Stuart Staples / Tindersticks – Entretien #3

Interview by John Jefferson Selve & Damien MacDonald

photographie de Richard Dumas

photographie de Richard Dumas


It’s about holding onto naivety really. Like our conversation started.

The power of the band also comes from your magical performances, not many musicians attain such enthralling emotion, I was surprised the first time I saw you in 1994, with the very intense way you inhabited your songs. There was a singular magnetism. For having seen you often at the time, I was (nearly) worried for you, there were so many emotions going through you… Wasn’t it too difficult? It’s very intense I don’t know if it’s hard, or happiness...

I think those days where… Yeah… I was… It’s ok to do a show, and then go home. But when you get like sixty shows… We have never been able to say like take it easy tonight. Everytime we play music, even if it is rehearsal room, everybody goes and there is like no holding back, never about playing. I think we’ve learnt to balance, a feeling of how much we can actually do that basically. We know we can’t do it for a month. We know we can do it for like now 10 days, with places like the olympia around europe. I’m sure it’s going to be great. But at the end of it I think we won’t be burnt out, whereas if it was a month it would be like numbness.

So you found a balance to keep it pleasurable?

Well you know… If you do something, nobody wants to make something in a void. Even making cd’s and people enjoying them, it is still abstract. You still don’t know who you are, with that. Whereas if you stand in front of people, it’s the hardest thing, but to do it and to connect with people, it can make sense of everything you do. It can give you a place in the world. If you don’t do that everything floats, and that is not so good.

So it avoids things from floating, it grounds them in a way?

No, it does. I have a friend and I’ll say to him, listen to this album, I think you’ll like this record, and he’ll listen to it, and he’ll say, yes I like it, but I want to see the whites of there eyes. When you stand in front of someone at a concert, that is when you see… I need to connect with things on a deeper level… Records do one thing, but being a live performance is a different thing.

With the Tindersticks that is positively sure… We also have this question on Claire Denis, I guess you are often questionned on that, but on the last movie Les Salauds. You use a new electronic instrument, it’s strange it’s new for you? It’s very interesting…

When I first talked to Claire about Les Salauds, she talked about the main character being a sailor. And how for a sailor when he is at sea everything is simple, and as soon as he steps on land, everything is complicated. So I kind of wanted to make something that created an alien space around him, even though he is in Paris. And with that came the idea of electronics because for me it is totally alien. So at christmas I was sitting surrounded by equipment that I didn’t know how to use. (laughter) so by March it was from that feeling of dealing with something that is not easy material. It helped create something that has even more of a tension in it. I’m really happy with the soundtrack, but it’s a totally different thing, there’s not even any microphones used in it. Everything is straight (plugged into), there’s no space, there’s no air… Even the guitars are straight into the recording. There is absolutely no air in the music whatsoever.

That was for the mariner, no air, all liquid…

Everyone of Claire’s films, have all asked for something so different.

Trouble everyday could be considered as a Tindersticks album of it’s own, no?

Trouble everyday, was like a gift. Claire is going to make a film about vampires, but the thing she is interested in is why lovers want to bite each other. That’s what she’s interested in. So for us it’s like hey, romance… And it created this kind of sweet violent thing that worked really well, because things like that don’t come along very often when you can find of strength of idea of kind of feeling, to come together in a film.

Talking of visual arts, and photography, could you talk a little abut Richard Dumas?

I saw Richard last night, but when we played our first concert in Rennes, in 1994, at the Ubu, and he walked in backstage with his camera and introduced himself, and took some pictures of us and sent them to us. And one picture is still my favourite band picture we have ever had. It’s in a dressing room, over the years we have just kept on working together. It’s fantastic to work with somebody who, It might sound ridiculous, but, considers a shot, he wont take a picture unless he is convinced. The more time goes on the stranger and stranger that gets. And I have so much admiration in this day and age, when you have this pressure builds up in photographers, so they just have these automatic things, that go tch tch tch tch… done. But I think to have the confidence of one roll of film. He came yesterday, he took a photography of me yesterday, and it took him two shots. And obviously the results speak for themselves.

It maybe relates to the idea of painting, in which image takes time, instead of trying to go faster than the rhythm of the world?

I agree with that as something that is valid. But maybe not as a dogma. Sometimes fast things are great. Fast ideas, reactions, can be really fantastic. Finding the balance, because otherwise when overconsidered, considering everything in some kind of perfection, can become a blander. Keeping an urge in something is essential.

Neil and David ?

Neil David and I were friends, and played music together before the band. I was in my first band with Neil when I was seventeen, so it’s like a long time. And then a few years later I met David. And then it was the start of this band really. And we asked Neil to come around and play around, before the first album. Our relation is bigger than the band, or rather it is the band really. They are both very different. David is a writer, he is driven like me by ideas. His ideas are very different, but he is driven by them. Neil is driven by playing guitar. But I think we all share a restless spirit. We don’t want things to be the same. We all want to put ourselves in situations that are more difficult, or face ourselves with something we are not sure how to do. As three people we have been able to do that. And I think with Dan McKenna joining us, the bass player, who has been playing with us for six years now, he has been such a positive force to release that within us, because brings that with him, he is a musical adventurer, he wants something to happen for the sake of it, that’s what has changed and happened with the band now… The great thing with the something rain, is how much Neil and David where able to surprise me, and I hope I was able to surprise them too, and that is really kind of something after nearly thirty years… With David’s writing , with Goodbye Joe, and Chocolate, and there was another track that was just as good, but that did not find it’s way into the album… And Neil’s new way of approaching the guitar on the album is really special, I think it’s the best work he has ever done. I think we surprised each other, and that is special, I don’t think that is something you can always hang onto. You can’t take that as a given. That’s like clouds crossing across, the sky, everything coming into alinement and everybody going like wow this is great.

What can we wish for you?

I think what I said earlier of surviving on your own terms, wherever that takes you, for anybody who wants to make things, that’s what it takes. I don’t think that’s to be the reward in itself. It’s not as easy as it sounds. If your able to feel something, want it, move forward, even if it’s not in music, survive explore, doing that, is what I would like to wish… It’s so easy to end up defined by other peoples versions of success, and not your own, to define your own, is like a kind of little journey in itself, to make that something tangible, and not to beat myself up about other people’s version of success.