INTERVIEW: Beady Eye
, May 31st, 2013 11:27
Julian Marszalek talks to Liam Gallagher, Gem Archer, Andy Bell and Chris Sharrock about their new album BE, designing gnomes for the Chelsea Flower Show and why the Gallaghers' mum prefers lemon meringue to the Noel/Liam kerfuffle
Liam Gallagher is not best pleased with Nick Cave and the source of his displeasure is bananas.
Both Beady Eye and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds are rehearsing for upcoming tours in a huge north London studio complex that has previously played host to anyone from The Rolling Stones through to One Direction. Situated on the first floor is a cafeteria serving all manner of nourishment for bands famished after a hard day of playing and refining material or whatever else it is they get up to behind closed doors. It’s also where the fruit bowl is located.
“Tell Nick to stop nicking all the bananas!” laughs Beady Eye guitarist Gem Archer as he recalls the tale of the missing fruit. “Liam goes, ‘I’m was going out to get a banana and there’s fucking none left, man. I thought you’d fucking been on them!’ and Nick’s walking out last night with his suit on and he’s got a banana sticking out of his jacket pocket! That’s not very Bad Seeds, is it?”
“Ah, but what’s he going to do with that banana, though?” asks drummer Chris Sharrock with a mischievous glint in his eye.
What indeed? But at least the lack of nuns and donkeys wandering around the studio calls for a sigh of relief. This much, though, is certain – Beady Eye are set to return with their second album, BE, a collection that has been helmed by the somewhat surprising choice of producer in the form of TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek. Not that he was the first name on the list.
“Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys was interested,” reveals Archer. “We sent him some tunes and he really liked them. He said, ‘the only thing is, you’ll have to come to Nashville’ and we were like, ‘fucking great!’ Me and Andy went to meet him at the Reading Festival and we had a bit of a chat about how we do things and how to do things. We were meant to go in November  and we had things arranged and the crew were trying to organise shit and then, right in the middle of his tour, he had his own record to do. So that was that.”
So who else was in the frame?
“There was Nick Launey who was in the middle of a film,” continues Archer “and we kept waiting for him and then it was like, ‘can you guys wait until January?’ and we were, ‘no, man.’ And then Dave’s name came up.”
Beady Eye are in a fighting mood. Their debut album, Different Gear, Still Speeding, was commercially overshadowed by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and the band is here to open the first salvo of a campaign that hopes to elevate their current status of playing second fiddle to their erstwhile leader. BE is an interesting if not entirely even listen but it's one that finds them taking sonic chances as they add colour to their usual 60s-influenced modus operandi with Sitek’s experimental brush strokes of metronomic beats, samples, loops and channel-hopping riffage.
Let’s start by talking about the new album, BE. Beady Eye and Dave Sitek aren't names that you'd expect to see on the same album cover. How did this come about? How familiar were you with his work?
Liam Gallagher: I’d never heard of him.
Chris Sharrock: The only thing I’d heard of TV On The Radio was through [late Radio 1 rock DJ] Tommy Vance – that was his old catchphrase!
Andy Bell: It was a friend of a friend situation. Our management knew him and had the idea that we’d get on together. I think on a personal level, as well as a band/producer level, we’re like special needs; we don’t get on with everybody and we’ve got a certain kind of humour and banter that we shared with Dave, so on that level we hit it off straight away and the music developed from that. The fact that we took chances musically also developed out of that. If they say, "let’s try this" then you’re more open to it whereas if you don’t like the person or if you’re too separate with the producer/band thing then you’re more likely to be, "I don’t really get you and I’m not really going to trust you."
LG: I didn’t listen to any of Dave Sitek’s stuff before we went into the studio. As much as people like to think that Beady Eye are stuck in a rut, we’re not. We like to take chances and this manager guy goes, "look, you don’t want to go with a run of the mill [producer], you want something a little bit leftfield and I think it might work". If it didn’t work then we might have gone back and started again. I though that by hearing his music I might have been put off so I just went with the flow, man. I just said, "fuck it. We start at 12 on Monday" and I knocked on the door, he opened it and went, "I’m Dave" and I went, "I’m Liam" and we cracked on. He’d already started work on ‘Flick Of The Finger’ and we went, "whoah! I like that, man!" and then we got to ‘Soul Love’. We saw that he started doing his magic and I thought, "fucking hell"! So we said, "carry on doing what you’re doing ‘cause it’s amazing!"
There are a few songs where Dave’s magic didn’t work on so we went back to how it was. But yeah, man, the main thing was staying out of the way and letting the magic happen. And I think there’s a lot of magic on this album whereas there wasn’t on Different Gear, Still Speeding – which isn’t to say it was a bad album and I’m not having a dig at it – but Dave Sitek is the bollocks, man.
AB: The speed that he likes to work at suited us because we’re quite impatient as well.
LG: We had no time to analyse; we had no time to be put off by what he was doing. It was like, boom! Boom! Let’s move on! We were like, "fucking hell"! We just kept moving and moving and it was great. We were there for five weeks ‘cause he said, "I’m going home in five weeks".
AB: We did have a go at this kind of thing with Death In Vegas a few years ago in Oasis and the reason that didn’t work was because their way of working was too slow and it didn’t suit our way of working. We got on with them and Richard Fearless is still a mate but it often comes down to that personal thing or the working method. Dave was speedy and that really suited us.
You’ve said of the album that, “If you’re into drugs you’ll like it. It’s pretty druggy.” What drugs are you thinking of?
LG: Well, I didn’t mean it like ‘druggy’. What I meant was that if you’re open-minded you can listen to it without drugs. But if you do like drugs then I’m sure it’s going to be pretty spectacular. There was a lot of weed getting smoked in the studio but none of the other stuff. It was pure weed.
I was going to ask you about that because ‘Soon Come Tomorrow’ does sound like an instruction to smoke a joint [‘Smoke it, don’t drop it/ right to the end/ Breathe in, breathe out/ and then breathe in again…’].
AB: [Laughs] Yeah, it’s symbolic!
LG: That’s the vibe I got from it, an’ all! I don’t smoke it during the week; I only have it in the studio with this lot. I’m not a big weed head but I’m not anti-weed. I was brought up on it. I fucking love it but I just don’t do it as much any more.
So was the intention to make a psychedelic album?
AB: No, I don’t think it is psychedelic. I don’t see it as that; I see it as music. And I know that sounds like I’m being disingenuous but I’m not. It’s actually quite hooky and quite poppy to me and it’s a bit more minimal. I’m not sure what psychedelic means anymore because it’s a word that gets over-used and I want to shy away from that.
LG: We didn’t set out to do it like that. We just went in there with a load of songs we thought were great, regardless of Dave Sitek, and they’re a bunch of good second album songs. It was only until we got Dave and he started doing his mad shit we thought, "fucking hell"! We’re onto something here! He just took it somewhere else, man! He opened the door and we went through, bowled in, took our shoes off and we fucking stayed for lunch. So maybe next time, we might fucking stay the night and have a sleepover and wake up in the morning in another fucking dimension. That’s basically it. We just went with the flow.
You’ve been quoted as saying you'll give up music if the album doesn't meet expectations. What are those expectations?
LG: What I mean by that is, like, I’ll never give up music because it’s in me and it’s not a threat like, if you don’t buy this I’ll give up, but I think this: we’ve made a great rock & roll album but sometimes I feel there’s a lot of people just fucking boycotting what Beady Eye do just for some stupid fucking reason. ‘We’ll boycott that shit no matter what they do because it ain’t Oasis and we want Oasis’ and all that kind of thing. Well fuck you! We’ve experimented or whatever it is, what more do you fucking want?
AB: I think Liam’s expressing his frustration: ‘If this doesn’t connect, I don’t know what will’.
LG: Yeah, that’s what I mean. We’ve made three records on the hop and I don’t want to be part of this record machine shit because it’s fucking soul destroying. We’ll tour the arse off this regardless of whether people like it or not – we’ll make them fucking like it – and then maybe we’ll have a little bit of a longer break than usual instead of going back in the studio and going, "what about this one?" Fuck that shit.
AB: We haven’t really stopped. It may seem like we’ve had a lot of time off in between but we went from Oasis’ last album straight into the tour straight into the split then straight into the first Beady Eye album and then straight into the tour and then straight from that and into the writing for this. And now we’re going off on tour.
LG: But I’m not really frustrated. I’m having a fucking great time. The album’s beautiful, we’re rehearsing and we sound fucking great, we can’t wait for the album to come out and to go with the flow.
So you’re not viewing this as the last throw of the dice then?
LG: No, no. It might be for a little bit but then again it might not be. We’ve got every right to change our minds.
When we last spoke, Andy said, “we’re playing different kinds of songs and we're trying not to trade off the Oasis thing. The only way that we’d be trading off of it is if we’d play those songs which fucking isn’t much fun. We’re a different band and we’ve got our own bunch of tunes and that’s it.” What made you return to the Oasis songs?
LG: The reason we decided to play them songs was because we were asked to do The Stone Roses gig [in Heaton Park] and there were a lot of kids in that crowd that like [Oasis] so we thought, we’ve finished the tour without playing them so we threw them in to add to the sense of the occasion. And then people liked it and then we did it again and we did it again. It’s not a biggie. We might play them again, we might not but we’re not doing it to get out of playing small shitholes and into arenas. We’re not doing for any other reason than, "why not?"
AB: Whatever we may have said in interviews…
LG: We were lying!
AB: With the first album we were adamant within ourselves that this was not the right time to be chucking in Oasis songs even though no one can say we haven’t got the right to do them. We put so much time into that band and so much love into it and we genuinely love the tunes and we played them, we did a good job of it – all those things are true and no one can tell you not to play a song.
LG: I fucking sung on them. I made them. I didn’t write them but they’re a part of my fucking life. I fucking brought them up and I’ve got every right to sing them. It’s not a biggie.
AB: Having a right to do them is not even relevant. We put that ban on ourselves to establish Beady Eye and now that we’ve made the second album we’re getting to that point where we start finding out what Beady Eye is a bit more, separate from Oasis. We’re now going down our own path and now that we are our own entity we feel that we can chuck in a couple of Oasis tunes if we feel like it without it being too big a deal. I’d never want anybody buying a ticket for a Beady Eye show purely to hear Oasis tunes because that would be wrong.
LG: Beady Eye is another fucking great British rock & roll band, simple as that. We’ve got a lot of experience. We write great music and that’s what we are.
AB: We play well together, we’ve got good taste in music and I think we are listened to on our own merits, even without the great Noel Gallagher. And I don’t mean sarcastically about Noel.
LG: It’s certainly not a fucking hobby. I’ve put more hours into this than I have into Oasis and I put a lot into that.
Oasis fans seem very split in the middle when it comes to sharing their affections between you and Noel. Don't you find that a bit weird?
LG: Yeah, yeah. It’s very frustrating. Strange fuckers. I do find it weird and it does my fucking head in. Wind your necks in, you fucking little fuckers! Enjoy the party – you’re getting two bands for the price of one.
AB: Well, two for the price of two, really!
LG: Yeah, OK, but they’re entitled to their fucking opinions and so are we, but it is strange. I’ll tell you what is strange: it’s like the first band I liked were The Stone Roses - and I still do - and when they split up I could never go, "I fucking hate John Squire! Or fucking Ian Brown!" I just wanted them all to be cool.
AB: It’s off its head, really.
LG: [Laughs] What have we done to them?
AB: Why are mummy and daddy fighting?
GA: I think there’s three kinds of fans: we’re talking about the Noel diehards, the Liam diehards and the ones who go, "shut the fuck up, both of you! We’ve got twice as much music". Look, we have passionate, rabid people following us, man. But it’s another facet to it. I’ve been to Noel gigs where girls are sat with Team Noel written on their t-shirts and few rows back was someone with a Pretty Green t-shirt so it’s all part of the lingo, isn’t it?
Liam, you’re a rock star with everything that goes with it. Does it bother you how you’re portrayed in the tabloids, where being a figure of fun – ie riding a dog when you’re drunk or asking for tickets for the Chelsea Flower Show – seems to overshadow what you do musically?
LG: That’s what rock stars do. I haven’t got a motorbike licence, so a dog it is! I don’t care, mate, I really don’t care. I don’t want to be took as a ‘serious musician’ either. I find that a fucking insult, an’ all. It’s boring and not colourful. I’ll leave that to some other cunt. It’s all a little mix of fun, you know what I mean? I don’t mind; it’s no skin off my nose if that’s what they want to write.
AB: I quite enjoy the stories, I’ve got to say. The dog one is a classic. That had me rolling around.
LG: It’s fucking funny. It’s great, man! But there was no dog there. It’s fucking funny how they take a picture of you having a beer but where’s the picture of me riding the dog? Show me the picture of me riding the dog and I’ll give it to you. But I could’ve rode a dog but I don’t know; I was pissed!
AB: I’m pretty sure you rode a dog.
LG: I don’t know! I’ve ridden quite a few dogs in my time and I’ve remembered every single fucking one of them!
And as for the Chelsea Flower Show, I don’t know where they got that from. Seriously, mate. Here’s what happened, right. They rang Pretty Green and they asked would I design a gnome? Like, Elton John’s doing one, Ringo Starr’s doing one and Rod Stewart’s doing one. I was somewhere else and they said, no, that’s not cool, and when I found out about it I said they should’ve fucking told me that. I can design a gnome, man; it’d be cool. I’d do a little one of me and put it in the garden; it’d be great! It didn’t happen but it must have come from that but I didn’t apply for tickets. You know me; if I did I’d fucking tell you.
GA: The music doesn’t get overlooked. If he wasn’t making any music then it’d be sad but he’s there. He’s singing better than ever, he’s writing great tunes and he’s really up for it, the poor geezer. I was there when he was ‘thrown out’ of the Queens and I know what it’s about; they tweeted it and it’s publicity for them.
But don’t these inaccuracies piss you off?
LG: No, but they’re just stupid. When they’re talking malicious shit about your personal life and all that then you get the needle but all that stuff is just stupid and I find it funny. I don’t even think about it. I just get on with things. If those dicks want to write it then let them write it.
It was widely reported that Liam had been fallen out with The Stone Roses after a backstage altercation. Was that an accurate assessment?
LG: No. I’ll tell you all about that. Me and Andy were in Dubai and our families were there. We’d gone there and we were nowhere near the mixing desk. I wasn’t slung out of the gig and I’ve never spilt beer on anyone’s mixing desk; not even mine. It was Ian Brown’s birthday party and we’d gone back with him to the hotel and we’d had a fucking drink with him and we then we got off.
The only thing I can think of where this story came from is that The Stone Roses have a couple of dicks working for them that used to work for Oasis and that still work for Noel. I might have had a bit of a go at one of them and they might have just bullshitted some story. I know The Stone Roses well enough to know that they’re not two-faced cunts so if they did have a problem with me they’d ring me or they’d say it to my face. I’m not buying it; it’s just some bullshit. I just move on.
How do you view the legacy that Oasis left behind – ie bands such as Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys – and do you feel that Beady Eye are having to compete against them?
LG: We just do our own thing. But we’re not in competition with anyone, man. We're here to do our own thing but if anyone wants to have a fucking go at us then do it, man. We’re here to release great records and that’s what they’re there to do. But live, I don’t give a fuck who you are, mate: The Stone Roses, Kasabian, The High Flying Birds, Primal Scream, on our night we’ll fucking roast anyone. And I guess on their night they’d roast anyone. So whoever wants to go there then let’s go.
AB: On our first album, if we’d have faded away after that you could have described Beady Eye as a post-script to the Oasis story. But what I’m hoping is happening now is that Beady Eye is becoming its own thing. Well, it is its own thing now and we’re going down a slightly different path with it and that over the time and years we’ll have our own legacy.
LG: We wouldn’t have been able to do this record with Oasis because towards the end it got very uptight. Fucking very uptight. This is very loose because Oasis was as stiff as a fucking diving board. It was very regimented and it was very fucking boring. When sleeves on jackets get rolled up like Eric Clapton then you know you’re in fucking trouble.
GA: It was pretty healthy what we did which was to write a whole new set with the last album: Year Zero. And imagine if that was put to all those bands out there: you can only play new stuff, you can’t play any of the old stuff and, by the way, your main songwriter can’t be there. That’s what we did! Tell that to Kings Of Leon or whoever. That’s the challenge we had to deal with. The Floyd did it, didn’t they?
What are you listening to these days?
AB: Loads of stuff, really.
LG: There’s this guy who auditioned to play bass for us but it didn’t work out and they’re called The Matadors. I’ve only heard one song but they sound promising.
AB: Yeah, they’re shit hot. They’ve only got about five followers on Mixcloud but we’re on to them! They’re great, like a Scouse Beefheart.
LG: Like a pop version of Beefheart, if there is such a thing. There’s this one geezer that Dave played in the studio called Eddie Harris and a track called ‘I Don’t Want Nobody’. He’s a guy who plays this fucking saxophone but he sings through it and it’s fucked up, man! And Dave’s going, "this is the kind of shit we should be doing man!" It goes on for about eight minutes and we’re like [mimes being slack-jawed in astonishment] as if we’re having a fucking nervous breakdown and then it just goes off and you’re like, fucking hell, man! Check it out! I played it to Bobby Gillespie and went, "check this shit out!" and he went, "fuck me, man; that’s too fucking weird!" Yeah man, I fucked up Bobby Gillespie!
Is ‘Start Anew’ the sound of you offering Noel an olive branch?
LG: Not a fucking chance! If I wanted to offer him an olive branch then I’d fucking ring him up and apparently say sorry for what I didn’t do. Not a chance. It’s nothing to do with him. ‘Don’t Brother Me’ has elements of him in it but ‘Start Anew’ has fuck all to do with Noely G. He’s doing his thing and I’m doing mine and it’s all good, man. My mam’s not crying into her fucking cup of tea and lemon meringue. She don’t give a fuck. She’s hard; she goes, "you’re a dick, he’s a dick. Who shall I go and see this week?"
Beady Eye release BE on June 10 via Columbia