a short site about The Divine Comedy

Interview with Bryan Mills

With their single 'Love What You Do' looking set to chart very favourably this weekend, plus a brilliant new album called Regeneration and a UK tour to follow, the Divine Comedy are set for their most successful year to date.
Bassist Bryan Mills took some time out to speak with Samir Mathur

So, 'Regeneration'. A very apt title...

Yeah. To be honest, the title was a nightmare. We had about fifty titles, of which 'Regeneration' was one of the first. We didn't like it at the time, it was a bit obvious - too similar to 'Liberation.'

What were some of the rejected titles?

There were loads, dismissed 'cos they were crap. Um.. Memory Man was one, based on a pedal we used a lot on the record. Number 57 was another possibility, after a keyboard programme we like.

There's also regeneration in the respect that the whole band were much more involved on this record..

That's true. Everyone's been saying that, but in the past we've always mucked in. But, yeah, Neil [Hannon] took a back-seat this time, and Nigel [Godrich - producer] encouraged us to get more involved, gave us more room. We had more control over what came from the orchestra, the opera singers.

In listening to 'Regeneration', there's a strong sense of progression from the band's previous records. What would you say the difference was this time?

It's definitely simpler, more soul. I think in the past we had been very calculated, and on this record some of the songs went straight into the studio without ever being rehearsed. We stripped away all the bollocks, basically.

You began work with Nigel Godrich immediately after he finished work on Radiohead's 'Kid A'. Was there a point where you heard that record and thought, "Shit, what have we let ourselves in for?"

No, not really, I like 'Kid A'. Actually, we booked Nigel to work with us before he began to work with Radiohead, and recording with them took six months longer than expected. But once we decided on him for our record, it was fixed. So we had a period of just waiting. But his influence is all over the record - he knows how to bring the best out of each band member. It's certainly similar to a lot of the records he's done in the past. Would we work with him again? If he's up for it, sure. But given the number of records he's worked on in the last few years, he's probably going to wait a while before getting involved again!

There's a lot in common with Travis' 'The Man Who' - a strong sense of tunes over style

Yeah, that's the kind of thing I mean. But if we sell half as many copies as 'The Man Who', I'll be more than delighted.

Well, 'Love What You Do' was number 19 in the midweeks...

Yeah, I think it's 20 today, somewhere mid top 40. We've already done CD:UK, and Top Of The Pops is certainly an option. Shaggy is definitely going to number one, isn't he? He sold 80,000 copies in one day - that's obscene. We've actually played on the bill as Shaggy, at a dodgy festival in Portugal. We didn't get to meet him though, sadly. I do like some pop music, but most of it's crap, isn't it?

You've covered the Magnetic Fields in the past, is Stephen Merritt a large influence?

Yeah. We met him a few times when we were both on Setanta records. He's cool - we've done some gigs together. I haven't got round to buying their last album ['69 Love Songs'] though. I saw it, and said, "Fuck it, that's a lot of songs!" and haven't really come back to it yet.

Any chance of the next Divine Comedy record having that many tracks?

Oh Jesus! 10 or 11 is just about enough for me, thank you.

Any other bands you'd like to cover in the future?

Well, actually, here's a scoop for you. On the new tour [dates below] we're thinking of playing an old Status Quo song called 'Pictures of Matchstick Men', it's from the early 60s and it's really psychedelic, built around a great old riff. As a band we're not really fans of the Quo, but this is from before they became a greasy rock band and got that dodgy bassist. I liked them, but in my defence, I was twelve at the time.

Speaking of gigs, you've played a few shows already this year, how did they go?

Really well. It was scary, cos we were playing songs from the new album which nobody really knew, so it was more of a challenge, but they seemed to go down well. On the new tour, we'll still play pretty much the whole album, plus some older songs and the covers. The album's out on the day of the first gig in Sheffield [March 12th] and so hopefully people will be familiar with it. As the tour goes on, hopefully more and more people will be getting into the new songs.

Which of the new songs are your favourites to play?

I love it all! Just because it's new and fresh, I guess. Um.. I like 'Lost Property', 'Regeneration', 'Perfect Lovesong'..

'Perfect Lovesong' is the one that stood out when I listened to the record...

Yeah. That's our one feasible attempt at a number one hit. Of course it'll never happen, but you never know. Look at Coldplay. Maybe we'll be winning Brits next year!

What do you make of all these awards ceremonies?

They're horrible things. We only make an effort to go to the Hot Press awards, which are held in either Dublin or Belfast. A good excuse for us to get pissed with Ash! But on the whole, they're not nice things, awards ceremonies.

What was your verdict on Craig David missing out on all those awards?

Disgrace! He's the best soul singer we've had in, like, my whole lifetime. But I'm sure he's not losing any sleep over it.

After the Manics playing their gig in Cuba, where would you ideally like to play a gig to launch 'Regeneration'?

Um... We love playing in Scandinavia, but have never been to Iceland, so I'll say Iceland, that would be nice. Hopefully before the end of the year we'll have played in New York too, which should be great. We've never played as a whole band in America before, although Neil did a few acoustic shows there once.

And any festival plans for the summer?

Yeah. There are whispers of V2001, but it's too early to say anything concrete. I like festivals, though, it's a good day out, get to see some bands, catch up with others.

Do you have many showbiz mates?

No, we're not into that schmoozing scene at all. I mean, Travis and Radiohead we've met in the studio, and we Ash around quite a lot, but it's not like we all meet up and go to the pub.

If you could be the shower curtain for anyone in the world, who would you choose?

Um.. Goldie Hawn. She's one of those beautiful women that seems to never grow old.

Have you seen her daughter, though?

Yeah, she's not bad either. Her as well, then!

Finally, any message for your adoring public?

Um. Hello! [After much thought] Please buy our record. Thanks.

Samir Marthur
The Brain Farm