Interview with Tom Hingley: singer, songwriter, and the true voice of Inspiral Carpets.
(Hey guys! Today is a big day here at Mixolydian as I have an interview with the one and only Tom Hingley. With Inspiral Carpets, Tom wrote some of the most incredible and genre-defining songs to come out of the Madchester movement…going on to influence countless artists, most notably Oasis as Noel Gallagher was an Inspirals roadie. As a solo artist, he is making amazing music, and on top of this he is a wonderful human being. We discuss his tell-all book “Carpet Burns,” his time with Inspirals and their nasty force-out of Hingley, his music now, and so much more. It is truly an honor and a privilege to bring you this interview. Enjoy.)
Kortepeter: While writing Carpet Burns, was there ever a point where you had to stop yourself and reconsider putting certain things in the book? You share some incredibly personal details which undoubtedly took a certain amount of courage and vulnerability (from your family life to the insane things that happened in your bands).
Hingley: Not really the book had two editors who between them took about 130,000 words out of the original draft , so there was a process of removing most content that would knowingly upset people- but it’s not an exact process so you never going to get it all right.
Kortepeter: Were you ever worried about any fallout from the details disclosed about your time with Inspirals (or any other major event discussed in the book)? Was there any kickback?
Hingley: I can’t talk about kickback but I didn’t run the book past any of the other band members- once you have committed to spilling the beans on a closed community like a band you are burning the bridges for further involvement with that set up – it’s a one way exit – I knew that when I wrote the book. It’s telling that the band members never refer to the existence of the book as a conscious media strategy, with the intention of preventing the book from getting wider readership and to avoid having to discuss its accuracy have lent it validity (they wouldn’t necessarily agree with my view of things and that’s understandable).
Here’s a recent interview with guitarist Graham Lambert from the Oxford Mail where Graham says he was mystified by my tweet saying the band had split up which is strange because I’m sure he’s read my book which explains my view/motivations at the time in great detail.
(Tom then proceeds to share the following article segment with me. My emphasis is placed on Graham’s statements regarding Hingley.)
However, one person he hasn’t seen for a while is Hingley, the former Larkmead School pupil who fronted the band during their 1980s and ’90s peaks. “It was a very acrimonious split,” says Graham. “He tweeted that the band had split up. I guess things just weren’t going his way. I’m baffled to this day. There’s no going back from that. I said to the others ‘that’s it’. He clearly wasn’t happy. “I have to write him a cheque now and again. I offer to drop it round, but he always tells me to post it!” Luckily, a replacement wasn’t far away in the form of Graham’s old school friend Holt – who had left the band, in much more amicable circumstances, in 1989. “Our organist Clint Boon said ‘give Steve a ring – he’ll come back’. Clint’s always been cocksure. “I asked Steve if he fancied coming back and he said ‘yes, of course I do’. Everyone’s happier this way round.”
Kortepeter: The fiasco in 2011 (which eventually led to Inspirals forcing you, callously and unjustly, out of the band) was an absolutely heart wrenching event to read about in your book (I honestly had tears in my eyes). The part that really hit me was when the band so swiftly went from Clint’s so-called “brotherhood” to a legal transaction, throwing away any ounce of dignity in how they dealt with you (to top it off with Clint lying to the press saying “We would never sack Tom”). Do you ever think that someone, even just one member of Inspirals, may one day extend an olive branch to you? Would you accept it if it was genuine?
Hingley: I’m sure they feel differently about what happened – I’m sure they felt like they had been rejected by me and my actions. Craig Gill did send me a text the morning after the dismissal – and at the exact time they announced their tour with their new line up – he said I could call him any time, I haven’t done so, but I thought that was a pretty decent thing to do.
Kortepeter: There is no denying the influence your music had on numerous groups (such as the most obvious Oasis due to Noel Gallagher being your roadie with Inspiral Carpets) in various music scenes (including Madchester, BritPop, and the like). Is there ever a time where you look at the music of today in the U.K. or elsewhere and say to yourself “hey, looks like these folks were influenced by Inspiral Carpets/Too Much Texas etc.?”
Hingley: I think we are all bits of thread in a fabric that constantly is being re-woven. Inspirals were a big band, and yes, you can hear echoes of our music in Kaiser Chiefs, Maximo Park, and the Minx but… we are just one of a million threads.
Kortepeter: Oasis quite unfairly insulted Inspiral Carpets in the press during their rise to fame, which I believe was a spit in the face to the band that paved the way for their music. I know this is rock n’ roll (where feelings often take a backseat) and you say in Carpet Burns that you understood why they were doing it but…has Noel or anyone ever said “sorry that was uncool of us?”
Hingley: I think they probably had to reject Inspirals in order to carve out their distinct image and world view, I don’t blame them for it – I understand it.
Kortepeter: How would you say that your approach to songwriting has changed throughout the years? With so many projects that span a variety of influences and styles, I would imagine it can sometimes be daunting to switch between song styles (but this is just a guess).
Hingley: I don’t over-analyze the process of song writing, I just do it and see what gets produced …it’s a very natural process for me.
Kortepeter: So tell me about the current projects you have going on right now? What are you trying to convey to the audience (beyond simply great music)?
Hingley: A new rock band / electric blues band; imaginatively titled “the Tom Hingley band” (check www.facebook.com/tomhingleyband). I’m playing electric guitar – it’s a three piece with ste pearce on bass and malc law on drums …really enjoying it, sounds like 222 20’s mixed with Dr. Feelgood and Hüsker Dü.
Kortepeter: When your audience is present at your shows, what kind of reaction are you looking for? What do you want them to take away from the experience?
Hingley: I want the audience to either love or hate the music; just don’t be unchanged by it. Don’t be bored or unmoved that’s all.
Kortepeter: Looking back on all of the amazing experiences you have had as a musician, what does music mean to you now? How has your view of it changed throughout your career?
Hingley: Overall I have been incredibly lucky to have played with Inspiral Carpets, very lucky to do what I love doing as a job. I realize these things more and more all the time.
Kortepeter: Towards the end of Carpet Burns you say something that resonates with me, especially as a scholar of hardcore punk in America and lover of the punk genre. The statement is “That’s where it all started for me; feeling an outsider and being misunderstood. Punk is in my bones, it affects the way I see politics, the economy, the media, and childcare. Everything.” Do you think that your audience was ever, or is ever, conscious that what they are really listening to is the message and ethos of punk? Quite a few people I talk with have this image of what punk should personify, and Inspiral Carpets would probably not be what they imagined. I know that, without me being conscious of it at first, the sounds of rebellion were in your music and this probably drew me to it beyond just the amazing tones. I have to wonder if you have ever found people think the same as me on this with regards to your music, people that feel what you feel about punk and its all-encompassing worldview?
Hingley: We ran our band and label in a mostly autonomous fashion; most of the things we produced were done with a sense of humor and awareness of fun. That is as much about the punk ethic as the actual sound you produce – although it obviously informs it too.
Kortepeter: You’ve had the opportunity to play with some incredible musicians throughout your career. Are there any you would like to collaborate with that you haven’t had the chance to yet?
Hingley: Wilko Johnson would be good – I have always loved his music and I know his best tunes already.
Kortepeter: Any new music in the works or projects in general you would like to undertake?
Hingley: New ep by the Tom Hingley Band to be recorded this summer called “No Peace for the Good-Looking.” Tour with the band in the fall.
Kortepeter: Is there anything else you would like to say before we conclude this interview?
Hingley: Check out music at www.reverbnation.com/tomhingley, Twitter @tomhingleymusic – hang loose x.
(Tom, I want to thank you again for doing this. You’ve made this massive fan of yours pretty stoked because of this interview. I wish you the best in your music and your life. Cheers mate).