Interview: The Lightning Seeds – part 1
Published on February 3rd, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
The years have not been kind to Ian Broudie. That isn’t a comment on his appearance – barring some distinguished flecks of grey, he still looks much the same as he always has done – but rather a reference specific to the years 2001 through 2006, during which time Broudie lost both parents, his sister and one of his two brothers. It’s hard to imagine the extent of the personal turmoil that must have accompanied such a spell, but a certain amount of insight is offered by the two beautiful, elegiac albums that he released during the last decade, namely 2004’s Tales Told and 2009’s Four Winds, the latter of which was put out under his Lightning Seeds moniker but remains effectively a solo outing.
It is The Lightning Seeds that most people will know Broudie for – “Three Lions”, “Pure”, “The Life of Riley”, “Lucky You”, “Sugar Coated Iceberg”, “You Showed Me” etc. etc. – and these people might be interested to know that Broudie will be taking a live band, including his son Riley (yep), on a series of Lightning Seeds-billed dates throughout the UK in February, tickets for each of which can be bought here. Rocksucker’s already cooked and booked for the London Shepherds Bush Empire show on the 18th, ready and waiting to roll back the years with hit after hit of pure pop gold, while the Liverpool O2 Academy show on the 11th should make for quite the emotional homecoming.
One may wonder, as Rocksucker certainly does, where Broudie will go next after completing this run of gigs. Much has been made of his career course thus far, and it is a fascinating one: punk/power-pop guitarist in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s with Liverpool bands Big in Japan and Original Mirrors, then producer to luminaries such as Echo and the Bunnymen, The Pale Fountains, The Icicle Works and The Fall, then a pop star in the ‘90s off the back of the pop juggernaut/pocket ELO that was his Lightning Seeds project, then mentor in the ‘00s to the likes of The Coral and The Zutons (that is, while he wasn’t creating his own harmony-drenched, startlingly affecting solo albums).
Man’s done it all, you might say, but as the chorus of his 1997 hit “What If” put it: “What if everything you’ve got made, you want more?” Ladies and gentlemen, it is Rocksucker’s great pleasure to bring you one of our very favourite songwriters and producers, and a bona fide legend of popular music (albeit quietly so), Mr Ian Broudie…
“The Life of Riley” (from Sense)
Is there a new album on the way?
No there isn’t, but I’ve got a load of new songs that are half-written at the moment and I’m going to record them. After a few years, you get to a stage where you think, “This is a new chapter, what do I want to be doing?” I stopped producing a few years ago because I don’t really want to be doing too much of that, and I think the tone of my songs changed a little bit over the last few years, which I think was a reaction to a lot of stuff.
Now I think I’m generally on more of an even keel, and I think the new songs are quite a bit different to anything I’ve done before. So I’ve decided just to record them and then I’m going to see what they are, whether it feels like it should be a Lightning Seeds record, or maybe even something new. I’m going to do what I always used to do, which is to let the music lead the way, just make the music and see where it goes in the world. Sorry for waffling on in a vague way!
“Ghosts” (from Four Winds)
Not at all. I just look forward to whatever comes next, as I think Four Winds is a great record.
Thank you. I think it [the next batch of recordings] will be different from Four Winds. That felt like a real full stop to me.
What’s the line-up of the band going to be for this tour?
Me, Martin [Campbell, bassist], Riley [Broudie, guitar], Angie [Pollock, keyboards] and Sean [Payne, drums].
“Pure” (from Cloudcuckooland)
I can’t believe Riley’s in the band…
He’s not really in the band, he’s just kind of helping out. No-one’s really in the band except me! (Laughs) I am a bit of a lone wolf in some ways.
It’s always more or less been that way, hasn’t it?
Yeah, although I like to have people in the band to play live who are friends, get a bit of a vibe together musically.
You essentially became a pop star in the ‘90s despite already having been around the music business for some time. Did you ever look at your presumably more naïve peers at the time and feel somehow wisened?
I wouldn’t say I’d been around the music business; I kind of ‘made music’, which is different. I think the word ‘producer’ sometimes gives people the impression that it’s like being a film producer, but you basically just sit in the studio making music. I was in a band called Big in Japan when I was a kid and then I was in another band that I wasn’t very comfy in called Original Mirrors, but I stopped being in bands after that, really. Although I did a couple of singles with a guy called Paul Simpson under the name Care, I never really had a record deal…actually, Original Mirrors did, but I was still quite naïve as well [when The Lightning Seeds rose to prominence].
Looking back on it, I actually didn’t know much about being in a group. I knew loads about being in a studio and working with groups, but it was quite a learning curve for me having to play live, organise a band. It’s quite a different thing, really, going and doing what you have to do, playing live on TV and singing in front of all those people. I wasn’t someone who’d been singing in bands for years and years and had become a proper professional; I’d actually never sung in public when I did the first album, and I didn’t actually play any gigs live until after the third album. I’d always just been a guitar player, so I was being the singer for the first time ever. I was having to do it live on TV as my first gigs, really.
“You Showed Me” (from Dizzy Heights)
On the first few Lightning Seeds records, you sing in quite a simple, restrained sort of way. Was that style borne out of production concerns, leaving space in the mix for other elements and all that?
No. I mean, I never considered myself a singer; I always thought, “I have to get a singer,” but I never quite came across one, so I was singing it in the meantime. After either the first or second album, I was still meeting people to see if I could find someone to be the singer. So I never really envisaged myself as that, really – it was almost by default that I did it – but I kind of felt like: if you do stuff, something good will come of it and hopefully you grow into the part. It took a while for me to grow into the part though. (Laughs)
Jollification is the Lightning Seeds album that seems to be afforded the most love – its cover is even your profile picture on Twitter – but Sense, Dizzy Heights and Tilt are very fine albums…
Thank you. I’ll be playing quite a lot off Dizzy Heights for these gigs. I think I am, anyway.
“Sweetest Soul Sensations” (from Tilt, live on Later with Jools Holland)
Can you see yourself ever making another album like Tilt?
No. I think Tilt was a really imperfect album. I thought the songs could have been great but somehow I lost focus halfway through it. They’re like unfulfilled dreams for me, those songs; I really like them, but I just think I could’ve done it a lot better. (Pauses) You shouldn’t say that though, should you? You should just say that everything is fantastic. (Laughs) I think I just didn’t see those songs through to their conclusion. I don’t know, I feel like they’re better than they seem, those songs. I can see myself using electronics again, but I don’t think it would be like that album, it would be something new. I’ve got a real idea in my head about blending electronics and guitars at the moment, and if that works out then hopefully that will be how the new stuff sounds.
“Lucky You” (from Jollification)
To an extent, you always did draw from both of those worlds with The Lightning Seeds…
I did, but it’s in a different way now. I can’t really explain it without just doing it, though.
Why did you decide to issue Tales Told under your own name?
Well, it was a solo album, and if I’d have had my choice then I’d have issued Four Winds under my own name as well. I feel like those are two solo albums but Four Winds ended up not being a solo album, even though I think it should have been.
That makes sense, given that they have much more in common with each other than with any Lightning Seeds record. Why did Four Winds not end up being released under your own name?
It came out through Universal and at the last minute they insisted that it wasn’t. (Laughs) And I wanted it to come out so in the end I went along with it. I wish I hadn’t now, because I don’t think it fits in with the feel of the other Lightning Seeds albums. It fits in better with the feeling of Tales Told.
“Tales Told” (from Tales Told)
The Lightning Seeds will play the following UK dates in February (click here for links to buy tickets)…
9th Feb 2012 Whitehaven Civic Hall
10th Feb 2012 Leeds City Varieties
11th Feb 2012 Liverpool O2 Academy
12th Feb 2012 Milton Keynes The Stables
14th Feb 2012 Gateshead The Sage
15th Feb 2012 Leamington Spa Assembly
17th Feb 2012 Frome Cheese & Grain
18th Feb 2012 London Shepherds Bush Empire
20th Feb 2012 Buxton Opera House Festival
21st Feb 2012 Ashford St Mary’s Church
For more information, please visit lightningseeds.net