2017 Artist Survey: Gaz Coombes

The Former Supergrass Frontman on the "Me Too" Movement and Sexual Harassment, Richard Pryor, Donald Trump, and Not Being a Dick

Jan 12, 2018 Web Exclusive
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For Under the Radar's 15th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to the last year. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2017 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes. The English band were one of the leading lights in the 1990s Britpop movement. Coombes is releasing a new solo album, World's Strongest Man, on May 4 via Hot Fruit/Caroline International.

For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about the various sexual harassment and assault allegations, the "Me Too" movement, the chaotic first year of Donald Trump's presidency, the Charlottesville alt-right rally and racism in America, embarrassing moments, professional regrets, which Breakfast Club character they are most like, the end of the world, and much more.

What were your Top 10 Albums released in 2017?

Top 10 may be stretching it but there was a few good records around...I did like the Thundercat record Drunk, pretty crazy. Also, sir Was: Digging A Tunnel, some nice vibes on that. Also, The Lemon Twigs: Brothers Of Destruction. Angelo De Augustine: Swim Inside the Moon.

What was the highlight of 2017 for either you personally or for the band? What was the low point?

The highlight was probably making and finishing my third album. It's hard to know, when I start recording, if any of it's going to turn out right or if I can nail what was in my head. So, it's a great feeling when I dig what comes back out of the speakers at the end.

Low point? It's been a strange year out there for a lot of people. Luckily all has been good with family and things close to home. But the Manchester attacks were just terrible. We all felt the shockwave through the country. How innocent people on a night out enjoying music could be targeted so indiscriminately kind of blew our minds. So sad.

2017 saw sexual harassment and assault allegations against many men in the music industry, film industry, journalism, politics, and elsewhere (including Harvey Weinstein, Matt Mondanile of Ducktails and Real Estate, Brand New's Jesse Lacey, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., Charlie Rose, Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, Democratic Senator Al Franken, and others). Why do you think the floodgates opened in 2017 and do you think any meaningful change will come from it or will sexual harassment and assaults continue to be prevalent in certain industries?

I think the floodgates opened because the world is such a smaller place right now. There's nowhere for these predators to hide. And the victims and people affected are rightly empowered, through social media, to speak their minds for change. I believe meaningful change has to come from this. It's ridiculous that anyone in 2017 should be confused as to the right way to treat another human being. 

In 2017 the "Me Too" and "It Was Me" social media hashtags further brought sexual assault and harassment to light. Have you ever been the victim of harassment or assault, or witnessed such behavior, or been the perpetrator? And what concrete steps can be taken to combat sexual harassment and assault in the music industry and make it a more welcoming place for women?

Concrete steps? Yeah, just don't be a dick.

Should we be able to separate an artist's work from his or her actions? Or should an artist's negative behaviors completely negate the quality of his or her work? 

It depends what his or her actions were. I think you can appreciate someone's art and not respect them as a person. It's such a tricky one, Stir Crazy is one of my favorite films but I know that Richard Pryor was a violent man and treated the women in his life terribly. I hate that about him, but for some reason, in that hour and a half, I can separate the actor/character from the person. The difference is I could never look at someone who treats people badly as an idol, as someone to look up to. But I can still enjoy the art that they've been a part of. But as I said in answer 3, it's crazy that in 2017 anyone could be confused with the right way to treat another human being.

The first year of the Trump administration has been chaotic to say the least. What has President Donald Trump done so far that most concerns or angers you? Is there anything President Trump has done, proposed, or said that you actually agree with? Why do you think his base continues to support him?

I think it's just hard for a lot of us to understand how somebody so divisive and delusional, with such a repulsive character, could be in such a position. He's very cleverly played on people's fears, his supporters feel that he's shaking up "the establishment" but he's just stirring up trouble and flexing his bingo wings. Someone just needs to unplug that man's Twitter account.

The alt-right/neo-Nazi/KKK rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the ensuing violence, and President Trump's reluctance to condemn such hate groups further showed that racism is alive and well in America. What concrete steps can we take to improve race relations in America and the world at large?

We're all one race, the Human Race.

Which Breakfast Club character are you most like and why?

Probably Allison. She's most like myself and my friends at that age. A bit of a goth. Bit of an outsider. And I fucking love crisp sandwiches.

What's the most embarrassing (or funniest) thing that's happened to you in front of your bandmates (or on stage)?

I've fallen over many a stage monitor over the years. But the worst was when I was 16, in my first band. We thought it'd be fun if I was wheeled on stage on one of those box trollies. I stood on it off stage with guitar in hand then my tech pushed me on stage but all the guitar cables got caught up in the wheels and we started weaving around the stage, out of control, until I jumped off awkwardly and started playing the first song, while my tech untangled the cables beneath me. Bad idea.

What's your biggest professional regret?

Never working with Bowie. But I guess I'll join the queue.

If you heard that the world was ending in one week who would be the first person you'd call and what are some of the things you'd do in that week?

I'd call Neil Young and say thank you.




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