The Longpigs are regarded in most quarters as little more than a new generation indie britpop band, fair enough. They’ve had a few well received but hardly earth shattering hits that have seen them receive minor attention in a year when the plethora of quality acts to emerge has been blissfully startling. Also, this Sheffield group’s album ‘The Sun is Often Out’ is a patchy affair that lacks the consistency for them to make a massive dent just yet in the psyche of audiences both critical and commercial.
Yet it’s easy to forget in an era of a chart so revitalised that every Tom, Dick, Kula Shaker and Ash can swan into the album charts at number one with an insouciant look, that debut chat positions equal neither quality or longevity. The Farm and Soup Dragons are evidence of that and looking at Radiohead is reminiscent of recent massive improvement only hinted at on their debut, ‘Pablo Honey’, remember, got an, at best, lukewarm reception in every corner of the press, (except Dissident – ED) many whom, after ‘Creep’ dismissed them as British wannabe grungesters cashing in just like Vedder and the rest.
The Longpigs could mirror Thom Yorke’s troupe if the musical invention, emotional depth and sheer songwriting class shown on songs like ‘Far’, ‘Lost Myself’, ‘Dozen Wicked Words’, ‘She Said’ and most of all the achingly gorgeous ‘On & On’ can blossom into a full album. Certainly their recent stirring live performances suggest a band improving immeasurably. Interestingly, in such an ego driven field when I put my opinions about The Longpigs to their lead singer Crispin Hunt he didn’t huff politely, flounce like a drama queen, or threaten violence. Instead he nods emphatically and says, “the success has been a shock because we know we can do better. I thought it would be like REM’s first, The Velvets, Television, or Iggy Pop, or Smashing Pumpkin’s ‘Gish’ and we’d grow from there. We thought it would get us in the door and maybe get us a cult following because it’s too weird a record. It’s not the album we want to make but musically it’s coming now and it feels great. We’ve waited more than two years after all”.
The world of course is tediously overflowing with bands talking in wide eyed amazement about how corporate the music industry is and often you feel like banging them over the head with their precious 1957 Les Paul custom to knock the realisation into them that since every company is (or owned by) a multi national, they should hardly be surprised it is money driven. However, when you hear The Longpigs story it’s clear they really did feel the wrath of not, in Bill Hick’s words, “sucking Satan’s Cock”.
Meeting Crispin, a few things are immediately obviously; his offensive good looks, his ability and willingness to appear for England in the drinking and smoking Olympics, “At least we’d win a f**king medal” he offers, and most of all his love of talking. Accordingly, the fact the Elektra experience still hurts becomes obvious by the silence bar the sound of Crispin’s bodily bristling at the name Warners. When I ask him to unravel the nightmare two years for me he agrees but only if, “before I start though make it clear I’m not a moaning pop star whinging about touring and free booze and stuff cause I really hate hearing those moaning c**ts. ‘Oh it’s such a hard life’ Yeah, right, become a cleaner arseholes”.
“What happened is this. Warners, the company that owned the label Elektra we were signed to, were losing about three million a day and made across the board cutbacks including shutting Elektra down. They were desperate to make anything back they could and these hot shot American accountants thought we were the only thing they could flog. They wouldn’t release us to make another record unless another company paid them £375,000 which when we’d never sold a record was ludicrous. We were forced to pretend the band had split up and do f**k all, which was the most frustrating thing in the world, and wait for the lawyers to think we were dead.”
You’re normally fairly calm so do I take it from the fact that you sound like Sweaty Mary with a tourrettes problem that you’re still angry?
(Laughs) “Yeah. It really was a f**king nightmare and out of frustration we all turned into complete pissheads and did stupid things cos we were angry. I remember rehearsals turning up the amps to full blast and playing like Lou Reed ‘Metal Machine’. Then it was like “shall we go out and get f**ked up now then?” It was a horrible time – like being in limbo. Eventually I wrote to them telling them I wanted to record the songs myself on independent label asking whether I could have the publishing rights to the songs. They fell for it and agreed, but we still have to give those f**kers at Warners a percentage for doing f**k all apart from f**king us up basically.”
Since the band have been picked up the Mother Label, things have moved rapidly, but Hunt’s language makes it obvious that a lot of his opinions have been formed by the Warners experience.
“Call me old fashioned, but rock n roll is about breaking rules, there are people running the businesses who’ve succeeded in trying to find money making formulas, but f**k me, it’s boring when you consider this should be about challenge and taking things forward.
“It’s like the whole dominant retro thing at the moment. The whole retro thing’s a bit of a con because of course it’s good music, of course it’s great style, but you’re not taking it forward or changing anything. We try and be different from everyone. But we’re not lying. I specifically do not write songs about (adopts Cockney twang) ‘Oh, I went down the chip shop, the pub and a football game today’ like Damon Albarn did. All of that is complete f**king bullshit. I write about things I can feel.”
Did you see this regimentation as simply a problem in the music industry because surely it’s present in everyday society?
“Of course. There’s a lot of British bullshit about what’s right and wrong. It’s like people harping on about the fact I went to a public school. So what? Considering I was nine I didn’t have much choice. Okay, if buggery and having to bathe in four other boys’ bath water is privileged, then I come from a privileged background. No I find a lot of the problems though are due to the fact that people just can’t be arsed to do anything to make a change. I mean look at youth culture, indie kids should stop dressing like Morrisey for a start. It’s kind of obvious that the last Tribal Gathering was better than Phoenix because what’s great about the rave scene is that it’s young, beautiful and proud of it. Yet even there where you see all this strength and possibility it’s still completely impotent. Everyone looks back to the 60’s without realising the power that they had was that they were political, they rioted, they were taken notice of, and they changed the world. Maybe flower power didn’t completely work but none of us would be here smoking a joint if it weren’t for Bob Dylan so it did work a little bit. There is so much potential in British youth culture but it’s impotent instead of saying “F**k you” and that means John Major might get back in which means I’m leaving the country.”
Apathy is the dominant political ideology in the supposedly caring 90’s. I always felt we didn’t so much vote the Tories in at the last election, as we were too bored to vote them out.
“Exactly. We still have those useless f**kers, no-one can believe it but no-one does anything about it. It’s like Oasis at the MTV awards and a big old fat American TV hack going ‘wow, he spat some beer’.
I’m into Oasis, I think they’re f**king cool but in terms of a massive effect look at what The Pistols did and still do. Them getting up at Phoenix and laughing at our generation with sarcastic cracks like “the crowd went mild” is f**king right and it is f**king frustrating. We’re not trying to be the next Sex Pistols but I think we’re more like it than Oasis are.”
So do you think things will change?
“Yeah because the end of a tether is being reached. I think we will change and I think we can all believe in contemporary times because I’m a big believer in necessity being the mother of invention. We’ve revived ourselves up to date so it’s vital that artistically people move on. The music industry has always been run by fat boring bastards and it will carry on being run by fat boring bastards. It’s business and every record is a tin of baked beans, a unit, a number, a product. But if they bought LSD that’s what a record should be like and can be like.”
It’s wonderful fighting talk which nevertheless cynics could easily snipe has come from the mouths of a host of other bands. But ultimately there is such passion in everything Crispin Hunt does, be it rabbiting backstage about all and sundry or delivering a sumptuous ‘On & On’ to 30,000 at Warrington earlier this summer, that suggests he and The Longpigs could become far more important than a new generation britpop indie band soon. If he can only channel all the passion, anger, intelligence, wit and ideas in this conversation into music then we could have another special band on our hands.