In the past 30+ years, were you able to listen to Colossal Youth for fun?
Very rarely, but I am always surprised how good it is. It’s exactly the same with all my records—because they are not preconceived... I don’t know anything about a record until I have listened to it for a few years. This is a delicious paradox about writing and record- ing; two creative processes which are entered into innocently, with a small packet of sandwiches and a bottle of water. (I know the woods are deep!)
How did the collaboration go between the three of you while working on Colossal Youth? Every body did their job or was it an organic flow?
Musically it was between Phil and me because Alison was able exactly to sing what I wrote, (despite some things being in difficult pitches, for her,) and it was, I think, a pleasure for both of us (you should ask Phil.) Subsequently I have identified that for me, as a writer, I have two different ways of working. One is solo and the other is when I write for a project. The solo stuff is of course by me alone and shows my viewpoint only. When I write for Moxham & Halliday, or when I wrote for YMG, I somehow incorporate(d) a kind of fictional element. If you like it’s John Lennon on my own stuff, i.e. raw and personal and Paul McCartney on col- laborations, i.e. less direct, more imagined. But I’m better of course (joke).
Post-Chernobyl kids as myself discover Young Marble Giants through other bands that reference you as an influence. Who do you think are the better referrals? Do you keep up with new bands?
I’m too addicted to writing the next song to concern myself with just about anything else—except paying the bills. I do hear interesting new stuff on the radio but the quantity of good stuff is nothing compared with the cornucopia of the 1960s and 1970s (albums, mainly, in the 70s.)
How do you feel about the cover versions of your songs by Hole and Etienne Daho? You could quit your day job because of the money they brought in?
I feel profoundly grateful for the interest and the money they generate. I was newly married with three very young children at the time and the income enabled me to be there with my kids, totally involved with them. Excellent timing!
What’s the main reason to keep playing live with Young Marble Giants?
For me it’s complicated; I get to be in a band that is hugely loved and supported by audiences, well paid and composed of two of my three brothers, whom I probably wouldn’t see otherwise, and Alison! It’s also brilliant for my profile, which needs all the help it can get, as I’m struggling with my 2nd wonderful creative songwriting project Moxham & Halliday. On the downside we only play a couple of gigs a year generally and we don’t make any new music.
I found a flyer online of a concert night YMG played on called Rock against Sexism, Do you think YMG played an important role as a female fronted band? Did you also experience downsides to it?
Great question. Inevitably, whenever women are doing things equally with men in public, it gives an example of something which is actually perfectly natural. Female singers per se are not unusual how- ever so this is less revolutionary than, say, a female fighter pilot. Basically men and women are different in many ways (and identical in many others) so there will always be differences in what they do and that’s a good thing. The point is that women should feel confident about doing whatever they want to.
Which of your post-YMG projects differs the most from YMG?
Another excellent question! It must be my work with Louis Philippe because, although my songwriting must be similar to the YMG stuff, his contributions (including the influence he’s had on me) are incred- ibly distinctive. You can always tell, when listening to his stuff, that it’s him and never anyone else. We are about to release our second album together, The Devil Laughs by the way.
Are your children aware of the impact their father’s band had on not so mainstream music?
You’d have to ask them—I don’t know. Basically I don’t look back or analyse my stuff—that’s the job of other people. I have a lot of music to make and time is getting shorter.
What happened to youngmarblegiants.com? It’s a mix of lists with interviews and advertising for soccer bets.
The guy who started it got busy with life and couldn’t keep it going. He offered it to us but I can’t afford to do it. Shame—it’s really good. One day...
Are you familiar with KRAAK or the Belgian underground scene you will play for on 7 March?
As you can guess by now the answer is no—but I will be soon!