Describe your time with The Wedding Present in five words:
Thoroughly enjoyable life-changing journey
Tell us exactly why you left The Wedding Present?
I was kicked out! Officially this was for not being a good enough guitar player and not contributing enough to the song-writing (David still feels he needs to recite this story 14 years after the event). I'm not going to entertain this idea further by listing things that I've done. All I'll say is that I know who I am and what I've been responsible for, and I can't agree with this idea.
Reasons for actions such as this are complex but I am sure that it had a lot to do with the following. We had just recorded 'Seamonsters' - our (in RCA's opinion) 'very difficult' third album. RCA needed something that would increase sales beyond our fanbase and although we were really happy with the album, it was clear to us that there was no 'mega hit' there. We knew we'd have to face their disapproval. Also, the Ukrainian music was still generating interest, at times deflecting interviewers from the current records we were trying to promote. As I was the Ukrainian link, they thought this problem would go away when I did. I feel I was made a bit of a scapegoat for the bands failings.
In the first few months after leaving The Wedding Present, what aspects of being in the group, if any, did you miss the most?
The best part of being in TWP was playing live. I just loved the response of the fans - making people happy makes me happy too. When you make a record, you have to imagine the pleasure you give people, but live you can see it!
Any regrets? Do you sometimes wish that you were still involved?
No, I did all I could for the group as well as I could. I don't wish that I was still involved. All things - especially pop groups - come to an end and I think TWP went on a bit too long. The only real regret I have is the way I was removed from the group, and the difficulties it caused for me and the Ukrainian music album. This was due to be released in the autumn on RCA but after my departure they dropped the album. This made it so much harder to get gigs and record distribution.
David, Simon and Keith did not consult me about any of my wishes or plans, even though we'd been on the same team for five years. I was especially disappointed with David as we'd been friends since school. After twenty years I expected a lot more from him.
Do you have any song, or performance that you consider to be your defining moment with The Wedding Present?
I remember playing 'Take Me' at Reading festival in 1989 (or was it 1990?). That was the time when David and Keith used to dance around on stage, and 'Take Me' was the one that had the wildest dances. There were forward rolls, attempted splits, bridges, head balances plus lots of laughs and smiles on stages. Defining moment - I am not too sure, but one I can remember myself by!
Do you have a favourite Wedding Present record that (a) you played on, and (b) you didn’t play on?
In retrospect Bizarro is my favourite - it has all the uplifting tracks on it. I've heard most of David's post-1991 material and my favourites tracks are Cinerama's 'Wow' and 'Apres Ski'.
The thought of which venue/festival performance sends a shiver down your spine?
Without doubt the performance at London Town and Country of 'Vesilnee Podarunok' - the Ukranian version of TWP. That was such a special gig - to see Ukrainian dancers in national dress dancing to our supercharged versions of Ukrainian folk. When you come from a background where you're told "you're from Ukrainian descent - a wonderful country of hills and music but under a repressive regime" and no-one has heard of it, when you have learned how to play music and speak the language but only a few hundred people in the UK really know what you're talking about - then to see those thousands of people accepting your heritage is a wonderful feeling.
It was the really start of quite a musical movement in Ukraine. Cassettes were passed around and duplicated. The sound was revolutionary, mixing tradition and western in a way that had not been allowed. Many groups do that now - Ruslana won the European Song Contest doing a pop-folk mix. I like to think that she has got a Vesilnee Podarunok poster on her wall!!!
It was this gig that made the whole concept of 'The Ukrainians' possible - 600 shows and six albums world-wide. Thanks to all who were at that gig!
Tell us something that not many people know about David Gedge?
David started his musical career at Hollin High School, Middleton, Manchester in 1972 by performing covers of pop songs to 13 year old girls. On wet lunchtimes David and I would perform in the hall miming to the school disco - Mud, Slade, Glitter, Bolan, Bowie...we did them all using tennis rackets for guitars and pencil cases for microphones.
Have you seen The Wedding Present or Cinerama since leaving the band?
I've seen TWP twice since 1991 plus the same again for Cinerama. I recently went to see the 'new' TWP in Leeds. I felt quite proud really - the show was a sell-out, many more people than Cinerama could muster. People were coming out to see The Wedding Present and mostly (judging by the ages of the fans) they wanted to see the band from the late eighties. The band on stage played just over a third of their songs from the pre-'92 period - the rest a mix of post '92 TWP, Cinerama and the new album.
There was a marked difference in the crowd's response, much more positive for the old stuff. I felt good about that bit of it, because I know that all those people had come there due to the things we had done in the 80's. It also made me feel a bit sad - to some those fans had been exploited a bit - the name brought them to see what is essentially Cinerama doing TWP covers.
I asked David about his decision to revert to TWP. He justified it by saying that he has always been the most important member of it, so TWP is essentially him. He has got a point with that; only if he is so important he should be able to use his name alone - Morrissey doesn't hide behind 'The Smiths'. In my opinion, by using TWP again, David acknowledges that anything that was done under that banner was better than anything since.
What is your relationship with David Gedge like now, and would you consider re-joining The Wedding Present?
We pleasantly email each other occasionally. I haven't actually seen him to speak to for about five years now, but if we did, we'd still find things to laugh about. Sounds good I suppose, but it isn't and couldn't be like it was. However, David is a very pragmatic person and should he feel that it would benefit him to get all the original members together and properly reform the band, he knows that I would happily do it.
What are you doing now?
I am now a full time secondary science teacher with a family. Musically, 'The Ukrainians' are still performing and recording but at a much reduced level of around 10 or 20 shows a years. I don't even then manage to get out to all these with work and family commitments. Every year or so we release an album and these are sold in small numbers across the world (www.the-ukrainians.com).
Have you got a box of ‘TWP Stuff’ in the loft? Tell us what’s in it?
Interestingly, I have two copies of everything that I've appeared on. Once my house was burgled and I anxiously went into the attic room to see what albums/CDs were stolen - everything except my TWP collection....still trying to work out what that means!!
Grapper Specific Questions:
What was the origin of "Grapper"?
When the band first formed around 1985, I'd just come from supporting the miners during the strike. I often wore a flat cap and a Leeds United scarf. Shaun, the drummer from the south associated these with an 'old mans' attire and the southern slang for this was 'grapper'. It also didn't help that I was the oldest in the band by four months.
What happened to the notion that you would carry on in an administrative role after you left the band?
I did, for about two years. I carried out the book keeping and presented figures to the accountants. When the band became less busy after being dropped by RCA when the 12 singles in a year scam failed, David had enough time to do it himself. This also coincided with the busiest year from the Ukrainians, so it was easy to leave.