“The last thing I wanted to do was one vanity solo album and go back to Supergrass” – hmv.com talks to Gaz Coombes
When you’ve done the same thing for 17 years, starting something new must be pretty daunting, but one-time Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes seems to have taken to life as a solo artist with ease.
His debut album Here Come The Bombs was a rollicking hayride of a record, full of experimentation and verve, which did well enough and enabled him to tour the world once again.
Now he’s back with second record Matador, a lean, muscular rock record, but still with plenty of madcap diversions and bizarre touches.
He talks us through the making of the album, why he wanted to record instinctively and why he’s not worried about people calling for Supergrass songs at gigs…
When did you start work on the album?
“I started writing the first bits at the end of 2013. ‘Buffalo’ was the first track I finished and after that was finished I decided I’d pretty much put it out straight away. I wanted to give people a vibe of what I was up to and that was really the seed for the album, it was where I was going sonically and stylistically.”
You’ve pretty much recorded the whole thing yourself haven’t you?
“Mostly. I had my friend Loz Colbert with me for a bit, he plays drums in my band I got him in to record four songs, songs where my ability on the drums just wasn’t enough and I need professional help. My brother played on ‘Buffalo’ too, but it’s mainly me, I recorded it as I went along.”
Where did you make the record?
“I have a home studio, I work through things, get everything down and then once I was ready I ventured into another studio with a friend of mine who’s an engineer called Ian Davenport and he helped me get it right. It was nice to hand over all the technical stuff.”
What ambitions did you have for the record?
“This record has all been done instinctively. I wanted an instinctive record, I didn’t want to think about anything for too long, I wanted to move quickly”.
Do you know quickly when a song is worth finishing and when it isn’t?
“I’m pretty good at that. I’ve got good friends around me and I’ve had the same management for years and years, so they have no problem telling me if I’m wasting my time on a track. I go through sessions all the time and see if there’s any worth finishing".
How did you want the album to move on from Here Come The Bombs?
“It was more a case of seeing what came out and finding out what I gravitated towards. ‘Buffalo’ gave me a steer, I knew the direction I wanted to take the record in once I finished that track. Instrumentally I wanted to keep it simple, I wanted it to sound like it could be played by a three-piece band, I wanted it to be more direct. The first record had a lot of experimentation, like most first solo albums do, I wanted to relax more this time.”
Have you ever ditched any songs because they sounded too much like Supergrass?
“No, I think my writing’s just in a different place now. The way I conceive songs is totally different to being in a band. I can start with anything, a loop or a drum beat. It’s a lot more single-minded, which is great. I’ve embraced the fact that I’m evolving and changing.”
Are you used to being a solo artist now?
“I feel like I’ve got momentum now. I can already see album number three calling me and that momentum really excites me. The last thing I wanted to do was one vanity solo album and go back to the band. I never intended to go solo when I came out of Supergrass, I just started writing and it felt great and I thought ‘F**k it, I’ll put a record out’. I’ve never expected all the Supergrass fans to jump onboard.”
What kind of record is this lyrically?
“It’s hard for me to sum up. It’s varied, it’s very light and dark, it goes from great highs to everything falling apart around you. It’s a total mixture of light and dark. When I write a couple of lines tend to come straight away and then the rest is hard work. Occasionally I’ll write a song and the lyrics fly out, but I’m really picky with my lyrics, I dither around for ages over single words.”
Why did you decide on Matador for the title?
“It’s a very direct word and a real statement. The heart of the record is based on the idea of battling this beast that’s stampeding towards you and having to dodge it. I think we all have times like that and we have to get through it. That and it’s a cool word.”
What are your plans for taking it out live?
“I’ve got February all around the UK and Europe, then off to Japan and then it’s pretty much festival season. Touring, making videos, it’s going to be a big year.”
What kind of set are you going to be playing?
“It’s definitely going to be focused on the new material, because, selfishly, it’s what I want to play. It’ll be that and the first album. I have a rule of thumb that I don’t really touch Supergrass songs. If something breaks down or there’s a technical problem, it’s good to do a quick acoustic ‘Moving’ or something spontaneous, but I want those songs to remain with Supergrass.”
Have people stopped asking for Supergrass songs at shows?
“I don’t know if they ever did. I have more respect for my fans to think that they’re there to hear all that. I think they’re excited to hear new music, I want new music and a buzz, I’ve never got to grips with this whole nostalgia trend that’s taken over the music industry in the last five years. You’ve got to look forward.”
Gaz Coombes’ new album Matador is released on Monday (January 26th) and is available to pre-order in store now.