Friday 3 March 2023

Inspiral Carpets - Interview

Inspiral Carpets are back after an eight year hiatus following the tragic death of drummer Craig Gill to promote a career-spanning The Complete Singles collection with a series of dates across the UK, Australia and New Zealand including a full festival season. We caught up with organ player Clint Boon for a chat about how the comeback came together, finding a replacement for Craig and excitement at pulling together a new full career retrospective with both front men.

How's things for you at the moment Clint? 

Yeah, really good. It just obviously it's busy with everything going on. But even regardless of the Inspirals and tea parties or whatever else, it's always a mad working week, but what's going on now is really exciting. I mean, I'm busier than ever. I'm really chuffed that the tea parties have taken off so well and you know, the reaction to the Inspirals getting back together has been off the scale.

I'm as excited now as I was right at the beginning. And I think when I joined the band in the eighties and things started happening pretty quick, you are literally building a keyboard, setting up and learning the songs and you have to remember how to put a gig together. And it's just been really exciting going through it. Just going through the motions of getting the band back is just, it's the happiest feelings I've had in recent years and you know, it's like being a kid at Christmas, that sort of thing. That's how I'm feeling about it. 

When did you start thinking about Inspirals getting back together? Because obviously with Craig passing he left a really big hole in the band. 

It's a dead easy answer to that question. I wasn't thinking about the band getting back together. I'd sort of written it off. When Craig died the immediate thing was to drop everything, you know, and just focus on helping his family and helping them to get through the following months. 

So it's almost like that became the next Inspirals album. The album went out of the window because we were working on another album, there would have been more gigs. It was just stop all that and help the family which we did. 

And I think subsequent to that I lost all desire to do the Inspirals without Craig and I know the others did too. The impact on us was profound and I spent the last two or three years thinking it probably won't happen again, you know, and I wasn't feeling like I was one that was going to make it happen, it just didn't feel right to me. 

Then it was July of last year. We got an email, someone sent Graham a tenuous offer for the autumn of this year. He sent the email round and asked for anybody's thoughts on it and I read it and I just thought you know it's exciting, the idea of going back out. 

I read the email and I got the adrenaline and felt the urge, the hairs on the arms and everything, all the clichés. It just felt like the right time to say yes to it. So I did. I said I'm up for it. Graham and Steve were up for it. Martyn wasn't up for it, but said if you guys want to crack on without me, then go for it, but I'm not leaving the band but I'm not up for gigging

So that's what happened, is it was literally a Saturday morning back in July of 2022. It was an email that came through. I think Graham was probably expecting to get no response. But it was just the opposite. It was like, Yeah, let's go move it. All systems go. 

Since then for me it's been a case building the keyboard again and learning how to play it, learning how to plug it all in. I've not played a lot of keyboards properly for like seven years since we toured with Shed Seven. So yeah, you know, that process of getting everything back together, get the equipment plugged in, learning the songs, getting back in the rehearsal room with the guys is joyous, you know, It's a joyous thing. It'll be emotional without Craig being there. 

You did reissue the Mute albums last year. Did that sort of trigger it a little bit because obviously there were four albums coming out again, reigniting a little bit of interest amongst the fanbase as well. 

It did, but it didn't make me think we're going to come back together. It's weird. It's almost like it is quite a morbid analogy of those reissued old albums being flowers on the grave of something. You know we're all very proud of what we achieved. I'm extremely proud of the body of work that we started in 1987, something that I always celebrate and will always be proud of. And yeah, I think I'd gone far down the route of thinking it was over. 

The reissuing of the four studio albums from the nineties on coloured vinyl over the last couple of years, it felt to me it was just a tribute to something that had gone. It didn't reignite my desire to get back out on the road.  Time is a great healer though and, for some reason, July 2022, on that Saturday morning, it just felt like I'm ready for it now. I'm ready. 

It's hard to say what else had changed. Maybe I needed a change in my schedule. I needed something new, something more creative than just celebrating other people's records on the radio and in the clubs, you know, day in, day out, which is what I do for a living. So maybe it was subconsciously my way of saying, right come on, let's celebrate the records. I see that now. 

So that's the big thing that, you know, as a jobbing deejay and radio persona, I celebrate other people's music five, six days a week, four or five nights a week. So let's talk about the records I made with my band. So that's what it's all about now. 

So did the singles collection that's coming out just sort of flow naturally from those discussions? 

I think if I remember at the time we were already talking about it. Because we've always had a very loyal fan base and even if they're not seeing gigs, we wanted to give them little release projects. we did Dung 4, we reissued the albums for the first time in years so I think we were tenuously looking at doing something and it just coincided with the decision to get back together.

Do you think it's important that as a single document of the whole Inspirals history. Because obviously you had different phases with different lineups. 

This is the complete singles as a package,  a set of songs in chronological order. 

It's not our best songs ever. It's the singles that we chose to put out across those decades. And as such, it tells, I think it tells a really lovely little story that we didn't realize at the time. When you release an album you don't necessarily put out your best tracks as singles. You might probably have the first one as the biggest banger on the album. But then after two singles, you might think like the third one would be sort of a bit laid back. 

And you've obviously been influenced by other people in those decisions in the industry as well. 

Yeah with all respect management and the label helped us decide. Noel Gallagher may have helped us to decide what to put out, and he probably did. 

So it's a story, the Inspiral Carpets story told from that point of view. You know 23 songs in a certain order there were singles. I listened to it in chronological order for the first time in my life only about two months ago. It was like, "Wow, what a journey"

You know, the first couple of singles recorded on no budget back in the eighties with Steve. And then Tom came in and we were still on the cusp of we didn't know if we're going to be a big band or not. When Tom joined suddenly we were a big band that were a mainstream pop group for a few singles and Top of the Pops and all that. And then we ended up getting dropped and we were on our own and Come Back Tomorrow came out of that recording session but we didn't have a deal.

Then Tom left and Steven came back and it's just a really interesting journey for a band and you know, it was quite unique. I think in a lot of ways we are about two singers and we tragically lost Craig but the story of the band is quite interesting. It's not just four lads who got together and made five albums worth of guitar music, this is a different beast completely. 

And it's the band that were famous. We weren't famous just for having a great lead singer. We did have a great lead singer, the best about at the time with Tom, but we would be well known for the organ and haircuts. It's weird. And it's like I can't think of many bands that have got a similar journey to us in terms of everything that's gone on. 

So how difficult or easy was it to find, you know, a couple of people to step in for these tours to come into the band? 

Well, with Kev Clarke the drummer, he was one of the first names that came up because he'd been working with Steve in The Rainkings. There were a couple of others on the list, you know, people would say that Tony Carroll would be a great, great story. Kev was the first person we tried literally because Stephen worked with him and recommended him. And Kev knew Craig. He was a friend of Craig's. He was a massive fan of Craig's work and from the first rehearsal he'd got the gig. He got the pieces perfectly learned and is totally respectful of the fact that he's in Craig's position in this band now. So yeah, he is the perfect man for that job and I think even Craig would be like that's the fella you need.

Jake Fletcher came in as the bass player because Martyn didn't fancy doing it, a fellow Oldham lad and a great musician, totally on our wavelength in terms of passion for music and sense of humour. But Jake's other gig is with Paul Weller, he's his bass player so we knew he was always going to get the priority which is fine. Jake was instrumental in helping us get back in that rehearsal room and play again. And subsequently, there's a lot of gigs now this year that Jake can't do. 

So it looks like our our main bass player now is Oscar Boon. 18 year old Oscar Boon is going to play bass, for all the gigs this year, apart from four. That's a bit of an exclusive for you. Jake's doing four including Manchester Albert Hall. And then after that Oscar's with us all the way including Australia and New Zealand.

That's a story in itself as well isn't it?

Beautiful. It is. And it's like surreal. He's played bass since when he was 14. I think he decided he wanted to play bass so I took him straight down to Johnny Roadhouse to buy his first bass. We got him an orange bass and he's just been so focused and driven since day one that he's ended up here now. You know, in terms of the the timelines, it all aligns. This is fate.

He's at university studying to be a session bassist. He wants to be a session bass player and he's got this gig, it's another quite unique aspect of our story, you know, this chapter that we're about to embark upon now. 

You're going to Australia, and to New Zealand for the first time. Does that feel like things are opening up again? 

At first it was just the UK and we announced the tour and then we got offers for throughout the summer and for each festival we're doing a couple of warm-up shows while we've got the band out and suddenly we had thirty five or so dates in the calendar. Then someone got on to us from Australia and asked if we wanted to go over there. One of the gigs sold out, so we put a second date on in Perth and are going out a day earlier than planned. I think it's just time before we get invited to the States and Japan.

There's a singles album and a cycle of gigs coming up. You talked about you were recording an album when Craig died. Is the next step to go back and finish that record? 

I think it's something we'll discussed at some point, We may revisit those recordings and probably complete them. Obviously Craig's family will be totally aware of what we're doing when we do that.

I've got a feeling that we will end up probably embarking on some new music at some point. There's a bit of new blood in the band with Kevin and Oscar. Last night when we rehearsed they just started jamming some wild time signatures. They're both great musicians. And yeah, me, Graham and Steve, we are punks, garage rockers, we never tried hard to be great instrumentalists. So we just we do what we do. 

My style started in that and pretty much remains rooted in that punk garage sort of vibe. But when you get people like Kev Clark and Oscar, their understanding of the science of music is another level. We got on with limited ability. I certainly did. You know, I'm a well-known keyboard player, but I'm not a great keyboard player. As I say, I just punk with a keyboard. I'm a punk with an organ. 

Inspiral Carpets official website is here. They are also on Twitter and Facebook.  

They play Northampton Roadmender (March 23), Newcastle Boiler Shop (24), Oxford O2 Academy (25), Brighton Concorde 2 (26), Cambridge Junction (31), Manchester Albert Hall (April 1), Nottingham Rescue Rooms (2), Leeds O2 Academy (8), Glasgow SWG3 (13), Sheffield Leadmill (14), London Shepherds Bush Empire (15), Coventry HMV Empire (21), Frome Cheese And Grain (22), Holmfirth Picturedrome (May 25), Hull Welly (26), Warrington Neighbourhood Festival (27), Buckley Tivoli (June 15), Cardiff Tramshed (16), Church End Sign Of The Times Festival (17), Dunfermline PJ Molloys (July 20), Edinburgh Liquid Rooms (21), Sunderland Kubix Festival (22), Perth Rosemount Hotel (28/29), Brisbane The Triffid (August 3), Sydney Manning Bar (4), Melbourne Croxton Ballroom (5), Wellington San Fran (8), Auckland Tuning Fork (9), Derby Hairy Dog (24), Norwich Epic Studios (25) and Portsmouth Victorious Festival (26). 

The Complete Singles is out on double vinyl and triple CD on March 17.


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