Thanks so much to Phil Suggars for another fantastic interview! Before being in CC Baxter Phil was in The Candie Maids and we already talked extensively about it many months ago. On the next Cloudberry fanzine CD compilation the song Camden Lockout will be included so don’t miss it! Oh! and here’s one and another pic from the band!
++ After The Candie Maids you became the Archangels and then CC Baxter. So tell me what happened in between the bands? Were there major lineup changes? Why the change of names?
I think Warren (bass) and I had the idea that we wanted to change names each time personnel changed or we took a different tack musically. The Candie Maids were Warren, Vicki (guitar, keyboards and b-vox) and myself (guitar and drums) and a drum machine. I don’t think we were every really happy with the name ‘cos it was achingly twee. Musically we started to get into sequencing things and when Dom (drums) and Hayley from the Doris Days got involved and we settled on the name Archangels which if anything was a bit too much the other way. A friend of mine said it made us sound like a hair-metal outfit.
++ Were does the name CC Baxter comes from?
After we’d played a few gigs in London our manager told us that there was a US band called Archangels who were threatening to sue us so we thought “fair enough it’s a crap name anyway” and changed ours to CC Baxter which comes from the character Jack Lemmon plays in Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment”.
++ Was it any different composing songs now compared to the Candie Maids? How did the CC Baxter songs shape up? Did you practice often?
With the Candie Maids we’d just play together till something sprouted out of the mess. The main difference with CCBaxter was that because we’d moved to a more sequenced/sampled sound (and back then we didn’t use a computer just a shed load of metal with flashing lights and buttons on it) the composition process was this:
- I’d get the rough basis for a song down in the equipment. Hayley would embellish stuff at this stage because she actually knew the difference between the black notes and the white ones. Often we’d have a rough bass and drum track on the song just for writing purposes.
- We’d drag all the kit down to our weekly rehearsal, wire it all together and stare at the flashing LEDs for a bit and then play around with the basic structure to see what we came up with. Usually, we’d switch the sampled drums and bass off so Warren and Dom could write something original and make things a bit more ‘live’.
++ So where did you practice? How was a usual CC Baxter practice? Was there lots of alcohol? Perhaps a couple of pizzas? For sure it was lots of fun, right?
Yes, it was loads of fun. We used to rehearse every Saturday at a place called Bloomsbury studios which I think is now called Mockin’ Bird. It was run by a guy called Terry Popple who used to drum for Van Morrison. Terry was nice fellow though he always jokingly referred to us as “The Fab Hunk” trio since we all young and a bit slight of frame. Generally speaking we didn’t get too drunk, but there was always a break for a beer and (veggie) burger halfway through. Being a drummer Dom always favoured a kebab.
++ On the 1993 demo you worked with Tim Freeman from Frazier Chorus! How did that go? How did you meet and what did he bring into the studio? Any anecdotes you can share?
I met Tim through Adrian Sherwood’s manager Bobby Marshall who used to manage an indie-dance outfit called Eusebio (who Warren played bass for). We sort of talked Bobby into managing us though in reality he wasn’t that enthusiastic and was just too nice to tell us f*ck off. In any case he suggested that Tim work with us. At the time Tim was writing material for a publishing deal and so he’d come over to our place and we’d swap material and then he’d help out with our arrangements. I’d seen him on TV performing “Cloud 8″ so when he came round I remember thinking “bloody hell! This bloke is a proper pop-star and he’s in our house drinking tea!”
++ Was this demo the only recordings by CC Baxter? Why didn’t such great songs get properly released?
Thanks, I’m glad you liked the songs. Yes, this was the only demo that we did as CC Baxter. As to why they didn’t get picked up, it’s hard to say. Live we were always a bit of shambles and working with hardware sequencers and samplers that weren’t reliable was sometimes a sphincter clenching experience.
A couple of labels told us we needed to go away and “practice more”, but I wonder how much of that was to do with the fact that we were quite “anti-rock”. In any case one thing that definitely didn’t help us was that we didn’t have strong management. When the demo came out we were doing it all ourselves which unless you know a few people I wouldn’t recommend.
++ One of the songs is called “Ry Cooder”? Was him a big influence on you? why did you dedicate a song to him?
He’s a brilliant musician and he wrote the soundtrack for Paris-Texas which is some of my favourite film music. The reason for the homage in the title is (don’t tell your lawyer) that there’s a sample of that soundtrack in the instrumental break and the outro as well as some of the dialogue from the film in the song.
++ Through my not so great research skills I found out about The Lockout: “… is a monthly music event held in Camden, which prides itself on showcasing the best new musical talent the UK music scene has to offer.” Is this what the song “Camden’s Lockout” is about? Did you participate or something?
Now that’s just weird. I had no idea there was anything called the Camden Lockout. I thought I’d just come up with the title after we’d been recording a demo at Falconer studios in London. Maybe I saw a poster for the event while we were up there and it seeped into my tiny brain.
++ And the other song I know by you is “Flake Girl a Go-Go” which I guess it’s about the Cadbury Flake Girl? Are you a big fan of chocolate? What are your favourite ones? And what about the flake girl, do you have a favourite? :p
You’re correct it is about the women in Cadbury’s Flake adverts. And yes I do like chocolate and Flake’s in particular ;). At the time we wrote this there were a whole series of Cadbury’s Flake advertisements that were sexualized in really over the top way and the song just uses them as a throwaway example of the silly media images of the perfect woman. (More importantly I just liked coming up with daft song titles to see if I could make our drummer, Dom, laugh).
++ The change from The Candie Maids to CC Baxter is almost one of 180 degrees! What were you listening at this time? Why did you went for a more synth driven band than a guitar band as before?
I think we were just excited by the sonic possibilities of early samplers. We actually never had a synthesizer as such, all the electronic side of things was sample based. I just loved the idea of lifting sounds off of records and then mangling them up to own them.
At the time we were listening to stuff like the Beloved, New Order, Wire, Wolfgang Press, Paul Haig, Weekend, Section 25, the Pale Fountains, quite a lot of early house stuff. Oh, and Kylie Minogue back when it wasn’t okay to like her. (I seem to remember writing a love note to her under her coat hook backstage when we played one of her haunts in London. Needless to say she never wrote back.)
++ Your final gig was in 1995, right? How was it? Any particular gigs you remember?
The final gig was ok, (flier attached) though I think at the time if we’d known it was our last we probably would have drunk a lot more and broken our manifesto by indulging in a few stage dives.
I do remember one horrible moment during a gig at Sussex University where the sequencer somehow became disconnected from the drum machine, but both continued playing merrily away while drifting hopelessly out of time with each other till everything ended in a completely horrible clattering mess. Luckily enough it was happy hour and so our audience were too drunk to care too much.
The flip side to that was one gig we played at the Brighton Dome where a pro engineer came in to mix us (we were pretty dense and unbalanced live). I remember we started the first song and I felt like Marty McFly at the beginning of Back to the Future. This shimmering wall of sound shook the whole venue. “Jesus!” I thought, “so that’s what we sound like on a good day.”
++ You went through the late 80s and the early 90s… music had changed a lot, especially for us pop fans. It wasn’t that common to see the bands we liked on the NME or getting many gigs. Did you notice this change? Do you think it was the natural course of things or were you pissed? Did it affect at all your bands you think?
A few of the A&R people we met seemed to be looking for the next Nirvana and I used to get frustrated with being told that we needed to put guitar solos over everything, but pop music by definition is a cultural process that’s driven by the tastes of its consumers. Things go in and out of favour all the time and that feeds renewal which seems about right to me.
On a personal note, I felt a bit outmatched when I heard Bjork’s first solo album. “Crap,” I thought, “there’s no way I could write anything as good as that.”
++ Waz moved to London and you weren’t happy with britpop so the band called it a day. It’s been a while now, are you still in touch with the band? What do the band members do nowadays?
Yes, we are all still in touch and all doing various things though we haven’t physically met up for a few years now (I was out of the country and Dom’s not in Brighton). I do think we will be having a get together soon though. If nothing else just so we can buy Dom a Donner Kebab for old time’s sake.
++ Anything else you’d like to add?
Nothing other than to thank you for your enthusiasm and for putting our track on your CD. We were laughing the other day, wishing you and your fanzine had been around when we’d recorded the demo back in 1993.
CC Baxter – Ry Cooder