Thursday, 17 November 2011

Manchester Rises Again - Interview with Martyn Walsh (Inspiral Carpets)

See the lad on the Saturday terraces,
his collar pulled up around his chin.
His side are two goals down and playing lousy,
but he still believes his team are going to win.
And he prays each night that his family's alright
and he's got work.

Song for a Family - Inspiral Carpets

The great thing about having your own blog is that you can be your own editor. So please forgive me the indulgence of this post. When one of my favourite bands announced they were reforming, my excitement levels increased to levels not seen since Paul Peschisolido's goal against Forest in the 2003 Play-Off semi-final. Throw in a bit on intra-band football banter on twitter and that gave me all the incentive I needed to ask if they wouldn't mind answering a few questions.

Inspiral Carpets started in Manchester in 1983 and after several changes of line-up settled into their own, what I would say was, relatively unique sound. Taking influences from ? And The Mysterians, the Farfisa driven garage sound became a firm favourite of John Peel who championed their work. Starting with Keep The Circle Around in 1988 they went on to make 8 appearances in John Peel's Festive 50 - including taking the Number 1 spot in 1994 with I Want You - a collaboration with Mark E Smith of The Fall.

When Stephen Holt and Dave Swift left in 1989, Tom Hingley took over vocal duties and Martyn Walsh brought his low slung bass playing style to the group. The band went on to have 11 Top 40 hits, starting with the anthemic This Is How It Feels in 1990, they also released 4 albums plus greatest hits packages.

With a couple of comebacks supporting Greatest Hits albums and a download only collection of B sides and rarities, all had been quiet until in early August when the band announced a return to their garage roots, with original singer Stephen Holt returning to the fold.

The band spoke to John Robb about their return and you can read about it here on Louder Than War. Missing that day was bass player Martyn Walsh and he very kindly took time out from rehearsals to talk comebacks, stadium gigs and Manchester United, prior to the band flying out to South America for their first gigs last week.

First things first - Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.
Where were you in the John Robb interview?

Sorting out my broken bass amp!!!

That's a relief, didn't want band issues just after you had reformed! It's 15 years since you last recorded together, which shocked me, is that a scary thought for you?

Since Steve has come back, there’s a new found enthusiasm for all things related to Inspirals. Going in the studio was very much a statement of intent; how confident we are as a unit and with the material we’re recording.

Why did it all come to an end in the first place? Was the band being dropped by Mute hard to take? - Bands like Inspirals, Depeche Mode and Nitzer Ebb must have kept Mute going for years!

Being dropped did knock us for six, moreso a couple of years later. I think we may have lost our hunger, and in hindsight it was probably a good thing that we never really split, just went our separate ways for a while.

In amongst a couple of comeback tours you all went off and did your own thing. What were you all doing and did you miss playing?

Yeah, we all kept involved in music to some extent. Clint had his band The Clint boon Experience and XFM shows. Craig had bands like Proud Mary and started his Manchester Music Tours. Graham works for SJM the concert promoters. I was lucky that a couple of my projects; Atomizer and DC10 did play live, but I do miss the unique buzz of playing gigs with Inspirals!

Interesting you say that because I have heard it said footballers always struggle once they have retired as they no longer have the feeling of stepping out to play in front of hundreds/thousands of people.

Totally, the fans are what really makes being in a band so special, that might sound a bit corny, but without that loyalty and support we’re nothing.

What are you enjoying most - the energy of revisiting and revitalising old tracks, or creating new music?

Both, although if I had to choose, I’d definitely say writing new material is most enjoyable. I like the studio environment and the fact we’re writing together again shows there’s a unity and freedom in the camp that has not been there for quite a while.

Some of the tracks pre-date your involvement with the band, didn't you replace David Swift, after tracks like Head for the Sun were originally played? Is it weird working on tracks that the rest of the band created so long ago?

Yeah, I replaced Swifty. It’s not too weird, I have free reign to put my slant on basslines and we have quite similar styles but obviously I’m much better looking....

The comeback seems to have created a bit of a buzz on twitter and facebook, was that a pleasant surprise after a few years away?

Definitely, we had to adapt quickly, as the increase in social media use means we have to be on the ball when it comes to interacting with fans. It’s great but time consuming..cos we all answer personally...eventually!!

I heard Clint and Steve, saying that there are no great expectations with the comeback, that just making music you enjoy is the key. But you must have some hopes of what might happen?

To keep enjoying being Inspiral Carpets and to carry on writing new material, both go hand in hand..anything else is a bonus. That’s not us being unambitious, it’s just that we’re a little older and wiser now, and we know what’s needed to keep creative.

You are starting off with dates in South America, how did that come about?

There was a totally random gig offer from Chile, we liked the idea and got our agent to get a couple of shows in Argentina, all unplanned, unpremeditated and uniquely Inspiral, Steve’s first gig since 1988 will be supporting Interpol in Argentina to 15,000 people!

(The tweets from the band whilst there and since back suggest it was a huge success and a great atmosphere. You will find footage of them playing the Samsung Studio gig here and here amongst others)

I think new single You're So Good For Me is great and has the hook that so many Inspirals tracks has that draws you in? What can you liken it to?

It’s classic Inspirals! There are elements of Inspiral influences like The Fall and The Seeds but also a little bit of LCD Soundsystem, especially in the rhythm section.

I’d written the song a couple of years ago, but it never felt right to introduce to the band. Things are different now, and we were aware that new material needs to be relevant and contemporary, yet ultimately Inspiral...I think we’ve succeeded!

You say you introduced it to the band, is it very much a collaborative writing process?

You're So Good For Me was a track that I'd written bass, lyrics and melody then presented to the band. Everyone then puts their ideas in and we kick them around...lots of Inspirals tracks are written this way..

I met you all in the bar of the Octagon, Sheffield post-gig in 2003 and what was great about that night was that you were all down to earth guys enjoying a beer and a laugh with us all. Do you think that helped the bands longevity and the fact that you are back together now - that you were all grounded guys without any attitudes?

I think so, you can’t get too far in this industry by constantly pissing people off, unless you are supremely talented! We all come from working class backgrounds, with a deeply rooted work ethic; if you wanted anything, you had to go out and earn it, I think that’s held us in good stead.

Your following always seemed to be a good bunch as well. Did you avoid some of the hooligan element that other bands attracted?

We seemed to, I think ecstacy was kicking in on the terraces, so everyone was too loved up to fight!

Although you were tagged as part of the baggy and Madchester movement, your sound always stood out as a different. Did the tag fit and were you comfortable with it?

I think the tag was good in drawing attention to the city overall. I don’t think we fitted in with the generic sound and lifestyle that was media created. It was funny that the press latched onto Madchester probably a good 2 or 3 years after the event.

It is fair to say your albums stand up against those of any of the other bands of the late 80's early 90's, yet I remember you also got harshly tagged by some critics as a" good singles band", did that rile you?

I think creating an album that stands the test of time is a hard task. Life (the band's first album), in particular, as a whole was a great album, not just a collection of songs. Once you get into the cycle of album/tour/album/tour it’s quite difficult to get albums that are coherent. Revenge of The Goldfish (the third album) I always feel is criminally overlooked.

(I would agree. Check out Saviour, Smoking her Clothes, alongside better known singles Dragging Me Down and Generations on iTunes)

What was the highlight of your Inspirals career, "that night in Barcelona" for you?

Playing the River Plate Stadium in Argentina was fantastic just for the immense scale and 100,000 people. I also remember doing a concert in Halle, in the newly unified Germany. Halle was in the East and gig tickets were twice the weekly local wage, we persuaded the promoter to drop the price and those who came were extremely grateful..the power of music can be global. It’s just a shame the falling of the Berlin Wall is synonymous with David Hasselhoff!

One of the noticeable features of Stephen Holt's return to the band is the increase in football banter on twitter, does it add a little edge to rehearsals and band time? How unbearable has he been since the Manchester Derby?

Yes it does add a bit of edge and fun. Steve and Craig have been very quiet since.........although I did change my mobile number on the Monday morning!

I know you support United and Stephen Holt supports City, both come through loud and clear in your tweets, what about the rest of the band?

Craig is another glory hunter, Graham supports Oldham and Clint really likes lots of sports and is a big fan of Sale Sharks.

I had this vision of Clint being a Purple, loving all of Manchester! Do you get to matches often?

Not as often as I’d like. The atmosphere at OT has changed a hell of a lot since the 80’s when I went home and away. At times it feels like a Dire Straits concert….

I remember pictures of a band trip to Old Trafford last season, how did that come about?

The photos were from an MUTV show we did. I go on the station every now and again, Terry Christian hosts some shows and he’s a good friend of the band.

What was your favourite football moment of your lifetime?

Nou Camp..Champions League Final v Bayern Munich….”and Solksjaer has won it!!”

Football heroes?

George Best and Eric Cantona.

I never had the opportunity to see George play but my Dad would rave about him. He (my dad) helped build the Cliff training ground and he would chat regularly with Bestie, he even got hold of an autographed ball which I promptly lost..I was about 6 years old though! Cantona I had the pleasure of watching, his comeback game against Liverpool and his FA Cup winning goal were memorable moments.

Maybe I should have just said football genii!? I saw first hand the quality of the latest young football talent at Old Trafford when they beat my team in the FA Youth Cup Final. Can you recommend any young Manchester music talent that we should look out for in the next 12 months?

I was at that game too. I have high hopes for Paul Pogba, Will Keane and Ryan Tunnicliffe.

In terms of Manchester music, keep an eye out for Ghost Outfit and Rubika.

Musical heroes?

None really. I’ve been privileged to work with some guys who influenced me to get into music. In particular Donald Johnson (A Certain Ratio), Peter Hook and Adrian Sherwood (On U Sound).

Which is your favourite Inspirals track, the one that you look back and think "fuck me, that's a belter" and why?

We’re going through some old tracks at the moment to include in the new set; Seeds Of Doubt with Steve singing sounds really powerful. Every time we play Sackville I always think that’s an era defining song.

(Sackville is a moody and atmospheric song, with a killer chorus, describing the red light area of Manchester. I remember the excitement of finding Sackville Street when in Manchester to see the Inspirals at the Academy. To those of us from outside of Manchester it was a mythical place in the song.)

Do any of you have any Cool as Fuck T-shirts still stashed away in the loft? Is the cow consigned to history?

I have many Inspirals artefacts in the loft…I sound like David Dickinson! I think the cow will still be used, maybe a little more subtly….....

A certain other band of your era somewhat stole your comeback thunder in recent weeks, does the Roses reforming excite you?

I think for our fans it’s great, many of them like us and the Roses.

I noticed on the Louder than War website poll that you were the number 1 choice (now down to 4th - I should add) to be on the bill at Heaton Park, would you be up for it if asked?

The only way I’d enjoy the day, would be if we were playing! I think we’d be a great addition to the bill!

So do I! I would like to thank Martyn for taking the time to answer my questions, it is much appreciated.

You're So Good For Me is out on Monday (21st November) and there will hopefully be some UK tour dates announced soon for early in 2012.



  1. Great interview Ian. And great of Martyn to give it. Backs up how most of feel about the band - they are decent down to earth guys.

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  3. Gran Nota! aqui dejo imagenes del show en Buenos Aires!

  4. Great interview Ian, although I feel that being on a football blog I can make a territorial complaint using a musical analogy. More prosperous and fashionable bands like Oasis and The Stone Roses come from Manchester, but I've always been proud of the Inspirals being an Oldham band!!!

    Also love your obvious excitement about finding the red light district! ;)

    Other than that - very interesting article and well written!! Is there a music blog in the pipeline???


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