Perfect Sound Forever


Danny Brown

A fast talk with Emily XYZ (August 1997)

Danny Goffey (drums) is one-fourth of the British 'power pop' group Supergrass, along with Gaz Coombes (guitar, vocals), Mickey Quinn (bass, backing vocals), and Rob Coombes (keyboards, synths). They've gotten alot of attention in Britain since their first album, I Should CoCo (cockney rhyming slang for 'I should say so!') was released on Parlophone/Capitol 3 years ago. With their new CD, In It for the Money, Supergrass seem now to making a dent in the US as well. I got this last-minute interview with Danny as their soundcheck was ending at 6 pm on Tuesday, July 29, 1997 at the Supper Club, New York, NY.

EX: I read a good piece on you guys in Melody Maker a few weeks ago, and one of the things that struck me was how you said you didn't start a band in order to get famous or have a big name or make a lot of money. So can you give me an idea why you DID start a band? I mean, if it were just for fun, you don't have to go to all this trouble... (indicates light and sound guys running around onstage)

DG: Well, I've never had a job at all. I've been doing music since I was about 10, in school and stuff. So we never had any idea about talking about the band, or people are gonna be working for us and stuff. We didn't really know much about it, we just instinctively played music. That's why we still do it, really. We just sort of have to deal with the situation that there's lots of people working with us and for us.

EX: The fact that it's now on a bigger scale, has it affected the way you see what you're trying to do as a band?

DG: Yeah, I suppose it has. It took a while to comprehend it all -- the amount of people and industry and record company stuff we have to deal with. We're still here to play music, and 'cause it's an easy way out of life as well! But we still really want to do MUSIC. We were really surprised by the success of the first album. We'd just done demo tapes, really, and made them into an album, so we were really surprised by it. We had to deal with success quite quickly.

EX: The first album sounded pretty punk-y. If you could put yourselves in a kind of continuum of British or Britsh and American pop music, would you think of yourselves as part of the whole punk 'lineage' or --

DG: No, I don't think we're hard enough to be punk rock! I dunno, at the time we did that, we were just the 3 of us in my bedroom or someone's house, just making -- we played really hard and just made loads of noise. Most of our early songs were just 3-chord grooves and stuff that was fun to play. So that's why the first album sounded so 'punky,' I think -- it's just 'cause we were all used to playing in this small room and it being really loud, so we just made the album sound like that.

EX: What would you say is the difference between the first album and the album you just put out?

DG: Well, we produced the 2nd album on our own, so... If we'd produced the first album, it would've sounded a bit different, so you probably would have been able to hear everything more. I don't know, I suppose we grew up a bit.

EX: What's it like being a very traditional rock 4-piece in an increasingly electronica world?

DG: It's nice, really. I've talked to friends in bands like The Prodigy and stuff and they're into our band, I've heard them say in interviews that they liked our band. We're not like one of those guitar bands that don't have anything in common [with electronica] at all. I used to go raving all the time and stuff like that, and be quite into dance music, that's probably why I play the drums so energetically. And we, y'know, we use computers -- we use 3 electronic keyboards and there's one weird Roland that does mad, mad sounds. We quite like creating stuff where you actually play it while there's all this machinery doing it -- it just makes you feel good. It's like painting pictures.

EX: This is not your first time in the US, is it?

DG: No, we've been here about...5 times? The first time we toured for about 3 and a half months. I don't think the record company sold our album that well the first time, we weren't a priority band. So we did those tours and kind of got a bit of underground people, especially in New York, we've got a following -- which is weird, an 'underground' band on Capitol records!

EX: So what's happened on this trip that's memorable?

DG: Lots of things, really...There's 10 blokes on one bus driving round America, so.... We had 3 days off in San Francisco, that was nice.

EX: Is that where you're coming from now?

DG: No, we came from Toronto, we were there last night. It's quite good there, they've just passed a law that lets women go topless legally, walking down the's their choice!

EX: (laughing) For any particular reason, or just if they want to?

DG: Yeah, it's their choice. Men can walk on the street topless, so women can. It's a bit dodgy...

EX: Now, that's the same Toronto that 40 or 50 years ago required women to wear skirts downtown when they would go shopping.

DG: Really?

EX: Yeah. They used to have kind of a dress code in Canada. I'm from upstate New York and I remember my parents telling me. So you've been in the States how long now?

DG: Um...3 weeks.

EX: 3 weeks so far, and how much more to go?

DG: 2 days.

EX: Oh, so this is almost it!

DG: Yeah, 2nd-last gig. We play Providence tomorrow.

EX: OK, well, I guess that's all...

DG: Comin' to the gig?

EX: Yeah, yeah! Take it easy. Nice to meet you.


Band photo

English boys must get garage-rock in their mother's milk. If not quite effortless, this music sure comes natural to the Supergrassers, which is a major part of the band's charm. Their high-energy, power-punk songs all have that gorgeous guitar/drums axis and that lush familiarity -- the 'where-have-I-heard-this-before' factor, I call it -- that can lead to elation in the crowd and records on the charts.

Supergrass fits the mold with such facility, though, that it's a little worrisome in terms of the band's future. After a while, one wonders where are the surprise twists and turns that make the formula more than just a formula. Their songs tend to fall into samey-ness, using rhythms you can practically buy at the supermarket, and too often just die out rather than ending with the conviction they started with. The result is a sense of unfinished business; it's not that they aren't 'trying'; it's more like for them, the thrill is in stealing and jump-starting the car, not actually taking it anywhere.

Supergrass is not musically inept -- Gaz is a passionate and inventive guitarist, clearly the composer of most of the material, Mickey's bass has a nice, elemental musicality, and Danny is a dyed-in-the-wool rocker -- but they need to take a few more musical chances. Sometimes the first idea is NOT the best. Of the keyboards, the less said the better.

Supergrass at this stage of the game reminds me a little bit of the Clash before they metamorphosed (some would say derailed) from the no-chaser punk of 'Janie Jones' to the wide open spaces of 'London Calling.' They clearly have the requisite fuel for igniting a bigger fire, and certainly Gaz's face makes up for a world of musical shortcomings...but it won't forever, and anyway, I think this band is capable of greater things. For now, they're clearly enjoying their stay in the garage, but it will be interesting to see which doors -- if any -- they decide to exit by.