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Interview with

The Verve

‘Forth’ is the first THE VERVE album in almost ten years. Here you learn how it was to be back together in the studio after such a long time and a bit about how everyone’s changed in these ten years. THE VERVE ‘FORTH’ CUES - The following audio (18 tracks, means 18 questions) comes from an interview with Steve Lamacq and all four members of the Verve (Richard [R], Simon [S], Pete [P] and Nick [N]), in London in July 2008.


Question: So, the band were back together. How did the call re the recall, as it were, actually happen? Anyone remember?

Nick McCabe (N): It kind of came via Pete really. I got an invite to play with a certain band that had lost their guitarist over the summer and they were doing festivals and stuff and, I think, that kind of reintegrated me and Pete talking regularly. I mean, we talked quite a lot over the years anyway. We’ve always remained friends. I think through that Richard might have got wind of Pete being in discussion with me about various things and I got the call one day. ‘Are you sitting down, Nick?’ ‘Yeah, what’s happened? Nothing bad, is it?’ ‘Richard wants to get the band back together. What do you think?’ And I kind of had a moment of hesitation and, ‘Yeah.’ At that point I’d kind of rationalised a lot of, you know, all of us have grown up, had a lot of time to think about things. Hopefully, we’re older and wiser and it just seemed…. I mean, I’ve put a huge chunk of my life into this and there is no way that I would turn my back on it if there was ever a chance of it working again. It’s really not for, you know, money’s nice. If you get paid to be in a band there is nothing better really, going to different countries and, you know, getting paid to play in front of thousands of people. What’s wrong with that, you know? So, yeah, it was at a point where I’d kind of made my peace with it and come to understand a lot of things that were quite silly at the time really and I think me and Si, because we’re probably the closest out of the lot of us, and we sort of arrived at the same point at the same time, I think really, so it just seemed a very natural thing to do.

Peter Salisbury (P): Yeah, definitely.

Simon Jones (S): Yeah, absolutely amazing experience.

(P): Long time thinking it would never happen, earlier on, or like last ten years so to actually get another album and especially of that quality is brilliant, you know what I mean? Keep you the rest of your life.

Richard Ashcroft (R): I can’t quite put a precise date on it because it seems, now it seems like a long time ago but it was just a series of phone calls. It was quite a sunny day in the garden and suddenly this shocking brainwave arrived in my mind to see what they thought about… You know, maybe the time was right and maybe the climate was right or maybe we were old enough to be able to deal with it and just make a noise was the primary motive, I think, for getting the band back together was putting those individuals in a room and creating a sound. I think we’re at a good age. We’re not particularly old, we’re not past it. I think we’ve still got our musical sensibilities so really that was the primary motive. Obviously there’s baggage and things like that you’ve got to sift through. There always will be. It’s no bed of roses. It’s not some Mills & Boon scene running down the beach, you know, with the sunset. It’s none of that.  It’s a case that these four people make a pretty unique sound together. ‘Are you up for it?’ ‘Yeah.’ So, first day in the studio: I guess everyone must have been a little bit nervous. Pete, were you?

P: I was there first, so I went in, took my drums in, set up and then I sat waiting for everyone to come in individually, but yeah, I was a little bit, but we went in and started playing, it was great.

S: It was quite easy. Richard picked me up from the station in his mini, and brought us down to the studio, had a bit of a coffee and a chat for an hour and after that we were playing music. It was like old times, really, you know.

P: You can hear it on the record, all the excitement of our actually being in a room together playing.

S: And I think, you know, what was amazing is to know after all that time to still have that chemistry and not really have to like discuss much about it.  It’s just like, ‘Right, this is what we do and it sounds amazing.’ It was instantly so satisfying to be able to pick up your instruments and do that, because the first time we all met was actually in the studio and all our gear was set up so, you know, that was a thrill in itself, just being able to do that, and the first week we recorded the majority of the album really, in the first couple of weeks to be honest. It was that quick. Having not played together for such a long you have a backlog of like riffs and ideas and things and they’ll come in, you know, maybe subconsciously, and obviously Richard brings completed songs to the table or songs that have maybe got a verse and they’ll be jammed and, different processes for different songs really, but a lot of what we do is from jamming, because that’s how we learned to play together really when we were sixteen in Wigan. It was just a matter of locking ourselves in a little, dingy room, not, just like this actually but with black curtains, for days on end, coming out in the daylight, you know, from the age of sixteen really, seventeen.


Question: It’s been said in the past that this band does better under stress. Richard, does THE VERVE thrive on tension?

R: Probably not, no. I mean, I can function in a studio without tension and I actually think the history of this band’s proved that the tension is not necessarily in the making of the music. It’s probably what goes on beyond that. It’s nothing to do with the act of creativity. The music making side of it isn’t driven by friction actually. It’s driven by unity. The only place that we can find a single voice or a true understanding of each other is probably when we’re actually making music anyway, so, you know, and I think we’re old enough now to take it as it comes, you know. We’re not going to go out, tour the world twice over. We’re not going to put ourselves in any of those positions. We’re not going to burn the name The Verve out in one big bang, you know. We’ve made this record and we’re going to play some gigs and, you know, in a way we’re almost approaching it in a much clearer way, I think, and a way that can keep the name of The Verve alive because another motivation was I couldn’t quite get in my head why on earth The Verve should be considered to be something that isn’t alive when the songs live every day on the radio still. Some songs that are ten years old sound very fresh today and very contemporary, lyrically because they’re dealing with quite basic human emotions, they’ll never go out of time so, if we want to make a record in five years’ time we’ll make it. If we don’t, we won’t but we’ll never, I hope, condemn the band to a sort of elephant’s graveyard of rock n roll.


Question: So, over the 10 years that have passed, who’s changed?

P: Well, I’ve got better, I know that, but it’s still the same influences, still the same ideas and same things.

S: Yeah, I mean, I’ve been doing a lot of playing with a lot of other people over the last ten years and that’s definitely made me a better musician. I mean, I never really want to get to that point where I’m some virtuoso guitar player, and I don’t think I ever will be, you know, but having played with other people the really great thing that I did was I did the live shows with The Gorillaz and working with Damon, that was a pure inspiration actually because to see someone so in love with the music and, you know, how much it matters and, you know, other artists. It’s good to get a totally different insight into how other people work, you know, compared to how we work. Having come from like jam based things end up working with artists who are maybe more, who are songwriters and really set in what they do and how they do it. For me, that’s made me grow as a musician so I think I’m much more confident than I was as a seventeen year-old going in to make the first record, definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, you know.

N: It’s a funny thing actually, because as Pete and Si have got better and better it’s almost like, I feel like it’s my duty to sort of rough it round the edges really, it’s a bit of a bizarre one really that. I’ve got more comfortable with it over the years but I’m more interested in Sonics. It’s something to trigger effects, really, like, and what I’ve come to realise over the years is it’s more satisfying for me to have this like kind of reduced thing that, somebody said something slightly derogatory about me being a colourist and that’s probably what I do. I mean, art is like that. Given the framework of what’s happening, like, especially with Richard’s songs, it’s gratuitous to sort of just plaster on more of the same really so, in certain circumstances like, that’s easier for me and I like that.

R: I think the key points that I look for, or wanted to enjoy again or get out of it were, see, there’s a moment in Judas where it changes and, for want of a better word, the chorus happens. That was instantaneous and that was, you know, a synergy, a moment where everybody’s completely in tune and the whole thing changes and nobody cues anybody. Nobody has a clue what’s going to happen, but it happened and those kind of accidents and moments are the things that really excited me about working with these people again because that’s the kind of stuff that we were always luckily really good at was improvisation and making things up off the top of our heads. That kind of thing was exciting really, you know.


Question: Richard, have any of these new songs been kicking around in your head, waiting for the chance THE VERVE might play them?

R: Yeah, I mean I’ve had a couple of the ideas for a while. A song like Appalachian Springs I’ve attempted to record a couple of times. The songs I brought to the table were perhaps through the first few weeks of listening to what we were creating together collectively, I started getting an idea of maybe the tunes that I could think of that could fit into this atmosphere, mood that we were creating. I mean along with mortality, and things that happen later on in my life, it gave me a sense of position in the scheme of things and urgency, an urgency to do something and also I would hate to just spread a message of sort of nihilistic defeatism which is so fashionable, you know. That sort of destroying yourself and people around you is somehow cool or is offering the world anything. It just isn’t. You know, Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On, Brian Wilson, Pet Sounds, all these things there’s so much love in them ultimately and it’s not being ashamed to appreciate that that is the most powerful thing in the world and when people hear it and they know it’s real, they can’t help but respond to it, so people take these basic things in many different directions but hardly anyone seemingly comes from a direction that people can really relate to so, I was very surprised years ago when it first happened. I was very surprised at all the different interpretations that you could have for one line. Like say, obviously, ‘the drugs don’t work’ was the killer.  It was just amazing. Even today, you know, if someone gets done, somebody on the Tour de France gets caught doping himself, you know, it’s ‘the drugs don’t work’ on the sport and stuff and it’s amazing and I think that is a great thing. It’s one of the best probably things that’s happened, is that somehow I’ve written some tunes that have crossed the boundaries like that and do become part of culture and most of it has no truth in it whatsoever.


Question: How did your background affect you, as a writer and as a person?

R: I mean, I was very fortunate as a kid. My Granddad lived next door. He introduced me to the Orion and The Bear, you know, the stars were a big thing. It was about walking, it was about ponds, tadpoles, trees hit by lightning, fires outside, even though it was just a few fields, but he managed to bring in a lot of wonder into my mind at a very early age. It’s a very confusing, for me personally, it’s a confusing time to be alive, you know. Our tribes have been broken up. In a way we’ve all moved away, you know, everybody.  When I was a kid my Nan and Granddad lived next door. My other grandparents lived across the road, a very tight-knit situation, you know, and that kind of breaks down. You know, if you don’t have an incredibly strong faith you end up obviously questioning the meaning the existence, of what it’s all about and is there an answer so all those kind of things from day one have interested me, you know, the bigger questions and it’s not necessarily that I’m ever going to come up with the answer but I do like brutal truths as well. That’s why Bittersweet Symphony will always be, you know, I’ll always enjoy that opening line. I like brutal truths and where that’s going to lead us. Emotion comes out because a lot of it in the modern world is quite suppressed, I think, you know what I mean, and that’s why I think my music, The Verve’s music, my songs, I’ve had the oddest people come up to me in the street professing how they’ve affected them in many different ways and I think that cuts through all sort of classes and social places where people are, you know, almost like it allows them to express stuff that is quite suppressed, you know what I mean, and that’s, you know, mainly more in men than women, you know?


Question: So, the CD Forth is done and dusted and out there. Did it get made in one bash, or off and on?

S: We did. We did do it off and on because we did a couple of weeks and then we had to go on, had to go on tour, we chose to go on tour, in November and December so we had to put it on pause November, December, came back in I think it was February by the time we started again, wasn’t it, so there was a bit of a pause in the middle but we got a lot of the backing tracks done in those first couple of weeks so it was more a process of when we came back listening through to see what we’d got and we kind of realised, we’ve kind of got the album here, you know what I mean, already, so from that point on did we do any more recording? I can’t remember.

P: Like backing track really but, apart from that, I think that was it, for me and you.

S: Yeah, I think in the first two or three weeks it was all pretty much sewn up so the rest of it, yeah, was just overdubs and editing.

P: Editing and Nick and Richard doing overdubs.


Question: And who sat in the producer’s chair?

S: The band really.  We used, you know, a lot of different engineers on this record, a lot? We used three guys on this record. Cameron was the first in, who recorded it all and we used Tim Brand, who was, actually he was in Dreadzone for a while, but now he’s like a master ProTools, digital wizard. He did a lot of the editing with us and Chris Potter worked with us, who’d worked with us previously on Urban Hymns. He came in at the last sort of thing to get, mainly get the greatest vocal performances because he worked so well with Richard, really, you know, so it was us overseeing the whole process, using the best guys that we could get our hands on at the time really.

In Part II of the interview, there’ll be an in depth analysis by the band about the songs on ‘Forth’.

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