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OF THE FIELD MICE & ME – Rob Morgan

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Twenty five years ago today – 21st November 1991 – The Field Mice played their final gig at the Dome in London before splitting up. Huge Field Mice fan and regular contributor to the EIO40 website, Rob Morgan asked us if he could write an article to celebrate their music and what it meant to him. We didn’t need to think about it twice. So have a read as Rob reflects upon the Field Mice songs and albums, how they have impacted on his life and how they introduced him to the world of Sarah Records and indie pop.

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Like so much great music, it was John Peel who introduced me to The Field Mice. In fact it was the listeners rather than Peel himself, as the first time I heard the Field Mice was on the 1989 Festive Fifty. It was their second single “Sensitive” and the first time I heard it I thought “Yes that’s good, I like that…” In fact my diary states “Heard a song which was like the Wedding Present, only a thousand times better”. But it took me a while for the song to worm it’s way into my heart.

I’d taped the Festive Fifty and kept returning to that song, there was something there which drew me in. Was it the wall of guitars which punched through the song? Maybe it was the shy yet powerful words? Or the singer’s lack of forcefulness, which made him sound like me? It was a combination of all of these things – and the fact “Sensitive” was a bloody good song – that won me over. Then there was something else Peel said – “The first Sarah Record to make the Festive Fifty” – what was the significance of that? I should have known this, I read the music papers every week, didn’t I?

During the early Summer of 1990 I started to do some research into what Sarah Records was. At this point, I should mention, I was quite dismissive of the majority of indie pop – sure I loved a lot of the music on Creation Records like MBV, Felt and Ride but most of the C86 music and the jingle jangle nonsense that followed it had passed me by. Indeed the phrase “jingle jangle nonsense” was often quoted from my diary at the time. I loved all the Factory Records acts – especially the more obscure ones like Stockholm Monsters and The Wake – that was more my scene.

But now I wanted to know about Sarah Records. Most of what I found in my stacks of music papers rubbished the output of the label and seemed to back up my prejudice. However my brother had a pile of the fanzine Bucketful Of Brains and lo and behold there was a half page article in there on Sarah, which told me more than the combined knowledge of the music papers. This piqued my interest, and then I noticed that Sarah had issued a compilation called “Temple Cloud” which included “Sensitive”.

I bought the LP early in August 1990 and it opened up a whole new world of music for me. Each of the sixteen songs was brilliant and the three songs by The Field Mice stood out. “Sensitive” was there, sounding loud and proud, while “If You Need Someone” was a perfect pop song, chiming guitars and a lyric I could identify with, and “Song 6” felt like all my thoughts about the beery blokes I was unlucky enough to hang around with and how they treated their girlfriends. These songs spoke to me like few songs I’d heard before.

And I wanted more.

Temple Cloud photo

The day after buying “Temple Cloud” I hurried back to Cardiff and bought the first two mini albums by the Field Mice – a ten inch called “Snowball” and a twelve inch called “Skywriting”. I can still clearly remember getting the records home and examining them on my bed before playing them. “Snowball” was purple, very purple – nothing at all on the front, the barest of details on the reverse. This was as minimal as my beloved Factory Records, and in places it sounded like The Wake or New Order too. Opener “Let’s Kiss and Make Up” pulsed for seven minutes on a bed of sequencers and drum machines while closer “Letting Go” could have come straight from “Harmony”, the debut album by The Wake – the mournful air, the mumbled vocal, the bass leading the way.

Between those two were six songs which veered between Byrds-y jangle pop (“Everything About You” and “Couldn’t Feel Safer”) and deeper more thoughtful songs – “End of the Affair” is tinged with sadness, arpeggio guitars and oboes sighing while “White” is astonishing – a wall of noise guitars, hammered drums and words which cut me deep. Then the lyrics shocked me.

“Time and again I dream about you, I haven’t seen you for so long…do you ever think about me? Where are you now? Wherever you are I hope you are happy and that life is being good to you”.

That lyric would just about sum up how I felt about a number of members of the opposite sex by that point, all those unrequited loves I’d had. And The Field Mice had put it in a song! As if to prove the futility of those thoughts, the singing stopped and huge waves of distorted flanged guitar overtook the song. What a thrilling song, yet so close to my heart.

Field Mice Press Skywriting

If “Snowball” was great, then “Skywriting” was stunning. Every song was different but every song was fantastic. The opener “Triangle” spread out for ten minutes across all of side one and sounded like “Let’s Kiss and Make Up”‘s older brother, more pulsing synths, more drum machines, the bass like Peter Hook, those loud flanged guitars were back, and the minimal lyrics were perfect, lovelorn and hopeless.

Over on side two, The Field Mice swung through country (“Canada”), perfect wistful guitar pop (“Clearer”), tense post punk (“It Isn’t Forever”) and more. The final two songs were a shock. “Below The Stars” was a gorgeous weightless ballad, drifting over six minutes while the singer extrapolates the feelings from “White” – thinking of a lost love, wondering where they are – in a poignant way. If I didn’t have a tear in my eye on that first listen, I’ll say that I’ve listened many times since with tears rolling down my cheeks. Finally “Humblebee” is just odd – a guitar jangles in the distance while a barrage of spoken word samples make a deafening cacophony, it’s like “Revolution #9” for the Indie set, replacing the loop of “Number Nine” with “Chocolate Love Sex” – very disquieting and slightly unnerving.

My clichéd ideas of what a Sarah Records band would sound like were shattered. The Field Mice seemed to be capable of all kinds of music, but with a heart and lyrical honesty that touched my soul. These were songs I’d been wanting to hear – had been trying to write even – all my life, and there was a clear headed, plain speaking honesty which struck a chord with me. The Field Mice were my new favourite band.

Of course I wanted more records by them, so a week later I took another trip to Cardiff and bought the two part “Autumn Store” singles as these seemed to be all that the record shops of Wales’ capital city had at the time. While the five songs across the two singles weren’t the revelation that “Skywriting” had been they still still had their moments. “The World To Me” was a whirlwind of jangles and trumpets, “Anyone Else Isn’t You” tiptoed along the line between twee and sickly while “Bleak” painted a portrait of someone hiding themselves away from life which sounded scarily familiar. Yes, that sounded like me.

Field Mice Press Autumn

By now I was scouring through the music papers for any information on the band, and I didn’t find much. They certainly weren’t on the front page of the NME or Melody Maker. Scanning through back issues I found a few reviews and a very small article on The Field Mice but generally the music press didn’t give them much attention. Around October 1990 Melody Maker made their new EP “So Said Kay” single of the week and that was the first I knew of the new release.

I bought it that day, a big pink ten inch five song EP and gasped in wonder at the new songs. Gone were the sequencers, it was all guitars and occasional string synths, plus percussion, but oh the songs were so good! “Landmark” was slow and resigned and my interpretation of the song was completely different to the MM version. “Holland Street” was an instrumental which built and built to a glorious climax. “Indian Ocean” was hopeful of finding love, which gave me hope.

But there were two outstanding songs – “Quicksilver” and “So Said Kay”. The former had some beautiful heart stopping spine tingling chord changes and a lyric which could have been ripped straight out of my diary and worked well as the final part of a triptych with “White” and “Below The Stars”. On the other hand “So Said Kay” built up slowly from acoustic guitar and oboe, to include a melodic bass, piano, string synth and a lyric which sounded like a cut up conversation, leading to the repeated line “She reached in and placed a string of lights around this heart of mine”. I didn’t know then the lyric was excerpts from the film “Desert Hearts”, I just knew it was special. I taped the EP three times onto a C90 and played it constantly.

There must have been some problem with distribution of records around the winter of 1990 (probably the collapse of Rough Trade Distribution) because it took me ages to find the first two Field Mice singles, finally locating them in March 1991. “Sensitive” was as great as I knew it was, having played it on “Temple Cloud” and the b side “When Morning Comes To Town” was a bittersweet duet about the point a couple start to realise their relationship is over.

Meanwhile the Field Mice’s debut EP was bedroom pop pure and simple – so spare, so stark, the guitars ringing out and the cheap drum machine holding down the beat, and yet again lyrics which cut deep. “Emma’s House” had the same yearning melancholy I heard in their later songs, while “Fabulous Friend” had more heart stopping lyrics – “I’m not brave, I’m not special, I’m not of those things”, that could be my mantra.

Emma September photo

By now I was fully immersed in The Field Mice, desperate for any information on them, and making compilation tapes for friends, trying to convert them because I like to share, I wanted confirmation from other people that The Field Mice were as great as I thought they were. After all the music press were still sniffy about them, the Melody Maker review of their new single “September’s Not So Far Away” was ridiculous nonsense which said nothing about the song itself.

“September…” was wonderful, the band suddenly sounded like a band, the drum machine had been packed away and the song now had a real drummer, and there were more twelve string guitars and male female harmonies – The Field Mice had grown up and turned all their Byrds dreams into reality. On the b side there were only two guitars and two voices but it was just as lovely, memories of love and that yearning again. Around this time I bought a fanzine with a Field Mice interview which started to put some of the pieces of their story into context. The last line was worrying though – asked what their hopes for the future were, lead singer Bob Wratten replied “I hope we make an album before we split up”.

Summer 1991 brought the release of a Field Mice compilation “Coastal”, fourteen songs from their previous records which were starting to sell out. It was great to have some Field Mice on CD – Sarah Records were very much a vinyl label, I think the CDs of their early albums were made through a distribution deal with France. And it was also nice to see “Coastal” receive good reviews in the music press, and for it to reach number one in the Indie album charts. It looked like the Field Mice were more popular than I thought.

September 1991 brought with it “Missing The Moon”, an actual twelve inch single though sold for the price of a seven inch. The title track was everything I had hoped – a huge glowing pulsing indie dance crossover, the kind of song New Order would kill to make, a perfect mix of guitars and electronica, and the song itself was still yearning and beautiful. I bought it three days before “Screamadelica”, so the two records are always entwined in my head. “Missing the moon” got a fabulous write up in the NME, an unexpected surprise. By now I was on the Sarah Records mailing list and a postcard dropped through my letterbox advertising the single, their album “For Keeps” and their tour. They weren’t playing anywhere around South Wales, but I persuaded a friend in Basingstoke to see them in Reading and to buy me a t shirt.

But before that was the new album. “For Keeps” had specific memories attached to it, buying it from Cardiff and borrowing a Martin Amis novel from the library on the way home, so the first listen that October day was the soundtrack to the opening pages of “London Fields”. I soon stopped reading though.

Field Mice For Keeps 2

“For Keeps” was wonderful, with only the occasional mis-step – and frankly that’s the last song so you could always consider the penultimate song as the closer… Or was that just me? But when it’s good, “For Keeps” soars. “Star of David” has more heart stopping chord changes and actually dynamics which only a full band could generate – the move into the chorus is so dramatic and so perfect it hurts. “Coach Station Reunion” is the epitome of joy, jangling twelve strings, whoops of pleasure during the guitar solos. “Tilting At Windmills” is a dreamy drift of hazy melody and wordless harmonies. “Willow” was a lovely acoustic ballad whose words were almost too raw and too honest to listen to, uncomfortable truths.

“For keeps” received some good reviews, particularly from the Melody Maker who also ran a full page article on The Field Mice, so now I knew a lot more about them, how they were more influenced by the Factory aesthetic than the C86 aesthetic. Everything seemed to be going their way at last – good press, good sales, a nationwide tour….

My friend saw them in Reading and said they were brilliant, which was high praise from him as he was a Sub Pop nut – in the letter which accompanied the “Chocolate Love Sex” t shirt he sent me, he bemoaned Nirvana selling out and thought “Nevermind” wasn’t a patch on “Bleach”. There had been good live reviews too, and there was another new song issued on a compilation CD, the song was called “Other Galaxies” and was eleven minutes long, building from a gentle love song of comfort and hope into a huge juggernaut of distorted guitars and feedback. It was a glorious noise, and it was the last song the Field Mice would record.

I can remember the day as vividly as the day I read about The Smiths splitting up. It was a live review of the last gig of the tour in London, and it implied that this was truly the end of The Field Mice, love had brought them together and love had torn them apart. I couldn’t believe it – they seemed on the verge of success, maybe a move to a larger label, it just seemed to wrong. I didn’t know the full story until years later, the sleeve notes to “There and Back Again Lane” and “Where’d You Learn To Kiss That Way?” – he tensions in the group, the problems… It’s not for me to comment, to be honest. I just enjoyed the music.

It’s now 25 years since The Field Mice split up and I still consider their body of work to be pretty much perfect. The records and production are timeless, not limbed to the 80s / 90s crossover by baggy beats or dated instrumental touches. The songs stand up to repeated scrutiny, still reminding me of times past and unrequited loves that really I don’t care about any longer.

The Field Mice were incredibly productive, a large amount of music in a short time scale – and there’s outtakes on reissues and online if you look hard enough. Their influence is more far ranging than it seemed at the time – bands such as The Drums and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have been influenced by them and the Sarah Records style. There’s been a book and a documentary film on Sarah – something which would have been unthinkable twenty five years ago. And to me, The Field Mice are still one of the most important bands I’ve loved – for creating such gorgeous music, for the words which are poignant and true, for opening up the world of Sarah Records and indie pop to me… Those records will always be special to me, and I hope I’ve given some idea of why that is here. The majority of their back catalogue is on Spotify and is definitely worth hearing, the double CD “Where’d You Learn To Kiss That Way?” is great, but if you want a simple introduction to the Field Mice, here’s a dozen of my favourite songs by them.



Also here is the bandcamp link for a free download of the final Field Mice gig

 

Author: Rob Morgan

For further reading please check out our interview with Anne-Mari Davies of The Field Mice HERE

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob writes about music and other less important subjects at his blog A Goldfish Called Regret (agoldfishcalledregret.wordpress.com) and also creates podcasts for Goldfish Radio (https://m.mixcloud.com/robmorgan589).

He never achieved his ambition of making a Sarah Record.

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Thank you to Rob for sharing that and for his valuable contribution to the EIO40 community. If you would like to contribute to our Indie Encounters feature and share your indie moments please email us at indieover40@gmail.com or DM us on Twitter

 

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A View From The Stage – Graham Lambert (Inspiral Carpets)

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We love music, we love the people who love music and naturally we love the people that make music.

So what about those people that make music? What sort of people are they? They like music as well, right? What were they into as kids? Was it the same sort of music we were into? What are they listening to now? What songs did they wish they had written?

We wanted to discover the “music fan” inside these artists, so we decided to find out using a similar format to our Meet The Community feature. By firing a series of short questions at a selected indie artist we wanted to get a bit of an insight into what makes them tick musically.

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In this edition – Graham Lambert (Inspiral Carpets)

Writing an introduction for a Q&A with a founding member and guitarist of one of the most quintessential bands of the 1990s seems rather superfluous. What could we say about someone whose music has been so influential and in no small part was an inspiration for the very existence of EIO40?

It’s remarkable enough when you consider that Graham Lambert started Inspiral Carpets all the way back in 1983 and here they are in 2016, still going and still producing music. Their 2014 self-titled album was a welcome return after a 20 year break and re-united the band with Graham’s 1983 co-founder Stephen Holt.

Of course for many of us it wasn’t until 1990 that the Inspiral Carpets swept into our world on that tide of Madchester with their album Life forming an integral part of the ushering in of that golden age. Conveniently we were recently provided with a perfect example of the impact of the Inspiral Carpets by one of our Facebook group members. In fact, on the very day that we received from Graham by email his response to our Q&A, Rob Weetman posted in our group his own personal refection of what  “This Is How It Feels” meant to him.

Graham Lambert web image FB

Steve from EIO40 provided his own personal observation on the impact of the Inspiral Carpets and the Madchester scene in 1990 for the 2015 Shiiine On festival programme.

GRAHAM SHIIINE

As for the man himself, Graham has had his own little impact in the EIO40 community. He may be one of our heroes and often the subject of our interactions, but he has also contributed to our world like any other community member would.

Going up and down loft ladders is the offically sanctioned fitness workout for EIO40 and it’s members. The resultant photos of unearthed gems shared among the community on Twitter is one of the fuels that keeps us going. So we were delighted to discover in November 2014 that not only did Graham have a loft but had also just been for a bit of a rummage. Obviously he was modest enough to partially obscure his own material with some pre-Intastella Intastella.

GRAHAM LOFT 2

Despite Inspiral Carpets early exit from the Indie Over 40 Cup at the hands of The Jesus & Mary Chain, a result Graham suggested would have been different if we had introduced drug tests, he was good enough to acknowledge the efforts of @bringitonskippy whose own loft ladder workout session and rummage sadly wasn’t enough to secure a victory on that day.

GRAHAM SKIPPY

More recently Graham kindly agreed to join the panel of celebrity judges for our 2016 Alternative Murcury Prize. We are most grateful to Graham for taking the time to get involved in that feature and can report he executed his duties with suitable diligence. We are sure some of you are curious to know which albums Graham voted for, however we made a commitment with the Murcury judges that we wouldn’t divulge their Top 3 to the outside world. Therefore we are unable to tell you that Graham voted for The Coral, Bill Ryder-Jones and Suede.

We’ve never met Graham but he comes across a thoroughly decent chap as well as generous (that we can vouch for), so let’s discover a bit more about him…

1) Where did you grow up?

I was born in a suburb of Oldham called Chadderton. Oldham is an old mill town. It was my home then and is now.

2) What posters did you have on your bedroom wall as a teenager?

I have an older sister, Christine, so I occasionally had posters from her Look-ins and Jackie magazines. Glam idols such as Slade, Sweet and T-Rex, this was obviously around 1975. As I got older I went more football related and had a massive poster of Mick Channon of Southampton as well as Glenn Hoddle. My first purchased music pin-up was a Daily Star David Bowie poster.

I became a massive Bowie fan although for me he ran out of steam after Scary Monsters. Around this time I accidently stumbled across John Peel, he had Psychedelic Furs in session. I actually thought I’d misheard and it was an early Bowie demo. What a band! 3 albums of pure class.

3) What was the first record you bought?

One Saturday morning in the 70’s I persuaded my Dad to take me to Oldham indoor market so I could splash my pocket money on Metal Guru by T-Rex. My Dad, ever the frugal, tried to dissuade me by informing me if I waited it would be less than half price in two weeks time.

I remember saying he bought Shirley Bassey and those Top of The Pops compilation albums on the week of release. He couldn’t really argue.

Once we got home I recall marvelling at the 7 inch single in a beautiful deep blue single sleeve with the red T-Rex logo. I was hooked.

4) What moment made you want to become a singer/artist/musician?

There wasn’t really one specific moment. Round our way we played football in the winter, cricket in the summer as kids then. As we got older and discovered Joy Division and Magazine everyone tried to play some kind of instrument.

Friends fell by the wayside due to a combination of alcohol, musical views and female distraction. I ended up sat on the end of my bed writing songs and discussing our love of Echo & The Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, Talking Heads and rebelling against bands such as U2 and The Beatles with vocalist Stephen Holt.

We were all massive John Peel fans and when he started his show with our first single on Wed 6 July 1988, the path of the band changed. We had to dig up our goalposts and relocate them.

5) How much did you get paid for your first gig?

We played at The Mare and Foal public house in Oldham-which is now an Indian restaurant-on 19 April 1986 for £30. The pub was full of friends, fellow Oldham bands and workmates. We covered Bob Dylan’s ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ and Velvet Underground’s ‘What Goes On’.

I wasn’t fooled by the full house and I knew we had to get down to Manchester and ultimately London to get anywhere. There was no way we were going to spend a lifetime playing in pubs doing cover versions.

GRAHAM 1

6) Do you have a particularly memorable gig you performed at?

Every gig is memorable for one reason or another. I recall the above shows in Oldham, playing in Halle Eastern Germany to about 10 people, G-Mex in 1990 and 91, The River Plate Stadium in Argentina and I have vivid memory of the last show we did at Leeds Academy in Dec 2015.

7) Who would you most like to perform with on stage?

Hahaha I haven’t a clue when our next show will be so my answer is Stephen Holt, Clint Boon, Martyn Walsh and Craig Gill………..the Inspiral Carpets . File me under unadventurous as a musician. I like my band mates and their company. I find them funny, charming & talented. I have no desire to go through the process of getting to ‘musically know’ any other musicians.

8) What is the best venue you have played at?

Hmmm good question. I suppose most venues have their inimitable charm, it’s all about the people and the vibe. It’s been amazing to play at Shepherds Bush Empire and Koko in London in recent years, two fantastic historical music venues.

GRAHAM 3

9) What song would you most like to have written (not your own)?

James – Getting Away With It
Von Bondies – C’mon C’mon
Rolling Stones – You Can’t Always Get What You Want
Thirteenth Floor Elevators – Slip Inside This House
Nick Cave – Rings of Saturn
The Cramps – Smell of Female EP
Toydrum with Gavin Clark – I Got a Future
Shel Naylor – One Fine Day
Violent Femmes – Hallowed Ground
Hank Williams – Alone & Forsaken

10) If you weren’t a singer/artist/musician what would have been?

I was working at Taylor & Clifton Printers in Uppermill, Oldham when the band took off but I wanted to be a footballer, farmer or cricketer.

11) What are you listening to at the moment? Any recommendations?

I love Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds  ‘Skeleton Tree’ & the new Aphex Twin album/EP but between 7am and 9pm Mon to Friday I’m a BBC 6Music fan.

12) What are you up to at the moment?

The band are currently writing songs which will be the next album. I have no idea when it will see the light of day. We’ll let you know. (make sure you do. Ed)


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Thank you to Graham Lambert for taking part in our Q&A and for providing an enjoyable insight into his musical world.

You can find Graham & the Inspiral Carpets at these places

Graham Lambert on Twitter
Inspiral Carpets on Twitter
Inspiral Carpets on Facebook

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Meet The Community – The Sweet Cheat

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Here we divert our attention away from the artists and bands and shine a light on some of those individuals whose contributions in our social media world have been an invaluable source of musical joy. By asking a series of 10 questions we want to get inside the mind of a selected community member and understand their indie DNA.

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In this editionThe Sweet Cheat @thesweetcheat

Whenever we’ve signed up the next victim for our Meet The Community feature, we usually try and write the intro before we’ve taken delivery of their interview answers so as not be influenced by them. Let’s present them only as we have experienced them up to that point and then sit back as their world opens up before us.

For some this is an easier task than others. Our Moleskine page on The Sweet Cheat shows that we Sweet Cheat profilemade the following preliminary notes for our intro:-

Johnny Vegas
PG Tips
Stonehenge
Julian Cope
Cockney Matt Johnson
1992
Gedge’s Mini

One look at The Sweet Cheat’s Twitter profile pic, bio and banner will explain why the first three instantly sprung to our mind.  Of course it’s then not such a leap from Stonehenge to Julian Cope if you are aware of his passion outside of music, a passion clearly shared by The Sweet Cheat. You see, not only is The Sweet Cheat a member of The Modern Antiquarian community, he is also by far it’s leading contributor with over 10,000 posts credited. Amazing stuff.

However, it’s The Sweet Cheat’s musical side we are trying to tap into so we’ll leave the archaeophile behind and get to know the audiophile better.

Our first contact with The Sweet Cheat came on the 5th July 2014. We’d just tweeted “Cockney geezer” Matt Johnson’s music video for The The’s “Out Of The Blue (Into The Fire)” and there he suddenly appeared with “Never seen the video for this before. Classic” in response. And so it began.

Not sure that The Sweet Cheat has ever been far away from our world since that day. Sharing music, sharing photos, sharing memories with us and the community as a whole and week in week out. We look upon a comment or interaction from The Sweet Cheat as a form of validation. If they were awarding indie Kitemarks, The Sweet Cheat would be at the head of the queue.

It is the 11th January 2015 that is tattooed in our consciousness and when we probably really bonded with The Sweet Cheat. As guest judge on our #30yearsofindiealbums interactive feature, The Sweet Cheat presided over that not insignificant year in indie history, 1992. The strain of running a daily event was beginning to take it’s toll on us by that point and when 1992 came out of the hat we knew a safe pair of hands was essential if we were going to make it to Day 12. The Sweet Cheat didn’t let us down on that balmy and intense winter Sunday. He took the strain, soaked up the pressure and even managed to ensure maximum respect all round by declaring PJ Harvey’s “Dry” as the winner that day.

The fact of the matter is that The Sweet Cheat has become an integral part of the EIO40 community and for that we are forever grateful. Long may our interactions continue.

As for Gedge’s Mini? You’ll have to read on for that…so without further ado let’s meet The Sweet Cheat

1) Where did you grow up?

A little village in Herefordshire. No venues, no record shops. But it did gain a small footnote in indie history when (a) John Peel made the draw to win the Wedding Present’s mini live on Wonderful Radio 1 and (b) Mr Gedge delivered the mini to the village.

2) What first got you into “indie” music?

I don’t think it was any one thing but a gradual awareness of what I liked, which came to a head around 1988/89 when I was 15 or so. My Dad was a big music lover so there was always music on at home. My early musical loves were The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel, then when I was old enough to buy my own music Madness featured heavily.

I used to listen to the Top 40 on a Sunday evening and I was drawn to some less mainstream entries. I remember The The (“Heartland”) and Julian Cope (“Eve’s Volcano”) making an impression without me going as far as buying the records.

I also had a bit of a rock phase when I was about 12 or 13, off the back of which I got into stuff like Sisters of Mercy. The Floodland album was a big favourite. But actually I’ve always liked pop songs so I was probably spending most of the time listening to Madness, the Pet Shop Boys and the second Frankie Goes To Hollywood album.

I think 1988 was probably the first year when I really paid attention to what you might call indie music. Morrissey and New Order got my attention then, and I had a couple of friends who widened my listening. One got into The Wonder Stuff when they first appeared and the other lent me Seventeen Seconds by The Cure and played me Cardiacs, which blew my mind a bit. So there was a bunch of stuff that all seemed to coincide around that time.

1988/89 was a big period in my musical education, Viva Hate, Technique, Disintegration, 8 Legged Groove Machine, My Nation Underground, Sidewalking, Bizarro, Doolittle, Personal Jesus, The Stone Roses, Hallelujah, Candleland, Joy Division’s Substance. It all seemed to come at once.

3) What was the first “indie” record you bought?

Probably “Everyday Is Like Sunday”, although it wasn’t on an independent label. The Smiths passed me by during their lifetime, but Viva Hate made a big impression. I also owe that record for my love of the Durutti Column.

4) What was your favourite record shop?

In Hereford there was Our Price and Woolworths (and John Menzies for tapes), but the best shop there was an independent called Hedgehog. It sold a mixture of new and second hand stuff. If we were feeling flush though, me and my mates would get the bus to Birmingham, which took about 2 and half hours – it was really exciting to go to HMV on New Street and buy New Order 12” singles (Factory kept the back catalogue available) and Tempest was brilliant as well, you could get stuff like Big Black which would have been impossible to find in Hereford.

5) What music magazines did you read?

NME, every week from 1989 (2000AD before that!). Occasionally Sounds but I was always pretty sniffy about Melody Maker. By the early 90s I was buying Select which sometimes did brilliant cover-mount cassettes, there was a Factory one which got my interest pretty early in Select’s lifespan. Britpop kind of killed it though.

6) What was your first “indie” gig?

We had a teacher at school who was into alternative stuff and he arranged for us to go to Newport to see The Mission in 1990, so that would have been the first proper one (apart from local bands). Support was Power Of Dreams. He also arranged a school trip to The Great British Music weekend at Wembley, which had Billy Bragg, Carter USM, Ride, New Model Army, Jesus Jones, The Wedding Present and The Cure as headliners, which was pretty brilliant.

7) What was your most memorable “indie” gig? And why?

The first time I saw Cardiacs, at the Duchess of York in Leeds in 1995. I’d been a big fan since their first proper album but never got to see them. Then they announced a tour to promote their albums being released on CD, I think they were getting some exposure as well because they were going to support Blur at Mile End later that year. I was really excited beforehand, I went on my own because no-one I knew like them. The Duchess was a relatively small venue with a low stage, so plenty of opportunity to get up close.

Anyway, they played a blistering gig, really theatrical as well. I remember them having water pistols and waving little flags, like the kind you put on sandcastles probably. There was a quiz at one point, where the audience had to guess what colour poo Jim the bassist had done – I think the answer was black. For an encore they were joined onstage by the support band Sidi Bou Said (who did a nice line in sounding like Throwing Muses playing Cardiacs) for “Big Ship”. Absolutely brilliant.

8) What 3 “indie” albums would you take to a desert island?

The first two are easy: Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures and New Order’s Technique. A third is harder because I’d probably want a bit of variety. For today I’ll take Reading, Writing & Arithmetic by The Sundays.

9) What “indie” band/artist would you most like to meet?

I get ridiculously shy and hopeless when I meet anyone famous. I’ve talked to David Gedge a couple of times and accosted Vini Reilly over a hotel breakfast table but I don’t really know what to say. Maybe I’d pick Steve & Gillian Morris because they always seem nice in interviews.

10) What one song defines your indie-ness?

“Dream Attack” by New Order. The opening verse says it all really:
“Nothing in this world can touch the music that I heard/When I woke up this morning/It put the sun into my life, cut my heartbeat with a knife/It was like no other morning”


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A huge thank you to The Sweet Cheat for taking part. Hope you enjoyed this insight into his indie-ness.

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