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Supergrass

An Interview with Bassist Micky Quinn

Every band has its mythology. As a budding folk guitarist, punk icon Joe Strummer adopted the moniker of his unlikely hero -- Woody Guthrie. Richey James, lyricist for the Manic Street Preachers, has been mysteriously missing since 1995. And Gaz Coombes, the front-man for Supergrass, needed his Mom to co-sign his first record deal at the tender age of 16.

Despite their maternal dependency, Supergrass have managed an impressive legacy. 5 acclaimed studio albums, a greatest hits collection, and almost 14 years of touring now distinguish the 3 lads from Oxford as true rock & roll veterans. In their latest release, Road to Rouen, we find their youthful exuberance tempered with a more mature outlook -- fitting for a band approaching middle-age. SF Station's Roger Thomasson caught up with bassist Micky Quinn during a quiet moment on the North American leg of their current tour.


SF Station (SFS): You're playing in New York tomorrow, at Webster Hall. How's the tour been so far?

Quinn: It's going really well. Surprisingly well. We've gotten really good audience reactions. Last time it was a bit low key. People went berserk this time around…

SFS: Where did you record Road to Rouen?

Quinn: We wrote and recorded most of it in France. We bought a bunch of studio gear and decided that we wanted to make a sort of DIY record. Gaz actually owns a place in Northern France -- just a converted barn -- and we moved all of the gear in there, set up, and recorded.

SFS: Was it self-produced?

Quinn: Yeah, yeah, no producer. We had an engineer -- a guy we met during the Supergrass album, I think. He's French, which was kind of handy. But it was brilliant. We didn't have an entourage or anything. We just kind of drove ourselves there in our cars, went to the supermarket, bought all the food, cooked ourselves dinner, and made a record.

SFS: What music are you excited about right now?

Quinn: Well, nothing in the last week. I heard the Arcade Fire recently… I thought it was quite an amazing record. When we were making the record we were listening quite a bit to Michael Chapman. He did a lot of solo records in the late 60s, and they really influenced this record. Especially Fully Qualified Survivor. Mick Ronson played guitar on it, just before he joined Bowie… also Elliot Smith, especially XO, which I think is a stunning album.

SFS: You've been pushing 14 years as a band?

Quinn: Um, something like that, yeah.

SFS: How does it feel, the veteran touring process? Is it as exciting as it's always been?

Quinn: Well, in some ways yes and in some ways no. It's still exciting to play in a band. Whatever happens, you've still got new songs to play live and old songs that you've reinterpreted. But I don't know, it's still the early days on this tour. I mean, the two mornings on the bus I've woken up having drunk too much beer haven't been that good… It's getting a bit more difficult to handle the hangovers.

SFS: So, you're heading across the country after your New York show?

Quinn: Yeah, we did Boston and Philadelphia, tonight New York, then up to Chicago and down to Atlanta, across to Arizona and all of that, and then up to where you are. A big horseshoe.

SFS: Was Canada the first leg of the tour?

Quinn: Well yeah, the first leg of this North American tour. I mean, we did Japan a week before last, and did Europe just before Christmas. This is kind of the end of the touring.

SFS: Do you get a warm reception in Japan?

Quinn: Yeah. We played Osaka for the first time in a long time, and that really blew us away. There were really berserk for it. We've actually had stage-divers in Japan, which is almost impossible. When we first went out to Japan we noticed that the crowd barriers at the gigs consisted of nothing but a tiny rope strung in front of the crowd… everyone was so controlled -- no one ever crossed the rope -- so getting a stage diver is quite strange.

SFS: How are things in the UK? Its always been unclear to me what your audience is like elsewhere in the world. I've always felt you were underappreciated in the States.

Quinn: I think that in a lot of ways we've kind of been misrepresented in England -- the brit-pop tag seems to raise its ugly head again and again. Its kind of annoying because we've never aligned ourselves with brit-pop, and during the early years of brit-pop always spent our time denying that we were brit-pop, and then found ourselves having to accept it by default because people just kept going on and on about it. And now, after all that, some people almost see us as an irrelevant band because brit-pop is all over

SFS: Yeah, I could never understand how you got lumped into that genre. I suppose it's timing, more than anything else.

Quinn: Yeah, well, the real reactions are the ones we get at gigs, and I really don't see people standing there thinking 'this is an irrelevant band' – they are all jumping around and stuff. Also, the last tour we did there were a bunch of 18 and 19-year old kids, not just 30-year olds. There are lots of young people digging the band.


Supergrass are playing in San Francisco to a sold-out audience on February 23 at the Great American Music Hall.