Cable used to be a band; now, they’re a whisper and a sigh, an echo of not-so-olden days of rockin’ about the country with a smidgen of passion, the slightest semblance of soul at least. Their departure wasn’t received like the passing of an infamous rock star, or the disbanding of a mega-selling act, by the populous en masse, but the Derby-spawned four-piece left a mark on many a youthful indie-rocker. This mark has blossomed since their 1999 split, and the other week witnessed the release of Souvenir – A Tribute To Cable (review), a collection of cover versions executed by a variety of acts established and otherwise. If you weren’t into Cable before the turn of the millennium, now is the time to get with their programme.
Cable’s first album, a mini-album really, was 1996’s Downlift the Uptrodden; its release came after the band had recorded a session for John Peel and lost their original drummer, Neil Cooper. He was replaced by Richie Mills, while the remaining trio – Pete Darrington (bass), Matt Bagguley (guitar/vocals) and Darius Hinks (guitar) – remained present and correct for the duration of the band’s career.
Their breakthrough proper, almost, came in 1997: ‘Freeze The Atlantic’, a track taken from their Infectious-released When Animals Attack long-player, found itself sound-tracking an advertisement for Sprite, the tooth-rotting soft drink. The single was released in May ’97, a couple of weeks after the television ad made its mark, and featured a b-side entitled ‘The (We Did The Music For The Sprite Ad) Blues’. It wasn’t quite the hit both label and band were hoping for.
Nevertheless, critical acclaim came easily to Cable – John Peel was a fan, and likeminded sorts kept flocking to Cable shows ‘til the release of their second album, Sub-Lingual, in 1999. A neatly evolved step forward from When Animals Attack, the album contains undoubtedly the band’s finest songs: opener ‘Song 1’ is a fizz-popping, alarm-siren-ringing blast of a curtain-up, and from thereon in the LP never disappoints. That its fires were snuffed out before it became widely recognised as the classic it should have been, due to the band’s enforced split (courtesy of a lawsuit filed by former manager Brian Hallin), is still saddening.
In the wake of the release of Souvenir – A Tribute To Cable, DiS caught up with Cable’s Darius Hinks and Pete Darrington to talk about the covers album, their lasting popularity, and the possibility of a reformation.
Firstly, does the very idea of a tribute album seem weird to you: usually, such affairs are released after an artist’s death (unless you’re Daniel Johnston, it seems). Although the band is no more, it hasn’t really been that long since Cable hung their guitars up: so, how do you feel about this?
Darrington: Yes very strange. I suppose it’s better now than when we have faded into complete obscurity.
Hinks: Actually, Cable seems forever ago to me – I find it hard to remember anything further back than my last meal – so it was quite strange just to hear those songs again. It was certainly a surprise. It’s all very touching.
What do you honestly think to the line-up? Are there bands in there that you’re a little… against, maybe… covering your material? Or did each act record with your prior blessing? Are there any reinterpretations that caught you by surprise, for reasons positive or negative?
Darrington: It’s none of our business who is on it, really, and it would have been ‘wrong’ to expect to be asked whether or not an artist should be on the album. The version of ‘Song 1’ (by Tellison) was a great surprise, and ‘Souvenir’ (by Dave House) was nice, too. I’m a fan of Swound! and Pocket Promise anyway, so I liked theirs (‘Honolulu’ and ‘Comprendez?’ respectively).
Hinks: We left the choice of bands totally up to the label. It seemed a bit crap to interfere with our own tribute album. I hate some of the versions, and love others – that’s the point of these things isn’t it, though?
Has it come as any surprise to the band that Cable remain probably as popular today, posthumously, as they were while active? It’s been seven years since the band quit: most indie-rock bands with average levels of success – as Cable were at the time of the split, really – would have been forgotten in that time. What is it about Cable that keeps fans new and old coming to the songs?
Darrington: It might be something to do with our creative genius.
Hinks: I think it must be down to the exceptional level of sex appeal we emanated. Putting four such stunning physical specimens in a room together was always bound to leave a lasting impact on people, especially girls. I remember seeing upwards of three girls at some of our gigs.
If the band hadn’t split, how do you think a third proper album would have turned out? Personally, I’m a big fan of Sub-Lingual – do you think the progression evident from When Animals Attack to Sub-Lingual would have been apparent again?
Darrington: I’m sure by then it would have been a no-holds barred, blatant and desperate attempt at commercial pop success.
Hinks: I think we were finally starting to punch our way out of the Mudhoney/Fugazi bag we’d got stuck in. Matt always had a gift for singing great pop tunes, and if we hadn’t had such a gift for getting sued I think we could’ve gone on to record something pretty cool. We coulda been contenders.
That well-documented Oasis scuffle (the bands were recording in the same studio in ’96, Cable laying down Downlift… and Oasis What’s The Story…; a fight later broke out between Liam Gallagher and Hinks): couldn’t you have done the decent thing and ‘accidentally’ broken one or two of Noel’s fingers, ensuring that he couldn’t properly play a guitar again? Did we need Be Here Now? Oh heck no… Does the longevity of bands like Oasis surprise you at all? What do you make of the current crop of, shall we say, less than inspired (or inspiring) guitar bands? Razorlight’s second album – not really much cop, is it?
Darrington: I wouldn’t know anything about Razorlight. I don’t really listen to any of those bands that think their job is to emulate ‘70s new-wave music or glam-rock or whatever. I went to see the Pixies do a festival slot last year and wandered round all these stages full of Arctic Mongos and Snot Patrol and was utterly bored rigid by the whole thing. Dreadful. Thank God I hadn’t paid for the ticket. As for Oasis’ longevity: sometimes the biggest turds are floaters. As we said in ‘Colder Climate’, “The public get what they deserve”.
Hinks: I don’t believe anyone ever really liked Oasis. It was some kind of world-wide conspiracy just to confuse me.
And back to the subject at hand, the tribute album: is there any temptation on the band’s part to perform again, what with this new release of your material? I know that individuals don’t live all that close to each other anymore (!), but the idea must crop up from time to time…
Darrington: I think we put that idea to bed in March of this year when we played at our manager’s funeral.
Hinks: I think we all like the idea, in principle, but we’re all far too old, boring, and lazy to actually work out how it could be done.
There were rumours – I know not the level of truth in them – circulating that you were to reform to support Hundred Reasons a couple of years ago. What happened there?
Darrington: I think it was money. I don’t think the HR camp had really thought it through – they asked, we said yes; then we said, “who’s going to pay for it all?” As I’m sure you know, tours very rarely even pay for themselves. We didn’t have a record label any more and we certainly weren’t going to put our hands in our pockets to do it. There was stuff like Matt’s flights to and from Oslo to factor in, and it seemed a lot of money to shell out just to have our egos massaged.
The band’s split itself – was it as enforced by ulterior pressures as we’re led to believe? Could it have been avoided in any way? Was the way in which the band broke up something you particularly regret, either as an individual or as a group?
Darrington: I’m sure the others agree we couldn’t have avoided it. It was a long and messy court case with an old manager from the early days of Cable who we’d fired. He was awarded a sizable percentage of all advances for the next couple of years which added up to five figures at least. The only way to not let the useless, lazy money-grabbing cretin get his hands on it was to split up. Can I say that?
Hinks: We all had a morbid fear of employment, and we did every bloody thing we could to keep Cable together, but the law’s an ass. The court case was great fun actually, though – we’d been told we couldn’t possibly lose, so we spent all our time in the dock talking like Rumpole and winking at the judge.
Is there increasing fan pressure for a reformation? Judging by the comments left on the band’s MySpace page (here) there’s certainly an audience waiting. Realistically, what are the chances, even of a one-off show?
Darrington: I’m not aware of any ‘pressure’. I think the sum total of Cable fans got together to make this record, didn’t they? (B’dum tish.) The work we’d have to put in to play one show isn’t worth the benefit. We’d have to put a good few weeks of work in and fork out a lot of money to do it so that a couple of hundred people would get to see the band. If we’re gonna do something, the ends would need to justify the means – i.e. a string of dates.
Hinks: To be honest, when we played at the funeral I’d forgotten half the dance moves, and I doubt Matt can even do the splits anymore.
Lastly, if a reader’s a complete newcomer to the band, and wants to buy a Cable record based on this interview, what are you going to recommend they purchase?
Darrington: They should buy the ‘Wolf Table’ 7” that was exclusive to the Groop Dogdrill tour of 1996. Or, what was the 7” that had ‘Dinky’ on it? I loved that song. I thought it was single in its own right.
Hinks: I agree with Pete, ‘Dinky’ rocks! In a small, cute kind of way, though…
Souvenir – A Tribute To Cable (review) is out now on Signature Tune – MySpace. Featured artists include Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, Econoline, Tom Vek, Knives, Stapleton, My Awesome Compilation, and Fixit Kid. It is quite The Good, although you’re more advised to seek out Cable’s two albums proper: buy When Animals Attack and Sub-Lingual (both on Infectious) and try not to jump around your room like an idiot. Great stuff from a sadly no-more band that every home should have a record by.