IAN BROUDIE was a special guest on Episode 26 of The Anfield Wrap. After the recording he spoke at length to John Gibbons about growing up in Liverpool, Eric’s, producing, songwriting and his upcoming tour.
Ian Broudie: I’m not very well actually!
TAW: You look better than the Stone Roses do! You’ll have to pass on your health tips
IB: Well Ian (Brown) looks alright. It’s funny all that isn’t it, I mean we’re just getting older aren’t we. I still play football a bit. Well I play football badly
TAW: Well maybe that’s the secret. If we can go back to when you when you looked even younger, you said recently in an interview that ‘growing up in Liverpool in the 60s was like being in the centre of the earth’
IB: (interrupts) Well I didn’t mean that! I didn’t mean the centre of the earth I meant the centre of the world! I didn’t mean it was like being buried under a pile of rocks
TAW: I know you didn’t mean literally! I wasn’t going to claim it was a Ringo Starr moment. But how much do you think Liverpool at that time influenced you becoming a musician and the musician that you became?
IB: Well it must have influenced me a lot. It was a funny time, because when I was a kid, Liverpool was absolutely buzzing, even though I was too young to really remember, and then by the time I was like 17 there was unemployment, it was quite bleak, Yorkshire Ripper!, and the miners’ strike, so there was that and that in the space of 10, 15 years it was such a different place.
TAW: As a 17 year old I know that you got heavily into the Psychedelic stuff like Captain Beefheart and Love, and it’s always really interested me how big they are in Liverpool, disproportionately it seems to everywhere else. Even now when I go and play with a new band, one of the first things they’ll ask me is if I’m into (Love Album) Forever Changes. Why is that do you think?
IB: Do you know what? I’ve got a really weird theory about that. Around the time there used to be a few Woolworths and a couple of record shops and they used to do these ‘Deletion Records’, or something like that, where you’d get the record with the corner snipped off it and it was kind of old stock, so they used to be about 40 or 50p and Love and Beefheart were in all those sections so you could pick up those records fairly cheap. So everyone in school, we’d all have those records, because you could afford to buy them, and everyone got into them. And I know that sounds terrible, but I had Love albums, and I don’t know really know where I would have heard Love or what would have made me buy it if it hadn’t have been really cheap!
TAW: But then they are still talked about amongst bands in the city
IB: Well then it becomes a thing because your bands are influenced by that, and then people ask who you’re influenced by and you say ‘Love’ and then the next generation listen to them, so then it just goes on down the line. I was looking on my son Riley’s iPod the other night and there is a lot of Love on there and so it just goes on, and I think that’s just from being in Liverpool and hearing people talk about them.
TAW: You’ve talked about the 60s being an exciting time in Liverpool, but I always thought the city in the late 70s must have been great when Liverpool were the best team in Europe and the music scene was thriving with Eric’s, that must have been a pretty exciting time for you.
IB: Well at the time it’s all you know, but Eric’s changed my life. And also going across Europe on tour watching Liverpool Football Club and discovering new things – especially being from Liverpool, which was quite an insular place. For me it was a really exciting moment, because it seemed like since The Beatles and Merseybeat, there hadn’t really been any Liverpool bands for years and years. So then when Eric’s came along, there was a big creative surge in the city. So you’d go down to Eric’s and there would be loads of different types of people mixing, and you’d be seeing bands and chatting with them afterwards. When I was in Big in Japan, Roger (Eagle) was our manager, and I was on the dole so I used to go down to Mathew St, change the barrels in there, rehearse in there, and then when a band came I used to get a fiver for loading the gear in, and then sometimes I’d DJ a bit, and then do the load out. So I could be there from midday until three in the morning some days, so it was my life that place. Music didn’t seem very achievable before that, it felt a long way from where you needed to be. Even London seemed very far away.
TAW: And presumably it helped a lot with your musical education, for example I can’t imagine there were many places to hear Reggae in Liverpool before Eric’s opened.
IB: No, well Roger was an amazing fella. He’d been a DJ at Twisted Wheel in Manchester in the 60s and he used to have an office in Eric’s which had a wall of records, it was massive, and he was very kind to me looking back, because I was just some kid who hung around there originally and he used to give me three albums, which could have been something from the 50s, a dub album, and maybe some Patti Smith, and say “give me them back, and I’ll give you some others in a few days”, and it was stuff I’d never heard before. Then I’d come back in and swap it for others, and it was very kind of him when I think about it now, and it probably opened up a lot of stuff to me.
TAW: And the football team kept winning as well.
IB: And it was against the odds there as well, because we were a small club really, who through willpower and devotion became successful and it was sweeter for that. But it’s a special club in a special city.
TAW: After Big in Japan you did a lot of producing. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the list of bands you’d worked with, people like Echo and the Bunnymen, The Fall, Shack, Icicle Works, there are some interesting front men there
IB: A kind of a who’s who of Liverpool alcoholics
TAW: And well known to be difficult to work with on occasions
IB: Not as difficult as me probably, I think we ran each other close. But I have to say that those people, with the exception of Mark Smith probably, I’d say at the time we were friends as much as working together. We were on the same page.
TAW: But you still obviously had ambitions as a musician yourself
IB: Well the Bunnymen was the first thing I produced, I don’t know why but people would always ask me “this song, what do you think we should do, what guitar”, and I don’t know why that was, looking back, they just always did, so I think it was just an extension of that that I ended up producing. It wasn’t a career choice, you didn’t go to college to be a producer in those days, it was just something that seemed to be what I did. But it was getting to a point where I was doing things for Factory and Creation, which were little labels that were starting out, and I thought ‘I’m going to end up a producer here rather than a Songwriter’ so I thought the least I could do is write some songs, and they’ll probably never see the light of day, but I’ll write them. But then when I’d written them it became a mission to get them out there.
TAW: So how did you get the music released?
IB: At first I thought I needed to get someone to sing them, but I could never find anyone, so I just ended up in my studio working on versions of the songs. But there was a fella in London called Dick who I met through the Pale Fountains, and he heard a couple of the songs and phoned me up and said “I love these songs, let’s put them out” and I was like “What do you mean? Have you got a label?” and he said “No, but I’ll start one, and we’ll just put them out”. So that’s kind of how we started, and we decided that the first song we’d put out was ‘Pure’, and they pressed 150 copies and then people just kept re-ordering and re-ordering and then Rough Trade said they’d distribute it.
TAW: So was it a song that spread from word of mouth, because obviously it was pre file-sharing
IB: Yeah, it was just out there, it was out for months. And they’d tell me from the record label that some bloke in Stoke was playing it on a radio show 3 times a night, and then John Peel started playing it and then I remember getting a phone call from a man in America and he was like “I was recently in London, and I bought your record from a man in Portobello Market and we’ve been playing it, and it’s the most requested record in California” and I was like “It’s not out in America!”. So it kind of went out through the world on its own, which was really surprising, and everything went from there.
TAW: The first two albums were well received, but the third album Jollification sold much better and went Platinum, what do you put that commercial breakthrough down to?
IB: Well the first album sold in America more than here, and was on this little Indie label who really didn’t know what they were doing, and then it got a bit weird because they sold me as a product to Virgin, and I resented that because I didn’t have a say. So I actually recorded Jollification without having a record label, and got the point where it was nearly finished and then I was producing Alison Moyet and I got on really well with her A&R man (from Epic) and he loved the new songs, and so I ended up signing with him. So that was the difference really, because then I was signed with a major label and it all started being a bit more serious and they were like “you’ve got to play live”, which I’d never wanted to do before because I didn’t want to be off touring when Riley was little.
TAW: When we had Space on the podcast we talked a lot about the Hillsborough Justice Concert at Anfield, which the Lightening Seeds headlined. Obviously the occasion was very important, but it was also a fantastic day
IB: That’s probably my fondest memory of playing live. It was such an emotional day, with the families there, and just how great everyone was, because it took quite some organising to do it. Simon Moran from SJM got it all sorted, and the other bands were so kind, The Manics and Beautiful South and all those people who came and played.
TAW: Yeah bands that had no strong connection with the city, I remember Stereophonics came and played as well didn’t they when they were just starting out.
IB: Yeah, with the Stereophonics I think the deal was that Richard Branson would underwrite it if Stereophonics could be on the bill, because they were his band on his new label. Well that’s my memory of it anyway. I knew the Manics pretty well and I knew that Sean (Moore) was a Liverpool fan and they had a bit of a leaning towards the city, and then Dodgy played who I had been producing, and then we had done a tour with the Beautiful South so it all came together really well.
TAW: And it must have been great to just say you’d played Anfield
IB: It was really great yeah! But it was a very emotional thing, the day was very emotional.
TAW: You’ve still got a season ticket haven’t you?
TAW: With living between here and London, do you manage to get to all the games?
IB: I get to a lot, but happily I missed the Stoke game
TAW: Have you got any particular highlights of watching Liverpool at Anfield?
IB: One of my biggest influences as a kid was going to the games with my dad and my uncles when I was about five or six, and seeing grown men singing, that was a real memory for me. The idea of all those people singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and all the other songs, made it a very musical experience. I loved the football, but it was more the occasion than the football in a way, it was a fantastic feeling in the games. Seeing how much singing and football meant to be people meant it all got tangled up in my head as the same thing, and it always has been. It’s always felt they are in the same bit of my head.
TAW: I think the city is like that isn’t it, there has always seemed to be that connection
IB: For everybody except The Beatles! Who just didn’t like football at all. It’s funny; I’ve asked them about it, but they must be the only scousers who aren’t into football.
TAW: You said before you are a reluctant tourer, but you have got a ten date tour coming up in February, the third date being Liverpool. You’re playing quite intimate shows, do you prefer those kind of performances?
IB: Yeah, definitely. I don’t really like touring, but I like gigging. I just don’t like it when it becomes relentless. I haven’t actual played Liverpool that many times, no one can excuse me of doing too many gigs that’s for sure, so it should be good fun to play.
TAW: After the tour have you got any plans, in terms of writing or producing?
IB: I don’t do producing any more; I don’t really want to produce. I’m kind of writing a bit, and I’m going to record some new songs, but I don’t know if it’ll be the Lightning Seeds or not really.
TAW: Is it just a case of writing them first and seeing how they sound?
IB: Funnily enough that’s exactly what I’m trying to do, because sometimes I can think around things a bit much, and so I just sat down and thought ‘write them, see what they sounds like, and see how you feel about them.’
TAW: How does your songwriting process work? Do you write with a guitar?
IB: I don’t actually write with an instrument much, more talk into a Dictaphone about what I want it to sound like.
TAW: Brian Wilson talks about how he would write all of his songs in his head first and then try and figure them out
IB: That’s what I do, but I think that goes back to being a producer. But it’s not a good way of working. It’s a difficult way of working. It sounds like rubbish until it sounds good.
TAW: And I guess it can get frustrating if it doesn’t sound like how it does in your head
IB: It takes a long time to sound good, but it’s just willpower. Whereas if you write on a guitar you can make things sound good straight away, but they are probably crap, you are just making them sound good. It’s like that funny thing, if someone is a great singer they tend not to be able to write a great song, because they make everything sound great. But when you’re not a great singer you have to work very hard.
Still with a great knowledge of the Liverpool music scene and bands in the city, Ian and I then gossiped for a while about various musicians until we both realised we had places to be. He even asked with interest about what I was doing, which was terribly kind of him.
The Lightning Seeds ten day tour starts on 9th February in Whitehaven and they play in Liverpool on Saturday 11th February. Full tour details are at lightningseeds.net/live.html.