Saloon - Interview

29/05/2002, par Gildas | Interviews |
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I think you are in for a major success ... Is that something you planned for?

Michael: I think that Popnews and Saloon define success in the same terms. If it means getting good feedback from a wide variety of people, and travelling to perform in new places, then yes - that's always been the plan.
Amanda: It's very nice that you think that, but we've got used to never getting our hopes up too much. As much as we would love it, it's not something I plan for. We've done a lot of hard work and we've sometimes hoped it would pay off sooner or later; but I've kind of got used to the thought of it happening later…rather than sooner. But who knows…?

Could you come back on Saloon's beginning? How did you all meet?
Michael: Oh gawd - maybe some black coffee.
Matt: We came together through various adverts and chance meetings, all with a mutual desire to change the face of the local music scene and to give it a bit of a kick up the arse.
Alison: I was playing with another band at the time then Adam asked me to join - I really liked the songs and left the other band…not sure how we actually all "met", but I'd seen everyone about town before so they were all familiar faces…

Your first singles were released back in 1998. It took you 4 years to release an album, what took you so long? Is it that hard to release a first album nowadays?
Michael: Well it's the only first album we've done or ever will do, so as to whether it's hard (or not) we've got nothing to compare it with! We're aware of other groups seeming to have an easier time of it but then they're full-time and tied to bigger labels - doing it yourself means no-one's going to drop you, so we're our own Creative Directors. It may seem to have taken a long time but we actually work incredibly quickly - there's never any wasted time, but being independent we rely on a lot of favours and we've got to earn a living doing other things!
Adam: Musically as a band we're constantly changing, we really needed to document where we were at a certain period of time before that was lost. Perhaps we weren't ready for it financially, or even emotionally, but it was something we had to do - there was no choice, make an album or loose the qualities we had as a band at that point in time. In fact I kind of regret the fact we never got a record out as soon as we started. At the time we had a kind of charming naivety which we quickly moved on from and that stuff was never properly released. It's the sort of quality that this combination of five people will never be able to regain; perhaps it's a good thing. Who cares!

Will you release a compilation of all these singles someday?
Michael: That would be nice.
Amanda: I hope so but it's not an immediate plan.
Adam: As long as the demand is there then we will. Perhaps after the second album - by then mind, it will probably be a triple LP. I don't like the thought though that there are people who want the stuff but they can't get hold of it - it kind of defeats the objective of making it in the first place.
Alison: A lot of people were coming up asking for old singles on tour…the demand's there. I like the idea of early single / EP compilations. So many people wouldn't own any early material by bands like Clinic; Beta Band etc and I doubt these bands would be nearly as popular if it wasn't for these compilations which they released in the early days.

What is becoming of Belmondo production? Is Jean Paul aware of its existence?
Michael: Perhaps the singles compilation, a tour-only EP or a remixes project will be the next Belmondo release. I don't know if JPB is aware - we invited him to speak at our annual dinner and dance, but he didn't show up. Will you have a word with him next time you see him?
Adam: If we had the time and the money we'd love to run Belmondo as a proper label. Then open a club, an art gallery, a shoe-shop etc etc. I'd like to make shoes that would look good on Jean-Paul.
Alison: Hey, I thought me and Amanda were in charge of the shoe department!

When listening to the album it seems that all the elements of the music (voice, drums, guitars viola, keyboards...) contribute to the same level to the final result. Perfect harmony in other words. How do you write your songs? Is it a democratic process?
Michael: Absolutely - but then democracy has it's own challenges - everyone wants a decent dictatorship now and then.
Adam: There's no formula to the song-writing process. Sometimes, someone will bring in a virtually finished song, at other times we'll start from nothing. Whatever we do always has to have a rubber stamp of approval from the five of us before we'll play it live or record it. Being in this band has made me realise how difficult being 100% democratic actually is. Writing songs is the best bit, in fact it's the only bit of being in a band that I love, everything else is just… a nuisance.

There is a song in French on the album, why, how does an English band come to record a song in French?
Amanda: The idea of wanting a European rather than British sound came from when we formed; it was a kind of reaction to Britpop which was a really inward looking scene. Also I think we set out to be almost pretentious, again a reaction to such a backward-looking, overtly down-to-earth scene. My father is from Spain so it was an obvious choice for me to sing in Spanish. To sing in French was a natural progression. We're trying to break the idea that all English people are not interested in other languages and other-cultures and for our fans to know that we are making an effort.

Could you tell me more about the lyrics of "Girls are the new boys"? Do you think that boys (the way we know them) will disappear?
Amanda: The lyrics of the chorus kind of answer your question: "So this is the new world / Just like the other world." It sums it up really. It's a bit tongue in cheek. I don't think women will ever be completely equal to men. Although things have changed a lot, the music industry remains one of the most sexist of them all, which was something I learnt when I was trying to get into the "man's" world of production. That's why we are trying to do different things with Saloon; where girls try their best at so-called male things, like engineering and the boys sit around doing their hair! But on a serious note, it is hard to make any affirmative statement; it's up to the listeners to decide and do something about it. As for your question on whether boys will disappear, it is hard to say. I think men struggle nowadays with what is expected of them; I think they are a bit confused about what women want from them. But I don't think it is purely indicative of men…isn't everyone confused these days?
Alison: I hope boys don't disappear, that really would be sad - but I do remember how amazing it was going to Riot Grrrl gigs and Slampt events in Newcastle where music wasn't predominantly a male thing, for a change. I was only about 15 or 16 at the time so going to these gigs really was an important part of my life and changed how I felt about music. Going to see some guitar bands who were around at that time was sometimes an unpleasant experience - being pushed about in a moshpit and not being able to enjoy the band or get involved because I was being pushed about by horrible blokes just really pissed me off. Going to see Huggy Bear for the first time was so cool…women were there because they believed in it all and not just at the gig because their boyfriend had dragged them along. They were organising the gigs and they made all the rules - so it was all women dancing up the front, not being pushed about - selling fanzines and encouraging other girls to join bands. The women had total control at these events. So many girls must have made the decision to get involved in music from this.

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