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flag England - Full Moon 34 - 07/28/99

an interview with Dickon Hinchcliffe

Break up or change - a conversation with Dickon Hinchcliffe

Two year on from their bleakest album yet, 1997s Curtains, the London-based six piece Tindersticks is back - and happier than ever. Can We Start Again, the opening song on their fourth proper studio album is more than just a song - it's also sort of a concept for the whole new album, which mixes the familiar Tindersticks melancholy with new, happier elements. Recorded live almost in its entirety, the new album, called Simple Pleasure puts the emphasis on the band. Although there are strings and all sorts of other instruments, the sound is a lot more stripped down, so the six band members wouldn't have a chance to hide behind a big wall of sound, as violin- and piano player and occasional singer Dickon Hinchcliffe - incidentally the only pop-star ever to have an PhD in Mexican literature! - explained to me recently in a telephone interview from London, while singer Stuart Staples was busy designing the sleeve for the band's upcoming single.

Carsten: Talking of artwork, the album cover features a picture of a naked pregnant woman. How do you expect to sell the album in more conservative places with a sleeve like that?
Dickon: We probably can't do big adverts on busses with the album artwork now, but we're not really interested in that anyway. We went to France last week and the people there didn't have a problem with it at all. Of course it's a risk, but if you take no risks at all you end up with a bland cover instead.

Carsten: Apart from the recently released compilation of rarities, the two years since Curtains must have been your longest break yet. Now you seem to be a lot happier.
Dickon: Being in the Tindersticks now is much better than being in the band in 1997 or '98. For making this record, we looked for new ways of working. It's definitely true we are happier now, even though we weren't really sad before. We were more frustrated, cause we didn't know how to express ourselves. We've learned that now.

Carsten: Stuart said in interviews around the release of your last album, that it was very tough to make and that he never would want to make a record like Curtains again. What did you change to avoid that kinda tension this time around?
Dickon: This time around, we tried to change EVERYTHING, apart from the six people in the band. Curtains was hard, cause we weren't enjoying it. And if you make music, you should get something out of it, which just wasn't the case. We had new aims this time. We wanted to put the emphasis on the live aspect. We also tried to get the songs right in the pre-production before we went into the studio.

Carsten: Simple Pleasure is also the first Tindersticks album that will be only a single on vinyl. It's just about 45 minutes long, whereas the three previous ones were much longer. Your debut even clocked in at 77 minutes.
Dickon: All of our records after the first have been gradually shorter. You only have one-and-a-half years between records and we'd rather do fewer, but better songs. There are a lot of good songs on Curtains as well, but also a few not-so-good ones.

Carsten: Do you think the album will be received a lot different because of all these changes?
Dickon: I think the album will be received differently, but it's still not a highly commercial pop record. There are changes, but they are a bit more subtle.

Carsten: The Tindersticks never seemed to be the band that cared about other people's opinions too much. Do you ever think about the people who'll listen to the music later?
Dickon: No, we don't really think about the audience. I know it sounds arrogant, but in the end as an artist the things you do, gotta be important to YOU.

Carsten: I think that's especially obvious when you play live. I never had the chance to attend one of your spectacular one-off shows, but when you're on tour you always seem to be somewhat bored, to be honest.
Dickon: We do like playing live, but we don't like six-month tours. That's like a circus and we feel like playing animals. You start losing track of why you do it at all. The live set picks itself really. At the moment it's all of the new albums plus a few old songs. After the second album we said: It makes no sense to say: 'We finished the album and now we're going on tour.' Now we write all the time, it's a continous process. Songs can grow over time. That's much better than saying: Okay, we gotta write and record an album within six months now.

Carsten: Can you name three records that you found inspiring lately?
Dickon: 1) Various: Nu Yorican Soul. It's a fusion of latin and funk from the 70s, a collection of a lot of New York artists, mostly instrumental, it's been out a couple of years now.
2) Ocho: Best Of. One of the artists off the 'Nu Yorican' compilation, more of the same stuff.
3) Sly And The Family Stone There's A Riot Going On. It's funny, I haven't listened to that album in years, but it's one of the classics you go back to at one point and then you play it nonstop for days, which is what I just have done.

Carsten: That fits in perfectly with my last question: Do you think the Tindersticks' music is timeless?
Dickon: Curtains for me isn't timless, cause it reminds me of a lot of things that happened around that time. Even the new one isn't timeless, cause it feels old to me now. Of course it's hard to say with something you've been involved in yourself. We never looked for the zeitgeist element though, it's not something we're thinking about at all.

Carsten: Thanks for your time, Dickon.

The new album will be released on August 30th on Quicksilver/Island, and the band will embark on a tour of Europe in September/October, preceeded by selected festival appearances, including a headlining spot at the E-Werk Cologne, for the grand opening of the Popkomm on August 18th.

Copyright © 1999 Carsten Wohlfeld e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Tindersticks article/review: Can our love....

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