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The Big Interview: Guy Garvey

Jane Grimshaw natters with the often-spotted Guy Garvey as the curtain falls on Elbow...for now

Published on October 5th 2009.


The Big Interview: Guy Garvey

Since Elbow won the Mercury last year (with a lot less controversy than poor young Speech Debelle), it’s been a non-stop deluge of plaudits and parties for Guy Garvey.

It’s a generational thing. I’m proud to kiss and hug my mates. Our American tour bus driver, initially taken aback by this, eventually shrugged his shoulders and said: ‘Bromance’.

And now there’s just one more to go: this Friday’s MEN Arena homecoming.

After so much flying about, even the most adrenaline-fuelled social butterfly might find their wings a bit tatty. Time to check out the wear-and-tear on Manchester’s current favourite rock son. We chat on the roof garden path of Space on New Wakefield Street. Garvey sups a pear cider.

“It’s a strange feeling to have anything firm in music,” he says. “We won ten major awards for The Seldom Seen Kid. Our record company won marketing and A&R awards, and Craig [Potter] won two producer awards. It’s as though every facet of the record has been celebrated. The best feeling now is that, whatever happens next, nobody can ever take that away.”

We stop for a moment as he graciously acknowledges the smart-arsed waiter who’s been bursting into an off-key “THROW THOSE CURTAINS WII-IIDE!” every time he’s been upstairs collecting glasses.

It’s all very flattering, but Garvey’s no doubt ready, after Friday, to go underground again. He’ll be starting to write the lyrics for Elbow’s fifth album – a process that will inevitably involve visiting the pub, in the age-old tradition of drinking and talking.

“Counselling isn’t a modern phenomenon,” he says. “Even if it is just going over your day with an old friend or discussing what’s in the news. Men particularly in the North of England form their opinions in pubs. Big ideas have always started in bar rooms – not all of them good.”

He’s not wrong. Hitler’s ‘New World Order’, pretty much his ‘To Do’ list, was drawn up in the back room of a pub called the New Order. But onto good things – Garvey names a few:

“I first met Pete [Turner –bass] in the Bull’s Head in Whitefield. My favourite band in the world, I Am Kloot, formed in the Night & Day Café. Our first gigs were in pubs. A kindly landlord in Bury called Jimmy used to let us play in the corner of his snug. We’d bring 15 to 20 mates who he wouldn’t allow to drink because they weren’t 18, and he’d drop them off in his van all over Manchester at the end of the night. The pub was called the Corner Pin and it was our first taste of performing.”

Good drinking company also matters. There’s nothing worse than being buttonholed by a random bore, even in your favourite bar. Of course (cue sax) that’s what friends are for

“I write a lot about friendships,” says Garvey. “Somebody pointed out recently that the ‘Love you, mate’ in the song ‘Friend of Ours’ was a very unusual example of open, platonic love between men. It’s a generational thing. I’m proud to kiss and hug my mates. Our American tour bus driver, initially taken aback by this, eventually shrugged his shoulders and said: ‘Bromance’.”

Bromance. Someone get me the address of the commissioner for BBC3. I can feel a pitch coming on.

Other releases on the horizon include a new Massive Attack record, which includes three songs penned by Garvey, and the new I Am Kloot album, The Sky at Night, which Garvey has co-produced with Elbow bandmate Craig Potter (keyboards).

“It’s at the forefront of Elbow’s collective brain that because we’re an album band and they’re a dwindling species, we almost have an obligation to make sure that the shows that accompany the next record are big extravaganzas,” Garvey says. “Playing with the Hallé during Manchester International Festival was inspiring – not that we’d take an orchestra on tour. Imagine the amount of honey-roast nuts you’d need on the rider. But I am looking forward to drawing on our prog roots next time round.”

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