They've always been fighting for the underdogs and Gene finally make there welcome return with "Libertine" - they're first album proper on their own label Contra. Following on from last years superb live album "Rising For Sunset", the band played their little hearts out at the Carling Festival and came up with an innovative idea for Club Libertine. Rather than boring us with the tiresome local support slot they've rounded up the likes of Mani, Irvine Welsh and Mark Thomas and took them to the provinces. We caught up with Martin Rossitter to find out what Gene have been up to after all this time.
Q: So where did the idea come up for the "Club Libertine" tour?
A: Were trying to do something different...something which I don't believe has been done before... and the audience were challenged which was important. And they enjoyed it which is equally if not more important. We really wanted it to be a tour of big hearted people as much as anything - people who lack any cynicism which I think has always been a trait of ours. That irony doesn't really musically enter our vocabulary and lyrically doesn't either.
These are all people who to a point have ploughed their own furrow with differing amounts of success. I feel perhaps wrongly there's a certain amount of kith ship there - not necessarily carved from the same tree but certainly from the same forest!!! Now were on our own label there seems to be this growing culture amongst the four of us (and our manager) of trying things...its quite catching and you almost become addicted to pushing yourself.
Q: So is this just a one-off idea or will it be a regular event at Gene gigs?
Gigs have just become so formulaic and there's always the same terrible music in-between bands...The White Stripes album 3 times a night!!! The plan is to expand on this idea next year and to include one person from the town were playing in...maybe have a dancer or a painter at the back of the stage while everything's going on.
Q: How did the whole Irvine Welsh film for "Is It Over" come about?
A: We have a mutual friend who played him the record and he fell in love with it. We met him and he's a truly lovely man. It was quite important for us to stamp our mark and it was almost an up-yours to a point - a bit of we can do what we want!!!! I think its a wonderful record - its bitter and romantic and windscreen and heartfelt.
A song that shows its wounds and a song which was also important for us because we wanted people to fall in love with us again really...and that doesn't always require the mountain size parenthesis - the radio record!!!
Were now delegating to people we trust rather than to people who have been delegated on our behalf. And so that delegation has suddenly become a joy rather than a worry. There's even a short film on the tour called "365 Days of Cornish Sunsets" which is beautiful.
Q: There must be a new found sense of freedom now that you have your own label?
A: We were on Polydor for quite a few years an by stealth they whittle away at your influence and control without you really realizing it. It was only when we were free that we could see we'd lost control of this, this and this. It took a while to mentally come out of that mind-set and the whole culture of getting your single in higher than this number...and you forget that not what making a record is about.
Q: There are a lot of bands making their comebacks this year...Echobelly, Shed 7...and even though they've made fantastic records they haven't really made a dent anywhere?
A: I don't mean to seem rude...but were better than them!!! I think if we turned into Brian Tremolo "Sounds Of The 90s" then we would stop. I really do believe we live in 2001 which is a bloody relief.
Q: The new album tends to show your roots a bit more. I believe you were a DJ at one point and there is also Matt's well known love of reggae music coming through this time?
A: Its always been there and perhaps its just showing its face a little more now. My wife was astonished when a couple of years ago my mum brought over the final few boxes of 1990 House records...she was like you weren't lying were you!!! Most dance music is extremely dull and is purely functional - it has now value other than making people dance - but Warp Records back in 1989 were releasing some wonderful Avante Garde records...records that were pushing music forward two years with every release!!!
Q: Lyrically when you listen to "Libertine" you sometime have to rewind and think did he really sing that. Its really apparent on track 4 - "Oh lover"?
A: Were contemplating having "Oh Lover" as the next single. I think what I've always tried to do is what artists I like do and I try to sing about what I consider to be important. Or you take a song like "Walking In The Shadows" which is quite frivolous and joyful and silly. But I see no shame in health doses of sincerity...there's a song for every dysfunctional uncle you've ever had!!!
Q: There does seem to be two sides to Martin Rossitter - kind of like the aggressive vengeful side and then the compassionate side. Would you agree?
A: Oh, I do hope there's a few more!!!! You should see my dreams or perhaps you shouldn't. A very common interview question is describe you band in "insert number here" words...and I refuse to because I think a small amount of quality deserves better than that!!! I'd like to think were not uni-dimensional and it doesn't sell records frankly. Because people don't necessarily know what they're going to get with us...but that's part of the joy of listening to it.
"Libertine is out now
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