Q&A - The Stairs
Q: The November Kazimier gig was boss. Did the Kaz feel like the perfect venue for a comeback gig? Almost like one door closes and another one opens, so to speak?
A: Absolutely, absolutely, I don't think we've had a finer venue than the Kaz for a while. The Zanzibar has always been great but the Kaz had that kooky shape and y'know, what did it used to be? The Conti, wasn't it? I went once in my teenage years but never went again as it was too weird. There was just a much better vibe in the Kazimier like.
Q: The announced dates have been very well received. Did you expect that to be the case?
A: Yeah, y'know, since the legend has sort of grown. We've got a lot of loyal fans and those that liked us have stayed loyal y'know, at the front of their record collections. They're very loyal fans. So, it'll be good to get back out there and be there for them really. I've felt a bit bad about it, but y'know, logistics! We don't all live as near really. (Oh, Paul, isn't he in Iceland?)
Yeah! Basically we needed somebody to babysit the whole thing for us really, yeah, as we were never gonna do it ourselves.
Q: Are you working on any new material?
A: Err, we are, yeah. In fact, we done one at the show and we're looking into others. Some are based on things back in the day that we didn't quite finish and, err, I had a few that were just suitable knocking around and we're tryna write some more. I really need to, well, me and Ged discussed it like, I need to get back on the weed, just for a week like and listen to all the records we used to listen to and then write some stuff, y'know what I mean? Our record collections all, well, I became a Soul-boy didn't I, during the end of The Stairs. I got into my soul and all that like, y'know, it opened up all kinds of doors when I looked forwards and backwards. Forwards from Motown, backwards from Motown. It opened up all kinds of doors so, well, we wanna try and make, I dunno, I think the first one will be esoteric but we'll try and hot that line that we hit with The Stairs. Even if we have to do an album of garage covers, y'know, there are lots of different ways we can take it really.
Q: Sixties California and Britain was a big influence on your sound. Did the freeing, explorative nature of this music prove to be a soothing antidote to Thatcher's Britain?
A: Oooohhh, we certainly didn't notice it that much with what we were doing and we'd hit our stride, y'know, we were signed up and all that but erm, yeah, it was. More when we were younger and we were forming the band and meeting each other, we were 16/17 years old. It definitely stopped us from noticing what going on (laughs). Y'know, so it was kinda light relief from that and yeah, it was just a great excuse to let ourselves loose a bit. It just seemed to be the freest music, the freest avenue to go down. I mean like, it wasn't just the politics that were Thatcherite, there was Thatcherite music in the 80s, y'know what I mean, Hue and Cry and Go West and all that like. It's just like, you didn't wanna do that if you're s teenager.
Q: It could be argued that Mexican R'N'B is a punk album because it didn't fit in with the acid house scene or the 'Baggy' thing. Again, was this what you wanted?
A: Errr, I think we were just blinkered by what we were into y'know, we just had our own little thing going on. We had a great record shop, Probe, that was fuelling our needs and stuff like that, y'know, er, if we'd come from another town without a Probe Records we might never have gone that way, y'know what I mean, we might've been more of like a Sex Pistols-type band or something like that. But, yeah, absolutely, our sound come from our influences.
Although, with that, actually, I had an elder brother who was kinda like a teenager when Punk happened so, when I hit my own teenage years, his record collection... I think it was the same with Ged as well. We kinda had all the records that we could possibly want and we had to kind of, find our own thing, y'know?
What they didn't have was all the old Garage and Yardbirds albums and y'know things like that were what was missing from my record collection. Well, my brother's record collection but y'know you kinda consider it yours as well. When he leaves the house its your record collection. *laughs*
Q: Your solo output has always been very well received, were you happy to go it alone or was it a more restrictive experience?
A: Both, really, especially Soothing Music and the Jones' LP, that was really uplifting because I had the facility for both. I had the recording mechanism at home to make great demos and an absolutely fantastic band to go out and play them with.
After Free Peace, I sort of like fell ill for a bit and erm, sort of had to spend my life savings on convalescence so to speak, so a band has always been an impossibility since then. It seemed restrictive but I've found freedoms within it because I can still play a few instruments y'know, so, I have the freedom to crack on within a band but I love playing with other musicians again. The Stairs gig was mega last year, y'know what I mean, and I enjoyed it much more than any solo gigs I've done, y'know what I mean?
Q: The first time I met you was when you were DJ'ing in La'Go and you'd just played The Snake by Al Wilson. When DJ'ing, do you feel like a curator or are you just after people getting down?
A: Yeah, again, DJ'ing, by that point it had become quite restricted what I could do. When I first started DJ'ing there was a lot of good records being sampled and you could play the originals and you could play stuff of that ilk and keep a dancefloor full. As time when on and places got younger, you found that you had to stick to things were they know the words a bit more, y'know what I mean, so you couldn't really take it deep, if you know what I mean. Y'know, times move on, times change. You just have to buck up and not moan about it really, so I'll shut up. *laughs*
Q: Liverpool is awash with new bands at the moment, and it seems that the best working-class art is produced when a Tory government is in power. Do you think that music is a valid and direct response to oppression?
A: Interesting viewpoint. Erm, I don't know, it's so hard for a young band to come because there's so many different types of things going on and no sort of direct media for any of them really. It's kind of, well, the whole scene is very sporadic and I don't know. I love this kind of new 'do-it-yourself' approach to a lot of the young bands have got, y'know' we'd have never got that together in our day, y'know what I mean, I dunno. I think it's a response to certain struggles but it's harder to be heard really, y'know, there's so much in the ether nowadays that there could very well be a new Dylan out there and we'd miss him *laughs* y'know what I mean? He'll be on an Internet radio somewhere....
Q: Vinyl record sales are reportedly soaring, but in a time of 'free music' on the Internet, were certain artists are missing out on cash...
A: It's not just that, I mean, the record player used to be a part of the living room and families kind of left the living room and y'know, they all come together when a certain thing is on the telly, but, the family doesn't get together to watch Top of The Pops and argue about it anymore, y'know what I mean and that's sad really. What's more sad is the record player not being in the living room anymore. My generation grew up with that, it was a fine thing. The record player was a focal point but things have changed with fashion(s) and the living room has been stripped back: 'Get that fuckin' record player outta here!' y'know? 'Put it in the loft!' Y'know that whole thing.
Q: You've also collaborated with quite a few artists. How've you found that?
A: I sort of see the thing as being a hired gun. You are there to facilitate their needs.
The Johnny Marr thing started off a bit more free with just me, him and Zak sort of jamming for about 6 months but then sort of, management dug their heels in and said really there needs to be a Johnny Marr project on the go, not a new group kind of thing. Y'know, eventually, it came out as The Healers which was a mostly Marr-written thing but I'd sort of left to do the Weller thing by then.
I needed something to get my teeth into so when someone says 'we're going on tour, do you wanna go?' you go 'YEAH!' And y'know, you forget that you're gonna piss people off in the meantime 'cause you're just dying to get out there and do stuff y'know, rather than work on a project for another year.
But yeah, I do say most of the time that if you're playing for an established act, you're playing to facilitate them and provide for their needs. Be that as a bass player, a backing-vocalist, whatever. I mean, like, y'know, you'll always try and throw something in, all bass players are different, we're not two-a-penny, and there'll always be a difference between the album sound and the live sound.
A lot of the time y'know, I think I've got away with murder. Weller was really good. He only told me to calm it down on the chorus of Into Tomorrow. I was playing a bit too much on that one but during the year and a half I was playing with him that was all. He was right. When I listened back to it I was overplaying it like.
Q: Despite being on the 'comeback trail', it feels like The Stairs - perhaps due to your different sound - are Liverpool's 'lost' band, perhaps even more so than The La's or The Zutons.
A: The thing with The La's was, they were always changing anyway, even back in the day y'know and I think the nice thing about The Stairs was that essentially it was me, Paul and Ged and we can all - if we've got someone to babysit and facilitate us - we can get back together and go out and do it, y'know?
With The La's, I don't know, I suppose there was, I don't know. I always liked the John Power, Lee Mavers, Paul Hemmings, Timo line-up because that was the one that was together when the singles were released, when it looked like it was gonna happen. But, there were so many other great musicians I'm leaving out. Chris Sharrock, one of Liverpool's finest drummers. Cami and Barry as guitarists. There were loads of great people that passed through them. If it was my group I wouldn't know which one of these to pick without feeling an arlarse y'know? I feel like an arlarse for what I just said.
The Stairs is a definite sound, we couldn't do it with another drummer, we couldn't do it was another guitarist, we couldn't do it with another bass player and singer. Where our songs weren't strong our sound was *laughs*
I know we didn't write as good a first LP as The La's did, y'know what I mean, but I know that we sounded more together as band than The La's ever did. Because The La's was Lee's songs whereas The Stairs were the sound of Paul, Edgar and Ged.
The Stairs play:
2 June - Glasgow - O2 ABC2
3 June - Manchester - Gorilla
4 June - Brighton - Concorde 2
5 June - Birmingham - Hare and Hounds
They also play Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia, 23, 24 September.
Edgar's solo album 'Soothing Music For Stray Cats' is available now on Mellowtone Records.
Photo credit: Mark McNulty.