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Sarah Cracknell Interviews

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The album defined of Montreal's career and continues to be hailed as a classic. Bearing in mind his most famous song began “I always flirt with death” ('Another Matthew Sweet – Tomorrow Forever . Charlatans – Different Days . gm vinyl LP pressing in gatefold jacket including digital download. She's been recording the new St Etienne album in Malmao in Sweden, and will soon be Diamonds are Forever and Live and Let Die picked up in Japan didn't fit in with her in the music biz and the only one I'd consider is Tim Burgess from the Charlatans. . .on men: "I've had it with men - dating, flirting, the whole lot!. Sitting in the window, Sixth Avenue, Greenwich Village, flirting with The Family Dog, illuminator Bill Ham, the Charlatans, the Matrix, . The first side of the Dead album is one song, unrolling its varied but equivalent delights at top speed. evocative piece of music I know; I could wander its paths forever.

They were vital once; without Bill Graham, and the hard work and business know-how he threw into the Fillmore when the scene was starting, there might never have been an SF Sound to talk about. The Family Dog, illuminator Bill Ham, the Charlatans, the Matrix, and Jefferson Airplaneall those originators who now cling to their place in history with alarming awareness that after two years the past is buried in the dust of centuries.

The ballrooms have given way to environments even more closely knit into the community. You can stop and embrace it, or pass on by. The Panhandle is the San Francisco Sound today: They may not go directly to Haight Street with flowers in their hair though many of them dobut they change, they shift their points of view, their minds drop out of Roger Williams and into the Grateful Dead.

Back on the street something is happening that may be even more important than the music in the park. The Straight Theater, long a cherished vision, has burst into reality. The Straight is an ancient movie house, an imposing structure capable of taking some 1, people out of the center of Haight Street and into whatever it feels like presenting.

The property includes a theater, which will be used for concerts, gatherings, poetry readings, etc. And in the air, another major change: KMPX-FM, not just radio for heads but rock radio for rock heads, a station that totally ignores the Top 20 because you can hear that stuff any time you want on seven other frequencies and just plays what it feels like playing.

They make mistakes—records go on the turntable at the wrong speed, careless comments go out over the air—and everyone loves them. There are no mistakes, because they can do no wrong. New attitudes toward jobs, toward education, toward entertainment and the arts. Basic shifts in the relationships between man and his environment, shifts that have affected every facet of that environment, changes that best can be communicated not in words but in music: The Airplane was first—and second, too, for that matter.

Between the Buttons was the definitive last statement of an earlier age; JA Takes Off is the first of a new generation of rock albums, of which Sergeant Pepper is only the latest and best. It is much easier now to understand what they were getting at. This attitude enriches their music. Compare Revolver with Sergeant Pepper, do you really think the Beatles loved you when they recorded the earlier album?

The Airplane, of course, were the first SF group to record a second album, and it is likely that at least one other good Bay Area group will flounder on their second try.

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And Pillow, despite its disunity, has halt a dozen fine tracks which prove that the group is better, even if their LP is worse. West Coast kineticism has developed into a fine art; the first side of this album rolls with a motion so natural that one suspects the musicians have never listened to the Who or the Kinks or even the Four Tops—they have developed their own kinetic techniques without reference to the masters in the field. The first side of the Dead album is one song, unrolling its varied but equivalent delights at top speed.

Garcia guitar run here. The flip is something else: Beautiful, with a kind of intense detachment. When the Country Joe album arrived at the Crawdaddy! Indeed, the staunchest hard rock supporter on our staff can find no redeeming musical value in it at all.

To be played on special occasions only. Words should be applied to this album with extreme caution. Background music is an old concept; this album, at last, is in the foreground.

Not at all—remember, we are guests here. This is BerkeleyFish Street, residence of Country Joe—we are invited to see, hear, feel, smell, but not participate. This is music at its most sensuous and least analyzable—sounds, unidentifiable, flash at you, words evoke pictures but no meaning, you never hear the same thing twice.

But you always feel the state of grace. The brilliance is in the composition; and in a subtle way we should consider this whole LP a composed rather than a performed work, because every note seems to have been firmly in place in every song long before the actual recording of the album.

Their enemies in the realm of serious rock would have it that they are little more than a Farfisa-fixated, Pet Shop Boys pastiche in posh clubwear.

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A nasty, soulless, perfect pop machine so two-dimensional they could be on the set of Eastenders. Inevitably, that's absolute rubbish. Tonight is not an excercise in smarmy self-indulgence, but a celebration of the purest of pop ideals.

If you can't see the wide-eyed love that goes into producing the lush 'Avenue' or the sprightly 'Split Screen' then truly you have a black box recorder where your heart should be. Certainly this is manufactured music and St Etiennes songs are so steeped in musical history that there are occasions - like the join-the-dots Abba-isms of 'I Was Born On Christmas Day' - when they can seem to be trying too hard.

Even then, though, their masterful command of melody just about sees them through. Indeed, as they reach critical mass shortly after Sarah Cracknell starts dancing in time, you can forgive all their transgressions.

They play the Teutonic 'Like a Motorway' and saunter off. Tonight, they have proved again that they are not tired cynics, but consummate showmen. They go marching on.

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Salute them as they pass. Named after the Simpson's hound, no doubt, but this is no dog's breakfast. We take one swig and we've found our brand. Judges Comments "Wine gums!! I'm addicted to that already. That tastes so good.

Not only does it taste gorgeous, but you can feel it working alocoholically as well. It's got clouds in it. Like growing up in Arizona It's just too good. I think the contest is over. Did Saint Etienne invent Britpop? The English group's glamorous blonde diva, Sarah Cracknell, is uncomfortable at the oft-repeated statement. To her it is an accusation. Neither Wiggs nor Stanley could play an instrument, but both were keen fans of indie pop in which guitars were sidelined for samplers and synthesisers.

Wiggs and Stanley originally intended Saint Etienne to be a fluid outfit that would employ a variety of singers, much in the tradition of Massive Attack. But when Cracknell joined for the third single, the self-penned Nothing Can Stop Usthey found a soul mate. She was the living embodiment to their cool, ambient and stylish groove. Eight years on, Saint Etienne has produced four albums, two compilations and a score of singles. During the band's first full tour of Britain inSaint Etienne was supported by a fledgling band called Oasis.

Noel Gallagher sent them a demo tape that included Live Forever and Oasis was signed up for the tour on the spot. Liam would look like such a pop star - he had presence on the stage and the songs were good. I did not realise just how ridiculous it would get for them. Its latest album, Good Humor, reached No. The band's biggest hit has been 's He's on the Phone. Mario's Cafe, from its second album, was used in a British television ad for shampoo. Such are the strange fortunes of pop.

The band's lack of British chart-busting is reflected in Australia, where it has had little commercial success. The band's three-date Australian tour begins in Sydney, and Cracknell says the tour is more of a fact-finding mission ahead of a more comprehensive tour, maybe sometime next year. Stanley will not be touring "he doesn't enjoy gigs"but Cracknell and Wiggs will be backed by a six-piece band. C Herald and Weekly Times Limited. They'd like to teach the world to sing - their songs preferably, but they'll settle for simply sharing their love of pop with the rest of humanity.

They've weathered the storm of grunge and rock and still manage to keep their underground cool while also cracking the charts. Which is a relief because otherwise British music is pretty grim right now. There's not much to get excited about. Stanley realises that's two lifetimes in terms of pop music, the lay-off leading to rumours the band had split. Instead, they started their own record label EMIdiscwhile Cracknell recorded a solo album which kept being delayed, leading to Good Humor sitting on the shelves for a year before its eventual release.

It's a fickle business, we don't want to outstay our welcome. I hate it when groups do that. If we feel we're getting mediocre we'll stop.

The band are leaving the jazz flavoured deviation of Good Humor behind for a return to their mixture of dance beats, pure pop and melancholy for their upcoming new album. It might end up being a really depressing album if we're not careful. It adds a certain depth. Kylie Minogue worked with the band a few years back, and Stanley admits the trio penned a song for the latest pop wunderkids Steps, "but they'd already finished their album by the time we sent it".

But the Steps connection goes further. Courtesy of Richard John, Editor of Jam! Showbiz, Which is here! Over 45 minutes, the light discussion ranged from new material and bad pornography to computer illiteracy and a bottle of wine, courtesy of Canadian author Douglas Coupland.

I've been a fan since the days of 'Fox Base Alpha' God, that was a long time ago. I still listen to it. That's something I've noticed. With movie stars or musicians, once you've completed a project, you move on. Fans, tend to dwell.

Yeah, and they ask you really complicated questions, like "where were you when you wrote such and such? I'll ask you about newer material then. How was it working with him? He's really good to work with. We might be working with him again a bit more in the future. He's a lovely guy. He's very talented, obviously. Without a single on it, it's not really single-ly.

The way the record company is promoting it, it's either an EP or a 7" single with '52 Pilot' as the lead track. It's more a collection of work. You know what I mean? Without sounding too pretentious laugh. A between album offering. What is the EP about? Is it a title to reflect the tracks on the disc? You know, 'Places To Visit' would probably be a good title for most of our albums. Although the reviews always say 'quintessentially British', there are always references to other places in other countries.

They're all imaginary really, because most of the places we write about we've never been to. So yeah, it's more of a travelogue. I think we felt that out of all our albums, 'So Tough' was the most travelogue. There were a lot of references, especially in the song 'Mario's Cafe' which as was used in a Canadian advert for Laboratorie Garnier.

I suppose because we're between deals here in the UK. We've left Creation and we're about to sign to another label, but I don't want to put the kiss of death on it by naming them. Can I ask you this: It's an independent label. The EP was just to fill in the gaps really. We're quite prolific, I suppose, and it's a shame not to put things out when you want to. And also, being on SubPop, it's the first time we've been in a position to do stuff in America, really.

When we were on Warner Bros. We'd also go 'can we come and tour? I read that Warner didn't actually know how to market you and that was one of the big problems. I know that sounds like a terrible criticism - probably the marketing department of Warner Bros. I don't think they quite understood quite what we were about.

They were very nice to us and they were very supportive and I almost felt like we were their pet band. You know, 'Oh aren't Saint Etienne cute and quintessentially British again '. Everyone at the label seemed to be a quiet, closet fan, you know.

They all seemed to be quite into it. I suppose it's quite a hard thing. Maybe also the climate changed as to what you can market, you know, what you can put out in the States and before I don't think they quite knew where to put us, whether we were pop or indie or dance or what.

I can understand why, because I think we are a bit of a confusing band at times. Maybe now there's just a more of a market for it. You came to rise through the early 90s when the American musical landscape was changing. It was the era of grunge and everyone in the US rediscovered grungy guitar rock'n'roll.

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These days, with the resurgence of pop, there's a little more melody and things like that creeping back into the charts. I think of bands like the Cardigans and stuff like that. I know a lot about your music, but not a lot about you personally. I did find a website with four or five interviews with you, but none with fellow band members Pete Wiggs or Bob Stanley.

I wonder what that was off. It was the 'Sassy Sarah Cracknell Site'.

Oh that one, yeah. Sarah's seen this site! The funniest one I ever found was when we were in a hotel in New York. They had one of those iMacs at the reception desk.

One of our keyboard players was fiddling around with it, because he's quite computery and we found this website 'See Sarah Cracknell Naked'. It's the funniest thing I've ever seen, my head stuck on someone else's body. Some of those fake jobs are really bad. With some of them, you'd have to be a mutant for the photo to be real. Yeah, the head's sort of twisted in the wrong direction and completely different skin tones to the rest of the body. Very odd and just a bit freaky actually.

I was slightly disturbed. Hopefully, they did it with some humour. Please God, they did it with some humour laugh. I have yet to have a computer, actually. I haven't got one. I am computer illiterate, but I'm about to get one.

Once we've finished this tour, my new thing is I'm getting myself one of those new iMacs, one of those clever ones that I can use music programs on and get myself sorted.

I thought that when I was at school - I was at private school and all the comprehensive schools had computers studies and mine was too busy teaching Latin and things like that, really useful stuff. You never know when knowledge of a dead language will come in handy. So I kept thinking 'Oh well, I won't need to, I won't need to, I won't need to', and then suddenly it dawned on me that I'm so left behind. It's like 'you really need to, Sarah'.

I need to catch up big time. The original track listing for 'Places To Visit' was supposed to be: That ended up on something else. I'm sure it did. Maybe it was a b-side.

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Maybe I'm going mad. Any plan to release these tracks in the future, now their existence is known? I think 'Lose That Girl' may have come out in Australia. It was intended to, whether it did or not. I was looking forward to it coming out, really. Never mind, Creation wouldn't let us do it. Extrapolating on your problems with Creation, and the regionality of your releases, have you ever thought about your own label?

Saint Etienne Records, for instance? It did occur to us, actually. We investigated it quite thoroughly. We did think about it quite seriously. Basically, it would have been a heck of a lot of work for - for instance - our manager who has enough on his plate as it is.

He doesn't just manage us, he runs Heavenly, and Capersville the press agency, plus the club, plus everything. So he's kind of busy and it would have meant an enormous amount of work and we would have had to employ people to run it. A whole level of bureaucracy. Yeah, and we got offered a deal by this other label. The new label have been really, really brilliant and they're a very proper label.

They still maintain their kind of indie ethic and they're very artist oriented and they're really cool. So we couldn't really refuse because they were being so cool.

How will the new deal impact on your US deal with SubPop? The other good thing about the new label is they're saying 'if there's a label in a certain country that you're happy with then we'll try and work something with them'. Yeah, that's another label out there. The guy who was running it has left now, I think. He may be at a different label, I'm not sure. He's a Japanese guy we called Stupid Jimmy, which he likes. Does he understand what it means? Yeah, he actually calls himself Stupid Jimmy.

We did some music for the film 'Misadventures Of Margaret' and he might be putting the soundtrack album out in Japan. No worry, just another expensive import purchase. Oh God yeah, sorry sheepish laugh.

It's not definite yet, it's just in the pipeline. Why is there so much rare material floating around? There's the fan club EPs, 'I Love to Paint' - copies of which are selling for obscene amounts of money on the internet They're really hard to find, actually. Someone has taken the disc and make a burn of it and they're selling that.

We could do that! We could just do a download type of thing. We're bastards aren't we for doing this. I put it down to record label politics and regional deals. Yeah, it's just there's certain places where we can do things and there's certain places where they'd rather we didn't.

Certain places where they'll let us release stuff. One year after the album's release, is that still the case? I think now I really like 'Erica America'. The reason I think I like that now is from touring and singing it live. I liked it a lot in the studio, but I had trouble singing it. It was the hardest one for me to sing for some reason.

It's probably quite high in some places, and I've got a deep voice. Now doing it live, I've sort of mastered it and now I really like it. It feels really sort of uplifting live. It makes me put my hands up in the air. Purely because of the studio and the producer [Tore Johansson]. We'd heard records by Eggstone and Lady Lynette and a bunch of Japanese stuff that was recorded there as well.

With The Cardigans it's a lot different, they do a lot more of it themselves. Tore is very adventurous with the sounds he gets and the way he records things; the way he records drums and stuff like that. We just wanted to get that sound. It's also good to be away from home when recording because you get away from all the distractions.

You get into that sort of gang mentality, sharing a flat and hanging out together, it's good. Did you go into the studio intentionally looking to record an organic band album rather than an electronic album? Yeah, very much so. So with 'Places To Visit', it's more of a hybrid of that sound and electronic elements? With 'Good Humor', I think we dared ourselves to do it. We'd really explored computer generated music and sampling and stuff like that to quite a degree, so we sort of dared ourselves to do it really.

It was just quite exciting for us to do that. Whereas now, I think, we've done that and we want to sort of combine the two a bit more. Where will the next album be recorded and when can we expect to hear it? We've already started the next album. We've been in Berlin for 3. Now we're back here in London and we're going to add strings and guitars We might work with Sean O'Hagan to do that.

Then we're going to mix it here. It probably won't be finished till the Autumn, because we're on tour and stuff. I assume it'll be out around February of next year. Just in time for the new millennium. Which everyone seems to be obsessed with and I don't actually give a shit about.

I'm wondering if I'll change my mind closer to the time. Bob and Pete are really into it, they're like 'wow, the millennium'. It's only me that's a bit 'so?

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Are Saint Etienne going to release their millennium single? I don't think so, no. How scary, having to enter into that kind of competition. I guess Pulp's 'Disco ' will be played a lot. With 'Good Humor', you used the American spelling of Humor, was that intentional? The ice cream company is called 'Good Humor', isn't it? I think he was wearing a good humor ice cream man's hat on some record which I can't bloody remember. It's on the inner sleeve of some record.

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It's one of those Bob Stanley references that I always get asked and I can never remember. How did that come about? I think it was Bob who read something where Douglas Coupland was being interviewed and he mentioned the reference to Saint Etienne in a very complementary way and then we got in touch with him and he said yeah, he was a fan of ours and liked our music.

We asked him to do the liner notes and he said yeah. He wouldn't even take a payment, bless him. We offered him some money I've never drunk a bottle of wine that's cost that much laughs. I was really happy with him, I thought that was brilliant.

Are Pulp and Saint Etienne close? We went on tour with them, they supported us on tour once around Britain as did Oasis. Anyone who supports us is guaranteed mega-stardom afterwards laugh. Noel Gallagher from Oasis sent you a demo tape didn't he? Yeah, well we heard it through Anyway, it had 'Live Forever' on it, things like that. But yeah, we were very close to Pulp for a while. I've lost touch with them a bit which is a shame.

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I knew Russell very well and of course he left. I also know Nick, the drummer, quite well and Candida. But I haven't seen them for a while, but of course they're probably incredibly busy. They were lovely on tour. You released your lone solo album 'Lipslide' in Any more plans for solo material? I'd like to do something, but only if there was a gap in the Saint Etienne schedule. I prefer being in a band, it's more fun. It's lonely doing it on your own. Did you find the solo album more difficult, it being only you?

I had a lot of trouble with the label I was on [Gut Records]. They weren't very nice to me. It wasn't a great relationship, between me and the label. I think they were just trying to turn me into something and the thing was I don't think they ever listened to a Saint Etienne album, do you know what I mean? I didn't realize it at the time. It's one of the first thing you'd do, I would think. So, it was a real struggle and I was very unhappy. I was very happy when the album was finished and I'm proud of it, but they then pretty much didn't put it out.

They put it out just about. They didn't promote it at all or do anything. That's why it's so hard to find, I think. I found it in an expensive import shop. That must have cost you a fortune nervous laugh. Is there anyone left on your collaboration wish list? I'd love to do something with - this is seperate from Saint Etienne because they wouldn't agree with me - but I love J.

Mascis and Dinosaur Jr. I think he's a brilliant songwriter and I'd love to do a duet where he does falsetto and I do sort of the lower part. I'd love to do that. I just love his voice and I think he writes brilliant pop songs. Would it be more Dinosaur Jr. I think it would be kind of a halfway house thing, where it could be a bit Dinosaur Jr. I think that would be really good. How would you describe the sound of Saint Etienne?

God, I don't know. You've asked me an impossible question. It is impossible, but I think that's purely because we are also eclectic in what we listen to - as far reaching as the 50s, 60s and the 70s, blah blah blah.

I think we're one of those bands that manages to get away with working on different genres of music and different eras of music and putting it all together and we get away with it. Then everytime someone tries to pigeonhole us, as you know a retro band we go, ha ha, and do something that's not retro.

Then they go, 'Oh you're a Euroband', and then we go 'ha ha' and do something like '52 Pilot' and go 'now keep guessing! It must be nice to more or less reinvent yourselves when you want to. I think whatever we do, we do still sound like Saint Etienne, there's a basic thread there.

It's a rather enviable position. What was that quote from Spinal Tap? Fess up, was 'Born on Christmas Day' written for Bob? Could you imagine growing up being born on Christmas Day?

I'm guilty as well. At Christmas we all go off to our families, but we see each other leading up to Christmas. I've bought him double presents before - 'this is your Christmas AND birthday present rolled into one. I actually only gave him his birthday present about two weeks ago. Why did you leave the between song snippets off 'Good Humor'?

Who chooses the snippets? We all do really. It's actually a long story - the snippets. For the first album ['Fox Base Alpha'] we got away with murder, because no one had cottoned on.