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The Sound - Interview (Jamming 10-5-1984)

date: May 10, 1984


 

THE SOUND interviewed by Jamming 

Are you depressed when you write? 

ADRIAN BORLAND: Depends what the song is, really. No, no, I'm not depressed. I can't write any more when I'm depressed - I used to be able to and I think that explains the certain element of gloominess that came out in the final song. 

Was that a sense of catharsis, trying to exorcise the depression? 

ADRIAN BORLAND: Yes, I would say songwriting is exorcism. We're never totally depressing. We're not a depressing band - we're only depressing compared to all the other bands that are so trivial and happy, but I think our music totally reflects the lyrics. Often in a way that provides a slight irony or provides a backwash of hope to a gloomy lyric. People go to a film or read a book and they're quite prepared to have an emotional experience out of that, they WANT to come out feeling an emotion, yet that so rarely happens when they go to see a band - and I think we get closer to putting that over than any band I know. Like, great literature has often got very very sad elements to it and very poignant points to make with cruel ironies - but people don't want to hear that in their little beat music. I don't see why not -maybe it comes from the whole pop culture and the fab four. 

On 'Longest Days', there's a line 'hope was the worst thing I could get from anyone' - that sounds really pessimistic! 

ADRIAN BORLAND: (Horrified) No! It isn't . . . no, no. It's more like I'd really like to know where I stand'. Hope, to me, implies doubt. You say I hope that happens . . .' I don't mean that hopefulness is the worst thing. 

If there's one thing worse than a hopeless romantic, it's a hopeful romantic. 

ADRIAN BORLAND: Who wrote that? 

I think it was Julie Burchill, though probably it originated from Joan Didion or someone clever. 

ADRIAN BORLAND: Oh my god - that's exactly what I want to say! 

Love Is Not A Ghost' - is that a reference to the Theatre Of Hate song, 'Love Is A Ghost'? 

ADRIAN BORLAND: What Theatre Of Hate song? My god, you're kidding! I was sitting in a bar in Amsterdam and there was this phrase 'Love is a ghost' written on the wall and I didn't know what it was and I wondered who the hell was writing such poetic things on walls in Amsterdam. I just thought it was someone writing it out of desperation one night. But my immediate reaction was, no love is not a ghost and what a great title for a song! Mind you 'Love Is A Ghost' is a great title too! I honestly didn't know about this... 

Of all the new wave lyricist/vocalists around, I'd most put my trust in Adrian Borland of The Sound. Less willfully obscure than lan McCulloch or Howard Devoto, more passionately personal than either Julian Cope or Pete Shelley, and more courageously direct than Paul Weller . . . Borland is a classic composer next to whom only Elvis Costello can compare. He has the voice; the passion, the frailty and determination to carry your heart away on a tidal wave of anguish then sweep you up again in a tempest of pure invigoration. More convincing and less blustery than too many of our new-found chart heroes. The Sound nevertheless fit snugly into the r'n'r box, a too-comfy frame which they use to alternately startle and soothe. 

So how does it feel to be compared to "the new rock invasion" of Big Country and the Alarm - do you see any links there? 

ADRIAN BORLAND: I don't know why, but it seems to fall on us to be compared with whoever is big at the time, which is a bit disconcerting, especially after four years. Comparing us with other bands doesn't seem to have any musical premise. They're comparing us with the Smiths now, which I think is ridiculous. We were never afraid to use bass, drums and guitar to create the essence of The Sound, and we still aren't, but they just look to the nearest convenient thing, which at the moment is U2, Big Country and the Alarm. But if you're always getting asked about another band that you really don't think you have anything in common with, then it gets on your nerves. So, yeah it's starting to ring hollow after four years because we've been doing this for the last four, five, six years. Do you see what I mean? 

Which similarities do you see? 

ADRIAN BORLAND: A basic rock noise. 

Are there any comparisons you find valid? 

ADRIAN BORLAND: If you want to put British rock music in a bag, then yeah it's all valid. But if you want to look at the individual subtleties of a given band, then none of it is. I can understand it though - there's no point in comparing us to Pink Floyd or Eurythmics. But I would rather be compared with Eurythmics, though, because I think Eurythmics are about good songs done well, and that's the kind of comparison I'm after. 

Do you believe your songwriting is getting consistently better? 

ADRIAN BORLAND: I think it's less contrived now. But I don't write songs because I have to, I write them when I'm feeling like it. I don't think I've lost anything- I write more now that means something to me than I did around the time of 'Jeopardy'. 

Do you feel before that you were speaking on behalf of a generation? 

ADRIAN BORLAND: I tried to - 'From The Lion's Mouth' is the epitome of that, I was trying to say something that people could relate to. If you're a songwriter, you do sometimes wonder what you should be saying, you wonder if you've got a duty, but I don't feel that now so much. ' Did you want to be the spokesman for a generation? No ...I didn't, I honestly didn't, although probably momentarily it was appealing.' Sometimes I looked at Paul Weller, and I'd think there must be something else to say, and in that sense, that's what goes into my songs . . . (pause) I think generations need more than one spokesman! I mean, one person -what do they know on their own? And that's the limitation of what I do when I write anything socially aware - it will cut through to some people while others will think I'm a wanker. That's probably the way people think about Paul Weller too. 

How good do you think you are? 

ADRIAN BORLAND: Better than nearly everyone else, which is quite good. (Ah, this is the sort of interview I like -where the subject is not only courageous and talented, but agrees with my own point of view. Bliss!) 

Who is there who is better than you? 

ADRIAN BORLAND: Usually it's occasional songs by different bands, things like 'Up On The Catwalk' by the Simple Minds, which I like to play really loud in my headphones late at night - and that's really evoking something that we never do, it's got a sort of power and a sense of themselves, a courage, which I don't always have, but it's not actually a better-crafted song than what we do. And I really think 'Here Comes The Rain Again' by Eurythmics is a very good song and there are certain other things on 'Touch' that I like as well . . . 

What inspired 'Golden Soldiers' and Winter'? 

ADRIAN BORLAND: Those songs are from different periods in my life, and when I feel those emotions, I'm not afraid to put them down. No matter how extreme they are. I'm sure- and this is what I'm totally sure about and is what gives me the courage to get up there and do it - that if everyone was honest about themselves, that they too felt like that sometimes, that they too felt as strong as I do in 'Golden Soldiers' . . . or as weak as 'Winter' or 'Longest Days'. I'm trying to make people feel more comfortable with themselves. I'm trying to make them feel that someone else feels the same way-but maybe this doesn't apply to everyone and that's the difference between a person who's a fan of the Sound and a person who isn't. All you have to do is feel something really extremely and you'll like at least one of our songs - you may not like the others though! I don't blame people who only like half of our material. Our songs are there for consuming and I'm not asking people to love everything we do, they can take whatever they want from our records because all I'm saying is what I feel and I'm not afraid to say it. 

Ok, did you feel misunderstood at the title of 'All Fall Down'? 

ADRIAN BORLAND: No. We got all we deserved - it was a perverse album. The idea was to break away from the idea of me as spokesman and to shatter the illusion of seriousness around us. And we didn't even achieve that because it ended up being the heaviest thing we'd done... And the most disappointing, not to mention pointless. I have to admit that Adrian Borland can be ordinary at times, just like us all. The third Sound LP was crushingly ordinary and it made me sad. But amid the plodding tracks of over-stretched pretension and dead-end lost directions, there were some gems of melodic heartache. Listening to 'All Fall Down' again recently, I noticed the only tracks I like -'Party Of The Mind' and especially 'Monument'-were written by Adrian alone whereas the rest were group compositions. 

How were the band songs written - as jams or what? 

ADRIAN BORLAND: They were done in rehearsal, evolving from experiments. It's us making a Sound-noise, which is how the Bunnymen write, they make a Bunny-noise. We just tried it out, you know? Why not? It was a risk we took that didn't quite work. It was an attempt to exaggerate the emotions musically, like film music. But I shouldn't condemn 'All Fall Down' so heavily, because I'm as much a part of it as they are-but Graham and Max put a lot more into 'All Fall Down' than they did into 'From The Lion's Mouth' - they were trying to make our songs more interesting aurally and make a more exciting record to follow 'From The Lion's " Mouth' which was an album of songs done in avery simple way. I think I went wrong by joining in with the experimentation when I should have been concentrating on the chord-changes and the lyrics. I feel I let them down by not coming up with ten really great songs. 

Basically, it could be that you're just too chubby to be popular! 

ADRIAN BORLAND: Too chubby to be popular - exactly. I'd look awful in a video. I wish I was thinner, of course I do- I wish I looked like lggy Pop or David Bowie because I could still be honest with myself. But if it's really come down to that, if it really has come down to what you look like, then I don't even want to know. I might as well give up. 

Would you rather be an honorable failure then? 

ADRIAN BORLAND: Well, I'm not trying to be successful - that's when things get hollow, when you're calculated and contrived. I don't think we're a failure. Apart from the failure of people to find out we're here - they're the failures! If people don't discover The Sound, they're the ones who have lost out. There's something in our music that's not meant to be liked by everyone. I just wouldn't believe it if we were massively popular and admired and respected by everyone, because I know there are certain things I'd want to say that these people really wouldn't want to hear. And if they could gloss over what we're saying, then we wouldn't have stated our case very well. But I'm not trying to get lost in myself. It's very difficult sometimes to go on a stage and sing all those songs in a row, because they're often totally opposite in mood and meaning. 

Look, I'm not saying The Sound are the best band in the world, only that - for me--Adrian writes and sings the most emotional songs that touch my life more often than anyone else I know. This article is not a command, just a signpost for those searching. You don't have to listen to Adrian and me: we've been ignored before. 

Is it important for you to be successful, or is the striving, the struggle more vital? 

ADRIAN BORLAND: The struggle is important in everyone's life, because to give up is surrender. I do see why people give up and l wouldn't say they're wrong, maybe they can't see the point any more. I haven't reached that stage yet. I still think we're one of the only rock bands in the world playing intelligent, emotional rock music. 

(Jamming 10-5-1984)

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