The band the world wasn't ready for
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Interviews            1.   Martin         2.   Maxi         3.   Sean

Martin                   #1
         Name:   Martin Merchant
         AKA:   "Sugar"
         Born:   1960s Manchester
         Instrument:   Vocalist
         Current Gig:   SupaJamma

         Interview Date:   August 2007

         Location:   Old Trafford, Manchester








GET OUT OF HERE

"Looking up at Castle Dracula"


I met Martin on a glorious, sunny Friday in Manchester. Manchester United's Old Trafford ground, to be precise. His team.

Being a City fan myself, I’d carefully made all the arrangements - packing my crucifix, holy water and necklace of garlic. But these only get you so far and, since I was now beginning to understand how Jonathan Harker felt, looking up at Castle Dracula, as the stadium loomed above me, I decided we should hunt down a local pub - quickly.


Old Trafford stadium seen through
sky blue tinted spectacles.


 

SUGAR MERCHANTS

“Lighter than The Lighthouse Family”


Audioweb’s first incarnation, the six-piece Sugar Merchants, were founded in 1991, initially by Martin “Sugar” Merchant and Mandy Wigby. They signed to Elektra, recorded an album, but never quite took off.

 

Manchester loved it, but me, I thought, looking back, it was just too soft, just didn’t have the punch”, Martin started in his half-Mancunian, half-Kingston brogue.

 

“We did fourteen gigs in about five years. The gig scene just wasn’t happening at all - until Oasis came along. But if we’d carried on, you know, we’d have ended up lighter than The Lighthouse Family”.

 

I asked if Martin had seen the clip on You Tube (unfortunately no longer available) of Sugar Merchants playing their track, Without Love.

 

“Yes I have”, he quipped affectionately, “with me fucking afro, and me fucking polo neck. Oh my God!”.

 

“We actually did an even worse one than that. The Word had an extra programme or something with Terry Christian, like a What’s On programme, and we did that as the Sugar Merchants, and I was like doing this fucking spider-dancing or something. It was pants. But, Terry’s one of my best friends now, he’s been very good to us since then”.

 

But what of the other two Sugar Merchants - Mandy Wigby & Chris Cruiks?

 

“At the start, it was me and Mandy, then we met Sean, Robin. We talked with them, then they brought in Maxi, then we brought in Cruiksy. Everyone knew Chris”.

 

“That’s probably my only regret”, he said, “that I really wish Mandy could’ve been a part of Audioweb. I mean, we were there, together at the beginning. But she couldn’t take some of the egos in the band”.

 

“She was a nice girl, Mandy. I mean, she was writing, she was going here, going there, and, in the end, she went on to have success with Justin Robertson and Lionrock. She got on Top Of The Pops - we didn’t”.


Although never a part of Audioweb, Mandy Wigby co-wrote Into My World with Martin & Sean. It's her vocal that can be heard on the song's backing track.

“She worked in a studio as a receptionist", Martin continued, "so we could get time in there. She was a brilliant keyboardist. Her vocals were alright, especially against mine, I mean, she had no chance!! But she had enthusiasm, she was always on the phone... Are we going here, are we going there?. So, when she left, it was like... Well, what can you do?”.

 

“That’s when Audioweb started, downstairs, at a friend’s house. Me, Sean and Robin, while Maxi got a job to support his new family. The sound though [Audioweb’s], I just knew it had to be rougher than Sugar Merchants. No more nice. Nice songs, yes, but rough on the outside”.

 

 

BECOMING AUDIOWEB

“I wanted guitars all the time”

 

I asked Martin what his musical influences were, and how they helped form the Audioweb sound?

 

“All the sixties music and all the reggae music. That was my thing. So, I had all these melodies swimming in my head. I mean, I was six or seven, I didn’t know what was going on, I’m just thinking... Brilliant, man, yeh!".

 

“I mean, reggae’s great but, as an English artist, you can’t get big with it. You know, I’m of Jamaican descent but I’m not from Kingston, so I can’t get massive with it. I couldn’t go round the world [with reggae] like I’d done with Audioweb”.

 

“Also, indie music, back then in the nineties - miles better than it is now. I loved the Inspiral Carpets. They had the melodies. Caravan - when I heard that, I thought... This is gonna take off. I thought indie was killer. In fact, the best indie song ever, ever, ever, ever....”.

 

He paused for a moment. I tried a guess, but was way off.

 

“There She Goes, by The La’s. Greatest indie song, ever. I want that at my funeral. I wish I’d have written that”.

 


The La's - John Power (right)
would later form Cast

“You see, I was more guitar-orientated than all the band. I wanted guitars all the time. Maxi, Sean and Robin were more dancey, but I had the reggae sound already in the background”.

 

PLAYING LIVE

“Always the bridesmaid”

 

If there was anywhere Audioweb ruled the roost, it was on stage. Anyone who had the good fortune to see them gig, or just to have heard their live CD tracks, witnessed a band able to kick the shit out of many other live artists of the time.

 

“Live-wise, we was murder, man, absolute murder”, Martin said.

 

“We’d be supporting the likes of Cast and we began noticing heads popping round from backstage. It was like, What the fuck? I thought this was the support act?. People really started to take notice of us”.


Cast

 

So, you may have expected them to remain on stage for as long as they could?

“We didn’t do encores”, Martin stated. “In all the years we were gigging, I think, I remember one time when we came back for an encore”.

 

“Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen?”, I offered.

 

“Keep them hungry”, he came back.

 

“It was a great time as well. We were getting eight grand a gig, for just a forty-five minute set. Not that we always stuck to that time. Sometimes I just wanted to get off stage, so we’d cut it down to a half-hour. I thought, fuck ‘em, they can underpay us if they want. We got a grand or so knocked off our fee, so it wasn’t that bad”.

 

During 1996/97, the band played across Europe, supporting the likes of U2 and Fun Lovin’ Criminals, having already cut their teeth supporting smaller bands, such as Cast and Space.

 

“We did a full tour round Europe with Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Huey! Our first time, going away like that - just brilliant!”.

 

The man Huey
 

"But we never got to be the bride. Always the bridesmaid”.

This month, August, sees the tenth anniversary of Audioweb’s two huge Wembley Stadium gigs, where the band supported U2 on the Irish quartet’s Euro leg of their 1997 Popmart tour.

"At the start, we met Bono, and he was like the king, and we’re going...
'This is Sean, this is Maxi...'. But, Adam [Clayton], the bass player, he was the one who liked the band. He talked to us, told us what to do, what we were doing right, what we were doing wrong. He was the one”.

 

Surprisingly, Martin was almost dismissive of the atmosphere of the Wembley gigs, which is in contrast to some comments on the internet, where one U2 fan, oblivious to Audioweb’s existence before that day, confesses the band, ‘...filled the stadium with the kind of energy and emotion that I wasn’t expecting ‘til the very end of the night! Audioweb... lifted the entire crowd and really left its mark on me’.

 

U2 gig. Old Wembley Stadium, August 23rd 1997

 

Martin would often be criticised for his trademark, supposed, bad attitude on stage.

“I never liked to smile on stage, because I had business to do. Off stage, I’m your best friend, but, on stage, I look through you like you’re a ghost. On stage, I had no fucking friends”.

 

Also, Martin’s on-stage language was often, let’s say, fruity and frequent.

 

“It got to the point even U2’s management told me to stop swearing. Cast too... Can you tell Martin to stop swearing?. Then, someone threw an ashtray at his head and he went... Fucking hell, fucking hell’. Didn’t hear another word from them [Cast] after that”.

 

“Yeh, U2 went... Can you tell Martin, we’re at Wembley and can he cut down on the swearing?. So, then I came out even more angry”, he laughed.

 

“You had that kind of arrogance, you know, because you knew you were doing something great. The only time I was nervous, was when we did Jools Holland. My hand shook a bit. I mean, the rehearsal was murder, but the actual show, I started off wrong and I didn’t do a good job. We didn’t kick. Because, live, you’ve gotta go through their control room, and if your engineer’s not in there, you’re gonna get a bad sound. And our engineer - Trevor [Gilligan], the greatest engineer in the world. I mean, he could mix!”.

 

“Trevor, the fifth member - the greatest”, Martin added.

 

“Nigel [Revel - tour manager] too... Trevor, Nigel - fifth and sixth members”.


Maxi has since stated for the record, concerning Trevor & Nigel... "They sweated blood for us, up and down the country for three years, and got paid fuck all. They also had to endure us lot taking the piss out of 'em all the time".

Trevor Gilligan is now the sound mixer for Muse & Kasabian.

 

THE MUSIC PRESS

“We thought the music was enough”

 

In the beginning, Audioweb received very good reviews but, in the end, the British music press never really knew what to do with the band.

 

“I don’t think the magazine writers got the reggae part of it. It wasn’t dance enough to go into the dance tent, it wasn’t rock enough to go into the rock tent, but, you know, it was our sound and it was killer. I think they’ve got a problem with reggae in England, you know, too close to UB40”.

 

But it was more than just reggae that confused the morons of the press. Audioweb’s first NME review talked of the band’s two singers. They couldn’t understand the same male vocalist could range between a high, sweet vocal to rough ragga chat.

 

“They got mixed up with me singing and chatting. They couldn’t get that as being just one person. I even got... Where’s the woman vocalist?’. And we’d say... No woman, it’s him.

 

“Also, we didn’t help ourselves by being Mancunians - you know, the attitude and our sense of humour. I mean, we had a mad sense of humour and they just couldn’t get it. We probably should’ve been more evil, like, give ‘em another angle, you know, something to hang the music up with. But we thought the music was enough”.

 

“Sad state of affairs when you’ve gotta please the music press?”, I added.

 

“Of course it is, yeh, but it’s always been like that from day one. I mean, they’re like a dog in the background, you’ve gotta feed them every now and then. If you tell them to fuck off, they might bite your fingers off, you know, they might never write about you again”.

 

 

RACISM IN MUSIC

“I don’t give a raas”

 

You may have thought, with the likes of Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Bob Marley, all paving the way for black guitar music in the industry since the 1930s, a mixed-race rock band, in the '90s, would be able to slip straight into the UK music scene?

 

“They find it hard to sell a black face in England”, Martin started. “I mean, black guys will do niche music in London, you know, chatting about their friends being buried. The odd white guy will get through - Eminem, but a black guy in a guitar band...? Do something different with a guitar and the press can’t handle it. And, I noticed it, but I thought, it’s just another hurdle to jump, so it didn’t bother me”.

 

“Also, they didn’t wanna put us and Black Grape in the same paper in case the public got mixed up. I look like Kermit?”.

 

   
How to confuse an NME journalist?

“I used to get called the black Shaun Ryder, as well, you know, ‘cos I put my hands behind my back”, Martin added.

The white Martin Merchant

 

“Amy Winehouse and Beverley Knight, too. Both good singers but who do you hear about?”. He pauses. “Yes, Amy Winehouse is more rock ‘n’ roll, but you hear about her all the time. Beverley Knight just doesn’t get the exposure”.

 

Mind you, this could have something to do with Beverley Knight being clean living, safe and not very headline-friendly, while Amy Winehouse’s alleged heroin addiction, mega weight loss and whole rock chick persona, plays into the hands of those journalists searching out the next Pete Doherty. That kind of shit sells papers, frankly. Black or white. Maybe Beverley Knight should take note and get all down, dirty and mean? Don’t hold your breath, though - the girl’s got class.

 

         

   

“But racism won’t stop you getting what you’re gonna get”, Martin continued, “it’s just another hurdle what you don’t need. There’s racism in the world all the time, but as long as I’m aware of it, as a black person, then I’m not stupid. You’ve gotta give it the kinda British, Jamaican... I don’t give a raas, and just get on with it”.

 

 

FIREWORKS CITY

“On our own, trying to do something different”

 
Audioweb’s self-titled debut album had some great reviews. It was raw, edgy, a real sign of an emerging musical force. From the opening guitar riff of Sleeper, through the sublime Into My World, Jah Love, the kicking Bankrobber, and the hauntingly dark Lover, it would be two years before the guys returned to the studio for their eagerly-awaited follow-up - Fireworks City. W
hen the band hit the studio again in 1998, Robin was in a relationship with Dubstar singer Sarah Blackwood.

 

“Robin and Sarah - they were the original Posh ‘n’ Becks, but they started having problems around the time we were recording Fireworks City and Robin was out of the studio a lot during that time”.

 

Now, for me as a fan, Fireworks City is an amazing piece of work. One of the albums of the nineties. There isn’t one dud track on that CD. The less said about the intro to Freefall the better, but apart from those thirty seconds, that album is perfection - songwriters at the top of their game. So, just imagine how it could have turned out, had the guys produced it their own way?

 

“All the intentions were great with that album. There was me, Sean and Maxi writing it, getting everything together. We wanted to produce it, but the record company had money to try and sway you over to their way of thinking, like business people do. You know, like, do it yourselves and get a lickle money, or get someone in and take the big money. So, we relented and got in Steve Lironi”.


Stephen Lironi - Producer

 

“Now, we thought Steve Lironi done Black Grape, and we thought... Yeh, he’s the man’. But, he’d done a part of Black Grape. And we thought... Bloody hell’. But, he was in by then”.

“And then, we found out he did that lickle band Hanson. Alarm bells should’ve rung from then, really”.

 

The Kurt Cobainettes had a No.1
in 1997 with "MmmCrap"


"But I got on with him quite well. We played table tennis. He had his engineer doing most of the things, though. He’d just sit there, pointing and... I mean, he had an ear, but... he didn’t do all Black Grape, and that was our mistake”.

 

“We had a fall-out one time, me and the band. They came in late. We were trying to lay down some B-sides, so Lironi put his twopence in... Yeh, very unprofessional. Robin walked off, Sean went somewhere else, so it was just me and Maxi there. They didn’t like Steve Lironi from then”.

 

“It was a bit unprofessional, coming so late, ‘cos we had things to do, but it was a sunny day and on a sunny day, you wanna go drinking and everything like that”.

 

“It kinda fell apart after that, really. They didn’t trust him. He also tried to put some lyric in our tunes, and we went... I don’t think so!. They’re after everything they can get, the producers”.

 

“I think, the engineer [James Young] should’ve got credited for it as well, ‘cos he had a lot to do with it, you know, with his mixing”.

 

But it wasn’t all negative. What about some of the tracks? What about Policeman Skank - the first single off the album?

 

“An hour it took - Policeman Skank. Out of this world. They had the rhythm track all ready, then I came in and tried some talking, some singing and we decided which one would connect. Then, when everyone heard it, and the album, they all said... There’s the single.

 

“The mistake though”, Martin added, “was putting a slow song [Personal Feeling] out as the second single. They [the public] weren’t ready for a slow song”.

 

“Four singles - we should’ve gone... 'fast, fast, fast, slow'. We should’ve gone with Out Of Many. Now, that would’ve been a screaming second single”.

 

“That was a mistake we made. You see, Personal Feeling, no matter how great it is, you had to be a big band to come out with a single like that. I mean, if we were riding high, top five [with Policeman Skank], and we put that out, then that would’ve been number one”.

 

Get Out Of Here was the sign-off track on the album, focusing on the (then) up-and-coming gang/gun culture in nineties Manchester. I asked Martin if he felt the lyrics were even more relevant now than they were ten years ago.

 

“Totally”, he responded. “Remember, ten years ago was when all the trouble was starting, so you had to jump on it and say something about it”.

 

“But when I done it, it was around the time my sister died. It was quite sad and quite tough, but, I mean, everything about that song - Sean’s bass playing, Maxi’s drumming, the guitar, I thought... Murder track’. When we did it, I knew we were back on form. It had a story, everything”.

 

Martin returned to the after-effects of Fireworks City and how the finished product would later affect the band.

 

“We stayed in our own little cocoon [during the recording]. We didn’t go out and listen to other music, so when we came out with that album, the scene was different. But, if we’d had a few bands like us, we’d have gone big time. Three or four bands similar and, no doubt about it, we’d have gone big time. But, we were on our own, you know, a band on our own trying to do something different”.

 

 

END OF THE ROAD

“We were right on the edge”

 

Audioweb were finished as a band in 1999. Two great albums, countless pumping gigs, that put many of their peers to shame, a loyal fan base - but the music press sniped and it was always a steep, uphill (impossible) climb to the top.

 

“I thought it was right in our grasp”, Martin reflected. “We were right on the edge of the cup and we were either gonna fall in, and be super famous and super rich, or drop off. It was that close for me”.

 

In 1998, Audioweb were lined up as support for Ian Brown’s first solo tour since leaving the Stone Roses. Everything was in the can, then King Monkey was imprisoned for a now infamous air rage incident.

 

The legend that is....

"You know, Ian Brown going down - that was a kick in the teeth. Things were going wrong. I went to Jamaica, come back, they [the band] had a meeting. They’d listened to their friends”, Martin said. “They gave up too easily - Maxi, Sean and Robin”.

“Was it a slow process, then - the break-up?”, I asked.

 

“Well, I went to Jamaica in ’99 and when I come back, some things were going on, we’d done a few gigs, and we’d got some money out of Mother. It’s funny, ‘cos we’d done this video in America and it probably done their heads in that it didn’t go supernova. You see, I think, if we’d gone to America and toured round, ‘cos we had interest from Madonna’s label, Maverick. So, sitting there, you just thought... Maverick! Murder! It’s only a matter of time, now.

 

            

"But, I look back now and I can’t even complain to you. Because a lot more people I knew, who were better than me, or as good as - they never even come out of the city centre. So, we were very lucky. Loads of things happened with Audioweb”. 

 


BAND
REUNION

“I'd like to get those songs out there again”

 

When bands split, there’s often some major bust-up where the guys promise never to speak to one another again. This just isn’t the case with Audioweb, which makes it even stranger why they never reformed.

 

“We all still keep in touch”, Martin came in. “I mean, Sean’s my lickle brother, he's my little brother, Sean. I’m very close to his family. I also think he’s the best bass player around, I don’t think anyone can touch him. I saw him last week. He’s in America now [with Badly Drawn Boy], but he’s coming over and we’re gonna get a compilation together of all our videos. We’ve been threatening to do it for about five years now, and with Sean, I’ve gotta like hold him down”, he laughed, pretending to physically pin Sean down.

 

Martin & Sean
 

I asked Martin if he’d seen any of the guys play live with their new bands.

 

“I saw Maxi with Ian Brown at the [Manchester] Apollo. Word started to get round that night, Ian wasn’t going to go on stage. But he did, and he played a storm. It was an amazing gig”.

 

Then, Martin launched into a comical tirade concerning Maxi’s recent whereabouts.

 

“Oh, and you can tell Maxi, he can kiss my black arse! He’s supposed to get me some... He knows what he’s supposed to get me”.

 

He leant into my voice recorder, “So, you best get in touch, or I’m gonna do you in”.

 

He straightened up again.

 

“I’ve not heard from him in about a year. Supposed to do some things for me, some drums. Not heard a dickybird from him”. He got serious again. “But, when you’re with Maxi, Maxi’s top. Just not heard from him for a while”.

 

With Martin and Maxi living in Manchester, and Sean switching between homes in Los Angeles and Mancunia, Robin is now the only ex-member to have moved away.

 

“Robin was a good guitar player when we started out”, Martin added, “and just got better and better. Everyone did. He phoned me and I went to his 40th last year and we talked about doing some stuff, ‘cos he’s been working with Finley Quaye”.

 

Even though, it’s now become almost fashionable for old bands to reform, I don’t think many an Audioweb fan would bark at even the smallest chance of a band reunion.

 

“We tried to get on the [Manchester Versus] Cancer thing at the MEN Arena. I got Sean to try fix it up, so we might do that as Audioweb in the future. Get Robin down, get everyone down, and do four or five songs. So, it’s never say never. And I’m not gonna dismiss it, it’s just getting everybody in the same place. I’d like to get those songs out there again”.

 

 

Martin returned to the break-up of the band.

 

“I just think they give up too easily, you know. I mean, now, it’s alright money-wise, going round the world with other people, but, you ask them secretly - they’d loved to have done it for themselves. I mean, it’s great to get the good money but, in the end, you sit there and think... 'It’s not my stuff, though, is it?'. It’s Ian Brown, it’s Badly Drawn Boy. They don’t see you, they don’t remember you”.

 

He raised the tone, once more.

 

“But, four people getting together, doing the business, everybody became great musicians, and I became one of the greatest singers in the world”, Martin exclaimed with a grin.

 

“But”, he continued, “I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Except maybe to get a bit famous and a bit of money. And, you know, a bit of respect due, ‘cos certain writers didn’t get me at all... Black guy? Indie? Sixties?’”.

 

Martin reflected, then finished off the interview.

“You know, Audioweb was murder but we live to fight another day”.




Maxi                 #2

         Name:   Robert Maxfield
         AKA:   "Maxi"
         Born:   01/01/1973, Salford, Manchester, UK
         Instrument:   Drums
         Current Gig:   Plays with the legendary Ian Brown

         Interview Posted:   January 22nd, 2006








RoA:
  What were your musical influences growing up, and which drummers made you want to pick up the sticks?
Maxi:   I grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, Small Faces, The Who, Marvin Gaye… Basically all the things my mum & dad used to listen to, so I suppose that was the start of it. I was obsessed by music and was dragged to a Genesis concert by my uncle. Phil Collins did a drum solo and I thought it was top, so I bugged my parents for some sticks. They ignored me totally, thinking it was a fad. Then at 14, I heard The Stone Roses and became totally besotted. I ended up going on holiday and seeing a bright red drum-kit and then started playing on anything with chopsticks. Finally my dad sent me for lessons, then bought me a kit. I’d say, I’m influenced by anything I hear from Ringo to David Garibaldi.

RoA:  Was it always the drums for you? Did you ever toy with the idea of playing another instrument?
Maxi:  I did try to learn guitar for a short while, coz my uncle played, but I couldn’t get the hang of it. I’m still trying now...

RoA:   Do you miss the Audioweb experience, or is it just a case of 'moving on'?
Maxi:   For me, it has been a case of moving on. I’ve done more since leaving than I did in the band but I’ll always miss it, coz it was something we created from nothing and tried to take it everywhere. People weren’t ready for us.

RoA:   When did you first meet up with Sean, Martin & Robin?
Maxi:   I started work at BUPA Healthcare when I was 18. I met a geek there called Robin, who thought he was Jonathan Ross (bad suits and ties). I started having a laugh with him and he said he played guitar in a band. I went to watch 'em and told him they needed me drumming. I went for an audition, met everyone and got in. That was the Sugar Merchants. So, I was the youngest and last to join.

RoA:   What's the story behind the Sugar Merchants? Is it true Elektra dropped you because you weren't getting your faces out there enough?
Maxi:   Not at all. We were signed as a tax dodge for "MK" (the son of "BK", the head of Elektra). It turned out he had a massive coke habit (and a fondness of excessive man-loving) and his dad had told him to sign a band to keep him on the straight and narrow. He knew our manager, so signed us. They spent a load of money on an album (recorded in Amsterdam for six weeks) and then "BK" left Elektra. The new boss (a woman, who I can't remember) got rid of his son and anything else to do with him. Us included. We then disbanded, sacking Mandy & Chris on the way. I went and got a job for a while and the other three wrote a new demo. I came back in to drum, and the rest is history. For a similar story of the Elektra affair, read The Dirt by Motley Crue, as the same happened to them.

RoA:   Who came up with the name Audioweb?
Maxi:   Sean's flatmate - Sean Hollywood (top name, eh?).

RoA:   Which track - and album - are you most proud of?
Maxi:   Tough, tough, tough. My favourite album was the first. Track, maybe Sleeper with Jah Love a close second. At the time, creating the sound was so important and finding loops and breaks was a big deal. By the second album, that magic was taken away a bit by Steve Lironi, who turned up and took our original ideas apart. I still think it had some great tunes but no-one should ever use the Milli Vanilli break.

RoA:   For me, Fireworks City is one of the best albums of the '90s, up there with Pills 'n' Thrills, It's Great When You're Straight, Definitely Maybe, and the Manics' Everything Must Go. In reflection, how complete an album do you think it is? Control is, without doubt, one of the most stunningly-uplifting male-vocal tracks I've heard.
Maxi:   Thanks. As I say, that album towards the end was getting a bit tense - with Lironi almost trying to pull us apart as a band. He was making choices without us being there and forgetting we were a band. That is never good. The writing of that album was more fun, I remember Robin not being there a lot though due to family stuff. As regards to Martin's vocals on Control, I'd give him some lines I'd wrote and he took them in, used some of 'em and then ad-libbed the rest. That always made him do his best work. The best vocal for me was Drip Feed - he ad-libbed it all (I think). Pure Class.

RoA:   Which three Audioweb tracks do you think sum up the band?
Maxi:   Sleeper, Policeman Skank, Into My World.

RoA:   Are you proud nobody was able to successfully pigeon-hole you?
Maxi:   Yes and no. To be unique is great, but it don't pay the bills.

RoA:   Which Audioweb gig sticks in your mind the most?
Maxi:  The one where Martin punched a guy in the front row that was sticking up the V's. Knocked him out, and then carried on singing. Zap Club, Brighton. Oh, and Wembley Stadium, supporting U2.

RoA:   How much of a buzz do you get from gigging? OK, you're not at the front of the stage, in the fans' faces, but the electricity must still work its way back to you?
Maxi:   I'm totally addicted to gigging. I'm writing this whilst in Australia with Ian Brown. You don't get on a 24-hour flight and sit around for two weeks unless you love it. It's all I've ever wanted to do, and I prefer it to studio work on the whole.

RoA:   What was thrown on stage at the end of Bankrobber at Sound City in Leeds?
Maxi:  I can't remember, you know. I've just listened back to it and I'm not sure. Our gigs were always charged with energy and things quite often happened like that. When you've got a guy up front with that much attitude, it's gonna get feisty. Every gig was punk.

RoA:   Which bands did you feel were really pushing things in the '90s?
Maxi:   Hard to say. Can't remember, now. I always liked Supergrass as a live band and obviously Oasis were a big deal. I think, I was still just listening to The Beatles.

RoA:   Which artists do you feel are pushing things now? (Apart from Ian Brown, of course!!)
Maxi:   I listen to older stuff to be honest. Bill Withers live at Carnegie Hall is a gem, although I'm into the Arctic Monkeys at the minute, er, and Kanye West, er...

RoA:   Did you have to audition for Ian Brown or was it just the fact you'd been in Audioweb that was good enough for him?
Maxi:   No. Sean got the call and phoned me. We both thought it was a wind-up. We just got told to go to rehearsals in a week, and then we went to Japan the week after. He never once said yes or no. He was buzzing to have the rhythm section from a band he liked. I'd been in a band with a guy from Shed Seven (Paul Banks) and Sean had been doing Badly Drawn Boy, so I was more chuffed to be back working with Sean again.

RoA:   What was the reason for relegating Who Are They? to a B-side? This track is pure Audioweb - a hidden gemstone. It would have been great as the sign-off track from the first album.
Maxi:   We didn't write like that. We finished the album and Bankrobber was supposed to be a B-side, coz we only did it live as a laugh for us. The record company pleaded with us to make it a single and that we needed some B-sides. Then we went and wrote 'em in the studio. Another case of Martin ad-libbing and doing it in one take.

RoA:   How difficult was it to push the Audioweb sound into the market-place? Being championed by the likes of Chris Evans and U2 is one thing, but if you aren't prepared to tag along with all those pop trendsetters of the time, it must be a steep hill to climb?
Maxi:   It was a shocking hill to climb. At the end of the day, the UK marketplace and the music press are, or were, racist. We heard reports of NME & Melody Maker execs not wanting us in the papers because they had Black Grape in, and they didn't want to confuse the readers by having two multi-racial bands. I don't know if that still happens but at the time we terrified people. We also refused to conform and tell people what they wanted to hear. At the end of the day, you need to snort coke with the right heads - and I dont think we did. We were also told if we bought a certain journo enough coke, he'd write about us all the time. When we met him, he was a nob, so we never spoke again. The music biz is a sordid place.

RoA:   Why do you think the NME were so scathing towards you at the time? I've seen one or two comments from those self-important scumbags; my favourite being, "Plunder and steal - that's the Audioweb way". So, in their warped mindset, Brian Jones is a thief for starting the Rolling Stones off as a blues band, Oasis too for being influenced by The Beatles, not to mention Paul Ryder for nicking bass lines from old Motown classics - and, of course, Pete Doherty must also be a plunderer for styling himself on Sid Vicious & Johnny Rotten, yet, apparently, they recently voted him their 'Man Of The Year', or something. Strange world - Planet NME?
Maxi:   "Don't read it, weigh it" was always our motto. We didn't care what they said. We used to call 'em the comics, and although we read 'em, we knew they were cunts. As I've said, those papers were full of journos who were on their own ego trips, so we left 'em to it.

RoA:
   What would you recall as your one memorable moment of being in Audioweb?
Maxi:   Tough. Wembley U2 gig, first gigs in Europe with Fun Lovin' Criminals, seeing your name on a record for the first time, first time on TFI... Way too hard to pick one. Hang on - the night I tricked Sean into thinking I'd killed the lighting guy was pretty damn funny, so I'd say that.

RoA:   What's up next for you, Maxi? When you're not working with Ian Brown, do you session?
Maxi:   Who knows. I've just got back from Oz, and having a rest, then off to the Far East with IB. Got some stuff I'm doing with a couple of other musicians, and a lot of writing. IB is recording his next album soon, so that will take up most of the year. I've spoke to Martin & Sean, and if our diaries permit, we'll try and get together and do some stuff too.

RoA:   Finally, the question that's always bugged me as a fan. Why did you all decide to call it a day?
Maxi:   It's hard to talk about it as a whole, without hurting people's feelings, but I think we all had different ideas about how the music should go. People were getting dropped all over the place, so the pressure was on for us to re-invent. Also, personally I was older than when I joined and felt as if I hadn't really been treated like I had grown up (was still 18 in some people's minds). We'd been having big barneys and were bullying each other a lot. We also had been waiting for a big American record release and when it didn't happen, it hit us all hard. I also was trying to mask the pain of the band splitting by doing things I maybe shouldn't (maybe why my memory is so blurred), and it made it easier to run away than work at it. Maybe if we'd had strong people around us, to help, we could have survived but when you're on the way down, the phone-calls and friends soon disappear. We didn't have the management, maybe. It was our own fault in the end.

RoA:   Have you ever talked of reforming? Bands these days don't appear to need record deals anymore. The internet seems to be a great way for bands to self-publish, perform and get their music straight into people's heads.
Maxi:   All I can say is, watch this space.

RoA:   Maxi, if you've managed to get through my piss-poor attempt at being a music journalist without falling asleep, then all power to you, mate. Whichever questions you stayed awake to answer, thanks very much for your time.
Maxi:   No problem, mate. It's good to be able to talk about it after all this time. It's also good to know that we did do something good in some people's minds. I've lost count of the amount of people that say they loved the band but when I ask did they buy any stuff, they say no. We were a big band and a nothing band at the same time. As I say, it was like a marriage. It's hard to look back and remember every little thing but, you know, it wasn't right and it was time to move on. BUT, at the same time, you wish it could have been sorted out. Take care, mate. Anything else I can help with, I will. It's been a pleasure...

Easy

MAXI 





Sean                 #3
         Name:   Sean McCann
         Born:   
         Instrument:   Bass guitar
         Current Gig:   Plays with Badly Drawn Boy

         Interview Posted:   February 28th, 2006










RoA:
   What were your musical influences growing up, and who really made you want to pick up the bass?
Sean:   I grew up in the '70s, in a house full of older sisters playing everything from David Bowie to Stevie Wonder, with, of course, The Beatles in the background. But to be honest, I think it was John Taylor from Duran Duran who got me going. He is underrated in my book.

RoA:   Was it always the 'fat four' for you?
Sean:   Pretty much. I think I drew it out of the hat when I started in my first band at school. Never looked back though. I do tinker on a few other instruments, as well.

RoA:   How far back do you and Robin go, and do you still keep in touch?
Sean:   (a) Secondary School. He was one year above me. (b) Rarely.

RoA:  How did you and Robin first meet up with Martin & Maxi?
Sean:   I chatted Martin up in the famous Manchester Dry Bar! Robin bossed Maxi around at work, I think.

RoA:   Do you miss the Audioweb experience or is it just a case of moving on?
Sean:   Yes, I miss the fun. We had a lot of fun!

RoA:   Which Audioweb track, and album, are you most proud of?
Sean:  The first album was as close as we got to what I imagined the sound of Audioweb to be. The track that sums that ethic up the most is Sleeper.

RoA:   Personally, I'm in love with Fireworks City. It's one of the albums of the '90s, up there with Pills 'n' Thrills... and Definitely Maybe. In reflection, how complete an album do you think it is?
Sean:  It's only halfway there, as far as I am concerned. I hoped the second album would be a bit more home-produced and raw, juxtaposed with strings & choirs and stuff like that. But in the end, the whole thing got over produced and sanitised. That is not to say I don't love some of the songs on it, though. We could, and should, have produced ourselves.

RoA:  How different was it working with Steve Lironi as opposed to Jonathan Quarmby & Kevin Bacon?
Sean:  John & Kevin were like mentors to us, helping us achieve our sound, whereas Steve Lironi was brought in to produce in his way, which I didn't enjoy as much.

RoA:   Which three Audioweb tracks would you say sum up the band?
Sean:  Sleeper, Drip Feed, Freefall.

RoA:   Are you proud nobody was able to successfully pigeon-hole you?
Sean:   Proud, no. Creatively, you always set out to do something new, so nothing should be pigeon-holeable(?), as it were. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that needs things packaged and labelled.

RoA:   How difficult was it to push the Audioweb sound into the market-place?
Sean:   Brit-Pop and Dad-Rock didn't do us any favours, put it that way.

RoA:
   How did the writing process work? Were there specific teams of lyricists and music-men?
Sean:   Robin & I would start tunes on the computer, with breaks, etc, then all of us would play over the top. As far as lyrics were concerned, sometimes one of us would have most of the idea before we wrote the music but most of the time we collectively finished it off.

RoA:
   I read somewhere that Maxi's & Martin's lyrics tended to be more hopeful and uplifting, and yours & Robin's more hard and gritty. I think the suggestion was this was down to the formers' tough, inner-city experiences and yours & Robin's 'quiet suburban' lives, maybe each wanting to discover a world you'd only seen from afar.
Sean:   We were never as literal as that, to be honest. Certainly not from a personal point of view. The ideas for songs could come from anywhere and the more ambiguous the better.

RoA:   Where was your first gig as Audioweb?
Sean:   Can't remember. I think it was Jilly's Rockworld?? Somewhere on Oxford Road.

RoA:   Which Audioweb gig sticks in your mind the most?
Sean:   There were loads of good ones - stadiums to toilets, but the most memorable were usually ones with the mishaps; Martin fighting, Robin falling over. Of course, Maxi & I were consummate professionals!

RoA:   Does the buzz you must get from gigging lessen over the years, or is there still something special about performing in front of a mass of people there to see you play?
Sean:   It is less nerve-racking now, but just as exciting. It's like a great night out and everyone is paying attention to me. What could be better??

RoA:   Which bands did you feel were really 'pushing things' in the '90s?
Sean:   Well, there's always a lot of good music out there but as far as "pushing it", I'd say it was Radiohead, Primal Scream (circa Screamadelica) and us.

RoA:   So, what's up next for you, Sean? Is working with Damon Gough your full-time job, or do you play with other bands when not with Badly Drawn Boy?
Sean:   Working with Damon is taking up most of my time but I am working on another project. Go to http://www.myspace.com/fellowtraveller and check us out!! Oh, by the way, will you do us a website?

RoA:   Finally, what would you class as your one memorable moment of being in Audioweb?
Sean:  Hearing Sleeper on Radio 1 the first time.

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