Memory Lane: Verve

It occurred to me the other day that since my fanzine came out 17 years ago and early issues had a print run of just 50 copies, it’s pretty unlikely that any survived. I’m just trying to preserve the odd bits for posterity, and one thing that springs to mind is my surreally disastrous 1993 interview with Richard Ashcroft from Verve, back when they were good. I don’t even have a copy of the issue myself, so I’m writing this from memory. Funnily enough, it’s just one of those things you don’t forget.

.

.

My first impression is of a tall, angular man who carries an air of boredom and obligation. He’d rather not be here but has nothing better to do and may as well do as he’s asked. He’s polite and obliging, and agrees to cross the road from the Brighton hotel to the pier-side amusement park and pose in the teacup ride while I snap away on the £7 camera my friend’s mum bought me for my birthday.

I’m not sure whether he gets my little joke of getting the famous nutter to sit in the Mad Hatter’s beverage recepticle, but if he does, he doesn’t let on.

It’s a cool, clear day with brilliant sunshine, and the photos – long since lost – turn out great. Verve are a band on the ascendant, and the first singles All In The Mind and She’s A Superstar are breathtaking dreamscapes of psychedelia; the sound of a long, lonely journey at night. If Borderlands had been released in ’93, Verve would be the soundtrack.

So we head back inside and Ashcroft sits in detached silence. I lean back on the sofa opposite and shut my eyes. I am sixteen years old and don’t know what the f*** I am doing. It’s the third interview I’ve ever done, and the other two were only weeks before. I don’t even have a tape recorder. Ashcroft looks resolutely unimpressed. He waits for me to begin. Panic. I blurt out the first question and it’s all downhill from there.

.

.

“So, how was the tour?”

Ashcroft looks at me. Did you really just ask that? he thinks.

“Fine,” he says, eventually.

What comes next? Oh yes.

“What was your favourite city?”

He looks back, blankly.

I start to wonder if he’ll ever answer.

“Rome,” he says.

Good, good. That’s a start. OK, get him to elaborate.

“What did you like about it?”

“It was nice,” he says.

Did he really just say that? I wait for him to continue.

He doesn’t.

Well, that’s it. I mean, I’m out of questions. Panic.

“Zere is no reality!”

We both look towards the door. A middle-aged, portly, dark-haired woman has burst into the hotel lounge and made such a declaration, and stands impatiently, waiting for a response. I think she’s Dutch or something. European. Strong accent.

“Pardon?” says Ashcroft.

“Zere is no reality!” she repeats.

Oh, good grief. I’ll just stay quiet and let the obviously more professional one of us explain to her that we’re in the middle of an interview and ask her politely to leave us alone.

I glance over to Ashcroft.

He gets up and walks over to her … and then begins to argue with her that there is a reality and she is obviously quite wrong.

Is the most unimaginably bad interview in music history really being interrupted by a metaphysical discussion about the nature of the universe by a Dutchwoman we’ve never met?

Apparently so, until the door opens and the television presenter reveals himself to announce that it’s all an elaborate hoax for one of those cable prank shows.

Only he doesn’t.

There really is a strange foreigner debating the existence of reality on the other side of the room with Richard Ashcroft from Verve in the middle of my woefully bad interview.

“MY CAR!” she squeaks, pointing at the window.

We follow her finger and see the vehicle go past.

Seconds later, she waddles out at top speed to chase the tow truck down the road.

This interview is over, Ashcroft tells me without saying a word.

I know, I mutely reply.

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