september 2001

part 3 of 3

are you ever tempted to write something similar to ‘wake up boo!’ just to sell more records?
you make it sound like it’s easy, and if i could i would. i’ve got to say i listen to ‘wake up!’ now, and there’s some weird stuff on there considering it was a number one album. i didn’t write ‘wake up boo!’ to do that, i mean, when i wrote it i knew it would sell a lot of records, but there’s six months between finishing it and putting it out and you never know what radio one are going to be playing when it comes out. ‘wake up boo!’ just happened to fit in with what they were into at that time. it all seems so impossible now, but we had two records on the a-list. we released ‘find the answer within’ and it went straight on there, but i remember hearing them saying ‘the boo radleys have a new single out today called ‘find the answer within’, here’s ‘wake up boo!’’, and we knew we were in trouble then.

did you hope ‘free huey’ would get to that level?
we hoped it would. i wasn’t too disappointed that the radio didn’t take to it though, i was disappointed that a lot of fans didn’t seem to like it. in fact i think a lot of people hated it. i always hated boo radleys singles though, i thought all the best stuff was on the albums. the singles weren’t really representative of what we were about. i remember creation didn’t want to release ‘wake up boo!’, they thought it was too commercial. they thought it would alienate a lot of our fans, but look how many fans we gained through it.

what would the second single from that album have been if you hadn’t split up?
well we were going to release ‘kingsize’, and i’ve got promo copies of the single at home, but creation obviously thought there’d be no point in going ahead with it. ‘free huey’ was my choice of single and not theirs, so that was all my fault as well! i was the only one that wanted that to be the first single and i held my breath until it came out. the record company wanted to put ‘comb your hair’ out, but at the time there was a lot of indie-guitar music around and we didn’t want to just go along with that. it’s a great song though isn’t it? when i wrote it i was convinced i’d ripped somebody off, which i obviously didn’t because i’d never thought about what it was until it was finished. looking back, if we’d have released ‘comb your hair’ it would have been a big hit, but that would have just meant us having to carry on a bit longer but my heart wasn’t in it and i didn’t want to. maybe subconciously i knew that releasing ‘free huey’ would fuck us for good.

what’s your opinion of ‘free huey’ now?
oh i love that record! not a lot of people do though. i can’t even remember how it charted, i just know that halfway through that album i decided i’d had enough. there came a stage in the recording of that album when i just went into auto-pilot. i just finished the job and then sice went off and did the video on his own.

did the band know how you were feeling at this stage?
sice knew, but the other two didn’t. i remember me and sice driving down from liverpool to london to tell the other two that it was over, and it was one of the worst days of my life. we called at tim’s but he wasn’t in! we had to go to sice’s mum’s house, and we just giggled on the kitchen floor like we did when we were kids because we were so nervous. then, just as we drove into archway where i lived, john peel played ‘the old newsstand at hamilton square’, and we stopped the car to listen to it. peel hadn’t played us for years. he was going on about the fact that he used to buy the nme at that newsstand, which i knew because i’d read an article where he was talking about it, and that’s why i wrote the song, because i bought the nme there too.

so how did tim and bob react when you finally broke the news?
i was surprised how shocked they were. i thought we were having a really shit time. we’d just done this massive american tour and it was awful, and there were times when i thought that the others weren’t enjoying it, and that made me feel as though i should stop it because i suppose i was the only one that could. sice felt the same. he’d had enough since…well, since the first album really! no, it was ‘wake up!’ i think. he didn’t do any interviews for that album. so he was relieved. he had a family and wanted to do other things, and he hated the music business.

when you split the band did you know you’d eventually go solo?
i suppose i did, but i’d tried everything else first. i signed a deal where i was supposed to write songs for other people. did a bit of producing which i hated. in the end this was all there was left to do.

who were you asked to write for?
i was given a huge list, and i picked out kylie minogue and wrote a song for her. there was another american band, two kids, i can’t remember what they were called. anyway, i wrote this song around ‘abc’ by the jackson five which is my favourite record ever. so i demoed those, but then i realised that they wanted to take my songs and do them the way they wanted them, and i just can’t write music like that. i’m actually thinking of writing a kylie song for the new album – i’m just trying to think of the right way to do it. the thing is with those deals, you get told how she wants the song, and you have to picture yourself as kylie singing it, and you just end up thinking ‘why doesn’t she write her own fucking songs?’. the other thing is when you do that, you have to give them half the credit, which i wasn’t prepared to do. sophie ellis-bextor wanted me to do a song with her as well, she wanted a song that sounded like the cardigans, and all these other bands that i hated.

so what made you finally go solo?
it was a confidence thing. i just didn’t have the bottle to do it for about a year, until i met ali, my manager, who was also the super furry’s manager. mark at wichita played him some demos and we took it from there. until i went to gorwel’s i didn’t know i could sing.

some of those early gorwel sessions were almost like demos weren’t they?
don’t tell him that! no, that was the idea with the first fingertip saint album. i didn’t want to do the big production thing that the boos had got into. i’d got bored of it. i’d been in a band for 12 or 13 years. i’d gone to work in a job i hated just to buy amps and guitars and we’d hire a van to drive to london and play for nothing. there was no ‘plan b’ if that failed. i’d just fucked around in school because i wanted to be in a band. i couldn’t do anything else, and in the end i was drained, and the records we were making people didn’t seem to like as much as they used to. you get to a point where you just think ‘why don’t i just do this by myself?’.