joke you can tell your friends…
BA: Exactly, it’s not like doing an impression of the prime minister is it? (laughs again)
SD: Insatiable one asks, do you like Scotland?
BA: Yeah, I love Scotland. I’ve got Scottish blood in me, I’ve got a tartan! There’s an Anderson tartan! I have a tartan! So, being Scottish… well, I’m not Scottish, but I’ve got Scottish blood, my grandfather was in the Royal Scots Fusiliers. But do I like Scotland, that’s a different question isn’t it… yes, Scotland’s very beautiful of course. He says diplomatically! (laughs)
SD: Dave asks, how did beating your addictions affect your music?
BA: That’s a very long question. Well, the first thing I’ll say about that is that beating your addictions is a very, very long process and even when you think you’ve beat them, you’re actually still off-balance. I mean, I stopped doing hard drugs about 10 years ago, but only about 5 years ago did I regain any sort of balance in my life. It knocks you so far off the rails that you’re still kind of recovering even though you don’t actually realize it for a while. How did it affect my music… I don’t know, I think I have more energy for my music, I’m in love with my music again, I’m not confused about what I want to write about, I’m not confused about what I want to do. I think it affected it positively. I think that there’s this sort of misplaced romanticism, this sort of nonsense about taking drugs and creativity, people are always trying to find a link between the two, and it’s absolute fiction. There’s no connection whatsoever. The only connection is that the kind of people who have creative minds are drawn to experimenting with them, by taking drugs, but there’s no actual connection at all to the creative mind.
SD: One of the things that people do when they recover from addiction is to replace the old addictions with new ones, like keeping fit or finding god or something.
BA: I found god, he was under the sofa! He was in my dungeon! I look after myself, but I wouldn’t say I’m an addict. I cycle a bit… but you know, I’m 41 years old, your body just sort of falls apart. But I wouldn’t say I’m an addict… but I sound like an addict now, “oh, I wouldn’t call myself an addict, honest, I could give up any time!” (laughs). No, but… reading, that’s the truth, I’m obsessed with reading, I can’t actually stop reading, I read about 2 books a week.
SD: That obviously explains the stuff on the culture section…
BA: That’s an interesting one, the culture thing, that’s something I’d like to say with us talking about the forum and stuff like that, because a lot of people think that what I’m putting on there is stuff that I really like! But it’s just stuff that I kind of see, I’m just trying to give people a kind of flavour of what I’m doing. Lots of the books on there I read and I hate! And people go out and buy them… I should maybe just say, “look, I really recommend this one but I don’t recommend that one”!
SD: Is there stuff you don’t put on there, like the West Ham Annual or something, because you think, “I can’t put that on, people will think I’m thick”?
BA: Well, I watch a lot of kids’ films, like the Grinch, Wallace & Gromit! Actually I have thrown a couple of kids’ films in there, I saw Monsters V Aliens a few weeks ago, fantastic!
SD: Jonas asks, when you’ve written new songs, do you have a circle of friends to test them on or do you trust your own instincts?
BA: I don’t play music to anyone anymore. I don’t really care what anyone thinks about it anymore. I used to be very kind of insecure about it, and have to play things to friends and if I didn’t get a great reaction, I’d be sort of mortified for weeks. But it interests me much less generally what people think of what I do now, to be honest.
SD: It must almost feel like someone is calling your kid ugly, “how dare you, that’s my baby”, you know?
BA: Yeah, and the kid analogy works, because you have to sort of let them go, like the first day at school or something. You have to let them make their own way in the world.
SD: Simononly asks, do you have any plans to do an album of duets and collaborations?
BA: No is the short answer to that! I don’t have any plans to do a whole album, but there might be, you know… it’s always interesting to work with other people, I really like the couple of things that I’ve done before and it’s nice to work with other people. But I don’t know, I’ve always had a slight suspicion with collaborations, I sort of think it’s almost like it’s management spin, you can just sort of see, “oh, so-and-so’s working with so-and-so” and you get to think, okay, their managers have had a chat at a party and, “oh, wouldn’t it be good…”. I can just see through it a little bit. I don’t know, I’m always a bit wary about it, I find it a bit gimmicky. The stuff I’ve done before has happened very, very organically, people like Emmanuelle (Seigner) I bumped into, it’s never through management or anything like that.
SD: Would you ever write for someone else, like if you wrote a song and thought, “that’s not right for my voice” or something?
BA: Yeah, I have thought about that, actually. Emmanuelle asked me to write some songs for her new album, but I haven’t got around to it yet, because I’ve been writing this album. I don’t know if I’d ever sit down and think, you know, but if a song just came up, I’d offer it to someone. Like, I might have offered Another No One to Jane Birkin actually, if my memory serves me right… but I think it had the word “shit” in it, so she didn’t want to play it!
SD: Thinwhitejake asks, are still in contact with Bowie and do you post him your solo albums?
BA: I haven’t seen him in a while to be honest, no. I haven’t seen him for a long time. I think I saw him last in about 2002, something like that, so I can’t say I’m in contact with him. But you know, if I see him, bump into him, then I’ll be in contact with him again, you know. We don’t really know the same sort of people. I don’t live that lifestyle anyway, I’m not that sort of person you know, I’m quite private and I have friends and they’re nothing to do with music. But he’s a huge influence and I’ve got a lot of respect for him but you know, he’s got his own life and I’ve got mine.
SD: I suppose we’re really removed from that world, and we imagine that you pop over to see each other all the time…
BA: Like Stella Street! I mean, I know people in the music industry who live like, four doors down the road, neighbours and stuff like that, in a kind of social way, obviously other people that I’ve worked with and stuff, but I don’t kind of hang out in those circles really.
SD: And so, the final question. About 50 million people asked… Bernard, Bernard, Bernard!
BA: I don’t know how many more times I can talk about Bernard, really. I don’t really know if I can say anything that I haven’t said a million times before. If people want to know about mine and Bernard’s relationship, just look at the other fifty thousand interviews… I mean, the whole thing I found so exasperating about writing the Tears record was that every single time I sat down for an interview, it was about mine and Bernard’s relationship, I mean that was the kind of gossip, the titillating thing about how we got on, whether we liked each other. I’ve fully documented our relationship in every way.
SD: I think that basically, people don’t like the answer.
BA: Yeah, they want dirt, they want some sort of Eastenders style bust up, they love it, it’s kind of an indie soap opera, isn’t it? I’m not going to give it to them, though. So you know, you can read between the lines or do whatever you want to do, but that’s it.
And that is, indeed, it. So here I am, back in the land of the twee, home of the depraved (that’s America to you), putting this together and well, trying to get a sense of perspective. And it seems to me that Brett has (of course with due diplomacy and good manners) been remarkably honest here. I think, in light of his comments about that image, we can appreciate that he was instinctively exploring ideas that frankly needed to be explored. For thoroughly understandable reasons, sexuality had been politicized by the gay movement, the feminist movement and their enemies on the right throughout the late seventies and eighties. Political positions had become entrenched; a with-us-or-against-us mentality was prevalent on both sides, something driven not merely by zealotry but by political necessity (a high degree of uniformity is needed when fighting for basic human rights against daunting odds).
Tragically though, as with all bitter ideological struggles, we were in danger of losing our sense of what makes us not-so-different, our sense of the messier, subtler nature of reality. Many people found themselves lost in a sexual-political no-man’s-land, caught between two opposing armies, and like Brett, shot at by both sides. I think it’s interesting and significant that Brett was pilloried both by right-wing homophobes and by certain sections of the gay press and the more-PC-than-thou elements of the music press. Many, many gay people “got it” of course (including Derek Jarman and, lest we forget, Simon Gilbert) and it goes without saying that Mr Anderson has been an advocate for gay rights. Nobody can seriously accuse Brett Anderson of not instinctively feeling the sheer brutal inhumanity of homophobia. So perhaps we should forgive some of his more cack-handed comments at the time. After all, that was some burden he was carrying back in the day, and we were never going to get that sort of bravery from The Frank And Walters, bless ‘em.
As for Brett’s alleged dalliances with ethical impurity, it should be noted that currently the leathery old mug of a certain Iggy Pop can be seen on billboards across the capital, advertising car insurance of all things. The Godfather of Punk has been reduced to competing with Churchill The Nodding Dog… ooooh yes. Imagine if he makes it onto TV: “if your old banger breaks down, call us and we’ll give it some Raw Power”. Well no, let’s not imagine that. Suffice it to say, it could be a lot worse. It’s perfectly right and proper to question Brett’s actions sometimes, but he’s a singer, not the Dalai Lama.As for Bernard Butler and all that… well, reading between the lines (he asked for it!) I think that maybe, just maybe, they made a record, bored themselves silly by having to talk about the past all the time, and then decided to do something else. Bernard and Brett are two great musicians who worked together again and made an album, and that’s it. It wasn’t the Northern Ireland peace process, and Bernard didn’t leave to form a splinter group called The Real Tears, hell-bent on planting car bombs around West London. He produced that Duffy record. End of.
Finally, we have an album called Slow Attack. Out in October, and it’s great. If you’ve read all of this lot, you’re clearly interested. You have every right to be. So go on, buy it. You won’t regret it.
http://www.brettanderson.co.uk/ – Interview