Two artists, one conversation. Personality Clash: bringing like minds together since 2004.
Andy Burrows vs. Glenn Tilbrook
Best known as the drummer from that notorious indie band Razorlight, and with a number one album already under his belt, Burrows decided to fly the nest last year. He has since played with We Are Scientists and embarking on new solo project I Am Arrows.
Part of seminal power pop band Squeeze, and with a canon of hits including ‘Cool For Cats’ and ‘Up The Junction’, Tilbrook is a British musical institution in his own right. Following a lengthy split, Squeeze have recently reformed and are in the process of writing new material.
Andy met Glenn for a pint to discuss writing, drinking and tumultuous relationships…
Andy: My first question is about writing: have you always found that you’re more productive if you’re hidden away?
Glenn: Yes, since Chris [Difford] and I have been writing together we always work separately, but now when Squeeze is recording I just like to get on with it. In the studio I have now I can set up with a band playing and do everything as live as possible – I like the old fashioned thing of actually working out an arrangement and going at it and at it until you get it right. There’s something really magical about the process, the interaction with people and getting that done. It’s much more satisfying than ten perfect overdubs.
Andy: So, how does it feel now Squeeze are fully back together?
Glenn: It feels really good. We’ve taken it very carefully and slowly and it’s not full time. I’m of the opinion that unless we come up with something brilliant, I don’t want to do it. I would rather be selling more records than I am already but on the other hand I’m free to make whatever kind of music I want, it’s like a hobby career and my live work subsidises making records. The whole business model has been changed.
Andy: Yes, although the record industry is not the most morally correct thing, it’s been harder for writers to make a living from writing songs. What was it like to be making music when the industry was thriving?
Glenn: We had a five-year period when we did an album a year and we were touring all over the place. It was mental and the only time in my life I actually stopped liking music was then, plus we all hated each other!
Andy: Was it drugs as well as booze?
Glenn: I went through everything in the Eighties. I can identify with myself up until I was twenty-two, that’s it.
Andy: So was the coming out of that a conscious decision?
Glenn: A bit of both, I had a bad marriage, took a lot of drugs and realised it was going nowhere. I came out of the other side and I’m now the person I am now. In 1989 I met Keith Richards when I was on holiday in Antigua and I spontaneously jammed with him. The penny dropped that he wasn’t playing for any other reason than the fact that he just loved music. But I could also identify with Ted, a seventy-year-old musical entertainer who lived on Leigh High Road, as I realised that the defining thing was being comfortable in my shoes.
Andy: I’ve never done drugs but I was definitely drinking far too much a few years ago… What’s your relationship with Chris like?
Glenn: We operate on different levels and it’s taken me quite a while to understand that so we’re careful around each other.
Andy: How did you meet?
Glenn: He put an advert in a sweet shop window for a guitarist and I was the only one that replied. So we’d been writing songs separately and lyrically I didn’t even come close, but I had more top tunes, so it happened quite naturally. I’ve known him since I was fifteen and I’m fifty-two now so it’s an amazing wadge of life to experience with someone and you can’t work with someone for that length of time without knowing them really well. But there’s a real warmth to our relationship now.
Andy: Is that a recent thing?
Glenn: There hasn’t been any warmth for a long time, because we never had a chance to reposition ourselves throughout the whole relationship. Even when Squeeze split up Chris and I stayed together working until ’98. We didn’t speak for a few years and I realised that Chris has been dragging his heels the whole time and that suddenly I was free of all of that. I could go out and do what I wanted to, take a step back and say all of this to Chris. When we split up the thought of writing lyrics was a nightmare, so daunting. But now I couldn’t do without it, that feeling of expressing yourself it is great. It’s like a muscle: the more you do it, the more different things you can tackle…
Andy’s solo project is called I Am Arrows – their debut album ‘Sun Comes Up Again’ is out now.
Squeeze will be on a twenty-two date UK tour in November and December. Glenn and Chris Difford will be in the studio this summer.
Clash Magazine Issue 53