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Reading und mehr
Bennet ist eine furchtbar nette und lustige Band aus Reading, England, und (dank Roadrunner) hatte ich das Vergnügen, sie als Vorgruppe von Dodgy in Bielefeld am 27.11.96 zu treffen, und hier sind die gesammelten Werke dessen, was Jason, der Sänger, zu sagen hatte - und das war nicht gerade wenig. Wir hätten noch Stunden weiterreden können, aber da stand schon ein peinliches Foto-Shooting auf dem Terminplan...
Let's just start with the band history - where and how did you meet?!?

Well, the guitarist Jonny and myself, worked in a record-shop together in Reading, which is where we live now, and he was sort of keen on forming a band, I've been in a band before and I wasn't that keen on being in another band, but we just started writing songs together, which I thought were quite good. So, after a two or three months period, about 3 years ago now, we decided to start looking for two other members to make a band up, and we got Andy more or less straight away, a friend of a friend basically told us, I knew him from a long time ago, but I hadn't seen him for about 5 years, I just phoned him up and asked him and he came along, and he was good. After we've had three or four different drummers, that we weren't happy with, and then Andy knew Kevin and got him in. So, the band as it is now has been going for about two and a half years, although we weren't gigging for about just one and a half years, 'cause for almost a year we just wrote and rehearsed.

What was the 'early' sound of Bennet like?

Well, one of the first songs we wrote was "Sandman", which is on the CD, but that's the only one that really survived from the stuff we first ever wrote, and "If You Met Me" was written quite early. So, it was the kind of spikey pop songs that we were doing first of all, the almost fairly awkward sounding songs. As we've gone on, we seemed to have simplified things more and more rather than complicate things. And the stuff that we're writing now, which isn't on the album, is simpler still, even more straight forward, stripped down.

The name "Bennet" - as in Andy Bennett?

What happened was, we had to think of a name, 'cause we had two names, both of which were used by other people, so we were playing the Reading Festival the year before, and we wanted to give out cards with our name on to get a mailing list together, so we needed to think up a name, and we were just joking around with the idea of how Bon Jovi got their name from Jon Bon Jovi, and van Halen were named after Eddie van Halen, so we wrote our names down, and Andy's was the best one, but we just dropped one of the "t"'s to make it look a little bit nicer. 'Cause to us names never really have been massivly important for a band, if the music is good enough, the name would be insignificant really. I mean, Dodgy are the best example, you know. It's like Oasis, it's got to be one of the worst names ever, it sounds like a cabaret band or whatever, but you don't think of them like that anymore, 'cause you only think of the band and not the name.

So, what do your friends and family think about the band?

They're very supportive. I don't think Andy's parents are too aware of what he does, but my parents in particular are very supportive and interested, and I think they're quite pleased because I'm finally doing something that they can see me happy doing, and it's important for them to know that I'm not wasting my younger years, you know, and I can look back on these years when I'm older, and know that I've lived life for a while, I've travelled and did all the things that I wanted to do. It's great, because we're going to places we couldn't afford to go to on our own, I've never been to Germany before, and now this week I've been to four different German cities, we've been to Amsterdam, and next year we're going to America, France and Switzerland, and they [the parents] are quite happy to see us doing that, rather than being stuck in an office all day.

For a band like Bennet, what's living like in Reading?

Personally, I'm not that particularly fond of Reading. I mean, I've moved there from Woking about three years ago, 'cause I had a sort of social life there, but I've got a girl-friend who I live with in Reading, and she's got a steady job there. You know, doing the job that we do, it doesn't really matter where I'm based, as long as it's not in the middle of nowhere, Scotland or something, so, erm, I'm staying in Reading because of my girl-friend, really. I mean, it's okay, at the moment I live in the middle of the town, and it's quite a rough town, and I prefer sort of piece and quiet, really, and I'm in the process of looking for a new house in the outskirts right now. As for bands, there are quite a few good ones, like Palid, who are yet unsigned, but they're absolutely brilliant. There a few bands, and in England there's a bit of a movement for very young sort of punky bands, about 15 years of age, which is just ridiculous, it's crazy. There's a band called The Pin-Ups, they're all about 15, and they've been played on Radio 1, because they're so young and get played, they're a bit arrogant, you know. And they're absoutely rubbish! As a lot of these young bands are, it's all press hype, you know. I only rate Palid from Reading alongside us as bands I know from the area. Reading it's a bit weird, because you've got Oxford just up the road from Reading, and the Oxford music scene is very healthy. So, everyone gets a bit obsessed with the Oxford scene and doesn't look down the road to Reading.

So, what do you think about the British music scene in general?

I think there is a ridiculous amount of bands in Britain at the moment, I can't remember when it's ever been as much competition as it is now, and I can't remember when there's ever been as many bands as there is now, they're all over the place. I some ways it's quite good, because about 5 years ago everyone thought this is the end of guitar bands, because of Acid House and stuff. Not that there is anything wrong with dance music at all, but I always said that there is room for guitar bands as well as dance music. I prefer a lot of the sort of smaller bands, I've got pass the stage of thankfully of only taking notice of bands that are in the press, because by doing that you miss out on a lot of good bands. There are some good bands in England, of the 'big' bands, I think The Bluetones are really good, they're really good song-writers, that's evident, they're sort of timeless melody-writers. You know, a lot of people say that they're almost a rip-off of the Stone Roses, but to me, I've never been too fond of the Stone Roses, to me everything the Stone Roses promised musically they never were, so it's a good job The Bluetones came along. That sort of Scottish movement, bands like Bis, they're really good fun. Also, Radiohead I think are an excellent band, but I think bands like Oasis, it's the most overrated band that England has kicked out for a long time, and they're a very easy target for other musicians to say that, because they're so big, but I personally can't see the attraction of Oasis. It buffles me that they're quite so big. And because of Oasis, we've got bands like Ocean Color Scene, who again I think are an absolutely atrocious band, and now you've got Kula Shaker, and in England a lot of people say that this is the most exciting guitar band that we had for years, and again I just can't see it. The thing I find frustrating is, if I read and listen to musicians' attitude, it's wrong, but it's very difficult to just listen to their music, and with bands like Kula Shaker, I mean some of the things they say, I find so infuriating, that I can't take their music seriously, you know. They seem a bit dishonest to me, they claim that they're not 60s retro, and yet they dress carbon copy, like sort of Can from 1976. That is probably the biggest problem I have with the whole music industry in Britain, is the dishonesty involved, it's all image, it's all bullshit, you read it in the press, it seems all to be really exciting, and then you meet them, and it's not, it's all made up. I think that's what I find refreshing about bands like Bis, who are very normal and sort of natural.

So, what about the Spice Girls then?

Oh year, I mean, I've always had quite a lot of respect for Take That as well, and people used to think that I was trying to be really ironic, I mean, I wouldn't buy their records and stuff, but I had a lot of respect for them, because they were a boyband that could have just come and gone so quickly, and yet they've set themselves up for as long as they wanted to, and Gary Barlow wrote a lot of the stuff himself, and everybody said they were just puppets, but I know for a fact, that they were in control from the industry of almost everything they did, especially Gary Barlow. And again, with the Spice Girls, it's very clever. It's unbelieveable, but they found a niche in the market, there was this gap in the market waiting to be filled, and they're an instant success. And apparantly, they wrote half of the album themselves, so that's good by me, you know. They've got good pop songs, they're catchy and stuff, it's not really my cup of tea, but I've got no problem with mainstream pop music. I'd much rather have them at the top of the charts than Oasis, so that's for sure!

So, what would you be doing with your first million from scoring a Top One hit or something?

Sometimes we have these sort of conversations in very sad moments in our van when we're bored, and I always claim that I'm going to lie in the streets of England with golden statues of myself...but I don't think any of us, and it almost sounds a bit crass, but I don't any of us will be becoming millionaires or sort of Noel Gallagher style, I think all we really want to archive from it, it's just enough money to be able to pay our rent, good food on the table, and we're quite happy earning enough money that you would from any other sort of average job, as long as we're lucky enough to do what we wanna do anyway, so I'm quite happy if I'm earning sort of 700 pounds a month, which is not anything massive. Doing the music itself is very enjoyable, so that's payment in a way, and if you ignore the record company and the other side of the industry, and you just listen to people who come to the gigs, who get into it, then you get paid in kind in a way as well, obviously they pay the bills, but it's very nice. I mean, it would be nice to feel comfortable, and I would like the band to get to the stage, not so much musically, where bands like the Beautiful South are, because they don't care about their image, they don't care about anything, they go away for a year or so, come back, release an album, do a tour, sell loads of copies and then just piss off for another year or so.

So, when it comes to song-writing - how does it work with Bennet?

Well, the mechanics of the song-writing is, normally four times out of five, I'll come up with a tune of some kind, just based on chords, which I'll take to the rest of them, and everybody sort of fills in the gaps, which is why we split song-writing credits between the four of us. Some people split the credits between the song-writing and the arranging, but to me arrangement is basically song-writing, it's all part of the process, so we just split everything four ways equally and moneywise for that. Jonny, our guitarist, comes up with a tune as well, and what normally happens is that for every sort of five I'm writing, he's writing one, but that's good, because his quality control is a lot higher than mine, so although two of mine may be any good out of the four, his one is always excellent. The lyrics are all just based on personal points of view on things, you know, as a lyric-writer I feel uncomfortable with making comments on mass world issues, mainly because I don't think it's a musician's place to do that. I also have a problem with writing about political issues, or natural disasters, because there's something quite sickening about making money out of that sort of thing...

Sadly, here in Germany, there are quite a lot of those bands around...

There's two things in it - one, who all of a sudden has claimed that they're fucking experts, who gives them the right to preach about that, why should they know any better than anybody else, it's like "Wait a minute - that bloke's released a record, he must know what he's talking about!", and then he doesn't! Sting is a classic example. And secondly, there is so much shit going on in the world these days, and being a young person in the 90s is such a difficult thing, but who wants to go to a gig or buy a record and just hear, oh, the world's going down, etc. etc. etc. I mean, we've got a song, that we feel quite strong about actually, that we close the show with and which we're going to put on our next album, which is called "Generation Pepsi", and it's a kind of tongue-and-cheek song about this whole thing of bands preaching to fans, and it's saying, yes, you're born and you're gonna die, that happens to anybody, and yes, you're born in a very bad time, but make up your own minds what you want to do about it, don't listen to the bands, they're just as worried and insecure as you are, they don't know what they're talking about. The line in it is "If you believe in music, you must understand, we can't really help you, because we're just a band", to me, that is something we're quite interested in, to kind of kick away the crap from underneath the pedals that those bands put on, you know, which is why, in England, we're quite open to criticism, because some people see that as a preconceived idea that we decided to be this band that doesn't give a toss, and is very natural, the problem is, that's what we're like, you know, we really are that normal, and it isn't our image to be anti-music-show-biz. In England, especially the press, they don't like that, because they want their pop-stars to be pop-stars, they want their pop-stars to be beautiful looking, they want them to have a heroin addiction, to cut themselves up and smash up hotel rooms, because they're all so fucking stupid, but they actually think that sort of makes a good musician, not music. So, lots of average bands have become quite big in England, due to antics rather than music.

So, who's the wanker? [It's a song on the album]

It's not actually about anybody in particular. Recently, we told people it's about Simon Price from the Melody Maker, but that's wrong, because he is actually the total opposite of the sort of person we're talking about in the song. What's it about, is the sort of blokes who go out on a Saturday night, dressed in this sort of trousers and shirts, I don't know what it's like here, but we've a lot of night clubs in England, where to get in you have to wear casual wear, they won't let in more than like three blokes together at a time, you have to have some girls, because they don't want trouble, you just get loads of meatheads going there, and it's just about the sort of bloke who's life is going out on a Friday and Saturday night, trying to meet as many girls as possible, shag as many girls as possible, cheat on people, cheat his way through life with women. It's something that annoys me greatly, and I probably got a chip on my shoulder from younger years of seeing so many girls that I had a lot of respect for, I'm not saying that I'm such an angel, got used by that sort of bloke that makes me ashamed to be a bloke, you know. So, it's about that sort of character, which the whole band finds unsafe, we don't see anything clever about it, I would never cheat on my girl-friend in a million years, because it's just far too disrespectful to even think about, and also like blokes who are scared to love, like loving somebody is a bad thing, you know, is not a manly thing, you know, if you love somebody, you're not a real man. It's a shame, because they really don't know what they're missing out, 'cause to make love to somebody who you love and who loves you, is a thousand time more enjoyable than shagging some bird after a club, you know, you're both pissed and you fancy each other.

In the CD-booklet, there is to every song a polaroid-photo - did you take them yourselves, are those people on the photos some of your friends?

Yeah, we takes polaroids on the road with us, and there happens to be a camera lying next to me for example, so we take as many polaroids as possible, I just like the whole look of a polaroid. Originally, we were gonna have a polaroid on the front-cover as well, but Roadrunner Records weren't happy with it, because it wasn't so clear and look good enough on the rack. The image on the front was going to be like that, but inside a polaroid, but it wasn't obviously as clear, but we preferred it that way. But year, they're all friends of ours and people we know, apart from the one for "Young, Free And Sorry", which is a girl that we've never met before, but we just asked one night, which was quite funny because we had to get all our artwork in the next day, and we were at a gig, and we realized that this was the last photograph we had to take was for "Young, Free And Sorry", so we just asked this girl who was just part of the promotion there, but she doesn't like the photograph now.

Was it difficult to record the album, "Supernatural", or was it just one go?

It was quite easy, it was a relief to record "Supernatural", because the songs have been hanging aroung for quite a while, so one of our conditions, when we signed to Roadrunner, we'll sign but we want you to put us straight away into a studio to record the album, so literally, we signed in the morning in London, and that afternoon we were in the country-side starting to record the album, we wanted to get it done as soon as possible. The only problem with that is, it then hung around for a long time, Roadrunner promised to release it a lot earlier than they did, this album should have been out this time last year really, so it's almost a year late. What we wanted to do, we wanted to release the album with no singles off it first of all, and then start releasing singles, and not so the usual build-up. But, again, you've probably have heard lots of bands diss their record companies, but again, our record company in their infinite wisdom decided to do it their way, which we think fucked up it up for us last year. The whole thing was recorded within a month, but the actual recording was done in about three weeks, and we spent a week going back over them and just adding extra bits and stuff. We also managed to record three or four b-sides, so it was quite easy. It's weird, because it's almost too easy, it's ridiculous, you know, we're making an album so we should be spending more time, because after about the fourth day, we already had the rough tracks for the whole album. It's ridiculous, we can't tell Roadrunner we're almost finished within a week, but we've had quite a lot of fun with it. For example, Roadrunner wanted to come down to listen to it, while we were recording it, and we weren't keen, because we wanted to finish it before we play it to them, so they sent somebody down to listen to it, so there's the song on the album, "Mockney Rebel", which has got our drummer singing, which is like a joke song, it's sound awful, and that's the only one we played to them! So I think they thought "What have we done?!?", you know.

What I found quite strange is that most of the bands that got signed by Roadrunner Records are sort of like hard-rock bands, and now there's Bennet on it as well...

Yes, I know exactly what you mean, and believe it or not, we get asked this all the time, why are you on Roadrunner. The funniest thing is, we all thought, god, wouldn't it be awful if someone sees our name, sees Roadrunner and turn up to a gig, thinking we're rock, without listening to us. For a whole year, this hasn't been happening, it has only happened once, we'd play a gig in Luton, just outside of London, it was a really bad gig, and there only about 50 people or so, it's a really horrible place, but two of the people who turned up, was wearing a Sepultura t-shirt, and the other one was wearing a Type-O-Negative t-shirt, and they turn up and watch like two songs, and we could see them getting long faces and walk out! So, they probably just read that we were on Roadrunner, idiots, but I mean, it was a strange choice, but you'll never know if you're making the right choice, I think in retrospect it might have not been the right choice for England, but we were very happy with the German Roadrunner department, because they're really working quite hard for us, they are very professional, and some of the other regions are the same. England is a complete chaos, 'cause we're meant to be the English band. I mean, England is very hard market, but they have ideas like they wanted to be as big as Supergrass in England, yet for every sort of 1.000 pounds is being spend on us, 10.000 pounds is being spend on Supergrass, because they're on EMI, and I don't think Roadrunner realize, in England this is what strikes me, the reason those bands are getting more popular is that more money is being spend on them, you know, the people aren't scared to say, here's 10.000 pounds, put them on that tour, you know, whereas Roadrunner says, here's a tenner - can they go on that tour?!?

Tja, hoffentlich schaffen die Jungs es wieder auf Tour zu kommen, und laut Jason soll das im März der Fall sein. Geht auf jeden Fall hin, denn die Songs sind es wirklich wert!!!

[Erstveröffentlichung im Baby Talk-Fanzine #9, Dezember 1996]

Interview: -David Bluhm-
Fotos: -David Bluhm / Pressefreigabe-

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