Thetford: I never thought we’d work together again, Suede bassist Mat Osman interviewed
- Credit: Archant
Suede kick-started the Britpop revolution, setting the Noughties alight with hit after hit before calling it a day in 2003. Their reunion in 2010-11, followed by the release of Bloodsports in 2013 to overwhelming reviews is considered one of the greatest rock comebacks.
“If you’d asked me the day before we got back together did I think I’d ever work with the rest of the band again, I’d have said no,” admits bassist Mat Osman.
“It sounds silly, but I’d never really liked re-formed bands, I’m not sure anyone in the band does really; I think it’s really rare it’s done for good reasons and I was quite happily doing other stuff. We were really lucky the starts aligned with the Teenage Cancer Trust gig.
“It was at the Albert Hall, which we loved and was for a charity that we’d had a lot to do with before and knew were great. I think if it hadn’t been that, if someone said there’s a bit pot of money to play Wembley I think we’d have all said no; it’s never really been about that.”
Osman felt if the gig was the last thing they ever did together, having no idea whether anyone would even turn up, it was a really beautiful poignant way to finish it.
“Halfway through the gig I can remember looking round at the others and thinking **** we’ve got to do this again.”
I’m the first in a line of interviews; talking to journalists isn’t what he got into music for he laughs, adding one of the weird things about becoming a musician is how much time you spend on unmusical things.
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“One of the great things about re-forming is you say to yourself and each other ‘right, none of the nonsense’. You can get so caught up (in it) the first time round, you end up with it being at the forefront. The thing about doing it in 2014, making and paying for your own records, all of those things is you have an incredible freedom to do exactly what you want. We don’t do 200 gigs a year anymore and we don’t tour for 18 months - now we do what we want.”
Asked if he’s enjoying Suede more this time around, Osman says it’s swings and roundabouts.
“The fact it could finish tomorrow is actually a lovely thing because it raises the bar a little, when you know every gig, every record might be your last, It makes it feel more special. Definitely the fact you have that kind of control... (although) we were always pretty good at not listening to record companies and stuff like that.
“When you’re in a big band it has a momentum of its own, by the last record I think we’d got to the point that it was fairly ordinary, workaday and it’s the most ridiculous thing in the world to feel ordinary. The minute it feels like that then you should probably get out.”
The music industry, the music scene has changed, but Osman isn’t worried where Suede fit it. That’s really a job for journalists he says.
“Again that’s one of the nice things. I have no idea really where we fit, I don’t think anyone really can. It’s such a strange thing, I’ve given up trying to imagine what we seem like to the world. We’re just making records and playing gigs. People seem to enjoy it.”
He admits it’s difficult not to reflect on all that when you pass 40. When they started out the first time around it was about so much more than the music. It was about the way they looked, the way they acted...
“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It’s an incredible experience as a 20-year-old to go through all that stuff, having said that I wouldn’t want to do it again. Yeah, it’s very rare to get a second chance to do something you love and do it a completely different way so I’m not really fussed about where we sit now. I think we’ve always sat quite aside from the British music scene anyway so I’m happy to stay out on the verge.”
He thinks the band are better on stage these days. When they toured before, Osman, who’d never been abroad before then, says the first three years of playing was like being on holiday, a moveable party with all that entails.
“The early years of Suede, we were probably fantastic 75% of the time and kind of rickety 25% of the time, depending on what time of day it was or whatever. Nowadays we’re pretty focused. Again you get to an age where it’s like there’s only one thing in the world I really do well and better than most people and that’s being Suede.
“We live kind of basically like monks for 22-and-a-half-hours a day and then for an hour-and-a-half that’s what counts. I think we probably sound better and more energetic than we did 20 years ago.”
The 40-odd remaining songs that didn’t fit in with the Bloodsports concept might make it on to further albums. Osman says they’ve recorded a whole load of tracks for the next record and gone away writing again.
“We’ll be back in the studio at the end of the summer, probably when the festivals are over. I really want to make a record; with Bloodsports it was kind of slow going until about three quarters of the way through it. Then, just suddenly, I think we remembered how to be Suede again. That’s just kept going so everyone’s been writing and writing... but we have a summer of playing forests and stuff first.”
Suede play Thetford Forest on Friday, June 13, with special guest Ed Harcourt and support from The Hosts.
The last time they played anywhere near here was Latitude. Not sure how it would go, thinking it was one of the more restraining festivals, they were blown away by the reaction.
“It was a proper crowd; what was lovely was no-one had their mobile phones out. It was about halfway through I thought ‘everyone seems really animated’. Then I realised It was because none of them were watching it through a four-inch screen; that was quite a moment for us.
“The next year we did a gig in Hampstead Heath and I don’t know if we’d have done that without Latitude because people had said it might be a bit kind of picnic blanket (scene) which we’re not really good at. So far these kind of (shows) haven’t been like that at all, it’s been properly messy.”
Thetford Forest fans can expect 20 or so of their best songs blasted out as loud as they can play them.
“We change the set list every night. One of the nice things is we’ve got about 80 songs we’ve played in the last year-and-a-half so we can be pretty free and easy about what’s good for the setting. Having said that, we like to try and tear it up a bit whatever the setting, it’s not like it’s just going to be a bunch of ballads because we’re in a forest.”
Tickets are available by calling 03000 680400 or visiting www.forestry.gov.uk/music