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Monday, October 22, 2012

A third, and final, album

The second half of the Steve Perrin interview by Malcolm Carter at Penny Black:

Steve Perrin kindly answered a few more questions we put to him in a second interview as the band geared up for not only the release of ‘The End of the Pier’ but those upcoming shows too.

PB:  Before we ask about ‘The End of the Pier’, is there anything unreleased from the Island days?

SP:  If you'd asked me that a couple of years ago I would have said “no”, but Neil Storey from Hidden Masters has been putting together a retrospective and has discovered all sorts of stuff.  He's still haggling over legal issues, but hopefully it will come out in 2013.

PB:  It's been a couple of years since the release of the ‘Black Velvet' and ‘Come Home’ EPs.  Did the positive reception of those songs spur on the making of a full album?

SP:  I think it was more to do with the positive response from ourselves.  We felt confident in our own abilities so we decided to take it forward and work on a more cohesive set of songs.

PB:  During the decades between ‘Nobody's Perfect’ and the release of the EPs were you still writing songs?

SP:  No.  I'm not the sort of person who gets up in the morning and starts writing songs.

If you write stuff you want people to listen to it so you need an outlet.  Otherwise it's like writing letters to somebody who doesn't reply: pointless and bad for the self esteem.

PB:  There's the distinctive Distractions sound to ‘The End of the Pier’.  Did you consciously try to retain that?

SP:  We can't help it.  If I start playing and Mike starts singing it just sounds like The Distractions, whether we want it to or not.

PB:  The two EPs both had slightly different line-ups, with Mike Finney and yourself the only original Distractions.  Who is in the current line-up?

SP:  That's a very good question.  I guess the current line-up is me, Mike and Nick Halliwell.  On the album Arash Torabi from The June Brides plays bass and Mike Kellie from The Only Ones is on drums.  They'll both be with us for the shows in August.

PB:  You are performing at just two shows in Salford at the end of August.  The demand for tickets has been good I hear, so why not more dates and why just Salford?

SP:  I think I'm the problem there as I need to get back to Australia where I live now.  We were trying to organize a London show but it got too complicated.

PB:  Any nerves about the upcoming shows?  It's been awhile.

SP:  No, I'm looking forward to it.

PB:  There are a couple of co-writes with Nick Halliwell on ‘The End of the Pier’.  How did that come about?

SP:  In both cases I'd started things and was having trouble finishing them so Nick offered to help out.  The balance was quite different, though.  ‘The Last Song’ is about 80% me and 20% Nick.  ‘Boots’ is about 80% Nick and 20% me.

PB:  Were all the songs on ‘The End of the Pier’ written recently?

SP:  Yes, everything was written in a period of about six months leading up to the recording and it went pretty much up to the wire.  I finished ‘When It Was Mine’ about two days before I got on the plane to the UK, and ‘Man of the Moment’ was even later than that: a few days before we went into the studio, if I remember correctly.

PB:  With the band members living in different countries rehearsing the new songs must have been difficult.  How familiar were the other band members with the songs before you entered the studio?

SP:  Either Nick or I had demoed everything so they'd listened to it but, as I said, it was going pretty much up to the wire.  Mike and I were rehearsing the vocals on the car ride down to the studio in Exeter.

PB:  ‘The End of the Pier’ is naturally going to be compared to ‘Nobody's Perfect’.  How do you feel it stands up to that 32 year old album?

SP:  The thing about ‘Nobody's Perfect’ is that, like most debut albums, it's incoherent.  It's just a collection of songs that we had worked up at the time with nothing particularly tying it together.  The point of making ‘The End of the Pier’ was to do a set of songs with a unifying theme and/or mood.  Whichever one people prefer it really down to their own tastes, which is fine by me.

PB:  Are you happy with ‘The End of the Pier’.  Is there anything you wish you'd done a little differently?

SP:  I never thought I would hear myself say that I was happy with a record but, yes, I am happy with this one.  That's basically because we had a clear idea of what we wanted to achieve and I think we achieved it.

Obviously I hope other people like it but the fact that I'm satisfied with it myself makes that less important than it might be.

PB:  What music are you currently listening to and do you think that you are influenced by any music you currently enjoy?

SP:  I think you get influenced by everything you hear, either in a positive or negative sense.

As for listening habits, I listen to the stuff I always have –- Scott Walker, Serge Gainsbourg, Miles Davis, The Magnetic Fields, Antony & The Johnsons, The Cramps – and there's always some good new stuff.  The Lana Del Ray album's good, as is the new Factory Star stuff and the recent Leonard Cohen album.  Oh, and I liked John Grant's record, ‘Queen of Denmark’, too.

PB:  Despite all the geographical problems are they any plans for future Distractions projects?  You're not going to make us wait another 32 years surely!

SP:  I kind of like the idea of a “deathbed confession” album in 32 years but that might be pushing things a bit.  We have talked tentatively about a third, and final, Distractions album.  It has a working title and I kind of think I know what the subject matter is.  Better see how people respond to ‘The End of the Pier’ first, though.

PB:  Thank you.

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