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Inspiral Carpets - Interview with Tom Hingley

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 18 / 4 / 2003

Inspiral Carpets - Interview with Tom Hingley


One of the most famous of all the Madchester groups , the Inspiral Carpets have recently reformed and have a new box set out and have just toured. Frontman Tom Hingley talks to Anthony Strutt about the group's history

Tom Hingley was the second lead singer to join the Inspiral Carpets. Once famously described as the third biggest band on the 'Madchester' scene behind the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays, the Inspiral Carpets were formed in 1987 by original singer Steve Holt, organist Clive Boon, guitarist Graham Lambert, bassist Dave Swift and drummer Craig Gill. When Holt and Swift left the Inspiral Carpets acrimonously, Hingley and new bass player Matthew Walsh joined the group in 1988 in time to promote the band's second single, 'Trainsurfing' (which was recorded before Holt and Swift's departure) and also to appear on 'Joe', their third. Both of these were released on their own Cow Records. In 1989, the Inspiral Carpets joined Mute Records, where over the course of the next five years they would release several hit singles including 'This is How It Feels', 'She Comes in the Fall', 'Caravan' and 'Dragging Me Down' and also four albums, 'Life' (1990), 'The Beast Inside' (1991), 'Revenge of the Goldfish' (1992) and 'Devil Hopping' (1994). By the time the Inspiral Carpets stopped working together in 1995-they never officially split up-they were regularly playing sold out stadium tours, their melodic organ-drenched pop sound proving popular throughout Europe and also in Argentina. The Inspiral Carpets are also remembered for employing a young pre-Oasis Noel Gallagher as a roadie, and for their infamous T-shirts, which bearing the controversial logo 'Cool as Fuck', landed several fans under arrest for breaching the British obscenity laws. Hingley has since released two solo albums, 'Keep Britain Untidy' (2000) and 'Soul Fire' (2001), both of which have been come out on Townsend Records, and is planning to release later this year the debut album of his new band the Lovers. The Inspiral Carpets reformed earlier this year to package and promote a greatest hits double CD, 'Cool as..', which will come out on May 12th, and have recently also played some dates in Britain. A new single entitled 'Come Back Tomorrow' will come out on June 9th. The first part of this interview was originally published in Independent Underground Sound (Anthony Strutt's former fanzine) in 2001. The second part, in which Tom Hingley answers some new questions about the new CD and tour, takes the interview up-to-date. PB : The first time that I became aware of you was because of the Inspiral Carpets. Did you do anything before that, because you were not the original vocalist for the Inspiral Carpets ? TH : I'm from Oxford originally and I used to be in bands with my brothers. This was in the late 70's. They were all shit punk bands. A brother of mine used to have a band called Ashtray and the Dogends, and they used to do gigs around Oxford, and at one point people would turn up thinking the Sex Pistols were playing. Then I used to play with some mates that I used to know from Manchester and from a poly up there. I had a band up there called Too Much Texas and we supported New Order at the Hacienda. We did a Peel session and we put out a record called 'Hurry on Down' on Uglyman Records. We supported the Inspiral Carpets and then their singer and their bass player left. They got a new bass player and I auditioned to be their singer and got the job. There was, therefore, quite a bit of music before the Inspiral Carpets. PB : The rise of the Inspiral Carpets was a slow one, but it built at an even pace. Did you think at any time this isn't going the way I want it to ? TH : They had already done a lot of work before I joined them. They had got to No 3 in John Peel's Festive Fifty and had supported the Wedding Present. No, not really !It was a magic time in Manchester. It was the biggest thing since punk. It didn't get out of control like with some other bands. PB : So how did it work within the band ? Did you write the lyrics with Graham and Clint ? TH : I don't know. I guess so. We all used to write songs. It wasn't just one person that wrote. PB : Did you feel overwhelmed when you signed to Mute ? TH : No, not really ! We were always, as a band, pretty together. It's a bit like the film 'Almost Famous'. That sort of tells it as it is. PB : Who came up with the idea for the 'Cool as Fuck' T-shirts ? TH : Well, Clint drew a cow on a T-shirt when we played on 'The Other Side of Midnight' (late 80's TV show-ed), but my wife used to make clothes. She used to make a lot of those Indian tops. We started renting out an office for a workroom. I suppose I worked out that you could make a lot of money out of clothes, so we got them printed up there. They did really well really. PB : I don't think that anyone at the time other than possibly James, who were again from Manchester, did so well with T-shirts. TH : Our manager said that we sold more T-shirts than records. I wish that was true. We would then be more wealthy than what we are. It was like a cottage industry. We did things for ourselves. It was like when we did 'Top of the Pops'. We were thinking "Bloody Hell ! We are on Top of the Pops. We're outsiders. We don't deserve to be here." It wasn't naturally our home, but I think that a lot of bands feel like that. It was like when Noel Gallagher worked for us. Clint has said that Noel had learnt to write songs off him, and I have said since that Noel learnt not to write songs off him, but that he learnt a lot from us. PB : I believe the first stuff you released was on Cow Records, your own label. TH : Yeah, originally we set up a label with Eastern Block and they had 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald, Ed Barton and Biting Tongues. They put out 'Trainsurfing' which was our second single and the band's first with me. 'Plane Crash' was our first and featured Steve. PB : Why did Steve leave ? TH : It's not for me to talk about because Steve was a top bloke, but I think it was a personality thing. I think him and Clint worked against each other's presence for whatever reason. I don't really know why. I don't think that he was ready to be a professional musician. PB : With all Mute Reccords sooner or later the bands on the label have remixes done. Were you happy with that ? TH : Some of the remixes were great, but some were awful. The record industry changes. What's big one month isn't another month, and a lot has changed ? PB : With the last Inspirals album, 'Devil Hopping', you were or seemed to be the biggest band on the planet. You did some dates and then I suppose the band split. It wasn't, however, for some reason announced. TH : I don't think we ever did split. We just decided not to do anything anymore. Good bands like New Order say they never split up as well. We lost our deal and some London accountant said that we owned them the best part of £40,000 which we didn't. We got offered a deal with Nude, but it wasn't enough money to make it work, so we went our seperate ways. PB : Did this year's tour live up to the band's expectations ? TH : It exceeded our expectations. We had great fun as a bunch of friends and with wonderful fans from all over England, Scotland and Wales. PB : Are you playing it on a see how it goes basis ? TH : No, we are just together to promote this Greatest Hits package. When we have finished promoting the 'Cool As' record, we will be going off our seperate ways again. Clint is already putting a new band together on his website and I'm writing and recording a debut album with my band the Lovers. PB : Are the 4 new songs on the double CD version of 'Cool As' newly recorded (The first disc features the new single 'Come Back Tomorrow' and the second CD has another three songs-AS) TH : They were recorded in 1995, but new keyboards and guitars were added to 'Come Back Tomorrow' in 2003. 'You've Got What It Takes' was remixed in 2003. 'Iron' was. however, recorded and mixed in 1995. PB : Will you record a new Inspiral Carpets album ? TH : I doubt it. We don't know if there is any demand for a new record. It's very different selling 20,000 tickets on a 'Greatest Hits' tour. Rather than putting out a new record, we think we are better off pursuing our own solo ventures ar the moment. PB : Has it been as much fun this time as first time around ? TH : We are really enjoying each other's company for the limited busy time we have been together, putting the 'Cool As' record together and rehearsing and performing the live shows. Whether we would enjoy being in one another's company 24/7 as a full time enterprise is questionable. PB : Thank you The photos that accompany this article were taken by Sean McManus.

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Inspiral Carpets - Interview with Tom Hingley

Inspiral Carpets - Interview with Tom Hingley

Inspiral Carpets - Interview with Tom Hingley

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