Too early to be part of the dance scene, to discordant to be EMF, Pop Will Eat Itself have always been a band out of time. Back with a new single and a new drummer, are they trying to go grungy?
"Here it is," smiles Clint Poppie, cracking an ice-cold Budweiser, "personality in a can!"
The sweat-drenched Pop Will Eat Itself have just played a secret support slot to Carter at Birmingham's Hummingbird. And even though they were onstage at eight pm and stuck strictly to new songs, it was a wild, celebratory affair which came across like they'd imbibed several cases of personality before the show.
As it happens, Clint had drunk nothing stronger than lemonade and lime all week, to the horror and bemusement of the Stourbridge crew.
"All my mates have been brought up to go down the boozer and go clubbing which involves alcohol and other nasties he says. If you stop doing that everyone goes. What's the matter with you, you're being a bit of a boring Dastard, aren't you?' I think it's really sad that, a lot or the time, you've got two different frames of mind: one, when you're out having a good time and the other when you're totally insular and withdrawn."
Judging by Clint's contributions to the next Poppies LP, he has been spending a great deal of his time alone and unaided by the can. "Eat Me, Drink Me, Love Me, Kill Me" takes the Poppies to the dark side of miserablism, and "Harry Dean Stanton" and "I've Always Been A Coward, Baby" are the most personal songs he's overwritten. The
notable exception to this is the band's latest single, "Karmadrome" - 'The poppiest thingwe've ever done" - which should hit the charts in the way that 'Touched By The Hand Of Cicciolina" (the first single from their last LP, "Cure For Sanity") did two years ago.
THE "Karmadrome" 12-inch opens with Clint ranting about "hippy shit" (although the seven-inch is shit free for the radio), but does karma actually mean anything to him?
"Only in as much as I could do with karming down a bit," he half-smiles. "All I'm saying is that I don't really like people bugging me about things - although I'm sure I've bugged people plenty-I'd rather be left alone. Without wanting to be a boring hippy about it, karma is just about finding your own inner peace."
The B-side, "Eat Me, Drink Me, Love Me, Kill Me", pretty much deals with the opposite of inner peace: there's drink, drugs and possible death with Tony Hancock and an entire cast of "Carry On" characters celebrating the hellish side of hedonism ( 'Welcome to hell, it's good to be back/ With Charlie and Hattie and my memory lapse.. I could try to change it but it suits me too well").
"The thing about Hell "explains Clint, was that just about all of us that hang out together in Stourbridge were having real nightmares with our personal relationships. We were all going round using a Sam Kinison Iine where his wife won' t let him go out with his buddies and he's going, 'Shoot me! Shoot me! My life is hell!' And we were all saying 'My life is hell! I live in hell' It's just about losing it, basically."
"KARMADOME" and the LP (which is called 'The Looks Or The Lifestyle", and is due out in September) hove been produced by Ben and Andy who remixed last year's "92 Degrees F" single, and who replaced the Poppies' previous producer, Flood. And unlike "Cure For Sanity, the band went into the studio and basically recorded the LP live-a major factor behind this approach being the recruitment of a decidedly undigital drummer. Fuzz, from Kirk's Equator. Although his arrival did prompt the suggestion that Pop Will Eat Itself are now aiming for a grungy sound (a la Nirvana).
'Well, that's the most predictable thing that somebody could say," sneers Clint. "Y' know. The Poppies have got a drummer and they think the/re Nirvana', cos, of course, nobody else apart from Nirvana have got a drummer, have they?"
Likewise, EMF haven't become Nirvana or AC/DC, either and the two bands plan to tour Europe together in November, it will be their second such tour since the Poppies co-headlined their States' shows last year, leaving a trail of drugs, decadence and general debauchery behind them.
On one particular night, Graham Poppie so eagerly pursued pleasure that he had the misfortune to overtake it. He keeled over, but eventually regained consciousness and is now reliving that experience through 'Teenage Grandad' - a song "about being 27, but still trying to act like a little kid, and the tragic consequences," he grins.
Graham (who now sports a bright orange barnet) has also written "Bulletproof", which ended their Birmingham set and should put an end to the "Poppies-are-miserable-bastards" myth. But, rather than being so high that they're bulletproof, as the song suggests. Pop Will Eat Itself are constantly being hit by stray snipers.
"We've always been a band out of time," shrugs Clint. "Like with the dance stuff, we were into it before the majority of white guitar bands, but we got no credit for it at the time because, at that point, white guitar bands were doing something else. And as soon as Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses came along it was like, 'Dance music's great and they're really cool', but we're still the same square Pop Will Eat itself. But ifs all a load of bollocks, really."
IN the 18 months since "Cure For Sanity", EMF shot from out of nowhere and cleaned up in an area that the Poppies might have claimed as their own. The final irony is that while Tom Jones numbers among the Poppies' favourite artists, Tom himself (resplendent in a shocking pink suit) is currently wowing the Las Vegas biddies with his version of "Unbelievable"
Has Clint ever wondered why certain bands have had such phenomenal success and the Poppies never have?
I've never wondered, I know exactly why, " he states. "Certain bands fulfil certain aims and certain roles. I'm not knocking EMF at all cos they're great-I love them, they're brilliant blokes-but they've got much more of a commercial ear than we have, I mean `Unbelievable` was a great song. We're into similar things but we're doing it differently. It's like saying 'Unbelievable' does this but Foetus and the Buttholes do that. Because it's more popular it doesn't make it any more or less worthwhile; if it's good, it's good. Everybody's Thatcher's children, basically, that's the only way I can put it. Y'know, big is best.
"Everybody says, 'EMF, Jesus Jones, they did this, but you were doing it first. What were we doing? Nicking ideas off other People. That's what we've always done, and that's the same thing that every other band has done as far as I can see.
CLINT claims that he has now stopped reading the music press, and reckons that people take the subject far too seriously. When Pop Will Eat Itself first started they'd never wanted to do anything other than get up on a stage, jump around, have a good time and move other people in some way. In short, they set out to do "exactly what we did tonight."
"I remember meeting Carter about five years ago, when they were just trying to get their band going, and they gave us a tape" recalls Clint. "Now, back then, nobody gave a shit about what they were doing, so why should they give a snit now that loads of people like them? Does it make what they were trying to say any more or less important? It doesn't! Its about what they were f***ing doing, what they believe in, what we believe in. Just because people suddenly like it doesn't make it more important, because it isn't, and it will be some other f***er next week.
"Karmadome" is out on 25 May on RCA