The Power Of The State
10th November 1990
More than a year after 808 STATE 's 'Pacific State' took clubland and then chartland by the scruffs of their necks, Britain's most awkward band are still in the public eye. Part of this is through a little project with a guy called Tunes, part of it's due to a number of controversial interviews. But as far as clubbers are concerned, it's all down to a roughneck of a record called 'Cubik', a dirty, synth-rifting track that's as far removed from the mellow tones of 'Pacific' as you could get. Phil Cheeseman got Stateside. State portraits: Phil Ward
MOVE THOSE CUBIK FEET
808 State are still in your face!
Interviewing the Manchester four-piece is like refereeing a football match. You throw them the ball in the form of a question and they're quite happy to kick it around amongst themselves for 45 minutes.
Much of the conversation revolves around Martin's Paul Gascoigne-like performance: loud and bold with his words but given to getting into trouble on long solo runs when Graham, Andy or Darren are happy to dispossess him.
They don't always agree, but even when they do, the result is a cacophony. The first issue we get to grips with is why it took so long for 'Cübik' to appear in its own right. First released on an EP some months ago, its longevity in DJ record boxes has finally resulted in a proper single release, coupled with the band's contribution to Manchester's unsuccessful bid to stage the 1996 Olympic Games, simply titled 'Olympic'.
"In a way it was out, on the EP," says Graham. "We couldn't understand why people weren't buying it."
"It was a tune that belonged to the underground," lobs over Andy from the other side of the room."They kept it for a while, and if they'd wanted it to go any further, we'd have taken it."
"We'd never clicked as well doing a track, explains Martin. "We'd just come back from holiday in Ibiza, and I'd found the place a bit mellow and I wanted to get into some hardcore again. We'd heard all the London DJs and they were just so boring that we wanted to do something that flew in the face of all that. The situation with major record companies is that they don't recognise anything unless it's soft. We're caught up with being commercial and underground. I'm happy with being underground, but at the same time I'm not against commerciality, because that's a stupid stance."
"All the record company wanted was another house beat with a saxophone on it," continues Andy. "But we turned on that. Every tune we do is different, and the point of 'Cübik' was to get away from all those mediocre house records. But you can't tell me it hasn't influenced things like 'Total Confusion' [A Homebody, A Hippie And A Funki Dredd]. They were all sat around waiting for somebody to do something. 'Cübik' came along and they thought, yeah, that's our tip, we'll try something like that."
"I want people to hear a track in a club and not be able to tell it's us. It keeps your credibility," states Martin.
"It really did my head in when Guru Josh got to Spain first and got 17 weeks at Number One when 'Pacific State' should have done it. It's the same with 'Cübik', where it's almost become pretty secondary to all the others. If people can't think of their own ideas they should get the f*** out of the business."
Expecting the rip-off merchants to sling their collective hook is a touch on the optimistic side, Martin. Earlier this year the band caused a venomous furore after a Record Mirror interview in which they made their views on indie bands absolutely crystal. Martin is unrepentant, but there's disagreement in the ranks on this one.
"It's hype. It ain't as successful as it looks," defends Martin.
"I think it is," counters Graham. "You go to any indie night now and it's bulging."
"People can't go to clubs now and listen to indie music," Martin retorts. "What is played has assimilated the beat; it isn't the same music."
"But somehow their nights are more popular than dance nights," argues Graham.
"You're just looking at Manchester," says Martin, unwilling to concede the point. "That's. not the world. You've always had your alternative nights and there's always dickhead students who'll go to them. When the student population's here, those nights are more full. You've got three or four supergroups who at one time would've been people like Yes and people like that; and now it's The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays. They've got the hype. If you've got any morals about the music, you don't get the hype anymore. Indie has become mainstream and the dance that was mainstream has become underground."
"The Charlatans . . ." Graham acknowledges. "Two months ago at the International, at the bottom of our road: 40 people. Now they've got a Number One album. What's gone on?"
"Two years ago the Pixies sold albums in the same way," continues Martin. "Nothing's changed. The same ratio of indie records to dance records are still being sold, and when they make good records, they do well. I've worked in my record shop and I've seen the people who buy indie records and the people who buy dance records and they're different animals. Indie has to be a total dance thing for a DJ to buy it. DJs aren't buying the current Mondays single. The indie bands have got no morals about their music anymore and dance people have.
"Like, The Soup Dragons were a Buzzcocks band for their first three singles, then it was something else. They've never been original. Indie has no morals. At one time you were dedicated to it, and I admire people like Morrissey and Ian McCulloch for sticking to their guns. It's better that you believe what you believe for a lifetime and be wrong than to change your mind every five minutes. These bands aren't innovators and they're not original in any way. The Stone Roses have always been a poor crossover of The Byrds and Hendrix - which is so obvious. The Mondays I've got more respect for: they are what they are."
NAME THAT TUNE!
'Cübik' should cure 808 State's burgeoning reputation as Tunes' backing band, though they're thrilled to bits that he's done so well.
"It was loyalty to someone we knew; somebody who's one of the cheekiest bastards I've ever met. He's getting a bit full of it now, but he'll learn. I just hope he doesn't believe it all."
"Kids want role models, don't they!" shouts Andy. "New Kids didn't do it for them and Tunes did."
"Yeah, kids today are into nicking car radios and they know Tunes is an expert," laughs Martin. "He's real. He's right off the mark on loads of things but you forgive him for it. I hope he's really successful. Then I can get a borrow from him."