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Interview of the week: New start for Suede

By SONIA KOLESNIKOV, UPI Correspondent   |   Jan. 30, 2003 at 5:07 PM
SINGAPORE, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- In the last three years, British band Suede's lead vocalist Brett Anderson has battled his demons (an addiction to crack cocaine) and emerged on the other side a transformed man ready to embrace life.

As a result, after a four-year hiatus, the glam-rock band, once hailed as one of the United Kingdom's most influential bands, came back to the music scene late last year with what critics consider a warmer and heartfelt fifth studio album.

"The album ('A New Morning') is about coming through something. This is where 'Positivity' (the first single released) is coming from. Having gone through quite a lot of pain and torment, coming out the other side. It's almost like you've survived the winter and it's the first day of spring," Anderson told United Press International in an interview.

"We've never written song lyrics in a vacuum. Brett's songs tend to be about his life and his surroundings. Most of our songs start from personal experience," added bass player Mat Osman.

"We wanted to make a record that was very open and quite heartfelt and quite vulnerable. The easiest thing seemed to strip away as much as possible any artifice. We tried to record with five people at the same time with all their flaws and what's good about them ... "

Slouching on a hotel sofa in casual blue jeans and T-shirts, the band members looked relaxed despite a grueling concert tour of the region that is taking them to Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand and even China. Suede burst onto the British music scene in 1992, kick-starting the renaissance in British guitar groups, and immediately achieved international success. However, this will be the first time the band is performing in mainland China.

"What is funny is that we've been together for over 10 years, but in China this is our first album ... We could get an award for best newcomer there," Osman jokes.

While the previous album "Head Music," released in 1999, had been about exploring electronic instruments, giving a colder sound to the band, "A New Morning," for the band is a return to playing in its simplest form.

"We'd got to the end of recording 'Head Music' and it was a difficult period, because to be honest it hadn't been a lot of fun. We all realized we'd gone as far as we could with Suede like that. We were heading down a one-way street. So we tried to return to the first principles of what made us happy being in a band. It took us a while, because it took a lot of work to figure out what we wanted to do, and I think that Alex joining helped us down the road," Osman explains. "These changes have totally affected Suede's music," he adds.

New addition guitarist and keyboardist Alex Lee replaced keyboard player Neil Codling after he left the band. Lee's arrival also gave the band two guitarists for the first time, offering new musical opportunities.

"With this album, there is a sense of a band playing in its simplest form. A lot of the songs had already been written, so I had to find what space in the band I could occupy," Lee recalls. "I think it give the album a real human soul. This time, the band didn't get too bogged down with technology in the studio and this gives it more of a human quality and that's why it feels a bit warmer. You can sort of picture the people in a room," Lee enthuses.

Indeed, some of the band members see the latest album as a rebirth of the band. "This is in a sense a new band with Alex joining ... Hopefully it's every time a new Suede, but it feels even more so this time, because we went through more changes," notes Osman. "But it's not like we've made four similar records and now a different one," he promptly added.

Band members refuted critics that Suede has gone more romantic or softer. "You've got to express what's in your soul and if you're happier then that's what you write about," explains Anderson. "I'm trying to express myself as a 35-year-old man ... I'm not a mess-up casualty, I want to be alive."

"In fact, I think some of the bleakest songs I've written are on this album. Look at 'Untitled' or 'Lonely girls,'" Osman said.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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