Jason Persse for AOL Day two, week two, of the flame-broiled Coachella…
- Posted on Jun 9th 2011 10:30AM by Jenny Charlesworth
Marc Broussely, Redferns
Spinner spoke with singer-guitarist Steve Diggle about new music and old times, including 'borrowing' cocaine from Kurt Cobain while Buzzcocks were opening for Nirvana in 1994, a tour that would end abruptly with Cobain's overdose in Rome and subsequent suicide weeks later.
Why take these iconic tracks back to the studio for 'A Different Compilation'?
We've been touring round the last few years playing a lot of those tracks and we kind of play them with a lot more experience now, so we thought we'd get the live set down [on record]. It's a strange thing to do, to revisit the past, but having said that those songs have grown up with us, and we know them a bit better and play them better. It's almost like the first ones were the sketches and now we're completing the painting.
As far as future "sketches," are there more on the way? Fans have been waiting since 2006's 'Flat-Pack Philosophy' for a new Buzzcocks studio album.
That's the next step. We've got some new material which we'll be [recording by] the end of this year, 'cause we've got a lot of shows. There will be a Buzzcocks album out by next year.
You've been hard at work on your solo career, too, having released 'Air Conditioning' last year.
Sometimes songs don't come as easy as other times but over the last few years, it's just been flowing out. It's got little bits of different Buzzcock styles so it gives you a few more colours to your palette. It's a bit more personal, and a bit more political in a way. There's a track called 'Planet Star' that builds you the whole role of things from global warming to Jesus, Muhammad and Jews, the relationship of everything, the universe and the planet star. Things like that.
On the topic of the universe, what are your thoughts on all this Apocalypse stuff? Now Harold E Camping projects the world to end on October 21.
I didn't take it that seriously. I think you have to have hope. There's people saying these things all the time. The great thing about life is you never know what it's going to be like. It's like the weather, you can never predict. But the last thing we want to be thinking about is when it's going to end.
Buzzcocks toured with Nirvana in 1994 right before things ended for Kurt Cobain. Did you have any indication that he was in such a dark place and about to commit suicide?
We hung out all together, visiting all these places, walking around in the day time and stuff. And everything was cool then. But you can never really tell. He was a little insular within himself but he didn't seem out of order. He was trying to figure out a lot of things, how to deal with them. There were obviously a lot of things that he wasn't happy about or was questioning, which I kind of liked about his music. He seemed very passionate and troubled, but, generally, I didn't know he was going to blow his head off.
That tour was a great tour and it was a great lineup, Nirvana and Buzzcocks. It was a great time. The fact that he shot himself in the end, well, I don't know, you really have to meditate on it. But there's not much you can do when somebody is like that, you don't know when they're going to do it. But I have a lot of fond memories.
Doing two grams of coke is one of my famous stories with him. The first few days of the tour, we went on the tour bus and the tour manager was there and I said, "Where's the cocaine?" And the tour manager took out the coke and he went upstairs on the bus and I offered the coke to the other guys on the bus. So we did the lot and when Kurt comes downstairs he says, "Where's the coke, Steve?" I said, "F---, the coke! I offered it to everybody else." And good old Pat Smear, he said every time they said no, I did a line. And Kurt said, "Oh, God!" and I said, "Don't worry about it, when we get to London I'll sort it out." But of course we never made it.
Does it surprise you that Dave Grohl went on to front his own massively successful rock band, Foo Fighters?
I remember at the end of the tour I was sitting at a table with Dave for a little while and he said, "I've got a bunch of songs I'm going to record when I get back home." And you think, "Well, when you're in a band, everyone kind of has that on the go," and you think that will be okay. But f--- man! I didn't know it was going to be the Foo Fighters.
You once said the Buzzcocks formed because people weren't being entertained by music. Some would argue that's the case again today. Can you envision a band coming on the scene now that would be the type of game changer Buzzcocks and Nirvana were?
All the bands that have been before like that, for instance the Buzzcocks or Nirvana or the Sex Pistols, they all sort of come out of nowhere just when you're not expecting it. You have hope for that. But at the moment it doesn't look that way, and that has something to do with the finances of the corporate world. Music labels can't really afford to sign anybody up except lowest common denominator stuff. I'm looking for inspiration from newer bands but there don't seem to be that many about. Like I said, the record companies are not letting anything through unless its a product of Facebook.
People don't seem alive. Music is supposed to mean everything to your life and it doesn't seem that way at the moment. We need inspiration again. We need a revolution again in music, something that really just pricks your consciousness.
What were your first impressions after being introduced to your Buzzcocks bandmates back in 1976?
I was supposed to meet someone else, and [Buzzcocks frontman] Pete [Shelley] was waiting for somebody else from an ad in the paper, and so we all met by mistake. So strange fate brought us together. Then we rehearsed and it was like wow, it just seemed to instantly work, there was some magic about it. And the people we were supposed to meet, we never met them.
That's got to be hard on the guys who didn't show up, knowing that you all went on to form this legendary band.
I always wondered if they ever knew the full story of things. That guy called me and I called him the next day and said, "I've just met these other guys, let's meet in another week." And we never did. I don't know if he knew we went on to do the Buzzcocks; he would have been kicking himself for the rest of his life.
Buzzcocks play Calgary's Olympic Plaza on Friday June 24 as part of Sled Island.