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The following interview with Mark took place on the tour bus in Manchester, Saturday 29th March 2003 (the day of the Liechtenstein V England match).
What have you done today?
Today, I got up, cleaned the bus and then went shopping. I went to the second hand shops in Manchester…there’s loads of them in Aflecks Palace. I got a jacket and a really cool hat…hang on, I’ll show you it.
Is it gonna be debuted tonight?
No! (laughs). You don’t see these very often, do you? Certainly not for £3.50!
Put in on, let’s see….
I think it’s from Morocco…(models it) I look like a Moroccan bellhop!
You played in Wrexham last night, how was it?
Wrexham, yeah, it was good. It’s getting better and better each night as we get into our stride. It was the tenth gig last night…double figures! Feels good!
People say we are survivors but I don’t see us as survivors of anything. We are still here, there’s nothing that’s come and tried to dislodge us. We just go about our business.You have recently departed from Mercury…
Oh yeah (sounding relieved). We just had a very unhappy time with them the last couple of years. It wasn’t a case of they weren’t keen on what we were writing and recording, they weren’t even listening to what we were writing and recording.And they wanted you to do a “Best of”…
Yeah, they forced our hand a little with that. There was not a lot we could do really. I don’t want to sound like I’m whinging, we signed the deal at the end of the day whose fault is it? It’s ours. The whole experience has kind of galvanized us a group really.How long were you with Mercury?
Oh, only two years. Coz we were with A&M and then they got closed down. And all the people that we’d worked with at A&M went to Mercury so we went to Mercury as well and then they all got moved on from Mercury within about six months so we were stuck at Mercury with a load of people we didn’t know. But, you know, comme ce comme ca!Can we talk about Manchester…
We can talk about Manchester! I like coming here, it’s a wicked city. It’s my second favourite city in England after London. I like Liverpool too but there’s a lot more to do in ManchesterIs that the football talking about Liverpool…
I just love the city of Liverpool…it’s such a small place and the Mersey and all that(Dave) I’m an Everton fan…
Well, you know, we’ll smile to ourselves and discuss it no further! No, I always enjoy coming to Manchester, I always have a good time here.Are you influenced by the music originating in Manchester?
Well, we are influenced by music from all over, but Manchester has a rich musical heritage, so it’s fair to say we are fans of certain elements of it.The Smiths – do they mean a lot to you?
They mean a hell of a lot to me! I was half-humming ‘Shoplifters’ this morning in the back of the taxi on the way to the shops. But The Smiths didn’t start the whole Manchester thing off, The Hollies were from Manchester, The Buzzcocks and the whole Factory Records thing.Why have you chosen to do such a marathon of a tour?
Well in the last couple of years, with all the seeming embargoes on us releasing things by our record label, we haven’t had much of a chance to get and out play to the grass-roots type places we wanted to. Coz if the record company won’t let you put a record out, then you’ve nothing to promote and they’re not going to help you out with the tour budget if you’ve nothing to promote. So basically we were kind of trapped. And all the songs we would have written would have been owned by Mercury until they released us. So what do you do? It’s kind of like a prison sentence. You are at their beck and call at little. Coz you can record and record but they haven’t got to put anything out but they wouldn’t release us either until finally last August they did.You’re playing Inverness…
We’re playing bloody everywhere aren’t we!? Every out-post. Apparently, they bus people in from the surrounding hamlets! Everyone, all ages!What’s been the best venue so far?
Probably the Tunbridge Wells one coz it was this tiny pub. It’s good, I like these gigs, these are the ones you have memories about. We are going to places like Exeter and Penzance and they are always f*cking excellent. Glasgow is always the best city to play though - I love playing there.We saw the support band as we came through…
Ricky, yeah, they’re good chaps.Why is the album called Luxembourg?
The reasons are many and none are really convincing. It started off because there’s a song on the album called ‘Your No Fun Anymore’...(gets interrupted by the football)Have you ever been to Luxembourg?
No. Never been to Luxembourg.I read you thought it was a nice place?
Yeah, I read that interview, it was that Liverpool thing. No, I never said that! That whole interview is a complete misquote, it’s just paraphrased – I sound like a bloody 8 year old! I get really annoyed by that, (picks up microphone) that’s f*cking lazy journalism!
A couple of Belgians worked on the Fastboy video and they go to Luxembourg all the time because the petrol is so much cheaper there coz they don’t pay tax. There’s not one Internet café in the whole country – things like that. There’s a high suicide rate for it’s relatively small population.Do you see this album as a new direction?
I see each of the albums at any given time as a new direction. The second was very different from the first and Science and Nature was again different from the previous two. Then there’s this new album…You don’t mention the singles album…
Yeah - that’s a good point. There we deliberately tried to write four pop songs – bubblegum songs.What’s in your CD player at the moment?
At the moment, I got this Johnny Cash album yesterday ‘Man Comes Around’. It’s got some originals and some covers on it and he does this wicked version of a Nine Inch Nails song ‘Hurt’ – I’ll play it to you if you like – and he does ‘Personal Jesus’ by Depeche Mode, which is amazing, he really spins the songs around.What can we expect from tonight’s gig?
9 new songs – guess that’ll be a surprise for a lot of people but that is what this tour is all about – we did the Greatest Hits tour last year. But the crowd pleasers are still in the set like Solomon, Sleazy Bed Track, Bluetonic, If.Any B-Sides? I was always a bit disappointed I never heard ‘String Along’ live…
We’ll be adding B-Sides as we go along. We’ve played ‘String Along’ live loads…if you go to Aflecks Palace, that record shop on the second floor, you can buy a pirate copy of it live. I was looking in there today…second track ‘String Along’!What was the last gig you went to?
I haven’t been to a gig for a while, probably The Polyphonic Spree last year at Shepherds Bush, just round the corner from me. I’ve been so busy, I’ve not really had much time, I’ve been putting my energy into recording. I saw Electric Soft Parade as well last year, they were really good and played loads of new songs.The band’s following…
We are a cult in most places and I like that. Japan has a lot of love to give the Bluetones. When we go to Spain, France and Germany, it’s not big budget swanky time! There are a lot of enthusiastic people in the room, they aren’t big rooms but they are full up and that’s all I care about. Just as long as it’s still fun and rewarding.What about the press treatment you’ve received over the years?
I wouldn’t say any of it’s particularly pleasing. They always get it wrong, even when they say nice things, they say them for the wrong reasons. I don’t take much notice anymore, I just look at it and think what are they writing about us now? and then forget about it. There are more important things to think about I suppose. I maybe did in the early days, but not anymore.Which is your favourite Festival?
Glasto. The Vs are always well organised – they were nice last year coz the weather was good. I enjoy T in the park too but it always seems to bloody rain – it’s wellies time. It does tend to have the best line-up though.Do you still go abroad as much?
We went a couple of times last year but we spent the second half of last year writing and recording. We are hoping to go across this year and definitely go to Japan and America.What do you think of chart music, the likes of Justin Timberlake…
I don’t mind Justin, I love that ‘Cry me a River’ song. I’ve been listening to and buying a lot of pop recently – only the good stuff though – there’s a lot of rubbish but the cream is good. Christina Aguilera’s ‘Dirty’ was f*cking hot to trot!The video!
The video made me feel a bit uncomfortable but the song is excellent – sounds wicked in a club. That Girls Aloud (‘Sound of the Underground’) record was banging and Las Ketchup as well – I loved that.What about those who have come through TV Competitions?
Oh, I don’t know – I can’t say I’m keen on anything I’ve heard – I particularly dislike Darius. I think he’s the epitome of a highly polished turd! He’s symbolic of everything that’s wrong with society in middle England today. Stick him infront of a camera, he’s obviously a complete and utter arsehole – no one you’d ever want to be around. All of a sudden give him a hair cut and a shave, he’s still the same arsehole. People are so fooled by these shallow devices, it highlights what a shallow society we live in.What’s the first song tonight?
It’s a new one called ‘Here it Comes Again’, not to be confused with the Melanie C classic! We were recording it when the Melanie C one just started to come on the TV, before it was released, and we were like “bitch”! Ours is good though…it doesn’t stink!So you are a bit of a film buff…give us a top 5?
Well, Clockwork Orange would be up there…a couple of Stanley Kubrik ones…Dr Strangelove, Bottle Rocket. There’s got to be an Allen in there. I don’t know whether to choose Annie Hall or Love and Death. Love and Death always makes me giggle.Foreign Films?
Some Japanese cinema and the films of Takeshi Kitano, ‘Violent Cop’ and ‘Brother’ was his first kinda western film, the one he made in Hollywood. It’s not his best though, that’s probably ‘Violent Cop’ or ‘Sonatine’. Going to Japan has sown the seeds of a general interest in Japanese culture.
Interview by David Mason and Claire Chisholm, Saturday 29th March 2003.