1. Firstly, what drives you to make music?
Simon: "What drives me to make music? Goodness, that's a very full-on
question (laughing)! Um (thinking), it dignifies my existence in some
way, and captures snapshots of my personality, whether it be good or
it's almost like a diary. I suppose it's an easy of way of
cataloguing and recording things that you see, and things that you experience
yourself, and it's creative - and I think human-beings have to be creative!"
2. After years spent as a struggling musician, is it fulfilling for
you, to think that your work is now starting to be noticed?
Simon: "Yes, it's nice to be noticed - not for vanity reasons -
but if you do things, it's nice for people to receive them in a positive
way. We've all been in bands before and it's a struggle, so for your
music to be recognised, it's very flattering - it's great (smiling)!"
*Interestingly, Simon studied Maths at University and has noted, "I
do have this logical brain, which puts a damper on my romance - although
apparently, there is a strong relationship between maths and music."*
3. Both Radio 1 and Radio 2 are big supporters of Cherry Ghost, are
you pleased to have such a cross-section appeal?
Simon: "Very pleased, yeah - very pleased! I think it's a mark
of a decent band you know? I mean it's like a band such as The Beach
Boys, you've got people who are in their sixties to teenagers who listen
to them! I don't think there should be any kind of musical snobbery,
in that, "That's our music and that's your music." So it's
great! From things as ridiculously old-school as Johnnie Walker, to
Zane Lowe. Yeah, it's ace (smiling)!"
Jim: "I think it means it's hard for them to pigeon-hole you -
they can't find a neat little box to put you in you know? So it must
mean we're doing something right!"
Simon: "It usually irritates journalists, the fact that you can't
Jim: "It makes for some strange audiences though
Simon: "It does make for some strange audiences (smiling)!"
Jim: "Every crowd is different. Sometimes you get Radio 2 crowds
and sometimes you get Radio 1 crowds - it's nuts (laughing)! It's quite
interesting really, because you never know who's going to turn up."
4. In November 2006, you appeared on Later
with Jools Holland,
who described you as "A word of mouth phenomenon." As your
TV debut, this must be a moment that you'll never forget - but what
are some of your memories of the day?
Simon: "Memories? We saw Felicity Kendal walking a dog around the
BBC - that's my main memory of the whole experience (laughing)!"
Jim: "I saw the back of Garth Brooks' head as well."
Simon: "No Terry Wogan though (laughing)
Jim: "No Wogan. We were going to kidnap him actually (laughing)
Simon: "Throw him in the back of a van and hold him ransom (laughing)!
No, it was great! We were on the show with The Killers, George Martin,
Jim: "Richard Hawley."
Simon: "Yeah. It was a bit nerve-wracking because it was the first
telly we'd done
Jim: "Quite intense, yeah!"
Simon: "Quite intense, but it was good!"
5. A new book which examines Radiohead's OK Computer, claims that
this could be the last ever classic album with an enduring cultural
impact, due to the growing number of consumers who only download certain
songs and not complete albums. What are your thoughts on this?
Simon: "I wouldn't agree that OK Computer will be the last ever
classic album, because I've bought albums since OK Computer, which are
better than OK Computer!"
Jim: "I mean what's a classic album? I think it's just something
that journalists like to talk about, because they've not get anything
else to do."
Simon: (laughs heartily)
Jim: "I don't know? Whatever. I mean there is something about the
coherence of an album, but I think that's only a process which has been
in place since the CD came in. Because as soon as they got away from
the concept of 2 sides of vinyl, which has a beginning and end to each
side - once they got rid of that, you've already begun to unravel the
concept of the album. I think a lot of CDs are probably too long, and
so people then tend to not value the overall thing, and it leads to
a more 'mix and match' way of listening to records you know? "I
like this track and like that track." So yeah, there's probably
a certain frivolity to the album."
Simon: "It's a shame as well actually, because a lot of singles,
or the tunes which are the most immediate to the general public - which
labels decide to release and radio stations decide to playlist - aren't
necessarily representative of what a band does. So what happens now,
is that people download the singles and the continuity of the album,
which people obviously take seriously and musicians take seriously -
we certainly do - will get lost and great tracks on the album (pausing).
I mean singles of ours which have been released, in my opinion, aren't
the best songs on the album. So yeah, it would be a shame if people
just downloaded those."
6. Can you remember when you first felt that you were beginning to grasp
the art of songwriting, and do you see a thread running through your
Simon: "I don't think there's anything that you particularly grasp,
you just kind of fumble around, and then, if something comes out which
means something, and it isn't too cheesy and isn't too complex, you
go with it. But in answer to the first part your question, the last
couple of years probably - I've just started to kind of get my head
around it. But, I think that also comes from listening to people that
you want to be compared to, and settling with your own voice / finding
your own voice. When I say voice, I mean physically - the actual sound
that comes out of your throat. It's really important to get that and
pair it with your lyrics, who you want to be and which genre (pausing),
I mean I don't really think about it too much, it's just more recently.
When you play a song that's 2 years old, and it doesn't feel dated,
it implies there's some consistency in your writing, and then, I think
you feel as though you've kind of reached (pausing), not plateau, but
you've reached a point where you're comfortable that you've got a solid
voice, and you're not bouncing around. As soon as you start writing
songs when you're a kid, it changes from week-to-week. I used to write
a tune and then 3 weeks later, I'd hate the tune that I'd written. So,
there's an element of consistency which has come by in the last 2 years
Jim: "It's probably at the point when you can play the songs night
after night after night, and not get bored of them."
Simon: "Probably a half decent sign, yeah. With my lyrics (pausing),
the album's called Thirst For Romance, so I guess there is a certain
aspiration towards that in each tune. Not necessarily in the sense of
falling in love, but in the sense of believing in something other than
the actual nuts and bolts of what life is about - the everyday stuff.
It's kind of having faith and otherworldliness to your life, even though
it's very clear that that's not necessarily present. An aspirational
quality in peoples' very common day, is the essence of a lot of the
tunes. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up!"
7. Are there any particular lyrics that you've heard, or any lines
of poetry that you've read over the years, that have always stayed with
Simon: "Well my favourite lyricist is Bill Callahan from Smog -
he's the best lyricist as far as I'm concerned, and there are countless,
countless images that stay with me. Poetry, there's a woman called Stevie
Smith - she wrote a poem called Alfred The Great, which influenced the
lyrics to Alfred The Great. Part of her poem reads
I worship and magnify this man of men
Keeps a wife and six children on three and ten
Paid weekly in an envelope, yet never has abandoned hope
And there's a picture of a guy in his work overalls, stood with a washing
line at the back of him kind of thing. It was glorifying the working
man pretty much, which is the essence of the tune on the album. There's
lots, but those are the main inspirations really - behind a lot of the
tunes - as opposed to other music."
8. Is there a typical way that you work on song ideas?
Simon: "Some of the slower tunes, I tend to write on an acoustic
guitar, and then some of the more rock 'n' roll tunes, we tend to do
as a band together. But there's no hard and fast method really. Sometimes,
I'll come in and say I've written a tune and we'll all work it out,
and other times we'll say, "Look, let's write a tune with this
chord sequence," and Jim will play a riff or write a tune around
that. But, there's no real set method to be honest. Whatever's good
good is the requirement (smiling)!"
Jim: "Yeah, I mean the general attitude is (pausing), we're kind
of conscious of the set, in terms of what songs we've got and what extra
songs we need. There are no egos involved in it, it's just about what's
Simon: "Yeah, definitely!"
9. John Lennon often talked of how his recorded work, "never quite
matched the ideas / sounds that he had in his head." How closely
do your songs match what's in your head?
Simon: "It's very hard! You're constantly modifying recordings
that you've done in your own head, and we're constantly modifying the
tunes we recorded 12 months ago, by playing them live. I mean the live
performance of a tune, compared to the studio version on our album,
has now evolved beyond what we initially did. And that kind of continues
really, because as a musician, you've got to save yourself from getting
bored, so you kind of aspire to that. But no, the songs on the album
are alright actually. We did deliberate over it for a while, and they're
not quite the ones that you have in your head, but they're as near as
Jim: "I think that's the beauty of it, that things just happen,
or a song has the potential to turn out better than you ever imagined
it would. It's just capturing a moment."
10. Do you have a special memory attached to a specific song - one of
your own and one by another artist / band - which will always remind
you of a certain period of your life each time you hear it?
Simon: "Of my songs, Mathematics (long pause + thinking). Goodness,
Jim have you got anything?"
Jim: "Um (thinking), there are loads aren't there?"
Simon: "Yeah, there's thousands! I mean to be honest, the tunes
that do remind you of parts of your life, are probably not very credible
ones, like '90s Club Hits when you first went to Tenerife with your
mates (laughing)! I can't think of anything particularly poignant
Jim: "There's certain albums, that I just remember absolutely blasting
when I was young you know? My Bloody Valentine - if I listen to that,
it just takes me back to being about 18-years-old again and caning that
11. What's the one LP that everyone should own?
Simon: "What's the one LP that everyone should own? Um (thinking),
I'd say Good Morning Spider by Sparklehorse."
Jim: "I would say Isn't Anything by My Bloody Valentine."
12. What inspires you outside of music?
Simon: "Just kind of walking down the street I guess? You know
- old people, kids, people in love, nightclubs, laundrettes, food, books,
poems, life in general
Jim: "Everyday life."
Simon: "Everything and anything, yeah, yeah! People who fail, people
who succeed. Yeah, all sorts!"
13. Do you have any interesting tales from your time on the road?
Simon: "Interesting tales? Goodness (smiling), yeah there's lots
(laughing)! I suppose you're asking us if we've got a Parkinson-style
anecdote (laughing)? Jim, can you think of one that springs to mind?"
Jim: "I almost got into a fight with a Burt Reynolds look-alike
Simon: "Yeah, we got into a fight with members of an IBM Conference
the other day, who tore apart our art-form, and told us that we were
Jim: "The Burt Reynolds look-alike was a middle-aged guy, so it
was just pathetic you know, and we didn't want to get into some big
altercation, so we tried humouring him, but then we had to ask him to
Simon: "We've had our van impounded and people arrested."
Jim: "Oh that was good, yeah!"
Simon: "We got stranded in London on the last tour. There's all
sorts really, but nothing that immediately springs to mind - it's just
general day-to-day on tour kind of stuff really. It's never dull (smiling)!"
14. With the Summer Festival Season now upon us, if you were asked
to curate one, which artists / bands would you ask to play?
Simon: "Um (thinking), Scott Walker. Smog
Jim: "We'd get the Arcade Fire down."
Simon: "Yeah! Any old-school stuff? Mavis Staples, we'd get her
down - one of The Staples singers."
Simon: "Goodness, who's the guy that used to play with Elvis (looking
Jim: "James Burton. Yeah, we could have him down, he's good!"
Simon: "Scotty Moore, I was thinking Scotty Moore actually."
Jim: "That Beirut chap, I like him."
Simon: "The Afghan Whigs - they should reform and play!"
Jim: "Ooh yes! Low - I really like Low!"
Simon: "Yo La Tengo, Kings Of Leon, Willie Nelson
Jim: "Get Amy Winehouse along."
Simon: "Amy Winehouse and one more?"
Jim: "Bat For Lashes."
Simon: "Yeah, and Cat Power!"
15. What have been some of your favourite gigs that you've attended
as fans over the years?
Simon: "I remember watching Nina Simone, shortly before she left
us, and that was a good gig, that was ace actually!"
*I mention that Nina Simone is one of James Dean Bradfield's favourite
Simon: "Is she? She's an enormously fucking powerful singer!"
Jim: "I saw a really good Twilight Singers gig a couple of years
ago - that was a really emotional performance
Simon: "So did I actually, yeah!"
Jim: "I think we were at the same gig?"
Simon: "Ah right, OK."
Jim: "That was absolutely brilliant, very memorable! I saw Richard
Thompson play with Danny Thompson, just the 2 of them, finger-picking
a guitar and a double bass. It was in the Bridgwater Hall in Manchester,
and it was one of the biggest sounds I've ever heard anyone achieve
- it was like there was 20 people on stage! Musically, it was just awe-inspiring
watching that! A lot of the time you watch people play, and you kind
of know what they're doing, and you think, well give me a bit of time
and I can probably get a measure on that. But with that show, I was
watching it and thinking, I have no idea what they're doing to create
Simon: "The Hold Steady as well, I saw them recently and it was
a fantastic gig!"
16. And what does it mean to you to play your songs live?
Simon: "Um (laughing), sometimes it depends on the gig - it can
be a real bind sometimes
Jim: "But that's the nature of it, that's the nature of what it's
all about really."
Simon: "It's quite intense, and it's not like we're playing rock
'n' roll every night, so it does take a little bit of emotional concentration."
Jim: "You never know what to expect, and songs come out differently
every night - there's enough space within the songs, for the performance
to always be slightly different. So as a musician playing them, it's
actually very interesting and exciting, and in a way, every gig takes
on a life of its own! I personally prefer playing longer gigs actually,
because the longer the gig goes on, the more of its own life it gets
to take on! Sometimes that's in a good way, and sometimes (laughing),
like last night, the gig sort of slowly unravelled. But that's the nature
of it, and that will feed into later performances and later gigs, the
experience of that. So you know, it's a privilege to be able to go out
and perform every night, a total privilege (smiling)!"
17. Simon, you touched on this earlier, but could you elaborate further
on how long it has taken you to find your voice / singing style?
Simon: "All my life pretty much. From when I was singing as a kid
aged 10 in Church and Primary School, to being in bands at 16, to being
in bands through to my 20s. Just listening to old demos that you'd done
and modifying what you thought was wrong, and trying to iron-out some
of the Americanisms. Listening to people you like, such as Johnny Cash,
and then trying to imitate them by singing along, trying to reach the
notes that they reach, trying to get the expression that they get, and
eventually, you come out with something that you're not too embarrassed
to listen back to. It takes a while, yeah - it's taken up until now
Jim: "Actually, I found it really fascinating, because I was listening
back to some old demos from Simon's previous bands, and it's really
interesting to hear how his voice has developed!"
Simon: "Life experience changes your voice as well obviously. But
that's kind of like an unknown quantity really, so I couldn't tell you
how that's achieved - it's just living generally."
18. Do you each have a mantra that you live by?
Simon: "A mantra? Um (thinking)?"
Jim: "Just sort of try and be nice to people!"
Simon: (laughs heartily)
Jim: "There are just so many inconsiderate people in the World
Simon: "Yeah - the aim of this tour is to teach the World some
Jim: "I got into an altercation with a bouncer the other night,
who I felt was impolite and I told him so, and he didn't like it very
much, so I had to run away and hide in the dressing room (laughing)."
Simon: "Iron-out any impoliteness in the Nation and lazy-thinking.
That's the plan!"
Jim: "Yeah, people sauntering through - say what you think!"
19. Is there anything that you can tell us about Cherry Ghost, which
may surprise your fans?
Jim: "I don't know? I don't think they probably know very much
about us anyway?"
Simon: "Yeah, they probably don't know anything."
Jim: "What seems perfectly normal to me, probably seems quite bizarre
to other people (laughing)."
Simon: "Yes. Um (thinking), I suppose the most surprising thing
about this band, is that it doesn't listen to any of the stuff really,
that it gets playlisted with."
Simon: "We see radio playlists and we don't really listen to that
kind of stuff. We listen to old Gospel music, noisy American Alt-Rock,
Country music and Folk music. So, the most surprising thing to me about
this band, is the fact that it gets played on radio to be honest (laughing)!
I think people have imagined that we're a part of the pop clique, and
they couldn't be further from the truth really."
Jim: "Our album was all recorded in a bungalow, in some remote
part of Merseyside, looking out to the North Wales Estuary, by people
who had never made an album before. So it's just so bizarre for a song
to be on Radio 1, and then to be in all of these radio stations, having
never had anything to do with that."
Simon: "It was very much a DIY project really. There was no major
label intrusion or anything, we did it ourselves - from producing it,
to mixing it, to mastering it - the full deal! So, we blagged it (laughing),
we're blaggers (laughing) - that's the surprise!"
Jim: "Yeah (laughing)!"
*I ask the guys how it felt to listen back to the finished album for
the first time*
Jim: "Well, I can't think of a point (pausing), because you're
always listening back to it at various stages. To be honest, it's difficult
to listen to it without going - well from my perspective - thinking
about guitar parts or guitar sounds."
Simon: "Yeah. I think you've got to give it a break for 3 or 4
months before you listen to it - it's the only way you can get any perspective
on it. I don't listen to it anymore, but I listened to it the other
day, I'd had a few drinks and I thought, "Right, OK, I'll put it
on!" Because you need to kind of get a perspective on what you're
doing, in terms of writing new tunes and things."
Jim: "But it's not what we're doing now. It's recorded, it's done
Simon: "It's a snapshot isn't it (looking at Jim)?"
Jim: "Yeah, and it's there for other people to listen to now, and
for them to respond to. We're just getting on with developing the live
sound and playing gigs, and getting new material together."
Simon: "It's like browsing through old photographs when you look
back at it. The songs are snapshots, and this is like us now - the living,
breathing thing. So, we've done it and we've taken a photo, and that's
the wedding (smiling)
have a look at the wedding photos, while
we're moving on you know?"
Jim: "But it'd be fair to say that we're pleased with it!"
Simon: "Yeah, we are pleased with it!"
*I ask Simon and Jim, if they've seen any reviews of Thirst For Romance
Simon: "We don't read reviews - I kind of got out of that. There's
a thing that Armando Iannucci wrote in an article recently, he said
(laughing), "Googling your own name, is like opening the doors
to hell - it should just not be done!" You get a bit curious as
to what people are saying about you when it starts off, and then you
think, "Do you know what? Fuck it, I don't give a shit, I don't
really care." We're are own arbiters of what we're doing. We've
all got fairly decent taste, and we all listen to pretty good music,
so if people like it, great! If they don't, whatever, I'm not really
20. Why did you choose to sign with Heavenly Records?
Simon: "That's a pretty straight-forward answer really. They were
incredibly honest - they were the only people that criticised what we
were doing, as opposed to throwing plaudits at us forever. They were
honest, they were passionate, they were into the right kinds of music
and we liked the people that were working there. So, it's been a really
good decision basically. It's a great label!"
Jim: "During the recording of the album, there was zero interference
- we were left to get on with it. Jeff (Barrett - Heavenly Founder)
came down and said, "Great, carry on!" You know, all of the
comments that we got were perfectly valid, and actually, kind of helped
us out in a few spots. So yeah, great (smiling)!"
*In another recent online interview, when speaking of signing his contract
with Heavenly Records, Simon said, "I'll never forget it - it was
a relief after all those years struggling in bands. Best of all, my
Mum doesn't have to explain to her friends, why her 31-year-old son
is still living at home without a job!"*
21. Can you tell us about the artwork used on your record sleeves?
Simon: "We were kind of finding our feet on the first single (Mathematics)
to be honest, so we were just trying stuff out, and it's natural with
an artist who just gets signed, that you see things (pausing). I mean
you're up against deadlines and stuff, so you think, "OK, that's
a nice bit of artwork - can you do something similar?" The artwork
for the second single (People Help The People) and the album, are basically
family photographs from old Grandparents. The picture on the album sleeve
is my Great Uncle, and my Great Grandma's in the background - Great,
Great Grandma in fact! There's just a certain class about an old photograph.
People used to take photographs really seriously way back when you know?
There's just a real level of dignity, in probably what were pretty shitty
tough times. And it's natural, it's not staged, it's not acted - and
that's important! There's nothing disingenuous on this album, from the
lyrics to the performances, so it was important that we thought that
22. How does it feel to be a part of Manchester's rich musical history?
Simon: "Fantastic - Manchester's Great! I mean we don't really
play any kind of role in a scene, and we're not pally with this lot
and that lot
Jim: "It's settled down a bit really, in the last few years. And
I think it's possible now, to be in Manchester and create music that
is not strictly from the venerable Mancunian tradition."
Jim: "There's loads of musicians and there's loads of venues
*Doves' Jimi Goodwin (also a Heavenly Records labelmate) plays on some
of Cherry Ghost's songs*
Simon: "The people are ace, they're properly loyal and get behind
you - you almost feel (pausing), you get a very definite sense of pride
from the people in Manchester, the fact that a band from Manchester's
doing well. And, I think they really wear it on their heart
almost like supporting a football team or something (laughing), they
really get behind you!"
*I ask if Cherry Ghost have any homecoming shows planned*
Simon: "Yes! In July, we've got a couple of dates at the Royal
Northern College Of Music - we did one, 2 or 3 weeks ago, which was
sold out. They've been going great actually, but at the moment, all
roads lead to Glastonbury (smiling)!"
23. There is a realisation amongst nearly every artist, in that they
can never be completely content - there will always be a strong desire
to create. Do you also share this feeling?
Jim: "Yeah, totally!"
Simon: "Yes! Writing is like a constant state of becoming - you
never actually arrive anywhere, and you're constantly trying to reach
this perfect song, or this perfect statement of your existence. But
what it is - music - is a reflection of your existence from one day
to another, and it reflects all of your flaws and failures, and like
I say, it's just a diary, it's a catalogue. As long as you're living,
you keep writing! It's a catalogue of your own creations basically."
Jim: "If you stopped feeling, then you might lose that passion.
But, I think as long as you're alive and breathing, then there is always
a yearning for some form of self-progression."
24. What are your biggest hopes for Cherry Ghost, and do you see
your sound evolving in the future?
Simon: "The second album will be quite a bit different to this
album - it'll be a lot braver I think, and a little bit darker (pausing),
I mean we don't know until we get into it."
Jim: "And beyond that, we'll see where it goes."
Simon: "We're not huge careerists, we'd be happy to play to 400
or 500 people in every town, and if they come and they love it, then
that's all good with me! To be honest, I don't want to be playing stadiums,
because I cannot stand going and watching bands in them - I think it's
a hateful arena to watch music, and I don't particularly want to be
a part of it. So, the way some bands do it, like the Super Furry Animals
and Spiritualised - they keep it on a pretty low keel, but they've got
a great reputation. That would be cool with me!"
Jim: "People who are into it because they genuinely believe in
it, rather than that's what's playing on the radio at the time."
25. Lastly, chips or cream buns?
Jim: "I'd go for cream buns."
Simon: "Yeah, I'd go for cream buns."
*I say that most people usually go for chips*
Simon: "Well, because we're a bit older, we're aware of the health
Jim: "We're very carbohydrate conscious in this band!"
Simon: "Yeah (laughing), that's part of our ethos actually - you
could add that to one of the last questions
Cherry Ghost (laughing)!"
A very special thanks to Cherry Ghost, to the band's
management, and to James @ Pomona, for all of their time and help.
"I feel more fellowship with the defeated than with Saints.
Heroism and Sanctity don't interest me, what interests me is being a