“England’s greatest treasure – Mark E. Smith.”
CORRECT. The Fall founder and lead singer.
“I was just as excited to meet him as I was Bowie, but I was scared of Mark E. Smith because of his reputation. I thought he was going to nut me! And he was brilliant. He was dismissive of the journalist, but to me, he was sweet as anything. My favourite part was when he said: ‘Me and Gavin are exactly the same – both our bands do really well in America.’ It also meant a lot because it was a tricky beginning for us, so I didn’t know who was mad at us and who wasn’t. Looking back, it was a different time.”
On the subject of people who were mad at you, you had a weird ‘90s feud with Nirvana/Foo Fighters‘ Dave Grohl when he wore an anti-Bush T-shirt, implying you were a cash-grab band, and took a few shots at you in the press…
“[Laughs] Yeah, he wore a shirt which put the dollar sign through Bu$h – so we [the band and crew] later put similar dollar signs through our T-shirts. That was the gig I went up to Dave and said: ‘I don’t understand what the problem is. Isn’t any shades of your band [Nirvana] in us how it goes?’ I don’t sing like a hair-metal band like Poison, Mötley Crüe or Guns N’ Roses. I always thought grunge was just more aggressive post-punk music. There was never a cynical plan: as much as I loved the 4AD shoegaze bands, I never fell in love with their performances in the same way I did Perry Farrell. I always wanted the chaos of big guitars and people flying into cymbals, so it suited me to make music like that. I got into so much trouble for having what was seen as more of an American sound when – in the days of the louche cool of Suede in the UK – that was the most anti-commercial sound you could make.”
Water under the bridge, though, as you and Grohl ended up burying the hatchet…
“His daughters and my sons ended up going to the same school – like Fiddler on the Roof or something! – so I saw him at school assemblies for around five years. Dave’s one of those people who gets along with everyone, and we had a bit of a skid back in the day. The feud was obviously that Bush were doing well, Nirvana were dealing with Kurt [Cobain]’s death, and it was seen that there was a second-wave of that style of music [grunge] – and the first wave were mad at us, so it was inevitable, but it didn’t sustain for long. And I’ve recorded in his studio since and he’s been perfectly gracious to me.”
“It happens. You’re kids and say things. Me and Trent [Reznor, Nine Inch Nails] never used to get along and the other night we went to an immersive theatre dinner. You think: it was so stupid we had these bitchy exchanges back in the day.”