Inspiral Carpets' Martin Walsh On Moyes, John Cooper Clarke and 'Cool As F**k' Tees

With the Inspiral Carpets releasing a new single Spitfire in August and a new album in September, Sabotage Times thought it a good time to catch with the legendary Manchester band and their bassist and all round top bloke Martyn Walsh.
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Spitfire's out in August - would say it's more along the lines of Move rather than This Is How it Feels and Dragging Me Down - and if so was that a conscious decision?

It wasn't a conscious decision, once we started writing it was almost quintessentially Inspirals, and one of the things we wanted to do with the new album was to say: This is what people are going to get - we didn't really think let’s try and ape a particular song but it's got the classic elements of the Inspirals and we thought it was a good way of introducing the new album

You must be excited about having Salford Royalty John Cooper Clark on board?

I think it's a case of we'll look back in a couple of years and think: 'Did that really happen?' and everything seemed to come about very naturally - as most of our collaborations have. We've a history as a band of that type of thing - right from the start when we recorded 'Joe' with 808 State, and it's something we've never shied away from as a band.

You've got previous in working with icons - what with the legendary Mark E Smith in I Want You in 1994?

Yeah, that's right, also Collapsed Lung, {Produced by Peter Hook] Basil from Yargo. [Basil Clarke led the legendary Manchester quartet Yargo whose original style fused a subtle mix of jazz, funk and reggae with pop]. We've always been adept at that at never been afraid of it, and with the John Cooper Clark track in particular it was almost like a jam session and it could have been like one of our classic Plane Crash-type ones where it becomes 16 minutes long, a bit of a psychedelic 'wig out' - so we just thought let's use this.

One day we were speaking about the idea of getting John Cooper Clark on board with us and we got home from a rehearsal and put BBC4 and there was that programme about him called 'Evidently John Cooper Clark' - it was really weird we were talking about him, it was like there was synchronicity there, like fate.

It's always been a natural process - we've never thought: "This is someone we've got to collaborate with cos he's really cool now' it always just happened naturally. Look at John's career itself - he's studied by kids in school now and it's come about by being himself, and I think that's something that the Inspirals have always done it that way too. By just carrying on doing what we're doing - if we're excited by it inevitably our fans will be too.

We're not as preconceived or studied at times, we go alot of the time with a gut reaction or what feels true to ourselves.

I get the impression you've always stayed true to yourselves - from the early days even up until now...

Yeah, even from setting up our own record label Cow it's always been a case of us wanting to do things our way, then moving along to Mute which was a label that was artist friendly and creative and always allowed us to do what we wanted - maybe sometimes to our detriment. But Mute never played the game, we never played the game, yet we still managed to sell records, which ultimately is what we're all about, as we want to get our music heard by as many people as possible.

Nostalgia is profitable but please tell me you still get a buzz from opening your gigs with songs like Joe...?

Totally. We're at the point where we don't want to come out feel like we're just going through the motions and getting disenchanted with the whole process - but with Steve coming back I think it's re-invigorated us to write something new, to record something new, to reflect the new found vigour. So it's exciting to know that we've got new songs but at the same time there's not many bands that could open with a better song than 'Joe' so we've got to value that as well.

We're in a good position as we are dead aware that people will come along to the shows to see 'This is how it feels' but equally, what I hope is that a new wave of people will come along and experience their first Inspiral Carpets album and they'll all want to hear 'Spitfire' and 'Let You Down'.

To some degree we'll be playing to a whole new generation - fathers and sons to some degree, older brothers and younger brothers - which is great - so long as we keep it fresh and vital that's the main thing.

I do feel it's quite a phenomenon now as there's kids I know, 16,17,18 who are getting into - I hate to use that phrase, but the 'Madchester' scene, and The Stone Roses and The Mondays - as to be fair to them there's not much that they could really call their own at the moment.

If I was their age now unfortunately you've got the One Direction's of this world that serve a purpose - but if you think about it even a band like Kasabian - they're probably half a generation before those guys, and even like a massive band in Manchester like The Courtineers who have been around a while and they're now on their third album - it's just weird because if I was 18 I don't know what sort of music I would be into at this time - so it's probably testament to a band like ourselves that we're still around.

Deep down - and I don't know if we even admit it to ourselves - we just want to be seen as relevant. Not that we have to be 'hip' or 'on-trend' or any of those other awful phrases that people use but we just want people who listen to our music to go: "Do you know what - that's bloody good".

That's one of our motors - to keep it real and be true to yourselves - because if you’re true to yourselves then you can never slip up really.

Do you typically write the lyrics first or the music first?

We've always written in numerous ways but someone will come up with the germ of the idea, alot of the time it will be a lyrical idea with the cords being behind it. I remember You're So Good For Me, I wrote it when we weren't particularly in a good place in 2007 or 2008, it was almost a dance version with synths and a few guitars but when Steve came back to the band I introduced it back recently and we 'Inspiralled it up'.

The way that we operate is that none of us is that precious where they say this is my part and that's it - someone will come in with an idea and it might go somewhere completely different, otherwise you'll just be a 'session player' in someone else's band. It is a collaborative process but we all add pieces to it. It's also good because you then don't just rely on one person to be creative - you do go through a process where you do hit a bit of a block.

It's been good for us to get back into the studio and get into being a 'Band' again - to do everything associated with it like doing videos and what have you, rather than just playing our greatest hits and going home again.

Life was one of the soundtracks to my younger years - She Comes In The Fall is my favourite but I have to ask you what's your favourite from that album?

I like Real Thing, Sackville is a really great song - it’s almost like two different styles of song. She Comes In The Fall is almost like three different songwriters there but they all seem to gel together which is quite unusual really.

I never really had any favourite tracks - it was interesting when we did Life in its entirety and played songs we hadn't played for ages like Inside My Head and Monkey On My Back and a few of the more garagey ones and then playing something like Sun Don't Shine which was completely different.

I'm listening to some of our new tracks off the new album and playing it to my partner and a few close people but then I'll probably never hear it again after we get the finished copies - because I'm not the sort of person who will sit there and just listen to it on a daily basis - I wouldn't just stick it on!!

What does it feel like to be back as a band?

It's great because we're not just doing it for the sake of it - the fact it’s still relevant and the fact that we aren't just some guys turning up and playing and going home again - there's a vitality we've recaptured and that drives us and that makes it special - we do want it to be a special event if you do come and see the Inspirals because we aren’t going to be playing every single night - we're aware that when you come and see us it’s a case of catch us while you can because we'll be on to the next thing.

The over-riding thing in writing the sleeve notes for the album is that I can't wait for the next one - we've overcome some pretty dark times over the past few years, things like self-doubt and can we do it again, and bringing back Steve and all this uncertainty but we've done it and we've come back even better as a unit and there's nothing stopping us carrying on for more.

What are your long term plans?

It is that classic thing when footballers say we're just going out to enjoy it and that's what we're doing.

The pressure of having to reach a certain amount of sales might have been taken away a little - but don't get me wrong we still want to sell records and its still got to be a viable aspect to continue - it costs money to send bands on tour and unfortunately we can't just do things because we love it, we've all got commitments - you know the mortgage people don't like it if you say: 'We've just done a really good gig - but we won't get paid!' There’s got to be a commercial aspect to it but the enjoyment factor is still there - I think we're all man enough to say now if we're not enjoying it we'll just sack it off - which is obviously not the case.

We're all aware that we've got 'other' jobs - I think with the set up we’ve got now is great, it's all complementary and it all feeds into each other – it’s not in conflict and it dovetails nicely which is great and it’s good that everyone has enthusiasm for everyone else and is pleased for everyone else.

It’s like: 'I'm in the Inspiral Carpets but we can stand on our own two feet and do other stuff which is not reliant on the Inspiral Carpets name.

Who's your tip for the World Cup?

For me it's got to be 'VanChester United' - Holland with Mr Van Gaal and van Persie and hopefully Robben coming to Old Trafford - after that I don't care!!

Do you think Paul Scholes will ever manage Oldham?

Do you know what - it's funny because as a commentator he's coming out of the shadows a bit and becoming a bit more outspoken - which is a good thing. He could have done a better job than bl**dy Phil Neville at any rate!!

I thought it was really cool that the class of 92 went and took on Salford City, I think they could do something - I just hope that as a United fan I hope they can do something with that Class of 92 type vibe - without being overly sentimental - some of the class of 92 have got it - you know Giggsy, Scholesy have got it - but, not for me the aforementioned Phil Neville - for me he was part and parcel of what went wrong at Old Trafford under the Moyes regime - that summed it all up for me.

United is a different beast - everyone was saying that when Fergie joined he was losing , but I used to go and watch them back in the late 80s and when Ferguson joined United were a far different beast - they weren’t used to winning for a start - and there wasn’t the Premier League, their wasn’t Sky, there wasn’t 24 hour football

I agree - I remember going up to United watching Arsenal at that time and as an away fan you were in that away pen and you had the K Stand behind you and the Paddock at the side...

Yeah definitely. When Moyes joined United he was probably the managing director of one of the world’s most recognisable brands, you know you’ve got Google, Microsoft, Pepsi, Apple, United - so everything that you do is going to be under scrutiny - United is a completely different beast to back then.

And some of the things Moyes was saying especially to the local press were wrong: 'We have to aspire to play like City or Liverpool, or that Liverpool were favourites at Old Trafford - you just don't say those things - even if we were crap - you just don't say that. He said we were underdogs against Liverpool - how can you say that! He totally got it wrong.

I've got to ask - what was it like to tour with Shaun Ryder and Bez the other year?

It was quite weird really! To be perfectly honest we didn’t see that much of Shaun he just came in and out but there was no animosity and it was a good time - it was a really good tour – it’s an amazing thing to see a Happy Mondays tour from that side of it - the organisation is fantastic it was one of those things where it was a means to an end - we might re-introduce it abroad if we went to America - it could be interesting!

Can you still you still fit into your 'Cool As Fuck' T-Shirt - cos I can't?!

[Laughs] Just about, just about!!
The Inspiral Carpets are playing The Bedford Corn Exchange on Friday July 11, and T in the Park Sunday 13 July.

Layth Yousif is a freelance journalist. Follow him on twitter @laythy29

To read more from Martyn about The Inspiral’s Carpets Bedford gig read Layth’s piece at The Bedford Times and Citizen