"Cutting Talk" - In conversation with Ray and the band about the new Cut album, Millionairhead. Interview conducted by Alan Hewitt, in Bathgate on Tuesday, April 27, 1999.TWR: Well guys, the first thing to ask about this album is when did you actually start on it, or don't you want to be reminded? (laughter).
SW: Fourteen years ago, I think!
PH: It was about four years ago, wasn't it?
SW: The first ideas for the album started back in... just after the demise of Stiltskin really, and Ray's idea was to have a continuation of the Stiltskin project as we had moved on musically, in that direction. I think personally that he felt that musically, the music style with Stiltskin was more where he wanted to be going and with Guaranteed Pure previous to that, it was probably a bit more mainstream music and I think he was a bit more influenced by the Stiltskin thing, and if you like the Seattle thing that was around slightly before then.
The song "Another Day" was the first one that was really developed if you like, and I think that was written, at least the ideas for it, were written as far back as 1995. It was actually supposed to be on the second Stiltskin album and I think he actually played it live at a couple of festivals and gigs with Stiltskin, but it was never recorded by them, and it was going to be on the next album, and of course, that didn't come out and it really went from there. Ray started writing on his own primarily and it took the rest of us who were in various parts of the world at the time... I was with him but it took us a little while to grasp the way he was wanting to write really. Not everybody having been in the Stiltskin project; it took a little while to get to grips with that sort of music.
PH: It took him a little while to get to grasp the way we were writing! (laughter)
SW: Yeah, it was a very different style of writing from what we had been writing in as much as we had been writing what is essentially Rock music, and I think we started listening more to that type of thing.
PH: I mean, in all honesty, there have been as many songs put on one side because they didn't fit. There were a lot of things written and obviously if the music sort of pushed it in one direction, and obviously the songs that were chosen were the best and that followed that...
TWR: Obviously, Steve you have been with Ray in his previous incarnations... in a previous life (laughter) but how did you guys "find" each other, for want of a better phrase...?
SW: Well, initially we met.. Paul and ray met in Edinburgh in 1989 in a piano bar of all places and did some songs together and then basically we formed Guaranteed Pure as a result of that...
PH: Steve met Ray when he was about eighteen months old! (laughter).
SW: Yeah, that was about it really. Ray and I have been in bands since I was thirteen basically, I used to be a singer! (laughter) loosely termed anyway! Ray actually watched me in a school band; I used to play in school bands; we had quite a vibrant music scene at school and he watched me singing and about three months later we had another school concert thing and he ended up taking over the singing, and I stuck to guitar and we have been in bands ever since. But as far as the next connection which was Paul, and as I said; we met Paul in a piano bar and we formed Guaranteed Pure as a three piece early in 1990, and I joined Ray and Paul was there, and John joined a year later and I would have said, in 1991? So there is quite a long history between he four of us, and we worked together for three years after that until financial pressure... doing our own tapes and we did a cd as well, the Swing Your Bag thing, and basically we were just snowed under with debt, you know? (laughter) and it was time to stop really and it was a stroke of fortune in some respects that Ray had his success with Stiltskin.
He auditioned for the Stiltskin job and got it and the rest is history as they say , you will know the rest of the story. That obviously eased a lot of financial pressure and enabled us to build up a little studio and start recording what became basically, this album. We always kept in touch anyway, the four guys; John had been in Edinburgh the whole time and I had my various projects and we developed together and it was always our aim to get everybody together again and...
PH: It was inevitable that we would get together again at some point and it just needed the right vehicle to do it, and obviously this was it...
TWR: So, this is really just a continuation of that story...?
SW: Yeah, absolutely, very much so and I think musically it is more a continuation of the Stiltskin era though I would say that it has moved on from there as well.
TWR: If you can. Obviously for the benefit of the people who this is aimed at; can you give us a brief synopsis of the songs on the album, because they won't have heard them yet...?
RW: Most of the people who read it won't be able to get it either! (laughter). YET! Songs; what they are about...? It is always interesting when somebody asks that. OK, we shall start at the beginning with... whatís the first song? "Jigsaw". That is actually quite an interesting story for me because Skin, who is the thin guy who is one of our roadies, has been with us for years and years and he had been dumped by his girlfriend; a girl called Natalie and he came in one day crying his eyes out and he was also trying... he was in some financial trouble and he was trying to organise his life and I kind of took that situation and compared it to a jigsaw piece because it was like he was looking down at the pieces all over the place and trying to put them together and there were so many pieces, that he had to try and deal with and piece together so the song; the reason why it is called "Jigsaw", is that is why, it is basically the puzzle of his life and he is trying to piece it together, so that's that one.
"Sarah" isn't really about anything; itís about... I don't know if lusting after is the right term; its that film star you were in love with when you were a kid...
SW: The elusive thing you just can't quite grasp, that's what it is about...
RW: You know, you look at an actress on the screen that you would just love to be with and never can, and "Sarah" was my kind of.. it is a good sounding name and that is what the song is about. Actually, it is about Sarah Ferguson (laughter). It is my lust for Sarah Ferguson!
"Another Day" is just a play on one of Phil Collins' songs, "Another Day In Paradise". It was actually written when I was still in Stiltskin and it was going to be on the second Stiltskin album and it was a song about... I wrote it in... about two things at once which I was quite into at the time; getting two topics and writing about them both kind of loosely, so you didnít really know what the song was about at all and seeing what you ended up with and "Another Day" is an example of that whereas the situation; I was a member of Stiltskin and it was all getting pretty horrible; the band was falling about and Peter was being an arsehole. I was being an arsehole and everybody was being arseholes and it was about dying to get out of it and dying to see another day; just get out of that situation. I wrote it also more seriously about... there was a kid at school; a friend of mine called Ian Fairgreave; who played bass guitar in a Punk band I had been in when I was about fourteen called Cheap Dialogue, and he shot himself with a farm gun and blew his head off when he was about fourteen years old . I remember at school it was just one of those situations; those hellish situations: you are fourteen years old and a kid that everybody knows; a really cool guy who plays bass; the girls loved him and he shot himself, and it was like; "Christ Almighty! Where did that come from?!" And I remember thinking when things were getting pretty horrible in Stiltskin , I wanted to compare it with something and I decided to compare it with something as morbid as that and that he was killing himself to see another life, you know? To live again in some other world almost and I was trying to understand why he did it, hence "Dying to see another day" was used in terms of someone killing themselves in order to see another life; as opposed to looking forward to seeing tomorrow, and that was my interpretation of it. So that is what that is about, loosely.
"Hey Hey" is another happy topic (laughter) there's a girl that...
NZ: A girl that killed herself! (laughter)
RW: A girl also at that school that... when I wrote some of these songs I think I was trying to put myself in my youth again and very consciously tried to do that. I didn't want the record to sound "Old Fashioned" you know? There was a girl who I went out with at school; who was one of the many who got into drugs and she died from them as well; another tragic situation and that is where that one comes from you know; "Hey, hey the pain won't go away" like being hooked on drugs and the chorus idea was like being in the corner of a room not wanting to be touched; not wanting to be spoken to; just wanting to be left alone, and that is the idea. It is just about a young kid getting into drugs which is something I never did, thankfully, and I know people that did, and she was a girl that I went out with when I was twelve or thirteen, and she got herself completely fucked up, and she is dead now, which is another sad story.
"Millionairhead" well, that is about Mike and Tony of course! (laughter) I knew that anybody who understood the term "Airhead" which obviously in Germany, people don't understand it and they don't know what an airhead is, in the UK they do and in America they do, obviously. "Millionairhead" was really about Peter's treatment of the band; Peter Lawlor the guitarist in Stiltskin who treated us all like complete bastards really and used to intimidate us with his wealth, because he was a very wealthy guy and there was one time when he said to me; he owed me quite a lot of money, it was in suspense account because there was a legal dispute between one of the band members and all the rest of it, and I said to him; 'I could do with this money' and this was before Genesis and I said; 'I could do with the money, you know' and he said; 'it's not really a lot of money' you know it was about thirty or forty thousand Pounds and he said; 'I pay that in tax a month' and I will always remember that as a statement and thinking how can somebody say that? But that was Peter, and I always remember Ross asking him for the loan of a tenner or something for something to eat and he laughed at him and said 'no' and drove off. It was situations like that. I had the word Millionairhead for a while and I thought it was an interesting word you know; too much money and no brain, and sometimes Peter was a very intelligent guy and very talented guy, but sometimes he just did things that were for me; I don't know; defied belief.
"Shoot The Moon" is actually Steve's song...
SW: "Shoot The Moon" was really... I was actually lying in bed and it was actually a reflection on a relationship I was in at the time, not the current one but... and basically how no matter what I seemed to do, I was always the one in the bloody wrong and the harder I tried, the worse it got and it was about that really. The "Shoot The Moon" thing came from, I was actually lying in my bed staring at the stars because I couldnít get to sleep because I was too bloody... spending too much time thinking what the hell I could do with this and eventually I just gave up on it, but it was really a play on that and how sometimes you just can't bloody win, you know?
RW: "Young Ones"? "Young Ones" isn't about death actually, its about my fetish for Cliff Richard (laughter). "Young Ones" was...let me think, it was inspired by the Berlin Wall coming down and the kind of false hope that gave everybody, you know. Especially in that part of the world, because they thought that it allowed the East to become a part of West and yet, when you go to Germany you know; it is far from it and they don't all regret it but a lot of them do regret that it actually happened, because now they have got more crime; they've not got as much money; a lot of the money is getting ploughed in to the roads in the East, and I thought that was a bit hypocritical in a way and it is just about letting the powers that be in society, you know, kidding themselves that they are good role models for the rest of us when in actual fact; they are nit, especially for young people. You know, something like that happens and then they complain about it afterwards, and it just seems kind of wrong to me and so, "Young Ones" is really about that. I think there is a line which goes... 'They've taken down the wall so the young ones can taste freedom and the other ones find a reason to live...' You know when people do this, it is a political statement; we will make everything better, and in actual fact it doesn't; it just makes it worse.
"No Place For A Loser" that was about one thing that annoys me which is lazy bastards, and especially people that don't do anything with their lives. I find that it annoys me, you know some people grow or are born into poverty; some people are born wealthy and I was... I wasn't born into poverty but I certainly wasn't born into wealth, and a Council Estate type vibe is what I grew up in and I get a but pissed off with people who are born into that situation and use it as an excuse to do nothing with their life. I find there is something quite wrong with that and I understand that the odds are against them because they ARE, but I don't. And I wish that people would stop using that as an excuse. Okay, times are hard for you or whatever, but you know, if you are young and healthy; you have got no excuse in my opinion. If you are disabled and can't do it, or whatever, it is a different story altogether and I know for people who are a bit older and unemployed, like my father for example; who is about fifty years old and unemployed you know there is no chance of him getting back into work and it is soul destroying and there is nothing worse than that. But when you are young and healthy; you know for me, in a country like the UK, there is no excuse for it, you can do something with your life, you know. You can take pride in whatever you do; like Muhammad Ali once said that if he was a garbage collector; he would be the best garbage collector the world had ever seen, and I think that attitude should be adopted by more people and that is my point which they will love coming from somebody in Genesis! (laughter) as if I am a multi millionaire, so anyway, that's that...
"Space Oddity" well, we wrote that for David Bowie! (laughter)
SW: The reason it is there is the reason that Ray started singing: Bowie, Ziggy Stardust, Hunky Dory and all that kind of stuff, when we grew up we always had music around the house but really the thing that convinced him to become a singer was Bowie, and he used to listen to that all the time. In fact, the first thing we ever... the first thing we ever played on stage was "Jean Genie"...
RW: Along with which I may have told you before; "Carpet Crawlers" and a song from Neil Young; the prelude version of "it"; "After The Goldrush", were the first three songs we ever played and I always remember saying that in interviews and people going; 'Oh, sure...'
SW: That's absolutely true.
TWR: That's certainly an eclectic mix. The thing that struck me when I listened to the album and did the review; the one track that stood out was that because I could imagine everyone having such a good time recording that, it just sounded as though it was fun....
SW: I think the whole thing was you know, when you do a cover you can't really make it better than the original because the original... not with that type of song because if it has been Number One, you aren't going to better it really, are you? You can only get to Number One again. But it's not really about that; its about paying homage really to someone who was a big influence.
RW: It gave John a chance to play a few bass notes really! (laughter) that was the real reason. Its' funny actually because with that one, Ian Huffam who was engineering our album for us, went away one weekend and we were recording in my studio... we weren't recording any of the bass in my place because as soon as you turned the bass up too loud the whole building was vibrating! (laughter)...
JH: It was a last minute thing as well because I had a listen to the track the night before and I came over the following morning to put down a version with some of the nuances of it and from the original hopefully, and I had only had a couple of hours that night to do it and that made it a lot better because I wasnít too concerned about trying to copy it to the exact thing but to try and get the looseness.
RW: It's very good and the bass line and the whole song sounds a complete shambles but it works. It seems to work.
SW: Doing things which are a complete shambles is a speciality of ours! (laughter) We are very good at that and having heard the rehearsal you will be aware of that! (laughter)
RW: "Gypsy", what's that one about?
SW: It's about Nir (laughter)
RW: Nir had a sexual experience once (laughter).
SW: His ONLY sexual experience! (laughter) Finally! (laughter).
RW: "Gypsy" is a story about... purely fiction, a story about a blind man being in love with a gypsy girl and the only... he can touch her; he can smell her but he can't see her, and that is the basis. It is a kind of love story based on that idea and it was inspired partly by the U2 video for "All I Want Is You" and the video portrayed a midget at a circus, in love with the trapeze artist who was beautiful, and he was small and there was no way he was ever going to get this girl so he tried to become a trapeze artist as well and he fell off the thing and killed himself! (laughter). He fell off the tightrope which was sad really but there it is. I always laugh when you are doing German radio interviews and you are trying to explain it...
JH: We had this classic on NBC when Ray said he had gone bankrupt and, after a pause, the interviewer came back and said: 'So, after the bank robbery...' (laughter)
RW: "Ghost" is an interesting one for Genesis fans because...
SW: You missed a song; you missed "I Hear You Calling" and that was about a trip to Amsterdam.
JH: This is about a boys trip to Amsterdam...
SW: Yeah, that's what that is about, we had a SEVERE time in Amsterdam, and we went to sample the delights of Amsterdam and had a quiet night in the hotel and wen to sleep early and that's about it really. It was originally called "Amsterdam", and it was basically influenced by that trip and it is really a reference to the drug scene and all that crap. We had such a good time as well, but if you look at some of the lyrics ... I actually co-wrote that with Ray and there is a reference to the drug thing in there and how accessible it is and how easy it is and... there is also a reference to what a good time you can have in places like that but also how easy it is to get involved in the downside of it; that is what it is about, and "Ghost" as Ray was about to go on to that which is the last track, and is probably for Genesis fans, the most interesting because it was the only song that was written AFTER Ray went to Genesis, and it is really about his feelings when the American tour was cancelled, you know; the lines: 'You have all I have to give/You break me into many pieces...' Which was his reaction to the press murdering him about you know; "Genesis Singer Flops" you know and he got a bit of it up here, there was an article in the Daily Record up here which murdered him and I think it was really written about how he felt about it and you know, the fact that he was giving this thing 150% and it was actually going fine but try and convince a press reporter of that. And the "Ghost" thing was him feeling like a ghost with people looking through him and that' what it was about; his feelings with Genesis but primarily the American tour being cancelled, and how people considered that because that had happened, then the whole thing was a failure...
TWR: Were you guys surprised when Ray went for and got the Genesis job?
SW: I think we were all surprised that when someone as big as Genesis comes along and asks anyone, whether it be you brother to sing with them, you know "Aye, sure..." (laughter) and I remember the night he found out...
PH: I was working in Switzerland and I got this 'phone call and he said; 'Paul, who am I?' and I said: 'You are Ray Wilson' and he said; 'No, who am I?' and I said; 'What do you mean? And I knew what he was going to say and I screamed for joy.
RW: I remember signing off the dole the day after that! (laughter)
SW: He actually told me, I was doing a gig in Edinburgh and he came up to me at the gig and said; 'You are never going to believe this one..' and Tim, who is Ray's manager was on the 'phone and he said that Tony Smith had been on and that they wanted him to audition for the Genesis job, and I said: 'What, are you carrying the amps around or something?' (laughter). It was a strange one, you know, like 'Bloody Hell' In some ways it was quite disappointing for us at the time because we had most of the music written apart from "Ghost" and we had already spoken to Virgin. We already had the deal agreed and we were about ready to go ahead and do it. We had already done some work together and some rehearsals and stuff. To be fair to Ray, he didn't automatically go "Yeah, I'm going to do this" because we had been working, as I have said to you, as people for quite a long time, and we had spent a long time on this album.
JH: A lot of time he was looking for us to... we were all genuinely behind him and I thought instantly that he should do it because offers like that donít come around that often.
SW: We all said that and not one of us said: 'Christ, you can't do that!' he thought about it more than we did because he saw it from our point of view; that it was OK and he was getting this massive opportunity and we were having to wait again but... I think himself, when you get offered a job as big as that you know, replacing someone as big as Phil Collins. I think it was a great honour for all of us, because we had worked with Ray for all these years and I suppose it reflects on you in some respects, and having heard him go and do "Calling All Stations" and do the tour and stuff and everything that was associated with it, I think undoubtedly the album has benefited from it, no doubt.
I think what he learned about producing an album helped our album no end, and it also opened up the keyboards to us and he learned an awful lot from Tony Banks and that helped us to produce Paul better, and basically we wanted to leave him out of the room, and that is the best way to use Paul! (laughter).
JH: I remember when we went to see the show, because Stevie had been to see a lot of the shows, but I only went to see the show in Glasgow, and I could see, because knowing Ray so well, there was one point where I was getting a lump in my throat and I could see him doing exactly the same because it was his home crowd, I suppose and it was quite an emotional thing. I think it is always a boost to your confidence when you see someone you know doing it, I mean I have been involved with bands who have had deals before and it has all gone awry, and to see someone get through that... It has given Ray experience which is invaluable to us as a working band, but on a bigger scale, and with the tour coming up...
TWR: And of course, it has brought Nir into the equation...
SW: Yeah, absolutely, well we can't win them all! (laughter). Yeah that is another thing and Nir has... the music has definitely benefited from his energy, I think that's the one thing that Nir gives us more than anything and obviously he is a great drummer, but the way he plays drums is so energetic and he fits in well and he is pretty easy for us to work with... He is a bit of a git with his roadies but.. he's alright with us. So, the album benefited mostly from the keyboard point of view, and the production point of view. On the other side, of course, it hasn't helped in some respects; Ray being in Genesis because he does get this tag; especially here in the UK - he has made it bloody impossible for us in the UK to be honest, hence why we have no deal here... We are on sale in fifteen territories in Europe alone and I think we are suffering a bit from the Genesis credibility problem here and as much as many musicians and Genesis fans would find that hard to believe. I donít believe this because, especially at the last two shows; Rock In Ring and Rock In Park, there were lots of young people and if they weren't enjoying themselves, then I am a monkey's uncle!
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