My Secret Life: Brett Anderson, singer-songwriter, 44
Interview by Holly Williams
My parents are… my mum was an artist and a dressmaker. My father was a taxi driver, and an obsessive classical-music fan. There wasn’t much money around, but there was a lot of culture. They taught me about the valuable things in life – we were never taught to worship money, and I respect that.
The household I grew up in… a tiny little council house, but it was on the edge of an estate, so it was actually right next to a wood. It didn’t sit neatly into a stereotype.
When I was a child I wanted to… work for Nasa. I loved science.
If I could change one thing about myself…I’m not very good with people. I’m quite misanthropic; I like being on my own or just with people I know well, and I think that’s a fault. I can’t be bothered with most people, to be honest. That’s probably a huge drawback in my career.
You wouldn’t know it but I’m very good at…juggling. Me and Mat Osman, the bass player in Suede, spent two years perfecting our juggling. This was in the early days, we were on the dole and didn’t have much to do except rehearse – and juggle.
You may not know it but I’m no good at…I’ve got a terrible sense of direction. I get lost, even in my own street.
At night I dream of… There’s a classic anxiety dream musicians have where there’s only four people in the audience. That’s left over from when you first start, when there are four people in the audience.
I wish I’d never worn… Looking back at old photographs, it’s like a procession of embarrassment. You’ve only got to be around more than 20 years and inevitably some of what you wear looks hilarious. But the blouses I used to wear in the early days – even then, I’m not sure I got away with it.
What I see when I look in the mirror… Jean Cocteau said something like “when I look in the mirror I see death”. I’m with him on that.
It’s not fashionable but I like…If you like something, you should celebrate it. One of the most worrying trends of the last 15 years has been this imposition of a canon of acceptability – “you’re allowed to like this because it’s cool”. I don’t believe in that.
A book that changed me… the first novel that really moved me was 1984. I love the fact that it’s not just about politics, it’s about love, it’s about betrayal, and human frailty.
Movie heaven… When touring I watch Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources on a loop.
My greatest regret… that Bernard [Butler] left Suede – that we didn’t stay together and sort it out.
My real-life villains… I have a pet hate of advertising. I know I’m as much part of it as anyone, but the cynical level, like McDonalds’s manipulating children… I think that’s deeply sinister.
My five-year plan… It’s always about writing the next great song.
What’s the point? To leave this earth slightly more beautiful. To have written a plus sign, no matter how big or small.
My life in six words… a trail of breadcrumbs leading nowhere.
A life in brief
Brett Anderson was born in West Sussex in 1967. He was the lead singer with the band Suede from 1989 until they split in 2002. The band released five albums, including a Mercury prize-winning debut and the chart-topping Coming Up in 1996. Following their split, Anderson and Suede guitarist Bernard Butler formed The Tears, but since 2006 he has focused on solo work, releasing four albums. The latest, Black Rainbows, is out now. Anderson lives in west London.
Photo by Alastair Levy