Welcome to


KOOL interviews

SUPERNATURALS Date: 14 November 1998 10:30 GMT

I spoke to James McColl, songwriter and vocalist for Scots tunesmiths The Supernaturals, inbetween rehearsals for their forthcoming tour. He certainly had lots to say...

K: How’s it going for you guys. Are you touring at the moment?
J: We’ve just finished a tour, but we’ve got another one coming up at the start of October for three weeks. We’ve just come off a three week one now. It went really well. It was magic really, to be honest.

K: Are you playing bigger venues now?
J: They’re gradually getting bigger in some places. A lot of our roadies say that this is the best size at the moment, averaging about 400. We’re selling out places that hold that, and it’s great ‘cos they’re intelligent, and we’re their band, like. They know all the songs, and the venues aren’t too big, and not toilets either. Just right in fact, great fun.

K: What was it like to tour with Robbie Williams?
J: It was great. We learned an awful lot from touring with him.He’s such a showman and entertainer. We used to watch him every night.

K: It seems like a joke, you being Scots, I guess you like a beer, and Robbie going through a tough time back then for the same reason and more!
J: Yeah, we were in Amsterdam at one point and we’d all gone out and bought huge quantities of mushrooms and hash. We were all sitting in the dressing room getting absolutely fucked, and he was wandering about in his tracksuit, and we turned round and looked at him, all completely fucked. So he goes, “I’m just leaving it out lads, I’ll see ya later” - then walked out laughing. Obviously he thought if he joined in he was gonna get fucked up.

K: So what music press did you grow up reading?
J: I used to read the NME every week. I used to believe everything I read too, but once I started getting involved in the music industry I realised just how corrupt the whole thing was. I used to think the NME was like the ‘A’ Levels Exam Board, where there was a panel of journalists who sat there and decided whether an album was good or not, and then gave it a mark based on commonsense. It’s not, it’s a fucking lottery whether you get slagged off, or get a good review!

K: Then there’s the nepotism....
J: Oh, it’s appalling! We don’t really have anything to do with it at all. Journalists are best kept at arms length. They get pampered so much. Record companies treat them like royalty - better than bands! Everyone’s so scared that they’re going to ruin a band’s reputation! They all live in this little fucked-up world, this four square miles of central London. They think they control the music business - but they don’t at all. The thing is, there’s a whole load of other magazines that promote music. For instance, we get reviewed in about forty different things - from broadsheet newspapers, to the Sun, to mens magazines and all that. The whole power of the NME and Melody Maker has been diluted.

K: Did you see the Lakesiders docu-soap that was on TV recently? It was hilarious. Did you hear about the 40 year old mulletewd DJ?
J: Well, I can’t slag him off, he’s been playing our records. We played with Robbie in Liverpool last Friday. We were all sitting in the van outside, and someone goes “It’s that fucking guy from Lakesiders!”. I’m really short-sighted, and I just saw these two people with mullets walking along. But he’s kool, he totally backed our single.

K: Did you find it hard to break through on the radio? One of the saddest things about Lakesiders was this 45 year old geezer with a beard sitting there deciding that your single was ‘too heavy’ while all we needed was more Celine Dion (aaaaarrrrrgggghhhhhhh)
J: To be honest, from Manchester northwards and on Radio 1 we get loads of radio play, but you go south of Birmingham and it’s fucking dire. It’s all been bought up by conglomerates and chains. Stuff like Radio Forth in Scotland plays a lot of unsigned local bands and guitar bands, whereas down south they see a song like ‘I Wasn’t Built To Get Up’ as some sort of threat to their stability. It’s just a silly little pop song, but like when you hear from that guy on Lakesiders that it’s too heavy....!!!??? We couldn’t even get a record on Capital FM because of that attitude. I think you have to be a boy band to get on radio stations across the board.

K: Did you find it hard to break through. I know you’ve been together since about ‘91 - a long time!
J: Yeah, it took bloody ages for us to get signed. We played a lot in Scotland and had our own label, but it took forever before anyone took any notice. At the time we thought we’d never get signed. I suppose just now we think we’ll never have a Top 20 single. It does gradually come though, word of mouth happens, and eventually everything happens for you. Everything seems to take fucking ages for us though!

K: How old are you now then?
J: We’re getting pretty old, you know! I’m thirties, early thirties, Ken’s about 25, Alan’s 28 - we’re not exactly spring chickens you know. Personally I think I’m getting too old for it. I feel as if I’ve got about one more album left in me. The kids that are into the band are really young. I’ve still got a lot of things in common with them, I just feel a bit detatched if I decide, I dunno, to snog some girl in the audience!

K: Where do you see yourself heading then, if you become disillusioned enough to split the Supernaturals after, say, another couple of years?
J: I think we will do anyway, I think we’ll split up after our next album. I’m gonna chuck it, I think. I’m gonna go and do something else, like economics or chartered accounts or something!

K: You don’t want to stay in the music business then?
J: No, I don’t. Through being a real music fan and buying loads of records, playing the guitar, writing songs and going to see bands at King Tut’s every week, I went from being a fan to being a musician and part-time pop star. Sometimes I look forward to the day when I can go out and buy records and see a few bands for the sheer enjoyment of it, and rediscover why I got into it in the first place. When you’re in a band you tend to analyse it too much - you can’t just appreciate things for what they are. It’s a little bit like being a journalist. You become a little bit fucked up when you’re in a band.

K: Were you surprised to be nominated for the Ivor Novello award for your songwriting?
J: Yeah. Mind you, everyone thinks you’re in exalted company, with like Radiohead and the Verve, but I didn’t think either of those other two songs was particularly good. Karma Police was a load of old shit - just a re-write of Sexy Sadie by the Beatles. I thought Angels by Robbie Williams, Avenging Angels by Space, or loads of other songs were much better than those two - but what the fuck do I know!

K: Who inspires you to write songs?
J: I really like the Beatles, obviously, but there’s hundreds of others. Modern bands I like are the Cardigans, Fountains of Wayne and stuff like that - that’s the sort of stuff I listen to all the time. I stopped listening to the Beatles ten years ago. I used to listen to them when I was about twelve. I really got into them and completely analysed all the music to death.

K: On a lighter note, have you got any dressing- up incidents planned for the next tour?
J: I was thinking of wearing top hat and tails, but robbie did it last weekend so he’s totally wanked us on that one! I was then about to go and buy them. I might just do it anyway...

Off James goes to rehearsals, leaving behind quite an insight into the music biz. By the sounds of things you’d best catch The Supernaturals on tour while you still can!


© Copyright Koolmag Ltd 2000


    Artist Search

Email Login
New users
sign up!

  Your Homepage
  Search the Web
  Enter Community

issue 13