Ham&High Podcast: Six Music and Menswear’s Matt Everitt on 25 years since Britpop
PUBLISHED: 18:12 13 August 2020
Fiona Hanson/PA/Wikimedia Commons/Wilcock/PA
It is 25 years since the musical scene known as ‘Britpop’ mounted an assault on the charts. For this week’s Ham&High Podcast, André Langlois speaks to Matt Everitt, who not only drummed for one of the defining bands of the era, Menswear, but through his role as journalist for 6 Music has seen the key figures emerge from the whirlwind that was Camden in the mid-90s.
On Monday August 14, 1995, when staff at HMV, Our Price, Tower Records, Virgin Megastore and hundreds of independent record shops were stocking the shelves with CD and cassette singles, there were only two releases anybody was talking about.
Whoever was the true driving force behind Blur and Oasis going head to head with the releases of Country House and Roll With It, as a publicity stunt it was a masterstroke. Blur won the battle, hitting the top spot, but both went on to even greater stardom.
Though not from north London originally, the bands, like many before and since, had gravitated towards Camden’s venues, pubs and indie discos.
BBC 6 Music’s Matt Everitt was one such musical migrant. From the Midlands originally, he arrived in London shortly after the 1993 release of Blur’s Modern Life Is Rubbish – a record that almost destroyed the band but instead set a template for much of what was to come.
Matt would go on to play in front of audiences of thousands with Menswear, but initially, he says, he just wanted to be part of Camden’s indie scene.
“It’s where everybody drank, as has always been thus and probably will always be to a greater or lesser extent,” he says. “Everybody went to certain pubs. You went to the Falcon, which is now gone, because that’s where you saw bands play; you went to The Water Rats, which is still there; and you drank in The Good Mixer because that’s where you could spot Madness and Morrissey...
“It was an interconnected chain of pubs where hopefully you could maybe see somebody from Chapterhouse and that was an incredibly big deal at the time. Wow, the bass player from Chapterhouse! Crikey.
“It felt approachable because you could just go to a pub and see people there. Traditionally, with bands you saw on Top Of the Pops, you never see them in the pub. You’d never see Wham! in a pub.”
Though they were already enjoying huge success, the ‘Battle of Britpop’ helped propel Blur and Oasis to genuine stardom.
Camden may have been the musical epicentre, but at various times key players set up home in Primrose Hill, Hampstead and Highgate, followed everywhere by a tabloid pantomime.
But one of the interesting things about Britpop is quite how many different bands found chart success (between 1995 and 1998, 10 Shine compilations were released, sitting in the racks next to the established Now That’s What I Call Music.... series).
Pulp released Common People in May 1995 and a Glastonbury headlining slot (after the Stone Roses pulled out) was a defining moment for both Britpop and for Glastonbury.
Supergrass, Ash, Elastica, Sleeper, Shed Seven, Cast, Dodgy, Echobelly and Longpigs could all be fairly described as part of the Britpop scene and racked up multiple hits. And there are plenty more. Menswear, in many ways, were the archetypal Britpop band.
They formed in The Good Mixer, wore sharp suits and sharer haircuts, played angular guitar pop and were signed amid a barrage of hype. “It happened incredibly quickly,” says Matt. “I have very mixed feelings about...I think it’s a good thing. We did a couple of rehearsals, we got four songs together, we did our first gig at a place called the Amersham Arms, in East London, under a different name because the hype had got that much at that point.
“There were already five labels there who wanted to sign us.”
He continues: “Then we did a gig following that at a nightclub called Smashing (at Eve’s, in Regent Street) which was kind of Britpop’s answer to Studio 54. And we did another six songs there and we got record deals thrown at us.
“And what’s brilliant about that is that it sets you on a certain course, and that epitomises that idea of Britpop - the overindulgence, the arrogance and attitude that comes with it being that easy, and the rocket taking off. It’s very young, it’s exciting, we dress a certain way and look pretty cool, but that also means you have no idea what it’s actually like to really be in a band so when things start to go wrong...you’re not prepared for how difficult it can be.”
At the time, the NME and Melody Maker weekly music papers were hugely influential, as were radio show’s such as Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley’s The Evening Session. Menswear got a lot of publicity very quickly with singles such as Daydreamer and Being Brave.
Matt says there was also a lot of support from the other bands in Camden.
“Graham (Coxon, Blur), was enormously helpful at the start of Menswear. He was very good friends with Stuart (Black, bass), Chris (Gentry, guitar) and Johnny (Dean, vocals) - in fact Stuart played trumpet with Blur on stage at some of the first big gigs they did - and provided a floor for Chris and Johnny to sleep on in Camden and was really supportive and really helpful.
“The same for Pulp - all those guys - I don’t know why they took us under their wing but they gave us support slots with them, in Pulp’s case we toured with them. I don’t know whether they thought we were funny, or just liked us, but they were incredibly helpful.
“And then, us being the arrogant, fame-crazed d*ckheads that we were, we kind of dismissed their help and became a little ungrateful, which is something I feel quite bad for because they’re such nice people.
“Jarvis was always Jarvis. Jarvis is exactly the same now as he was then. Graham is just as lovely. I think he’s sort of found himself now... Some people aren’t suited to that amount of attention. He’s a musician, first and foremost. “Damon was always a bit separate from everything...not in a stand-offish way but I think he was a bit more wary of a lot of the shenanigans.”
He says Noel Gallagher was very friendly but that he was a bit more wary of Liam who, he says, to this day greats him in the street with an “alright Menswear”.
“Liam was just terrifying. Liam was really, genuinely menacing,” he says.
“You could feel this presence. He would prowl around the place, backstage at festivals.”
Matt clearly looks back on those days with a great fondness, although it has taken a while to get that perspective.
He was fired from the band in 1996 and although he feels he was a bit of a scapegoat at the time, he admits: “I was more focused on the fun bit of being in a band, which Menswear were very good at doing, and the actual of working at being in a band: ‘If it’s that easy, why should I rehearse an extra four hours?’”
But this year the original line-up have become friends again and October will see the release of The Menswear Collection, a career-spanning 4-CD box set, which will include ¡Hay Tiempo! (meaning, perhaps ironically, ‘there’s time!’)- the second album which was only ever released previously in Japan.
Matt is clearly excited about the release but, Covid or no Covid, live dates to follow seem less likely.
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“A bit of me would like to do a gig on the roof of The Good Mixer, like the Beatles, on Savile Row, unannounced and no one could see us because we’ll be on the roof. I’d quite like to do that because I think it would be funny. Whether we’d all get in a room to play, just for the fun of it, I don’t know,” Matt says.”But a full reunion - I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
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