Whether it be the bittersweet laments of ‘Give My Love To Kevin’ and ‘Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now?’, the introspective ‘California’, wistful ‘Apres Ski’ or simply delectable ‘Boing’, there really is something for everyone among the 300+ gems released to date bearing the Gedge hallmark.
Having initially formed The Wedding Present in Leeds way back in 1985, the band quickly gained critical acclaim thanks, in no small way, to their debut album ‘George Best’, and it wasn’t to be long before commercial success followed. In 1992, The Wedding Present actually made the Guinness Book Of Records for having the most chart singles in one year (12 different singles in consecutive months over the course of a year). Several line up changes later, Gedge then disbanded The Wedding Present and formed Cinerama with partner Sally Murrell, and, albeit on a slightly smaller scale, further success followed. Since then, and having broken up with Murrell, he’s reverted back to using the original band name, and with the recent ‘Take Fountain’ long player rolling back the years and lifting a few eyebrows, he’s found himself back in the spotlight once more.
Go out and get ‘em boy…
So, what was it that made you go back to using The Wedding Present name again?
To be honest, it’s something that I’ve been thinking of doing for years really. I mean, this line up is essentially the final line up of Cinerama minus Sally, and we’ve always played the odd Wedding Present during Cinerama’s live sets and we’re doing the same here as The Wedding Present, so it made sense to merge the two together.
When you first started The Wedding Present back in the 80s, did you ever envisage that 20 years later you’d still be here, playing to sell-out crowds up and down the country?
Errm…I never really thought about it to be honest! It’s weird because it doesn’t feel like 20 years the way it’s gone past. I was doing a radio interview in Germany last year and the DJ was asking us what we were going to be doing to celebrate our twentieth anniversary, and I was like “Give over! We haven’t been going for that long, have we?” I guess if you had met me twenty years ago and asked me if I’d still be doing this in 2005 I’d have probably said “No way!”, but here I am, so…
So what is it that keeps you going strong in making music?
I think I’m slightly obsessed by it to be honest! It’s like, when I was younger I always wanted to either be a DJ or in a band, and now that I’ve done it I think I’m at the stage where I wouldn’t know what else I’d be any good at! We’re already planning ahead for next year’s tour so I’m not thinking of packing it in just yet…
After the success of ‘Take Fountain’, are you writing new material for the follow-up?
No, we’re not actually at the moment. This year we’ve been on tour since the turn of the year really, and unfortunately, I’ve never been one of those people who can write on tour. I’m really envious of those bands who’ve got portable studios in the back of their vans and can lay down songs and ideas in between shows, write the next album between the first and last date. We’ve never done that, right from the early days up until now. Funnily enough, we are coming up to a studio Sheffield at the end of this tour to record a couple of new songs for various tribute albums…
Who are you paying tribute to?
The first one is for Wreckless Eric. His most famous song was called ‘Whole Wide World’, and the idea for the compilation album was for a load of bands to just cover that one song, and it’s called ‘The Whole Wide World Of Wreckless Eric’. At the same time, we’re also involved with a ‘Pet Sounds’ tribute album, and we’re contributing ‘Caroline No’ to that record.
With over 300 songs to choose from, how do you manage to choose what to play and whittle it down into a 90 minute set?
To be honest, I just don’t do it anymore! I let Simon (Cleave), our guitarist do it. I think he’s better at doing it than me. He joined The Wedding Present in the mid-90s and stayed until I started Cinerama. I think he’s got a different perspective to me on all of our stuff, so it’s always quite interesting when we get a copy of the set list before a show. I mean, it is tempting just to fill the set with crowd pleasers, but to his credit he doesn’t do that really. He always builds a strong set around a great beginning and end with various highs and lows in the middle. He’s not pandered to what people expect us to play. It would be easy to close the show every night with ‘Kennedy’ and ‘Brassneck’ but we don’t always go in for that.
If you were to put your favourite songs on that set list, what would they be?
That’s the thing, it’s really hard for me to say what my favourite songs are because I have different reasons for liking (and disliking) the songs at different times. ‘Kennedy’ is one of my least favourite Wedding Present songs. I think it’s quite banal. We recorded it around the same time as the ‘Bizarro’ album stuff and I remember thinking at the time that it had 3rd track on the b-side of the next single written all over it! The rest of the band seemed to like it though, so it went out as an a-side and…I just think the lyrics are embarrassing now! I tried to write some fantastically profound song relating to the JF Kennedy assassination and…I struggled for weeks to get anything down that made any sense! I think my forte is writing about relationships really. In the set we’re doing at the moment we’re playing ‘Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm’, which I hadn’t played for the best part of those two decades because I always thought it sounded too “indie” but now it does sound really great. I think it’s my favourite part of the set at the minute, probably because it’s been so long since we actually played it. It’s like a cover version now because it sounds much more…mean. I think the current line-up play it beter than the old band used to in the early days! We’ve tried dozens of songs to be honest and some, like ‘Nobody’s…’ have sounded great, whereas others like ‘What Did Your Last Servant Die Of?’ from ‘Gearge Best’ sounded really terrible so we scrapped it.
Having played in numerous line-ups with both The Wedding Present and Cinerama, what would you say is the definitive line-up?
I think what’s quite pleasing is that there is no definitive line-up. It’s probably part of the strength of the group really and one of the main reasons why we’re still here. People come and go and everyone has different ideas and inputs. I really hate it when certain bands just stick to a formula and just go on and on and on churning out the same thing over and over again, and then people will say that so-and-so were great with the “definitive line-up” when actually, they’ve had the same line-up regurgitating the same tunes for the past 25 years! ‘George Best’ and ‘Bizarro’ were quite similar but every album since then has been totally different from the last one.
Your third studio album ‘Seamonsters’ saw you work with Steve Albini on production duties while many of your contemporaries were trying to recreate The Stone Roses vibe of 1989. Do you look back at that now and think you may have been groundbreaking without getting much credit at the time, bearing in mind a lot of the lo-fi/noise pop that has crossed over into the mainstream since?
I do think we’ve suffered a lot by not getting that much credit but at the same time I don’t really care about it too much. At the time I just loved what Steve Albini had done with ‘Surfer Rosa’ by the Pixies – which I still think is one of the best albums ever made – and I remember saying to the record company at the time that we have to get this bloke (Albini) for the next album. I think it was ahead of it’s time in the way that vocals were sacrificed and a visceral guitar sound was at the forefront instead – certainly as far as anything ever released on a major label at any rate.
What made you release the 12 singles in 1992? Was there any pre-conceived masterplan whereby you thought that if this comes off, you’d end up in the Guinness Book Of Records?
We had a bit of a break after recording ‘Seamonsters’, and we had these songs left and we just thought, “what shall we do next?” Keith (Gregory, former bass player) came up with the idea of releasing 12 singles over the course of the coming year, and he wanted it to be similar to how both Rough Trade and Sub Pop had developed their singles club releases, and we all went away and thought about it and everyone came back 15 minutes later and was like, “Yeah! This is a fantastic idea!” It was the same with the b-sides. To us it seemed obvious to put a cover version on every single. The hardest people to convince were the record label. I think they were a bit surprised 12 months later how successful it actually was! The record breaking thing never really occurred to us at the time. When I look back at it now I think it’s quite a cool thing to have done. I remember when we were putting the singles out we were quite nervous about meeting the deadlines so that every one came out at the start of each month. It was a bit stressful because we’d never had to be so organised and time conscious before.
Although you’ve retained a loyal hardcore fanbase over the years, it’s probably fair to say that your profile is somewhat lower than it was during the 12 singles period. Does it bother you?
In some ways because I enjoyed having a high profile. I mean, I’ve never pandered to the idea of being Bono or anything, but if you get to a certain level you end up being able to play nice venues and the same goes with selling records. At the end of the day I have to earn a living.
How do you feel about file sharing sites and other internet related media whereby fans can download your songs for free?
Well it’s a double edged sword really. On the one hand it is harder for a small record label to survive now and it is short sighted because without any money you can’t afford to sign any bands and if you don’t have any bands you can’t put out any records – it’s that simple. On the other hand, the same technology has made it easier for someone to be able to collect records and hear about new artists that they wouldn’t necessarily have heard about anywhere else so…I guess overall I am one of those people who sees it as stealing.
So are there any new bands who are around now that remind you of yourselves 20 years ago?
I’m a big fan of Franz Ferdinand. I think their songs are pretty similar to some of ours in that they are obviously influenced by the same things – Josef K, The Fire Engines and that whole Postcard Records scene from 1980. I think the main difference is that they’re a more poppy version of it from what we were.
In your earlier days The Wedding Present got a lot of overly positive press from the weeklies which possibly contributed to the band gaining a wider audience. Now that the NME is out on it’s own do you think it holds the same level of importance and influence as it did back then?
I don’t think they are now, no. It seems like they only feature the same five or six bands every week now and their policy seems to be more about making a style or fashion statement rather than concentrating on the music. It seems they are targeting a certain age group – a bit like Radio 1 in a way.
One of your biggest fans throughout your career and possibly the person responsible for most people first hearing your music was John Peel.
Yeah, I still can’t believe he’s gone to be honest. I still listen to the radio expecting him to be on there, which is kinda weird I guess but…he was inspirational for me and he did so much for both the Wedding Present and Cinerama. It upsets me more because he really was such a genuine, good bloke. There are so many people in this business who are very self orientated and use other people as their stepping stone to getting themselves known, but he really did care and genuinely wanted to buy records, which in my eyes is what a DJ is supposed to do.
I notice that you’re not on the John Peel tribute single. Were you asked to do it?
That’s a funny one that. We are on the album – the ‘Best Of John Peel’ double record thing – but we weren’t invited to do the Buzzcocks song. I guess the people behind it felt that we weren’t as relevant now as we used to be!