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...
it going for you guys. Are you touring at the moment?
J: Weve just finished a tour, but weve got another one
coming up at the start of October for three weeks. Weve just
come off a three week one now. It went really well. It was magic
really, to be honest.
K: Are you playing bigger
J: Theyre gradually getting bigger in some places. A lot of
our roadies say that this is the best size at the moment, averaging
about 400. Were selling out places that hold that, and its
great cos theyre intelligent, and were their band,
like. They know all the songs, and the venues arent 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.Hes
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 wed 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, Im just leaving
it out lads, Ill 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.
Its not, its a fucking lottery whether you get slagged
off, or get a good review!
K: Then theres the
J: Oh, its appalling! We dont 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! Everyones so scared that theyre going
to ruin a bands 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 dont at all. The thing
is, theres 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 cant slag him off, hes been playing our records.
We played with Robbie in Liverpool last Friday. We were all sitting
in the van outside, and someone goes Its that fucking
guy from Lakesiders!. Im really short-sighted, and I
just saw these two people with mullets walking along. But hes
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 its
fucking dire. Its 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 Wasnt Built To Get Up as some sort of threat
to their stability. Its just a silly little pop song, but
like when you hear from that guy on Lakesiders that its too
heavy....!!!??? We couldnt 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 youve 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 wed never get signed.
I suppose just now we think well 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: Were getting pretty old, you know! Im thirties, early
thirties, Kens about 25, Alans 28 - were not exactly
spring chickens you know. Personally I think Im getting too
old for it. I feel as if Ive got about one more album left
in me. The kids that are into the band are really young. Ive
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 well split up after
our next album. Im gonna chuck it, I think. Im gonna
go and do something else, like economics or chartered accounts or
K: You dont want to
stay in the music business then?
J: No, I dont. Through being a real music fan and buying loads
of records, playing the guitar, writing songs and going to see bands
at King Tuts 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 youre in a band you tend to analyse it too much
- you cant just appreciate things for what they are. Its
a little bit like being a journalist. You become a little bit fucked
up when youre in a band.
K: Were you surprised to
be nominated for the Ivor Novello award for your songwriting?
J: Yeah. Mind you, everyone thinks youre in exalted company,
with like Radiohead and the Verve, but I didnt 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
J: I really like the Beatles, obviously, but theres hundreds
of others. Modern bands I like are the Cardigans, Fountains of Wayne
and stuff like that - thats 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 hes 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 youd
best catch The Supernaturals on tour while you still can!