'TOO MANY KNOWLEDGE CAN BE DANGEROUS'
(report on the Naked Song Festival in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, by John Bruinsma, June 2nd 2008)
Graham Gouldman and Spinvis GG and Anne Soldaat (All photos: John Bruinsma)
The thing with a workshop songwriting is: actually you can't learn it.
At least not everybody.
That could be the conclusion after attending the songwriting workshop Graham Gouldman gave in the Frits Philips Muziekcentrum in Eindhoven, as part of the Naked Song Festival held there on Friday the 31st of May.
Gouldman found himself in the good company of famous artists like Linda Thompson and Gabriel Rios. He was unfamiliar with the attenders of his workshop, Dutch artists Spinvis and Anne Soldaat, both well known in their own country for their creative musical talent and as such not in a desperate need of being thaught a lesson by the old master of sixties pop and melodic 10cc-cleverness. Especially Spinvis, who sings in his native language only, is highly acclaimed in his own country for his wonderous collage of words, phrases and sounds, most of the time ending in melodic and moody popsongs.
Nevertheless, musicians ar ordinary people for some part too. That's how Spinvis and Anne Soldaat became attached to Gouldman's workshop. Both Spinvis - pseudonyme for Erik de Jong - and Soldaat are admirers of his work and do recognise its quality. Both felt it as an honour to get the possibility of doing something together with Gouldman. "I once said in an interview that one of my all time favorite songs is Bus stop", Spinvis told the Graham Gouldman Things website after the workshop. "That's why they called me to be here. I think that's great. It's not only Bus stop that I find amazing, I am also inspired by the music of 10cc. I have a great appreciation for the sound production, that is part of the quality that 10cc stood for. But I also feel influenced by Godley & Creme, for example by an album like Birds of prey"
GG and Spinvis backstage
Graham Gouldman started off the workshop - 'because I am the eldest'
- with a bit of Bus stop, soon making clear that the conception
of the song came from several seeds. The little riff at the
beginning that Gouldman came up with himself. The title he already had
in his head. The first lines written soon after by his father Hyme. "From
that moment on it was as if the song itself told me what to do next." Spinvis
showed special interest in the beautiful multivocal harmony chorus that
stop got in the version of the Hollies (''Every morning I would see
her waiting at the stop" etc). With the use of his acoustic guitar, playing
a unisono chord, Gouldman showed Spinvis that this was something the Hollies
added to the song themselves.Time for Spinvis to demonstrate a part of
his song Wespen op de appeltaart ('Wasps on the apple pie'). Because:
''I stole something from you." Hard to hear for the audience, probably,
but Gouldman got the clue: "Yes, I heard it, that's from Bus stop.'
Using the chords or the notes of others in one way or another is not a strange thing at all for music makers, as Gouldman demonstrated later on with his story about how he was insipred by House of the rising sun by the Animals. `When I heard those first chords for the first time I immediately thought: this is from heaven. And it stayed in my mind. And when I wrote For your love I used that Animals-intro to come up with the first chords of the intro of that Yardbirds-song. I guess we all do this, consciously or unconsiously."
Inspiration, transpiration, dedication: what makes art? Anne Soldaat was wondering about that too, regarding his question for Gouldman to tell a bit more about the 9-to-5-songwriting job he did for the Kasenets-Katz office in New York, in the late sixties. "Inspiration is not enough", Gouldman replied. "I've got to do it, I've got to keep that muscle working. But you got to be inspired, you're tank isn't always full. That's why I like to work with other people. The more I work together, the more ideas I get. If I would like to, I could write songs endlessly. But then some of them would be good and a lot of them would be bad. So sometimes I write a part of a song. And then six months later, when you're working on something different, you might encounter a gap and then suddenly that little part you wrote six months earlier fits in."
It is a process that, in the view of Gouldman, is done instinctively. "Songwriting is not about being clever. You've got a riff, you've got a chord, you've got a word or a phrase and you go from one thing to another, untill you've got something you like. And you always write what you like yourself. And coincidentally other people sometimes like it too."
"So a workshop does not work", Spinvis stated, resulting in a big laugh from the audience. "OK, let's go!", someone shouted.
"Well, you've got to work, and to work with other songrwiters is always exciting, because you know the other guys know how it works too", Graham said. "So you'll do your extra best to make something worthwile."
Soldaat: "And what about skills?"
Gouldman: "It helps if you can play. But some of the best songs in history are written on four or five chords. So too many knowledge can be dangerous. If you write a song on four chords it will have to be really good to impress or to entertain."
With reference to the work of rapper Snoop Dogg Spinvis brought in the importance of the sound production to the quality of a song. "With Snoop Dogg it is almost only the magic of the sound production." Gouldman stated he could not make music like that, "but I can appreciate it. There is only good music or bad music. If the song is good, the production will follow automatically, I think. When I worked with Andrew Gold we used a drum machine to work with. You can even hear notes in that."
Spinvis: "That is exactly the way I work with lyrics. I will sing some fake lines and later I will fill in the words. First I want it to sound right. A good song deals about nothing. To me it is just a matter of form. That's why I don't like political songs or conscious lyrics."
Gouldman: "Sometimes you might have a word or a title."
Gouldman: "And sometimes it seems to deal about nothing, but you feel something, and then it stays on your mind. A song should never be too literally, that is really the kiss of death. One word can be good, you don't know why, you just know that it is good. I'm not in love is an example. There's that line about 'a nasty stain that's lying there'. Everybody is wondering what that nasty stain might be. Well, you don't know yourself either."
Note: if you want the used pictures in a bigger format, please contact the Graham Gouldman Things website
GG, JB and Spinvis backstage.
10CC OR GG?
(column by John Bruinsma, March 17th 2008)
(Listening to ''Bloody tourists", 1978)
For one reason or another 10cc, one of the finest bands of the seventies,
often has been regarded as the second Beatles by many music loving people.
With that in mind it is both funny and honest what Graham Gouldman, one
of the founding members, says in his comment on the debate about the use
(by him) of the 10cc-name in present time: when Graham performs the music
of 10cc with his current band not many people in the audience have the
slightest idea who he is. It is the best way to illustrate that the discussion
among hardcore 10cc-fans about the use of the name is quite academic. Only
the last 176 people on earth who still sleep in their 10cc-pyjamas care.
For the ones not among them, who might visit a concert by Graham and his
band, it is only the music that might ring a bell, not the guys who perform
it. ''Hey! Dreadlock holiday! Remember?!"
Now imagine Paul McCartney getting back on stage with a couple of musicians, not named John Lennon, George Harrison or Ringo Starr, calling this band The Beatles and playing Beatles-song. I bet a lot of people would pay to see that (both Heather and Paul would be satisfied), but I assume the majority of the audience would realise that they were not listening to the true Beatles, but to a derivate, and that McCartney should better be billing his concerts under his own name.
With 10cc we are talking about a completely different situation. The band gained great critical acclaim and it deserved that. But its fame, on world scale, is only a fraction of that of The Beatles. And if you go to whatever continent in the world, more people would get a twinkle in their eye when you would ask them if they know McCartney, than when you would mention the name of Graham Gouldman in front of them. But this is not a tragedy - certainly not for Graham Gouldman -, it's just fate.
I work for a newspaper. When I tell my collegues about this website hobby of mine, they are puzzled about the subject. 'Graham who?' When I ask them if they know a song like ''Bus stop" or "No milk today" they will nod 'yes'. When I ask them if they know about a song called 'I'm not in love' they will nod 'yes'. When I tell them that Graham Gouldman is the man who (co-)wrote those songs they are quite astonished. 'Is that so? Jeez, I didn't know that!'
Fate is that Graham Gouldman probably is one of the most unknown famous musicians/songwriters in the world, at least in comparison with collegues of quite the same age, like McCartney. Fact is that 10cc has always been a good marriage between art and commerce (''art for art's sake, money for god's sake", remember?). Taking that in consideration, it is quite understandable that Graham Gouldman uses the name of 10cc in one way or another to present the music of 10cc to new audiences. Hopefully Graham will feel morally obliged to tell the audience about the backgrounds of the songs and the people behind it.
Whether this presentation is interesting for hardcore fans is quite another question. I have seen Graham Gouldman's 10cc twice. The first time was great because I never saw him play in the original 10cc when I was a teenager. And the music sounded great. The second time was of lesser interest. Almost the same setlist. No surprises. But yes, other people, not as familiar with this music as myself, had a great time.
If I were Graham´s manager I would let him include ´Behind the door´, ´Love´s not for me´, ´Lying here with you´, ´Sunburn´ and more of those typical GG-tunes to the setlist. Billing it as ''The Graham Gouldman Songbook". I would definitely go to see that. But how many tickets would it sell? Or I wish it were true wat Graham says: 'I can only hope I would love the current band to include all or any of Lol, Kevin and Eric.' When Pink Floyd managed to do that, with Gilmour and Waters back together at Live Aid, why not 10cc, just for once? May all four original members give an answer to that question. And if not, big deal.
Before GG06 released their fifth track "Son of man" through the new 10cc-compilation "Greatest hits and more" Kevin Godley and Graham Gouldman cooperated on an interview with The Graham Gouldman Things website through e-mail. It took a while but here is the result.
by John Bruinsma, December 1st 2006
Q: You have taken your time to write the four songs you brought out recently, because both of you have told that you are quite busy with other things during day time. Can you tell us what your main enterprises are these days? I always thought you get more days off when you have passed the age of 60 (I am only 44...)
A by Kevin: Cheeky sod. Actually the opposite is true. Or maybe it just feels like that because time passes quicker when you get older. I’m developing and writing a number of projects for TV. Trying to fund a couple of co – written screenplays as well as directing music videos. All that adds up to lots of time tapping away at computers and attending meetings. GG / 06 was, simply, the hobby that suddenly got serious.
A by Graham: I spend most of my time on various writing projects, mainly with recording artist looking for co-writes. Most of them are a lot younger than me, but once we start work the age difference dissappears and it's just 'two blokes with guitars'. I have never really stopped gigging in one form or another and I love it, whether it be '10cc feat. GG' or an acoustic show playing solo. We seem to be doing more and more live work these days which is ok by me.
Q: Kevin, your reappearance on the singing and songwriting front was a great surprise, at least for me. Your explanation is you wanted to see if your music muscle still works. I also heard you say something about the fuzz you encounter in the videomaking, where all kinds of people have something to bring in. Does this mean that you are fed up with video business? Or maybe that songwriting is more satisfying?
A: I don’t think I’ll ever get bored with directing video. I’m still excited by the way pictures and music can work together and It’s a buzz when you devise a situation that makes it work beautifully. Music never really left me, I left it. At least I thought I did. Truth is it just percolated for a while. If it’s in there it doesn’t go away. I find music a really direct mode of expression. From heart and mind to recording is a more direct route than from heart and mind to film. Perhaps it’s because, in music video one is mostly illustrating someone else’s music and you’re competing against others for the opportunity to do so. There’s also a world of commercial bullshit and protocol throwing up walls between you and your vision. Maybe that’s also why making a great video is doubly satisfying... Because you’ve had to wade through all that crap to get there.
Q: You say you have to compete with others to make a video? I could imagine, in your case, pop artists telling their record companies that they want you, because of your video cv.
A: Directing video is highly competitive. Labels, artists and bands are always being made aware of the new hot ticket, the latest look, director, who’s cool, who’s not, who’s in, who’s out. A solid CV is helpful but if your idea doesn’t hit the spot you’re not going to get the gig… period.
Q: Graham, can you tell at what point Kevin's contribution has a positive and improving effect on your own songwriting? And Kevin, how about the other way round?
A by Graham: As well as being a wonderful lyricist, Kevin comes
up with great melodies. He doesn't play a musical instrument so I create
a background, via chords, for his music. Sometimes the chords to use are
obvious, but often they aren't, in which case I search around until I find
the one Kevin is hearing in his head. A song may start with me playing
a chord sequence which he latches on to and the creative process begins.
Because Kevin goes places musically and lyrically that I wouldn't go everything
about working with him is both positive and improving. Kevin and I go back
a long way and we like and respect each other but mainly I just love working
with the guy.
A by Kevin: He doesn’t improve my songwriting, HE MAKES IT. I don’t play an instrument so Graham gives my notions musical life in a way that instinctively understands their heart and gut. He’s the ideal collaborator because if it’s about a collision of empathy and tension... and it always is, Mr. G knows how to sculpt both. He’s the knowledgeable, consummate pro with every chord at his fingertips. I’m the amateur. I’m instinctive. I tend to stumble around groping after a vague blueprint in the back of my mind whereas GG has the skills to locate, ground, and turn it into something better. I can be difficult and dogmatic and waver between thinking something’s great, one minute, and garbage the next, GG has the patience to allow me to waver and gently guide us to a place where it can BECOME great. In other words we compliment each others tastes, methods and abilities. We’ve got a lot of history, too, and that inevitably helps. When you write with someone you’re exposing yourself, emotionally, so you’d better trust that person to treat what you’re putting out there with respect. In our case that cuts both ways. In the final analysis it either works or it doesn’t. Trying to figure out ‘why’ is like searching for the meaning of life.
Q: Kevin, you not playing an instrument? I could swear I have seen you play drums a bit in the past...
A: Drums, I remember drums. Round wooden tub-like things with cute chrome bits. You hit them, right? I’d love to play but frankly where we record now doesn’t have the room for a full kit. So for now it’s programmed drums until further notice.
Q: Reading your explanation about how you both complement each other, one can understand quite a lot of how this must have worked in the past, when you both were in 10cc. Is it fair to say that you both, in a way, were a tandem of your own already in the past, next to the ones people are familiair to (Stewart-Gouldman / Godley-Creme)?
A by Kevin: Yes and no. More no than yes, in fact. We wrote 2 maybe
3 pure KG/GG songs during our entire tenure in 10cc. There were other collaborations
where I’d contribute some parts to a ES/GG song or GG would do the same
to a KG/LC song or ES to a KG/LC/GG song or LC to a KG/ES song. We
were democratic enough to let the juices flow all ways. I guess we all
new each other so well from working as a production unit that our musical
instincts always led us somewhere that made musical sense to the personalities
in the band and the personality of the band.
A by Graham: Because there were two established and successful writing teams within 10cc we got used to working that way. However if you look at the writing credits on our first album you will see quite a few Godley Creme Gouldman songs. It was always interesting to mix up the writing teams.
You both explain how great it is to work with somebody you don’t have to get to know and that it was like if you went on where you had left it years ago. You can hear that in the music – and that is meant as a compliment. Could that have happened also if mr. G. had turned to mr. E.S. or if mr. K would have turned to mr. L.C?
A by Kevin: I don’t think so. Personally my feeling is that the new
music works because it was, to some extent, an untried partnership. It
was like starting from scratch. Even though we know and like each our previous
writing experiences were never a main event, even within the context of
10cc. Add enthusiasm to that mix and you’ve got 2 middle-aged men feeling
like we’re doing something new.
A by Graham: I believe that there is a certain chemistry that one maintains between writing partners that never changes. I can't explain why it happens, but from my experience, it does.
Q: One of the reasons you have released your new songs through the internet is it is hard for you to get it out on cd. That is difficult to imagine, if I consider the quality of the music, the presence of small labels in for a release of names with a certain history, your reputation and the fact that Kevin still is in touch (through another way) with contemporary record business. Doesn’t that open any door? Or would you both have to reunite with E.S and L.C. also, to be able to release your labour on a cd under the more marketable name of 10cc?
A by Kevin: The reason we went the website route was to retain our independence,
both musically and stylistically. In effect we’ve opened our own little
shop. We’re a small boutique site with no pretence to be anything other
than an outlet for KG/GG ideas. So far it works. Take the GG/06 concept
to a label, big or small and numerous issues arise. “Great tracks guys
but how do we sell you?” I mean you’re over 50 for Christ’s sake. You haven’t
recorded for 20 years and are you serious about those shoes?” Etc etc Blah
blah blah. Who needs that? If you’re interested in who we are / were /
will be, what we say, sound like, look like, write GG/06 is open 24/7.
A by Graham: Kevin and I work together whenever we can but not as often as we would like, therefore it takes us a long time to write and record our songs. To have waited for an album worth would have taken too much time, so we thought we would release what we had on the internet. When we have enough tracks to fill an album I am sure we would be able to get a record deal and release them on cd.
Q: One of the new songs, “Hooligan crane”, contains the subject of school bullying, like the Godley & Creme-song “Punchbag”, from the past. That song was already remarkable because it seemed to get more personal than 10cc ever did. And now the subject is back again. Kevin, you already told you have personal experience on this matter. Seeing it resulting in a second (and another great) lyric I guess this is still something of importance to you.
A by Kevin: I grew up thinking people were staring at me. I was bullied
at school. I was a victim. I got by because I could draw. I sold pictures
of nude women for sixpence to other pupils even though I didn’t know what
tits and ass really looked like. I remember being stripped in a train carriage
by bullies, I remember being beaten up on a number of occasions. I remember
almost becoming a bully, myself, because it was such a relief to be on
the tormentors’ side instead of the tormented. HOOLIGAN CRANE is my revenge.
GRAHAM GOULDMAN INTERVIEW
NO 'BUS STOP' YET FOR GRAHAM GOULDMAN by JOHN BRUINSMA
Graham Gouldman could retire and spend all day with his children and enjoy the best things in life. But the musician and the composer has stayed a musician and a composer all these years. There's no need anymore for him to prove he is able to write another Bus Stop or to go out on stage and perform the successes he had as a songwriter and as member of the legendary 10cc. But music is Gouldman's second nature, he explains to the Graham Gouldman Things website in the surroundings of the Labadoux Festival at Ingelmunster, Belgium. Music IS one of the best things in life for Graham Gouldman, just turned 57 and still going strong.
Flemish hospitality is waiting for the musicians and the
visitors at the Labadoux Festival at Ingelmunster, in the western part
of Belgium. The yearly festival organized by owner Jean-Pierre de Ven of
De Fagot - the local pub - and his crew of dedicated volunteers contains
a friendly and cosy atmosphere, at the terrain where the audience is gathering
and in the white VIP-tent where musicians, invited guests and press are
No contemporary hit artists here who are responsible for high concert fever going far above the max. Whole families, with fathers, mothers and children, attend the festival, all in for having a day (or two) of fun, but in a relaxed and easy going way, with room for the kids to play and a wagon with the famous Belgian frieten with mayonaise nearby. People looking for the excitement of seeing and hearing the latest whatever modern hitwonder should be going elsewhere and not here, on the northern bank of the Roeselare-Leie Channel. This is a place where young and upcoming artists are programmed together with once famous collegues from earlier days.
Tasteful Belgian beer is floating rapidly behind the bar on this first saturday in May. And in the back of the tent VIP's who are hungry can fetch their own vegetable soup and bread. Just help yourself. And please write down your name in the guestbook, as a lot of the artists did that frequented one of the fourteen previous Labadoux Festivals. You bet Jean-Pierre and his crew will take a proud look at it once the fifteenth edition of the festival has ended.
Labadoux is a folk flavored festival with room for other more pop or rock orientated genres too. "We had Warren Zevon here", Jean-Pierre recalls, "Mory Kante from Guinee-Buissau, Rory Gallagher, Bob Geldof, Rory Block, Luka Bloom, John Sebastian, Ian Matthews, Magna Carta. And oh yes, Dutch visitors should know Frank Boeijen from Nijmegen was here, together with Liesbeth List."
Today, on the second of three days, Jean-Pierre is welcoming Fairport Convention, or at least what is left of that band, for the third time. And tomorrow the Dubliners will be playing. But tonight there's another famous band going to play at Ingelmunster, for the first time. Not with the original line-up, like Fairport, but with one of its original frontmen: Graham Gouldman, bassplayer, singer and songwriter of the well known 10cc. He is going to perform his own sixties hits and a string of hits 10cc is well remembered for.
Jean-Pierre is glad he succeeded in getting enough sponsors willing to back up his festival financially. And there's also a small contribution from the regional government. Otherwise, he would not have been able to contract such a big and still quite expensive name as Gouldman and his friends, of which Paul Burgess and Rick Fenn are the more familiar ones. One look at his face later that day - when the band is performing and he has taken seat on the floor just in front of the stage - and you know what Jean-Pierre is all about: a musiclover with a respectable amount of organizing talent, who is personally thrilled by the fact that he's been able again to get all these fantastic musicians over here.
More than six hours before they do their gig, Graham Gouldman and friends make their entrance in the tent quite anonymously. Just a couple of heads turning; probably a few connaisseurs. Not that the artists seem to care about that. This cosy atmosphere, where you have some peace of your own, it's just what the English musicians seem to enjoy. Mr. Gouldman is looking around to see where he can take a seat. The right moment to get in touch with him and refresh his memory about the appointment with the Graham Gouldman Things website made a couple of weeks before. But Gouldman doesn't need his memory to be refreshed.
"John, nice to meet you, how are you? Shall we do the interview now? I have forty minutes before the soundcheck."
"I've heard you are a fast talker. So that should be enough."
"It better should", Gouldman jokes.
"But let's have a beer first. A Belgian one, I presume?"
"Yes please", Gouldman replies, ”since we are in Belgium, why not a Belgian one?"
Alright, let's get down to business then.
Graham Gouldman performing in Ingelmunster, Belgium. What's the reason? Money? Music? Fun?
A bit of all I think. But mainly because we like to play together and this is a way for all of us to be able to play. For Rick Fenn and Paul Burgess and for the other band members, Mick Wilson and Mike Stevens. Mick Wilson was recommended to me by Rick Fenn, Mike Stevens works in the same London building where I have my studio. All true musicians. Mike Stevens has worked with Atomic Kitten, he was the musical director for Take That and is working with annie Lennox at the moment. We all like to play 10cc-music and there is a demand for it. You need a certain amount of gigs to make it viable. But if I wouldn't like those 10cc-songs anymore then really I would not play them.
And how does it feel to do your thing without the pressure on it that was there in the old days, when you were in the middle of the picture with 10cc?
I miss it, sometimes. In the early days you could feel the tension in a hall before you went out on the stage. That certain feeling of an audience in great expectation: 'they're here!' Now it is all more easy going and relaxed. People listen to your hitsongs passing by, recognizing them and being satisfied with that. They do not really listen to the deeper layers of the songs.
A bit like playing First Division after years in the Champions League?
If you want to compare it like that, why not? But like the football player you stil are hungry for the ball and you never lose your tricks. That makes it still worthwhile for me, to play on stage. And oh no, it's never routine.
Does the fact that you perform several times a year means that your preoccupation is still with making music and not with composing, like in the early days, when you were succesful als a composer but seeking for succes as a member of a band?
It has always been both things for me, playing and writing, and it still is. If I am not writing, I am playing and vice versa. And it's one hand filling the other. When you are doing soundchecks on the road you might come up with some riff that you might use later in a song. Yes, I still write songs often, together with other people. In fact, the last weeks I'm writing with Kevin Godley again. We always kept contact. But do not emphasise it too much, because otherwise people will be asking me constantly if I will do something with the songs I'm working on with Kev, and if so, what and when. We're just busy writing and we'll wait and see if something comes out of it. What I can say is that the material Kevin wrote with me in the past is quirky for the most part. And when you hear Kev sing those songs, you immediately think: this is a song only Kev can sing.
Let's fill some gaps in your bio. I've always read about your father, but nothing about your mother or any brothers or sisters.
Well, I'm an only child so that's why you never heard anything about sisters or brothers. As far as my mother is concerned, she was always very encouraging. She used to act in the plays my father Hymie wrote as an amateur playwriter. And she was kind of a secretary for him. My mother is still very proud of what I do. My parents also made music, as my grandmother did. We even had a family orchestra. Yeah, the Gouldman Orchestra, you could call it like that! My children learned to play flute and piano too. And they like to listen to pop music. Alex is into heavy metal, Rosanna likes Shakira and Christina Aguilera. My eldest son Louis is an A&R manager for Universal Records. He is the man behind Busted, who had a number one hit record in Britain recently.
Speaking of your family, I lost count of your wives and children.
I was married to Susan from 1969 until 1979 and then to Gill from 1988 until 2000. I have two children from my first marriage, Sarah and Louis and two from my second marriage, Rosanna, who is 13 now and Alex who is 10. I take care of them since my ex-wife is ill. When a mother is not able to take care of her kids the father should take his responsibilty, don't you agree? When I'm on tour I have a nanny at home who takes care of the children.
You've told earlier before that your Jewish background had an influence on your musicianship. We from the other side of the North Sea know little about the Jewish community in Great Britain. What was it to grow up in Manchester at the end of war as a Jewish boy?
My family comes from Russia and Poland. They fled because
of their Jewish identity. I grew up in Broughton Park in the northern part
of Manchester. Lol Creme and Kevin Godley, who have the same background,
grew up in Prestworth. There was a rather big Jewish community in the north,
which was the poorer part of the city. Your aim was to get in the southern
part, which was the better one.
The holocaust did not have a direct impact on our family, but it did have on certain relatives. Your background makes you different from other kids, for sure. I mean, at that age you are confronted by others about you being different. When I went to primary school I experienced some antisemitism. But in the music scene my background did not matter at all. Musically yes, it has it's influence, because I loved the Jewish melodies with all their minor chords. But in the relationship with other musicians it wasn't a subject.
Is the Jewish connection also part of the explanation of your musical succes? I mean, people like Harvey Lisberg and Danny Betesh, with the same background like you, ran the Kennedy Street management where your carreer got its boost.
Yes, it was like being part of the Jewish mafia, you could say, only without breaking peoples legs (laughs). Well, the Jewish people have always stood for a mixture of art and commerce. And being a minority there is a strong will to succeed. So if someone calls you a dirty Jew as a little boy, which has happened to me, you are ready and willing to show them who you are. You're right, I never wrote a song about that.
Why did you not direct yourself entirely on composing? I mean, you are not exactly a pop idol, a Robbie Williams type, but you know how to write a popsong.
Interviewer and composer/musician at Ingelmunster, Belgium. Mike Stevens (r) keeps an eye on GG, just to make sure. Photo: Ron van Leeuwen
I never wanted to be a star. Not even a frontman. But I definitely wanted to play in a band, just to have fun going on the road with a couple of boys. Probably the explanation is I was an only child. I wanted to have a good time with other people around me. I guess this is also one of the reasons I still perform. I like to go out and play with the band. And as long as I enjoy it, I'll continue. Who cares?
The most amazing part of your story for me is your huge succes at the age of 19, 20. Looking back on that, what is the explanation? I mean, five or six millionsellers in eighteen months, it seems like a miracle to me.
It was a matter of luck, I think. Everything necessary to trigger that succes was present. The right age, the music I was listening to, Harvey Lisberg, my parents who encouraged me, the inspiring climate of the sixties era. I listened to the Beatles and I thought: this is what I want to do too! I watched Top Of The Pops and went straight up to my bedroom afterwards, to write songs for myself. The sixties era in general was so inspiring… and probably it had its most creative period in 1965, 1966, when a lot of very good music was made.
Suppose you would have been 19 now, with the same abilities and the same dedication towards music. What would have happened with Graham Gouldman then? Would you have been a candidate in the British Idols, for instance?
I think I would be a songwriter again. I do not consider myself to be an idol. Eric Stewart probably would. Why? Well, he had the looks.
And he is a good musician, he might have won.
Oh yes, that could have been the case. But as 10cc, I think we would have had a hard time, in this era. I do not look down on contemporary pop music. I mean, there are artists out there I appreciate, like Eminem, the Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay. But with the music industry nowadays there is not much room for experiment, which was one of the more important aspects of building 10cc.
Do you consider your work as a popmusician to be of commercial value more than of artistic value?
I do not think about the commercial value when I write a song. When I write a song I just want it to be a good song. In fact, every last song you have written is the best one, until you write a new song. And over the time the order changes, all those songs fall in their right place eventually.
Are you aware of the fact that about 178 people from all over the world keep the memory of 10cc alive through the internet, with mailing lists, websites and on- and offline debates and disputes?
I am aware of it, yes. In fact, it's because of the internet that things like these gigs can happen. I mean, it's so much easier for people to get in contact with each other. So it's a lot more easier also to trace a band and arrange a concert. I do not follow that much, though, what is going on about 10cc on the net, but sometimes I take a look at the websites, to see what I'm doing!
Do you know there are ES-camps, GG-camps and 10cc-camps out there?
I know. I suppose there are bound to be camps. You forgot to mention the Godley & Creme-camp.
Speaking in the name of the ES-camp: the members of that camp consider your role in 10cc to be modest in comparison to that of Eric Stewart. What's your opinion?
If you look at the credits of the songs before, during and after 10cc you'll know enough. They speak for themselves. And let them do so. I am not going to defend myself. You should look at the work of 10cc as a whole. The body of what 10cc did, would not have happened if the four of us would not have been in that studio. There's something in everything of everybody of us. John, let me add that I find it almost offensive to feel that I would have to defend myself for what I contributed. But I will not go to every track to proof what I contributed, to say: I was responsible for this or for that part.
What strucked me when reading the 10cc history is that your relationship with Eric Stewart got tense already from the time 'Deceptive bends' was made. At least that is how Stewart recalled it. I did not hear those tensions on the album though. Can it be credited to the presence of Godley & Creme in the earlier days that you and Stewart could get along better before?
In every relation there are tensions. But, on the musical part, they can be profitable to your work or your creativity. As long as this is the case there's not a problem, really. I admit it was easier to deal with problems at the time we were the four of us, because they had to be solved between the four of us. Nontheless, in 1976, when Godley and Creme left, Eric Stewart went on with me as 10cc, which was wise of him. And we still had to proof something, didn't we? We had to show that the two of us were able to make good 10cc-records as well.
Which you did, with Deceptive Bends and Bloody Tourists.
I agree on that. But after a while things didn't work out well anymore for 10cc. And the main reasons for that in my opinion were the car accident that Eric suffered from and the dawning of the punk era. Eric wasn't the same after the accident he had. You should understand he was wounded severely and it took a long time for him to recover. And when he returned in the studio punk had taken over on the radio. The music that 10cc stood for had fallen a bit out of the picture.
I'm curious about the differences between the two of you. What is Graham Gouldman like, what is Eric Stewart like?
We have the same musical roots. Although Eric was more into rock and roll and I was more into people like Burt Bacharach. But that difference made the whole of 10cc.
The last one: which GG-song is GG the most proud of?
Bus Stop. I think it's the best illustration of what the best of sixties music stood for.
Bus Stop is one of the tracks Gouldman plays later
in the evening, in a show that is similar, from the first till the last
note, to what he has done before with his band at other places. But for
the audience it doesn't matter, simply because that is the different part
each time (minus a few dedicated followers).
Other stuff can be heard at the soundcheck earlier that day, when Rick Fenn, Paul Burgess and Mike Stevens are jamming to warm up a bit and deliver a pretty funky groove to an audience of about four people. It's also a good occasion to focus on the preparation of the musicians. Especially Paul Burgess draws attention, the way he is completely involved with his drum set, without bothering what is happening elsewhere.
In the evening Graham Gouldman and his friends stick to the hits, for reasons already mentioned. And they finish in style, with a rockin' Slow down. "One of those things that do well live. And you can play it without thinking", Gouldman says after the show.
Soundcheck at Labadoux: from left to right Rick Fenn, Mike Stevens, GG and Paul Burgess Photo: John Bruinsma