Q&A: The Hot Rats' Gaz Coombes
On covers, falling out and britpop
The covers album -- last resort of the creatively bankrupt. Discuss.
Well, look at Pin-Ups [David Bowie's covers LP]. It doesn't jump out as a novelty record. It's an artistic statement from Bowie. This album was always going to be an artistic statement. We want to put our own character on the record, using the vehicle of these great songs, arranging tracks that are already hit singles. It was mad.
Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich helped out in the studio. That must have been a laugh.
We've known him for a long time -- on and off. But we've always been doing our own things or producing the albums ourselves. Or he's not been around. It was great to work with him. We've always been a big admirer.
You cover EMI by the Sex Pistols on The Hot Rats LP. Is that a sly dig at your former record label?
It's a very small cheeky wink. It's a good song anyway. We were really into it. The situation of last year [when Supergrass parted from EMI subsidiary Parlophone] kind of added... you know, we had an amazing 10 years with Parlophone/EMI. We all loved it.
Until things went sour...
Well, it went a little bit sour. Things changed, people left, the whole set-up changed basically. We were happy to try something new. It's not as if there was a huge amount of animosity or bitterness. [Covering EMI] was kind of a tongue-in -cheek statement. A bit of a laugh.
Supergrass were sort of the great lost band of Britpop weren't they? When all of that 90s nostalgia was in the air circa last summer's Blur reunion, you guys never got mentioned.
It's one of those weird ones. You read books about that whole period of music and you kind of joke with each other -- 'we're never mentioned'. And part of you goes [sounding glum] ' oh, we weren't mentioned'. And the other part of you goes [sounding thrilled] 'Yeah, we weren't mentioned -- great!'
But it seems you abandoned Good Ship Britpop at first opportunity.
Through those years we always felt we were in our own space. We weren't really feeling like we wanted to be part of any sort of scene. I'm sure lot of bands didn't. We were doing our own thing. And I think we did avoid Britpop in a way.
Considering the success of Alright, there must have been a time you feared neverending one-hit wonders. Can you imagine a fate worse than belting out 'We Are Young/ We Are Free...' in your 30s?
It still is always always hanging around. But, firstly, it is a really good song. I'm really proud of it. I think the lyrical content is based on a period in time and also singing at a period of time when I was, like, 17 years old or something. You know the choice of the lyrics...it's not like I Can't Explain, which The Who did when they were 17. It's easier to play that later on. Because of the lyrics in Alright, it's harder to sing them now.
You and Supergrass drummer Danny Goffey had initially planned on doing Michael Jackson's Beat It for the Hot Rats record. In retrospect, you must be relieved you didn't. It would have come across as terribly opportunistic.
It was weird -- months and months ago, me and Danny did a punk, two-piece version of Beat It live. Then we heard some really dodgy American band -- was it Fall Out Boy or something? -- had done a college rock version. So we stopped playing it. It was, like, 'Ah shit, that's buggered that'.
You also cover The Beastie Boys' (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!). We're told they're quite protective of their material. How did you manage to get their blessing?
I don't know that we did [chuckles]. Maybe we should have asked them. I don't know. We leave that up to the management, to check all the ins and outs and stuff. It think it's probably all right. Unless it's the Beatles, in which case you have to go through weeks and weeks of negotiations.
The Hot Rats play Academy, Dublin September 25