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I'm Being Good - Interview with Andrew Clare

  by Mark Rowland

published: 13 / 5 / 2003

I'm Being Good - Interview with Andrew Clare


I'm Being Good frontman Andrew Clare runs his own label Infinite Chug. He talks to Mark Rowland about the difficulties of managing while maintaining his musical career, and also about his band's often difficult history

After years of setbacks and line-up changes, I'm Being Good have made it to their tenth year as a band. This is quite surprising, as over those years the band have had to deal with crippling hand injuries, losing band members to cancer and glandular fever as well as well as the usual "musical differences'" and also having a debut album which was never released. Not exactly what you'd call easy going. I'm Being Good formed when guitarist/vocalist Andrew Clare decided that there was no band around that made the music he wanted to hear- and that turned out to be industrial-strength art-rock, combining the influences of Sonic Youth and Trumans Water, with a dash of Slint and a tiny pinch of metal-core. The band initially released a couple of 7"s, 'Hate Sturdy Buildings' and 'We have the Balleeen', and after doing some touring of the UK, were invited to record a session for John Peel. An album, 'Horse Man Ship' was planned to be released through the Lissy's label, but the band had difficulty getting hold of their Peel session from the BBC, which was to make up the first half of the album. While this was going on, Clare severed three tendons in one of his hands in an accident with a Swiss army knife, and needed time to rebuild the strength in his hand. This and other factors led to the album being dropped by Lissy's. After a break from writing and touring (the band members busied themselves with numerous side projects), the group returned with their debut album mark two, 'Poisonous Life', a fantastically noisy yet weirdly poppy (kind of) take on art punk, and mixture of de-tuned thrash-a-thons ; slower, more song-based numbers (still de-tuned), and instrumentals improvised around strong riffs (also de-tuned). This was followed by 'Sub Plot' in 2000, a more complex, slightly darker and more progressive album, but with a stronger sense of melody in many of the songs (though there's still plenty of noise). The band currently consists of Clare, drummer/guitarist/bassist David Ewan Campbell, new bassist/drummer Tom Barnes and Jussi Brightmore ( who is taking a break due to severe tinnitus), and has been writing new material by the bucket-load. With a forthcoming tour with Trumans Water on the horizon and a compilation of early songs called '8 of us r Dead' just out , Pennyblackmusic chatted to Andrew about the band's past, present and future. PB : This year is I'm Being Good's tenth anniversary. Did you ever expect the band to keep going for this long when you first started out? AC : I don't think we really thought about it at the time... maybe about 5 or 6 years in we started to wonder what it would be like to not be in this band. We're still wondering. Although yesterday Dave said "Jesus, I can't handle another 10 years of this, what sort of state will I be in 10 years from now if I carry on like this?' or words to that effect. PB : With all the things the band has survived through- The problems with the BBC sessions, your hand injury, losing two members through glandular fever and cancer respectively- Were there any moments where you thought that things might be too stressful to keep the band going? AC : We've come so close to throwing in the towel so many times. Usually when someone quits the band, there have been some very long drawn out musical differences and band members losing enthusiasm and other factors that have made us just slow down to a complete stop for almost entire years at a time. Other factors such as complete lack of response to our last record don't so much make us feel like quitting, but they don't give us a boost that we were hoping for the keep going. We've had a couple of truly disastrous tours that have left us reeling as well. One tour was so bad we didn't practice for 8 months afterwards. PB : You recently got yourselves a new bass player (and occasional drummer) in the form of Tom Barnes. How did he come to join the band? Are you hoping that this current lineup will last? AC : We'd known Tom  for a while and he'd put us on in London a couple of times and we played with his band the Oedipus a couple of times and we like him, so we invited him along to try out on bass, and it all worked out just fine. PB : How did you get involved with the second two minutemen compilation? (Jonson Family Records label double 7" where all the artists contribute a song that is about 2 minutes long-MR) AC : We were asked. We were very flattered. And we accepted. PB : What do you think of the finished compilation? Be honest! AC : I think it's great! I like over half of it! That's pretty good for a compilation. PB : Where did you get the idea to use a doorbell sound on 'Nostalgic for Fake Times', your track on it ? AC : Well, it just starts with those two tom hits which kind of break the song into sections and it just sounded like a doorbell so I mic-ed up my doorbell and overdubbed it to see what it would sound like and when we heard it back it made us laugh, so we went with it. PB : A lot of your lyrics seem quite abstract. Do you tend to write about anything in particular? AC : Often the lyrics are very specific but they jump around a lot, so a clear theme may not get established immediately, but I usually try and write about something specific. It doesn't always work out that way. Some of the faster songs tend to be complete nonsense and whatever sounds good rhythmically. Popular themes with me tend to be: ecology, conflict, popular science, relationships, illness, struggle, TV. PB : Where did the idea of stringing your guitar (or at least one of them) with bass strings come from? AC : Sam, our previous bassist, was already in a band called Lure-Luxx which used this technique and when we lost our bass player he applied it to I'm Being Good. We've always messed around with tunings and the way our instruments are set up. I guess I grew up listening to Sonic Youth and clanky industrial music (it was the 80s), and when I got around to buying a guitar I couldn't play it so it seemed pretty natural to just re-tune it so that it would sound better. I had no idea what I was doing, but that's how I learnt to play guitar; by fucking around with it plugged into a hi-fi. PB : You also run Infinite Chug records. How did that label get started? AC : A long time ago now I wanted to put a record out. It took me a while to figure out how to do it, but it seemed to work out okay, so then I did another one, and then another... PB : Do you find it is easier for you to do everything yourself (mixing, artwork, releasing records, etc), which is what you have been doing, rather than hiring someone to do it for you? AC : It's harder. It's hard, and lately I'd be very happy for someone else to do the boring stuff for us (booking tours, releasing the records, basically doing all the label stuff). But the idea of being recorded by someone else or having someone else design our records or making any other creative decisions on our behalf seems ridiculous. PB : Although you mainly put out your own music on infinite chug, you do occasionally release stuff by other bands or artists. What would a band have to have to make you want to put a record out by them? AC : They'd have to be my favourite band ever at that point in time. PB- With all the time put into running Infinite Chug and editing the artwork in Careless Talk Costs Lives, do you ever find it difficult to find time for IBG and your various other projects? AC : Yes, I find it very difficult, although a lot of my other projects have fallen away in the last 12 months; less because of my workload and more because of my tendon problems. PB : Of all the different things you're involved with, what at the moment is taking top priority? AC : My health. PB : You're touring with Trumans Water again in June, are you quite good friends with them? How did that friendship start? AC : We've become good friends from touring with them over the years. They are very nice people. PB : You've been having a bit of trouble with your hand again recently. Is that still as bad as it was? How limiting have you found it when playing live? AC : I've been on a relentless health kick for the last 6 months and it's gradually improving. Basically we practice for 3 hours on a Wednesday and I don't go near a guitar for the rest of the week. I still have to play slide guitar on a lot of songs and can't really play any of the more involved, noodly songs, so we've gone more punk. PB : Has it also affected recording and writing songs as well? If so how long do you reckon it'll be before I'm Being Good release anything new? AC : I think that whole hand thing combined with the fact that the line-up changed so drastically meant we had to write a whole new set of songs with bass instead of a second guitar and the songs are much simpler and much shorter. So it has made a big difference, we're still working it out... As a result we have quite a lot of new songs to record, so after we've toured we'll probably get on and record the next record pretty quickly. As a stop-gap measure I've collated and re-mastered a selection of tracks from singles, compilations, and out-takes and put together a new CD called '8 of Us R Dead', which will hopefully be back from the pressing plant by the time we head off into Europe. PB : Thank you

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I'm Being Good - Interview with Andrew Clare

I'm Being Good - Interview with Andrew Clare

I'm Being Good - Interview with Andrew Clare

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