In conversation with..Tom Hingley of Inspiral Carpets

At Live at Leeds back in April I had the honour of interviewing the legendary Tom Hingley of the Inspiral Carpets. Coming up this Thursday  is Tom’s gig with the Kar-pets celebrating the anniversary of “Return of the Goldfish” at Belgrave which we urge everybody to get to!

25th Anniversary of the record, thinking back can you remember that experience of writing and touring?

We recorded it in Parr Street Liverpool, we did two albums there with Pascal Gabriel. He went on to write half of that No Angel album for, oh who is it that did that record with Slim Shady, anyway he went on to write this album but it was a good fun time it was our third album and people liked it because they thought our second was a bit arty and dark. So I think we had a lot of fun recording that album. Ah Dido that’s the singer he produced. But yeah there was a lot of integration on the record using studio gear to make it funkier.

The gig then on May 25th, why Belgrave?

I did a gig with Jim in the secret festival with embrace last year. He’s very much about the new style venues, it’s nice seeing these new venues similar to that of New York. One of the most popular places for Inspirals was Leeds along with Glasgow and Manchester, I did a gig at the Brudenell last year which was cool. I haven’t played that much here in the last few years actually, I’ve not played Belgeave but I’ve heard good things about it. It’s sort of moving away from pubs now it’s more somewhere you can have a coffee. Old venues were all about stout and John Smiths and I think it’s Leeds is quite modern. I did a gig in Sheffield at a venue made out of shipping containers it has a posh restaurant, gym stuff and it’s showing that Yorkshire is modernising a lot. We’ve done six or so of these gigs and it seems to to down well. My band are really good they’re young fun and it just felt like it was a good anniversary to celebrate. It’s unlikely anyone else would do these songs so we fancied it.

And are new fans coming in?

I increasingly hear people say oh it’s my father who liked the band haha. It’s difficult to reach younger fans, it’s a shoe in from when their parents were into it. Some younger fans don’t know the history, it’s good to have younger fans, female fans. I’m not very rock and roll and that so it’s just good to have any new fans come in. It took us six weeks to learn the album at a rehearsal room quite near new Islington at an old mill. We realised though there’s a room with an old asbestos pipe not blocked out and I said can we erm not go back there. It took us six weeks or so to do the album but we’ve played for about 18 months, we’ve had a few stage invasions in that time. Some of them are quite burly and cause chaos but you know people have accepted you if they’re doing that. You sometimes wonder if the gear is gonna go haha. One time the stage collapsed, basically the audience destroyed it before we got there and they tried to sue us for it. I think that’s quite complementary though when they want to be part of it.

What else can we expect from the gig at Belgrave? 

Yeah we always play some hits after we don’t really know what we will do. We can play probably for two hours, were playing here them Rotherham a month later so we will play slightly different stuff both times. I’ve got a theory like if you can play 35 songs you’ll play them better than if you know 25.

Support acts, did you choose those?

Yeah one of them is called the Calls I played with them in the Waterloo in Blackpool. They were really good, shockingly good actually. Skull are the other band we saw them last week at 360 club. The thing with us it’s great to have bands who are ace, but with us we try not to be really loud, if you’re shit, the sound isn’t gonna be better loud like shit doesn’t look better through a magnifying glass does it. We try and be good without being too lpud. Real volume doesn’t come out on amp it comes out of your mouth or tour chest. About twenty years ago I saw Al Green and he sang acoustic at the front of the stage and it was amazing. You have to to connect with someone for real volume really, I’m not into it really too loud. Emotional volume is much better, when bands get into gear fetishes, nobody gives a fuck really about your bass amp, so I think it’s all about the moment,not the gear.

Obviously a lot of bands I work with are trying to make their way now, do you have any tips on how to have such a sustainable career?

Just, I think a lot of people, if you go see a psychiatrist a lot of people think the reason for doing things is to find meaning in your life. The big thing is to find meaning so a lot of people make music to find meaning, a lot of people then say then want commercial success and are embarrassed to say they’re just creating art or tying to find meaning so it’s just the old cliche, if you’re going to make music make it good and significant to you then if you just try to construct meaning and something that’s distinct you might just find yourself playing to 80000 people in a field. There is no mainstream really.

I’ve seen two different conversations on Facebook recently, one was slagging Noel off for supporting U2 which I don’t get at all. The other was slagging Ed Sheeran off. He’s not my cup of tea but if you don’t like pop music you can’t like the Beatles, if you don’t like pop music you can’t like motown, you can’t like Nevermind really. I think people are a bit, with Ed Sheeran every song on the album was in the singles chart, that’s actually appauling management, it’s massive over exposure which isn’t good. I think what you get with international artists they push different tracks in different territories. A lot of songs though are coming back being hits in places they shouldn’t be. The thing with slagging Ed Sheeran off on Facebook you’re just giving him more exposure, I don’t think, I’m probably been boting here but to attack Ed Sheeran because he’s boring is stupid, people complain that his last single has seven writers on it. They expect this purity​that doesn’t exist. If you wanna find out who wrote a song there’s a site from the ASCAP, it’s like PRS and you can type any song to find the writers. Go on there and type Creep, that has eleven writers on it. So if you attack Sheeran for that you attack Radiohead. People expect purity that they don’t expect from their favourite bands that doesn’t exist. I think there’s a real double standard in the industry, it’s all pop music really. You either like it or you don’t, and again with Ed he was on Jools Holland the other day, he’s not my cup of tea but he can really play, whether you like him or not, he’s really talented is the guy.

You do wonder how much of Ed is the label pushing his music..

I think the biggest black mark was when he was a kid he hung out with that band Symposium. I just think he’s massively successful, if you want to be successful in America we have radio one, they don’t have that kind of thing there’s no physical way of getting across all their areas. We’re very dynamic in the UK and people came here first to become famous. Bob Marley, Hendrix, The Fugees even had to come here to get famous. They weren’t cool but it was one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. I’m not really into mainstream but it’s nice to enjoy things for what they are and not get genre specific. I met a guy the other day who plays political music and I played them some Kate Tempest and they’d never come across Kate Tempest before it was amazing. She’s mind numbingly good, she’s really really, it comes from having done a lot of stuff and from doing a lot of ad lib, there’s not many people getting the reality of today like her she’s amazing. She’s got great songs about people blaming everyone else for everything, people hiding from drugs and stuff. I can see her being poet laureate if she’d accept it.

Going back to yourself and music, any highlights ever.

Another amazing highlight for me was going to see the Happy Mondays at free trade in Manchester which is a hotel now. That was 1989 or whatever and when they played they had loads of dry ice, you couldn’t see the band just a load of lights. I think about the Manchester scene and it’s become so much more commercialised, Happy Monday’s were more influenced by funky, dirty styles.

Gigs Inspiral did, we played Reading headlined that which was good. Played with Paul Simon but I think if you’ve had half a life in music you should see yourself as lucky. I’m the only person I know really who does this full time making a living from it. I got up this morning and James Bolam from Likely Lads was in the hotel. I was telling my daughter Grandpa in my Pocket was in the hotel and she said did he have his shrinking cap on and I didn’t know whether to plump up her dreams haha. It’s funny I was in a hotel in Hereford and Sandra Dickinson was there and I carried her suitcase down the stairs. I mean I fancied her a lot when I was 13 and I think she could tell so it sounds bizarre but it’s quite a privelege really haha. It’s funny I personally in this space and world. Most people do jobs they hate and need to go down the pub. You see people working for council or a bricky but if you’re life is so bad you need to change that and sort yourself out. But yeah try and tell as many people as possible about the gig, I don’t know how long were doing the band before to be honest with you, I’ve got no idea. I’m releasing an electric album, I want to write another book so if people want to come see some Inspiral songs then they better come to this gig because we won’t be doing this forever.

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