Experimental Music Love

March 25, 2009

Stop the Clocks – It’s The Hours!

Filed under: Features,Interviews — by Free Edinburgh Podcast @ 10:50 pm

It's a huge living room.

It's a huge living room.

I can’t imagine few full-sensed people forgetting their first meeting with Anthony Genn and Martin Slattery, the two figures that make up the anthemic Hours. We’ve just sat down on the plush leather seats of the Radisson foyer in Glasgow, and already Genn is off on his favourite hobby – talking. Fortunately, it’s not talking for no reason, for, like every lyric new album, See the Light, Genn’s words are informed and informative, impassioned and incensed, and most of all, personal.

He regales at length about the quality of the artwork in show in the hotel, celebrating an exhibition of the work of Peter Blake – the man behind the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band. Each word jumps with fevered passion for the subject, and it’s no surprise. Blake and Genn are long-time friends, with the somewhat manic rock star and the artist, now in his seventies, even sharing a memorable trip to Glastonbury to see Paul McCartney.

“I said to him, ‘Pete it’s really muddy there, so make sure you’re wearing old clothes.'” tells Genn. “Then we he turned up, he was wearing the exact same posh black suit and white shirt he always does. He’s like Eric Satie. He just wears same clothes everywhere.”

Talking about his own work, Genn is just as passionate. And after a promise of a tour around the exhibition, talk turns to See the Light – Genn and Slattery’s second record as The Hours, but just one of many as the nomads of British music.

“It’s emotional, visceral, vital, anthemic, powerful pop music with balls,” says Genn with an intensity lacking in many modern musicians. He’s telling the truth though – this is an album free of any false modesty, not written to appease anyone but themselves.

“Artists, should aspire to succeed on own times,” says Genn, now preaching his practice. “This world is full of people who aspire to succeed on other people’s terms, and let other people judge for them whether they’re successful or not. And personally, I think that’s a lot of bullshit.”

“The only thing you’ve got to tell anyone in the world is about yourself and what you believe in and who you are. If you don’t who you are, or where you are, or where you’re from, what you mean, or what you think, then what the fuck are you doing it for.

“Writing for an audience – that’s fine if you’re writing pop music for X Factor. That’s like the difference between Francis Bacon and Jack Vettriano. One’s from the heart and soul and the very centre of your being. And one of them is from the inside of your mind. I’m not trying to sing to people’s brains, I’m trying to sing to their hearts.”

One of those hearts was Janice Long, who broke down live on Radio 2 after an exceptionally tender performance of I Miss You, a song Genn wrote for his father. So what’s it like to make Keith Chegwin’s sister cry?

“Touching emotions like that I unbelievable – it’s the best, most important thing in the world. So Janice Long crying is one of the highlights of my career. And people have played that song of funeral of their loved ones.”

It’s certainly a far more digestible choice than Robbie Williams, or James Blunt, a man whom Genn doesn’t have much time for, but has more than a few words.

“When Blunt writes a song it’s with his eyes firmly focused on the cash register and with other people helping him to do it. His most famous song is about seeing a girl on the tube. This is it in a nutshell, today I got on the tube. I saw a bird, she was with her boyfriend. She was quite fit. The end. That is the subject of a song that’s sold 10 million records and made him a massive star. This is a crazy world we live in.”

“Even if his oyster card needed renewing, that would put a twist to it,” offers Slattery, a man more timid and cautious than Genn, but with just as much wit and passion for music.

“I’ve loved music since day I popped out,” he says. “My dad’s a musician and music lover, so I suppose I never really had any choice.”

Genn too was part of that world from an early age.

“The first music I truly connected with when I was a kid, the first song I really, really loved was We Have All the Time in the World, sung by Louis Armstrong and written by John Barry and Hal David from [the second worst James Bond film – Die Another Day hating Ed] On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. And I have it tattooed on my arm just to show that it was the first song that really had a profound affect on me as a kid. [he does as well]”

The visual aspect of The Hours is just as powerful as their audio output. And that’s not a surprise when you find out that the man behind the artwork is another friend of Genn’s, millionaire animal embalmer, Damien Hirst.

“He’s a very, very, very, very [alright, we believe you – Ed] good friend of mine. Way before he was DAMIEN HIRST!!! He don’t give a fuck about anything other than art and people. He’s unbelievably smart, generous and just an amazing ball of creative energy and to have that around is an amazing thing.”

Another legend in both Genn and Slattery’s life is Joe Strummer – a man they both backed as part of his Mescaleros.

“What I’ve learnt from anyone great, Joe Strummer included,” says Genn “is that the greatest thing about them is they don’t kiss ass and they don’t give a fuck. They don’t give a fuck about failing. And they’re always prepared to give it a go.”

“They’re prepared to take chances with people as well,” adds Slattery. “I mean, he was in a studio with a crazy junkie form Sheffield, for his comeback record after 10 years in the wilderness.

“If he was taking decisions from his manager or his label, there would be no way he would be allowed to take those risks. Using unknown people, and not only unknowns, but totally bonkers unknowns. You really get that. And you can feed off that. And there was definitely a point in my life where I realised… Joe made me realise that I had something to offer myself as opposed to just being someone who just comes along gives a bit of something then leaves. That was preparation for doing this band. I don’t think I’d have been able to do this if it wasn’t for Joe.”

And after one last strong-worded rant Iggy Pop’s recent job of selling car insurance “he’s a fucking greedy, selfish knob” you realise these guys have been through it all, and they’ve done it with no concessions and no bullshit. The Hours are here for one reason only: “In the end,” says Genn, “it’s not about what you had, it’s what you did. Some people in this business make money. Some make history.”


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