In the music industry, you find there a lot of wankers. From the top levels at Sony through to the radio stations pumping out putrid, packaged shite, down to the bands you love and the owners of the venues they play in. You will find that somewhere along the line, you will come across a complete twat! But for every one of these, there is someone who reaffirms your belief that there are some damn nice people in the industry... one of which is Pete Darrington.
To some he is known as a member of Derby band Hudson Super 6, to others he is known as being a major part of indie label Sumo Records, but to many he is known as Pete, the guy from arguably one of the best UK alternative bands of the ninties, Cable. We caught up with him for his views on the industry, working with members of Therapy? and of course, his old band. We ask the question all Cable fans want to know the answer to; will Cable ever reform?
We start talking about his current band and the period between the end of Cable and what is going on today.
“At first I decided I would look at setting up a label... I got a job in the broadcast industry as a broadcast engineer for a company that kits out TV stations. That bought in the cash. I started looking for bands for a label. I wanted to promote local talent, but struggled to find any. About the same time, Neil (Cooper, drummer with Northern Irish rockers Therapy?) was setting up Sumo. I offered to join up and help out. About the same time I'd heard that some friends from another old Derby band Iris had split after their second album on a French label had been released to critical acclaim but sold zero. They were a bit tired of writing sensitive arty intellectual quietcore and fancied doing something totally different. I went to see them rehearsing and the band still had no name. I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw - a kind of Rocket From The Crypt/Mudhoney thing sound-wise, with a twang of The Pixies, but some very English rock sensibilities about it - snatches of Sabbath and Zeppelin, riff-wise. I immediately offered to help them out. They wondered about a name and I took along a classic car book and said 'this book's great for names - one I've always fancied using is Hudson Super Six.' They didn't even look at the book, just loved the name I'd suggested first.”
When asked about Hudson Super 6, Pete is very frank about how he got involved, and about their current state of affairs.
”We worked on getting shows and getting it going - they were a 3-piece then and I liked the idea of it being a power trio, but also we talked about getting someone else who played something a bit different - sax or something that people don't often dare mess with. Anyways, they did a show at the Garage in Highbury and the next day, the bass player quit. He'd really liked the whole kind of quiet experimental thing and suddenly going punk/rock riffmeisters wasn't his bag.
“They still had a bunch of shows lined up to complete, so I said I'd fill in for a bit. Felt pretty weird, rehearsing with people who weren't Matt, Richie and Darius. Even more bizarre was taking to the stage with them. The funny thing was, I was kinda encouraging them to stick with a 3-piece whilst I'd been helping them out as, well, a 'manager' I suppose, but once I joined the group I was like 'We need another guitar to carry this off properly.' I kept imagining Cable style riffs and melodies tied together and that just wasn't there - shame on me! But it was what I was used to and really liked and was really missing in this setup. I called a mate who'd been the guitarist for Scribble on Shifty Disco Records (Ed: Pete then proudly tells us they had single of the week in NME once, reviewed by Steve Malkmus!) and then nothing else really took off for them, but he was a great guitar player and was looking for something a bit more meaty that the punk pop of Scribble.”
I nod in agreement when he declares it a shit name but shake my head when he asks if I remember them.
”I think they spent like 500 years talking to Simon (of Fierce Panda) about whether they were going to do something on his label or not (which they eventually did just before the band split). They wrote catchy tunes I guess, but were playing second-fiddle to Supergrass at that time and don't think they ever really got the press.”
Pete grins and confesses that band member Ged would kill him if he knew he had said any of that. This gets my mind to thinking and I ask if he has any tips for bands just breaking through.
“Check out this article. The truth in this article is utterly shocking and totally dispiriting. You may have read it before but, it's great and every one embarking on a 'musical career' should read it.”
After a second getting his mind back on track on the Darrington time line, he continues about Sumo when Neil is away with Therapy?
“For months at a time, I'm driving the Sumo label whilst he's away. It feels a bit suspect that HS6 would be on Sumo, but it's not because I'm in it, we'd intended them to record for Sumo before I picked up the bass.”
And what do the Cable fans make of the new sound?
“The new band is dividing Cable fans who come to see us; some say we're like Cable but not as good. Others say it has all the things they liked about Cable but has dropped the things they didn't like so much. It depends what sort of Cable fan you were I guess - in some ways Hudson Super Six is a continuation of the type of songwriting I was involved in at the time of ‘Sublingual’. We wanted to write killer pop tunes that had been twisted on their head.”
When asked about how the media had taken to his new band, his reply is instant.
“'I read one review of a HS6 show that was very positive but said something like 'Great live band but so clearly Pete's last ditch attempt to land another major deal and hopefully pick up where Cable were cut short'. This is a real shame - we really are making a point of being a little bit similar but on the whole a totally different beast, so it's difficult to try and maintain a balance. The most annoying thing about this I guess though, was the idea that we’re looking for a major deal! We're perfectly happy keeping things whole heartedly independent. I for one do not miss sitting down with label executives and trying to justify our existence - them saying '14,000 units ain’t good, guys' and us saying '14,000 units? WOW!'
“It still genuinely surprises me when people say such nice things about what we did. Strangely, it seems that there are a lot more Cable fans now than there was then.”
As he admits himself, as the band drew to a bitter close in the early months of ‘99, there was a feeling that they were on the cusp of better things - that musical trends were finally shifting back towards music with a more creative ilk and that 'the kids' were tired of being spoon-fed Britpop and dadrock blandness.
“It seems we were a little too early to ride that wave and for us, it was the bitterest of ironies that we were witnessing the birth of 'new school cool' as the group imploded in a load of frankly pointless legal tosh.”
Considering all that happened, you can't help but wonder why a man would put himself back into the musical arena?
“It was two years before I even contemplated picking up an instrument again and when I did, I was in for a big shock. Everywhere my new group went, we were met by kids who had been too young to see Cable, but had come along to see us because of my Cable connection. The rest of the band were extremely tolerant of this, but it certainly must rub them up the wrong way, as there was always a group of punters stepping up at the end of the show asking when Cable would be getting back together and would I sign this copy of 'When Animals Attack'?”
For every good aspect of being in Cable, it can be a double edged sword as Pete explains.
”Often, the only way I can get venues to take my new band is by playing the 'ex-Cable' card. I was kinda hoping Cable's old booking agent would pick us up, but alas, in the intervening years, he has gone on to much bigger and better things, working for big artists at Helter Skelter (huge booking agency) like The Darkness and although he does bits for us, there is no way in the world he could pick us up officially, his boss would not allow Helter Skelter to even contemplate representing someone as small fry as us.”
Going back to my opening paragraph, this is the sad reality of the world of the corporate music industry.
“To a certain degree, what I'm experiencing is that a lot of my contacts or people who approach me are (and it's perfectly understandable) still more interested in Cable than my new band. So it's hard really, it usually goes something like this:
“Pete: 'Fancy giving my new band a gig?'
“Promoter: 'Maybe...I don't suppose you can persuade Cable to play instead?'
“One thing I'm determined to do is avoid 'the industry machine' as long as possible - I'm fiercely defensive of the band’s independence and it's refreshing to be in a group where we make the decisions, we control the releases and we're not being pressured by a major to come up with hit records. I think the internet has changed the whole way truly independent bands can network and we are honestly not interested in courting a major deal. In an ideal (some might say dream) world, I'd like to go the Fugazi route of being truly responsible for our own success. That's why I think DiS is so cool. It's got a big online following and is making a big difference to the scene, without the permission of the stranglehold machine. I long for the death of the NME.”
I smile... a BIG smile. We talk about the 'rumours' of the Cable reform to support Hundred Reasons last year and Pete explains the whole situation.
“The reforming thing - the rumours were true, we had agreed to do one show at Brixton Academy at the request of Hundred Reasons. They were, as I'm sure you knew, big fans. We planned rehearsals, chose songs and Matt booked plane tickets from Oslo. Then people from Hundred Reasons’ record company decided to stick their oar in... bad vibes... 'Who are these guys? No way are they being main support! They can't sell any merch, we don't want them doing any press.'”
The more of the story you hear, the more and more I stick by my opinion of the industry.
“Apparently Kerrang! wanted to run a piece on Cable being 'back to reclaim their crown' and Columbia's people responsible for Hundred Reasons did not like this one bit! Said it looked like we were trying to steal Hundred Reasons’ thunder, which is shite, because they were a chart act loved by Kerrang! and Radio 1, so I hardly think we would have made that much impact. Someone told me that on the night we should have played; the singer wore a Cable t-shirt in protest. I think not long after, the shit hit the fan with their label (A&R guy fired, band lumped in with someone who doesn't even know who they are etc etc) - I hope they got things sorted.
“In the end we decided it had turned into one of those political arguments that we were all frankly glad to see the back of when we split. I know Hundred Reasons were horribly disappointed that we chose not to do the show and they spent a fair bit of time trying to get us to reconsider, but in the end they were so fed up with the bullish behaviour of their label that they understood our standpoint and respected our decision not to come out of mothballs at that time.”
Time is nearly up so I ask the question that we have all wanted to ask to wind it all up…
“Between us, we all felt we'd like to play again together as Cable, but this wasn't the right time. It's not ruled out and obviously we all have other commitments these days. I always joked we'd be the English Velvet Underground, so if we hold out long enough, we'll be offered a stadium tour and pots of cash, somewhere around 2020.”
Pete smiles a big smile and gives the answer we all hoped for.
“So yes, it could still happen at some point. My band are cool with it, so we'll see.”
So there you have it - member of Hudson Super 6, major part of Sumo Records, former member of Cable and all around top bloke!