Interview: The Verve

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Interview and image EMI

What a year it’s been for The Verve! The most talked about band at Glasto 2008, one of the most important and influential bands in British music has finally released Forth. Their 4th album (hah!) is their first since their career defining commercial breakthrough, Urban Hymns. JUICE gets the lowdown on the new album from the band’s Richard Ashcroft (vocals), Nick McCabe (guitars), Peter Salisbury (drums), Simon Jones (bass).

So the band is back together. How did the call to recall actually happen?
Richard You know, maybe the time was right, maybe the climate was right or maybe we were old enough to be able to deal with it and just make a noise. I think we’re at a good age. We’re not particularly old, we’re not past it. I think we’ve still got our musical sensibilities…. Obviously there’s baggage. There always will be. It’s no bed of roses. It’s not some Mills & Boon scene running down the beach, you know, with the sunset. It’s none of that. It’s a case that these four people make a pretty unique sound together. ‘Are you up for it?’ ‘Yeah.’

So first day in the studio, I guess everyone must have been a little bit nervous.
It was quite easy. Richard picked me up from the station in his Mini, and brought us down to the studio, had a bit of a coffee and a chat for an hour and after that we were playing music. It was like old times, really, you know.
Pete You can hear it on the record, all the excitement of our actually being in a room together playing.

It’s been said in the past that this band does better under stress. Richard, does The Verve thrive on tension?
The music making side of it isn’t driven by friction actually. It’s driven by unity. The only place that we can find a single voice or a true understanding of each other is probably when we’re actually making music anyway, so, you know, and I think we’re old enough now to take it as it comes. Another motivation was I couldn’t quite get in my head why on earth The Verve should be considered to be something that isn’t alive when the songs live every day on the radio still. We’ll never, I hope, condemn the band to a sort of elephant’s graveyard of rock ‘n’ roll.

Over the 10 years that have passed, who’s changed?
Simon The really great thing that I did was the live shows with The Gorillaz and working with Damon – that was pure inspiration, to see someone so in love with the music and how much it matters. It’s good to get a totally different insight into how other people work. Having come from a jam-based thing to working with songwriters who are really set in what they do and how they do it, for me, that’s made me grow as a musician.
Nick It’s a funny thing actually, because as Pete and Si have got better and better it’s almost like it’s my duty to sort of rough it round the edges. I’ve got more comfortable with it over the years, but I’m more interested in sonics. Somebody said something slightly derogatory about me being a colourist and that’s probably what I do.

Richard, have any of these new songs been kicking around in your head, waiting for the chance that The Verve might play them?
Through the first few weeks of listening to what we were creating together collectively, I started getting an idea of maybe the tunes that could fit into this atmosphere, this mood that we were creating.

How did your background affect you, as a writer and as a person?
Richard I was very fortunate as a kid. It was about walking, it was about ponds, tadpoles, trees hit by lightning, fires outside, even though it was just a few fields, but [my granddad] managed to bring in a lot of wonder into my mind at a very early age. In a way we’ve all moved away, you know, everybody. When I was a kid my nan and grandad lived next door. My other grandparents lived across the road, a very tight-knit situation, you know. That’s why Bittersweet Symphony, I’ll always enjoy that opening line.

So, the album, Forth, is done and dusted and out there. Did it get made in one bash, or off and on?
Simon We did do it off and on because we did a couple of weeks and then we chose to go on tour in November and December. It was February by the time we started again so there was a bit of a pause in the middle, but when we came back listening through to see what we’d got and we kind of realised, we’ve kind of got the album here.

And who sat in the producer’s chair?
We used a lot of different engineers on this record. Cameron was the first in, who recorded it all. And we used Tim Brand, who was in Dreadzone for a while, but now he’s like a master ProTools, digital wizard – he did a lot of the editing with us. And Chris Potter worked with us, who’d worked with us previously on Urban Hymns. He came in to get the greatest vocal performances because he worked so well with Richard. So it was us overseeing the whole process, using the best guys that we could get our hands on at the time. J

Forth by The Verve is out now on Parlophone / EMI from all good record stores. Want to know what else the band has to say about the album? Get the track by track breakdown on JUICEonline.

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