this whole production thing is just a big load of bollocks to be honest.
IN: Did you have an idea of what you wanted the album to be like before you started and, if so, how does the final thing relate to that original idea? Did it turn out to be something different to what you'd originally intended?
BA: No, it was pretty clear, the sort of record I wanted to make. Once I'd decided or settled on what I wanted to do sonically. There was a lot of experimentation, first of all, because you never really know, you can sort of theorise about it.
The guy that I wrote the record with, that helped me write it and helped me produce it, we did a lot of work together and we did a couple of songs before we kind of established what we were going to write. Sort of songs, I mean musically, what we were going to write. We tried a few different styles and we tried a more electronic approach and then we wrote the song Love Is Dead. That really, for me, suggested how I wanted the record to sound. This was the blueprint and it became the kind of key track in that sense. You know, if you get that song then you'll get the album, sort of thing. Then we knew that we were writing quite epic, quite grand songs based around string loops. Maybe sometimes it's sort of groove based instead of going into some big key changes, it's that sort of record.
It became a really important song for me, Love Is Dead. Lyrically it's really important. It's a very bleak, honest, documentation of a kind of howl of loneliness. But musically it was really interesting as well because it did something that I've never really done before. It doesn't have the big chorus, it just has this flat dynamic that sort of rolls and rolls. You know, it's just a string loop and some vocals and that's all it is and to make that exciting you've got to be quite clever with it. You've got to arrange it quite intricately to make it grow and build and stay interesting. It was a good, sort of like, musical learning thing for me, that song.
IN: The song that really stood out for me was One Lazy Morning because I realised that, throughout all of your work, I can't hear it in anything you've done before. It even feels like a completely different way of writing, lyrically, as well.
BA: Yeah it is.
IN: This feels like the first kind of album that you've really done for yourself. Did you feel like this was something you just did for your own kind of catharsis?
BA: Yeah, but it's not the sort of self indulgent record, obviously I'm aware that there's an audience there as well. It was for myself, but it's a coherent record as well. I think maybe you get that feeling because when I first started doing it, it was very much a kind of side project to The Tears thing. There's a lack of, maybe there's an element where I'm not being careerist at all, within the songs. They're very natural. There almost like songs that I would be writing if I was just, sat on an island somewhere, you know? It was quite a natural process and later when I looked at the songs I realised that, "Oh, these are really good I should make a record out of these," and that's kind of how it happened really.
So yeah, One Lazy Morning is the type of song that I've never really written before and it's good that you've picked that out because, you know, for me it's like new ground, looking at the world in that perspective.
IN: I've had a look through the website and you've got family pictures up on there, shots of you growing up etc. There you talk about the one room in your house where you stick everything to the walls and let your inner child go wild, so to speak and that's where the album cover was shot but what I really like about the album is that, although it's obvious you're opening up quite a bit, it "doesn't have that "I want everybody to love me" attitude that some solo albums have.
BA: It doesn't feel sorry for itself, I don't think. Maybe the closest it comes to that is Love Is Dead, there's a sort of relentless miserablism about that but the rest of it doesn't. I never think of myself in those terms. I don't want people to feel sorry for me because I don't feel sorry for myself. It's almost like charity. It's almost like this horrible weakness and I'd hate for people to feel sorry for me.
IN: So do you feel stronger for having done it?
BA: Making the record? Yeah I do, I feel like I've learnt a fuck of a lot for making it. You know, you make a solo record and if you don't get out of bed, nothing happens, do you know what I mean? You've not got this big machine of a band pulling you along. You make the calls, you get everyone's shit together, you arrange things to a certain extent. You know, I've got people working for me and stuff as well, but to all intents and purposes it's my call on everything . I have to make sure that everything's done how I want it to be done. You know, I co-produced the record and I've never done that before.
It's like, this whole production thing is just a big load of bollocks to be honest. Production is common sense. There's always this mystery, "Oh, who's producing the record?" It's not a big mystery. If you know music and you've got a vague sort of...a few musical bones in your body, you produce it how it should sound and it's kind of easy. There's no big mystery to production.
IN: I don't like it when you can hear that a producer has tried to make it their record.
BA: I hate that, I really hate that. I've found that that's my biggest problem with producers, in inverted commas, generally. The ones that have really pissed me off are the ones where you've got a really great song and they don't even care about anything about the song except how to stamp their personality on it. How to use their twist. It's not necessarily about their fucking ego it's about making the best piece of art that you can and whether that involves their ego or doesn't involve their ego is irrelevant.
I used to have a lot of arguments that Suede have used before that have wanted to take songs that we've written that were absolutely great and kind of turn them into something that didn't suit them. It's very frustrating for me and I wish I had the kind of confidence and presence of mind to have really done something about it. There are songs in the past, Suede songs, that could have been so much better. Things like, from Coming Up, songs like Trash, which is one of the best songs I've ever written and the recording is kind of (sighs) forgettable. I hate the production on that, it makes the song trivial and the song's got a lot of soul. It could have been so much better but you live and learn and you learn from your mistakes.
That's why I wanted to produce this record, not because of some sort of ego statement, "I can produce a record," but just that I wanted to have ultimate control over it. I felt capable of knowing what I was doing enough and it sounds good. You know, there's a clarity to the production, where I'm not kind of, layering loads of things in there because I don't really know what to do. It's like, this part comes in here, this part does that, let's loop this part and choosing those moments, you know? Those are always my favourite sorts of records, those records that are really concisely arranged. You know, you listen to a Beatles record and they had that sort of seperation between the tracks where a guitar will come in for a verse and then you'll never hear it again or a tambourine will appear there, that type of thing. I love that kind of, carefully constructed balancing act of sorts, where there's all these little bricks that just fit perfectly on top of each other.
IN: And everything has a reason to be there.
BA: Yeah you take one brick away and everything falls apart.
IN: I can remember reading, back when The Tears were first recording and you said that you wanted "to get your demons back." Did the whole Tears thing help fulfil everything that you wanted it to?
BA: Yeah it really did actually. I felt like I was re-engaged with what I was doing again and to be honest, towards the end with Suede I really didn't. The last Suede album was really confusing for me because I really didn't know what I wanted the band to be. That's really why we had to split the band up because I'd lost my direction. The album was confused because my mind was confused with what I wanted. It wasn't inspired, blah blah blah.
IN: I seem to remember there were two different versions of it as well.
BA: Yeah there were. There was this awful version and this sort of, well the version you hear. Yeah, it's ok, but it's not at the level that, you know, the quality that we'd set for ourselves. It's an ok record but Suede were never meant to be just ok.
IN: Did you feel like you'd painted yourself into a corner?
BA: Yeah. I'd created this sort of persona for myself and for the band, which was natural, it wasn't like a mask. It's kind of hard to explain. I think people had come to expect certain things out of the band and I think that, very much with the last album, what I was trying to do was to alienate the fan base. It kind of worked, very, very well. (laughs) Probably too well.
IN: So what's next for you? Will we see another Tears album, for instance?
BA: Well I want o make another solo record but I wan to make a sort of band oriented solo record. I'm starting to see the sort of record that I want to make. After that, I don't know. You know, there might be another Tears record, it's not impossible. It was always supposed to be something that we made when we felt like we wanted to do something inspiring or we felt inspired to do it but I think you can only see it a project at a time. I don't have this sort of big scheme of how my life and my career is going to go. The next record I'm going to make is a solo record, because I've already started writing it, but after that, who knows? It could be anything.
Interview : Damian Leslie