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This is 1995 Calling
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On the eve of his first American tour, Richard spoke to Sam Sayer about his first few months with Suede. He talked about his life before joining the band, his attitude to the press, the relationships with other bands and his new found songwriting duties. Remember that this interview was conducted back in the Spring of 1995, when Richard was only 18. The band were still recovering from the loss of Bernard, Richard was still getting used to his new found fame, Neil wasn't to come onto the scene until the end of the year, and Coming Up was just a twinkle in the band's eyes. 
This interview was originally intended to be printed in Sam Sayer's own fanzine, but alas, other projects meant that it never saw the light of day. I am forever indebted to Sam for letting us print it here. I'm sure that you'll agree that it would be a crime to let it go unprinted.
R: So how's it going?
S: Oh I'm fine, how are you?
R: Jet lagged acutally, but, you know how it is. It's about bedtime in England, but I've just down a phoner so I've woken up a bit.
S: Have you ever been to US before?
R: No, this is my first time, so I had to go through the entire immigration thing. It was completely bizarre, I didn't know what was going on...
S: It's a bit early for an impression then.
R: Yeah, we've been in the country about three hours!
S: Looking forward to the tour?
R: Oh yes, I'm looking forward to it, it's going to be brilliant. We've got a lot to show off.
S: Have you gotten used to all this by now: being in Suede? Or it is still a bit unreal?
R: It's unbelievable sometimes. Obviously, this thour is going to be pretty unbelievable for me because, you know, I've never been to a country like America before. The unbelievalbe element of it, like being introduced to the press and everything., and realising that I'm public property and not some kid on the street anymore... that was unbelievealbe at first. And I didn't really know what to do. It wasn't frightening, it was just odd. Everyone knowing who you are and getting into clubs free and things like that... I didn't ever want to use that, but it was a strange, strange privilege. I'm used to it now though. This tour is going to hold a lot of surprises for me I'm sure. We just have to wait and see what happens...
S: What were you studying to be before all this happened?
R: Well that's the thing, I didn't really know. I was thinking about either a teacher, or a lawyer, or something. My dad's a lawyer so I thought I could be a lawyer, and my sister's going to be a teacher so I thought I could be a teacher. I wasn't thinking of anything musical, because that would have meant having to make music academic - doing a degree in music, or a music A level... I didn't want to do that, because I enjoyed just playing the guitar, just in my bedroom, as a hobby. You know, I wanted to keep it like that. But, music's all I ever really wanted to do, so, I was thinking well what can I do on the qualifications and academic and university side? But I didn't really have any answers, I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I was lucky that htis came along when it did. I'd be a bit of trouble by now!
S: Did you like school?
R: I like it, I was never one for "I hate school, it's a fascist regime," I never thought that. But, as you get older you notice things about your school, and what's going on around you with our schools and the government and how it all works, and you start kind of, neglecting the school as a system. It's not that I didn't want to be educated, it's just that I didn't like that way in which I was being educated. But no kid ever does. If you ever get a chance to join a band go for it, because it's the best thing...
S: No chance. I'd be too scared to sing and play no instruments. I found the guitar impossible.
R: Try playing To The Birds, that's pretty easy. (laugh) Yeah, it's only about three chords. One of the first ones I learned I think.
S: When did you start playing?
R: About four years ago, acutally. I've only been playing about four years. That's just because I played it so intensely, almost obsessively. It's all I ever wanted to do. I didn't go out with friends, I just wanted to play the guitar. I was a bit... back then it was a bit sad. But it did pay off. It was work and now I'm, kind of, reaping the rewards. Well of course I'm still working because I'm writing, but I'm reaping the rewards because I'm doing what I wanted to do which is play the guitar on a stage in front of lots of people, and, embarrass myself and everyone around me. Which is, a good laugh. I'm not an extrovbert, I don't think anyone in the band is an extrovert really, but when we go on stage we do like to, you know, shake it all about.
S: Are you at all bothered by the condescending attitude the British press has taken towards you? "Little Dick Oakes" et al?
R:No, no, I don't mind about that. Basically if I might make a sweeping, horrible statement, I think they're probably all a bit jealous that they weren't doing this at 18. Of course I sound smug when I say that, but it's true. I'm doing what they wanted to dowhen they were 18, which is be in their favourite band. And they're just rather jealous and bitter. If they're nasty to me I just think, well never mind, if it'd been them they'd be happy. To hell with them. I don't listen to the press any more. I listend to them for about two weeks, and when they started making fun of me, and making up rumours about me...
S: Like public fornication with Jacqui from Shampoo?
R: Exactly. I mean, where on earth did that rumour come from? It annoys me when people ask me, because if you knew the British press as well as I do, you'd understand that tha'ts what they get off on, I don't know who gave them that rumour, it's ridiculous. I've met Shampoo once, I've spoken to them for about two seconds. We're kind of, different, as bands and as people... Ridiculour, ridiculous, ridiculous rumour. So that's how I've disowned any kind of. ..I just don't believe the press. If it sounds good I kind of, put it to the back of my mind, and if it sounds bad I just, forget it. The press aren't everything. It's what you make of yourself, not what the press make of you.
S: Have you established friendships with any other musicians?
R: We don't hang out with anyone, we haven't had the change to hang out with any one yet because we're constantly on tour! When we went on tour in Europe, we were with the Manic Street Preachers, and they were absolutely lovel people. Really Nice. I've got into their music now because I know them as people and I understand what they're on about. They're completely sincere. The Manics are a band just like Suede really; in Britain, they're kind of, two bands that people hate. You either love Suede or hate them. It's the same with the Manics really. They've got a fanbase whcih always buy their singles but there are a lot of people who hate them, just because of Richie's problems, and things like that, and it's absolutely ridiculous. They're a great band, I wish them all the luck in the world. The only other band that I've been socially friendly with recently is our support band in England, Goya Dress, who are absolutely lovely people as well. I've watched them and they've watched me learn, bexause when they came on tour with us in October for the first time they's never done any gigs that big. And of course neither had I. I'm still in contact with them now, even though we stopped touring with them, and they're on our label as well. Everything's sweet.
S: How about friendships, socialising within the band?
R: Well when we're on tour we all go about together. When we're in London I think that, well Mat has got a lot of friends that don't like Suede at all. He's got a lot of friends from University that he still goes out with a lot, and he's got a new girlfriend and stuff. He's got a lot of friends who don't kind of, want our autographs, which is good in a way. And Brett's got a very close circle of friends; they're all very nice but they're kind of his in a way, they're not really ours. So I spend a lot of time with Simon. I woudln't say he's the one I'm closest to, cos I'm close to them all, but Simon's the one that I hang out with most, and if there's something that Simon wants to go and see at the cinema, I'll go with him, as opposed to Brett or Mat.
S: Do you break after the American tour?
R: No, we don't. We go straight off to Japan, then we're straight off to Thailand. Then we're going around Europe again, and then we're doig some festivals when it gets to summer months... We don't get a break. I joined the band at the end of August, we started touring after two months of preparation at the end of October, October the 26th it was. And the longest break I've had since then has been a week, at Christmas. You get two days in between each leg of the tour. Two days, then we were off to Europe, then two days, and we came back to do the second British leg, a week break over Christmas, and then we did Ireland, and then on day's rest and then we did England again, and now one day's rest and we're doing America.
S: First concert's tomorrow night.
R: Yeah, at the WUST Club.
S: I'm taking a train down from New York. I've never seen Suede live.
R: What, not even with Bernard?
S: Oh, no, I discovered the band months after the second US tour had finished. I knew absolutely nothing about music at the time, beyond the typical/obvious American mainstream. I just accidentally caught The Drowners on MTV at four o'clock in the morning one day, and well, now look at me!
R: Yeah, Suede have the affect on people. They sort of had that affect on me but I've always liked music.
S: Well, Suede introduced me to a whole other world of UK bands, so there are loads of other artists I listen to now.
R: But Suede the most?!
S: Yeah, Suede the most.
R: Jolly good!
S: What music do you listen to?
R: Well, apart from Suede, which I have to immerse myself in while we're on tour, I listen to the Manics quite a bit, and I listen to Goya Dress quite a bit. Because these are people I've met, it's easier to get into the music when you've met them. Have you heard of a British band called Portishead? I listen to them an awful lot. And at the moment on the bus the band are being subjected to Brett's CD collention. He's taken a bit of Bowie on the bus, he's taken a lot of Kinks on the bus, and the Who and the Beatles. The odd bit of Suede, if we want to listen to ourselves.
S:Sick of the music yet?
R:Not at all. The day we get sick, we'll stop. Sometimes it becomes monotonous, but we never actually get sick of it. We never come off stage thinking: "Oh my god, I'm so glad that's over." You always come off stage thinking: "That was good fun, I can't wait to do it again tomorrow." That's what it's like. If you love music that much, that's the effect it has on you.
S: I remember you commenting in a recent issue of Select that you had no desire to begin writing songs.
R: Yeah, I think that was acutally, I was probably making a joke. Like veryone's been saying to me: "You've got to write songs, you've got to write songs. You've got to write them better than Bernard, you've got to do that..." And so when I was doing an interview, I just thought: "Well I'm going to tell them I'm not going to do it, and see if they print it," and they did print it. But no, Id idn't mean that. Of course I'm going to write songs. If you play an instrument, you write songs. It's natural.
S: So when did you come up with Together?
R: Actually it was a tune I had knocking around in my head - a chord sequence, not a tune (Brett does the tunes, I do the chords). A chord sequence I had knocking aournd in my head for a quite long time, since I first joined. I was to strum to myself. And it just came to the New Generation single - they didn't have any more b-sides, any Anderson/Butler stuff, so it was basically a case of saying: "Well we've got to write a song, we've got like five days in the studio, what are we going to do?" I had one song worked out - Bentswood Boys. I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted for that. With Together, I just came in and wrote all the chords down and said, "Can we play this please?" Simon put this really attitude drum beat on it - a real kind of dremmer's rock out song. May put a bassline down - he writes basslines that involve a lot of 7s and thigns, which make it sound quite trashy and glammy and sexy, in a way. And then Brett ddi the ditty over the top - "We should get together..." And it becames this kinda of like stomping, rock songs; we thought it was brilliant. But that was complietely spontaneous, I had no idea what it was going to sound like. I sort of knew what Bentswood Boys was going to sound like. But Together I had no idea. And that shows that, between the for of us - Gilbert/Anderson/Osman/Oakes - there's a spontaneity that perhaps wasn't there before. Before it was very very planned. I've been told how it was like. Brett would be sent a demo by Bernard, and Brett would write a tune over it, and they'd come into the studio and recording would be bascially a number of steps to get to an idea that both Brett and Bernard had. For us, now, we've got a vague idea of the beginning, and recording is just like stepping out into the unknown; we've got no idea what's going to happen in the end, but it's usually good. It was good with Together. We're not going to rely on spontaneity, but, it's nice to have that element. It shows that we're a band, it shows that we can do it. If you shoved us in front of some cameras and said, "Write a song!" then, within about half an hour we'd have one. We're all bristling with ideas...
At that point the interview tails off, letting Richard unpack and acclimatize to the new surroundings. Thanks once again to Sam Sayer for letting us use this piece.
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