september 2001

part 1 of 3

so how’s the new stuff going?
it’s going alright, yeah. it’s really hard doing it on your own because if you don’t feel like working then nothing happens. when you’re in a band if you don’t feel like working there’s always somebody else that does.

do you struggle for motivation?
i have struggled with it this time, yeah. it was getting me down and that’s when i quit smoking dope. now i’m feeling really positive about it. every album goes through phases where you feel awful, because you’re just doing it every day. and when you’re on your own, all the ideas have to come from you – although when anyone had an idea in the band i just said it was shit anyway!

did the band change your songs much?
some of them were exactly the same as the demos, some of them changed a lot – it depended on how much of an idea i had about the song. tim was really good at coming up with sounds. if there was ever anything technical going on with loops and samples it was always him. i had no idea how to do that, i had to just explain to him what i wanted. i don’t know how different they were really, it’s hard to tell how much input everybody put in. we were just all in there all the time shouting stuff. with the last one we just recorded until we got drunk – too drunk to record – and then we’d listen to records on these massive speakers and stay up all night. now it’s not so bad in cardiff, but when i was with gorwel doing the fingertip stuff we’d finish work and then we had to just go and sit in the flat.

was it pretty remote then?
yeah it was in anglesey. it was just a little village with one pub. we’d kind of finish at ten and just go for a pint, so that got on top of me as well. that’s why we’ve taken so many breaks in the recording this time. i never used to like taking breaks, i just wanted to get in there and get it finished. with gorwel i was falling asleep whislt i was playing bass.

did that environment infulence the sound of ‘go with yourself’?
i think the environment did yeah. i was trying to make a record like the one i’m making now, and i had hundreds of songs and i didn’t know what i was going to do when i got up there. we didn’t even have a drummer. the drummer came in and played on tracks when they were already finished. it was really quiet, and in all the time i was there it didn’t get light once! it’s a house he built himself and there’s just nothing around at all except this huge raf airfield. so i think it did affect it because that album was quite quiet listening, whereas this is more of a city album.

how is the new sound different?
well, whenever i hear any of our records, i always think of the place where i wrote it. there were two preston albums, two liverpool albums, two london albums – is that it? we must have had more than that. they were all city albums though, and it was only when i went to anglesey that i realised you do get affected by what’s around you, and also because it was only me and gorwel there and we had to play everything. gorwel used to go to this car boot sale every sunday morning and pay 25p for all these mad instruments. it all gave it a distinctive sound, and then there was the fact that i was not all that confident about what i was doing. i’d never sung before, and i’d always had people around me telling me i was great.

are you confident now?
much more so, still not quite there – next album i reckon. i always say that, next album. you always seem to find you get half-way through an album and think ‘if we started it again now it would sound completely different’. this one is defintely getting there. it’s hard to kind of marry the technology with the tunes without sounding too 'soup dragons'!.

is that where richard (richard jackson, who worked with martin on the 'corporation man' single is recording and mixing the new album) comes in?
not really because richard doesn’t know any of the music i’m listening to, so he’s learning this sound as well. and anyway, he’s into classic rock. he came round to mine the other day and i said "what do you want to listen to?". i had all this hip-hop and drum and bass, and he said "have you got any classic rock?". we ended up listening to queen! but he’s into what we’re doing, and he knows the records i play so we’re sort of learning together really.

how do you manage to bring elements of the music you’re listening to into your own songs?
well it’s really hard. i wish i could rap, i’d love to be a really good rapper. i sometimes try it when i’m walking to the shop but i’m fucking useless! i’ve done it to an extent though. one of the new tracks, ‘dive’, starts off as a drum and bass track. i think the next thing i’d like to do would be an instrumental ep, then i can do stuff like that without having to worry about the tunes. at the moment the drum and bass you hear in clubs is nothing like the drum and bass you find on my records. i’d like to go more that way. i’d wanted ‘kingsize’ to be like that, but in that band everyone insisted on playing all the time. you couldn’t do a track without drums, or bass. we did loads of tracks without guitars because i was like, fuck it, i’d rather not play. we were getting there. the problem was that the others weren’t really listening to music anymore, which made it hard for me to get across these new ideas.

might you bring in guest rappers then?
well that’s what i did with the mc mabon record ('the badman rules forever'). have you heard it? it’s pretty rough, we did it in my bedroom. fierce panda asked me to do that. i’m not actually signed to wichita, i just have a licensing deal where i sell my records to them. i don’t even own any of the boo radleys stuff, sony own it all and i didn’t want that to be the case again. so i can record for whoever i want any time i want. the mabon tune was actually a demo i’d done for this new album, and i wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, and i’d wanted to do a single with mabon for ages. he came round to my house and i left him to it upstairs. i went downstairs and watched the bill and all i could hear was him stamping on the floor!

there’s a common theme here of you watching telly whilst your records are being produced in the next room - you were doing it in the studio last night too!
i’m not one of these people who sits through the preliminary mixing saying ‘turn this up, change that’ and so on. i pop in later on and change bits and pieces but it can be such a long drawn out process if you’re there all the time. i need stuff to happen fast.