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The Big Interview: Guy Garvey

Jane Grimshaw natters with the often-spotted Guy Garvey as the curtain falls on Elbow...for now

Published on September 16th 2009.


The Big Interview: Guy Garvey

Since Elbow won the Mercury last year (with a lot less controversy than poor young Speech Debelle), it’s been a non-stop deluge of plaudits and parties for Guy Garvey.

“Mark is going to arrive on wires like Garth Brooks. We’re going to shoot Pete out of a cannon. Craig and Jupp have perfected the world’s first onstage head swop.”

And now there’s just one more to go: this Friday’s MEN Arena homecoming.

After so much flying about, even the most adrenaline-fuelled social butterfly might find their wings a bit tatty. Time to check out the wear-and-tear on Manchester’s current favourite rock son. We chat on the roof garden of Space on New Wakefield Street. Garvey sups a pear cider.

“It’s a strange feeling to have anything firm in music,” he says. “We won ten major awards for The Seldom Seen Kid. Our record company won marketing and A&R awards, and Craig [Potter – keyboards] won two producer awards. It’s as though every facet of the record has been celebrated. The best feeling now is that, whatever happens next, nobody can ever take that away.”

We stop for a moment as he graciously acknowledges the smart-arsed waiter who’s been bursting into an off-key “THROW THOSE CURTAINS WII-IIDE!” every time he’s been upstairs collecting glasses.

It’s all very flattering, but Garvey’s no doubt ready, after Friday, to go underground again. He’ll be starting to write the lyrics for Elbow’s fifth album – a process that will inevitably involve visiting the pub, in the age-old tradition of drinking and talking.

“Counselling isn’t a modern phenomenon,” he says. “Even if it is just going over your day with an old friend or discussing what’s in the news. Men, particularly in the North of England, form their opinions in pubs. Big ideas have always started in bar rooms – not all of them good.”

He’s not wrong. Hitler’s ‘New World Order’, pretty much his ‘To Do’ list, was drawn up in the back room of a pub called the New Order. But onto good things – Garvey names a few:

“I first met Pete [Turner – bass] in the Bull’s Head in Whitefield. My favourite band in the world, I Am Kloot, formed in the Night & Day Café. Our first gigs were in pubs. A kindly landlord in Bury called Jimmy used to let us play in the corner of his snug. We’d bring 15 to 20 mates who he wouldn’t allow to drink because they weren’t 18, and he’d drop them off in his van all over Manchester at the end of the night. The pub was called the Corner Pin and it was our first taste of performing.”

Good drinking company also matters. There’s nothing worse than being buttonholed by a random bore, even in your favourite bar. Of course (cue sax) that’s what friends are for

“I write a lot about friendships,” says Garvey. “Somebody pointed out recently that the ‘Love you, mate’ in the song ‘Friend of Ours’ was a very unusual example of open, platonic love between men. It’s a generational thing. I’m proud to kiss and hug my mates. Our American tour bus driver, initially taken aback by this, eventually shrugged his shoulders and said: ‘Bromance’.”

Bromance. Someone get me the address of the commissioner for BBC3. I can feel a pitch coming on.

Other releases on the horizon include a new Massive Attack record, which includes three songs penned by Garvey, and the new I Am Kloot album, The Sky at Night, which Garvey has co-produced with Elbow bandmate Craig Potter.

“It’s at the forefront of Elbow’s collective brain that because we’re an album band and they’re a dwindling species, we almost have an obligation to make sure that the shows that accompany the next record are big extravaganzas,” Garvey says. “Playing with the Hallé during Manchester International Festival was inspiring – not that we’d take an orchestra on tour. Imagine the amount of honey-roast nuts you’d need on the rider. But I am looking forward to drawing on our prog roots next time round.”

In the meantime, on Friday night, how are Elbow going to match up to 20-foot inflatable pigs à la prog masters Pink Floyd?

“Mark is going to arrive on wires like Garth Brooks. We’re going to shoot Pete out of a cannon. Craig and Jupp have perfected the world’s first onstage head swop. I’ll be spontaneously combusting during ‘One Day Like This’. It’s gonna be messy. But rock‘n’roll is.”

I’ll root out my poncho…

Elbow with support from Fiery Furnaces play MEN Arena (Hunts Bank, Manchester. 0844 847 8000) on Friday 18 September. Tickets from www.ticketmaster.co.uk

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17 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

HumptySeptember 16th 2009.

John, that's because you can't eat him. You love food I believe not music.

AnonymousSeptember 16th 2009.

Guy is a marvellous representative of the region. He is urbane and intelligent and knows, gruff it seems yet sensitive too. Lovely man

James ColeslawSeptember 16th 2009.

Elbow will epitomise my year cant wait to see them

johnthebriefSeptember 16th 2009.

Should I feel old, out of touch and past it because I have no idea who Guy Garvey is?

DonSeptember 16th 2009.

There goes Guy Garvey. Must remember to thank him...

DigSeptember 16th 2009.

Best Songwriters since Pink Floyd. I can't pay much more of a compliment than that. Been to see them twice and will be much more than 2 in the future. Got all their albums. If I didn't already have an Elbow on each arm I'd get a tattoo.

emma graceSeptember 16th 2009.

Makes me very proud to be a Bury/Whitefield lass!

mine's a pintSeptember 16th 2009.

A true gentleman, and a great ambassador for Manchester. Let's all raise a glass to Guy!

Trevor SimonsSeptember 16th 2009.

Emma Grace, you're calling that right girl. Simply wonderful.

HemmingwaySeptember 16th 2009.

You've hit the nail on the head there anon, it's that mix that's so appealing. It's refreshing in a city with a rep as much as for bands suchs as Oasis and the Mondays as The Smiths.

emma graceSeptember 16th 2009.

Was anyone else at Besitval? Elbow closed and the last song was One Day Like This. It was stunning, really beautiful end to the festival.

johnthebriefSeptember 16th 2009.

Maybe so but I did have the hottest date of anyone there

johnthebriefSeptember 16th 2009.

Nah I'm a music lover too, it's just I more or less stopped buying anything new in around 1990

Elena TremvlettSeptember 16th 2009.

The Halle and Elbow was the highlight of my Manchester gigging life. Superb technically and moving emotionally.

AvoSeptember 16th 2009.

Well given that I turned up without a date and went home alone smelling of offal and ripe cheese, I'll keep my gob shut.

AvoSeptember 16th 2009.

I can lay testament to that comment after seeing the state of your sartorial (in)elegances at the pot au feu night.

NickySeptember 16th 2009.

What a fantastic band my first taste was Castlefield and I rang everyone I know to tell them how fantastic this band were and they moved me so much, i took my six year old daughter and now she wants to come and see them, but she does complain as its the first album I put on when I get in from work.I took the CD on a road trip to Spain and even there it still moved me.After Castlefield I bought the albums and booked for the friday gig maybe a bit sad but I love them and Guy garvey is the man what a gentle giant looking forward to friday

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