Keep your music simple.
Having spent my twenties being really loud, it suddenly dawned on me that true power in music isn’t necessarily about volume, it’s about something much more subtle. You can kind of slay someone with the quietest voice. I’ve been trying to simplify my work and get to the core of what I like about it and strip away the rest.
Don’t trust anyone.
The music business, I’ve learned, is pretty much populated by people who are deaf. Music is a secondary issue to most people. Things are just shoved into these little categories. When Suede first started in the ’90s, there wasn’t that kind of over-obsessive need to file music and I quite liked the way we sat. We were sort of popularish and leftish and there wasn’t that kind of obsessive need to file us as ‘alternative’ even though we were. Now I’m not really sure what I am as a category. My favourite music did always sit uncomfortably with genres.
Rock’n’roll is dead.
I don’t think there is anything rock’n’roll. I think rock’n’roll is a load of bullshit. It’s rubbish. If there is anything that I would define as rock’n’roll, it’s about passion. It’s not about pretending to be John Lennon and wearing his glasses and getting your hair cut like him. That’s theme-park rock’n’roll. It’s not about throwing televisions out of windows, it’s not about snorting cocaine off supermodels’ bums, it’s about expressing yourself and about having the bravery to commit your thoughts to vinyl.
If you’re going to look back on your life with respect and dignity when your possessions are put in black bin liners and you’ve faded off to a nursing home somewhere, to look back at your life and to say, ‘Yeah, I’ve said what I wanted to say, I did something that inspired people, I’ve created something beautiful that people loved.’ That’s what rock’n’roll is.
Split up the band as soon as you consider it a ‘job’.
I split Suede up because I didn’t feel that anyone in the band was really in love with it anymore and I think that that’s a really important thing. More bands should break up. There are too many bands just walking quietly, slowly up this little slope towards cumulative success and it’s really boring. As soon as I noticed that happening with me, I split the band up and I did something else instead – and it might be less successful, but I believe in it much more and therefore it’s incredibly important to me.
I’m still carrying on with my original vision, it’s just the form in which it takes. Towards the end with Suede I lost my focus on what the band was and I was looking for a reinvention of the band, but there’s a lot of inertia. Being in a band is like steering a huge ship. You’re just going slowly and quietly plodding along but there’s a lot of weight behind you.
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Never do a reunion.
I think that it’s a good rule to always keep moving forward. Looking back with relationships and stuff you’ve done is always a mistake. I think we went into The Tears [Brett’s recent project with ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler] with the right intentions. We were trying to create a new band identity, we weren’t looking back, resting on our laurels. With that relationship we felt like there was unfinished business. We felt as though we had already made two albums together and there was more gas in the tank. We just wanted to see what happened.
Wear your nan’s clothes.
I used to wear women’s blouses back when we first toured in about 1992. Before the gig I’d go to a junk shop and buy the stupidest item of clothing I could find and then it would be ripped off onstage. It was a kind of ritual. The fans would rip off my granny blouse – it was something sort of English and sexual and slightly comical. It was all good fun.
Be careful when writing an album on hard drugs.
There is no connection between drugs and creativity. People tend to get confused because the sort of people that get drawn to drugs are sometimes creative people, but there’s nothing creative about drugs at all. If anything, they completely inhibit creative flow. Any hard drugs. I mean, they’re all kind of bad.
I think ‘Dog Man Star’ was quite an extravagant thing. The way it was conceived. The insanity. At the time I scrambled my brain on drugs almost deliberately to write an album that was as out there as possible. I did live a bizarre life, sitting there in Highgate writing these songs and it’s a lovely album because of that. Completely mad in places but hopefully the right side of that kind of life.
Never feel like you’ve made it.
I think you’ve always got to keep proving yourself. Maybe it’s something to do with the slightly odd nature of my career trajectory, but I always find I’m having to prove myself over and over and over again. That’s probably a good thing because I don’t think it would be good for me to get lazy and just sit there. I don’t feel as though you ever make it. I think that when you do start to feel as though you’ve made it, that’s when you should really give it up.
Did You Know?
*Brett’s last album, ‘Wilderness’, was recorded and mixed in a White Stripes-rivalling seven days.
*In the ’90s, Anderson was notoriously addicted to crack and heroin. At the time he described the history of Suede as “Like Machiavelli rewriting Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. It involves a cast of thousands. It should star Charlton Heston… it’s like a pram that’s just been pushed down a hill.”
*Before forming Suede, Brett was a member of Haywards Heath garage bands called The Pigs and Geoff.
* In 1996, Bernard Butler nearly ran a wasted Brett over as he stepped out of a cab in Notting Hill. “For one second I’m sure he thought, ‘Accelerate or brake?,’” Brett later pondered.