First The Man Who reviews were a bloodbath recalls Travis' Dougie Payne ahead of Ipswich gig
PUBLISHED: 10:16 14 June 2018 | UPDATED: 09:29 20 June 2018
Travis play their classic album The Man Who in full at the Ipswich Regent next Thursday and Cambridge Corn Exchange December 13. Bassist Dougie Payne recalls the “brutal mugging” the band got on its release.
Released 19 years ago, The Man Who spawned smash singles Writing To Reach You, Driftwood and Turn. Produced by Nigel Godrich, it spent 11 weeks at number one and sold nearly 3million copies.
The biggest selling UK album of 2000, it was propelled by an incendiary Glastonbury performance in the rain, closely followed by Ivor Novello Awards for best songwriter and best contemporary song for the iconic Why Does It Always Rain On Me? and BRIT Awards for best British band and best British album.
Fran Healy, Dougie, Andy Dunlop and Neil Primrose have enjoyed two number one LPs, five top ten singles and more than 8million record sales in their career, including 2016’s critically acclaimed album Everything At Once.
Q: Your debut album, Good Feeling, enjoyed moderate success but The Man Who took off...
It’s quite mystifying, it [Good Feeling) was no massive hit. I think Andy MacDonald of Independiente Records, which which was our label at the time, was really instrumental in us getting another shot at a second record. If we’d been on one of the bigger records I don’t know if they’d have kept us on.
We had the good fortune to work with Mike Hedges and then on the bulk of the record with Nigel Godrich, that was some good creative managing. It was quite a long gestation, making The Man Who. The first record was done and dusted in like two weeks, this was months and months. By the time we finished we were like “this is actually quite a weird record”. We thought it was quite odd and very different from the first.
I always felt it had a really specific atmosphere that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It drew you in and was one of those records that when you played it from the start you tended to listen to it right the way through. Certainly I did before we released it.
When the reviews were coming out we were like “oh great, let’s see how it’s going” and then we got all the papers, all the magazines and it was an absolute bloodbath [laughs]. I don’t think there was one good review it was all anything from “commercial suicide” to “what’s happened to Travis”. It really was a brutal mugging we got [laughs]. We thought “oh f***, what are we going to do now”.
Then a couple of little things happened. We got support from Radio 1 which was fabulous and then Glastonbury happened, it rained and it was all over TV. The record was already out and slipping down the charts, it was kind of out the top 20 at that point but then two or three months later it was number one. It was a very strange thing for it to take hold in people’s homes and hearts.
Q: Where you tempted to post the critics the sales figures...
No [laughs] because you still want to get the cover of the magazine. It becomes this perpetual motion machine. It’s always one individual’s opinion and I’ve been friends with journalists, it’s not an easy job, you get 50-100 records a week to listen and write something you feel you can stand by.
Q: Do you view the album differently in hindsight...
Yeah, I think. It’s funny because I haven’t listened to the record for a long time. We’ve played most of the songs over the years so they remain pretty alive, pretty fresh so you don’t kind of have an overview of what it feels like. Saying that, playing them in order was a very interesting thing to do and that was something that we’re excited to do again on this tour.
Q: What’s it like performing The Man Who in full...
We did two shows last year, just to test the water. To see is this going to work as a stand-alone thing because we’d never actually played it like that in our lives. We’re not doing any kind of massive fills or huge intros, it’s purely the record and it really works and it really works for the audience.
Obviously the songs are familiar to them, but hearing them in the way you listen to them at home is quite an interesting experience in a live context. It’s interesting for us because over the years we get used to certain set and encore closers. To play them in order, pretty much 90% of our set closers are done by like song seven [laughs].
It basically repositions songs like Dritfwood, Turn and Why does it Always Rain and they go back to what they originally were which are just little songs before they became these behemoths that were on the radio every five minutes. These little songs that were we like “are these any good” so it’s really nice. They stand up as songs in their own right and it kind of re energised the rest of the back catalogue.
It’s one of those records that’s got a deep emotional resonance for a lot of people so the atmosphere’s pretty special.
Q: Does it take you back to when you were writing the album...
It’s funny, maybe because we’re the same four guys that have always been in a band for 22 years the songs are almost an extension of that relationship. The songs seem as perennial to us as possible and it’s the same every time we set foot on stage. You’re not really thinking about the status of a song, the status of an album, you’re just thinking about how this set’s going to run and hopefully this will work.
Q: Get on stage, do well, don’t fall over...
Exactly, start at the same point, finish together, that’s important [laughs].
Q: Can we expect a new album soon...
We’re talking about it. When we get together for rehearsals we’ll start doing the “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours”, playing demos because we’re always writing something and see if we’ve got anything worth pursuing. That’s kind of how our working practice is now. Hopefully we’ll be in the studio in between the two legs of the tour. I really love the recording studio and I love the writing process but it’s really all about getting something together that you want to play live. That’s the ultimate thing.