Q&a Gaz Coombes - on going solo, his own 'basement tapes', Supergrass, the influence of Duncan Jones' Moon & more

Q&a Gaz Coombes - on going solo, his own 'basement tapes', Supergrass, the influence of Duncan Jones' Moon & more

gazcombesWhat do you do when you decide to call time on your successful band? For former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes it was obvious, retreat to his basement at home. However this was no retreat from reality, as when he emerged again he did so with his debut solo album Gaz Coombes Presents... Here Comes The Bombs (we probably should have mentioned he has a studio in his basement), which is released on Monday (21 May). In this week's Q&a he discusses the new record, breaking up his old band, writing songs from the point of view of a bomb and why he's one of the few men in Britain to actually finish a DIY project at home. How the devil are you? "I'm alright, thank you very much. All's good, just getting into the swing of things after spending all of last year down the rabbit hole, as it were. I've finally emerged from my adventures and realised I've got to play the record to people. It's an exciting but freaky time! I don't think I've felt this confident about music I've written for a long time. It's the best stuff I've written for a long time."

What happened after Supergrass ended, did you go straight into making a solo album or did you take time off? "After the split it was a couple of months of messing around, hanging out with the kids and having a holiday, but really it's been a continuation. The only difference between now and then is I've got a permanent studio set up at my house. It's a decent set-up, so I just started going down there to write and record. The birth of it was a pretty quick thing really. I didn't know it was going to be a full album for a while. It was just writing, recording and just seeing what would happen - messing around with weird sounds. But after three or four songs I realised, I'm on my way to an album here!"

What did you have in mind for the music? Be consciously different to your old band? Unleash the inner Gaz? "I don't know what it was. I think it's important not to have a big master plan. I think I knew it was an opportunity for me to write things I really wanted to write, both lyrically and musically, and explore areas that I hadn't got into in the past. Having no band to record with was a weird one. At one point I was thinking about getting guest musicians but I was more preoccupied with the songs I'd written and getting them down as soon and as spontaneously as possible. So for the good of the songs I didn't wait for some special guest to come around."

Band relationships can be about the chemistry and how that filters into the music they make, so did you feel freer to express your ideas with this record? "I don't necessarily feel - apart from maybe at the end of the band - there was any holding back. It's just the dynamics the four of us had was a unique thing and it produced what we did with Supergrass. The split was good for all of us and I was interested to see what everyone would do. Let's see what happens. It was just a case of not being happy with the studio stuff, so we called it day to see what new adventures we could have."

Is it difficult then as a solo artist to still talk about Supergrass? Look, we're doing it now... "Er yeah... but then it's a different thing. I don't know how much I can talk about Supergrass, but I'm aware people will make comparisons if they want to. I was the singer my voice was there, so there's going to be comparisons. For me it's a brand new thing. I'd love people to hear it and hear where I was at."

What was different then about this record for you? "It was starting the songs that was in a different place from what I would have done. It was big thing for me not to repeat the techniques or approaches and try something new. I've done a lot of recording by myself over the years on things that would lead to Supergrass songs and I always loved the vibe on those, so I knew I had my own style which I wanted to make more of. Also I wanted to make something that felt rooted in 2012 and not be influenced as much by Bowie, The Who and other music that I was into. I was more into soundtracks and mixing that with more contemporary sounds. I love the vibe of the old and the new. Mixing old analogue synths with drum programming. It's really interested me."

Lyrically, things seem to be a bit different too... "It's just snapshots of life. Often it's very observational, but you just see things and feel an instinctive emotion about that. Elements of the record touch loosely on war, identity and isolation. Different things hit me from different areas. Seeing footage day after day on the news, whether it was Libya or Afghanistan, and then having my kids ask me questions about it, I realised it's become part of our lives. I'm not an expert at all, I'm just talking about it from my point of view. Quite often it's one of those weird light bulb moments, you think: Isn't that fucking bizarre? I had this notion of describing things from a bomb's point of view, travelling through the air not through its own want, yet destined for mass destruction. We are quite distanced from it. We see all that aerial footage of bombs falling and then no idea of what's happening down there. It sounds kind of heavy but it's not. It's more a snapshot of something that is really weird in many ways."

It's not all talking bombs? "There's lots of metaphors: things like travelling through space or sleeping giants waking-up. Waking-up and having more clarity was a metaphor for my mid 20s when I felt a bit lost. I know it's cheesy but I think my first child had a big effect, like the missing piece. So I'm using metaphors to tell that and bringing in my love of things like 2001: A Space Odyssey or Duncan Jones' Moon. I thought that was brilliant."

As you recorded at home did you know when you'd finished, or did you have to be stopped from twiddling more knobs? "There was a fair bit of twiddling going on towards the end, but there was a point when I knew I had to let it go. I knew it was done and that was a great feeling! Getting the first promo copy with the artwork was a great moment and equally realising I hadn't lost that joy of hearing it on the radio for the first time. I didn't even hear it! Someone told me it was on and I was excited. I can still remember the first time a [pre Supergrass band] Jennifers song was played on the radio. I've not lost that."

You must be one of the few men whose 'project in the basement' has actually come to fruition. No abandoned DIY projects for Gaz Coombes? "I know! I did surprise myself in many ways. I can procrastinate at times, so to get it done was great."

Here's the Beady Eye question, will you play any songs from your old band live? "No! Er... No. Well who knows in the future, but at the moment this is the record and that's what we're doing live, though not in order. Hopefully we'll expand it with other new songs in the future. So who knows, 12 months down the line, if it feels right to do a couple of odd versions of Supergrass songs we might. We'll play it by ear and I'll chat to the other boys as well. I wouldn't want to stamp over anything."

Finally, the record is billed as Gaz Coombes Presents... are you pulling some kind of Kanye Wes-style third person thing here? "Yeah Gaz is really interested in the whole... no! I just really liked how it sounded. I've got a cinematic, soundtrack vibe going on at the moment so it just seemed to fit that really nicely. Unofficially the two guys in the band are The Bombs, so it's Gaz & The Bombs or should that be Da Bombz [laughs]? I like having a project name rather than: The Gaz Coombes Solo Record." Paul Stokes @Stokesie

For more head to Gazcoombes.com.