"We have to inhabit Suedeworld and it’s not a very nice place"
Suede have announced details of their return with eighth album ‘The Blue Hour’. Read our full interview with frontman Brett Anderson below.
Described as the third and final part in a ‘triptych’ of albums since their 2010 reunion, ‘The Blue Hour’ was produced by Alan Moulder and sees the band explore new sonic terrain.
“‘The Blue Hour’ is the time of day when the light is fading and night is closing in,” said the band in a statement. “The songs hint at a narrative but never quite reveal it and never quite explain. But as with any Suede album, it’s always about the songwriting. The band, the passion and the noise: ‘The Blue Hour’.”
Arriving on September 21, the band have hailed the album as a “genuinely progressive, expansive and definitive body of work”, with frontman Brett Anderson’s “vocal delivery and distinctive lyrics are more assured than ever, whilst the music sees the band play at the peak of their powers, with a visceral, brooding sense of dynamic and drama that is theirs alone”
“We literally just finished mixing it the Friday before last,” Anderson told NME. “It took about a year to write. That’s the hard part for me. Once the songs are there, then you can enjoy yourself to a certain extent. It all has to be framed within the context of songwriting. I don’t think anyone wants to hear a Suede ambient album. This isn’t.”
In what way does this new record take the Suede sound somewhere we’ve heard before?
“We learned a lot from ‘Night Thoughts’ and ‘Blood Sports’. When we came back with ‘Blood Sports’, there was still a slight feeling that we should try and write pop and rock music. There was no attempt to please the mainstream because it doesn’t exist any more, but we took quite a gamble with ‘Night Thoughts’ because it’s very much ‘an album’. People like music that doesn’t try and please too much, so that really freed us up on this record. We’ve also tried to drift a little further leftfield.
“I think we’re at this stage of our career where it doesn’t really matter what we do, as long as we’re engaged in doing it and making it interesting. Because of that, we can do quite extreme things. This is a very complicated record, much more so than the last too – and more diverse. It’s quite a journey. There are a lot of elements that we haven’t used before, like a choir and more spoken word and dialogue. There are a lot of field recordings on it too to thread the ideas together.”
How would you describe the character of this record?
“It’s quite dank and troubling. It was conceived as a record almost from a child’s point of view. My son is my muse these days, and I write about him and through his eyes. He inspired the book I wrote recently, ‘Coal Black Mornings’. He was my inspiration on the last two records and this is a continuation of that. I’ve always written from different perspectives. A lot of this is about the terrors of childhood, so it’s quite unpleasant in lots of ways. I think Suede should be unpleasant, that’s the point of a band like Suede. Whenever we’ve tried to pleasant, it never works. We have to inhabit Suedeworld and it’s not a very nice place! It’s set in a rural landscape, on the hard shoulder of the motorway, among the B-roads and among the rubbish that’s been fly-tipped. It’s set by a chain link fence with a dead badger lying rotting in the ground.“I like to set my songs in a very distinct geographical place. The early songs were very urban and this is set in the hinterland?”
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Where do you go to find that unpleasantness?
“I find it everywhere. It’s everywhere in life. No one wants to hear about the nice things in life. It’s not that my life is particularly unpleasant, but I just find those things more interesting. That’s where the tension lies. It’s about the push and pull. No one wants to write about harmony. It’s dull. Well, I can’t do it very well so I choose not to.”
Do you feel like you have the adequate language to reflect this horrible nonsense world we find ourselves in, in 2018? Could you take on ‘Brexit Britain’ in a song?
“It’s an interesting thing. You have to choose your weapon, you have to choose your battleground. Unless you narrow it down to something specific, what are you going to write about? Everything? The world? History? I’ve always tried to talk about the microscopic, because that somehow illuminates the macroscopic. When you’re talking about relationships between people, that’s an incredibly political canvas. I’ve never been able to write about ‘the big picture’ in an obvious way. There are very few artists that can do that. That’s what politicians are for. An artist’s job is to reveal something more mysterious than that. It’s not the artist’s job to give any answers, it’s the artist’s job to deepen the mystery and to pose questions. You have to choose your canvas to work within. In talking about a small part of life, you can reveal further wider truths. But no, no Brexit anthems – is that going to be your headline?”
Nope, which I’m sure is a relief. So if Suede need to be unpleasant, is there much more baggage of expectation that comes with the band?
“I think about it quite a bit. We’ve gone wrong in the past. We had an album called ‘A New Morning’ which was a disaster in every way. It was just a very bad record. We were trying to undermine the notion of what it is to be Suede fan and oppose all of those cliches. It’s a very interesting question for an artist: how much do they respond to what their audience wants and how much do they lead? You can parallel it with politicians, can’t you? There are those politicians who base their decisions around polling people and the public opinion and popular consensus. There are politicians who make very unpopular decisions, but they have a sense of vision about these things. There are parallels with the artist and their fanbase. It’s important to challenge what you fans want, because if you end up following that you end up in self parody. I’ve always wanted to avoid that. There is a fine line and it’s a very interesting fine line. You’re leading and introducing people to your ideas but you need to do it in your own language – but still for that language to be fresh.”
Have you found that there’s more of a hunger for that since you re-emerged?
“I don’t really know. I’m really cheered by the fact that our fanbase want to be challenged. They want us to do what we do best, but they want us to have a vision. There’s this popular notion that the record-buying or music-listening public are becoming his numbed, brainless entity. Possibly the mainstream is becoming like that, but it’s misleading to think of the world at large like that. There are a lot of people that want to be challenged and want the experience of the album. They don’t want to be humoured by a few anodyne pop songs. They want a journey.”
What are you listening to, in terms of contemporary music?
“The first album that I’ve gone out and bought in a while is the new Shame album. They’re the first band that have really done it for me in a long time. ‘Songs Of Praise’ is my tip. There’s something there that has a point to it. There’s some sort of energy that speaks to me. It’s musically brilliant too – the guitar playing is fantastic. I love Fat White Family and Cabbage too. There’s a pocket of bands trying to make themselves heard. I’m not sure if there’s a platform for bands like that anymore, but I don’t pay too much attention to things like that. I’m not sure how they’re perceived by the rest of the world. All you can do is let these things filter through.”
Suede release ‘The Blue Hour’ on September 21.
The tracklist is:
Beyond The Outskirts
Life Is Golden
Don’t Be Afraid If Nobody Loves You
All The Wild Places