Craig Gannon Interview from 2015



Not sure if this was shared here the first time around. Craig just shared it again to his FB followers.

Interview with Gus Giorgi for UltraBrit magazine.
June 28, 2015 at 11:00am
Which of the guitar players that you used to listen inspired you the most?

I was inspired by The Beatles from the very start but when I first started learning to play it was the punk era so in addition to them, I was listening to Mick Jones from The Clash, Hugh Cornwell from The Stranglers then shortly after that, I was really influenced by David Gilmour's playing. A bit later, around 1980/81 it was Lester Square from the Monochrome Set (incidentally who I'm working with at the moment) then Edwyn Collins and James Kirk from Orange Juice, XTC, Scotty Moore, Brian Setzer and also my future band mate, Roddy Frame. From around 1983 I started listening a lot to Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd from Television. At the same time as being inspired by all these guitar players I was also listening to them for their songwriting too.

You were always seen playing semi-hollow guitars such as Gretsch or Gibson 335. Did you always like that kind of sound?

Well, there were actually a few reasons why I played semi acoustics, originally I liked them not only because the Beatles and Orange Juice always used them and they not only looked great, they just sounded better to me for the music that I played. They just sounded bigger and breathed more than something like a solid body and while I have and still do use solid bodies a lot, I mostly prefer the sounds I can get out of semi-acoustics. I've played them since the very early days and they just feel more comfortable in my hands. I've also used Strats a lot over the years, mostly for recording but I never really felt that comfortable with Gibson Les Paul's, a lot of that's to do with not having a tremolo arm though which I need.

You stood out as a new promise on the guitar being very young, at 17, when you joined Aztec Camera. What memories do you keep of that band?

I was actually 16 when I joined Aztec Camera. I'd been in secondary school only a few months before and didn't have a clue what I wanted to do for a career. I was just consumed with playing music and being in bands but I knew the reality of how hard it could be even then to do that as a career. I didn't really any other idea than to be involved in music in some capacity and to still be doing what I love doing up to this day is still fantastic, even after all this time. I saw Aztec Camera at Manchester Poly in 1982 and there I was a few months later, in the band. At the point I joined Aztec Camera they had quite a big profile so I went straight into appearing on TV and touring USA, Canada and Europe. Roddy was only 18 himself at that time but with his huge talent as a guitarist and songwriter you'd be forgiven for thinking he was twice that age. I learnt so much from him from playing with him so much. I think we also both grew up a lot during that year.. Joining Aztec Camera was the start of an incredible journey for me and at the time I had no idea how things would develop through the years.
Aztec Camera gigs always felt really special and there was always a great vibe as they had quite a buzz going for them at that time. There are so many great memories of that time such as playing a great gig at somewhere like the London Lyceum or the Danceteria in New York at two in the morning. I can also remember mad things like being at a party in Beverly Hills and having a conversation with someone in a clown suit! As I was so young I was well below the legal drinking age in America and Canada, not that we took any notice of that but there was only one time when it was a problem. It was a gig we played at the El Mocambo in Toronto and the only time I was allowed in the club was when we had to play, the rest of the time before and after I remember being watched like a hawk by people from the club making sure I didn't come in where they sold alcohol. That just meant everybody joined me on the bus anyway.

Back in 1983, the British music scene was dominated by The Cure, Echo And The Bunnymen, New Order, and the recently emerged The Smiths. How did you see the UK musical horizon back in those days?

There was a lot of very bland music around as there always will be but there was some great music around too. That period was the tail end of the so called New Romantic era and we had bands like Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet still dominating the charts. It was also a time when there was a lot of synth based New Wave bands around that wasn't my thing either. At that time I was still into Orange Juice but, of other UK bands around I also loved Echo And The Bunnymen, The Associates, XTC and The Pale Fountains as well as loads of American music.

As a Manchester musician, what was your opinion, your feel about The Smiths? Did you have the feeling from the very start that they would become so successful?

I'd been in Aztec Camera for a couple of months when the Smiths brought out their first single, Hand In Glove. As both bands were on Rough Trade at the time I think it was probably Geoff Travis who told me about them, being fellow Mancunians. I can't really remember Hand In Glove making an impression on me when I heard it but when This Charming Man came out I thought that was great, it was really fresh and different sounding and it still sounds like that today.
By the time I joined the Smiths I realised the success they were achieving was deserved as they really were very different than say, a band that might have a few singles out but don't really make much of a lasting impression with people. For a band that used the vocal, guitar, bass and drums instrumentation they sounded completely different to everybody else using that format and whatever different styles they did they always had their distinctive sound.
I don't think I'm always that great at predicting what might be successful or not. Some incredible bands I thought would be huge ended up not being very successful at all. At the same time I could go on forever about bands or artists I thought were rubbish being successful. Most things that people go on about being brilliant just sound very average to me.

We know that the famous anecdote about you being called from The Smiths to replace Andy Rourke on the bass was false. What was your first feeling when Johnny asked you to be his second guitar?

Yes, whatever the original plan might have been for a replacement for Andy, I only ever joined as a guitar player. When Johnny asked me to join the Smiths I was elated and really excited about being in the band although he never actually said anything about being 'second' guitar or rhythm guitar or whatever. I've said it so many times but I didn't join as just a rhythm guitarist, we both played various guitar parts, not just rhythm stuff.

You joined the band while they were on The Queen Is Dead tour. What memories do you keep of that series of shows?

I joined before any live touring for The Queen Is Dead and I think I'd been in the band a few months before that album was released. I think we did three tours in that year and various one off gigs like the Festival of the 10th Summer in Manchester which was a huge event. I'll always remember those times, playing those great songs to sell out crowds everywhere, both in the UK, USA and Canada. Every night there was always a really good vibe onstage and you could always feel the passion from the crowds, even in the huge places we played. Obviously out of so many, some gigs we played were better than others but I don't think we ever played a bad gig.

Your work playing live as a second guitar was magnificent. You gave Johnny the possibility to let go, as a first guitar, and The Smiths became a much more powerful band performing live. How did you experience that process from the stage?

Thank you. Yes, with the Smiths records, especially later ones like Meat Is Murder and The Queen Is Dead, there was so much guitar wise that it would have been very hard to replicate live with just one guitar. Obviously playing live, it doesn't have to sound identical to the record but having two guitars really made things possible with regards to not having to leave out important guitar parts and between the two of us I think we did it well.

Having participated in some recordings at the studio (Panic, Half A Person, London, Sweet and Tender Hooligan, Ask), how would you describe the group’s dynamic while in privacy?

For the eight months I was in the band we all got on really well with each other. In any band there'll be the occasional uncomfortable situation and there's usually a pecking order too. I don't think I've ever heard of any great band that doesn't have any tension between any members at all whether personal, musical or both. With regards to my situation, that whole animosity thing toward me has been blown out of proportion and the truth is, all of that arose solely from the fact that I had to bring forward legal proceedings. If I hadn't done that there wouldn't have been any of that stuff to print, I think that's obvious to most people though.

What do you feel when you listen to the album Rank, considering that it’s one of the best live albums of British rock and that you had a leading role in its sound?

Of course I'm really proud of my involvement in that as like you say, it's considered one of the best live albums by any band. I haven't actually heard it for a long time and I don't really go out of my way to listen to what I've done in the past and that includes The Smiths, Terry Hall, Morrissey or all the film and TV music I've written. I feel that once it's done and it's out there, listening back to my own work would maybe make me start being unnecessarily critical, whether about my playing, songwriting or music I've written. Whenever I do hear things, I can usually hear how things could have been better or I wished I'd maybe done something differently. At the time though you might be bound by various constraints that you don't always have control over whether that's to do with people you're working with or down to things like having to get a song recorded or a mix finished by a certain time. The only time I really listen to what I've played on or written over the years is when I'm asked about certain things.

Would you say that the way you left the band was as informal as your entrance? There were not too many explanations, right?

Yes that's true although I wouldn't say my entrance into the Smiths was informal, I was asked to join the band and there was nothing cloak and dagger about it. As far as my exit from the band, there wasn't any explanation at all. The way I found out was through a friend from the band Easterhouse who were also on Rough Trade. He told me he'd heard I wasn't in the band anymore.

After The Smiths split up, you experienced some historical events, like Morrissey’s first show as a solo artist in Wolverhampton, in December 1988, a concert with Andy and Mike but without Johnny, who didn’t want to show up. It was an unheard-of euphoric chaos, what do you remember about that?

In my 32 years that's without doubt the most chaotic and impossible gig I've ever played or at least tried to play. That kind of chaos onstage never even happened with the Smiths before and they always had loads of stage invasions. I've heard some people say that it was meant to be a final Smiths gig but that wasn't the case at all, the idea was always that it was only going to be myself, Morrissey, Mike and Andy. Obviously without Johnny it wouldn't be the Smiths but it wasn't meant to be, it was well into Morrissey's solo career and he'd already had his debut solo album out by that time. Everything that could go wrong did. I think we did about an hours rehearsal for it a couple of days before, while we were recording at the wool hall. My monitors weren't even turned on until after the first couple of songs so I remember struggling to hear the other three while I was playing. I've said it before but as soon as we went on people started climbing onstage scrambling over my pedals, pulling my lead out and banging into me and it made playing impossible. At the time I actually did enjoy it because we were all getting on well and we'd been recording what was due to be Morrissey's second album. The gig itself ended up being more of an event than a gig. I haven't watched or listened to it since and I wouldn't dare watch it now though as it'd probably frustrate me all over again. It was the musical equivalent of trying to fly a paper plane through a tornado!

You also took part in some great songs of Morrissey’s first solo period (The Last Of The Famous International Playboys, Interesting Drug) and you are also in some of the promo videos. Seems that you and Morrissey were getting along really well those days. Why didn’t the collaborations go on?

Well, whatever has been written since, we were getting on really well. Also, Morrissey would often compliment me on my guitar playing throughout those recordings. Just after the we did the sessions for those songs you mention, and his scrapped second solo album, he asked me to start writing with him and the first song I presented to him was actually going to be his next single. I actually found the notes he sent me about this recently. Anyway, as I've said before, things were going really well and seemed really promising but he then gave me an ultimatum by letter which was basically that if I wanted to work with him I'd have to drop my litigation against him completely. For various reasons I couldn't do that but if I'd only been interested in money it'd have been easy to drop the case and work with Morrissey.

When you look back on the last 30 years and find all that, what do you remember most clearly?

It's strange to think about everything that's happened over the years sometimes. I can remember most things from the last 32 years of being involved in music, the good and the bad. I've got some incredible memories of pretty much every stage of my career and some quite bizarre ones too. I could go on forever about the highlights but it's things like playing on and making some great records, playing and spending time with some great musicians and people, playing to some huge crowds in places like Spain or America and generally being able to travel all over the world doing what I love doing. In the very early days at least, when I was so young, I used to get quite a buzz from appearing on TV shows I'd grown up watching like Top of the Pops and the Old Grey Whistle Test.

After several collaborations with different artists of the rock scene, you are currently highly involved in music composition for films. Did you find something in that special world that you don’t see in the rock scene today? I understand that, besides exceptions as Goldfrapp and Air, there is not too much that you really like.

I was probably talking about contemporary popular music. It's not that I'm a huge fan of those two bands you mention, they were just examples of artists who were doing things in a more interesting way than with the usual guitar, bass and drums format. I find that template very restrictive. I've got very varied taste and I listen to all kinds of music and I'm not a musical snob but as far as today's rock or pop music, there's not much around these days that gets me excited. The best music is usually underground and you sometimes have to dig for it. It's not just popular music I feel that way about, it's the same with every other genre or style of music. Having said that, there's a huge amount of music out there whether it's from a long time ago or more recent which is really forward thinking.

Is it true that Enter The Dragon soundtrack from our compatriot Lalo Schifrin was a big influence in your musical beginnings?

Absolutely. Lalo Schifrin was probably one of the first film composers I ever heard after having the Enter The Dragon soundtrack in our house for some reason. I was only seven when that came out but I remember loving that soundtrack even then. It had everything for me then including some cool guitars. As soon as I knew what music was, I was as interested in film music as I was in popular music and in the seventies there'd be so many times I'd watch a film, love the music and then wait for the end credits to find out who did the music. It seemed like a lot of times the music that connected with me was being written by the same names which were John Barry, Ennio Morricone, Jerry Goldsmith and Lalo Schifrin. To this day I'm still influenced by them all.

Do you no longer expect to be part of a new and big rock band? We could organise some good shows in Buenos Aires…

Well, it was always a conscious decision of mine to move away from being in bands as I got older and move into composition. I love what I do now writing for film and TV as much as I ever did playing in bands and it was a natural progression for me to do that. That doesn't mean I've given up playing in bands and if the right opportunity came along I could be tempted. I'm not interested in something just because it's a big or famous band, more importantly to me would be working on something great with people who are easy to work with, whether it's something big or something low key. Having said that, myself and Lester Square from The Monochrome Set have just started working together. We've got various ideas of things we want to do but at the moment we're in the early stages of writing and recording an album using guitars but also all kinds of other instruments in a very cinematic and eclectic way.


Game Of Death.
good interview,all about the music for a change,enter the dragon soundtrack is fantastic.
Top Bottom