DiS: Where did you play your first gig?
It was a school band night and we were about 15. It was so funny… I don’t know whether I should say this… I don’t take any drugs but when we were at that age we used to do it quite heavily. We bought some hash and just ate it, and I totally freaked out and couldn’t go onstage. The whole crowd were chanting “Craig! Craig!” We got a tape of it and it was so shit, yet brilliant. We played ‘Rape Me’ by Nirvana, ‘Wild Thing’, I think… oh god, some really, really bad cover tunes, and a few of our own songs. We were called… I’m not even gonna say.
DiS: You have to tell me now.
Oh no! No! I can’t! People will think we were serious! So anyway, that was our first gig. Something else which I always remind my brother about is that I was in 3rd year and he was in 6th year at the time, and he comes onstage and grabs the microphone off me, and starts singing! He always wanted the attention.
DiS: A bit of sibling rivalry.
Yeah. Anyway, we did gigs like that until we were 18, then we started pub gigs. To make money, you had to play covers. It’s pretty amazing looking back: we’d had a residency and do the covers, slipping in our own tunes, saving up money to buy PA equipment and instruments. When we moved to Glasgow we focussed on our own stuff.
DiS: When did you feel your sound was developing into your own thing? You were kids who grew up listening to Nirvana like a lot of people did, yet you obviously don’t sound like them. So how did this sound come about? You’re getting all these comparisons to Dexys, Talking Heads, Aztec Camera… do you actually listen to that stuff?
I listen to Talking Heads but that was after someone suggested we sound quite like them. We listen to the Chilis a hell of a lot. They were all our favourite band and still to this day we all still rate them. The Chili Peppers were really into that kind of sound and they’re big Talking Heads fans. When you listen to John Frusciante’s guitar sound you can tell that he’s been inspired a little bit by them. I’ve heard Dexys’ greatest hits album once but that was before we went to record the album, Clive Langer (producer) said “you’ve got to listen to this.” I could see why people say there are similarities, but I’d heard ‘Come On Eileen’ before and I HATE it. When people started saying we sound like Dexys I thought oh my god, they’re saying I sound like the band that wrote the song I hate the most in the WORLD! It’s really, really, horrible! When I was writing the tunes, there was two criteria I was thinking about, and how I wanted to do stuff in the band. I thought that I don’t want to focus on distortion – there are other ways of producing power and uplifting effects in music without pressing a bloody distortion peddle, which is often just a cop out. And I also thought that if I’m writing words that mean something to me, I’m going to sing them in a way that people can make them out. I’m not just going to drone or whine. I wanna be clear with the words. I think that was definitely something that was quite common in this music people compare us to. It was popular at that time for people to be kinda well-spoken. That’s really it. It’s not about being into the ‘80s in any way. The music I’ve mostly listened to most over the past year – and the majority of our album has been written in the past year – is instrumental music, modern classical stuff, African and South American music, more rhythmic stuff that doesn’t involve western melodies. These influence things are always weird cos it’s not just about music, it’s about how you see the world and people and relationships you have with people and the cynicism or optimism when you see things. It’s everything; far more than just music that makes you how you are.
DiS: Your lyrics do stand out a lot. Like, ‘Lounger’ seems to be becoming your theme tune, almost. People always talk about that one. What particularly inspired the lyrics for that?
This is something I really try consciously to do in every tune… often a lot of lyric writers preach in some way; they just give one side of the argument, one direction, one right answer. And I don’t really believe in that. There’s good and bad and it’s important to show different sides of things and not say that “this is the right way to be.” And ‘Lounger’ is just a comment on the benefits and drawbacks of being ignorant, basically! That’s really all it is! Heheheh.
DiS: How about ‘Celebrity Sanctum’ then?
Welllll… I’d like to think that it’s quite self-explanatory, but I’ve found through some journalists that it isn’t, apparently. It’s putting yourself into the role of somebody who’s obsessed… everyone’s aware now of modern celebrity obsession, it’s out of hand and a bit silly.
DiS: Was I imagining things or have you completely changed the lyrics to ‘Big City Takeover’?
YES! There was just something unfinished about it. I’m a bit more pleased now. The second verse has changed. There was something about the chorus I wasn’t happy with. It’s quite a bit more abstract and the words are seemingly random but… they’re not! Hehehe. Again, it’s showing both sides of something. In the first verse it’s talking about city life and it’s slagging it off, I suppose. Then the second verse it talks about country life and slags that off too. Then the lines at the end, the grass turns out to be Astroturf – it’s about wishing for something else and it not being what you expect. That kind of vibe, really.
DiS: How did you celebrate when you signed to V2?
By signing the contract, then leaving the pub opposite the Barfly where we signed it, then going straight onstage at the Barfly and doing a gig. It was a mad rush. So we signed it, and did a SHIT gig. It was great. Heh heh heh.
DiS: Whose idea was it to play some far-out Scottish places? STORNOWAY? Were you well received?
Very well! I’m not sure who made the initial suggestion but I’m really glad we did it. All the venues were totally rammed. The one in Fort William was supposedly the busiest it had ever been there. The funniest one was Uist. Have you ever been there?
DiS: I might’ve done when I was a nipper. I can’t remember.
It’s the moon. Unbelievable. The venue is a white building. All the buildings in Uist are spread apart by a square mile. So this was set on its own and there were a few kids there getting hammered, then in five minutes the whole island seemed to have appeared in these busses that were coming from all over the place. They were rolling out of these busses, absolutely hammered (note to those not au fait with slang – hammered = drunk). In Uist it’s middle-aged to old people who are there, and kids our age group leave the island for their own sanity. It’s a weird place, they’ll all admit it themselves. These kids were all totally going for it. Onstage, I thought this must be how it was like with The Beatles, all these kids going nuts and trying to get onstage. But then after a couple of tunes, I thought it doesn’t matter what we play – we could play ‘Sweet Home Alabama’… and, well, they’d probably love that even more – but anyway it wouldn’t matter what we play cos they’d go nuts anyway. It was a fun experience and I’d recommend it to any band. It’s gotta be done!
DiS: Are you signing autographs yet?
Yes. I said to myself before things started to kick off that I’m not going to sign autographs cos it’s quite an egotistical thing, or it promotes that sort of thing. There’s something I don’t find quite comfortable about it. I thought that when somebody asks me for an autograph I’ll give you an autograph if you go up to that stranger over there and ask him for an autograph as well. In an ideal world, in theory, that’d be a nice thing to do. But I just can’t be arsed. So I just scribble, and my signature’s got shorter and shorter and soon it’s just going to be a straight line.
DiS: What other ideas do you have for singles at the moment?
We’re gonna do two singles – first at beginning of April then the second in June, then the album following on from that in early July. It looks like the first single will be ‘God Hopping’, which was the second song we played at the 100 Club. I’m really pleased with that cos it’s one of my favourites. We’ve got a say in all the creative things at the label and we work together obviously, and we all agreed that would be a goodie. We’re still working on what would be the best one to launch the album. I actually really do want ‘Lounger’ to be that. What do you think?
DiS: Yeah, I think ‘Lounger’ would be a good one. ‘Apples And Oranges’? That would be a good one as well. I like that tune.
Yeah, totally. The good thing is in a way, the label were talking about the amount of choices we do have, because the way we’ve written the album is that we want the songs to be three-and-a-half minutes, punchy, bang in there.
DiS: How are your hands now? Any scars left months on from the electric shock?
Well, I can see it. It’s something only I can see… There’s a tiny one on my pinkie. It’s dead funny actually in these interviews, it’s happened three times, somebody will say “Last question. The band name – where did it come from?” and then they’ll go, “Oh! And I heard you got electrocuted!” It’s like it’s a touchy subject that they hadn’t pre-planned to ask. That’s the only time I think about it.
DiS: What’s happening with that venue now? Cos it was being investigated following that incident.
I don’t know, basically. I don’t really wanna dwell on it. The police got involved and it goes without saying that they would’ve got their stuff sorted out. For a start, we’ve just been really busy and I want to move on. The law are aware of it.
DiS: When I spoke to Ruth on the 22-20s support tour, she’d bought five pairs of shoes during that tour alone. How many has she amassed this time?
I don’t think it’s shoes this time but she’s buying everything else. She’s incredible, I don’t know how she does it. I’m going to start some kind of pressure group. It’s unfair – the price men have to pay for clothing is so much more! The amount of stuff she gets for £5, all these clothes! She’s got bin bags full of them. It’s amazing! OK, that’s a total exaggeration. She has a bin bag’s worth full of new clothes.
DiS: That was my last question.
Sorry. I went off on one there, didn’t I?
DiS: Where are you off to now? (Yes, I’m aware that’s another question.)
We’re playing Warwick University. Right now I’m in the largest of the retail parks I’ve ever seen outside Bristol. Honestly, huge warehouses as far as the eye can see. I’m standing outside Morrisons supermarket. To one side of it is a Safeways and on the other is Asda. They’re all big and massive, except Morrisons has a moat around it. I think that proves it’s the king.
’Man Bites Man’ is out on Feb 16th. You can hear it when you load up dogsdieinhotcars.com