PB : Where about do you live in London ?

HG : I live in East London. I live just near Bethnal Green.

PB : Is it a nice bit of London?

HG : Yeah, it's alright, I mean I don't hang out on street corners or anything, so wherever you live is alright as long as you're inside. I drive everywhere. There's no public transport here. I'm not near the tube, and I've always got the dog with me, or I'm hauling equipment, so I need to drive whatever was happening, so it's probably one of the last places in London where you can park outside your house for free, and I drive to work every day, and drive back again. That's probably really despicable, but I haven't got any choice, because there's no public transport!

PB : It's quite an un-London part of London then?

HG : Uh huh. My next-door neighbour's been here 52 years. It's a really kind of old fashioned street with old fashioned people in it. It's nice little terraced houses, and gardens proper. It's not the Badlands. My street's really quiet at night. I go to work and leave my back door open all the time. My neighbour just keeps his eye out, and the dog wanders in and out of the house. It's not like London at all really.

HG : When I lived on the boat I never had a lock on the door. I'm originally from East Sussex, so I'm used to having a house. I'm used to having my keys in the car and not locking it, and never having the door locked, so it's nice that I've found somewhere to be in London that's a bit like that.

I'm really pleased with where I am, I'm glad I chose to stay here, and I found this.

PB : Yeah, it sounds nice. I mean some parts of London are horrible.

HG : Yeah, I mean my mum lived in Islington for years, so I used to go up there quite a lot, but as much as I like it, nobody can really afford to live there anymore, and I've lived in East London and South London, and Elephant and Castle, years ago, and I didn't like that much. But I do feel like I've done good. I mean I wasn't even going come back from California. I just had a busted foot, and came back for treatment, and ended up staying.

PB : Er, I think we'd better talk about music again. I'm going go back a bit,back to the White Stripes; they're a really big band, even in Britain, which is surprising to me.

HG : (Laughs) What's surprising about it?

PB : The fact that they're really good, but they're pretty big, because.

HG : That's unusual.

PB : Yeah, I mean most really popular music is really crap. Anyway, has the fact that they've got quite a broad audience affected the range of people that come to your shows?

HG : I get a really mixed crowd. I like that there's a mixed crowd at my shows. It's like all different ages, and all different colours, and everyone's just into dancing, I quite like the fact that especially in the big cities in America, there's a faction of like a black crowd, which is a big complement to me because of what I'm trying to do, the fact that they think it's worth dancing to, because I don't actually rate white people as dancers(Laughs)!

PB : (Laughs) No, we're not great at it.

HG : No, no not at all, and all the stuff, I mean I watched old footage of juke joints, and how they could really swing, and the band would be fucking great, and everyone would be just letting loose, and I've just never seen that happening in England.

PB : No.

HG : Never (Laughs). I mean I've seen lots of people get drunk and stagger around in a very sort of ungainly fashion, but not really dancing, not really, really into the music and really dancing. I did a residency at a blues bar where I would get a lot of people dancing, which really made me happy, and I get that a little bit in the states.

PB : I'm not too surprised that you've got a black faction in your audience as your music is quite soulful.

HG : Yeah, but you know, however many people go into record stores, I mean my records are going be in the little indie stores, and you know, there's no real exposure, and the majority of black music now couldn't be more different from the thing I like the essence of. Do you know what I mean? So I would think it would be barely recognisable to most people as originating in this certain place, in this certain time. It's just encouraging. I take it as a compliment if anybody's dancing. I like it. That's the whole purpose, you know.

Bear in mind I went out with a mod who was a fantastic dancer, and really taught me to dance, you know. I was a punk rocker, and I didn't know anything about dancing.

PB : Well, you just jump up and down with punk rock, don't you ?

HG : Yeah, I didn't know anything about dancing at all, and I'd go to these mod clubs with him and everyone would be just the most amazing dancers. That 's what it was about. It was all about dancing, and I think that rubbed off and stuck.

PB : If you can pull off being a good dancer, that's something to be proud of.

HG :Well, all you need to do is practice, practice, practice! (Laughs) I have had a busted foot for the last couple of years, so I haven't done as much dancing as usual, but I love dancing, I like it almost better than playing. I mean it's another sort of belief system. I think it's just a way,if music touches you. I just hate to see people dancing to music that doesn't really reach anybody, and not really being into it. It's easy to tell the difference. I'd much rather see Fred Astaire dancing or some old tap dancers on the street corners, because they did it with conviction. And most of the stuff I like listening to is going make you move one way or another.

PB : I do like a lot of the old soul music.

HG : Yeah, that's the sort of stuff I'm talking about, I define anyone to sit still to a lot of it. It's the whole purpose of it. But I do also know a lot of people who it just doesn't touch at all, people who like really heavy rock music. I find that quite difficult, you know. It's quite a different thing.

If I had a message for anybody, it'd certainly be to just get up and dance. There's no politics in what I do. It is just what it is, and I do say to everybody in all interviews. You really must understand I'm not trying to break new grounds.I'm trying to re-introduce something that is really sorely missing (Laughs). Do you know what I mean?

PB :Yeah.

HG : I really do think it's an element of popular culture that's just a void.

PB :Yeah h, I mean, mainstream papers like the NME are constantly hyping a bunch of bands right now with kind of blues-y elements to them.

HG : Well, they all sound like the Stooges! Which is great, but I don't want to be sold it as music you can dance to, because you can't.

PB : Do you think that they deserve the hype that the NME's giving them?

HG : Well I don't really know what most of them sound like. What you have to bear in mind is that I don't really listen to anything like that. I was asked about, I think it was in an NME interview, a couple of bands of whom I'd heard the names, and whose tour managers I know, but who I don't have any idea what they sound like (laughs)! And whenever they come through town, I get people I know who work with the bands, who're on tour mwith them, who say come to the show, come and see me, and sometimes I'll go, and sometimes I won't, and I've no idea what they sound like. I mean I couldn't differentiate between the Strokes, the Hives, or any of them. I think I can remember that one lot of 'em wear white ties, 'cause I saw a photograph of 'em once.

PB : Yeah, that's the Hives.

HG : Ok, and the other ones just look scruffy. They're not garage bands as I know them, at all. They sound now. They sound current. They're not recovering old ground. They've got their own thing going on, and I certainly wouldn't knock 'em for that, but you know I don't recognise it, it's not something that I know very much about really, I can't really comment on it because I don't know much about it. I don't know if they deserve the hype,but I mean does anybody?

I like music that was made probably before records were, which was when you played in a band and you took it round the country,and played it to people, and everybody sounded different to everybody else, because nobody knew what anybody sounded like. There was no precedent. Everybody's had their own thing going on. Like in America, people on one side of a mountain didn't know what other people on the other side of the mountain sounded like, so when they all had a big party, it was good, because there were lots of different kinds of things going on (Laughs) ! That sort of stuff interests me far more than being told that these people sound like such and such, or these people sound like somebody else, you know.

PB : Yeah, someone told me once that the last original piece of music was made in the 1940's.

HG :Yeah that's about right. I'd say up until the mid-60's things were interesting, and then I would say that there was this huge space of  time where everything wasn't very interesting. Then there was a brief spurt in the &0's that was interesting, and then there wasn't very much, and then there was hip hop, which was vaguely interesting, to me, because it showed promise, and then that all turned really horrible, and these things have occasionally come along and sort of captured my interest, but primarily I don't listen to much that was recorded after 1955 (Laughs)! It's the staple in my house. It's a conscious decision. It's just what I want to hear, you know.

PB : The old blues stuff's great.

HG : I like a lot of 60's soul as well. I mean that's great for dancing to, but I like a lot of gospel stuff. I listen to a lot of stuff that probably, I think if I'd been around at the time, stuff that I'd probably be into then. I think it's just that I was born at the wrong time in the wrong place, and the wrong colour! I think there is an element of that certainly. I don't like old sounding things for any other reason that they are the things that move me. It's not a sentimental thing at all. I do genuinely think I'd have wanted to go to juke joints and dance. That's what I would've been into, except that I wouldn't have been able to do it because I'm white, and I'd have got into a lot of trouble, but that's certainly the thing that touches me.

I mean with soul it goes a bit deeper doesn't it. I really love gospel music and I really love singing it, but I don't have the leaf that the thing stems from. I don't do the church bit, but if it lifts my spirit to do it, then it's working, isn't it ? To sing your heart out is a really wonderful thing, and to do it with other people who are really singing their hearts out makes it double the fun, I really do like singing with other people. I like to sing with other people a lot.

PB :If I was going to sing at any time, I think it would have to be with other people, to disguise the sound of my voice.

HG : Oh you just haven't found your voice yet. That's all it is. I've got to a point now where I can open my mouth and know what's coming out, while 10 years ago that wasn't the case at all. It's just from doing it. I've always sung very confidently, and it's an awful lot to do with delivery, rather than actual vocal perfection or acrobatics. It's about how you put something across, and if you just do it in a way that's sincere to you, you can only do what you can do. That's all you can do, is give that over, and I think if anybody does that, then it's got far more charm than somebody really trying very hard to sound like somebody else. Then it's just 'Stars in their Eyes', isn't it? It's got an element of Karaoke about it which I really don't like.

PB : It is impressive to see someone who's technically good, but it doesn't really do anything thing that powerfully unless there's something behind it.

HG : It doesn't move you, no.

PB : If it's good technically and there's soul behind it, then it's very, very impressive.

HG : Yeah, exactly, I agree entirely. It's like watching anybody doing anything. People can learn to do things, but really being a good singer and putting it across in a way that does reach people is something you can't really learn. You can't learn it. You have a presence, because you're doing it for you really, essentially, and passing it on to other people I think that certainly has a different dynamic, for sure.

PB : It's like comparing Celine Dion to Aretha Franklin> They've both got powerful voices, but Aretha's got the soul there.

HG : Who was the first one, sorry?

PB : Celine Dion.

HG : Oh, ok, yeah. Her, yeah.

PB : You know, her voice is pretty powerful, but I wouldn't listen to her music, because it's flat, dull and soulless.

HG : Well, that's a relief to hear, seeing as you're writing about me. 'What I mainly listen to is Celine Dion' (Laughs). That's a perfect example, but just imagine the millions of people that think Celine Dion is the shit. You know. That's the worry.

PB :I feel sorry for 'em.

HG : Well, you know, they're happy in it, aren't they? They like it, but they probably like Elton John and Phil Collins too, and the list is endless. The kind of people who I'd pay to stop, if I had the money (Laughs). That's a game we play on tour. If you had all the money in the world, what band would you pay to break up. We wile away hours!

PB : That'd be a good pub game as well.

HG : Yeah, and you've gotta give your reasons. You do have to back it up. You could tell people that's my best game on tour, and other people will do it too (Laughs.)

PB : Will do that's Holly's game. I'll spread it around.

HG : Yeah, please do! (laughs) It amuses me anyway. We play all the usual driving games too. Who would you most like to sleep with out of a group of people,and all that, but the best one, my favourite one, is the band's you'd pay to break up.

PB : Well, I'll spread the word. Thanks for your time.

The last photograph that accompanies this article was taken by Bob Stuart and originally appeared on his website http://www.underexposed.org.uk












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