For Antony Genn and Martin Slattery, the often mythical excesses of rock 'n' roll have been something of a reality for well over a decade now, as between them they can count the likes of Pulp, Black Grape and Elastica as previous employers.
Their first real sojourn together came as part of Joe Strummer's last project, The Mescaleros, and since his untimely death the pair have been conjuring up new ideas under the guise of The Hours. So successful has this enterprise been that they were quickly snapped up by A&M and on the back of a couple of critically acclaimed singles have recently released their first long-player, Narcissus Road.
Being the intrepid investigators that we are, DiS tracked down one half of The Hours, Martin Slattery, for a chat about the present state of his co-project, where he intends to take it in the future, and a brief trip down memory lane into the somewhat hazy past.
What made you and Antony start up The Hours?
It got to a point where we'd both spent our entire musical careers working with other people, helping them create their own thing, which was incredible to a point but also frustrating in terms of our own creative needs. When Joe [Strummer] sadly passed away, we were both in a similar place and it gave us the realisation to look at things in a different way, open up something fresh and exciting to the pair of us
So what are the main differences between this and being in someone else's band?
The main thing is that we have total creative freedom as opposed to being a bit part in the making of someone else's record. I think the other main difference is that there is actually more pressure in fronting your own band, as we're the ones taking centre stage now. It's our baby and if it goes wrong, we've got to take the flak that comes with it rather than hide behind somebody else.
How easy was it for the two of you to work together?
I think we have a very collaborative - almost telepathic at times - relationship, in that both of us instantly know what the other one wants and how to help them get there. When we first started doing the record we stripped away everything - no engineers, no producers, nothing - and we just rented a small studio in Kilburn and got to work. Everything you hear on the album was written and produced solely by the pair of us, which is quite unique. I think to be able to achieve that there has to be a great level of understanding.
It must be strange, though, that given all of your experience in the music business The Hours are seen as being a brand new band?
I think that's the great thing about it. We're not being judged on our pasts, everything is about what we do now, and I for one am not fussed about being placed at the side of younger artists to be honest. Sure, there are a few ageist reporters in the press who'll snipe about something like that, but if all they have to talk about is what we were doing ten years ago then why bother mentioning the band in the first place?
I suppose your history is something to be proud of though. Do you see any parallels between then and now in terms of the industry and the music being made?
No, not in terms of the whole ethos of the Britpop era. I mean, that time was a complete one-off. No one had seen anything like it before and I don't think we'll see anything on that scale again, certainly not in terms of the whole hedonism thing anyway. There were so many big characters then - I mean Antony was one in his own way, but you had the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Shaun Ryder, Noel Gallagher, Damon Albarn. What's even more interesting is that none of these guys were particularly young, certainly by today's standards anyway. That's what disappoints me about today's artists. I don't see any characters there, no one that's going to have the same mass crossover appeal and change millions of people's outlooks like those guys did. I get really annoyed when I see reviews of our music comparing us to stuff like Embrace. I mean, no disrespect to Danny McNamara, but he hasn't an ounce of charisma in his whole body.
Some of the arrangements on the album - 'Murder Or Suicide' is one that springs to mind - seem rather complex, and at times a little disturbing lyrically. Was it difficult piecing together some of the songs for Narcissus Road?
Antony is a very complex, and occasionally very intense kind of person, and at the time we started writing the album was going through a very dark period in his life. The funny thing is that the original demo of 'Murder Or Suicide' did sound like a funeral march, and it got to the point where I had to intervene and sit down with Antony and rewrite some of the lyrics as the song - a lot of the album come to mention it - would have turned out unlistenable, even for me and I co-wrote it! It was from that point where we became more improvised and less formulaic, and a lot of the songs on the record are actually shortened versions of what initially started out as 10-15 minute jams - or rather endings. What's quite hard to believe though, and this is the truth, is that we used the first take for most of the songs on Narcissus Road, albeit with a little cutting and pasting here and there.
Which songs are you most satisfied with on the record?
I think 'Murder Or Suicide' was my favourite up to us going out on tour and playing it live. Now it just seems too aggressive and longer than I'd like it to be. I think my initial attitude when making the record was that I didn't care if no one else likes it apart from me and Antony, but now... I don't think either of us thought anybody else would bother to listen to it, so the reaction has been pleasantly surprising on the whole. I think now I've listened to it and played it live there are certain parts I'd want to re-record, but I guess that's just me being a control freak...
How was your first experience of playing live as The Hours?
Nerve-wracking at first, but I think once you get out there and see people singing along to your songs, it's an amazing feeling. I don't think there's any other job in the world where you can get the same satisfaction as you can from being a musician in a live touring band, really.
Bearing in mind the initial success of Narcissus Road, are there any plans for a follow-up?
Well the clock is ticking away fast I suppose, but I've a hard drive full of new ideas ready to be fine-tuned once we get back in the studio. There are a few snippets of riffs here and Antony's got some words there ready to be pieced together. I think once we've sat down and gone through everything there'll be enough material for a second album, definitely.
Will you be collaborating with any other artists in the future?
You can never say never. I mean, we're both focusing on this record at the moment but we do have a wish list of musicians we'd like to work with, so I guess it's a case of wait and see. I've actually just finished recording some parts for the new Suzanne Vega album myself, and it's the same for Antony. If someone wants us to play on their record I guess it would be rude to say no. I just hope the feeling is mutual if and when it applies to us...
The Hours' new single 'Love You More' and the album Narcissus Road' are both available now on A&M Records. For more information about the band visit their MySpace.