20th September 1997
"Well, as I understand it, only being with the band for two years, it's something to do with the top of a mountain, cos these guys are avid mountain climbers." says drummer Richie when the Magic Robot interview machine conjours up the traditional "where did your name come from?" question. Rock City is the location and Cable are supporting China Drum on a lengthy UK tour. The other support, Carrie, are apparently too scared to play tonight cos they had a fight with a bunch of skinheads last time they were in Nottingham, or something. Matt (sings, guitar) continues: "…it was a name inscribed in stone at the top of a mountain we climbed, cos we're all keen mountaineers…at least that's what we told someone else in an interview and they didn't quite grasp that we were joking… so they promptly ran off climbing every mountain in Britain to find the place…". And that's Cable's big problem really, watching them playing, you might well think they were a bunch of Serious Young Men with Serious Guitar Conversations to resume the moment they get off stage.
John Robb, in a recent interview (it's in issue 1 of Robots and Electric Brains) criticised Cable for this very lack of up-front rock antics. To some extent he's missing the point though as, musing further on the origins of the name, Matt pretty much comes up with Cable's overall game-plan: "…we didn't want a name that had any obvious connotations to it at all. Something completely nondescript so we could make a name for ourselves…". Which is more-or-less a rewording of that old musician's stand-by "we want to be judged on our music". Sadly, it seems to have backfired somewhat: "A lot of Southerners say that "cable" is another word for "shit", as in "I'm going to lay some cable". In fact, it was Jacob's Mouse that said that." Oh dear.
Let it be said now that Cable are not shit. Nor are they Serious Young Men. They are not as interested in self-promotion as some bands are and they're pretty candid with their opinions. With a nice line in taking the piss. Take their recent performance at Dingwalls for the Infectious showcase in London Music Week. The band appeared in matching shirts, trousers and ties and didn't say a word during the set. The only interaction they had with the audience was pretty violent eye-contact and taped computer-voice messages between songs. Richie trashed his kit at the end… "We weren't really angry…", Matt: "…it was just one of those corporate events that you do and you don't feel comfortable doing but we didn't want to go too far against it cos everyone moans about having to do those things. We were on in between Tim Wheeler and Symposium and we thought we'd make more of an occasion of it than we normally do live… everyone ignores us anyway, so we've got nothing to lose by doing something a bit off the wall. So we came up with this idea of ripping Kraftwerk off." Hence the shirts and ties. "Yeah, and everyone else had their hair slicked-back as well, but I was too much of a wuss to do that. It was funny as well cos all the computer voices were saying things like "You coke-snorting mother-fuckers, stop talking" and everyone just lapped it up. The night was a really good laugh though, everyone on our label is…it's like [puts on ironic hippy voice] one big happy family, man. It's really good we get on with everyone."
No label-hassle stories to tell? Damn. Ah, but were they forced into getting Supercharger in to do the promo-only dance remix of "Freeze the Atlantic"? "No, that was our suggestion, to get someone to remix it." And the outcome? "Well, we're not totally chuffed with it…but we've had some other remixes come out which we're more happy with, they'll be white labels for clubs only, I think. There's two other remixes, which've just sampled my vocal and a couple of guitar lines and it's like a big kind of backward loop bhangra-type thing. Pretty laid-back. The dance mix that was on the promo was a bit too frenetic for our liking…most people didn't like it…" Richie: "Nor did we really". Pete (bass): "Supercharger are apparently the next Chemical Brothers. If that is the case, dance music is fucked with a hammer." I said they were candid. Matt: "I'm sure Supercharger are some happening band, but we just met them in a pub. It was a fluke. We're not really interested in that side of things anyway." Which is presumably why they haven't really played the format game, not releasing nine (crap) songs with every single or anything? "That kind of thing totally sucks. We're not into ripping people off; we could easily just put live versions onto all of our b-sides or something but we're not into that at all. We still buy records ourselves and we know what it's like, it's really off-putting when you see the b-sides are just things like that. You smell a rat straight away, it's a complete corporate rip-off."
In her review of "Wrecked by Lions" for Melody Maker, Ngaire-Ruth compared Number One Cup to Cable. It's not a comparison they find easy to accept, although they will admit that being described as a "…heavier Pavement" is "okay". Richie had a cracking description before the tape machine started: "it was err, "hard Napalm Death kick" err, can't remember." Matt: "We get compared to Green Day. We don't like that at all…We were talking about how much we love it when people compare us to English bands. One person said they heard the advert [for Sprite, the music was "Freeze the Atlantic"] and thought it was the Charlatans. I'm just sick of us getting compared to American bands, it's like we're yankophiles or something. And we're not at all, we listen to loads of British music…I could never affect an American accent or anything like that." You don't need to though, you've got a pretty unique kind of singing…umm…style. "Ha ha! That's diplomatic of you."
Richie is a bit of a metal-head and previously, and for a very short time, he played in a band with one of the Kerrang! staff. Which might explain why that's pretty much the only mag that's willing to give them the time of day at the moment. Richie also says that the stuff the rest of the band listen to is "wimpy jangle-pop." Matt: "Yeah, that's right we don't listen to proper bloke's music at all. We don't listen to music that sounds like us, we've been listening to Stereolab, John Spencer Blues Explosion and Jonathan Fire*Eater. And we've been on a Black Sabbath frenzy in the van recently. " So lots of Sabbath covers to come then? "No, I don't think so. We're useless at covers, we tried to do "Ring of fire" on the last single and we're doing "San Quentin" on the live album that comes out the end of this month…We did a gig at Brixton Prison at the beginning of the year and we recorded it." Richie: "Yeah, it was great, everyone was cheering all the way through "San Quentin" and singing along…" And did they play it twice like on the album? Richie: "eh?" Johnny Cash plays it twice on "Live at San Quentin". Richie: "I never noticed that!" Matt: "He doesn't play it at the end of the set either, he plays it again straight away…what a dude… "The gig was really good though, we went down really well…and there were a really broad cross-section of people in there watching us, not just juvenile offenders…" Richie: "…it was the full-on lifers and everything…" "…yeah, lots of grey-haired old men who you could tell had been in there for a really long time…They were the ones that were getting into "San Quentin", headbanging and sharpening their knives and stuff." It was probably the only entertainment they'd had in 30 years, you can't blame them for liking it can you?…. No offence intended.
The Magic Robot turns up one of the best questions on the board (for slagging other people off): Name the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Richie, continuing an earlier conversation: "Well, we've had the Bad already: Jocasta, sorry Matt, but I had to say something." Matt: "We're the Ugly.." Richie: "..and the 'Ca are the Good." The 'Ca? "Metallica…and Black Sabbath…and the Good are Sony as well, for dropping Jocasta on the day they released their album.. I'm quite happy about that, after all that shit they gave us in the dressing room [the last time Cable played Cambridge they supported Jocasta in front of about 6 people—including me, and I got the same spiel from Jocasta too] about how they'd got their own label, "Sony have put so much money into it, they're totally behind us, we can do whatever we want"…obviously so behind them that they were dropped as soon as the contract was fulfilled….I like it." Matt: Carl Watkins is Good…he was jailed for having sex with concrete underpasses. They found him laid face down trying to have sex with the pavement…." And the Bad? "…erm, Michael Jackson was bad." Heh heh, and LL Cool J was B.A.D. then. Richie:"Big Audio Dynamite are B.A.D. as well." Twice, in fact.
One of the other things John Robb mentioned in passing when I interviewed him a while ago was that Cable and Oasis got into a bit of fracas at Rockfield recording studio. Pete: "There are several incidents that have taken place between Cable and the Mancunian five piece. This particular episode took place when said Gallagher had invited us back to a party at their studio… (we were recording next door.) Liam was playing a tape of "What's the story…" to the first human other than the five members of the band and Owen Morris, and Darius [guitar] told him it sounded just like the Beatles and was a total fucking rip-off, the worst form of lowest common denominator trash. Not the best way to have answered the question, what with us being guests and all, but hey, at least he was honest! Naturally a somewhat drunken scuffle ensued, as we all looked on. The two were too drunk to fight properly which only added to the fun, which was spoiled by Bonehead who punched an off-guard Darius to the ground. Then they got the hunting rifles out that they had hired that day and Jonn Robb in his infinate wisdom decided it was time Darius left and carried him back to our studio. No-one enjoys being shot at. Something to tell your children, I suppose. But not half as queer as what happened the next time we met…
"The first time we met them was in 1994, when we supported them at their Derby show on their first tour of the UK after signing to creation. The last time we met them was at the Astoria after we had supported Ash. They were at the after-show. The support slot to them is nothing to speak of, other than the fact that they were fairly rude and difficult to work round. The Astoria meeting was even more bizarre than the Rockfield incident, however. Liam and Bonehead just sidled over to me and goes "Hey mate how's it goin'". I'm thinking "Fuck, they're still sore after Darius threw pasta salad all over their kitchen and told them they were shit and now they're gonna kick my head in." So I said "I'm alright lads, how are you?" Liam: "It is you innit?" Me: "What do you mean?" Liam: " What was cheeky'n that and knackered our tea and caused me my bruvver to have a scrap n'that." Me:"…er yeh, sorry about that…" Liam: "Fuckit. It were a top laugh. We nearly split up that night. Our Noel says I was out of order for hittin' your mate, so we had a fight." And that was it. He didn't give a shit. Him and Noel had had a massive row that night causing Noel to leave the studio and drive home to London. It was in all the tabloids, I'm sure you'll remember, when Noel walked out of recording "What's the story…" But all the papers had said that they had invited some local lads back to the studio, not the band who were next door. A press opportunity missed out on? The band that almost finished Oasis? No wonder that replacement bass player didn't last long and no wonder the other one was fucked in the first place. No wonder the original drummer was fired. From being a fly on the wall both before and after their success, being in Oasis just can't be any fun, I'm sure. They can bearly get on with each other, let alone anyone else, and the cocaine consumption was ridiculous."
That's your lot then. As advertised, Cable are forthright, good-humoured, self-deprecating and a fine band to boot. All the elements which virtually ensure they'll not get much bigger than they already are, i.e. scraping the bottom of the drab 40 with "Freeze the Atlantic", which suits the band down to the ground. Read the review of the gig elsewhere, but for reference I suppose "art-rock" (Pete and Matt went to art school together and insist that all their record sleeves, advertising etc looks good) is as good a label as any; dual guitars intermingling quietly in almost-but-not-quite dischordant patterns and then blasting out distorted riffs in a new twist on the loud-soft formula. Regulation heavy, yet melodic, bass and mental drumming which could only come from someone who's spent rather too much time in thrash bands.