Supergrass came into the British scene about five years ago with their first album I Should Coco. They were from Oxford and added some light to Radiohead's dark. Gaz Coombes, David Goffey, and Mick Quinn became a success in the high year of Britpop, 1995.
After five years, many of those bands are no longer with us due to drugs and record company mergers. But Supergrass, with their new third album seem ready for some American notice. We always take a few years to get into something, and it takes a few albums for us to consider it a serious relationship. Supergrass has recently broken into some serious Britney Spears time on MTV, with their video "Pumping On Your Stereo." Their tour this spring has been nearly sold out, including three sold out nights in Los Angeles, where I saw them, at The Roxy, in Hollywood. Their show was strong and they stuck to the hits and most people were up for it. They played with a keyboardist, Rob Coombes. Next fall we will be hearing more from Supergrass when they tour with Pearl Jam. I talked to bassist Mick Quinn right before the tour started in New York City, at The Bowery Ballroom.
Interview with Bassist Mick Quinn
AL: I was over in London a few months ago and saw the "Pumping On Your Stereo" video. I thought it was brilliant. How did that come about?
Mick: It's pretty straightforward really. We couldn't use our regular directors because they were too busy doing another video. We looked around for some other directors, and we came up with Gus Jennings, who had worked with other people like Bentley Rhythm Aces. The puppets was his idea. It looked like the most interesting thing to do. Our other video for "Mary" was just us playing in the basement of a house with the family upstairs.
AL: You came out with this record pretty fast.
Mick: We spent a year touring the album before. We had a month holiday. Then we spent three months writing songs for the new album. So it was a fast turnaround really. We spend a lot of time on tour at soundchecks writing new stuff or coming up with new ideas. This is just one album in a long line of them.
AL: You are all from Oxford?
Mick: Pretty much. I'm seven years older than Gaz Coombes. Ten years ago I was probably kicking his head in at the playground. He was a little kid. We used to see each other around. I knew Gaz's brother, Rob, who plays keyboards in the band. We all have the same sense of humor, so it does make life easier. What Rob does in the band is quite comfortable. I don't think he's interested in having his face in magazines or doing interviews. He's never been forced into it.
AL: Danny Goffey is also the silent member in another band, Lodger. What do you think of Lodger and doing things outside of the band?
Mick: They do some quite interesting music. I get enough from Supergrass that I don't need to do any side projects. It's fair enough if Danny wants to do that because he's an energetic person. He needs things like that to inspire him.
AL: What are your expectations for this American tour? You've done tours here before, but it seems that people are ready to see Supergrass this time around.
Mick: My expectations are to sell more records and to have a higher profile in America. I don't really have any more expectations for our gigs in America. We've played live before and we've gone down really well. I'm not too worried about playing the gigs. It's the other end of it that I'm worried about, like what the record company are going to do to promote us, and can we catch the imagination of the media, as well with the live audience. It's apparent that we're bigger in Europe and Britain, than we are in America. You shouldn't think that you'll be able to crack the States anymore than anywhere else. I can't think of any British band that has cracked wholeheartedly in the States in the last ten years. If it takes ten or fifteen years to make it big in America, I don't really care. I'm not in a big hurry.
AL: How do you go about creating the songs? Does Gaz come up with some ideas and the band responds?
Mick: Not really. We all write pretty equally. We all come up with original ideas. Danny came up with the original idea for "I Should Coco." Gaz wrote most of "Moving." Or I came up with "Mary" on the new album. It's all very equal. No one is the main songwriter or lyricist or anything. It's a three-way split in every sense of the word.
AL: The new record seems upbeat and positive. Does that reflect a feeling of the last few years?
Mick: I don't know if it's upbeat or the last one was downbeat. We wanted to create a lot more space and air in the songs. It's more of a relaxed album I think. I don't know if it has anything to do with our psyche. I don't know if we're generally more happy now than in the past. I think that we're generally more relaxed about things if anything.
AL: Was Glam music and David Bowie always an influence?
Mick: Yeah, well on "Pumping." There's two elements of we are into Glam music and I'm a Bowie fan. It also comes from the production on the record, and the fact that we're basically producing it ourselves. We don't know how to do a professional job, so we just throw it together and it ends up sounding like a Glam track. There were certain instances where Danny didn't hit the snare loud enough so we all had to clap over the snare. In the end it sounds like Bowie. We like to produce things ourselves because it's cheaper.
AL: Are you doing some Festivals this summer?
Mick: Yeah. We're doing V2000 and T in The Park. One in Greece. We played most of the major festivals in 1995. It's going to be a busy year.