Glenn interviewed by By Charles Hutchinson
From the York Press
GLENN Tilbrook is not content merely to squeeze every last drop out of South East London veterans Squeeze.
His solo career needs tending too, and so this autumn he is playing 35 dates, following up Clitheroe last night and Bury tomorrow by crossing the Pennines for Sunday’s gig at The Duchess in York.
The Acoustic Tour 2011 will be “different from anything that Glenn has done before”. While the first set will be Glenn on his own, the second half will see him joined by Simon Hanson, the drummer for Squeeze and Glenn’s latest band The Fluffers, and Chris McNally on percussion, acoustic guitars, ukuleles, Indian harmonium, bass and iPads.
“I’d say there’s more freedom involved in playing acoustically, from the point of view of being able to take a show in one direction or another and talking freely to the audience,” says Glenn.
“I’ve done a lot of solo tours where I made it up as I went along and while there’ll be an element of that in this new show, I also want it to be more streamlined.”
Inspiration for bringing Hanson and McNally into that mix came from trawling around Spotify, the online music site, in February and coming across an old Tyrannosaurus Rex number. “The guitar and bongos were my starting point, so now I have the ukulele, harmonium and iPads too,” says Glenn.
Where do the iPads fit in? “They’re infinitely more flexible than synths as there are some really great serious apps that are available that I would very happily have had to pay £300 for a few years ago but now I can flick between recorded samples.
“And one of the other things I’m doing is recording the audience and then playing it back with me singing over it, which is not only fun but musically interesting too.”
A new aspect of Glenn’s 2011 tour will involve every show being recorded live and then made available at the end of the night from the merchandise stand. “Over the years, so many people have asked for recordings of the acoustic shows and now the audience can take home a recording of the show that they’ve just enjoyed and were a part of,” he says. “It’s £15 for two CDs and what you get is my two sets and the opening set by Steve Poltz, an old friend of mine from America, who first toured with me in the States ten years ago.
“I saw him doing the same thing of recording his show and selling it afterwards and that was when the lightbulb went on in my head.”
He was struck by how Poltz’s impromptu CD “sounded like a properly mixed record”. “I’d always shied away from doing a live album, though Squeeze have a live album coming out next year, recorded at the Filmore [in San Francisco] with us at our peak form. It’s a really exciting record,” says Glenn, briefly distracting himself.
Back to new technology. “All these new things that are coming out, you can either use them or ignore them,” he says. “Though I also love acoustic guitar, bass and bongos, there’s some new stuff we can use that is so impressive,” says Glenn.
“I’m using the iPad for four different things in my solo set and each of those works really well, but I also get other people to do stuff with the iPad, which introduces an element of randomness and risk, and I like to react to danger.”
He enjoys contrast too. “Back in April, I played on my own in Chicago and then with a 30-piece orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall with Squeeze, which was completely at the opposite end of the spectrum,” says Glenn.
“So I can go from a massive canvas to a really small, three-inch canvas where you can do really amazing things.”
His latest tour show accommodates material from the Squeeze catalogue, his solo albums The Incomplete Glenn Tilbrook, Transatlantic Ping-Pong and the 2009 set with The Fluffers, Pandemonium Ensues, plus his latest album, The Co-operative, his October collaboration with Nine Below Zero.
“I love Nine Below Zero and the way they play the blues, though I’ve never really played them as there’s a pecking order: songwriting, singing and playing guitar, and that means there’s never been any room for the blues,” says Glenn.
“When I met Chris [Squeeze co-writer Chris Difford], as a teenager, he was really into boogie woogie and the blues but when it came to the point of making records, I didn’t feel we could do anything in that field that hadn’t been done before, though that didn’t stop my love of it.”
Nine Below Zero are accommodating four songs from the 11-song set of original songs, covers and instrumentals in their set list at present, all different from those featuring in Glenn’s set, which also will unveil four or five Tilbrook numbers yet to be recorded in the studio. “That was one of my thoughts with doing a recording of the show each night, giving people something entirely new that is the new record rather than being from the new record.”
Running parallel to Tilbrook’s solo career is the renaissance of Squeeze, given momentum by last year’s Spot The Difference album, a collection of 14 of their best-loved songs, re-recorded by the present line-up of Tilbrook, Difford Hanson, Stephen Large and John Bentley to be as close to the originals as possible, fade-outs and all.
The band’s biggest British tour for ten years ensued, and this year their 37-year contribution to music was honoured with the Classic Songwriter award at the Mojo Honours.
Already, Glenn and Chris had received the Ivor Novello Award for their Outstanding Contribution to British Music and the Nordorff Robbins Icon Award, and in March 2010, the site of their first ever gig in Greenwich was commemorated by a PRS for Music Heritage Award. In October last year came yet another gong: the PPL/Radio Academy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Why are the awards coming your way in a sudden rush, Mr Tilbrook? “I’m either just about to die or we’ve hung around long enough that people feel embarrassed they haven’t given us anything,” jests Glenn, who began the band with Chris at 17 and is now 54. “It’s nice to receive these awards though I never thought we’d get anything and we never aspired to get anything, but actually I’m very touched that we have.”
Glenn Tilbrook, The Acoustic Live Tour 2001, The Duchess, York, Sunday night. Tickets: £17.50 on 0844 477 1000 .
ANYTHING Glenn Tilbrook can do, Squeeze compadre Chris Difford can do too.
Kula Productions present An Intimate Evening With Chris Difford of Squeeze at the Frazer Theatre, Knaresborough, on December 14.
Doors open at 7pm, Roger Davies will be the opening act and tickets cost £18 from kula-productions.com
Anything Glenn Tilbrook can do, Squeeze compadre Chris Difford now can’t do too.
He has been forced to cancel next Wednesday’s show on account of “TV commitments”
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