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Supergrass’ Gaz Coombes on His New Album and Turning Down Spielberg

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While most of their Britpop brethren have long since split up or run out of ideas, Supergrass — thirteen years after their 1995 debut, I Should Coco — are still excitedly conquering new frontiers. Their sixth album, Diamond Hoo Ha (out today), finds them reapplying themselves to the full-throttle glam rock of their early material, but with an apparent newfound appreciation for Krautrock (possibly the result of recording at Berlin’s Hansa Studios, where David Bowie made Heroes and Low). Front man Gaz Coombes spoke with Vulture about his new album and the secrets of his band’s longevity.

Your bassist, Mick Quinn, had a pretty serious accident last summer. How’s he doing?
Yeah, he was on holiday in France and his bedroom was on the first story, and he was sleepwalking, got disoriented, and just sort of wandered out the window and did a lot of damage. But he’s doing really well. He’s back to the gigs, and things are back to normal in that department. But he’s still working hard on the physical therapy and stuff.

The album is called Diamond Hoo Ha. Why?
The Diamond Hoo Ha Men were [drummer] Danny [Goffey] and I. That was the name we played under while Mick was rehabilitating and getting sorted, from November to March. We went out as a two-piece and played at clubs at midnight. It was a half-hour of power.

You recorded it in Berlin, at Hansa Studios, where Bowie did Heroes and Low. What was that like?
Well, at first, none of the equipment worked. And the two-inch tape hadn’t yet arrived, so we had to take a couple days to get everything ready. It hadn’t really changed much. It was all still seventies couches and stuff.

Your new single, “Rebel in You,” is about deciding whether to continue a relationship with a troubled person. Is it about anyone specific?
Well, we’re in a dangerous area here — I’ll be diplomatic. It’s probably more about people in our lives who you kind of love, but they frustrate you and, I don’t know, wake you up at nine in the morning completely off their head, holding half a bottle of vodka.

There was some speculation that 2005’s Road to Rouen — a dark record featuring just nine songs, the last of which was called “Fin” — might be Supergrass’ last album. Was splitting up ever a possibility?
No, no, no. I don’t think so. We went through some problems as a band, but I always knew it was going to be okay. It was strange that all four of us had some pretty heavy shit happening at the same time. Mine and [keyboardist] Rob [Coombes]’s mom died and you couldn’t really help it if stuff crept into lyrics or the music or even the production and how we played. I think records should all be a snapshot of your life at a point, and for us that was a really rough period.

You’ve been signed to EMI — a company that’s seen its share of problems lately — for your entire career. How’s your relationship with them these days, and would you ever consider releasing an album without a label?
Yeah, I’m sure I can see that happening. It’s been the one downside of this record — everything’s been beautiful apart from Parlophone and EMI. It’s a shame, really. There’s some really, really great people that we’ve worked with over the years, and a few great people that we worked with on this record. But when your record company doesn’t want to put money into something, then it kind of puts us into a corner as a band. The single, “Rebel in You,” you won’t be able to buy it in a store. It would’ve been nice to get a physical release. Our contract says EMI has an option for one more album from us, so we’ll see what happens.

Steven Spielberg once approached you guys about starring in your own Monkees-style TV show…
That was after the first record, right when we were recording In It for the Money, and we met up and went over ideas. It was a nice compliment, but we wanted to make our record at the time. We’d totally do it now, though, if he’s got any ideas for a show about a slightly aging rock-and-roll band.

Supergrass’ Gaz Coombes on His New Album and Turning Down Spielberg