Q&A: Chris Difford of Squeeze
Scheduled to play both editions of this month's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the English pop band Squeeze is intrigued by the idea of playing the annual California event.
"I've never played a festival in America before," lyricist/guitarist Chris Difford said. "We play festivals in the U.K. almost every year. To play one in America, is going to be fascinating. So it's not too different, but it will be in the desert, so it will be extremely hot."
This year, Coachella is two weekends, with the first half hitting Indio, CA, last weekend. It continues April 20. Squeeze -- touring the U.S. to support its new CD, "Live at the Fillmore," which will be released on iTunes April 17 -- next performs at the festival on April 21.
Friends Difford and Glenn Tilbrook formed Squeeze as teenagers in the South London scene of the 1970s. Championed early on by the Velvet Underground's John Cale, who produced its debut EP, "Packet Of Three," Squeeze established its position as one of Britain's most beloved bands with 1979's "Cool For Cats."
Squeeze landed on U.S. shores in the late 1970s but never achieved the massive success it deserved in this country. Nonetheless, Difford and Tilbrook produced a slew of memorable tunes such as the aforementioned "Cool for Cats," the band's breakthrough hit "Tempted," "Black Coffee in Bed" and "Hourglass."
Difford spoke to SoundSpike about the forthcoming "Live at the Fillmore," the "superficial" music industry and the timelessness of Squeeze's music.
SoundSpike: I'm looking forward to Live at the Fillmore. How does it sound?
Chris Difford: It sounds fantastic. Bob Clearmountain has mixed the record and it sounds pretty amazing.
How do you prepare for a live recording? Do you prepare any differently than a "normal" concert?
No, when we recorded it we didn't tell anybody in the band we were doing it. We just recorded it and it happened to be a fantastic show. It really made sense. I think if you pour over live recordings to spend too much time on them, they lose the essence of what you're trying to do.
I can imagine. Have you been working on new material yet?
I'm writing lyrics all the time and I believe Glenn is working on a couple ideas. We're taking it very gently. But I'm hoping we'll have some new music by the end of this year.
That'll be great. You said you're writing all the time?
That's what I do. I'm constantly working lyrically. It's a good time for Squeeze to have a new record. I know that sometimes you can be judged on your past. In this instance, I don't think our past really is why we would be making a new album.
Why is this a good time?
Because I think we don't have the constraints of a record label. The industry has completely changed. We can put out the record any way that we want to, really. I think I was listening to the radio today about Madonna's new album, saying it's gone to No. 1 in England, which is her 11th album that's gone to No. 1, which beats Elvis Presley. But Elvis Presley sold millions of albums and Madonna's only sold 60,000. So the industry has completely changed. It's superficial in some ways.
It must be nice to have that sort of freedom, as opposed to having the constraints of record label.
Some of the constraints of a record label are quite constructive because you have to work to a time line. When you don't have that, you work on it in a very different way. We'll discover what that way will be when and if the record gets done.
This morning I was driving my husband to work and I heard "Tempted" on the radio. It sounded timeless.
We're very lucky actually -- thank you -- the production of our records has always been timeless. We've never followed the production of any era we've happened to be in, with the exception of one record, I think. We're very lucky in that respect.
How do you think Squeeze would fare if it formed today?
I think it would be more challenging today than it was then. I think it would have been pretty hard work. It was pretty hard work when we started back in '79. But it was a different kind of passion in those days musically. It seems like it to be, anyway. It's an art form that has changed completely like songwriting. Songwriting used to be revered as something very special -- Carole King, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Jackson Browne. Those kinds of people would write songs and they wouldn't really think through people's imaginations and be part of a timeline of history. The kids that I see today and the music that they're making, I don't hear any of that.
Is there anybody that you do really care for that are out right now?
Well, it's mostly singer/songwriters, to be honest. The commercial side of the industry is fairly bland. But then you get a band like R.E.M. and a band like Radiohead and they very much have always pushed the boundaries for their music. I think that's what you have to do.
What can we expect from your show this time around?
It'll be a combination of hits and album tracks from our past. That's all I know, really. I don't think anyone will come away disappointed. It'll be the music that people have [bought] tickets for.
18 - Napa, CA - Uptown Theatre
19 - San Francisco, CA - The Fillmore
21 - Indio, CA - Empire Polo Club (Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival)
23 - Englewood, NJ - Bergen Performing Arts Center (with The English Beat)
25 - Red Bank, NJ - Count Basie Theatre (with The English Beat)
26 - Munhall, PA - Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead (with The English Beat)
27 - Baltimore, MD - Rams Head Live! (with The English Beat)
28 - New York City, NY - Roseland Ballroom
19 - Hampton Court Palace Festival
9 - Cropredy, England - Cropredy Festival
16 - Guildford, England - G Live
17 - Cambridge, England - Corn Exchange
19 - Bristol, England - Colston Hall
20 - Plymouth, England - Plymouth Pavilions
21 - Brighton, England - Brighton Dome
23 - Bournemouth, England - O2 Academy Bournemouth
24 - Reading, England - Reading Hexagon
26 - Cardiff, Wales - St. David's Hall
27 - Folkestone, England - Leas Cliff Hall
28 - Southend, England - Cliffs Pavilion
30 - Birmingham, England - Symphony Hall
1 - Manchester, England - O2 Apollo
2 - Sheffield, England - O2 Academy Sheffield
4 - Leeds, England - O2 Academy Leeds
5 - Nottingham, England - Royal Concert Hall
6 - Norwich, England - Norwich U.E.A.
8 - Newcastle, England - Newcastle City Hall
9 - Glasgow, Scotland - O2 Academy Glasgow
10 - Liverpool, England - Philharmonic Hall
12 - London, England - HMV Forum
13 - London, England - O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
14 - London, England - IndigO2 at the O2