GOMEZ: THE FANNISH INQUISITION

They tell us the theory of The Pies on the motorway, the secret of Liquid Skin and why Sade is their biggest influence...

Lopez. Iglesias. Ricky Martin. Gomez? Yes, it’s true. You heard it here first: Gomez claim full responsibility for the ‘Latin explosion’. Shall we kill them now or later? Ah, but wait a minute. Gomez may have written a song called ‘Tijuana Lady’ and played with maracas, but that’s only one thread of the musical tapestry they throw at our feet on new LP ‘Liquid Skin’ – a record they claim encompasses everything from bluegrass to “Russian death metal”.

So when we hunt them down to a north London rehearsal studio, armed to the hilt with intrusive questions from believers and sceptics both, we are surprised not to find them running around in sombreros or snorting tequila.

Bellowy vocalist Ben Ottewell is crouching quietly on the floor, huddled closely to compadres Ian Ball, Tom Gray, Paul Blackburn and Olly Peacock. They look almost inconceivably normal. Except for one thing: the sheer quantity of cigarette smoke they are expelling. “We smoke more than any other band in Britain,” Ben announces. Thus situated, protectively swamped in their cloak of nicotine, they ready themselves for the inquisition.

Roll on the questions…

Do you think that the new album is better than ‘Bring It On’? (Neil Aspinall, Liverpool)

Ian: “I think the album’s pretty damn good. I think it’s the record we wanted to make, and it’s a lot better.”

Ben: “He’s been taking lessons in political answers.”

Tom: “It certainly was a better experience recording it. Just creatively, because I think we’re more in control and more confident now. I think it’s definitely a better record, it’s more experimental.”

Do you know what ‘the pies the pies’ means on the bridge at the end of the M57? (Alan Whitfield, Cheshire)

Tom: “We don’t actually know what ‘the pies the pies’ means. We’ve heard that it was graffiti from a band in the ’70s called The Pies, and it’s just been left up on the top of the bridge across the motorway for the last 20 years. And nobody wants to take it down because now it’s become part of the motorway itself.”

Ben: “Either that or a tribute to the wonderful thing that is the pie!”

If you could bring back one famous dead person who would it be and why? (David Moran, Glasgow)

Ben: “Jesus. He sounds like a nice guy.”

Tom: “Yeah, then we could resolve that whole God problem once and for all.”

Ian: “And Jesus is the water-into-wine merchant, isn’t he? Might as well bring back someone who’s useful.”

Tom: “I just want to sort out the ‘Is he the son of God?’ question. Let’s have him on Jerry Springer.”

Ben: “Apparently he’s here anyway, but if we could have him standing here in his sandals…”

Tom: “He’d always claim the Fifth Amendment, though, wouldn’t he? He’d do the whole Messianic Secret thing with us.”

Ben: “Nah, I think he’s a really chilled guy, a bit like Ken Kesey.”

How did you come up with the title ‘Liquid Skin’? (Lill Phillips, Birmingham)

Tom: “Liquid Skin is the stuff that you put on your fingers when they get torn to pieces from playing too much guitar. It’s like nail varnish for your fingers, you put it on the flesh and it’s like a liquid plaster. But it’s a solvent, so you can get high off of it. When you’re in real pokey dressing rooms – not in your bedroom, or behind the bike shed in school or anything – you can get really high on it. It just became a thing – getting high on Liquid Skin and going onstage. Then when it came to naming the record, we wanted to use the word ‘liquid’, because it described the sound, and it was going to be called ‘Liquid State’. But that’s not as good as ‘Liquid Skin’.”

Ben: “And we couldn’t call it ‘Legs Akimbo’.”

Ian: “No, no-one would let us call it that. And we never had any plans, ever, to call it ‘Feed My Bongo’.”

What do you think of Radio 1 playing your blinding new single less than that complete shite by Hepburn? (J Dragontree, Pompey)

Ian: “It’s absolute startling bollocks.”

Ben: “Who are Hepburn?”

Tom: “I’m not overwhelmingly surprised. It’s like a 50-year-old man who decides what the kids want to hear. I don’t know, maybe they would rather hear Hepburn.”

Musically, who are your biggest influences? (Adam Priest, Upminster)

Ian: “Sade.”

Tom: “Kajagoogoo.”

Paul: “Wet Wet Wet.”

Ben: “Be serious.”

Tom: “He said Sade!”

Ben: “Yeah, well, Sade is a serious thing.”

Olly: “Europe.”

Tom: “Early Bon Jovi. Before they cut their hair.”

Ian: “I don’t think we really have any influences.”

Tom: “Yeah, we just listen to a lot of things. I don’t think we have any direct influences. You can’t really sit down and say, ‘This song should sound like this song.’ We don’t think about it, really.”

Jack Daniel’s or tequila? (Carlos Tin, Liverpool)

Ben: “Good question.”

Ian: “If you’re in Liverpool, I reckon it’s Jack Daniel’s.”

Tom: “If we were with Carlos in Liverpool, we’d definitely be drinking JD. There’s no question. But if you’re in Mexico with a guy called Carlos, you’ve got to drink tequila.”

Ben: “Or in Bolton with a guy called Jim.”

Ian: “Ultimately, though, we’re definitely more of a Jack Daniel’s band than a tequila band. You have to be really serious about drinking tequila, you’ve got to empty the bottle.”

Tom: “I’ve woken up actually beneath tables after drinking tequila. I had never been drunk under the table until then. I just sort of slid down my chair on to the floor and collapsed.”

What do you think is the value of the Mercury Music Prize? (Mike Daly, Liverpool)

Ben: “For us, it led to a whole lot of exposure, which was good. But culturally, I have no idea.”

Tom: “We didn’t have any ideas of ever being a big band. We were just going to release the album on a little label in Sheffield, but when we took it to the major labels they all went crazy. And then the Mercury Prize really put us on a different course. Now we’re up there with all these big bands. In some ways it’s a good thing, in some ways it’s bad. I think only in ten years’ time will I really be able to say how I felt about the Mercury Music Prize. I was really let down by the nominations this year, though. There were things – like the Super Furries – that should have been there. I mean, if they want to nominate the Manic Street Preachers, then let them – but they haven’t got an ounce of innovation in their bodies.”

Ben: “They have to have the big bands in there to give the awards ceremony gravitas, to make it a media thing. So inevitably those bands will get in there.”

Tom: “The award would serve itself so much better if it didn’t worry about that. It probably, economically, wouldn’t work without sponsorship and stuff, but in a perfect world they really would go chasing around for the most innovative albums of the year.”

At V99 Chelmsford you dedicated ‘Rhythm & Blues Alibi’ to Mariah Carey. Why? (Justin Day, Norfolk)

Ben: “Because we all deeply respect her and her work.”

Tom: “When we played at Slane Castle with Robbie Williams, Ian dedicated that song to Gary Barlow – and thousands of people all booed. I had to butt in and say, ‘No, actually, it’s for Mariah Carey‘ – and they all cheered!”

Ben: “Gary or Mariah? – that’s the question.”

Tom: “That song is a bit of a go at R&B, so it’s pretty funny.”

Ian: “I think the moral of the story is don’t mention Gary Barlow in front of 100,000 Robbie Williams fans. I was hoping I’d get a more violent reaction, though. The booing was good, but I thought there might be some missiles.”

Part two of Gomez: The Fannish Inquisition will be posted on nme.com tomorrow.

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