The High

Formed in Manchester by vocalist John Matthews (formerly of turning blue), guitarist Andy Couzens (one of the founder members of the stone roses), bassist Simon Davies, and drummer Chris Goodwin (who had been playing with buzzcocks and offshoot band flag of convenience, as well as one of the very early incarnations of the stone roses).

This is what two of the members told us when asked about the history of the band.


q: when did the band form and what was the line-up in the beginning?

andy: the band formed in late 1989 and the line up never changed after that.

john: the other three had been with flag of convenience, and when they for some reason parted with frontman Steve Diggle (who would soon re-form buzzcocks) they decided to continue on their own but needed a singer. chris, who i already knew, rang me and asked if I was interested in coming down to a rehearsal with what would be the High. I did and they asked me to join. At this time I was not involved with any bands, but had previously been in a band called Turning Blue.


q: were you known as "the high" from the beginning or did you use other names?

andy: the high was the only name.


q: john, as a couple of the members (Goodwin and Couzens) had both been in well-known bands before THE HIGH, did you ever feel this was a burden, trying to live up to certain expectations?

john: not at all, i firmly believed in the high and what we could achieve. the fact that andy and chris had been in other bands before in some ways helped us. this only became a burden when it was used by journalists who could not pin down our sound and had to throw in a bit of band history to feed the reader/record company.


q: andy, you say songs like up & down were written while you still were in the stone roses. what happened after the split in 1987?

andy: i'd had the music to up & down for a while, and had played it to squire but he didn't like it. after the split in '87 i didn't want to touch a guitar ever again, and it was '89 before i did. initially just to help steve diggle out on a few gigs but once i got playing again i found out how much i enjoyed it! chris goodwin who i'd known for ages was the drummer and si davies an old school friend of my brothers was on bass. then we sacked steve diggle and found our new singer john!


q: apparently the pre-roses band THE WATERFRONT had a song called when the wind blows. any relation to the high's song take your time? or was it only the title that ended up being the chorus "...sitting where the wind blows"?

andy: interesting - i hadn't noticed the connection before!


q: there seems to be a lot of confusion around the early bands (the patrol, the waterfront, ...) that later became the stone roses. can anyone actually remember what the line-ups were, they seemed to be changing all the time? is it true that chris goodwin was drumming in one of these line-ups?

andy: THE PATROL was: ian brown on bass, john squire on guitar, simon wolstencroft on drums, and myself on "vocals". pete garner was roadie number one. THE WATERFRONT (sometimes known as THE FIRESIDE CHAPS) had the following line up: john squire on guitar, mani on bass, chris goodwin on drums, kaiser on vocals, myself on guitar, and occasionaly ian brown on backing vocals. later on we became the roses - brown, squire, garner and me, plus reni.


q: who's this mysterious guy "kaiser"? mani recently dedicated a song to him at a PRIMAL SCREAM gig.

andy: kaiser was one of the original gang - mad perry boy, scooter boy and latterly skin!


q: what was the first gig the high played? when/why did you sign to london records, you must have had offers from various independents before signing to this major label? there was obviously a connection to factory records (hannett, strawberry studios etc), why choose london instead of err... manchester?

john: I suppose the most memorable in terms of the making of the high would have to be at the ritz in manchester. after playing here we were signed to london records. this was made even more memorable as it was our first ever gig

andy: the ritz ballroom in manchester... yes we signed directly after that. london had the appeal of an a&r man we liked, and they were not from manchester which was a good thing for us. other labels chasing were elektra, factory, cbs, island, etc etc.....


q: Have you seen 24HR PARTY PEOPLE and do you agree that Martin Hannett's work ranged from rubbish to absolute genius? How much of SOMEWHERE SOON was demoed/recorded with Hannett, before it was all abandoned?

john: i have not seen the film, and reference to martin's work i have not really thought about this as something i loved or hated. he was certainly someone who had an unique talent, a vision that was pure and total . he was unlike anyone i had ever met before and met since his death. if i can remember rightly, we recorded Box Set Go, P.W.A, This Is My World, Up and Down with martin. there could be more, but they are the tracks that I recall.


q: how crucial was martin hannett in creating the sound of THE HIGH? did he change your sound radically as he did with JOY DIVISION?

andy: martins input was crucial, he'd been involved right from the first songs we wrote together. as with everybody martin recorded he would lock you out of the studio mixes and do exactly what he wanted - but we sounded the way we did despite martin!


q: after the first hannett sessions, john williams took over the producing role for the first album. what other production work has he done?

andy: good question, i don't know. the only reason he got the gig was the fact we liked him as a person.


q: martin hannett apparently had started working on several of the songs on Somewhere Soon already. why didn't he go on to produce the whole thing? was that another record label decision?

john: we met JOHN WILLIAMS and realised that as a collective we could not work with two producers with such different approaches. Box Set Go ended up on the album and was a joint production with williams who went on to produce the rest of the record. nothing of martin's work was abandoned, they were just demo sessions.

andy: i think martin hannett should have produced the whole album, but he was in no fit state at that point in time (drug related problems) - a fact that still pisses me off today.


q: looking back, was it a bad choice to sign to london records? they seemed to put a lot of effort into the first album which also sold quite well (well, for being a debut...). then it looked like the second album wouldn't sell as much as expected (i.e. even more than the first one), and you were hastily dropped. do you think the band would have survived if you had signed to an indie label instead?

andy: bad choice, but i don't see any difference between majors and indies (big leech, little leech).


q: do you feel that "somewhere soon" was released at the right moment with the madchester scene happening and everything? perhaps you felt that you got pigeon-holed in a way, that people were paying too much attention to the geography at that time? after all "box set go" was the only recognizable "madchester" track on the album, wasn't it? what do you think the reactions would have been if the high had appeared in 1987 or 1995, rather than 1990?

andy: yes, you can say the moment was right, but, pigeon-holed, yes! but the album still - as then - sounds out of time a window into how we felt in may 1990 so who knows. if it had come out pre- or post-madchester, what would have happened? you tell me!


q: on "somewhere soon", tablas are used extensively... whose idea was that? nowadays as the "asian underground" has made it overground (with cornershop, asian dub foundation & talvin singh), everyone seems to use them. let me guess dinesh is a wealthy pop star by now?

andy: the tablas was my idea. dinesh is and was a religous man who aims for perfection in his music.


q: How did the title "Rather Be Marsanne" come about? Is it true that somebody at London Records misheard the title "Rather Be Myself" and that you decided to keep it? Why was it originally called "Electric Cello"? Did you have an electric cello on the track?

john: no one could ever understand what i was saying or singing about, it became a guessing game and some of the titles on the record where different peoples idea of what they thought I was saying. i think it worked well and still people ask. the track had a working title of electric cello, as we had an idea for using the instrument. we changed the title as too many tracks had working titles.


q: when playing live, were there any additional musicians on stage (keyboardist, percussionist etc)?

andy: just cressa whistling and clinking bottles!


q: was "more..." originally intended as the first single for a second album, or was it just that you had a great track that you wanted to release for continuity? nowadays it seems impossible to release a single that's not on an album.

andy: "more..." was just a great tune we wanted out. unfortunately our record label got caught for some chart rigging activities soon afterwards (it was a story in the nme at the time) and i guess that's one of the reasons why the second album was shelved (they just wanted us to disappear down a large hole so they dug one for us!)


q: for the second album, did the record company choose steve brown as producer, wanting the band to fit in with the current flavour of the month (which at this point was heavier stuff like grunge)? do you think you maybe lost some of the old fans who were into the first album, after the singles better left untold and sweet liberty came out? they certainly were more "american" sounding than previously. was this a deliberate attempt to get away from the "madchester" sound, or was it a direction the record label pushed you in?

andy: yeah, one of those fans lost, being me! there are some good tunes on it though.

john: i don't think it was a deliberate attempt, but it was certainly a departure that i personally was not comfortable with. we did change producers to steve brown after recording a bulk of songs. this, i believe, was the record company trying to push the songs in a certain direction .


q: obviously hype was a high-budget production with top-name producers and even an orchestra, were there any extraordinary plans for touring this album? echo & the bunnymen toured with an orchestra during their "crystal days".

andy: no. it actually proved cheaper to record than Somewhere Soon, and i think it shows!


q: chris kimsey, a well-known producer (marillion, the rolling stones!), produced a couple of tracks, how did he get involved and why did it end so soon?

andy: can't remember - too much wine on both parts!


q: whose idea was the hillbilly "hickory smoke", and are the lyrics about anything/anyone in particular?

john: the title seemed to fit in with the flavour(!) of the song, and i got most of the lyrics from an american map. although recording sessions where always entertaining to say the least, we never really let fun be the driving force behind a song, but with this track we did.


q: andy, what's your opinion on ian brown's solo stuff? some people say it's more stone roses than the second coming.

andy: i thought corpses was brilliant, and the new single (f.e.a.r) sounds great. to my ears ten storey love song was the only song on the second coming that sounded like the roses, anyway.


q: andy, your production credits include a band called JUBILEE. have you produced for any other bands?

andy: yes. mainly unsigned young manchester bands.


q: john, what was the line-up of ONE SUMMER and did you do any gigs/recording? Anything else of interest you have been up to since The High?

john: one summer included chris and myself from the high, along with e.t - a guy from the previously mentioned band turning blue - and fitz who we sort of knew from knocking around manchester. we played a few gigs and recorded a few demos. we had a great time, and we spent nearly all of it writing songs and enjoying ourselves. i've also written a few songs with andy (couzens), post-the high, and most recently i have been working with mark black and chris brett who work under the guise of black september.


q: what is the music climate in manchester nowadays (2000)? very few bands from the 80's and early 90's have survived, and the latest news is that the happy mondays are splitting up (again). the city isn't all dead though, there are a couple of promising acts like doves, alfie, jane weaver and badly drawn boy. what's your opinion on them?

andy: i'm bored!


q: is strawberry studios now all demolished? a certain ratio apparently recorded some songs there in the mid-nineties, were they the last ones to record in that legendary studio?

andy: the building is still there. externally it doesn't look any different, but inside it's offices.


q: do you have a favourite high track?

andy: p w a

john: there's one that makes me cry, can't remember it's title.......


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