Last October we spoke to Gary about his new album "Pure" so when we found out he was coming to Manchester we had to meet up face 2 face. With a career spanning 22 years we talked about the bureden of still playing "Cars", what it was like to be a proper popstar and being inspired by serial killers and cannibals.
Q: Do you still carry on the rock & roll lifestyle when touring?
A: I'm married now and my wife comes out on tour with us so the kind of shagging yourself senseless excess just isn't there. Also pretty much everyone else in the band is in some sort of long term relationship so that side of touring has become a lot calmer over the years.
The shows are going down really well and thats the reason for being in a band at the end of the day. Anyone can get drugged off their tits if they want to but on the road isn't the time to do it if that is what you choose to do. Playing live is a fairly important thing to do well and I am not a band, I'm me, and I pay people to come out and play with me. If I see people getting off their tits and the next show they can't play properly then they'll be out of a job.
Of course people can come out on tour and have a laugh but this is important to me - its my life and everytime I go out on stage I have to the best I can do.
Q: After 20 years how do you go about choosing your perfect set list?
A: Picking a set is awkward actually. You want to do your new stuff because thats where your at but I've also got a 22 year old back catalogue. I've basically lost count but I think its about 30 odd chart singles over the years so theoretically I could do two sets just with singles.
Its really hard getting the flow right and you can spend hours wondering if theres too many old / new ones or whether the pace is right. One of the things when you look at it from the outside is you think it will get easier "the more songs you've got, the better catalogue you've got, the easier it becomes" and in actual fact its much harder.
I do "Cars" and "Are Friends Electric" basically because they were Number 1's and now I try to pick songs which other people have covered. So I've got "Metal" which NIN have done, "Down In The Park" which Marilyn Manson and Foo Fighters have done, "Cars" which Fear Factory and various others have done. Smashing Pumpkins have covered "Everyday I Die" but they haven't actually released it as yet.
Q: Are there any songs which you really don't like playing anymore?
A: Not really. The version of "Cars" we do now is much more like Fear Factory did it - its a lot heavier. That was the only song that felt like a stone around my neck but now I've reworked it the version fits in really well with the rest of the set. "Cars" and "Are Friends Electric" are the only two I feel obliged to do.
I did a festival a year or two ago in Germany where I didn't play "Are Friends Electric". I didn't even know they knew it but apparently it had been really big over there and I'd forgotten. I got crucified for that and I was under the impression that the people watching me at a festival in Europe would have never heard of me anyway.
Q: Have you seen your audience getting younger over the past couple of years?
A: Its getting better but its still a battle. The whole thing is a battle. The albums come out and its had really, really good reviews so thats pretty cool - thats the first part of the battle. The second part of the battle is to convince people to actually buy it based what they read. Its not getting radio because its not radio-friendly at all so the real big problem is translating that review into a sale or into a ticket for a concert.
I'm not a great fan of Paul Weller, for example, so if I was to read a really good review of a Paul Weller album then I wouldn't go out and buy it because I'd assume this particular journalist liked it and that was that. If I heard it on the radio though and I liked it then i'd consider buying a copy.
Q: Coming from the point of view of successful artist. Where do you stand on the great Alternative VS Pop debate?
A: I felt that when I came along the stuff that I was doing wasn't conventional pop music at all. It wasn't factory made by a group of songwriters who put an act together to sing their songs. It was a bloke on his own doing his own thing with a sound that was, at its day, different to most other people around and now is considered massively influencial. Obviously it made a mark because it was different and if there were more popstars like that then the charts wouldn't be the same fucking thing it is today.
Thank god I've managed to miss Popstars the TV series. The thing I can't understand about that programme is that what the programme is saying is "You!!! The British Public are so fucking gullible that we are going to show you how its done and how we fool you into buying it and you will still go out an buy it. Thats how stupid you are!!!"
Westlife and A1 were in Glasgow a few days ago when we did a show up there. We thought about doing a collaboration with them but then realised we didn't have enough stools. Its really bizarre how everyone cheers for Westlife when they simply stand up for the last 30 seconds of a song.
Q: We were talking last time about the inspiration TV gives you for songs. Are you inspired by any of these real life TV docu-soaps?
A: I'm not interested in that sort of thing. Watching ordinary people having with their ordinary life's isn't very inspiring. You want to watch extraordinary people do extraordinary things. I tend to watch programmes about serial killers and cannibals but I don't sit and watch these programmes simply for song ideas. Inspiration can come from anywhere - books, bands, TV or just normal everyday conversations Someone can say one word and that can be used as a spark to take it somewhere else. If you just use that idea then its bollocks because its not about stealing an idea and using it as your own.
I just cannot write at all on tour, there's too much to do. Its literally a case of hotel, interviews, soundcheck, more interviews, the gig itself and then back to the hotel. We don't have lots of days off and that is the only way I can see people being able to write an album while they are on tour.
The album "Pure" is out now