359 SUPREMO ALAN McGEE RECENTLY DESCRIBED CHRIS GRANT’S FORTHCOMING DEBUT ALBUM AS ONE OF THE BEST RECORDS HE’S EVER PUT OUT.
Earlier this week 359 also issued Grant’s debut single, IT’S YOU – the first to be lifted from IT’S NOT ABOUT WAR. In a new Q&A with The Mouth Magazine he talks about both releases – and also discusses his relationship with McGee, who seems to be enjoying something of a love-affair with Liverpool, basing his 359 night there and describing Grant’s native city as “the pool of life”.
The ex-Creation head first discovered Grant six years ago via MySpace, when fronting The Grants. “I would have signed him then,” suggests McGee, “but until now I didn’t have a label”. It’s taken half a decade for the planets to align and Grant’s chance to come. “He could be one of the few artists in the history of Liverpool to step out of the shadow of The Beatles,” McGee says. “The La’s and The Bunnymen created their own worlds, and in every song from Chris you can hear his world, too”.
BEFORE WE CHAT ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE, LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR SINGLE: IT’S YOU… IT’S A GENTLY DELIVERED SORT OF ‘PROTEST SONG’ – ALTHOUGH THAT DOESN’T ACTUALLY SEEM QUITE THE RIGHT TERM… PERHAPS A RALLYING CALL FOR A GENERATION TO WAKE UP AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY..?
I wouldn’t call it a protest song. I say in the first line, “It’s not about religion, it’s not about war, it’s you”… What I mean by that is, whatever you believe or support in either term, fundamentally it’s who you are as a person that defines you. Not what side your on or which God you believe in. I feel religion and opinions should be in the same space as people’s favourite colour – everyone has one but it’s not shouted about or rammed down your throat. We just know people have one and that’s their business. Religion has caused war since history records time. I think it’s about time we registered it does no-one any good to shout and scream about it. It gets in the way of common sense in general humanity too much for me… It’s just my opinion. The rest of the song covers more of the same problems we face in the western world; materialism and a little more. Others can relate to it wherever they hear it too, not just in our way of life. Strangely a lot of people are taking it as love song. I’m cool with that also. It’s the beauty of songwriting that people can place a personal meaning to your work. They can take it how they wish. It wasn’t written as a love song, though. Not at all. When I say “It’s you” I’m poking the listener. Each and every one of them.
AFTER LISTENING TO THE SINGLE QUITE A FEW TIMES, I’D SAY THERE’S A HINT OF JOHN LENNON’S WORLDVIEW IN THERE – LOOKING AT THINGS WITH BROADER STROKES, NOT GETTING INTO THE ABSOLUTE NUTS AND BOLTS OF AN ISSUE LIKE, SAY, BILLY BRAGG MIGHT…
True. I know Billy bangs on about issues that need resolving – and that’s cool – but it feels like it’s always more on a localised level. Government issues etc… I’m the kind if person to go straight to the top and cut out the middle man. Billy can head for Downing Street – and I’ll back him, don’t get me wrong! – but I’m heading for the White House or the Vatican so to speak. As Lennon did. With this song I am, anyway. I feel like I’m dealing with a bigger picture than Billy with this track. I’ve seen a lot of things in my life, none I wish to go into at this point. From an early age I always headed for the stars… for the light rather than the light switch, if you know what I mean? Its just my way. If I’m honest, I’m sort of annoyed by modern day ‘folk’ singers. If you want to change things in politics, unfortunately you’re best off being a politician, not a beat poet. I intend to be neither. I will have my say on a higher level. I think, again, John Lennon did this best: keep it simple by saying simple things about the biggest things… war, religion etc… Not writing songs about Tesco putting the local butchers out of business. That shit does my head in. Its not a song I want to listen to.
IS THE SINGLE REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ALBUM?
Actually, no… It’s not… The album is a journey of my sound and scope. It takes a few turns and twists – all good and all memorable. It’s the perfect album, really. It’s got a good mixture of moods and emotions.
YOU’RE FROM LIVERPOOL AND THE CITY HAS A LONG TRADITION, ALL THAT AMAZING MUSIC – PERHAPS TOWERED OVER BY THE BEATLES, OF COURSE… IS THAT GEOGRAPHY IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Liverpool is great. Unfortunately, it’s like every other city when you’re skint – you can’t go out. I stayed in and wrote amazing songs because I couldn’t afford to eat in new sushi bars or pay six quid for a Starbucks coffee. It’s lost its identity like most cities have. They’re all the same now, the big cities. Same shops. Same kids in the same clothes. The only thing we have is our accents. I have mine – I treasure it…
… BUT COULD YOU HAVE WRITTEN THE SONGS ON YOUR ALBUM IF YOU WERE FROM… I DON’T KNOW… TUNBRIDGE WELLS?
I would have written these songs in Doncaster if I was born there. Its where my roof is, Liverpool – and I don’t like getting wet. But it doesn’t affect a chord I hit or a note I sing. It does for some, and that’s why you end up getting a hundred bands sounding like The Farm. They see a band do well then copy it for years. The Farm were great because they made a sound – not copied one. It’s a huge mistake to be too influenced by other musicians I think. You must be able to influence yourself. I can. With life experience and a mixture of musicianship and general production knowledge. I’m set to make records for a long time. Geography plays no part in what I’m doing on record. I’ve found my own sound.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR SOUND?
My sound is special. Get on it.
McGEE’S SAID THAT LIVERPOOL IS A SPECIAL PLACE FOR MUSIC AT THE MOMENT. I’VE NOT BEEN IN A WHILE – IS THERE A BUZZ ABOUT THE CITY AGAIN?
You would have to ask Alan… I’m still skint. I don’t go out. I’ve been making my records and doing my own thing. But I believe it’s the way people are here that has initially drawn him. London can be a bit cold on the human level – more so than other places. Liverpool is like a village. Everyone is sound. The music will be better for the next ten years or so when my record comes out as there have been two hundred of The Zutons, lately. That’s not a good thing – they didn’t exactly make classic records. It was more like a student jam night that got a record deal and a few people liked it. I’m raising the standard from that sing along and shout like a busker shit. Its time for melody and lyrics to mean something again in Liverpool. Like it or lump it, the artists here will have to listen my album and better it. That’s healthy and I expect it’ll happen one day. Then I’ll be eating sushi and the cycle will start again. I’ve written classic songs. It can’t be argued with… I’m hoping others follow suit.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE? YOU’VE BEEN OFFERED DEALS IN THE PAST AND HAVE BEEN INVOLVED WITH MAJOR LABELS… YOU WORKED WITH ELTON JOHN’S TEAM FOR A LITTLE WHILE… SO WHY DID THOSE THINGS NOT HAPPEN’?
I’ve turned down major label backing, yeah. Simply because I didn’t feel it was right for me. Elton John’s team included in that. I have dignity and integrity, musically and mentally. I lost neither. I grew both and signed with Alan organically. The rest is history. I don’t look back. I always look forward. Alan is right for me and, at this point, I’m right for Alan. We have a great understanding and working relationship. It’s not even work to us. It’s just what we do. It’s 24/7, and out of love for all things music and madness… Together we can change music for the better. If I didn’t believe that I wouldn’t be here.
IT APPEARS McGEE AND 359 ARE CAREFUL WITH THEIR ARTISTS – YOU’RE LOOKED AFTER, BUT EACH OF YOU IS ALLOWED TO FOLLOW YOUR OWN PATH. THERE’S NO HUGE AGENDA. THERE’S NO LOCKING YOU AWAY IN EXPENSIVE STUDIOS AND THROWING LOADS OF MONEY AT A ‘CAMPAIGN’… IT FEELS AUTHENTIC…
Yeah. It’s total freedom, really… Alan won’t push nothing on you or in your way. He’ll mentor you and help you walk your path – he’s walked it… Ran it and crawled it… So he knows. If you have a brain, you listen to him. Mostly… I try to. When I lose it, he calms me down. Not many can do that. He helped me on personal levels a few years back when I had drug issues. So, he’s a great friend above all else. I’m privileged to have got this guy in my life. You don’t get that from A&R men at Sony. I will always remember that, whatever happens… This is a real label on real levels. There is no mechanical drum banging. Its all real. It gives 359 a soul… Good luck finding that anywhere else.
YEARS AGO THE GRANTS PLAYED NIGHTS McGEE PUT ON, AND HE’S SAID HE WOULD HAVE SIGNED YOU BUT FOR THE FACT HE DIDN’T HAVE A LABEL…
Yeah… It’s funny in a way, as I think The Grants went to those McGee club nights years back expecting to be the next Oasis only with different songs and guitar playing… We wasn’t trying to be them but we had that power live and that brought comparison. We could have been sold that way… You learn that Oasis was what they were, and we were what we were. Noel Gallagher said it best in the first Oasis single: “You need to be yourself, you can’t be no-one else”. You need to do a different noise or it’s boring… The way it works is to better Oasis. It was Oasis who lost the Oasis sound more than anyone. So why should anyone else go looking for it? Let them find it. They will one day and it’ll be great… I’ll be there singing SLIDE AWAY through a traffic cone like its 1994! But I’m doing my sound now.
… NOW McGEE HAS 359 MUSIC, AND YOU WERE AMONGST THAT FIRST BATCH OF SIGNINGS… IT’S A GREAT THING HE’S SURPRISED PEOPLE BY SIDESTEPPING THE EXPECTATIONS THAT HE’D ONLY SET UP ‘CREATION PART TWO’…
Yeah. 359, it’s not about Creation Part Two or the next Oasis. It’s about the future. It’s: this is 359 and I am Chris Grant from Liverpool. Not: this is Creation and I’m Noel from Manchester. Move on. Get over it… That’s the vibe. From me anyway. Respectfully… move on. It’s definitely not 1994 – there is no maybe about it…
WERE YOU INTO THAT CREATION STUFF THOUGH? IS THAT WHAT GOT YOU STARTED PLAYING? YOU DID LIKE OASIS…
I started as a young kid on guitar, token story like everyone else… I won’t bore you with that. Yeah, I liked Oasis – but I didn’t get the other bands at the time. They wasn’t cool enough for me at 15 years old. But then you grow up and realise pretty much everyone that McGee signed had genius elements… It gets you at different times.
WELL, IN THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH OF YOU BEING SIGNED BY McGEE… HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED AT ALL?
DO YOU THINK IT WILL? WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES AND EXPECTATIONS? WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’LL BE, SAY, FIVE YEARS FROM NOW?
No idea… I’m looking on the future, but I can’t see it. If I could I’d put a bet on like Biff.
ULTIMATELY, WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY ON ALL THIS?
Just be sound to everyone. Unless they’re a twat.
Chris Grant’s 10-track debut album IT’S NOT ABOUT WAR will be released on 21st October by 359 Music through Cherry Red. The CD edition can be pre-ordered from Cherry Red here, and download from iTunes here.