There were some musical highlights in 1993 – In Utero, Nirvana’s brilliant follow-up to Nevermind, Songs of Faith and Devotion showed Depeche Mode could continue to grow, and there, hidden away in that years Mercury Music Prize nominations, alongside Stereo MC’s Connected, PJ HArveys Rid of Me, and the eventual winner – Suede’s self titled debut, was another debut. It came from The Auteurs, essentially a vehicle for singer songwriter Luke Haines. They didn’t seem to care if they fitted in musically or otherwise, but had the self-confidence and belief that they had the songs and the attitude to change the world.
The band, Haines on vocals and guitar, joined by his then-girlfriend Alice Readman on bass guitar, former classmate Glenn Collins on drums, and later added James Banbury on Cello, had released a demo cassette and landed a support slot with Suede, but New Wave was their first assault on the public’s consciousness. Scraping into the top 40 album charts (scant reward) the album produced three singles; Showgirl, Housebreaker and How Could I be Wrong, but most of all it showcased Haines brilliant melodic flow and poetic words, all wrapped up in this 70’s almost Bolan influenced indie pop. It was quite, quite brilliant.
So it’s with something approaching excitement and reverence that we viewed the re-release of New Wave, out now and available here
We spoke to Luke Haines about all things New Wave, Auteurs and more.
BM: It’s over 20 years since New Wave was released – was it fun looking back? Any painful memories?
Luke Haines: I wouldn’t say ‘fun,’ but I have no bad memories of 1992 – early 1993. It was a really good time for me and I got to make the kind of record i’d always wanted to make.
Was it like dusting off an old book, or were the memories of the record still very sharp?
My memory of making New Wave is pretty clear, I was focussed on making the album and I was determined not to fuck it up. I pretty much treat every album I make as if it’s going to be my last.
And you decided to include a whole range of extras with the package, including some rudimentary (but yet brilliant) demos – what was the thinking behind this, just to give the people buying the record some perspective, or just to give them something they hadn’t got?
I’ve always liked those demos. At one point – when I didn’t think we/I would get a record deal I would have considered putting them out as the album. Sonically they are quite rough, due to all the tape bounce, but it’s all there. Very early on I remember a London promoter having a real go at me for the so-called ‘bad quality’ of the demos, making a really big deal about what a favour he was doing me by putting the Auteurs on the bottom of the bill. By the time we came to play the gig we’d been in the NME and been name checked by Suede etc. The promoter gave me this really mealy-mouthed apology about how he’d misjudged the band blah blah.
Is it something you’d been thinking about for some time?
Putting the demos out? Yep, it was just waiting for the right occasion and this is it.
There’s some outstanding records on there, the singles obviously, but also junk shop clothes is one of my favourites. Do you have any favourites?
I think it’s all pretty great. It doesn’t suffer from the recording conditions that a lot of records from that period suffer from. No great big gated reverby snares. No over loud clicky kick drums. It’s not gimmicky either. So many bands of the late eighties/early nineties got lumbered with all that crap. I think we were really lucky to avoid it.
All (or at least most) of the songs seem to be observational lyrically, but not in downcast way, indeed there’s plenty of humour on there. Is that how you wrote the lyrics – from observations you made, or was it something else?
No I just made shit up. My life was so uneventful at the time. I’d been on the dole for years, I’d been in The Servants for 5 years. We saw no glamour and made no headway. I’d just sit on the top of the bus from Southgate to Muswell Hill and go into fantasy world. Starstruck, Housebreaker, and How Could I Be Wrong were all made up on bus rides, I have a very clear memory of it. I made up Junk Shop Clothes in the queue at Asda in Southgate. All escapism.
Listening back to it, were you able to enjoy it, or were you self-critical about things on there?
Yeah, I loved it. I thought it pissed over everything else at the time. Still do.
1993 was sort of between the whole madchester thing, and a bit before the Britpop scene got into full force. What sort of sound and vibe were you aiming for? Were you steered by Phil Vinall at all in that respect?
No, I knew what I wanted, you can tell that from the demos, Phill didn’t shape the sound but he was the right person to record the album.
It was fauned over by the music press, and Q voted it in their top ten albums of the year, as well as getting nominated for a Mercury prize. Was it a crazy time?
I guess it was. I actually got fed up with all the fawning – which is pretty unbelievable to me now. France was fairly far out. I used to get wheeled out at press conferences where they would call me a ‘a genius’ or some bullshit. I would of course throw it back in their faces. At times I was fairly arrogant but looking back I don’t cringe too much. It’s kind of the job of 25 year old kids in happening bands to behave like dickheads. I have to say I did behave in a fairly appalling way on more that one occasion, but y’know, no one died.
Suede won the prize that year, were you disappointed?
Oh hell yeah, at the time I thought we had been robbed. These things are ultimately good for you though. I should state that contrary to what some people choose to believe, I really am over losing the Mercury Prize. I’d quite like to be nominated again though, just so I could give it the whole ‘100 years ago I was robbed’ routine…It really isn’t all about baubles and tinsel though. Smoke and mirrors yes, to a certain extent.
How do you look back on that time now, by that I mean the time of New Wave rather than the auteurs as a whole?
Oh, the New Wave era was great, when you know you’ve got something really good in the bag it’s always a great time, psychically you just become unstoppable.
Any chance we could see similar releases of the other auteurs records? Or even some of the other projects you’ve been involved in? I know the Baader Meinhof record is getting a release as well – is that right?
All the Auteurs albums will be released this years with loads of extra tracks.
Plans for this year. Musically speaking I mean?
New album out in May. It’s called ‘NY in the 70s’ the single from it is called ‘Lou Reed Lou Reed’ it’s my first love song.
21 years later, New Wave is still a brilliant, too often ignored album. And they were robbed too.