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Q&A: Steve mason

On death wishes, being happy and why he isn't the new James Blunt

After the much-loved Beta Band split, you released music as King Biscuit Time and The Back Affair. Why is your new album coming out under your own name?

I did think long and hard about it. There only ever seemed to be one way to go at this point -- to consolidate everything into one easy, lump-sum payment. I just didn't want it to be like, Steve Mason, Daniel Bedingfield, David Gray... and... who's the singing soldier guy?

That would be James Blunt.

Yeah, James fucking Blunt. You don't want to be lumped in with all these c*nts. Then again, you think, 'well I'm not making music anything like that'. So I thought, 'fuck it -- let's go for it'.

You've battled depression throughout your career -- you actually gave up on music the day the King Biscuit Time record came out. Are you in a more stable place today?

It's a bit more complicated than that. It seems like a long time ago now. I packed everything in for a bit. Then I came back to music and put out the Black Affair music. Eventually, I got bored of that. I think my new album is the best thing I've ever released. It's a story with a happy ending.

Of course, happy people often make for dreary songwriters. Didn't all that angst give you something to channel through your music?

Definitely -- which is why I'm probably struggling a little bit writing the next album. I feel quite content. I'm skint and don't have a pot to piss in, but in general I'm happy. And that makes it harder. Of course, if you're a songwriter and you can't think of anything to write about these days, you're in the wrong fucking game.

Which brings us to the politicised lyrics on the new record. On the song Yesterday, you're basically calling on people to overthrow the government through violent protest.

There's a line in Yesterday, 'One day I'll come for you, we'll make a cocktail or two/we'll travel down the road and make their stonework explode'. It's about marching on the Bank of England and the House of Commons with petrol bombs and taking direct action.

Well, it certainly gives a new meaning to 'burn the bondholders'. Your views have landed you in trouble before, haven't they? You once called on a US audience to chip together for a rifle to shoot George W Bush.

I try not to mention the George Bush thing in American interviews too much. It's alright over here. I remember my manager at the time, who is American, telling me (adopts folksy Ronald Reagan-esque accent) 'Steve, you know in America there are a few things you can't say. Telling 20,000 Americans to kill the president... well, that's just one of them'.

Towards the end, the Beta Band was bedevilled with financial difficulties. It has been reported you had to take a job on a building site to keep the group afloat, despite the fact that you are quite successful.

We got fucked over and that's cost us dearly. I'm paying off my portion every month -- another drain on my resources. It's very, very difficult.

Do you regret dismissing the Beta Band's first LP as rubbish when it came out?

I don't look back on it at all. I've just released the best album of my career. The idea of the Beta Band, let alone specific albums, crossing my mind... it doesn't happen. You are talking about something that happened 12 years ago. It's so irrelevant to me, it's difficult to put into words.

The album Boys Outside is out now. Steve Mason plays Button Factory, Dublin, tomorrow night

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